Mathew Ingram makes some interesting points about Twitter’s attempts to resist the US Department of Justice’s subpoena for Wikileaks supporters’ personal information:
According to Greenwald and a report in the New York Times, the court order sent to Twitter would not have become public at all if the company had not initially refused to comply with the DoJ request and effectively forced it out into the open. Twitter should be congratulated for this (and has been by many users on Twitter since the news broke Friday night). The company didn’t have to fight for this court order to be made public; it could easily have complied with the DoJ subpoena in private.
However, the fact that Twitter is being targeted by the government is another sign of how important the network has become as a real-time publishing platform, and also of how centralized the service is — something that could spark interest in distributed and open-source alternatives such as Status.net, just as the downtime suffered by the network early last year did. It is another sign of how much we rely on networks that are controlled by a single corporate entity, as Global Voices founder Ethan Zuckerman pointed out when WikiLeaks was ejected from Amazon’s servers and had its DNS service shut down.
All of this makes it even more important that Twitter has forced the government’s attempts out into the light. One would hope that Facebook and Google — the latter of whom has talked a lot in the past about its commitment to freedom of speech, and has also taken action in China to protest that government’s digital surveillance of its citizens — would also come clean about any court orders they have received, especially when the DoJ appears determined to make a case that could easily entrap virtually anyone, up to and including reporters for the New York Times.
It’s worth reiterating that the unsealing order only happened because Twitter refused to comply with the order in secret, not not to comply with it. Very impressive that they’re not limply accepting the DoJ’s demand for information, but the matter is far from closed and all their actions have so far allowed is the users in question the ability to challenge the DoJ personally. The targeted users (and any unnamed people on other platforms) are still vulnerable to the Obama administration’s witchhunt against whistleblowers. Glenn Greenwald points out the US government’s terrible hypocrisy about whistleblowing:
The DOJ’s investigation of a member of Iceland’s Parliament — as part of an effort to intimidate anyone supporting WikiLeaks and to criminalize journalism that exposes what the U.S. Government does — is one of the most extreme acts yet in the Obama administration’s always-escalatingwar on whistleblowers, and shows how just excessive and paranoid the administration is when it comes to transparency: all this from a President who ran on a vow to have the “most transparent administration in history” and to “Protect Whistleblowers.”
He’s very right when he points out the dangers of using mass platforms like Twitter. They may be very handy, with superficial airs of confidentiality if you need it, but are potentially vulnerable to governmental use and abuse. Protest movements have used them repeatedly to organise demonstrations or in the case of dictatorships outright insurrections, but this has shown that it’s a two-way process. The war against Wikileaks continues, and the government responsible for the crimes they’ve proven tries every trick in the book to get away with them.
Julian #Assange has shown, through the Wikileaks revelations of the last year, that the international order has no interest whatsoever in the rule of law. It’s hardly surprising then that the man who leaked so much of the information which has led to the calls for witchhunts against Wikileaks should be treated with the severity which many expect awaits Assange himself. Glenn Greenwald reports:
Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
This can’t be right. It just can’t. This man has revealed murders committed by the US military, which they tried to pretend never happened. He has revealed our governments are guilty of war crimes they don’t want us to know about, for fear we might actually hold them to account. Brad Manning is a fucking hero who should be protected, not prosecuted. Of his leaks, a group of German newspapers has said:
Journalism has not only the right but the duty to control the state and to elucidate the mechanisms of governance. It creates transparency. Without transparency, there is no democracy. The state is not an end in itself, and must withstand a confrontation with his own secrets.
We, the initiators and signatories demand a stop to the persecution of Wikileaks, contrary to international law. We call on all States and all companies, to oppose the campaign against civil rights. We urge all citizens, public figures or not, in political positions or as individuals, to take action to stop the campaign against freedom of expression and freedom of information. We invite everyone to participate in the call for media freedom.
I couldn’t agree more. In the post-1945 world of codified human rights it cannot be right that a soldier who whistleblows on atrocities committed by his government should be treated in this way. It’s a complete betrayal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And now, thankfully the UN is intervening:
The United Nations is investigating a complaint on behalf of Bradley Manning that he is being mistreated while held since May in US Marine Corps custody pending trial. The army private is charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of classified information, material related to the WikiLeaks, and faces a court martial sometime in 2011.
