Russian intelligence services used dirty tricks to intimidate American democracy-promotion NGO workers.
U.S. embassy officials in Damascus asked the Bush and Obama administrations to sanction Syria, to no avail.
Vaughan Smith (above right, with Assange in January), who's hosting Assange under the terms of his release, says the WikiLeaks founder "is like a moody teenager … hunted by pushy groupies."
THE BIG PICTURE
What WikiLeaks has in common with Rupert Murdoch.
A graphic novel tells the story of WikiLeaks (in Italian).
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
The hand of U.S. officials in Haitian politics from 2004 to 2006.
The United States is anxious about China's growing influence in Cambodia.
U.S. officials worried that Norway was unprepared for a terrorist attack.
Lithuania's wayward press.
Is Prince Andrew the latest WikiLeaks casualty?
Fourteen people are arrested for a cyberattack on PayPal in solidarity with WikiLeaks.
How two LulzSec hackers got caught.
Julian Assange lawyer Mark Stephens may have been a target of News of the World's phone hacking.
Slavoj Zizek: Julian Assange "is like the boy who tells us the emperor is naked."
The U.S. Library of Congress no longer classifies WikiLeaks as an "extremist" website.
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
The U.S. government, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil joined forces to kill a Venezuelan oil deal in Haiti.
The frightening state of the developing world's nuclear energy programs.
China told U.S. officials it wasn't selling nuclear reactors to Pakistan, then did it anyway.
The British government worried that Russian gas behemoth Gazprom was being run by spies.
Julian Assange says WikiLeaks "played a significant role" in the Arab Spring, but that "there are no official allegations in the public domain" of anyone being hurt by the site's document dumps.
President Barack Obama nominates a replacement for the WikiLeaks-deposed U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the U.S. government to officially release WikiLeaked cables about the war on terror.
Al Jazeera's WikiLeaks-inspired document-sharing site isn't much safer than the Wall Street Journal's.
The Swedish Bar Association chastises Assange's lawyer.
Of course you want to know what Jesse Ventura thinks about WikiLeaks.
THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. diplomats' relationship with Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's government wasn't always so cold.
Is Chinese demand for ivory killing Kenyan elephants?
An Israeli settlement leader tells U.S. officials he's willing to move, for a price.
Bahrain's king is proud of intelligence ties to Israel, wants his government to drop references to the "Zionist enemy."
Israel and Egypt locked horns over smuggling on the Gaza strip.
Israel suspects that Turkey is helping Iran skirt international sanctions.
What the WikiLeaks cables tell us about the United States' relationship with embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Ecuador kicks out U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges (above) over a WikiLeaks cable.
The Pentagon won't let anyone -- including U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and investigators from the United Nations and Amnesty International -- meet with Pfc. Bradley Manning in private. The British government is also raising concerns over Manning's treatment.
Julian Assange has another court date.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee proposes new penalties for leakers.
The feds won't leave friend of WikiLeaks Jacob Applebaum alone.
Karl Rove is copping WikiLeaks' style.
Qaddafi's Ukrainian nurse tells all.
Pentagon contractor (and Anonymous nemesis) HBGary's ambitious scheme to catch the next WikiLeaker.
RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
As you've probably heard, U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual stepped down from his post in Mexico City over the weekend following his WikiLeaks-based falling out with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. In noting his departure, we thought it would be worth looking back over the arc of the U.S. State Department's slow-rolling PR catastrophe -- now rounding out its fourth month -- and tallying the casualties. The results are here.
The WikiLeaks unfortunates are a pretty varied group -- the expected array of diplomatic officials and WikiLeaks associates, plus a few politicians, a CEO, a university administrator, and a dictator -- and it's hard to draw much of a trend line through the circumstances of their respective scandals. The first and last of them were both genuine scandals: A German party official passing documents to American embassy officials, the prime minister of India's party allegedly buying votes with chests full of rupees.
But what strikes me as most noteworthy is how un-noteworthy most of the cables that got a lot of these people in trouble really were. U.S. ambassadors were pulled from their posts for noting that Mexico's drug war was going badly and that Muammar al-Qaddafi was rather eccentric. The fact that Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was a fantastically corrupt ruler was not exactly news to anyone in Tunisia. Europe's still-incomplete satellite system really is a boondoggle. There have been a few bombshells in the WikiLeaks cables -- some of them literal -- but these weren't them. They were significant only because they confirmed that the U.S. government knew what everyone else knew.
LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Sierra Leonean military officials blew $1.9 million in British aid money on big-screen TVs and hunting rifles.
U.S. officials helped in a corruption case against Tanzanian banking executives.
Kenyan officials told U.S. diplomats that an investigation into the country's 2007-2008 election violence would risk provoking civil war.
Nigerian politician Joseph Ibori wanted to create a "trust fund" with his stolen wealth.
The owner of Japan's currently imperiled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant falsified inspection records for the facility.
U.S. diplomats say British defense contractor BAE bribed a Saudi prince to secure a fighter jet deal.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley
is fired quits after
calling the Defense Department's treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Pfc.
