Author and former CIA officer Barry Eisler spoke at the Association of Former Intelligence Officers opposite ex-CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden on Monday. Below, an adaptation of his opening remarks about the importance of whistleblowers and government transparency. Eisler's new novel, "God's Eye View," inspired by the Snowden revelations, is available now on Amazon. Read the rest
Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portraits from DNA samples, usually working from found samples -- chewing gum, cigarette butts -- of people she's never met. But this year, she's done a pair of extraordinary portraits of Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower currently serving a 35-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth for her role in the Wikileaks Cablegate
Julian Assange has presented a set of data protection act liberated messages from GCHQ, the UK spy headquarters, concerning his own case. According to Assange, the messages reveal that UK spies believed that the Swedish rape inquiry against him was a "fit up" aimed at punishing him for his involvement in Wikileaks (many believe that the Swedish government would have aided in Assange's extradition to the USA, where there is a sealed Grand Jury indictment against him). He also revealed cables relating to the spies' candid opinion about his sheltering in the Ecuadorian embassy:
A message from September 2012, read out by Assange, apparently says: "They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ … It is definitely a fit-up… Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate..."
...A second instant message conversation from August last year between two unknown people saw them call Assange a fool for thinking Sweden would drop its attempt to extradite him.
The conversation, as read out by Assange, goes: "He reckons he will stay in the Ecuadorian embassy for six to 12 months when the charges against him will be dropped, but that is not really how it works now is it? He's a fool… Yeah … A highly optimistic fool."
GCHQ acknowledges that the messages are real, but, "The disclosed material includes personal comments between some members of staff and do not reflect GCHQ's policies or views in any way."
Julian Assange reveals GCHQ messages discussing Swedish extradition [Giles Tremlett and Ben Quinn/Guardian] Read the rest
"The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer." -- Henry A. Kissinger, US Secretary of State, March 10, 1975.
Julian Assange today announced the launch of the Public Library of US Diplomacy, or PLUSD, the publication of more than 1.7 million US diplomatic and intelligence documents from the 1970s. PLUSD includes diplomatic cables, intel reports, congressional correspondence, and other formerly restricted material, now all online in searchable text form.
The project was apparently orchestrated by Assange from his place of refuge, within the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He says the records highlighted the "vast range and scope" of the United States' global influence. He has been encamped in the Latin American country's embassy mission for nine months, seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault, which he denies.
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WikiLeaks reports having received 2.5m emails from Syrian government officials, which it began releasing Thursday night. Founder Julian Assange: "The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria's opponents."
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The database comprises 2,434,899 emails from the 680 domains. There are 678,752 different email addresses that have sent emails and 1,082,447 different recipients. There are a number of different languages in the set, including around 400,000 emails in Arabic and 68,000 emails in Russian. The data is more than eight times the size of ’Cablegate’ in terms of number of documents, and more than 100 times the size in terms of data. Around 42,000 emails were infected with viruses or trojans. To solve these complexities, WikiLeaks built a general-purpose, multi-language political data-mining system which can handle massive data sets like those represented by the Syria Files.
Michael Geist sez, "Wikileaks has just posted hundreds of cables from U.S. personnel in New Zealand that reveal regular government lobbying on copyright, offers to draft New Zealand three-strikes and you're out legislation, and a recommendation to spend over NZ$500,000 to fund a recording industry-backed IP enforcement initiative.
For example, an April 2005 cable reveals the U.S. willingness to pay over NZ$500,000 (US$386,000) to fund a recording industry enforcement initiative. The project was backed by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). Performance metrics include:"
The project's performance will be judged by specific milestones, including increases in the number of enforcement operations and seizures, with percentages or numerical targets re-set annually. The unit also will be measured by the number of reports it submits to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on its contributions to IP protection and enforcement methodology.
The proposed budget included four salaried positions, legal costs for investigation and prosecution, and training programs. The RIANZ still runs an anti-piracy site, but does not include disclosure about the source of funding. It certainly raises the question of whether New Zealand is aware that local enforcement initiatives have been funded by the U.S. government
Wikileaks on New Zealand Copyright: US Funds IP Enforcement, Offers to Draft Legislation Read the rest
Michael Geist sez, "A new Wikileaks cable confirms that the Canadian Conservative government delayed introducing copyright legislation in early 2008 due to public opposition. The delay - which followed the decision in December 2007 to hold off introducing a bill after it was placed on the order paper (and the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group took off) - lasted until June 2008. The U.S. cable notes confirmation came directly from then-Industry Minister Jim Prentice, who told U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins that cabinet colleagues and Conservative MPs were worried about the electoral implications of copyright reform."