The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture based in Geneva, received the complaint from a Manning supporter; his office confirmed that it was being looked into. Manning’s supporters say that he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day; this could be construed as a form of torture. This month visitors reported that his mental and physical health was deteriorating.
Julian #Assange has been in Wandsworth Prison for the last week, held in solitary confinement on an Interpol warrant for an alleged crime in Sweden, yet without charge. This smells even fishier:
The Crown Prosecution Service will go to the high court tomorrow to seek the reversal of a decision to free the WikiLeaks founder on bail, made yesterday by a judge at City of Westminster magistrates court.
It had been widely thought Sweden had made the decision to oppose bail, with the CPS acting merely as its representative. But today the Swedish prosecutor’s office told the Guardian it had “not got a view at all on bail” and that Britain had made the decision to oppose bail.
Lawyers for Assange reacted to the news with shock and said CPS officials had told them this week it was Sweden which had asked them to ensure he was kept in prison.
Karin Rosander, director of communications for Sweden’s prosecutor’s office, told the Guardian: “The decision was made by the British prosecutor. I got it confirmed by the CPS this morning that the decision to appeal the granting of bail was entirely a matter for the CPS. The Swedish prosecutors are not entitled to make decisions within Britain. It is entirely up to the British authorities to handle it.”
As a result, she said, Sweden will not be submitting any new evidence or arguments to the high court hearing tomorrow morning. “The Swedish authorities are not involved in these proceedings. We have not got a view at all on bail.”
As I write, Assange is in court trying to get his freedom secured; freedom from what seems to me to be unlawful detention. His treatment in the UK seems clearly to be political and is almost certainly connected to the Wikileaks revelations. Time I suppose will tell whether the CPS’s behaviour is the result of American pressure or if it’s the British state choosing to abusing him all on its own. The Guardian adds:
Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens said this was “highly irregular”. He told PA:
The question we have to ask is if they weren’t talking to the Swedes, who were they talking to? It’s highly irregular because, as (director of public prosecutions) Keir Starmer said on Radio 4 this morning, the CPS are supposed to act as the agents of the Swedish authorities and they appear to be acting without the knowledge of their director or the Swedes.
It remains opaque and unclear as to who actually gave the order to oppose bail.
Last night they took down Amazon across multiple domains. Charles Arthur offers a fascinating insight into the movement who say they’re standing up for Julian Assange and Wikileaks:
Even with 3,000 people in the group, that’s going to make little difference to a site like Mastercard or Amazon. But an0n pointed out that there are more serious players in there: “I know a guy who is using a botnet of 25k computers to do this,” he observed. Hired, I asked, or his own creation? “No idea,” came the reply. “He used to hack a lot, so it could well be his. He’s a scene hacker, which is as good as you get.”
And he didn’t think the attack on PayPal would really work, because it wouldn’t garner the backing of those with the real hacker skills required: “we’re all pirates – we all use PayPal on a daily basis. Plus [PayPal] met our demands [to release funds to Wikileaks]: the reason the attack took place was because they froze Assange’s funds. They have unfrozen them due to Operation Payback.” Plus, “there are plenty on /b/, largely American who wholeheartedly agree with the arrest of Assange.”
In fact it’s difficult – perhaps wrong – to call Anonymous a group. It is, but only in the loosest sense; it’s more like a stampeding herd, not sure quite what it wants but certain that it’s not going to put up with any obstacles, until it reaches an obstacle it can’t hurdle, in which case it moves on to something else.
How long, I asked an0n, did he think the group would keep Amazon and PayPal in its sights? “One or two weeks,” he guessed. In fact, it already looks like less than that – on Saturday a Twitter announcement seemed to suggest that it would instead try to distribute existing Wikileaks content via Bittorrent. So, three days of insurrection.
Twitter Suspends Wikileaks Defenders’ Profile
by Stephen Gutowski
The group responsible for “hacking” several companies which have cut ties with and services to Wikileaks as well as Sarah Palin moments ago had their twitter account suspended. The group,as identified by Scientific American, calls itself “Operation Payback” or Anon_Operation on twitter. Up until just a few minutes ago when you visited the group’s twitter profile you would see tweets from the group touting media coverage of themselves and coordinating attacks with their 11,000+ followers.