Bradley Manning "ridiculous
and counterproductive and stupid."
The Pentagon says its own security weaknesses enabled the leaking of the WikiLeaks documents.
Mexican President Filipe Calderón is "barely on speaking terms" with the U.S. ambassador to Mexico over WikiLeaks disclosures.
A federal judge rules that Twitter must hand over its records in WikiLeaks case.
Gawker goes inside Anonymous's war room.
Jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki praises WikiLeaks.
The top lawmaker on the U.S. House of Representatives' intelligence committee says WikiLeaks have been "devastating" to diplomacy.
THE BIG PICTURE
Julian Assange: WikiLeaks sparked the Arab revolt.
How the WikiLeaks documents helped reporters covering Japan's nuclear woes.
WikiLeaks suffers the most damaging leak of them all: pictures of Julian Assange dancing.
Things just got even worse for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged source for WikiLeaks' cache of U.S. military and State Department documents. The Army announced today that it has filed 22 new charges against Manning, in addition to the 12 counts he was initially charged with after his arrest in May.
Wired's Threat Level blog reports that the charges, which were filed Tuesday, "include aiding the enemy, theft of public property or records, computer fraud, transmitting defense information and wrongly causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing it would be accessible to the enemy." Although the first charge is a capital offense, the Army has said it will not seek the death penalty. Even so, Manning is still looking at the possibility of life in prison. (Politico has the charge sheet here.)
Manning's lawyer, David E. Coombs, said in a blog post today that he and Manning had been expecting the additional charges for several weeks:
The decision to prefer charges is an individual one by PFC Manning's commander. The nature of the charges and the number of specifications under each reflects his determination, in consultation with his Staff Judge Advocate's office, of the possible offenses in this case. Ultimately, the Article 32 Investigating Officer will determine which, if any, of these additional charges and specifications should be referred to a court-martial.
As Threat Level notes, the capital offense charge could play into the deliberation over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges, which Assange's lawyers are in the process of appealing. A British judge ruled in favor of the extradition last week, and his ruling made virtually no mention of the political context of the case, effectively dismissing as implausible Assange's lawyers' arguments that an extradition -- even on unrelated charges -- would pave the way for their client's extradition to the United States on capital charges. Now that Manning has been charged with a capital offense, such arguments will be harder to dismiss.
Proceedings against Manning, meanwhile, are still on hold pending a psychiatric review sought by his lawyers. Politico reports that that review is expected to be completed in the next two to six weeks.
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.
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
British diplomatic officials don't exactly mince words about Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. From a WikiLeaked U.S. State Department cable sent from the London embassy several days before Zardari -- who had replaced his wife, Benazir Bhutto, on the ballot following her assassination the previous year -- won Pakistan's 2008 presidential election:
[British Foreign and Commonwealth Office] Pakistan Team Leader Laura Hickey told us September 3 that HMG [the British government] fully expects Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader Asif Zardari to win Pakistan's presidency on September 6, but it is unlikely he will retain the position for long. In HMG estimation, Zardari has no popular support, is strongly disliked within his own party, is not trust-worthy, and is unable to deliver on the countless promises he has recently made to win support in his bid for the presidency. Absent popular support or military backing, Zardari will be unable to hold onto the presidency. HMG projects that he will encumber the top position for six to 12 months, and there will be elections before Zardari completes his term.
The cable goes on to note that "As far as [counterterrorism] and security cooperation are concerned, Zardari is not at odds with UK and U.S. interests. [The British government], however, finds it unlikely that he will be able to deliver because he is an ineffective leader who has 'no plans and no strategy.'"
Over the weekend, WikiLeaks decided to drop what (if memory serves) is its largest single release to date from its cache of U.S. State Department emails, almost all of them from the U.S. Embassy in London over the past few years. We'll be picking through the good bits here over the next few days, although at first glance they seem short on blockbusters, which may explain why they haven't commanded much attention in the media. (That, and the whole dumping-hundreds-of-cables-on-a-Friday-night thing.)
The London cables mostly concern foreign policy issues where Britain's interests are closely aligned with the United States', the war in Afghanistan among them; the effort to thread the needle between the British government's commitment to the war and waning support for it among the British public is a common theme. One cable offers a lengthy account of then British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's November 2008 meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, in which Karzai tells Miliband (in the cable's paraphrase) that "it would be difficult or impossible to hold a credible Presidential election" the following year in Afghanistan, ticking off five particularly problematic provinces. (On that much, he was right.)
Karzai also expresses optimism about the United States' new president-elect, Barack Obama, but in his conversation with Miliband you can see the seeds of the estrangement between the Afghan and American presidents that would characterize the years that followed. There's the issue of American-employed private contractors, who Karzai would order out of his country in August 2010:
Afghanistan wanted to end the way in which the Americans sub-contracted major parts of their aid program to "doubtful contractors." He was also concerned that many of the private security companies were little more than "criminal organizations." The same applied to some of the transport companies used by the U.S.; it had become apparent to Karzai that the transport companies were responsible for much of the insecurity on the highways, in order to extract higher fees and insurance payments from the Americans.
