wikileaks: cry havoc, let slip the war of words

We have the wonderful Conyers, House Judiciary chairmain, pointing out that Wikileaks did not commit a crime.

“As an initial matter, there is no doubt that WikiLeaks is very unpopular right now. Many feel that the WikiLeaks publication was offensive,” Conyers said, according to prepared remarks. “But being unpopular is not a crime, and publishing offensive information is not either. And the repeated calls from politicians, journalists, and other so-called experts crying out for criminal prosecutions or other extreme measures make me very uncomfortable.”

Regardless, the Justice department seems determined to proceed with trying conspiracy charges: Accused soldier offered plea bargain if he names WikiLeaks founder.

American officials view persuading Pte Manning to give evidence that Mr Assange encouraged him to disseminate classified Pentagon and State Department files as crucial to any prospect of extraditing him for a successful prosecution. To facilitate that, Pte Manning may be moved from military to civilian custody, they say. Since being charged in July with disseminating a US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed 17 people in Iraq including two Reuters employees, the soldier has been held at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. But members of his support network insist that he has not co-operated with the authorities since his arrest in May.

This despite the considered opinion of many that this creates an extraordinarily dangerous legal precedent: Assange prosecution would be “extremely dangerous”

I also want to remind you that Manning has been held for seven months now, in near complete solitary confinement. The psychological effects of such incarceration are well known and have been studied for many years: a synopsis can be found here Harmful Effects of Prolonged Isolated Confinement. At this point Manning is unlikely to be in sound mental condition to be a reliable witness; it is shocking to see him used so blatantly like this. If he is the one who turned over the material to Wikileaks, he has arguably broken the law but I want to point out that he has not yet been charged with anything much less gone to trial over this and that he could organize his defense by casting his actions as whistleblowing instead. It is disquieting to see only Greenwald probing into the ramifications of Manning’s treatment combined with the intention to use him to bring about charges against Wikileaks.

So speaking of journalism, there’s the U.S. media journalists versus investigative journalists. This article points out the discrepancy between how journalists that work for large corporations have characterized the information coming out of the Wikileaks’ release of the diplomatic cables versus what others have reported: What We Learn From WikiLeaks: Media Paint Flattering Picture of US Diplomacy. Among the many examples given:

New York Times editorial (11/30/10):
But what struck us, and reassured us, about the latest trove of classified documents released by WikiLeaks was the absence of any real skullduggery. After years of revelations about the Bush administration’s abuses–including the use of torture and kidnappings–much of the Obama administration’s diplomatic wheeling and dealing is appropriate and, at times, downright skillful.”

Contrast these comfortably dismissive viewpoints with reports such as these: Wikileaks exposes U.S. child prostitution cover up or WikiLeaks Cables Reveal BP Narrowly Avoided Disaster in Azerbaijan or even WikiLeaks: Swedish government ‘hid’ anti-terror operations with America from Parliament — haven’t appeared in the popular media coverage yet (no one in our media has thought to dig into why Sweden of all places, seems so interested in Assange?). And those are pretty much off the top of my head. The Truth Out article goes on to point out:

These conclusions represent an extraordinarily narrow reading of the WikiLeaks cables, of which about 1,000 have been released (contrary to constant media claims that the website has already released 250,000 cables). Some of the more explosive revelations, unflattering to U.S. policymakers, have received less attention in U.S. corporate media. Among the revelations that, by any sensible reading, show U.S. diplomatic efforts of considerable concern:

–The U.S. attempted to prevent German authorities from acting on arrest warrants against 13 CIA officers who were instrumental in the abduction and subsequent torture of German citizen Khaled El-Masri (Scott Horton,, 11/29/10; New York Times, 12/9/10).

and continues with more examples in similar vein.

The media can’t even investigate Wikileaks’ own releases properly, for that matter. As Moore documents here ¡Viva WikiLeaks! SiCKO Was Not Banned in Cuba, media reporters fell all over themselves passing along the leaked dispatch claiming that Moore’s movie Sicko was banned from showing in Cuba. There’s a small problem with that: it was shown to great enthusiasm in that country, as can be easily verified with Google. Read the article, it’s a pretty amazing outline of both diplomatic corps and media hounds falling down completely on the job.

So, on January 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana took a made up story and sent it back to his HQ in Washington. Here’s what they came up with:

XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore’s documentary, “Sicko,” as being subversive. Although the film’s intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, he said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.

Sounds convincing, eh?! There’s only one problem — the entire nation of Cuba was shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008! The Cubans embraced the film so much so it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of ‘Sicko’ were set up in towns all across the country. In Havana, ‘Sicko’ screened at the famed Yara Theater.

I’ve been to Cuba, and I speak Spanish. This is of course anecdotal, but I can verify in my experience that they had a lot to say (negative) about their government but every last one of them was quite proud of their medical care system.

Recall Pilger’s words about the media being “embarrassed” by the Wikileaks material — not just in their handling of that issue itself, but also in how few of these were uncovered by investigative journalism. Not only is a duplicitous government — willing to go to problematic lengths to stop these leaks — being exposed but so is a complaisant media corp, happy to regurgitate the so-called information they are fed by the government.

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One Response to wikileaks: cry havoc, let slip the war of words

  1. Laura says:

    The tree is rotting from within. Are enough of us paying attention? Thank you for your hard work, BEG. (I’m really liking your blog.) Best wishes always, L.