WikiLeaks CableGate: Weekend Updates

Check and update this page often for the latest news and views on the WikiLeaks saga, as well as our special report.

DECEMBER 12, Day 15

[Donald Rumsfeld via Twitter] Surprise, the former Secretary of Defense cooperated with the U.S. government in using previously classified documents in his book.

"With my book I will release 100s of supporting docs on a website--many previously classified, but unlike #Wikileaks, all cleared by USG."

[Guardian] Sinn Fein leaders 'were aware of' Northern Bank heist plans

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness judged to be part of military command and aware of IRA plans for £26.5m robbery

[Washington Post] Brazil's vulnerability to terrorist acts

The 2009 crash of a stolen plane near the capital city of Brasilia exposed Brazil's vulnerability to terrorist acts, said a U.S. diplomatic cable released Sunday by WikiLeaks.

[Guardian] WikiLeaks: Uzbekistan world of rampant corruption

"The post-Soviet state of Uzbekistan is a nightmarish world of "rampant corruption", organised crime, forced labour in the cotton fields, and torture, according to the leaked cables."

"But the secret dispatches released by WikiLeaks reveal that the US tries to keep President Islam Karimov sweet because he allows a crucial US military supply line to run into Afghanistan, known as the northern distribution network (NDN)."

[Guardian] WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady

Leaked dispatch lays bare US diplomats' less-than-flattering remarks about first lady Mehriban Aliyeva

[AP] Leaked U.S. embassy cables show American diplomats were concerned that Switzerland's unilateral efforts in nuclear negotiations with Iran had sent a "wrong message" and undercut international pressure on the Islamic republic.

The cables obtained by WikiLeaks and published Sunday by German magazine Der Spiegel reveal U.S. displeasure at what was perceived as unhelpful Swiss interference in the delicate nuclear issue.

A 2008 cable apparently written by the then-U.S. ambassador in Bern, Peter R. Coneway, said that the so-called "Swiss Plan" backed by Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey seemed mainly aimed at raising her own profile.

[Washington Post] Editorial on whether Julian Assange should be indicted by the U.S. government

"The government has no business indicting someone who is not a spy and who is not legally bound to keep its secrets. Doing so would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations that vet and verify material and take seriously the protection of sources and methods when lives or national security are endangered. The Espionage Act is easily abused, as shown by a criminal case that dragged on for years, before being closed last year, of two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who did nothing more than pass along to colleagues and a reporter information they gleaned from conversations with U.S. officials. The act should be scrapped or tightened, not given new and dangerous life."

[Al Jazeera English] Julian Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, discusses the allegations against the WikiLeaks founder and the broader issue of the impact of WikiLeaks on world politics with Sir David Frost.

"We have heard from the Swedish authorities there has been a secretly empaneled grand jury in Alexandria...just over the river from Washington DC, next to the Pentagon," Stephens said. "They are currently investigating this, and indeed the Swedes we understand have said if he comes to Sweden, they will defer their interest in him to the Americans. Now that shows some level of collusion and embarrassment, so it does seem to me what we have here is nothing more than holding charges...so ultimately they can get their mitts on him."

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, "We have a very serious criminal investigation that's underway, and we're looking at all of the things that we can do to try to stem the flow of this information."

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a Dec. 16 hearing on the potential application of U.S. espionage laws in relation to WikiLeaks, the committee announced on Friday, marking the first such hearing to address the website's recent release of classified U.S. diplomatic cables.

Assange will appear in court Dec. 14 to will fight extradition charges and ask for bail, Stephens said. "Julian remains prepared to meet consensually with the Swedish prosecutor should she care to come to London. There is not a necessity for a show trial if she doesn't want it." Stephens said. "There are a number of Issues in this particular case that raise European Convention and human rights points. It maybe we'll have to wait for the case to go there...that would be seven years," he added. 


DECEMBER 11, Day 14

[Guardian] Russia 'was tracking killers of Alexander Litvinenko but UK warned it off'

"Russia was tracking the assassins of dissident spy Alexander Litvinenko before he was poisoned but was warned off by Britain, which said the situation was "under control", according to claims made in a leaked US diplomatic cable."

"The secret memo, recording a 2006 meeting between an ex-CIA bureau chief and a former KGB officer, is set to reignite the diplomatic row surrounding Litvinenko's unsolved murder that year, which many espionage experts have linked directly to the Kremlin."

"The latest WikiLeaks release comes after relations between Moscow and London soured as a result of Britain's decision to expel a Russian parliamentary researcher suspected of being a spy."

[Guardian] North Korea wanted to use Eric Clapton as a diplomacy-building pawn, reads the latest WikiLeaks diplomatic cable that was released Dec. 11, according to The Guardian.