Karzai also tells Miliband that he's leery about the United States dispatching more soldiers to his country:
Karzai emphasized that more U.S. troops were not the answer. He hoped the Americans would consult the Afghan Government before sending more troops. Karzai said that the U.S. had failed to send the troops for which Karzai had asked in 2002, but now it might be too late.
Miliband brings up the inevitable question of how all of this ends, and according to the cable suggests that "reconciliation" -- presumably with the Taliban -- "subject to strict conditions, would obviously be part of that."
Karzai agreed, saying that he had consulted "the whole Afghan people," and they were all in favor of reconciliation. They wanted to "bring over the good guys, while excluding the bad guys." Karzai realizes that the U.S., Russia and Iran had doubts about reconciliation, but this was something that the Afghan people wanted, and which he was bound to press ahead.
Feb. 1 was the last day the Norwegian Nobel Committee accepts nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, and one potential nominee for the 2011 prize has already been revealed: WikiLeaks. The organization was nominated by Norwegian parliamentarian Snorre Valen, who called WikiLeaks "one of the most important contributors to freedom of speech and transparency" in the 21st century.
Nobel nominations are not a terribly exclusive honor -- the committee accepts them from members of all national parliaments, law and political science professors, and previous winners. (The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that a Russian official also may have nominated Assange.) And there are plenty of reasons to doubt that Assange will actually win the prize, which is announced in October. Journalist and Nobel Peace Prize specialist Scott London invoked Alfred Nobel's will, which calls for "fraternity among nations," as a reason why Assange's odds are not so great. "It might be truer to say that he has undermined that fraternity by creating a culture of anxiety and suspicion in international affairs, especially between countries in volatile regions like the Middle East," London told the AFP. Assange's still-unresolved sexual assault charges won't help his case, either.
But the Nobel nomination process happens so far in advance of the actual award that it can be difficult to predict a winner. This year's timing is especially awkward, given the enormous human rights story currently unfolding, although no potential nominees have emerged yet from Egypt's largely leaderless and amorphous anti-government protests (the opposition's best-known figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, already has a Nobel). The five-member Nobel committee itself can also contribute to the list of nominees at its first meeting of the year, at the end of the month. "Maybe a leader [of the popular uprisings in the Arab world] will stand out by then," Nobel expert and historian Asle Sveen told the AFP.
Other speculated nominees include human rights activists Svetlana Gannushkina of Russia and Sima Samar of Afghanistan.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
As WikiLeaks' media partners (official and otherwise) have multiplied, it's gotten harder to follow what are and aren't new revelations in the U.S. State Department cables; even some of the media outlets seem confused. Take Britain's Daily Telegraph, which has a big headline today detailing a scoop from an ostensibly new batch of cables detailing the British government's behind-the-scenes discussions of the release of Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The Telegraph flags an October 2008 cable in which a British Foreign Office minister advises the Libyan government on how to request the compassionate release of Megrahi, who had recently been diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak thought George W. Bush was "naive, controlled by subordinates, and completely unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq."
Inside the U.S. military's $1.3 billion-a-year relationship with Egypt.
When Hillary met Hosni.
The Egyptian military's Plan B in the event of a regime change.
The U.S. military hasn't turned up any evidence of collaboration between Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Manning's supervisors warned the U.S. Army not to deploy him to Iraq.
Der Spiegel's tick-tock on the lead-up to Cablegate. (Assange: "We have to survive this leak.")
When American newspapers aren't bashing Julian Assange, they're imitating him.
WikiLeaks: the next generation.
Assange wants more media partners.
THE BIG PICTURE
Reading WikiLeaks as literature.
Is Manning Capt. James Yee all over again?
Is Algeria next?
Why the Palestine Papers aren't the next WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks has done more for Arab democracy than decades of U.S. diplomacy.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. officials worried about the return to Haiti of Jean-Claude "Baby-Doc" Duvalier back in 2006. (Duvalier returned to the country this week.)
Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom doesn't think Rigoberta Menchú exists.
BP's top Russia executive has his doubts about the survival of the company's partnership with Russian oil firm Rosneft.
Turkey allowed the United States to use one of its airbases for rendition flights.
Condoleezza Rice wanted U.S. diplomats in the Middle East to gather intelligence on Israeli communications technology and Palestinian leaders.
American diplomats were ambivalent about deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and alarmed by the growing opposition to him.
U.S. diplomats in Turkey fretted about a military backlash after the arrest of several officers in an alleged coup plot last year.
Julian Assange is planning to release details on 2,000 offshore bank accounts, which he says contain evidence of serious tax evasion and money laundering. Swiss authorities are now mulling filing related charges against his source, former Swiss Banker Rudolf Elmer, who was already found guilty on Wednesday of breaking other banking secrecy laws.
