The UK Guardian is doing wonderful work this week, publishing a litany of information over the Wikileaks dump.
Every day brings huge new revelations, leaving so many in the mainstream media simply ignoring the best bits (hello ABC Radio’s AM today, utterly shunning anything about the issues).
“[Clinton] should resign if it could be shown that she was responsible for ordering US diplomatic figures to engage in espionage of UN activities, in violation of the international covenants to which the US signed up,” he said in an interview with Time magazine, published yesterday following the leak of secret US diplomatic cables that have caused huge embarrassment for the country.
Assange gave the interview via Skype from an undisclosed location after a warrant was issued by Interpol following rape allegations in Sweden, which his lawyer said amounted to persecution and a smear campaign.
While Assange has been accused by former members of the WikiLeaks project of obsessively focusing on the US, he said countries with less transparency, such as China and Russia, had the most potential to be reformed by whistleblowers.
“We believe it is the most closed societies that have the most reform potential,” he said. Assange said that while parts of the Chinese government and security services “appear terrified of free speech” he believed it was “an optimistic sign because it means speech can still cause reform.”
He added: “Journalism and writing is capable of achieving change which is why Chinese authorities are so scared of it.”
Assange argued that countries like China could be easier to reform than countries like the US and the UK, which “have been so heavily fiscalised through contractual obligations that political change doesn’t seem to result in economic change, which in other words means that political change doesn’t result in change.”
While secrecy was important, Assange said, in keeping the identity of sources hidden, secrecy “shouldn’t be used to cover up abuses.”
He said that revealing abuses could lead to positive changes in countries and organisations. “They have one of two choices … to reform in such a way that they can be proud of their endeavours, and proud to display them to the public” or “to lock down internally and to balkanise, and as a result, of course, cease to be as efficient as they were. To me, that is a very good outcome, because organizations can either be efficient, open and honest, or they can be closed, conspiratorial and inefficient.”
Turning back to the US, Assange said he believed American society was “becoming more closed” and its “relative degree of openness … probably peaked in about 1978, and has been on the way down, unfortunately, since.”
Speaking about accusations that he had singled out the US as a force for harm in the world, Assange said the view lacked “the necessary subtlety”.
“I don’t think the US is, by world standards, an exception; rather it is a very interesting case both for its abuses and for some of its founding principles.”
Assange said the media interest in the WikiLeaks cables had been tremendous.
“The media scrutiny and the reaction are so tremendous that it actually eclipses our ability to understand it,” he said, with “a tremendous rearrangement of viewings about many different countries”.
Assange also gave a glimpse into why WikiLeaks had chosen to partner with traditional media organisations to release the files, rather than, as might have been expected, amateur bloggers. In 2006, “we thought we would have the analytical work done by bloggers and people who wrote Wikipedia articles and so on,” he said.
But “when people write political commentary on blogs or other social media, it is my experience that it is not, with some exceptions, their goal to expose the truth.
“Rather, it is their goal to position themselves amongst their peers on whatever the issue of the day is. The most effective, the most economical way to do that, is simply to take the story that’s going around, [which] has already created a marketable audience for itself, and say whether they’re in favour of that interpretation or not.”
Now, he said, the analytical work was “done by professional journalists we work with and by professional human rights activists. It is not done by the broader community.” Social networks acted as amplifiers, he added – and, as WikiLeaks gained more publicity, an important supplier of source material.
Diplomats in Bangkok alleged in cables released by WikiLeaks that Bout’s “Russian supporters” had paid witnesses to give false testimony during his extradition hearing.
Dubbed the “merchant of death”, Bout was seized by the Thai authorities in March 2008 but only extradited to the US on 16 November this year. The US accuses him of conspiring to sell millions of dollars of weapons to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebels to kill Americans. The Kremlin strongly opposed his extradition.
The Russian businessman, accused of running arms-trafficking networks around the world, maintains he is innocent in a case that turned into an undignified tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow.
In a cable written on 13 February 2009, US diplomats said that in the year after Bout’s arrest, extradition proceedings in Thailand were “going in the way we want” – albeit at a “painfully slow” pace.
More recently, however, the case had taken a worryingly wrong turn: “There have been disturbing indications that Bout’s … and Russian supporters have been using money and influence in an attempt to block extradition,” the diplomats reported.
The WikiLeaks website exposé of the inner workings of American diplomacy continued Wednesday, with revelations that Berlin pushed for the U.S. to impose a settlement freeze on Israel.
According to a telegram published by the whistleblowing website, two weeks before Israel’s inner cabinet decided on a settlement construction freeze in November 2009, a senior German government official urged the United States to threaten Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if he did not agree to a moratorium, Washington would withdraw its support for blocking a vote on the Goldstone Report at the United Nations Security Council.
A diplomatic cable from last February released by Wikileaks provides a detailed account of how Russian specialists on the Iranian ballistic missile program refuted the U.S. suggestion that Iran has missiles that could target European capitals or intends to develop such a capability.
In fact, the Russians challenged the very existence of the mystery missile the U.S. claims Iran acquired from North Korea.
But readers of the two leading U.S. newspapers never learned those key facts about the document.
The New York Times and Washington Post reported only that the United States believed Iran had acquired such missiles – supposedly called the BM-25 – from North Korea. Neither newspaper reported the detailed Russian refutation of the U.S. view on the issue or the lack of hard evidence for the BM-25 from the U.S. side.
The Times, which had obtained the diplomatic cables not from Wikileaks but from The Guardian, according to a Washington Post story Monday, did not publish the text of the cable.
The Times story said the newspaper had made the decision not to publish “at the request of the Obama administration”. That meant that its readers could not compare the highly- distorted account of the document in the Times story against the original document without searching the Wikileaks website.
As a result, a key Wikileaks document which should have resulted in stories calling into question the thrust of the Obama administration’s ballistic missile defense policy in Europe based on an alleged Iranian missile threat has instead produced a spate of stories buttressing anti-Iran hysteria.