WikiLeaks as a Fifth Estate

WikiLeaks continues to come under assault from many corners. This week Amazon.com took down the website’s main server, and refused to say why it did so, other than to deny that its motivation was ”œpolitical pressure.” A few days later, PayPal said it would no longer accept payments to or from WikiLeaks. Whatever companies say about lack of political pressure, it is hard not to see the heavy hand of the federal government behind these decisions. Amazon had plenty of time in the past to shut down WikiLeaks, but is doing so only now after Barack Obama’s administration is under intense pressure to ”œdo something” about this apparent threat to US security.

We know it’s a threat to US security because almost every responsible government official and journalist is saying so. Glenn Greenwald has provided an excellent run-down of how the most respected journalists in America are going public with their disgust at the ”œshoddy and unethical behavior” of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Wolf Blitzer, as an example, has a running commentary on his program on how appalling all these leaks are, and demanding that the government ”œdo something” about this. In none of these programs does he include anyone who supports what WikiLeaks is doing, and he is a relatively sane moderate on the subject in comparison to others like Sarah Palin. She has joined with dozens of ideologues and authoritarians on the right who use words like treason, sedition, and traitorous to describe what Assange is doing, and not a few of these people are calling for Assange to be assassinated without trial.

The thing that amazes Glenn Greenwald is how so many ”œresponsible” journalists and newspapers, like The New York Times, are taking the WikiLeaks document dumps first to the federal government, to find out what the government wants to keep secret. This is a perfect example, says Greenwald, of the permanent deference and obsequiousness displayed by modern journalists, whose predecessors even as recently as 20 years ago would be appalled at how the ”œfourth estate” in the US has abandoned its role as watchdog and critic of the government. Greenwald postulates that American journalists are furious at Julian Assange because they understand deep down he is doing the work they should be doing.

The Case Against Julian Assange

Not so fast, says Huff Post columnist Larry Womack. He thinks the blogging community and internet commentariat have been childishly irresponsible in their rush to defend WikiLeaks, and cites case after case where Assange has taken raw data and dumped it on to his website without the slightest concern for the serious consequences. When Assange got a list of Afghanis who collaborated with NATO forces, he published it completely, despite protests from liberal groups like Amnesty International that these individuals would now be exposed to assassination by the Taliban. Assange routinely puts up people’s home and email addresses and cell phone numbers, when it would be easy for him, according to Womack, to do the responsible journalistic work of editing these out first and publishing the gist of the material of interest to the public. It is this constant disregard for people’s safety, and the weak claim by Assange that ”œhe is not a journalist”, that Womack finds reckless if not criminal, just as he finds the internet tendency to support Assange without question as irresponsible and jejeune.

Womack’s piece is a thoughtful presentation of the establishment criticism of Assange and WikiLeaks, and his supporters. In his article Womack cites a famous Donald Rumsfeld aphorism, ”œthe absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, which he uses to defend the Defense Department’s refusal to name names of those Afghanis killed by the Taliban. This argument is as weak as the aphorism itself, which is an example of the uncritical thinking that can occur in large organizations like the Department of Defense. The absence of evidence is often accepted as evidence of absence; this is a fundamental premise of scientific experiment and reasoning, as well as the application of statistical analysis. As an example of a common perception, no one today or historically has seen the Sun rise in the west, and because we have no evidence of this, we assert that the Sun always rises in the east. Indeed, this fact is one of the main reasons why humans have a concept of ”œEast”. If a government wishes to believe that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, it should be continuing its search in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, because the belief in Iraqi WMDs is precisely the sort of danger than can occur when sloppy thinking is unchallenged in government circles.

There is another Rumsfeld statement that is more perceptive, and to paraphrase, it says there are things we know, things we don’t know, things we know we know, and things we don’t know we don’t know. Responsible government officials must spend a lot of time thinking about this problem, because it is possibly the principal challenge facing government in how it goes about its work. How does someone like Barack Obama know what is true or factual? How does he know that the people who give him intelligence briefings have real facts and data, versus suppositions and biased opinions? Given the many filters through which information must go through before reaching the Oval Office, a president is necessarily fighting an information bubble that constantly surrounds him. It must seem easy to give in to the bubble, especially if it conforms to one’s prejudices, opinions, or political positions. Worse still, the bubble becomes an amplifying chamber for people like Dick Cheney, who poison the well by planting an unverified claim first in the bureaucracy so it can bubble up as a confirmed fact later. The whole problem of the fourth situation, things we don’t know we don’t know, is that government, corporations, and other organizations poison the well of information by planting lies and falsified documents through misinformation campaigns.