Alleged Assange source Pfc. Bradley Manning is placed on suicide watch; his lawyer says he's being mistreated at the Marine Corps jail.
The State Department has made a big deal about the havoc caused by WikiLeaks, but privately officials tell congressional staffers the leaks were "embarrassing but not damaging."
Assange still has a lot of supporters in his home country of Australia.
The Pentagon wants U.S. military personnel to get rid of any WikiLeaks files they might have on their computers.
Russian WikiLeaks knockoff RuLeaks posts pictures of Vladimir Putin's Black Sea estate.
French lawyers are using WikiLeaks cables to argue for the acquittal of five Guantánamo detainees.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt says that Assange's extradition is a judicial matter, and that his government won't be involved in the decision.
An investigative firm alleges WikiLeaks skims documents off of file-sharing networks.
Zimbabwe's attorney general is considering pursuing treason charges against more government officials based on WikiLeaks cables.
WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Applebaum is detained at an airport again.
A German CEO is out of a job after calling Europe's multi-billion-dollar Galileo satellite system (on which his company was working) a "stupid idea" in a WikiLeaked cable. (If you're keeping track, this is officially the first time WikiLeaks has caused trouble in space.)
THE BIG PICTURE
WikiLeaks was supposed to have extensive safeguards for its whistleblowers -- so why are so many of them ending up in jail?
What the WikiLeaks cables tell us about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The Tunisian uprising wasn't a WikiLeaks revolution, but it does help us understand how technology can and can't help spread democracy.
At last, someone thought to ask Miss America what she thinks about WikiLeaks.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
Well, this (from NPR) ought to be good:
A former Swiss banker said Monday that he has handed over to WikiLeaks two discs containing what he claims is information on 2,000 offshore bank account holders.
Rudolf Elmer, an ex-employee of Swiss-based bank Julius Baer, said the documents reveal case after case of tax evasion and involve 40 politicians as well as entertainers and multinationals from the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere. He refused to name the account holders, but said the data span a period of at least 19 years and involve three banks.
Elmer was charged last week in Geneva with coercion and violating banking secrecy laws. Appearing with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange at London's Frontline Club yesterday, he told reporters, "I do think as a banker I have the right to stand up if something is wrong."
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Two weeks after a leaked cable cost a U.S. ambassador his job, another diplomat has found his life suddenly complicated by WikiLeaks -- this time in the Netherlands. Yesterday WikiLeaks published a September 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in the Hague detailing U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder's efforts to keep the Dutch from bailing on the war in Afghanistan after 2010. Among Daalder's interlocutors is a Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs official named Pieter de Gooijer, who at one point in the conversation suggests a means by which Daalder could secure the further support of the Netherlands in the war effort:
De Gooijer encouraged Daalder to ask [U.S. Treasury] Secretary [Timothy] Geithner to tell [Dutch] Finance Minister [Wouter] Bos that the Netherlands would not have a seat in G20 discussions but for its contributions in Afghanistan. Bos is head of the Labor party and key to the Dutch cabinet's decision on Afghanistan.
Whatever efforts were ultimately made to persuade Bos failed; the Dutch cabinet collapsed last February over the issue of Afghanistan deployment, when the contingent of Labor ministers -- who remained staunchly opposed to keeping troops in the country -- resigned. Dutch troops pulled out of Afghanistan in August.
The new revelation doesn't look all that great for de Gooijer, who last week was named the Netherlands' ambassador to the European Union. Since the cable was published, his appointment has been blocked by Frans Timmermans, a Labor member of Parliament, on the grounds that de Gooijer can't be trusted. The Dutch government has recently proposed sending Dutch troops back to Afghanistan for an Afghan police training mission, but 70 percent of the respondents in a poll taken this month were opposed to the idea, as is Timmermans's party.
WikiLeaks also claimed its first private-sector casualty today, in the form of Berry Smutny, the CEO of the German space technology company OHB System AG. Smutny was fired after appearing in a WikiLeaks cable calling Galileo, a 4.5 billion-euros-and-counting European satellite navigation system on which OHB System is a contractor, a "stupid idea."
DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images
Late Friday, the U.S. Justice Department issued a court order for the Twitter account records of Birgitta Jonsdottir (above), a member of Iceland's Parliament and early friend of WikiLeaks. At first blush, this would seem to suggest that the Feds' efforts to build a case against Assange, who was in court in London yesterday and faces an extradition hearing next month, aren't going that well -- it's hard to envision an organization as tech-savvy as WikiLeaks conveying any sensitive information via Twitter direct messages -- and it drew protest from E.U. politicians yesterday. In any case, Twitter refused to comply -- or, in the words of Wired's Ryan Singel, "Twitter beta-tested a spine."
Twitter isn't talking about why it made the decision, and in the absence of a statement the speculation on tech blogs over the past few days seems to have mostly settled on the theory that the refusal was the work of Twitter general counsel Alexander Macgillivray, an early graduate of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and former Google lawyer known for championing privacy in the slippery legal environs of the Internet.