Here is a cache image of the account (click to enlarge):
However, now when you try to visit this account on twitter you instead receive a notice that the account has been suspended. Here’s what Anon_Operation looks like now (click to enlarge):
UPDATE: In case you’re wondering this group has all the hallmarks of something born out of 4Chan. The use of the term “Anon”, short for anonymous, is enough of a clue but the fact that the attacks they are using are DDoS is another clue since that is a 4Chan favorite. It might come as a surprise but this isn’t the first time they’ve gone after Sarah Palin either.
Remember during the campaign when Sarah Palin’s email account was “hacked”? That was also 4Chan. Of course that didn’t turn out to well for the main guy involved.
However, a post from Michelle Malkin on the matter gives a pretty good glimpse into the standard operating procedure for when 4Chan wants to cause trouble. It should give you some background on what you can expect. Given 4Chan’s history it’s doubtful that twitter suspending this account will really prevent them from doing more damage.
In fact this move makes me wonder if these 4Channers wont go after Twitter next. They’ll attack anybody if they rub them the wrong way or if they think its funny… even 4Chan.
UPDATE: If you needed further proof of 4Chan’s connection to “Operation Payback” here it is.
What I don’t understand is this: Twitter is comfortable with allowing rampant racism, homophobia and breaches of pornography laws. Yet with this they act -
Once vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has embroiled herself in the #wikileaks controversy:
ABC News is reporting that Sarah Palin’s website and credit card information apparently have been hacked by supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Palin told ABC’s Jake Tapper in an e-mail that “this is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts.”
The former Alaska governor has criticized Assange on her Facebook page for posting classified documents on WikiLeaks that reveal the identity of Afghan sources to the Taliban. She called Assange an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands.”
Now I’m going to assume this nutjob Tea Party darling is speaking for all of them with the words she’s chosen, so let me break her argument apart quite quickly (it’s never difficult to do with right wingers, particularly Americans).
‘Sick, un-American espionage efforts’, eh? Well he’s Australian, so he’s not exactly bound by her perverse sense of American nationalism, is he? As for the rest? ‘Anti-American operative with blood on his hands’? I’d like to point her towards Iraq and Afghanistan – exactly where Assange has pointed us. The blood on the American government’s hands can never be cleansed – the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands, all for the sake of installing corrupt, puppet regimes. The blood on Assange’s hands? None. She and her fascist ilk need to be stamped on for their attempts permanently to inhibit freedom of speech and a free press in their rapidly failing state:
Sens. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) introduced a bill Thursday aimed at stopping WikiLeaks by making it illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.
Ensign accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his “cronies” of hindering America’s war efforts and creating a “hit list” for U.S. enemies by outing intelligence sources.
“Our sources are bravely risking their lives when they stand up against the tyranny of al Qaeda, the Taliban and murderous regimes, and I simply will not stand idly by as they become death targets because of Julian Assange,” Ensign said. “Let me be very clear, WikiLeaks is not a whistleblower website and Assange is not a journalist.”
So America is allowed to kill innocents and get away with it, but the moment that the truth is revealed about its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan Assange becomes the real problem? That the only facts the media are allowed to reveal are those handed to them by the government, to suit its agenda? That’s the logic of fascism folks.
Julian Assange and Wikileaks have changed the playing field entirely for journalism, whistleblowing and freedom of information. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been laid bare; international diplomacy itself has been laid bare. They’ve also rapidly exposed the double standards in Western governments’ attitudes towards the internet and freedom of speech. Assange in response has been threatened with assassination and execution, even in some, largely high profile, American political circles, whilst he’s lauded as a hero in others.
Here’s Ed West in the Telegraph, who cautions about the consequences of the mass scale leaks:
As liberal commentator David Allen Green wrote in the New Statesman, WikiLeaks’ mission is not necessarily a good thing for freedom. Transparency is not liberal if it tramples over other liberal values such as accountability, legitimacy and privacy. And then there are the consequences.
When WikiLeaks was launched, Assange said: “To radically shift regime behaviour we must think clearly and boldly, for if we have learned anything it is that regimes do not want to be changed.” And yet he is almost certainly making regimes change for the worse.
