wikileaks: the shape of things to come

We’ve got some interesting developments here, namely:

As I’ve been saying for a long time, there’s no reason Wikileaks can’t be duplicated, and by that I don’t mean duplication of Wikileak’s own site and contents (which can, and has, happened), but of its protocols and methodology. It looks to me like Al Jazeera’s new Transparency Unit is the latest generation of “open sourcing” information. The papers themselves are part of the biggest documentary leak in the history of the Middle East conflict, and expose the inside story of a decade of failed negotiations. Interestingly, the source of these papers — whether from Wikileaks or some other party — remains unknown at the moment. There are already claims and counter claims flying back and forth and no doubt the dust will have to settle here before complete understanding of where these papers came from and what they tell us emerges. However, I can see the Palestinian people being shocked at the extent of concessions their leaders were willing to make, and I can see further reduction of sympathy for Israel — not that there seems to be much left these days — for refusing those concessions. I also wonder whether the U.S. — which at times barely considers Al Jazeera a step above a terrorist sympathizer — will use this to further paint all of Wikileaks with a “terrorist” brush.

Mixed Media: Assange and Posada in the Propaganda System is an extremely interesting article detailing the differences between Posada — known terrorist — and Assange — known journalist — at the hands of the U.S. It speaks to what is more probably the U.S.’s real concern:

In short, Posada’s case is a dramatic illustration of the fraudulence of the so-called “War on Terror” and highlights the U.S. refusal to abide by the rule of law. Assange’s case shows well the U.S. establishment’s fear of the free-flow of information that might interfere with foreign policy and reveal that there are many more Posadas whose service to the empire might be disclosed. And the media’s cooperation in this protection of Posada and pursuit of Assange is clear.

This, in a nutshell, shows why the U.S. is so determined to stop Assange and Wikileaks. The irony, of course, is that Assange is only a symbol for an idea. Al Jazeera shows that conclusively — but that may also be provoking the U.S. into increased desperation to try and stop the unstoppable.

An extremely interesting article from Zero Anthropology that I think may have the best line on the U.S. Administration’s planned tack with Manning and Assange: Journalist, Hacker, Spy, Racketeer. Wikileaks certainly has pivoted several times although I’m not sure that is in itself a bad thing — it makes me think of the old problem of accusing politicians of “flip flopping” when they change their minds (and we don’t like it), or of being open minded and willing to learn (when we like it). (Substitute “activism” for “flip flopping” when it involves judges… you get the idea.) But I think a key point is found here:

More of the speculation surfacing now is that the U.S. is building a case against Wikileaks that emphasizes that it is not due any of the protections afforded to media organizations, because it does not just receive leaked documents, it steals documents–indeed, that more than half of all the documents it ever had were stolen. If true, and given its spate of reactive compromises, Wikileaks may now be on much more perilous ground.

An article from Bloomberg on 20 January 2011 reveals that Tiversa Inc. has been conducting an investigation for the U.S. government and claims that it has “evidence that WikiLeaks, which has said it doesn’t know who provides it with information, may seek out secret data itself, using so-called ‘peer-to-peer’ networks.”

Immediate reactions have, of course, turned on how conclusive the information Tiversa has come up with, which seems to be circumstantial so far (for example, information matching that previously seen on torrents may have been retrieved by third parties and turned into Wikileaks). I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this, particularly if the speculations about the directions the U.S. is taking in building their case against Assange are correct. The other aspect of this article, as to the extent of policy mistakes or shoddiness in running Wikileaks, is also of interest. But Wikileaks has been for me, always a case about the perception and the results that the perceptions bring. As has been said elsewhere, in many ways, Assange’s personality has been much trawled over and is, in the long term for journalism and democracy, irrelevant. In much the same way, the mundane details of Wikileaks’ evolution may not much matter, but rather what it represents.

Regarding recent developments in Manning’s confinement and treatment. I don’t think the denial of House’s visit is coincidental in following immediately on the heels of Amnesty International’s call for investigation into Manning’s treatment. For someone kept in solitary confinement to lose the one visitor he is permitted is devastating. And House and Hamsher’s treatment at Quantico does not speak of snafus or mixups, but of contempt. Towing a car when it’s ten feet away from being driven out? Timing the delay to the end of visiting hours? Are they under pressure to crack Manning more quickly, or simply annoyed at his publicity? Either way, there’s more than a whiff of “keep asking about Manning, and it will go worse for him” going on. I have to wonder, though — what are they going to gain at this point, cracking him so publicly now that so many eyes are on Quantico? At this point, no one will believe Manning if he comes out in support of the U.S. in any trial or proceedings. Juan Cole does more connecting of some of the dots here: Bradley Manning and Mohamed Bouazizi

The suspicious behavior of the authorities at Quantico raises the question of why they were trying to keep House from seeing Manning on Sunday. What had been done to their prisoner that they didn’t want coming out?

Manning’s treatment as though he were a terrorist contrasts to the lionization of other kinds of dissident. If it is true that Manning turned State Department documents over to Wikileaks, then he played a small role in the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution, which overthrew the brutal and grasping dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whom the US government had been coddling and the French government actively supporting. Ben Ali’s cruelty to political prisoners is now emerging, as they are being released and telling their story.

But the closing paragraphs of Cole’s article are what says it all, for the U.S.:

If an American citizen, convicted of no crime and innocent until proven guilty, can be held under such conditions arbitrarily for half a year, essentially softened up and tortured as a means of extracting information from him, then the Republic is in extreme danger. Indeed, it may be that John Yoo, Karl Rove, Richard Bruce Cheney, and George W. Bush are already winning in their war on civil liberties in favor of a monarchical national security state.

President Obama, has made some important advances in abolishing torture and restoring some civil liberties, but it is a mixed picture, as the ACLU explained just a few days ago. He has a duty to intervene to stop the abuse of Pfc. Manning.

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