Christopher Soghoian, a graduate student and consultant who has done exhaustive research on the subject of Internet companies' data disclosures to government, explains that this is an extremely unusual response for a tech firm -- they usually fold in a hurry when the government comes knocking -- and why it matters:
Twitter has gone out of its way to fight for its users' privacy. The company went to court, and was successful in asking the judge to unseal the order (something it is not required to do), and then promptly notified its users, so that they could seek to quash the order. Twitter could have quite easily complied with the order, and would have had zero legal liability for doing so. In fact, many other Internet companies routinely hand over their users' data in response to government requests, and never take steps to either have the orders unsealed, or give their users notice and thus an opportunity to fight the order.
It's also notable in light of Twitter's past friendliness with the State Department, which famously prevailed upon the company to keep its servers up and running during Iran's Green Revolution protests (a collaboration which Evgeny Morozov argues in the current issue of FP has proven problematic).
HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images
Your required WikiLeaks reading today is Sarah Ellison's Vanity Fair piece, published last night, detailing the behind-the-scenes finagling by which Julian Assange and five publications arranged their operating agreement for WikiLeaks' State Department cables. The news in it is that that agreement was far more ad-hoc than any of its adherents originally let on: That Assange changed the terms of the deal and added new partners on the fly, aggravating his original partner, the Guardian, and eventually precipitating his falling out with the paper (though Reuters's Felix Salmon suggests, plausibly, that this isn't the whole story).
The protagonists of Ellison's story are Guardian Editor in Chief Alan Rusbridger and reporter Nick Davies, who won Assange's confidence last summer and brokered privileged access to WikiLeaks' mountain of soon-to-be-released U.S. military and diplomatic documents -- and then spent the rest of the year trying to keep the deal from blowing apart as Assange brought in new media partners without warning them, threatened lawsuits, and generally proved to be a colossal headache. The piece is really worth reading in its entirety, but it's also worth reading Slate's Jack Shafer, who distills the juicy particulars and pins down just why it is that Assange drives the media crazy:
Assange bedevils the journalists who work with him because he refuses to conform to any of the roles they expect him to play. He acts like a leaking source when it suits him. He masquerades as publisher or newspaper syndicate when that's advantageous. Like a PR agent, he manipulates news organizations to maximize publicity for his "clients," or when moved to, he threatens to throw info-bombs like an agent provocateur. He's a wily shape-shifter who won't sit still, an unpredictable negotiator who is forever changing the terms of the deal.
Although Ellison casts Julian Assange as a genuinely new quantity on the journalistic landscape -- which he is -- the thing that actually struck me most, reading the story, is how much he reminds me of an older one: the sort of news-chasing story-broker that was common in the era before checkbook journalism became frowned-upon, and still exists by other names in the television and new media businesses.
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Another day, another cable about alleged central-African multi-million-dollar embezzlement -- this time in Gabon.
The Obama administration dispatches a Florida senator to urge Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon not to pursue a torture case against Bush administration officials.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency quietly evolves into an international intelligence agency.
How a Brazilian who once kidnapped a U.S. ambassador managed to get into the United States.
McDonald's tries to muck up a free trade agreement in El Salvador.
The Jamaican government warned U.S. officials that extraditing a local drug lord would lead to trouble.
Britain trains a "government death squad" in Bangladesh.
Did Britain try to cheat Mauritius out of an island chain?
Inside Russia's awful prisons.
Shell thinks that Ireland could become a booming offshore gas supplier -- or not.
More U.S. complaints about Egypt's lackluster military.
Behind the scenes of an assassination in Dubai.
Julian Assange claims (dubiously) to have the names of CIA moles in Arab governments.
The FBI pays back "Operation Payback" over PayPal attack.
77 percent of Americans disapprove of WikiLeaks' cable release.
Did WikiLeaks dash Zimbabwe's hopes for democracy?
Hackers claim to have brought down Zimbabwean government websites in retaliation for a WikiLeaks-related lawsuit against a Harare newspaper.
THE BIG PICTURE
Daniel Ellsberg lawyer Floyd Abrams says Assange is no Daniel Ellsberg.
Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
A story in the Guardian on Monday, reporting on another cable from the paper's WikiLeaks master cache, opens with a bang:
The United Nations' drugs czar told NATO that Afghan insurgents were withholding thousands of tonnes of heroin and treating their drugs like "savings accounts" to manipulate street prices in the west, according to a leaked US cable.
The cable is from May 2009, and details a briefing by Antonio Maria Costa, then the United Nations' top drug official, at NATO headquarters, on the occasion of the release of his office's 2009 Afghan opium survey. My first thought reading the Guardian piece was, Wow, the U.N. drug czar has no idea what he's talking about. Then I read the cable. It turns out this is what's actually in there:
Costa said that Afghanistan has 12,400 tons of opium stocks because it produces more than the world consumes. Costa believes the insurgency is withholding these stocks from the market and treating them like "savings accounts." He said the stocks pose a serious threat as it could be used to finance the insurgency. Costa encouraged intelligence organizations to keep focus on the storage and movement of Afghanistan's opium stocks.