As my colleague Guy Walters argues, the 265 million-words megaleak will only make governments more secretive, while aid worker Scott Gilmore wrote: “It will lead to a more closed world, where repressive governments will be more free to commit atrocities against their own people and the people who try to stop them will have even less information to help prevent this. Thankfully, for the Timorese at least, WikiLeaks did not exist in the 1990s.”
Investigative journalist John Pilger blames the extreme reaction to Wikileaks on the failures of mainstream journalism:
The WikiLeaks revelations shame the dominant section of journalism, devoted merely to taking down what cynical and malign power tells it. This is state stenography, not journalism. Look on the WikiLeaks site and read a Ministry of Defence document that describes the “threat” of real journalism. And so it should be a threat. Having skilfully published the WikiLeaks exposé of a fraudulent war, the Guardian should now give its most powerful and unreserved editorial support to the protection of Assange and his colleagues, whose truth-telling is as important as any in my lifetime.
Open Democracy argues a healthy democracy’s need for whistleblowers:
There is no doubt in my mind that a good number of the people screaming for Assange’s head would like the news media either to go away, or to function as a docile servant of the powers that be. Of course a society can exist without watchdog media, and many do. But those are generally awful places to live, except for the people who own them.
If the government has secrets, let it try to keep them. Any adult understands that running an organization may require its leaders to lie from time to time. But the job and duty of journalists is to expose those lies and their consequences. Julian Assange has shown that one does not need to be a journalist to help. That does not make him a spy.
Hounding Assange and criminalizing whistleblowers will do far more damage to democracy than a pack of scribes and hackers ever could. You don’t need to be a spy to guess that secret. The people screaming for Assange’s blood are the architects and allies of disastrous policies that are being rejected even within the government. They are trying to conceal their failure, and Wikileaks is the proof that they failed. It must not be silenced, and journalists should be the first to know it.
John Naughton argues Wikileaks’ action is all that’s left, given the failure of Western politics to hold any political leaders to account for their behaviour:
What WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. In the last decade its political elites have been shown to be incompetent (Ireland, the US and UK in not regulating banks); corrupt (all governments in relation to the arms trade); or recklessly militaristic (the US and UK in Iraq). And yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted, their reflex reaction is to kill the messenger.
As Simon Jenkins put it recently in the Guardian, “Disclosure is messy and tests moral and legal boundaries. It is often irresponsible and usually embarrassing. But it is all that is left when regulation does nothing, politicians are cowed, lawyers fall silent and audit is polluted. Accountability can only default to disclosure.” What we are hearing from the enraged officialdom of our democracies is mostly the petulant screaming of emperors whose clothes have been shredded by the net.
Which brings us back to the larger significance of this controversy. The political elites of western democracies have discovered that the internet can be a thorn not just in the side of authoritarian regimes, but in their sides too. It has been comical watching them and their agencies stomp about the net like maddened, half-blind giants trying to whack a mole. It has been deeply worrying to watch terrified internet companies – with the exception of Twitter, so far – bending to their will.
But politicians now face an agonising dilemma. The old, mole-whacking approach won’t work. WikiLeaks does not depend only on web technology. Thousands of copies of those secret cables – and probably of much else besides – are out there, distributed by peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent. Our rulers have a choice to make: either they learn to live in a WikiLeakable world, with all that implies in terms of their future behaviour; or they shut down the internet.
The Wikileaks saga for me sits at the heart of the realities behind the pact John Kampfner writes about in ‘Freedom for Sale’ – political elites getting away (literally) with murder, because they succeed in effectively either bribing or terrifying the middle classes into allowing them to perpetuate themselves. Assange and his organisation have thrown that entirely up in the air – how can they hold their precious ‘pact’ together if it’s thoroughly exposed and unpacked? It’s hardly surprising that politicians and the elements in the media who cravenly leave them unchallenged should want to go for the jugular – this is the biggest attack on vested interests at the heart of the neoliberal, neoconservative project I’ve ever seen. Check out Joe Lieberman:
Some columnists like Christopher Hitchens have dismissed Assange as a nutcase with an agenda (which may well be true), but I would argue that’s irrelevant if he’s exposing criminality at the heart of government. If David Miliband was circumventing clusterbomb treaties I should know about this and be able to hold him to account, but of course that’s not the entire story. Much of the reason why this hasn’t exploded into the administration-shattering series of revelations it was no doubt intended to be is because of Kampfner’s ‘pact’ – a great swathe of every electorate, left- and right-leaning, responds to authoritarianism – they like being told what to do. Not only has Assange exposed the true inner mechanics of politics, he’s exposed the way in which people identify with the state too – it’s no wonder players other than the vested interests are closing ranks too. New Labour after all didn’t arise from nothing.