The confidential cable, dated May 23, 2007, from the U.S. ambassador in Seoul details a briefing between the ambassador and a human rights worker in the region. It reveals that North Korea requested America organize an Eric Clapton concert in Pyongyang to help persuade Kim Jong-Il to allow humanitarian aid into the country.

[Jack Goldsmith] 

Seven Thoughts on WikiLeaks  

"In Obama's Wars, Bob Woodward, with the obvious assistance of many top Obama administration officials, disclosed many details about top secret programs, code names, documents, meetings, and the like. I have a hard time squaring the anger the government is directing toward wikileaks with its top officials openly violating classification rules and opportunistically revealing without authorization top secret information."

[Personal Democracy Forum] A Symposium on WikiLeaks and Internet Freedom

Jay Rosen, NYU journalism professor: "In my mind, Wikileaks is the world's first stateless news organization...You've heard of voting with you feet? The sources are voting with their leaks. If they trusted the newspapers more, they would be going to the newspapers."

"Nobody can have a monopoly on the legitimate use of digital force. How would we make Wikileaks a legitimate actor in international affairs?

Emily Bell, Director of Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School: "The press watchdog function in the U.S. is anesthetized. WikiLeaks a shot of adrenaline to its heart."

Former Nation editor, Victor Navatsy: "The press should decide what to publish. The government should decide what it wants to keep secret. If leaked, should the press enforce a government decision of what is legitimate?"

Rebecca MacKinnon, fellow at the New America Foundation: "Tech innovation has far outstripped political innovation."  

"The U.S. should come out more strongly to protect free experssion...but at same time it's not anti-government thing. It should be pro-accountability."

Gideon Lichfield, Economist editor: "WikiLeaks has overreached and made misjudgements...in some ways WikiLeaks is a red herring...leaking would be happening if WikiLeaks is  gone. We will learn from WikiLeaks' failures."

Carne Ross, founder and director of the Independent Diplomat: If WikiLeaks and other emerging organizations continue, we need to develop a new discourse on the responsibility they must bear. 

Jeff Jarvis: Amended Bill of Rights for Cyberspace

I. We have the right to connect.

II. We have the right to speak freely.

III. We have the right to assemble and act.

IV. Information should be public by default, secret by necessity.

V. What is public is a public good.

VI. All bits are created equal.

VII. The internet shall be operated openly.

Dave Winer: "A perfect storm with WikiLeaks, which gives new rise to every issue we deal with on the Internet."

[CBS/AP]: WikiLeaks Supporters Protest Assange Arrest

More than 100 demonstrators gathered outside the British Embassy in Madrid late Saturday to protest the detention of the founder of secret-spilling website WikiLeaks and the closing of the site's Swiss bank account.

The Spanish-language website Free WikiLeaks said protests were scheduled to be held in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville and at least three other Spanish cities.

Protesters held placards saying "Free Julian Assange" and "Truth Now," and chanted "freedom of speech."

The website also said demonstrations were planned Saturday in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and in the capital cities of Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Peru, as well as in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

[White House]: President Obama spoke Saturday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, expressing his "regrets for the deplorable action by WikiLeaks," said the White House in a read-out of the conversations. The leaders said that the "irresponsible acts" by WikiLeaks should not distract the countries from "important cooperation."

[AP/El Pais];A WikiLeaks cable from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota says that former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was prepared to move troops into Venezuela to capture rebel leaders in 2008. It was the "best counter to Chavez," the Venezuela president, according to Uribe.

[Reuters]: Anonymous, the cyber-activists who attacked websites such as PayPal that they deem hostile to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, announced a change of strategy, "Operation Leakspin."

"We have, at best, given them a black eye. The game has changed. When the game changes, so too must our strategies," Anonymous said in a blog post. They intend to publish parts of U.S. diplomatic cables in a way that makes them technically difficult to trace back to a source. "Use misleading tags, everything from "Tea Party" to "Bieber."

[Guardian]: John Naughton: "As far as the law of contract is concerned, Amazon can do what it likes. But this isn't just about contracts any more. 'While Amazon was within its legal rights," MacKinnon warns, "the company has nonetheless sent a clear signal to its users: if you engage in controversial speech that some individual members of the U.S. government don't like... Amazon is going to dump you at the first sign of trouble.'"

[Personal Democracy Forum]: A Symposium on Wikileaks and Internet Freedom live event 10:00 a.m. ET to 2:00 p.m. ET

[AP]: The mother of Julian Assange defends her son (below). Also, [FT] profile of Assange, "Man in the News: A Cornered Crusader"


 DECEMBER 10, Day 13

Fact: WikiLeaks has released 1,269 cables so far, almost exactly 1/2 of 1 percent of the of the 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables they have procured. They have released 66 cables since Thursday, Dec. 9.