Costa is talking about the price of unrefined opium within Afghanistan, not the price of the finished product in London or New York -- which means the Guardian is unfairly saddling Costa with its own rather large analytical error here. If you want the long explanation for why, read this very useful paper on the Afghan opium trade and counternarcotics strategy, released by New York University's Center for International Cooperation in June, written by drug policy experts Jonathan Caulkins, Mark Kleiman, and Jonathan Kulick. If you want the short answer, read this bit of it:
[T]he price of raw opium, and even refined heroin ready for export from Afghanistan, contributes only modestly to the retail prices facing heroin users in drug-importing countries -- the effect of falling opium prices in Afghanistan would be tiny in remote markets such as western Europe, larger but still quite modest in nearer markets, and substantial only within Afghanistan itself. Effects in the United States, if any, would be even smaller than those in western Europe, since the U.S. heroin market is currently supplied primarily from Colombia and Mexico.
Rising prices are similarly insignificantly affected by price fluctuations inside Afghanistan -- which is why supply-side-only counternarcotics strategies, in Afghanistan or anywhere else, tend to work poorly.
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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir allegedly has $9 billion in oil money stashed in Britain.
American diplomats at the United Nations don't like to talk much about human rights anymore.
Joking about Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, or even above Venezuela, is ill-advised.
How Brazil got pharmaceutical companies to hand over cheap HIV/AIDS drugs.
WikiLeaks is banned there.
The Red Cross reported extensive torture of Kashmiris at Indian detention centers in Kashmir to the U.S. embassy in New Delhi in 2005.
Singapore's government owes an apology to basically every major country in Asia.
The Dalai Lama says fighting climate change is more important for Tibet than political independence.
The heir to the Gandhi family political dynasty thinks Hindu extremists are a bigger threat to India than Muslim ones.
Turkmen strongman Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov doesn't like people who are smarter than him.
Eric Clapton's weirdly persistent influence on North Korean politics.
Silvio Berlusconi for the win?
The German government is still not digging L. Ron Hubbard.
The Stockholm embassy discusses Sweden's WikiLeaks-enabling Pirate Party in a particularly meta cable.
The Azeri first lady's plastic surgery creates confusion among U.S. diplomats in Baku.
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is "bizarre" and "disturbed."
Do Arab leaders actually care about the Palestinians?
Hosni Mubarak thinks his son is a perfectionist.
Is the Egyptian military in "intellectual and social decline"?
The Arab League doesn't like Steven Spielberg.
Julian Assange is released on bail after a media-circus-attracting hearing, but not before Michael Moore manages to get involved. Now that he's out of jail, Assange is pretty chatty -- as is Vaughan Smith, the journalist and WikiLeaks supporter who's hosting him until his next court date.
Things are not going nearly so well for alleged Assange document source Bradley Manning.
Someone posts a manifesto on behalf of Anonymous, the ad-hoc group of hackers that has cyber-attacked an array of targets in solidarity with WikiLeaks over the past two weeks. The manifesto quotes KISS bassist Gene Simmons. A Greek web designer is arrested for it.
A lot of people think Assange should have been Time's 2010 person of the year. Richard Stengel, the magazine's managing editor, isn't one of them.
Would Henry David Thoreau join Anonymous?
Congress considers WikiLeaks.
Mark Prendergast, ombudsman for the U.S. military's official Stars and Stripes newspaper, argues that military personnel should be allowed to read the cables.
If WikiLeaks doesn't get things rolling a little faster, we'll be writing this blog for another 7.6 years.
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Sweden's Pirate party has been a key supporter of WikiLeaks throughout its recent travails. In August, the party, which is dedicated to the repeal of copyright laws and electronic privacy, agreed to host WikiLeaks on its servers. This month, the party's Swiss branch registered WikiLeaks' new URL after it lost its .org address.
But the Pirate Party is also the subject of some of the cables. One, from shortly after Sweden's 2009 EU elections, comes with the attention-grabbing subject line, "Aargh! Swedish Pirates Set Sail for Brussels":
The big winner was the Pirate Party -- which campaigned on reformation of copyright and patent law and opposition to a wiretapping law proposed by the Swedish security services. The Pirates secured a whopping 7.1% and one seat in Parliament. The party, founded in January 2006, attracted young voters angry over the guilty verdict in the Pirate Bay trial, the unpopular EU Ipred directive, and new national laws criminalizing file sharing and authorizing monitoring of emails. The party has not yet announced what EP party group it would like to belong to, and the current thinking espoused by Pirates is that the classic political right-left scale is outdated. Rather, the Pirates see themselves as an historic movement analogous to working-class and the green movements. The party is now looking to negotiate with both the liberal ALDE group and the Greens/EFA group.
