Over at Daily Kos they have a hilarious feature on their favorite political ads on 2010. Go watch them and be reminded of some of the lowest points of the year.
Alas, this is one domain where 2011 is bound to be disappointing.
January 1st, 2011
Over at Daily Kos they have a hilarious feature on their favorite political ads on 2010. Go watch them and be reminded of some of the lowest points of the year.
Alas, this is one domain where 2011 is bound to be disappointing.
January 1st, 2011
I recently post Bianca Jagger’s piece on the Guardian‘s article on the Swedish criminal complaint against Julian Assange. Now Nick Davies has written a response. Out of fairness I post it here as well, so readers can form their own judgment.
The Julian Assange Investigation — Let’s Clear the Air of Misinformation
By Nick Davies
Bianca Jagger last week launched a fierce attack on the Guardian for carrying my story about the evidence collected by Swedish police who have been investigating the claims of sexual assault by the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.
At the heart of her attack is a repeated claim that we failed to publish exculpatory evidence contained in the police file. Those who have read her piece will have noticed that she does not cite one single example of this missing information. There are two reasons for this. First, she does not know what is in that police file, because she has not read it. Second, if she had, she would know that her claim is simply not true.
The Guardian went out of their way to include exculpatory material, not just from the police file but also from previous comments made by Assange and his lawyers. They also sent Assange’s lawyer a list of all the key points and delayed publication for days so that he had a chance to respond. Our story contains literally hundreds of words whose sole purpose is to reflect Assange’s position.
Jagger also insists that she has a right to know who leaked the file to the Guardian and says that the leak was part of “an obvious effort to conduct a smear campaign” against Assange. Setting aside for a moment the head-splitting hypocrisy that a supporter of WikiLeaks wants to hunt down the source of a leak, there are two similar problems with this claim. First, Jagger has no idea who leaked that file (and made no attempt to find out). Second, if she did know, she would discover that the source had no intention of smearing Assange in any way.
I am not going to serve up that source’s identity to satisfy Jagger’s temper. A police file like that gets widely distributed. It happened to make its way quite legitimately into the hands of somebody I have come across in the past. This person has absolutely no connection with the Swedish prosecutor or the Swedish police or any other individual or organization with any kind of antipathy to Assange. The source passed it on, and I got it translated.
Assange’s UK lawyer tried very hard to persuade us to suppress the file. He argued that since Assange had been a source for our stories, we should ‘protect’ him. I reckon that that is an invitation to journalistic corruption, to hide information in order to curry favor with a source. We were right to publish.
Jagger calls this ‘trial by media’. I call it an attempt to inject some evidence into a global debate which has been fueled by speculation and misinformation. On August 21, when this story first broke, Assange used Twitter to spread the idea that the two women who had gone to the police were engaged in ‘dirty tricks’. His lawyer subsequently claimed that a ‘honeytrap’ had been sprung. Assange’s celebrity supporters have announced to the mass media that the allegations are ‘without foundation’, that ‘there is no prima facie evidence’. These statements have gone around the world. Millions of well-meaning people have been persuaded to believe them. The two women, who have been identified on the Internet, have had their reputations ruined by the claim that they cruelly colluded to destroy an innocent man. The Swedish police and prosecutors have been held up to ridicule as corrupt and/or incompetent partners in the plot.
Our story showed: first, that the Swedish police have found no evidence of any such dirty tricks (which would not surprise the conspiracy theorists); second, that in his interview with Swedish police on August 30, Assange himself never began to suggest that the allegations were any kind of dirty trick; third, that Assange’s supporters in Stockholm had tried to find evidence and come up empty, concluding, as the Swedish WikiLeaks coordinator put it to us: “This is a normal police investigation. Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt.”
And by publishing our story, we achieved something: Julian Assange was forced to admit, in interviews with the London Times and with the BBC, that there is no evidence of a honeytrap. That matters very much. The news media don’t want to report that — there’s a much better story in the dirty tricks. Some of the most active tweeters and the bloggers have not picked up on it — they are much too happy with their conspiracy theories. The celebrity disciples like Bianca Jagger don’t mention it. They simply move on to insist that there must be another conspiracy at work in the legal process. But the honeytrap story is dead: our story killed it. Whether or not Assange is guilty of a crime is a separate matter: the facts are not yet finally established, the law is not yet finally interpreted. At some point in this coming year, a court will decide that.