Given the many forces working against providing a president or any government official with accurate and timely information, it can be logically argued that a WikiLeaks data dump of State Department cables may be in the president’s own interest, as the best and maybe only way he can read facts. He would see, for example, that a source told the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Beijing that the cyber attacks on Google were ordered by the fifth highest ranking member of China’s politburo, the minister of propaganda, because he found Google had articles on its site critical of this minister. Of course, the problem here is that however plausible this sounds, the accusation is unconfirmed by any other evidence, and the president would have to know to be cautious about assuming its veracity. The other problem is that the president hasn’t the time to read thousands of State Department cables every week, just as no one in the Oval Office probably had time to read the details of how the Department of the Interior was willing to blindly accept the claims of British Petroleum that its offshore oil drilling rigs were safe.

Manipulation of Information Leads to Loss of Faith in the Government

We are back to the problem of what it is the president knows he knows, etc., etc. This is, by the way, the same problem you have as a citizen in a democracy, and it is both the control of this information, and the pollution of the information pool through disinformation campaigns, that has eroded public confidence in government. The only thing many people have come to believe about their government is that they are only hearing a small part of the story about what their government is up to, and the part they are hearing may well be false because the government is lying, or has been lied to and is accepting this lie as a fact.

When citizens lose faith in what their government is telling them, they lose faith in the government itself, because information is the stock and trade of government. It has no other product, with the exception of currency notes and coins, and arguably information is much more important than specie. A government employee’s title and pay grade are nowhere near as important to status as the security clearance given to that employee. It is the control of and access to information that is the hallmark of government power, to the point where it is unthinking behavior of government bureaucrats to stamp whatever crosses their desk as confidential.

It is not a surprise then, that a State Department employee would tell a dean at Columbia University that students should not discuss WikiLeaks, or post a link to WikiLeaks, on social sites such as Twitter or Facebook, because to do so would jeopardize their chance at government employment. The dean sent the admonition out to graduate students in international diplomacy, since they would likely be applying for jobs with the government. This story, by the way, got twisted around by the newspapers themselves, since headlines said the State Department was advising students not to discuss WikiLeaks on social sites. The State Department has denied that this is its policy, but the warning is nevertheless apposite: background checks are done on federal employees at levels requiring security clearance, and if you are found unworthy of keeping a secret, you won’t get hired. Apparently having an opinion about WikiLeaks is enough to tarnish your reputation as a reliably secret federal employee.

The instinct of the government employee here is twisted in an important way. Security clearance is no longer just about who can see what information. The emphasis has shifted now to whether a federal employee can keep secret what it is they are allowed to see. If this is what the bureaucracy is focused on, and if this is the principal qualifying feature of any federal government hires, then do not expect that the government is going to improve its ability to interpret information, and determine what is factual, because there is less emphasis on this. We should also expect that the emphasis on keeping information secret, which certainly seems to pervade the federal government, will continue from one administration to the next regardless of party, but will also be selectively applied. Barack Obama lost no time in strengthening the secrecy practices of the Bush administration, and to this day no one in the federal government has gone after Dick Cheney for his role in outing secret agent Valerie Plame, which was a federal offense. If you are high enough in the security clearance chain, the rules and laws of secrecy can be ignored and information can be used for political purposes.

Perhaps no US federal agency is as secretive with non-military or intelligence data as the Federal Reserve. With great reluctance, and only after resisting disclosure by filing appeals up to the Supreme Court, the Fed this week revealed details about its actions under six programs designed to ameliorate the financial crisis of 2008. With such programs as the Term Auction Facility, the Term Securities Lending Facility, and the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, the Fed lent over $3 trillion to a host of domestic and foreign banks, US insurance companies, corporations like General Electric, mutual funds like PIMCO, and even private individuals (mostly billionaires). The Fed resisted providing this information because it would jeopardize ”œnational security”, since the data constituted ”œstate secrets”. While the data have certainly restoked the anger at banks, and raised more questions, such as why the Fed valued collateral as low as 15 cents/dollar when banks have taken it back on their balance sheets at 100 cents/dollar, for the most part this data dump has now disappeared from the public mind. It seems the government and the banks have survived the publishing of these deep, dark state secrets. This is an abject lesson in the government’s resistance at revealing important information, and the tendency to provide spurious national security reasons for its secretive behavior.