4. A side effect of the Pirates' success is that it most likely reduced the chances for the far-right nationalist Sweden Democrats to gain representation in the EP. The Pirates have some of the same voter base -- young men with mistrust for politicians. Although the Sweden Democrats tripled their results to 3.3%, up from 1.1% in 2004, they remain below the threshold for representation in either the EP or Swedish Parliament. In any case, the Pirate's landslide among younger voters caught the attention of the larger parties, our contacts tell us, who are now scrambling to come up with policies to woo the youth back to the mainstream.
Not sure I quite buy that the Pirates and the Sweden Democrats share a political base. "Young men with mistrust for politicians" is a pretty broad category. In another cable, Sweden's deputy prime minister also cites the Pirate Party's success as proof that young voters "do not trust us."
I'm hardly an expert on Swedish political movements, but I find it a little odd that the emphasis here seems to be on young Swedes' distrust for the political establishment, rather than support for the Pirate Party's stated goal of reforming copyright laws and legalizing filesharing. Sounds like a winning formula for getting out the youth vote to me.
Agence France-Presse reports from London:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was set free on bail Thursday after a senior British judge ruled that he could be released on conditional bail.
Assange appeared on the steps of the High Court in London at 1800 GMT after several hours of haggling over his bail conditions and said: "It is great to smell the fresh air of London again."
Those conditions include that Assange remain on the grounds of a country estate in eastern Britain owned by Assange supporter Vaughan Smith -- a British army officer turned foreign correspondent and a colorful character in his own right who, in true freelance-journalist fashion, has already parlayed his hosting duties into an exclusive scoop.
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Time's Barton Gellman pens a very good profile of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, a runner-up for the magazine's 2010 person of the year. He also buries the lede on the last page of the story: that WikiLeaks' cache of government documents may be much, much larger than the organization has claimed to date:
The worst -- or best, in the view of advocates for radical transparency -- could be yet to come. John Young, a New York City architect who left the WikiLeaks steering committee after clashing with Assange, says the group members are storing "a lot more information underground than they are publishing on the surface." Some of it comes from a hacker-on-hacker sting in 2006, when data jockeys at WikiLeaks detected what they believed to be a large-scale intelligence operation to steal data from computers around the world. The intruders were using TOR, an anonymous browsing technology invented by the U.S. Navy, to tunnel into their targets and extract information. The WikiLeaks team piggybacked on the operation, recording the data stream in real time as the intruders stole it.
In an encrypted e-mail dated Jan. 7, 2007, decrypted and made available to TIME by its recipient, one of the participants boasted, "Hackers monitor chinese and other intel as they burrow into their targets, when they pull, so do we. Inxhaustible supply of material?… We have all of pre 2005 afghanistan. Almost all of india fed. Half a dozen foreign ministries. Dozens of political parties and consulates, worldbank, apec, UN sections, trade groups."
Gellman writes that "the theft scandalized some WikiLeaks insiders," and Assange decided to hold most of the information back from publication. (Whether it's included in the "insurance" file the group distributed in July, when it released its stash of Afghan war documents, is unclear.) But if Assange has proven anything so far, it's that whether these things stay hidden or not may no longer be something any individual can control.
Update 1: Salon's Justin Elliott, whose Googling skills are better than mine, finds the whole email in question, which was in fact sent to John Young and posted on his own document-dumping website Cryptome.
That's what Assange's lawyer in Britain, Mark Stephens, claimed in an interview with Al Jazeera's David Frost on Sunday:
I think that the Americans are much more interested in terms of the WikiLeaks aspects of this [than the sexual assault charges filed against Assange in Sweden]. And we have heard from the Swedish authorities that there has been a secretly impaneled grand jury in Alexandria, [Va.] ... and they are currently investigating this. And indeed the Swedes, we understand, have said that if he comes to Sweden, they will defer their interest in him to the Americans. That shows some level of collusion.
Assange is appearing in court in London tomorrow for a hearing on the Swedish government's request to extradite him on sexual assault charges.
(Via Wired's Threat Level.)
WikiLeaks has released its first confidential cable written by diplomats from the U.S. mission to the United Nations. While the December 2009 cable -- which discusses U.S. efforts on a range of issues before the U.N. General Assembly -- provides no major news revelations, it contains some valuable insights into the way America conducts its business here.
The confidential U.S. diplomatic communication -- which was approved by U.S. ambassador Susan E. Rice -- shows how reliant the U.S. is on its allies, particularly in Europe, to take the lead on politically sensitive issues like the promotion of human rights, where the U.S. often faces criticism for its military and detention policies. The cable credits the European Union with "collaborating pragmatically" with the Obama administration on its top priorities, including efforts to require emerging economic powers to pay a larger share of the U.N.'s administrative and peacekeeping costs, and to adopt U.N. resolutions criticizing the human rights record of Burma, Iran, and North Korea.
The EU, led by Sweden, also helped Washington fend off efforts by an influential alliance of developing countries -- known as the Group of 77 -- to adopt resolutions that would increase American financial burdens, including a draft resolution affirming a right to economic development.
