As everyone knows, celebrity anti-Semitic rants come in threes. So it may come as no surprise that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being accused of joining the ranks of Galliano and Sheen.
Ian Hislop, editor of the British magazine Private Eye, has published his recollection of a phone conversation with Assange, following his publication of a piece on WikiLeaks associate and Holocaust denier Israel Shamir:
On the afternoon of Wednesday 16 February I had a phone call from Julian Assange, He tole me that teh piece I had publishedin that week's issue ("Man in the Eye: Israel Shamir", 1282) was "crap". I asked him in what way it was crap but he could not tell me because, he said, "I haven't read it".
This was not a promising start. When I summarised the piece for his benefit -- it was about a Wikileaks associate in Russia with a record of anti-semitism -- he said that I and Private Eye should be ashamed of ourselves for joining in the international conspiracy to smear Wikileaks. The piece was an obvious attempt to deprive him and his organisation of Jewish support and donations, he said angrily, and he knew perfectly well who had written it. Hen then named a Fleet Street hack who had nothing to do with it. Wikileaks' omniscience is clearly not yet complete.
Unabashed by this error, he went on to say that we were part of a conspiracy led by the Guardian which included journalist David Leigh, editor Alan Rusbridger and John Kampfner from Index on Censorhip -- all of whom "are Jewish".
I pointed out that Rusbridger is not actually Jewish, but Assange insisted that he was "sort of Jewish" because he was related to David Leigh (they are brothers-in-law). When I doubted whether his Jewish conspiracy would stand up against the fact, Assange suddenly conceded the point. "Forget the Jewish thing."
According to the piece, Assange went on to comments bordering on sexism and homophobia, saying that Guardian journalists had "failed my masculinity test." (Check out Mother Jones' hilarious "Assange Masculinity Test".)
WikiLeaks has responded to the piece with a very extended tweet, noting that the organization has "some Jewish staff and enjoys wide spread Jewish support" and has itself been accused of working on behalf of the Mossad and George Soros. Here's Assange's reply to Hislop:
"Hislop has distorted, invented or misremembered almost every significant claim and phrase. In particular, 'Jewish conspiracy' is completely false, in spirit and in word. It is serious and upsetting. Rather than correct a smear, Mr. Hislop has attempted, perhaps not surprisingly, to justify one smear with another in the same direction. That he has a reputation for this, and is famed to have received more libel suits in the UK than any other journalist as a result, does not mean that it is right. WikiLeaks promotes the ideal of "scientific journalism" - where the underlaying evidence of all articles is available to the reader precisely inorder to avoid these type of distortions. We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world."
Of course, this is a case of one publicity-hungry media entity's word against another. Hislop doesn't help his credibility much by admitting that his article consists of "as much as I could remember of our conversation." If you're going to put someone's remarks between quotation marks to paint them as an anti-Semite, you'd better have a recording or at least have been taking copious notes. On the other hand, only one of these guys has tried to trademark his own name this week, so you can decide for yourself which one is more credible.
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
In 2006, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Kenya's current vice president and an opposition leader at the time, told U.S. Embassy officials in Nairobi about an unfolding political scandal in which he was involved, according to a State Department cable released yesterday by WikiLeaks. Although the story itself is a bit banal -- involving a rivalry between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki's first and second wives -- Musyoka's allegations against the Kenyan president's family are serious, including an accusation of links to "Eastern European" mercenaries used in a 2006 media crackdown.
The story goes something like this: In 2006, the Standard Media company, one of the country's largest, published a story alleging that Musyoka, as opposition leader, had cut a deal with Kibaki. The story, which Musyoka denied to embassy officials, was a bigger blow to his political prospects than to the sitting president's. But the government unleashed a wave of raids against the Standard Media group anyway.
Musyoka blames those crackdowns on Kibaki's wives. (As an interesting aside, one of Kibai's wives is officially married to the president and the other is a more of a permanent mistress, according to the cable.) The first wife, Lucy Kibaki, had a vendetta against the media outlet and was also offended that official business could happen in the state house without her presence, according to the cable. The second wife, Mary Wambui, Musyoka claims, brought in the tools for the media crackdown:
[Wambui] had been instrumental in bringing the mercenaries into play in Kenya. Thanks to her good offices, they travel in Government cars with a security detail. Wambui also apparently took a portion of them with her on a trip to Dubai, where she is alleged to have spent US$600,000 on unspecified merchandise. Musyoka said he had heard of plans to secretly install a portion of the mercenaries in an office within the Police Criminal Investigations Division.
