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Assange and Wikileaks - the story continues
Sunday, July 01, 2012 3:58 PM
Quote:THE head of the US Senate's powerful intelligence oversight committee has renewed calls for Julian Assange to be prosecuted for espionage.
The US Justice Department has also confirmed WikiLeaks remains the target of an ongoing criminal investigation, calling into question Australian government claims that the US has no interest in extraditing Mr Assange.
''I believe Mr Assange has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States,'' the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, said in a written statement provided to the Herald. ''He has caused serious harm to US national security, and he should be prosecuted accordingly.''
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Senator Feinstein's call for the Obama administration to move ahead with plans to prosecute Mr Assange came as a US Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, publicly confirmed that ''there continues to be an investigation into the WikiLeaks matter''.
Mr Assange remains in Ecuador's embassy in London while its government assesses his application for asylum.
In a statement made last Friday, one of Mr Assange's British lawyers, Susan Benn, highlighted evidence of the existence of a secret US grand jury investigation targeting Mr Assange and other ''founders or managers'' of WikiLeaks.
The Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, claimed last week there was ''not the remotest evidence'' of the US government wanting to prosecute the WikiLeaks founder.
On June 20, a US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, denied any US involvement in diplomatic discussions relating to Mr Assange's asylum bid or extradition to Sweden. Yet when asked specifically about the US government's interest in Mr Assagne she said: ''We want to see justice served. Let's leave it at that.''
If one asks current or former WikiLeaks associates what their greatest fear is, almost none cites prosecution by their own country. Most trust their own nation's justice system to recognize that they have committed no crime. The primary fear is being turned over to the US. That is the crucial context for understanding Julian Assange's 16-month fight to avoid extradition to Sweden, a fight that led him to seek asylum, Tuesday, in the London Embassy of Ecuador.
The evidence that the US seeks to prosecute and extradite Assange is substantial. There is no question that the Obama justice department has convened an active grand jury to investigate whether WikiLeaks violated the draconian Espionage Act of 1917. Key senators from President Obama's party, including Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, have publicly called for his prosecution under that statute. A leaked email from the security firm Stratfor – hardly a dispositive source, but still probative – indicated that a sealed indictment has already been obtained against him. Prominent American figures in both parties have demanded Assange's lifelong imprisonment, called him a terrorist, and even advocated his assassination.
For several reasons, Assange has long feared that the US would be able to coerce Sweden into handing him over far more easily than if he were in Britain. For one, smaller countries such as Sweden are generally more susceptible to American pressure and bullying.
For another, that country has a disturbing history of lawlessly handing over suspects to the US. A 2006 UN ruling found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for helping the CIA render two suspected terrorists to Egypt, where they were brutally tortured (both individuals, asylum-seekers in Sweden, were ultimately found to be innocent of any connection to terrorism and received a monetary settlement from the Swedish government).
Perhaps most disturbingly of all, Swedish law permits extreme levels of secrecy in judicial proceedings and oppressive pre-trial conditions, enabling any Swedish-US transactions concerning Assange to be conducted beyond public scrutiny. Ironically, even the US State Department condemned Sweden's "restrictive conditions for prisoners held in pretrial custody", including severe restrictions on their communications with the outside world.
Assange's fear of ending up in the clutches of the US is plainly rational and well-grounded. One need only look at the treatment over the last decade of foreign nationals accused of harming American national security to know that's true; such individuals are still routinely imprisoned for lengthy periods without any charges or due process. Or consider the treatment of Bradley Manning, accused of leaking to WikiLeaks: a formal UN investigation found that his pre-trial conditions of severe solitary confinement were "cruel, inhuman and degrading", and he now faces capital charges of aiding al-Qaida. The Obama administration's unprecedented obsession with persecuting whistleblowers and preventing transparency – what even generally supportive, liberal magazines call "Obama's war on whistleblowers" – makes those concerns all the more valid.
No responsible person should have formed a judgment one way or the other as to whether Assange is guilty of anything in Sweden. He has not even been charged, let alone tried or convicted, of sexual assault, and he is entitled to a presumption of innocence. The accusations made against him are serious ones, and deserve to be taken seriously and accorded a fair and legal resolution.