The EU "responded with alacrity to new U.S. flexibility, particularly on arms control and economic/social issues," according to the cable. "The Swedish ambassador himself repeatedly engaged with G-77 colleagues to sway votes."
The cable, however, also singled out areas where key European powers refused to budge, including its annual support for a General Assembly resolution condemning the U.S. embargo against Cuba: "Spain was a particularly tenacious critic of our Cuba policy." It also expressed frustration with the failure of the EU, despite strong support from Britain, France, and the Netherlands, to significantly weaken a raft of nine pro-Palestinian resolutions that criticize Israel each year. "The EU's annual negotiation of these nine drafts... improved marginally.... The vote outcomes remained lopsided."
On the whole, this U.N. cable was certainly more businesslike than many of the most dramatic reports flowing out of U.S. embassies around the world. But I anticipate that future releases may provide sharper insights into many of the U.N.'s more colorful personalities. Perhaps they will even show us what Rice really thinks about U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.
Italy's oil company Eni has long enjoyed a privileged position in oil and gas deals in both Russia and Kazakhstan. The company enabled Russia's dismantlement of Yukos, and has been Gazprom's top-tier partner in tightening its grip on gas supplies to Turkey and Europe. Allegations in one WikiLeaked cable that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and some pals have profited personally from this intimate relationship are not entirely surprising -- nor is it particularly shocking to read allegations of similar Eni activity in Uganda.
The details come in an unusually descriptive new cable released by WikiLeaks. The cable describes a Dec. 14, 2009 meeting between U.S. Ambassador Jerry Lanier and Tim O'Hanlon, vice president for Africa for Britain's Tullow Oil. We have written previously about scrappy Tullow, a serious player around Africa's Lake Albert region, which is believed to potentially contain more than 1 billion barrels of oil.
Here is the backdrop: Tullow was wishing to exercise a right of first refusal to buy the second half of two Ugandan oilfields in which it already held a 50 percent interest. But Eni somehow stepped in and, right around the time of the Lanier-O'Hanlon meeting, announced that it, and not Tullow, would secure the $1.35 billion purchase. O'Hanlon asserted that he knew just how Eni had managed it -- the Italians had created a London shell company through which they were funneling money to Uganda's security minister, Amama Mbabazi.
This bit of news really irritated Lanier, who suggested that he was sick and tired of hearing of "corruption scandals" involving Mbabazi. From the cable:
Depending on the outcome of this major deal, we believe it could be time to consider tougher action - to include visa revocation - for senior officials like Mbabazi who are consistently linked to corruption scandals impacting the international activity of U.S. businesses, U.S. foreign assistance goals, and the stability of democratic institutions.
Lanier said in the cable that he planned to confer with the local British High Commission, plus the Irish ambassador, and talk about writing a joint letter to President Yoweri Museveni expressing their dismay "about these very troubling signs of high-level corruption in Uganda's oil sector, and advocating for the open and transparent sale of oil assets and management of future oil revenues."
We do not know if those meetings took place or if the letter was written. However, the deal was overturned just seven weeks later and given to Tullow under the same terms as Eni.
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Crossing the Italian Alps into Bavaria, Bruno "the problem" bear was the first wild bear to be spotted in Germany in over 170 years and garnered so much attention within the country that U.S diplomats wrote a lengthy cable analyzing the surreal incident and broader German culture.
Regarding the roaming bear, according to the cable, a Bavarian official stated:
[F]oreigners are only welcome in Bavaria provided they are willing to adapt to German culture and traditions. Bruno quickly wore out his welcome by raiding stables, killing sheep, chickens, and a child's pet rabbit. The Bavarian government declared Bruno "Ursus non Grata" and ordered that he be shot or captured. Vexed by Bruno's unchecked roaming across Bavaria -- he was even seen sitting on the steps of a police station eating a guinea pig -- Minister-President Edmund Stoiber took to referring to him as "the Problem Bear."
The incident dragged out over a period of time in which "Bruno appeared to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the public," despite an initial order by the Bavarian Environment Minister to kill the bear. However:
following criticism of the edict that Bruno be shot, Schnappauf, [the Environment Minister] gave the animal a stay of execution and, at a cost of over Euro 125,000, flew in a special trap from Colorado and a team of Finnish bear hunters with specially trained dogs. After the Finnish hunters failed at their task, Schnappauf reinstated the shoot-to-kill order... early in the morning of that same day, Bruno met his demise at the hands of an (as yet) unnamed hunter. Bruno, stuffed, is to be put on display at a natural history museum in Munich's Nymphenburg Palace.
In Bruno's sad tale, the U.S. diplomat saw a larger message about German society's relationship to nature and the environment:
True wilderness, even in mountainous Bavaria, hasn't really existed in Germany for generations -- nature is good, as long as it is controlled, channeled, and subdued. If the saga of Bavaria's "Problem Bear" is any indicator, the strategy of reintroducing wild bears to the Alps, at least the German Alps, may be doomed to failure -- that is, unless the bears are willing to cooperate by not being too wild.
Guess it was a slow day in Munich.
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