Whether this diplomatic gossip is true, we may never know. But perhaps what's even more interesting is that the current Kenyan vice president spoke openly to the U.S. diplomats behind the scenes. Of course, it's not clear if Musyoka kept talking once he entered the government. Still, as embassy sources go, that's some impressive proximity to power.
Qaddafi worried about a U.S. military presence in Africa.
Bernie Madoff once discussed investment opportunities with Qaddafi.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe OK'd "clandestine operations" against FARC rebels across the border in Venezuela.
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia (and later Afghanistan) William Wood was not aware of the top Colombian military leader's dodgy résumé.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce tried to take down Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.
China used U.S. debt obligations to pressure the United States on arms sales to Taiwan.
For the first time since World War II, Japan is building a full-blown foreign intelligence agency.
U.S. diplomats pushed Norway to buy American-made fighter jets.
Britain blocked an arms sale to Swaziland over fears the weapons could end up in Iran.
Bahrain's crown prince is not a big fan of the whole democracy thing.
A British judge rules in favor of Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden.
George W. Bush doesn't like the idea of sharing a stage with Assange.
Gaddafi's "voluptuous nurse" has had enough of Libya.
WikiLeaks cable revelations are factoring in Peru's 2011 elections.
PayPal freezes the account of a group raising defense funds for Pfc. Bradley Manning.
More on HBGary, the cybersecurity firm that tried to take down WikiLeaks' supporters.
WikiLeaks now has a gift shop.
Anonymous makes "The Colbert Report" (slightly NSFW)
THE BIG PICTURE
A British judge has authorized WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden on rape charges. From the Australian:
The Australian founder of the WikiLeaks website instantly appealed to the British High Court against last night's verdict in the Belmarsh Magistrates Court, but Judge Howard Riddell had earlier made it clear he had no doubt about the validity of Sweden's extradition case.
Mr Assange had faced being extradited within 10 days and held in jail in Stockholm with no possibility of bail but his barrister, Geoffrey Robertson QC, signalled an appeal process that could take many months.
The New York Times has the text of the ruling here. Riddell makes no explicit mention of the broader context of the case, or the frequent claims by Assange and his lawyers that extradition on the sex assault charges is the first step toward extradicting Assange to the United States over WikiLeaks' U.S. government document leaks. Pretty much all there is is a pro forma note on p. 26 in which Riddell says he believes neither Assange's arrest warrant or prosecution was the result of considerations about his political opinions.
Assange's lawyers said immediately that they planned to appeal the decision.
A January 2010 cable on the Libyan regime's finances, published by the Telegraph late last month, features a trifecta of Great Recession bad guys: Lehman Brothers, Allen Stanford, and Bernard Madoff. The cable describes a meeting between the U.S. ambassador and Mohamed Layas, chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority. The two discussed possible investment opportunities for U.S. businesses in Libya as well as the country's financial state more broadly:
Layas informed the Ambassador that Libya had "weathered the storm" of the economic crisis. He noted that the LIA operated with "high liquidity," and therefore was not concerned about the volatility of the oil market. "We have USD 32 billion in liquidity," he stated, "mostly in bank deposits that will give us good long-term returns." He explained that several American banks are each managing USD 300-500 million of LIA's funds, and opined that the LIA was entangled in a legal disagreement with Lehman Brother's due to a major investment that was "mismanaged." He said that the LIA has an office in London and preferred doing business there rather than in the United States, due to the "ease of doing business" in the UK and relatively "uncomplicated tax system." He noted that the LIA's primary investments are in London, in banking and residential and commercial real estate.
6.(C) Layas denied press reports that the LIA had invested USD 100 million with the infamous Allen Stanford. He said that he had personally written a letter to the "Financial Times" disputing the information, explaining that Stanford had approached the LIA in the middle of his crisis, offering a 7-8% share in his investment scheme, but Layas had refused. Layas also mentioned having been previously approached by Bernard Madoff about an investment opportunity, "but we did not accept."
Mario Tama/Getty Images.
As Libya spiraled further out of control today, WikiLeaks posted two new cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli detailing the family squabbles of strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi's family. Both are from March 2009, and both are signed by U.S. Ambassador Gene Cretz, the United States' first ambassador in Libya since 1972, who lost his job last month following the release of the infamous "voluptuous blonde" cable (and/or other more serious dispatches) he had signed.