Nor is government the only entity with a covetous approach to information. Corporations and prominent organizations have joined in the crusade to control and exploit information. Corporations in particular have a tendency to enforce employee secrecy while abusing customer secrets. Cookies exist on the internet in order for corporations to track your internet usage, your preferences for information, your buying habits, your friends’ email addresses, your taste in porn, the movies you download, the politicians you support, your religious beliefs, your medical problems, your financial condition, your investment decisions, and so on. Yet if you work for these companies, woe betide you if you leak out company information to the public. This is designed to protect company secrets, some of which may be germane to the company’s success such as patent information, but much of it merely part of the organization’s passion for protecting any of its proprietary information in an age when cyberattacks and hacking are common. Proprietary information also includes any non-public information about corporate executives, who are as touchy about personal criticism as any propaganda minister in China. Anyone who works in Oprah Winfrey’s company, for example, must sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of employment, binding them to complete silence about the star and sole proprietor of the company.

A Helpless Public

It takes organizations with large resources to be able to control and manipulate information; the individual is at the mercy of these organizations when it comes to what information is disseminated and how it is interpreted. It may be this helplessness that motivates someone like Julian Assange or the people who at great risk feed him files of information from their place of employment. It may be that Assange understands intuitively how heavily the deck is stacked against the citizen by corporations, organizations, and the governments that are increasingly financed and controlled by wealthy individuals. His statement that he is not a journalist may be more than merely a subterfuge to avoid the ethical standards that apply to journalists. He may be saying that these ethical standards are meaningless in an age when the information flow is so controlled that journalists are no longer able to perform the socially useful function of checking, verifying, and challenging the government or corporations, or any other organization that hides behind ”œno comment”.

After all, neither Wolf Blitzer nor Larry Womack have answered the serious question posed by the WikiLeaks data dumps: which of them would jeopardize their position as ”œserious journalists” by doing what Assange has done? Scrubbing the data to protect individuals is one thing, but accepting the data from an inside source is altogether another level of risk for their careers and possibly their liberty. The fact is that any journalist dealing with government or other information sources is held to nearly the same high standards of secrecy and confidentiality as apply to employees of these organizations. The blanket of security clearance has been thrown wider to cloak the fourth estate, which makes it harder for you to get information of meaning, and which makes it much easier for the ”œstate”, encompassing increasingly corporations, to control and manipulate you.

Yes, Julian Assange should apply higher standards when releasing individual names and personal data, but assuming WikiLeaks survives (which is increasingly in doubt), you and I as citizens of a democracy should look at it as one of the few sources available for information about what governments, corporations, and other organizations are doing to us, and in our name.

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Numerian

Numerian is a devoted author and poster on The Agonist, specializing in business, finance, the global economy, and politics. In real life he goes by the non-nom de plume of Garrett Glass and hides out in Oak Park, IL, where he spends time writing novels on early Christianity (and an occasional tract on God and religion). You can follow his writing career on his website, jehoshuathebook.com.

41 CommentsLeave a comment

  • …with raw take has sown the seeds for their destruction. Just that simple.

    Similarly, Wikileaks is not a source of information. It is a source of raw data. Without context that data is not information.

    The plural of datum is not “anecdote”. ~ not-Pierre Trudeau

  • America glibly makes illegal war on whichever countries it chooses, pretending to be currently “invited” to help the Afghans and Iraqis police their populations and territories.

    The war in Waziristan is spreading without declaration or formal invitation.

    The dozens of regime changes and small wars conducted by America upon Latin American, African, Asian and Arab nations since WWII may be added to this list.

    With this background in view WikiLeaks is simple sanity. Or a reminder that there is a saner approach. Or a call for sanity.

    It is also a reminder that the many emperors parading around the world as statesmen, leaders, visionaries and moral people are wearing no clothes. Emperors without clothes are not recognised as emperors for long, hence the official reaction.