There is one final point lurking in the background. Assange has been suggesting — for example, in his interview with David Frost on Al Jazeera — that all this is something to do with the fact that he and I fell out. It is true that at the beginning of August, I cut off contact with him in order to protest at several things he had done — the first time I have cut off a source in 34 years as a reporter. This was nothing to do with the sex allegations in Sweden.
His supporters tried to brief newspapers that it was an act of vengeance on my part to go out and find this police file. That fell at the first fence, because the file came to me: I never spent a single second looking for it. As an alternative decoy, Assange suggested in his interview with David Frost, that some malign force, possibly an intelligence agency, chose me as an outlet for the file, knowing that I could be relied on to write a negative story. That also falls at the first fence. The reality is that I didn’t write the story which the Guardian published. The copy which I filed was completely re-written in the Guardian office, a commonplace event in a newsroom.
Finally, I should mention what Jagger does not — that I was the journalist who took it on himself back in June to track down Julian Assange and to persuade him not to post his latest collection of secrets on the WikiLeaks website but to hand them over to the Guardian and other news organizations. The publication of the Afghan and Iraqi war logs and then the diplomatic cables all flowed from that initiative. I did that because I think journalists should tell the truth about important things without being frightened, for example, by the government of the most powerful state on the planet.
In exactly the same way, I think it was right to publish our story about the Swedish police file without being frightened by Julian Assange’s lawyer or indeed by the clear prospect of being attacked online by people like Bianca Jagger. There are millions of them out there. They have come to a conclusion about Assange and the sex claims in Sweden and they are not interested in evidence. They tweet and blog in the most eye-wateringly aggressive tone and often, like Bianca Jagger, they do so without even the slightest connection to the truth.
It has been a depressing experience to see some of those who were most furious at the global propaganda run by Bush and Rumsfeld now leading the cheers for a new campaign of misinformation, happy to be manipulated, content to recycle falsehood and distortion no matter what damage they may do.
December 30th, 2010
December 29th, 2010
Bianca Jagger writes on the “trial by newspaper” of Julian Assange:
Trial by Newspaper
By Bianca Jagger
What was missing in “10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange”(The Guardian, Nick Davies, 17 December 2010):
I was surprised to read the article, “10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange” because I hold the Guardian in high esteem and I cannot fathom why such a credible publication would publish a prejudiced and unfair article. I object to the Guardian’s decision to publish selective passages from the Swedish police report, whilst omitting exculpatory evidence contained in the document.
Julian Assange has the right to a fair and impartial trial in a court of justice; instead, in denial of due process, he is being subjected to a ‘trial by newspapers,’ in an effort to discredit him. This tactic is not new. As Justice Felix Frankfurter said in 1961, ‘inflammatory’ news stories that prejudice justice are ‘too often’ published. For those that remember Daniel Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 to the New York Times, this seems to be a case of history repeating itself. Like Assange, who has been hailed a ‘terrorist’ by US Attorney General Eric Holder, Ellsberg was subjected to a malicious media campaign, in which he was branded ‘the most dangerous man in the world.’
It is deplorable the Swedish police files have been given unlawfully to the Guardian and other newspapers. By whom I wonder? We have the right to know who is behind this obvious effort to conduct a smear campaign. According to Assange’s legal team there is a lot of exonerating evidence in the police file, and material which they supplied to the Guardian, including a copy of the chronology of events, and the press statement of the initial chief prosecutor Eva Finne. This important evidence was omitted from the article. The statement by Ms. Finne, “The decision which up to this point has been established is that Assange is not suspected of rape and he is therefore no longer wanted for arrest” is nowhere to be found.
I am aware that Assange’s legal team failed to respond to theGuardian on time when invited to publish a response to the article prior to its publication. However, the point here is not about the defense. The issue is the choices theGuardian made when presenting the facts contained in the police dossier, and the overriding duty of any credible news publication to present a fair rendition of events, particularly when due process is at stake.
There is information in the public domain, including Tweets, SMS messages and statements to friends, from the two complainants. Although there are vague references to this correspondence, the content is conspicuously absent from the narrative the Guardian has woven.