I think Richard Wilson makes about the best point I’ve seen so far about the lengths to which Assange’s freedom of speech in this matter should be limited:
if it did transpire (and I’m not aware of any direct evidence to date) that an innocent person had been injured or killed at the hands of someone who had identified them via a document published on Wikileaks, this would, in my view, be a serious moral indictment. But it would not necessarily mean that Wikileaks were at fault in seeking to publish the document in some form – only that they were negligent in failing to redact all identifiable personal details.
While the issue of “harm minimization” cannot simply be brushed aside, it is clearly not the only ethical issue at stake in the debate about Wikileaks. One of the most serious charges made against the UK and US governments in the light of the Afghan War Logs and the more recent “cablegate” revelations is that the political elites who determine policy – both the politicians and the bureaucrats who advise them – have systematically deceived their electorates about the realities of the war in Afghanistan.
The second Gulf War may have changed a lot – we are just left with the smug sureness of the people who took us to war, with no evidence to back it up at all, just the certainty of their convictions. But that simply isn’t enough in the internet age. People want to see the data for themselves. They want to know what ‘intelligence’ it is that led to the tragedy of so many wasted lives. Being told that we can’t handle the truth doesn’t wash any longer. That’s the culture into which Wikileaks has arrived, and why it is seen as such a sea change; it’s seen as the handing over of information from those who want to keep it secret to the citizens who want to know, often by passing the journalists in the middle altogether. You can see why the secret-keepers and the journalists alike might be startled by this.
Assange has now been arrested in the UK on an international extradition warrant from Sweden, on allegations of rape. They may of course be true but they’re unconnected to the greater issue surrounding Wikileaks. Multinational companies such as PayPal and Amazon are withdrawing services to Assange left, right and centre, suggesting strongly that he’s hit a nerve, and vested interests (like Lieberman) who don’t want us to know what we now do are out to get him. It’s also shown that his experience on the internet isn’t secure anywhere in the world, indeed his life may not be. The gap between us and China or Russia is wafer thin – if you piss off the ruling elites they’ll shut you down or kill you. Their hypocrisy is being noticed:
@acre56 Just saw huckabee call for execution of julian assange for revealing secrets.. Didnt remember him calling for same for scooter libby!
It puts even Richard Wilson’s comment into perspective, doesn’t it? Johann Hari puts it into even greater perspective:
Each of the wikileaks revelations has been carefully weighed to ensure there is a public interest in disclosing it. Of the more than 250,000 documents they hold, they have released fewer than 1000 – and each of those has had the names of informants, or any information that could place anyone at risk, removed. The information they have released covers areas where our governments are defying the will of their own citizens, and hiding the proof from them.
The powers of the Australian government appear to be fully at the disposal of the US as to whether to cancel my Australian passport, or to spy on or harass WikiLeaks supporters. The Australian Attorney-General is doing everything he can to help a US investigation clearly directed at framing Australian citizens and shipping them to the US.
Prime Minister Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a word of criticism for the other media organisations. That is because The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.
We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.
I would argue that ultimately we need to see what Assange has actually done. Unintentionally he may have exposed how prepared ruling elites are in Western ‘democracies’ to abandon the very principles they accuse dictatorships like China of abusing, but Johann Hari details the rest:
Every one of us owes a debt to Julian Assange. Thanks to him, we now know that our governments are pursuing policies that place you and your family in considerably greater danger. Wikileaks has informed us they have secretly launched war on yet another Muslim country, sanctioned torture, kidnapped innocent people from the streets of free countries and intimidated the police into hushing it up, and covered up the killing of 15,000 civilians – five times the number killed on 9/11. Each one of these acts has increased the number of jihadis. We can only change these policies if we know about them – and Assange has given us the black-and-white proof.
I know whose side I’m on, but Assange has trodden on more than just political toes. Where this will end is anyone’s guess.