But the WikiLeaks founder, like everyone else, is fully entitled to invoke all of his legal rights, and it's profoundly reckless and irresponsible to suggest, as some have, that he has done anything wrong by doing so. Seeking asylum on the grounds of claimed human rights violations is a longstanding and well-recognized right in international law. It is unseemly, at best, to insist that he forego his rights in order to herd him as quickly as possible to Sweden.
Assange is not a fugitive and has not fled. Everyone knows where he is. If Ecuador rejects his asylum request, he will be right back in the hands of British authorities, who will presumably extradite him to Sweden without delay. At every step of the process, he has adhered to, rather than violated, the rule of law. His asylum request of yesterday is no exception.
Julian Assange has sparked intense personal animosity, especially in media circles – a revealing irony, given that he has helped to bring about more transparency and generated more newsworthy scoops than all media outlets combined over the last several years. That animosity often leads media commentators to toss aside their professed beliefs and principles out of an eagerness to see him shamed or punished.
But ego clashes and media personality conflicts are pitifully trivial when weighed against what is at stake in this case: both for Assange personally and for the greater cause of transparency. If he's guilty of any crimes in Sweden, he should be held to account. But until then, he has every right to invoke the legal protections available to everyone else. Even more so, as a foreign national accused of harming US national security, he has every reason to want to avoid ending up in the travesty known as the American judicial system.
Sunday, July 01, 2012 4:09 PM
Sunday, July 01, 2012 4:17 PM
Quote:The filth and the fury (and the catfood): Stratfor talks WikiLeaks
by Bernard Keane
Emails cracked from US intelligence consultants Stratfor by Anonymous and published by WikiLeaks have confirmed what was long suspected: that the US government has a grand jury indictment for Julian Assange ready and waiting.
“We have a sealed indictment on Assange,” Stratfor vice-president Fred Burton, a former senior State Department official, told colleagues in January 2011.
But they also again demonstrate the fury, loathing and “obsession”, as one Stratfor analyst put it, that WikiLeaks has generated in the private intelligence industry.
The insight into Stratfor gained from the emails shows that a flimsy intelligence-gathering model can be the basis for generating significant revenue, as long as clients don’t suspect just how poor the information they are getting is. As revealed in its emails, like many consulting firms, Stratfor?—?bizarrely described by some journalists as a “shadow CIA”?—?relies heavily on the government contacts of former bureaucrats and pulling together publicly available information and putting a gloss on it.
Fred Burton, for example, as a former Diplomatic Security Service chief in the State Department, is plainly plugged into information networks within his old department, or at least routinely boasts as much. But much of Stratfor’s operation is amateur-hour stuff, as Pratap Chatterjee showed in The Guardian?—?Stratfor analysts used Google Translate to read Arabic news articles and recycled blog posts for sale to clients.
The comparison has already been made to another victim of Anonymous cracking, Aaron Barr of cybersecurity firm HB Gary Federal, who tried to use publicly available social media datan to sell the FBI a list of key Anonymous members.
It also calls to mind the grandly named National Open Source Intelligence Centre, the mum-and-dad Melbourne company that makes a motza from the AFP and ASIO by collecting publicly available information online that those agencies?—?despite an extraordinary expansion of their budgets and staffing over the past decade, are unable or unwilling to find on the internet themselves.
That’s not to say Strafor doesn’t have delusions of grandeur. CEO George Friedman is plainly in spy movie mode when he orders a young female senior analyst, Reva Bhalla, to take “financial, s-xual or psychological control” of a source.
What emerges most strongly from the Strafor emails, however, is the sheer froth-mouthed fury that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange elicits from the intelligence industry. “Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He’ll be eating cat food forever, unless George Soros hires him,” Burton tells colleagues. He wants Assange “water boarded until he gives us the code” to the WikiLeaks “insurance file”.
And then there’s this revealing email from Burton to Friedman.