    Unhappy with the publishing of personal details? Contact WikiLeaks about that (213.251.145.96). But consider — they are a shoestring non-profit doing what journalists should have been doing every day for the last fifty years.

    How long and how many people and what infrastructure will it take to edit a quarter million cables from the State Department? WikiLeaks simply does not have the money, staff, resources or security to set up an editing and proofreading shop like this. There would be a fire. A midnight bombing. Mysterious road accidents.

    To ask WikiLeaks to vet everything is to ask them to quit until they have a proper newspaper and television channel.

    WikiLeaks is a guerilla operation, operating in the jungle, in the shadows, hunted and hounded on a daily basis, surviving one day at a time. Just existing, just putting leaks online is as much as it can do. Asking it to do more than it can is sophistry –it is like asking why the American colonists could not wear bright red coats and march in tight formation like proper gentlemen when they fought for their independence.

    Because if they had, they would have lost everything on the first day.

    Same situation for Wikileaks. By the time they make themselves presentable to proper gentlemen like Wolf Blitzer they will have lost everything they are doing.

    *

    Will WikiLeaks be shut down? Silly question.

    One, no one can predict the future.

    Two, it is mirrored in tens of thousands of places and backed up offline all over the world as well. Even shutting off the entire Internet would not delete the data.

    Three, if WikiLeaks were shut down another organization like it would come along right behind it. The goal, the effort, the search for more sunshine cannot be shut down.

    WikiLeaks is a feature of the information age.

  • you are suggesting Assange may understand he is no journalist and is using the moment to demonstrate how they are unable to do the “noble” job they once did. However, you still urge him to be careful so as not to endanger lives and liberty.

    I think Assange’s organization is using the internet to do the analysis of the data to the fullest extent–friend or foe– to get at the truth of a situation. You know: how Firedoglake encourages their readers to comb through data-dumps and make timelines and figure out what is “between the lines” and data-points. I think he does this because analysis was the first thing to disappear from journalism in the modern age. And I think he is right.

    Ian Welsh noted in his post today the assault on Assange is more likely an assault on the internet as we know it. I also agree with that. This is not ultimately about WikiLeaks. It is about a plausible excuse to reel-in internet freedom of access and thought.

    And only this past week did the FCC signal basic agreement with ComCast and other ISP’s to create two-tiered access–the “cable-i-zation” of the net. “Basic cable” isn’t going to be available without a pass from the minders. And it will be an inferior product. Maybe the timing is coincidental. But maybe it takes a WikiLeaks “disaster” to see a “shock doctrine” opportunity. Those who can are now well-practiced and unfettered by conscience to seize the moment.

    Corporations don’t have conscience. Yet they ask us, and Assange, to have one.

  • As John Robb has been saying for a while, decentralization of everything into ‘insurgencies’ of every type from the local produce stand to the Maker culture are rising to the surface. There is no ‘head’ to cut off, so to speak.

  • ‘No one believes in Afghanistan any more:’ EU leader in WikiLeaks cable

    Leaked diplomatic memos said that European Union President Herman Van Rompuy told America’s ambassador that the EU no longer believes in success in Afghanistan, and that European troops are still there “out of deference to the United States.” More


    Tolerating prostitution is tolerating abuse and torture of women and children.

  • There are five ways to donate. It’s all spelled out very clearly.


    Tolerating prostitution is tolerating abuse and torture of women and children.

  • Plain and simple; I think Britain is not the only country who is afraid to arrest him and for good reason. I also think that this assault against Assange and Wikileaks by the U.S. government endangers the U.S. more than it does Wikileaks because Wikileaks stands on moral highground; especially as Americans begin to understand the horrors their own country has engendered over the years.

    The United States is not worse than the Nazi’s or Stalin or the Chinese government; the U.S.A. was an experiment in Democracy that failed and became just another empire; like the Romans, Persians, etc. with all the abuses necessary to create and maintain such an empire. The sooner we all realize the sooner we can get back to our experiment in Democracy.