From December 2007 to mid-February, senior GOC officials and well-informed private sector contacts assured the Embassy that legislative calendar concerns were delaying the copyright bill's introduction into Parliament. Our contacts downplayed the small - but increasingly vocal - public opposition to copyright reform led by University of Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist. On February 25, however, Industry Minister Prentice (please protect) admitted to the Ambassador that some Cabinet members and Conservative Members of Parliament - including MPs who won their ridings by slim margins - opposed tabling the copyright bill now because it might be used against them in the next federal election. Prentice said the copyright bill had become a "political" issue. He also indicated that elevating Canada to the Special 301 Priority Watch List would make the issue more difficult and would not be received well.
The bill died, and all its successors have died too.
Wikileaks Cable Confirms Public Pressure Forced Delay of Canadian Copyright Bill in 2008 Read the rest
Micah Sifry's WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency is a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at the promise and limits of Internet-based transparency efforts. Sifry looks at everything from digital sunshine laws to the Iranian election to Cablegate, and examines what has worked to make the world's governments and corporations more accountable and when technology-driven transparency efforts have failed. His postmortem on the Obama administration's largely abandoned transparency efforts are particularly sharp, especially in light of how much mileage the few successful government transparency projects delivered.
No book about transparency and politics would be complete without a look at Wikleaks and Julian Assange, and Sifry takes great pains to separate issues with Assange's personal life and management style from the power and danger of Wikileaks-style sites, as well as the power and risk of denial-of-service attacks like those staged under the Anonymous banner on Wikileaks' behalf.
This is more than an account of the successes and failures in online transparency: it's a kind of roadmap for activists who want to use the Web to make the powerful more accountable -- and who worry that technology might be used to hide a multitude of sins and cover them up with meaningless gestures towards transparency.
WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency (Amazon)
WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency (OR Books) Read the rest
A cache of Wikileaks Cablegate cables disclose that Saudi Royals -- with collusion of the religious police -- throw wild drug- and alcohol-fuelled parties, sponsored by western energy beverage companies, despite the strict rules in Saudi Arabia and the harsh penalties imposed on everyday people for their violation.
¶2. (C) Along with over 150 young Saudis (men and women mostly in their 20's and early 30's), ConGenOffs accepted invitations to an underground Halloween party at PrinceXXXXXXXXXXXX residence in Jeddah on XXXXXXXXXXXX. Inside the gates, past the XXXXXXXXXXXX security guards and after the abaya coat-check, the scene resembled a nightclub anywhere outside the Kingdom: plentiful alcohol, young couples dancing, a DJ at the turntables, and everyone in costume. Funding for the party came from a corporate sponsor, XXXXXXa U.S.-based energy-drink company as well as from the princely host himself.
WikiLeaks Blows The Lid Off The Sex Parties And Drug Usage Among The Saudi Royals
Mariah Carey vs. Saudi Photoshop Censors: Boing Boing's exclusive ...
Report: Saudi Arabia and RIM reach BlackBerry deal - Boing Boing
Saudi woman beats up religious cop - Boing Boing
Wajeha Al Huwaider, a woman, driving in Saudi Arabia - Boing Boing
Saudi Arabia government to behead man for practicing witchcraft ... Read the rest
Glenn Greenwald has responded to the revelation that a consortium of security firms pitched Bank of America on a proposal to attack him as part of an anti-Wikileaks dirty tricks campaign. Greenwald starts with the revelation that the amateurish, dumbass proposal was actually prepared by firms recommended by the highest levels of the US government, and they do this kind of wetwork for big companies and the feds all the time, and moves on from there:
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But the real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate power. I've written many times about this issue -- the full-scale merger between public and private spheres -- because it's easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics. Especially (though by no means only) in the worlds of the Surveillance and National Security State, the powers of the state have become largely privatized. There is very little separation between government power and corporate power. Those who wield the latter intrinsically wield the former. The revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate offices rotates so fast and continuously that it has basically flown off its track and no longer provides even the minimal barrier it once did. It's not merely that corporate power is unrestrained; it's worse than that: corporations actively exploit the power of the state to further entrench and enhance their power.
That's what this anti-WikiLeaks campaign is generally: it's a concerted, unified effort between government and the most powerful entities in the private sector (Bank of America is the largest bank in the nation).
Quadrature du Net's repository of #cablegate cables related to ACTA, the secretive copyright treaty reveal that governments all over the world were pissed off that the USA and Japan wouldn't let them discuss the treaty with their citizens and industry.
More importantly, they explicitly confirm that the reason that ACTA was negotiated in secret among rich countries was that this was seen as the most expeditious way of getting a super-extreme copyright agreement passed with a minimum of fuss, and that all the poor countries who were excluded from the negotiation would later be coerced into agreeing to it.
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The cables note that critics wanted ACTA to take place before an existing body like WIPO, where processes were in place for transparency and for the involvement of public interest groups. But cables from the US embassy in Japan make clear that the US pushed back against this approach, in large part because it knew other nations wouldn't go along with what it wanted: "a plurilateral, TRIPS-plus Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which would aim to set a 'gold standard' for IPR enforcement among a small number of like-minded countries, and which other countries might aspire to join."