“We probably asked the ASIS [Australian Secret Intelligence Service] to monitor Wiki coms and email, after the soldier from Potomac [Bradley Manning] was nabbed. So, it’s reasonable to assume we probably already know who has done it. The delay could be figuring out how to declassify and use the Aussie intel on Wiki… The owner is a peacenik. He needs his head dunked in a full toilet bowl at Gitmo.”
Why the fury? At one stage in the “cat food” email exchange, which begins when someone using the WikiLeaks internet address as cover starts a denial-of-service attack on Stratfor, Bhalla tells her colleagues “we sound just as obsessed as the rest of the media over this thing. Let’s focus on real issue.”
What’s never said is that WikiLeaks is in fact a competitor to Stratfor, but one that refuses to play by the industry’s rules. Stratfor, like so many firms offering consulting and “strategic advisory” services, and not just in the intelligence or cyber security or foreign policy sectors, has a business model based not so much on offering real intelligence and high-quality analysis, as collating publicly available material, dressing it up with “strategic analysis” and preserving a mystique of secrecy around “intelligence” that impresses clients.
WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cable dump smashed that model, revealing a vast trove of information normally controlled by governments and privileges contacts in industry and the mainstream media, and demonstrating that the supposedly arcane and complex world of diplomacy was in fact a mundane world of bureaucratic empire-building, gossip and corporate influence-peddling.
It’s this “Wizard of Oz” moment that has enraged so many who make their living from exploiting the myths around intelligence and foreign policy analysis. The best local example of this is the Lowy Institute’s chief US apologist Michael Fullilove?—?allegedly mooted as a replacement for Mark Arbib?—?who incessantly criticised WikiLeaks’ cable release and continued to insist it was dangerous and irresponsible long after even Obama administration officials had admitted only embarrassment had resulted from the leaks.
The fury of people whose business model has been disrupted by WikiLeaks is one thing. The grim reality is that the US government is every bit as determined to destroy WikiLeaks, and it has given itself the legal means to effect the grubby threats of Fred Burton.
Sunday, July 01, 2012 4:30 PM
Freedom is Important because People are Important
Sunday, July 01, 2012 4:57 PM
Tuesday, July 03, 2012 10:04 PM
Wednesday, July 04, 2012 8:52 PM
Thursday, July 05, 2012 6:51 AM
Thursday, July 05, 2012 6:56 AM
Gettin' old, but still a hippie at heart...
Thursday, July 05, 2012 8:57 AM
Friday, August 17, 2012 2:18 PM
Friday, August 17, 2012 2:25 PM
Quote:Originally posted by FREMDFIRMA:
“We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
Friday, August 17, 2012 2:39 PM
Saturday, August 18, 2012 4:21 AM
"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, Reagan's presidential campaign manager & CIA Director (from first staff meeting in 1981)
Saturday, August 18, 2012 11:34 AM
Sunday, August 19, 2012 3:30 PM
Quote:Espionage or spying involves a government or individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, as it is taken for granted that it is unwelcome and, in many cases illegal and punishable by law. It is a subset of intelligence gathering—which otherwise may be conducted from public sources and using perfectly legal and ethical means.
Espionage is often part of an institutional effort by a government or commercial concern, however the term is generally associated with state spying on potential or actual enemies primarily for military purposes. Spying involving corporations is known as industrial espionage.
One of the most effective ways to gather data and information about an enemy (or potential enemy) is by infiltrating the enemy's ranks. This is the job of the spy (espionage agent). Spies can bring back all sorts of information concerning the size and strength of an enemy army. They can also find dissidents within the enemy's forces and influence them to defect. In times of crisis, spies can also be used to steal technology and to sabotage the enemy in various ways. Counterintelligence operatives can feed false information to enemy spies, protecting important domestic secrets and preventing attempts at subversion. Nearly every country has very strict laws concerning espionage, and the penalty for being caught is often severe. However, the benefits that can be gained through espionage are generally great enough that most governments and many large corporations make use of it to varying degrees.
Further information on clandestine HUMINT (human intelligence) information collection techniques is available, including discussions of operational techniques, asset recruiting and the tradecraft used to collect this information.
Sunday, October 07, 2012 1:28 PM
Sunday, October 07, 2012 1:37 PM
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