  • The Greenwald column that you linked is a must read in addition to your article. These self-identified journalists like Blitzer are complaining for a couple of obvious reasons, imho. First, Wikileaks employs a journalistic function, whether or not Assange accepts the label. Second, Blitzer et al are failures at the role they play, obviously. They can’t get what someone who they denigrate can, someone who is not a U.S. citizen. The mainstream media and other sponsored information sources work for factions of the powers that be. It’s no surprise that they attack new information sources, the type of sources getting what they should produce. It is expected that those few who get the information, like the NYT, run off to “mommy” to make sure it’s OK to use it.

    Wikileaks as a formal organization may not survive, largely because their board retained Assange rather than putting a noncontroversial figure in charge. However, the process of large dumps of information will live on for quite a while. It’s like Napster – kill the company but peer-to-peer survived, spread from music to everything digital, and now reigns supreme. I’d place a large bet on the ingenuity of the people over the inelegant and crude control processes of those who choose to be, as Mark Karlin said, “the last cheerleaders for a dying empire.”

  • …doesn’t have the resources to do the job properly. I don’t see them ever acquiring those resources, particularly given their preferred operating mode. Dominant question is whether their current approach furthers their stated aims. I would argue that if their aim is to seriously affect “authoritarian” thought, their current approach is deeply flawed. My view, they’ve made the mistake of falling in love with their data’s form (i.e., they scored a huge database, so the form of their dissemination in their mind has to be a huge database). Cogent, targeted analysis and dissemination would be far more effective. ‘course, they don’t seem to have e chops for that.

    It’s called the intelligence cycle – collect, analyze, disseminate, task. A half assed job on two of the four is worse than nothing. ~ not-Pierre Trudeau

  • In addition to forcing Amazon and Paypal to unhook, they’ve put the screws to some Domain Name Servers. Wikileaks.org is unreachable and you need to know other domain names or an IP address.

    When Paypal bailed, WL offered a link to donate directly via their website, but I recently read the USG is threatening any bank which transfers funds that end up in WL coffers. If WL and/or Assange is officially declared terrorist, any donations would have to be laundered pretty well.

  • …are very commonly extremely suspect.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • Wikileaks, in the person of Julian Assange, is the messenger and the powers-that-be are mightily trying to slay the messenger. We should not lose sight of the risks taken by those who supply information to Wikileaks and who do so because they think it worth risking prison. They also trust Wikileaks to make the data public and Wikileaks has to honor that expectation as long as the data is valid and important.

    Some editing/redacting may be appropriate, but I would argue that if it’s an all-or-nothing deal, publish and let the chips fall where they may. If some individuals die as the result of the leaks, it is indeed unfortunate. It is much more unfortunate that thousands of people die as a result of misguided activities of the USG. In war, accidents do happen – friendly fire, mistaken identification, etc. That does not excuse Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, mercenaries or the gross abuse of power on the part of our government. The bottom line is the information. Who leaked it and how are secondary, including any quirks of the people involved. I really don’t care if Assange used a condom. I do care about what my government is doing in my name.

    I once held a rather high security clearance when I did intelligence work in the military. At the time (circa 1956) I was almost as far Left as I am today. I got a clearance because the FBI asked my teachers, local cops and the county sheriff, all of whom said nice things about me and none of whom knew the first thing about my political views. If the FBI had interviewed me, I would never have gotten a clearance.

    However, once I got clearance and was assigned to an intelligence unit, it never occurred to me to violate my trust. It was simply a matter of personal integrity. I had promised to keep my mouth shut, so I did, although I could easily have revealed classified information to ‘the enemy’ (think 1958) and gotten well paid for it.

    The secrets I was privy to did not involve or morally-repugnant behavior on the part of USG, so I never faced the dilemma of having to choose between betraying the trust the USG placed in me or betraying my humanity. But I know how I would have chosen had it come to that. We owe a vote of thanks to Wikileaks – including JA – and the many who risk their jobs, freedom and even lives to enlighten us.

  • Wee Willie WikiLeaks runs through the town,
    Up stairs, down stairs, before he’s shut down,
    Tapping on your keyboard, madly dumping files,
    Are our secrets secure from your internet wiles?

    Hey, Willie WikiLeaks, you can’t come home?
    Interpol is searching with a fine-tooth comb,
    Homeland Security is tracing down your scent,
    And PayPal won’t help after all your money’s spent.