US Trade Representative official Stan McCoy "stressed that this should be a freestanding agreement, not related to any international grouping such as the G-8 or OECD, which might make it more difficult to construct a high-standards agreement."
In other words, what we got was a "coalition of the willing" bent on creating tough new enforcement rules that they would slowly seek to impose on other countries.
ResourceShelf has a number of links and excerpts relating to the sordid story of the Enfield, Connecticut public library being forced to cancel its showing of Michael Moore's Sicko after a few people complained to the town council, who took issue with the characterization of the film as "non-fiction."
The Connecticut Library Association believes that public libraries should be a pillar of our American democracy and that democracy depends on an informed citizenry. People should be able to go their public library to read or view a wide variety of books and films about controversial topics and then make up their minds. Censoring the choices that people have or silencing the opposition is an insult to our form of government. The public library is supposed to be a battle ground for ideas.
Public Libraries: "Connecticut Library Cancels Screening of Michael Moore Movie 'Sicko' Under Pressure"
(Thanks, Rubble88, via Submitterator!)
Boing Boing: Sicko inspires grassroots action in Dallas cinema
Wikileaks/Cablegate: Guardian reports Cuba banned Michael Moore's ...
Boing Boing: More on Google vs Sicko
Boing Boing: Michael Moore rebuts CNN on Sicko, calls for apology
Boing Boing: Google to HMOs: pay us and we'll defuse "Sicko"
Boing Boing: Moore's "Sicko" leaks onto P2P
BlueCross's internal talking points memo for Sicko - Boing Boing Read the rest
The mainstream media likes to suggest, with a nudge and a wink and abuse of the word "cyber," that Wikileaks represents a radical ideological position. But if there's a moral crusade to be found, maybe it's rooted in a tradition closer to home: classical Western liberal-democratic principles.
In The New Republic, Noam Scheiber takes for granted that Wikileaks is here to stay, with relentless pressure on big business and big government that permanently hampers their ability to prevent leaks. This will result in smaller, more humane organizations.
I have no idea what size organization is optimal for preventing leaks, but, presumably, it should be small enough to avoid wide-scale alienation, which clearly excludes big bureaucracies. Ideally, you'd want to stay small enough to preserve a sense of community, so that people's ties to one another and the leadership act as a powerful check against leaking.
To make this point, Scheiber reminds us that Wikileaks' stated aim--making organizations operate more ethically--is a mainstream one: "It's easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more affected negatively by leaks than honest businesses," he quotes Julian Assange.
Scheiber's argument seems to be that Wikileaks' disclosures could have more subtle and far-reaching effects on organizations than it expects.
It's easy to make a meal of the "crushing bastards" side of Wikileaks, but that distracts us from the fact that it reveals things that should not be hidden from us if we take liberal democratic principles seriously. Read the rest
From EFF, a disturbing story about a customer of SiteGround, an ISP, who had his account suspended and was forced to remove a mirror of the Wikileaks Cablegate archive because SoftLayer, the ISP that provides SiteGround with its bandwidth, objected. Imagine a future in which your ability to host a website depends on not upsetting your ISP, its upstream provider, the provider upstream of that, and so on, all the way up to some giant tier-one telco like AT&T.
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If this sounds like a lame excuse, that's because it is a lame excuse. It's incredibly disappointing to see more service providers cutting off customers simply because they decide (or fear) that content is too volatile or unpopular to host.
[Video Link] Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gave an interview with msnbc's Cenk Uygur today. During the exchange, Assange denies conspiring to commit espionage with U.S. Army Specialist Bradley Manning, as it is believed US prosecutors would like to charge. Assange says these claims are "absolute nonsense." Responding to Vice President Biden's claims that he is "a high-tech terrorist," the leaker-in-chief effectively accused the United States of terrorism—threatening violent, extralegal actions in its assault on Wikileaks.
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Well, let's look at the definition of terrorism. The definition of terrorism is a group that uses violence or the threat of violence for political ends. [W]hoever the terrorists are here, it's not us. But we see constant threats from people in the Re -- you know, Republicans in the Senate trying to make a -- a name for themselves, the people like Sarah Palin, top shock jocks on Fox and, unfortunately, some members, also, of the Democratic Party, calling for my assassination, calling for the illegal kidnapping of my staff. And -- and just a few days ago, it was in Fox, that was the phrase that was used -- illegal. He should be illegally murdered if necessary-- assassinated by the law, if possible, if not, illegally. What sort of message does that send about the rule of law in the United States? That is conducting violence in order to achieve a political end -- the elimination of this organization or the threat of violence to achieve a political end, the elimination of a publisher.