If the media insists in engaging in this reprehensible method of publicly trying Julian Assange, the least they could do is publish an accurate account. The Guardian has reversed the presumption of innocence by only publishing allegations against him, and not his account of events or the mitigating evidence in the police dossier. Although the article alludes to his objections to the allegations, his account, contained in the police file, is not directly quoted.
From a molehill, a mighty mountain of innuendos has been made to cast Julian Assange as some kind of rapist. I refuse to be drawn into passing judgment on the case, however, we should all remember, Assange is innocent until proven guilty.
I condemn and abhor rape and as an advocate of women rights, I will denounce any man who forces his sexual attention on women. I have found the sequence of events in the case against Assange, disturbing to say the least. At the end of the day, the issue here is justice and due process for all. Denying justice for men will not achieve justice for women.
Assange has been criticized for not being willing to return to Sweden to prove his innocence. It is hardly surprising he has reservations, given Sweden’s human rights record. Anyone acquainted with it will remember the cases of Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad Alzery, two Egyptian asylum seekers who were, according to Redress, ‘removed from Sweden to Egypt by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency in cooperation with the Swedish authorities and outside of any legal process, ‘ on charges of terrorism in 2001. The deportation was carried out by American and Egyptian personnel on Swedish ground, with Swedish servicemen as passive onlookers.
In 2005, in Agiza v. Sweden (Communication No. 233/2003), the UN Committee against Torture found that Sweden had violated the Convention against Torture. The following year, in Mohammed Alzery v. Sweden (Communication No. 1416/2005), the UN Human Rights Committee found Sweden to have violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Alzery was released without charge after two years in prison however, ‘he continues to suffer physically and psychologically as a result of his torture and ill-treatment.’ Agiza was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a military tribunal. The process was not fair, and there is doubt as to the men’s guilt.
Redress has stated:
Mr. Agiza and Mr. Alzery remain at a real risk of torture and ill-treatment as a result of Sweden’s violations of the Convention against Torture. These cases epitomise the recent attempts by states to circumvent the absolute principle of non-refoulement enshrined in the CAT in the name of counterterrorism.
Given this precedent, one can appreciate why Julian Assange is apprehensive about being extradited to Sweden. In the Today Show on December 21st, Assange revealed that Sweden has requested that if he returns and is arrested, he is to be held incommunicado, and his Swedish lawyer is to be given a gag order.Having grown up under a dictatorship in Nicaragua, I am very sensitive to any attempts to weaken our democracy. Although I do not agree with everything WikiLeaks has done, I feel compelled to defend freedom of speech, freedom of the press and due process. I was in court last week, not, as has been reported to pledge surety for Assange’s bail, but to voice my support for the founder of WikiLeaks, because I suspect that what is on trial here is not Julian Assange’s alleged sexual misconduct, but freedom of speech guaranteed in Art 19 of The Universal declaration of Human Rights, The First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Art 10 of The European Convention on Human Rights. This trial has far reaching implications for all of us who believe in the core values of our democratic system. I fear that Mr. Assange is being punished for releasing information, which reveals the misuse of power by the US and other governments. He is on trial for holding governments to account.
It is my hope that justice will be served in the British judicial system. In the meantime, I hope readers will have the insight to suspend judgment until all evidence is available. Julian Assange is innocent until proven guilty.
I am pleased to learn that the Guardian will be publishing an interview with Julian Assange.
December 26th, 2010
Assange responds to many of the silly and despicable things — such as “high-tech terrorist” — being said about him and Wikileaks:
December 24th, 2010
Discover magazine featured the Physicians for Human Rights report Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program as one of it’s Top 100 Stories of 2010. It is story #37.
December 19th, 2010
UPDATE: Assange has been granted bail.
Michael Moore is offering bail for Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. He explains why:
Why I’m Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange
(A statement from Michael Moore)
Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail.
Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.
We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.
So why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth. The assault on them has been over the top:
**Sen. Joe Lieberman says WikiLeaks “has violated the Espionage Act.”
**The New Yorker‘s George Packer calls Assange “super-secretive, thin-skinned, [and] megalomaniacal.”
**Sarah Palin claims he’s “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” whom we should pursue “with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.”
**Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: “A dead man can’t leak stuff … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”
**Republican Mary Matalin says “he’s a psychopath, a sociopath … He’s a terrorist.”
**Rep. Peter A. King calls WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization.”
And indeed they are! They exist to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and to others. Perhaps the next war won’t be so easy because the tables have been turned — and now it’s Big Brother who’s being watched … by us!