    Anything to capture you and put you away,
    We’ve got some fine some lodging at Guantanamo Bay!
    You’ve done too many talk-shows, thumbing your nose,
    Embarrassing us in front of our friends and our foes.

    Hey, Willie WikiLeaks, will you find another route?
    Will it really matter if the Truth comes out?
    You’ve given us more than a reason to gripe.
    Treason is a good excuse to seal up The Pipes

    Weary are the people who have nowhere to hide,
    From brutal facts the diplomats preferred to keep inside
    The hallowed halls of power and away from prying eyes,
    But Wee Willie WikiLeaks provided the surprise.

  • Particularly the government stenographers passing themselves off as journalists who not line up to take shots at Wikileaks. That useless talking head Wolf Blitzer is just one of the many.

    The editorial process is judged by the product since we don’t get to see behind the scenes. We know know that Wikileaks does a cursory job in editing out names etc. that can compromise the safety of those mentioned. We can also question why these leaks now rather than other leaks. If they’d thought it through, they would have done the Goldman Sachs, etc. leaks first, then followed with these since they’d have been heroes for embarrassing and maybe getting prosecuted the Wall Street crowd that walks around free after “Grand Theft Treasury.” But they didn’t and once again, they compromised their efforts.

    Those howling about the problems this creates, the Mitch McConnell’s of the world, are simply engaged in displaced blame. They are the real perpetrators of violence through their uncompromising allegiance to lies leading to the Iraq. The blood of hundreds of thousands of dead civilians who died as a result of the invasion is on their hands. They should be so ashamed that they dare not speak on any foreign policy subject. But they’re not.

    If the faux journalists and the cognitively compromised powers that be don’t take out Wikileaks this time, they’ve fostered a multiplication factor that will make this look tame.

    I saw “Our Own Private Bin Laden” last night. Fine film. Jack Blum, a DEA official furious at the neglect of heroin trafficking from Afghanistan amidst all the efforts there since 1979, had a great point. How could anyone who started up the radical Islamist movement used against the Russians be “so stupid” as to not have seen any of the multitude of bad outcomes that followed. I agree. The rest is history, tragic as it continues to be.

  • The most interesting aspect of this to me is to see if Wikileaks is a one-off kind of phenomenon, or if other Wikileaks clones start replicating the phenomenon.

    While the Napster analogy fully applies, this is of a different magnitude, politically speaking. This just isn’t kids trying to get their music on.

    If Wikileaks clones start springing up, we live in a different world. The balance of power between the haves and the haves-nots will have shifted, because now the have-nots will have something that arguably gives them almost as much power as having the money – secret information.

    If you want to play power politics in the New World Order, there are two keys to the Kingdom. One is money, and the other is information, particularly sensitive, classified, or top secret information. If the have-nots suddenly acquire multiple sources of secret information that the banks and governments can’t censor or shut down, the balance of power shifts.

    The people controlling the money will still have the lion’s share of the power, but now the people with secret information will not just be an itch for the powers-that-be to scratch, they will present a serious problem to the New World Order banksters and gangsters.

    I don’t know what those changes would look like, but it will be very interesting to see how the society shifts if governments and megabanks can no longer operate with the assurance of secrecy.

  • All the information so far sounds like people gossiping rather than setting foreign policy. Karzai is corrupt, Afghanistan is a lost cause, yadha, yadha, yadha…those sound like conversations people would have over cocktails or for that matter, citizens have with each other after reading an article and trying to make sense of it. Perhaps a better analogy is an article that’s picked apart by bloggers.

    From what I’ve seen the information being released is useless. I’m in agreement with JustPlainDave … data without context lacks meaning. One of my favourite reporters, Mitch Potter, at the Star drew similar conclusions. That column was written in early December and there’s been nothing released to date that changed that opinion. The Internet can be an extremely, unreliable, source of information.

    However, distasteful, that in the land of free–rather than laughing at Julian Assange’s clumsy attempts; the US government appears to go to great lengths to suppress–more reminiscent of communist tactics than a country based on democractic philosophies.

    Is it governments that lack faith in their electorate that they resort to spoon feeding information to get “their” message across. Why don’t governments spend more on education then they would have more faith that the voters would be capable of discerning what is true and good and what is not. Now would be a good time for high schools to introduce a course in sifting information for value. WikiLeaks would serve as a good example to students.