Fact: Wikileaks is currently mirrored on 1,559 sites. They have added 491 mirror sites since Thursday, Dec. 9. Vis4.net has a visual of the international spiderweb of mirrors.

[AP] WikiLeaks supporters on Friday downloaded increasing amounts of the spam-shooting software used to attack companies seen as hostile -- a development that could challenge even Internet giants such as PayPal and Amazon.com during the crucial Christmas shopping season.

[CBS News] WikiLeaks has been surprisingly slow in providing promised financial support for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army soldier accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, and WikiLeaks is delivering less financial support than originally promised, according to a spokesman for the Bradley Manning Support Network.

[Daily Mail (U.K.)] While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepares to fight extradition in a British court, it may not help his defense that newly released photos of the data center storing the document-dumping website's files cast Assange as a James Bond villain.

[CBS News] The House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing for next Thursday to discuss WikiLeaks and the outdated Espionage Act of 1917. Amid calls to prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for hurting national security, some in Congress are seeking ways to update U.S. spying laws for the 21st Century. The hearing will take place in the House Judiciary Committee.

[NBC News] Despite earlier reports to the contrary, a U.S. Department of Justice indictment on spying charges against Julian Assange is not imminent. The U.S. government is moving slowly because it wants to make sure the prosecution is on solid ground, NBC News reports.

[AP] A former spokesman of WikiLeaks has announced plans to start a rival site, called OpenLeaks. Founder Daniel Domscheit-Berg said the new website will work as an outlet for anonymous sources, and is also reported to be working on a book about his time with WikiLeaks. OpenLeaks will join a growing marketplace for websites looking to offer an outlet to people who want to leak government and business secrets anonymously online. Others include Cryptome, started in 1996.

[DutchNews] The public prosecutors office in the Netherlands had their website shut down by hackers on Friday after the arrest of a Dutch teen for cyberattacks carried out in alleged defense of WikiLeaks. The 16-year-old arrested on Thursday had operated under the name "JeroenzOr"  and was one of the operators of the internet relay chat channel in which sympathisers prepared for the cyberattacks.

[McClatchy Newspapers] WikiLeaks leaked diplomatic cables reveal that the U.S. military's involvement in the Muslim world is far deeper and more widespread than previously acknowledged and believed. Shashank Bengali writes from Baghdad:

"U.S. officials have struck relationships with regimes that generally aren't considered allies in the war against terrorism, and while the cables show U.S. diplomats admonishing the regimes to respect the laws of war, they also underscore the perils of using advanced military technologies in complex, remote battlefields with sometimes shifty friends."

[Wired] In an apparent attempt to stop the next PFC Bradley Manning, the U.S. military is telling its troops to stop using CDs, DVDs, thumb drives and every other form of removable media, or risk a court martial. Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, commander of Air Force Network Operations, issued the Dec. 3 "Cyber Control Order," which directs airmen to "immediately cease use of removable media on all systems, servers, and stand alone machines residing on SIPRNET," the Defense Department's secret network. Similar directives have gone out to the military's other branches.

[CBS News] Speculation grows in the media and among Julian Assange's lawyers that the WikiLeak's founder will be extradited to the U.S. on spying charges if he's sent to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations. "Any prosecution under the Espionage Act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S.," Assange's attorney Jennifer Robinson told ABC News, later saying she believed U.S. spying charges against Assange to be imminent.

[AP] Cuba's slowness in adopting necessary economic reforms may leave the country in a fatal economic situation within three years, one of the leaked diplomatic cables reveal. Things are so bad, China is worried too.

[YouTube] Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks on the House Floor in general support of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Congressman Paul said he wonders why no one is going after The New York Times as well.



[The Guardian] Allegedly damning revelations by leaked U.S. diplomatic cables that Shell Oil Company had infiltrated the highest levels of government in Nigeria are "old news" in Africa's largest country. Columnist Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou writes:

"While clearly the explicit nature of the unguarded comments of the former Shell vice-president, Ann Pickard , have understandably caused embarrassed consternation in official circles and claims of "told you so" among campaigners, the revelations in themselves do not actually reveal anything scandalously new, or anything that most generally well-informed Nigerians do not already know. Shell's presence in Nigeria is older than the Nigerian state itself. Granted prospecting licenses in 1913 before Nigeria was even ruled as a single entity, Shell today with the largest market share, is embedded within the Nigerian state in ways that dwarf its late-starter rivals."