WikiLeaks deserves our thanks for shining a huge spotlight on all this. But some in the corporate-owned press have dismissed the importance of WikiLeaks (“they’ve released little that’s new!”) or have painted them as simple anarchists (“WikiLeaks just releases everything without any editorial control!”). WikiLeaks exists, in part, because the mainstream media has failed to live up to its responsibility. The corporate owners have decimated newsrooms, making it impossible for good journalists to do their job. There’s no time or money anymore for investigative journalism. Simply put, investors don’t want those stories exposed. They like their secrets kept … as secrets.
I ask you to imagine how much different our world would be if WikiLeaks had existed 10 years ago. Take a look at this photo. That’s Mr. Bush about to be handed a “secret” document on August 6th, 2001. Its heading read: “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.” And on those pages it said the FBI had discovered “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings.” Mr. Bush decided to ignore it and went fishing for the next four weeks.
But if that document had been leaked, how would you or I have reacted? What would Congress or the FAA have done? Was there not a greater chance that someone, somewhere would have done something if all of us knew about bin Laden’s impending attack using hijacked planes?
But back then only a few people had access to that document. Because the secret was kept, a flight school instructor in San Diego who noticed that two Saudi students took no interest in takeoffs or landings, did nothing. Had he read about the bin Laden threat in the paper, might he have called the FBI? (Please read this essay by former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, Time’s 2002 co-Person of the Year, about her belief that had WikiLeaks been around in 2001, 9/11 might have been prevented.)
Or what if the public in 2003 had been able to read “secret” memos from Dick Cheney as he pressured the CIA to give him the “facts” he wanted in order to build his false case for war? If a WikiLeaks had revealed at that time that there were, in fact, no weapons of mass destruction, do you think that the war would have been launched — or rather, wouldn’t there have been calls for Cheney’s arrest?
Openness, transparency — these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt. What if within days of August 4th, 1964 — after the Pentagon had made up the lie that our ship was attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin — there had been a WikiLeaks to tell the American people that the whole thing was made up? I guess 58,000 of our soldiers (and 2 million Vietnamese) might be alive today.
Instead, secrets killed them.
For those of you who think it’s wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he’s being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please — never, ever believe the “official story.” And regardless of Assange’s guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. I have joined with filmmakers Ken Loach and John Pilger and writer Jemima Khan in putting up the bail money — and we hope the judge will accept this and grant his release today.
Might WikiLeaks cause some unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests around the world? Perhaps. But that’s the price you pay when you and your government take us into a war based on a lie. Your punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn on all the lights in the room so that we can see what you’re up to. You simply can’t be trusted. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this upon yourself. No one can hide from the truth now. No one can plot the next Big Lie if they know that they might be exposed.
And that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done. WikiLeaks, God bless them, will save lives as a result of their actions. And any of you who join me in supporting them are committing a true act of patriotism. Period.
I stand today in absentia with Julian Assange in London and I ask the judge to grant him his release. I am willing to guarantee his return to court with the bail money I have wired to said court. I will not allow this injustice to continue unchallenged.
P.S. You can read the statement I filed today in the London court here.
P.P.S. If you’re reading this in London, please go support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks at a demonstration at 1 PM today, Tuesday the 14th, in front of the Westminster court.
December 14th, 2010
Simon Jenkins of the Guardian provides an excellent explanation of the importance of the Wikileaks to democracy. Of course our leaders have no interest in democracy, only in “Democracy™”:
The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.
The money‑wasting is staggering. Aid payments are never followed, never audited, never evaluated. The impression is of the world’s superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden. Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the United Nations, are all perpetually off script. Washington reacts like a wounded bear, its instincts imperial but its power projection unproductive.
America’s foreign policy is revealed as a slave to rightwing drift, terrified of a bomb exploding abroad or of a pro-Israeli congressman at home. If the cables tell of the progress to war over Iran or Pakistan or Gaza or Yemen, their revelation might help debate the inanity of policies which, as Patterson says, seem to be leading in just that direction. Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public’s interest, I fail to see what is.
Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment.
1 comment November 29th, 2010
Wikileaks‘ Julian Assange discusses Time‘s top 10 leaks.
October 9th, 2010
October 3rd, 2010