  • I can’t believe that this was released five years ago, and in the year it’s been on youtube has only gathered 46 views. There’s nothing new or groundbreaking, but a wider viewership of the background info would be a good thing.
    BCCI is always good to remember.

  • What are these cables? Here is why I think they are important:

    The problem we citizens are faced with is that the U.S. government maintains secrecy over it’s grand strategies. For example, what is the purpose of the Iran and Iraq war? We are all left to try and surmise this purpose. Are the wars part of a larger energy security strategy?

    I think these strategic secrets are not acceptable in a Democracy; also, secrets that hide wrongdoing etc. Especially when the truth is hidden behind lies and propaganda.

    These cables help with deconstruction of the lies that we are told in the future, past and present. We may not find a smoking gun but we do not need much to negate something we are told. These memo’s limit the lies presented to us by the government.

    Furthermore, the propaganda press will have to be careful now that what they say does not contradict what we know from the cables. Even the fools they hire as “journalists” will begin to question what they are doing as they must be more aware of the facts.

  • It only takes one tiny fact to negate a massive pack of lies; in that this information is very important and very powerful. You are correct though in that it is harder to discern the truth from this data but we will see if it can be done with the crowd sourcing of the internet.

  • Guardian” today.

    The international pressure on Julian Assange increased today after the banking arm of the Swiss post office announced that it had closed the WikiLeaks founder’s account because he had given “false information”.

    “PostFinance has ended its business relationship with … Julian Paul Assange,” the bank said in a statement.

    “The Australian citizen provided false information regarding his place of residence during the account opening process.”

    It said that although Assange had given his residence as an undisclosed address in Geneva, he could offer no proof of being a Swiss resident.

    Hmmm. That’s odd. My veterinarian, who bloody well probably knows – but that’s another story – is of the opinion that wealthy folk open off shore accounts by making an arrangement with a broker/lawyer in the particular country to set up the “company”, open bank accounts, manage any locally required reportage and, one presumes, provide a local address. Perhaps Switzerland differs in this regard and actually requires all those mafia dons, drug kingpins, religious cult leaders and tax avoiders to actually reside in Switzerland before they can avail themselves of the nation’s infamous don’t ask/don’t tell banking structure. Who knew?

    A virtual visit to PostFinance seems to indicate they go straight to the chase and do all this for you as well as act as your bank. One of the private account services they advertise

    Account management in one of eight currencies
    Payment transactions worldwide in up to eight currencies
    Transfer of funds to postal and bank accounts worldwide
    Forex: cash and futures transactions
    Minimized currency risk
    Low-cost account management
    Can be managed as individual or partner account

    hardly sounds as if they require all their customers to physically reside in the country, nor do their Terms and Conditions indicate this requirement. In fact, in “Section 4 – Deputies”it specifically acknowledges the involvement of third parties – those who cushion knotty residency requirements often associated with tax shelter countries as mentioned above. Nevertheless, their Press Release regarding the closing of Assange’s account indicates that only Swiss residents are permitted to open PostFinance accounts and must use their own personal local address. In any case, it’s clearly extremely difficult to get a residency permit in Switzerland.

    Does this “bank” intend to keep the donations they’ve now seized?
    Or perhaps, by tacking on this new regulation, PostFinance in particular and Switzerland in general is indicating they want to get out of the international banking business.

    Riiight.

  • …model has been a failure and I don’t see how it is that one fixes it.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • On the whole my experience has been that analysis of close to the establishment output informed by specialist knowledge is most effective from a cost-benefit standpoint.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • However, my other point, that one fact can negate and be key to deconstruction of a pack of lies holds. Crowd sourcing works perfectly for that. Also, now propagandists will have to be careful that they don not contradict these facts. Once all the facts are available then there is no room for propaganda. Hooray for Wikileaks, we need more not less.

  • So what you’re saying is that improving the quantity and quality of info that is publicly available to all is a fail. Not only does this disregard one of the main organizing principles of western society, the ‘marketplace of ideas’, but it’s formally not really been done anyway, i.e. nothing resembling good open-source intelligence is ever put out by the government anyway, so what the heck are you referring to??