[AP] The former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader may have fled Croatia after leaked U.S. diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks reveal there were several ongoing corruption cases targeting him. One of Sanader's friends, however, insists he did not flee and was in fact on a business trip. In one case, Sanader allegedly arranged a bank loan for a neighbor in the 1990s in return for an $542,000 kickback. The cable also cited the investigating prosecutor as saying that although some cases against Sanader may seem minor, "Al Capone was brought down for tax evasion rather than for his more notorious activities."

[Computer Weekly] The free software tool used by Anonymous to attack online what it perceives as enemies of WikiLeaks has been downloaded 40,000 times, mostly in the U.S.

[Netcraft.com] It appears that Moneybookers.com is the latest casualty of Anonymous in the cyberwar over WikiLeaks. Moneybookers had been taking and transferring donations on behalf of WikiLeaks until the U.S. and Australia put WikiLeaks on watchlists.

[CBS News] Members of Anonymous, a group of hackers who have attacked the websites of what they perceive to be the enemy of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, have put out a press release (PDF) explaining themselves.The press release states the group does not want to make people feel threatened, and is instead just attempting to raise awareness for what they claim are important issues. The release states:

"Anonymous is not a group of hackers. We are average Interent Citizens ourselves and our motivation is a collective sense of being fed up with all the minor and major injustices we witness every day. We do not want to steal your personal information or credit card numbers. We also do not seek to attack critical infrastructure of companies such as Mastercard, Visa, PayPal or Amazon. Our current goal is to raise awareness about WikiLeaks and the underhanded methods employed by the above companies to impair WikiLeaks' ability to function."

[AP] A day after Dutch authorities arrested a 16-year-old who they say confessed to participating in DoS attacks against perceived WikiLeaks foes Mastercard, PayPal and Visa, "Operation Payback" targeted the websites of Dutch police and prosecutors=7136858>.=http:>

[CBS News] The coordinator of a Christian outreach group in the West Bank denied reports Friday that one of two women accusing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of rape had left Sweden and traveled to a town in the Palestinian territory.

Australian news website "Crikey" reported on Thursday that Anna Ardin had traveled to the town of Yanoun, in the West Bank, with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Jerusalem and Israel (EAPPI) earlier this week.

Ardin, however, "cancelled her participation because we anticipated this," program coordinator Pauline Nunu told CBSNews.com Friday morning in a telephone interview. "She's still in Sweden and she's not coming to Palestine."

 DECEMBER 9, Day 12

Fact: WikiLeaks has released 1,203 cables so far, less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the total number of U.S. diplomatic cables they have procured.

Fact: Wikileaks is currently mirrored on 1,368 sites. Vis4.net has a visual of the international spiderweb of mirrors.

[Guardian]  Julian Assange has been moved to a segregation unit of Wandsworth prison, and officials are expected to give him some access to the Internet.  The WikiLeaks founder's lawyers will attempt to free him on bail when he appears before the court Dec. 14.

[Guardian] Today's drop of cables includes: 

Pfizer used dirty tricks to avoid clinical trial payout

The world's biggest pharmaceutical company hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial drug trial involving children with meningitis, according to a leaked US embassy cable.

Pfizer was sued by the Nigerian state and federal authorities, who claimed that children were harmed by a new antibiotic, Trovan, during the trial, which took place in the middle of a meningitis epidemic of unprecedented scale in Kano in the north of Nigeria in 1996.

Last year, the company came to a tentative settlement with the Kano state government which was to cost it $75m.

But the cable suggests that the US drug giant did not want to pay out to settle the two cases - one civil and one criminal - brought by the Nigerian federal government.

WikiLeaks cables suggest Burma is building secret nuclear sites 

Witnesses say North Koreans are helping to construct underground facility in jungle, heightening concerns that military regime is seeking to develop nuclear weapons

WikiLeaks cables: China 'fed up' with Burma's footdragging on reforms

China, in spite of its closeness to the Burmese dictatorship, shares the same concerns as the US about the country's instability and is keen to work with Washington in promoting change, according to American diplomats.

WikiLeaks cables cast Hosni Mubarak as Egypt's ruler for life 

WikiLeaks cables: Kosovo sliding towards partition, Washington told 

WikiLeaks cable exposes US-UK rift over Croatian accession to EU   

[CBS News] The U.K. site of the online retailer Amazon has had an ebook with the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables for sale for viewing on their Kindle mobile reading device. Going to the page now offers this message: "We're sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site. Go to Amazon.co.uk's Home Page."  It's not clear whether Amazon closed shop on the ebook or there is some other explanation. Hat tip, Greg Mitchell.

Click here for earlier posts from Dec. 9 and Dec. 8.

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