The cables date from an eventful period in the life of the Qaddafi family. The previous July, Hannibal al-Qaddafi, the Qaddafi son best known for getting in trouble in Europe on a semi-regular basis, had been arrested in Switzerland for beating his servants at a Geneva hotel. Meanwhile, Saif al-Islam, Muammar's heir-apparent and the best-regarded Qaddafi outside of Libya, was fuming over the growing closeness between his father and his brother Muatassim (above, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in April 2009), the elder Qaddafi's national security adviser and Saif's only real competition for the family business. According to the cable, "Saif reportedly bridled at the fact that Muatassim accompanied Muammar al-Qadhafi on the latter's visit to Moscow, Minsk and Kiev last year..., and played a key role in negotiating potential weapons contracts."
All of this, plus a verboten trip to Rome by Qaddafi son Saadi, prompted a family meeting in August, at which the siblings aired their grievances:
At the meeting, Saadi reportedly criticized his father for having ignored him, and specifically cited the fact that his (Saadi's) efforts to establish an Export Free Trade Zone near the western Libyan town of Zuwara had not enjoyed the kind of support that Muatassim's activities as National Security Adviser or Saif al-Islam's high-profile efforts under the Qadhafi Development Foundation and Libya Youth Forum. As reported ref C, Muammar al-Qadhafi subsequently made an unusual visit to Zuwara last September and significant work on the development project began within a few days of his visit.
The cable relates that Qaddafi assigned his daughter Aisha "the task of monitoring the activities of ne'er-do-wells" in the family: Saadi, Hannibal, and the less notorious Saif al-Arab. But interestingly, the cable suggests that Aisha may have been part of the problem in the case of Hannibal's arrest, which blew up into an international incident when the irate Qaddafi pere threw Swiss diplomats out of his country in retaliation. According to the cable:
XXXXXXXXXXXX have told us that Aisha played a strong role in urging a hardline Libyan position with respect to the Swiss-Libyan contretemps over Hannibal's arrest. Separately, the Swiss Ambassador told us that Aisha's less than accurate rendering to her father of the events surrounding Hannibal's arrest and treatment by Swiss authorities helped stoke Muammar al-Qadhafi's anger, limiting the extent to which Libyan and Swiss officials could maneuver to find an acceptable compromise. The Swiss have told us that in the most recent effort between the two sides to resolve the issue in Davos, Saif had approved an agreement that had the Swiss literally bending over backwards to assuage Libyan demands. After making a phone call (to either Aisha or the leader), Saif returned somewhat chastened after several minutes to rescind the aproval.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Saif seems to have embraced his family tradition of giving long, weird, paranoid speeches, and it seems clear that, whatever his Davos and LSE credentials, the Qaddafi apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
With the growing chaos on the streets of Manama, the powers that be at WikiLeaks realized that it would be a good time to release a slew of U.S. diplomatic cables related to Bahrain. The cables contain some interesting revelations about the country's ruling Khalifa family.
Crown Prince Salman, for example, isn't a huge fan of democracy in Iraq. In a November 2007 meeting with then U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker there, the crown prince, who is the king's eldest son and his heir apparent, remarked that the U.S. strategy of securing its interests through democracy would continue to founder in the absence of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If that proved impossible, he urged the United States to "drop democracy promotion as the main element of its strategy in Iraq and the region."
Rather than promoting democracy, the crown prince said the United States could "rely instead on traditional power politics -- i.e., identify strong groups that would support U.S. policies, and stand by them."
"You did it in the Cold War," he said, according to the cable, "and you can do it now."
With the Bahrain regime seemingly intent on crushing the incipient demonstrations, that's not exactly the message protesters are hoping to hear from their leaders.
KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. diplomats in 2008 called the Libyan city where protests erupted this week "a locus of extremist activity" not really under the control of Muammar Qaddafi's government.
What U.S. diplomats have to say about Xi Jinping, China's next leader.
NATO on Russia's military: Meh.
Inside the United States' cozy relationship with Bahrain.
Bahrain's king told U.S. officials that his country's opposition was trained by Hezbollah.
The U.S. government's WikiLeaks probe makes its courtroom debut in the United States.
The preposterously complex hacking and counter-hacking saga engulfing WikiLeaks' online allies.
Australia wants to make sure Julian Assange is treated justly in Sweden.
Anonymous is now going after Iran.
THE BIG PICTURE
Free speech advocate and celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz, now Julian Assange's lawyer, tells FP why WikiLeaks is "the Pentagon Papers case for the 21st Century."
WikiLeaks' Asia cables could be a whole lot worse.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images