    Hongpong.com

  • I don’t think that word means what the Talking Heads and politicians think it means…

    Since JA is Aussie, Australia is the only country that could accuse him of treason.

  • …at least in an Internet-mediated context is frequently pretty dumb.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • …spewed out there fails to improve the quantity and quality of information. When the bar for entry into the marketplace is set so low, there is little guarantee that you’re dealing with a marketplace of ideas. A marketplace of loudly spewed frequently indifferently informed opinion is more the norm.

    And actually, what’s currently happening in the int world when dealing with crisis response actually does resemble open-source (in the software sense) intelligence more than anything ever previously practiced. (The real action isn’t in the Homeland Security backwater – calling it a fusion centre doesn’t make it so.)

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • So the commercial should now state “For everything else, except donations to WikiLeaks, there’s MasterCard.”

    CNET

    MasterCard is pulling the plug on payments to WikiLeaks, a move that will dry up another source of funds for the embattled document-sharing Web site, CNET has learned.
    MasterCard logo

    There are some things you can’t buy with MasterCard.

    “MasterCard is taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products,” a spokesman for MasterCard Worldwide said today.

    That further limits the revenue sources for WikiLeaks, which has seen its finances systematically attacked in the last few days, as the Swiss authorities shut down a bank account used by editor Julian Assange, and PayPal permanently restricted the account used by the group. WikiLeaks has responded with an increasing number of fund-raising requests that urge supporters to “KEEP US STRONG.”

    Assuming that MasterCard blocks payments, the only easy way to donate electronically would be with a Visa credit card through a Web page hosted by Iceland-based DataCell.com. Representatives of Visa did not respond to requests for comment from CNET today. (WikiLeaks also solicits payments sent through the U.S. mail.)

    … In addition, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee wants WikiLeaks listed as a “terrorist” organization, which would prohibit U.S. banks from processing payments and make it a felony for anyone else to provide “material support or resources” to the group. CNET reported earlier today that some U.S. government employees are being blocked from visiting WikiLeaks’ Web site and the myriad mirror sites that have sprouted in the last few days.

  • PRESS RELEASE
    Tue 7 Dec 15.55 GMT

    Julian Assange Defense Fund frozen.

    The Swiss Bank Post Finance today issues a press release stating that it had frozen Julian Assange’s defense fund and personal assets (31K EUR) after reviewing him as a “high profile” individual.

    The technicality used to seize the defense fund was that Mr. Assange, as a homeless refugee attempting to gain residency in Switzerland, had used his lawyers address in Geneva for the bank’s correspondence.

    Latest address for donations at the link.

  • Provoking reform isn’t the point — the Empire won’t reform. The point is to make the Brain paranoid of itself, slowing down its processing speed and impairing its ability to think, and hence to act. Best analysis of Assange’s strategy that I’ve seen, can’t remember whether it was posted here: http://zunguzungu.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/julian-assange-and-the-computer-conspiracy-“to-destroy-this-invisible-government”

    This is in the comments section at Ian Welsh’s blog and makes the most sense. Going to Assange’s original thoughts rather than having him interpreted by the propaganda streams also seems to make the most sense to understand what he is doing. If you follow the links, you get to a pdf purported to be taken from Assange’s website.

    This is smart too, as the paranoid tendency to secrecy of the authoritarian mind is its greatest limitation. Who will watch the watchers?

  • Now that the beans are spilled, it will be interesting to see what those informed have to say. If this statement had appeared at the header of the documents, it would have been a real service: ‘These documents are raw data. We can’t guarantee the accuracy of the information, the authority of the authors, and/or their sincerity.’

    On a broader point, compare the administrations response to these leaks with their response to the first video and the Afghanistan documents? Quite a difference. Whose ox is being gored? When it makes the PTB look like a clown show (an easy conclusion), they Kirk out. When operatives are exposed and targeted for murder or US troops are wrongly portrayed as ‘murderers,’ they don’t make much of a fuss. That’s telling (in the extreme).

  • It’s worth looking at how things ramped up on a time line before and after the GS statement (presuming that’s when PTB first knew about it).

    I’d been wondering why they didn’t do GS first. That would have created an everlasting aura of goodwill toward them. They should do GS in a hurry.


  • Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them,and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows,or with both~FDouglas

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