wikileaks: “The avalanche has already started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote.”

In looking over this article, one thing that strikes me is that these Wikileaks commentaries are becoming a blend of current political issues as well as Wikileaks news, and not just purely articles about Wikileaks itself. In fact, this article started out as a privacy issue one but Wikileaks quickly made its way in as well…

And so the slide begins: Justice Department seeks mandatory data retention. None of this is good news. Anonymous proxy servers, here we come :-/

“Data retention is fundamental to the department’s work in investigating and prosecuting almost every type of crime,” Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general for the criminal division, will say, according to his written testimony. “The problem of investigations being stymied by a lack of data retention is growing worse.” (See related article.)

The Bush Justice Department endorsed such proposals under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Tomorrow’s announcement demonstrates that the Obama Justice Department is following suit and appears to be its first public statement embracing mandatory data retention.

That aligns the Justice Department with data retention’s more aggressive supporters among House Republicans and places it at odds with privacy advocates, civil libertarians, and the Internet industry.

The inherent problem with all this is that even the most cursory inspection of how the government is handling the whole Wikileaks issue makes this move all the more chilling. In the wake of attempts to pressure, silence, and gag order companies like Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Twitter, and Facebook, how can this look anything other than threatening?

Via American Policy’s Corruption Game:

The same cable traffic indicates that, in a cynical Great Power calculation, Washington continues to sacrifice the prospects of the region’s youth on the altar of “security.” It is now forgotten that America’s biggest foreign policy headache, the Islamic Republic of Iran, arose in response to American backing for Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, the despised Shah who destroyed the Iranian left and centrist political parties, paving the way for the ayatollahs’ takeover in 1979.

[…]The Bush administration’s deeply flawed, sometimes dishonest “Global War on Terror” replayed the worst mistakes of cold war policy. One of those errors involved recreating the so-called domino theory—the idea that the United States had to make a stand in Vietnam, or else Indonesia, Thailand, Burma and the rest of Asia, if not the world, would fall to communism. It wasn’t true then—the Soviet Union was, at the time, less than two decades from collapsing—and it isn’t applicable now in terms of Al Qaeda. Then and now, though, that domino theory prolonged the agony of ill-conceived wars.

Despite the Obama administration’s abandonment of the phrase “war on terror,” the impulses encoded in it still powerfully shape Washington’s policy-making, as well as its geopolitical fears and fantasies. It adds up to an absurdly modernized version of domino theory. This irrational fear that any small setback for the US in the Muslim world could lead straight to an Islamic caliphate lurks beneath many of Washington’s pronouncements and much of its strategic planning.

Nothing new here, but it’s an excellent recap of the latest in a long history of foreign policy sacrificing democracy to security, or perceived American interests. One of the best books on the history of this sort of thing is Overthrow, but you can find dozens of similar books by searching for “American Empire” in Amazon.

Following in Al Jazeera’s footsteps? NY Times considers creating an ‘EZ Pass lane for leakers’. My main question is, how will the U.S. perception of Al Jazeera (“teh terrorist newspaper!1!!”) and current events in Tunisia, Egypt and so on affect this? Will the Obama administration try to crack down on the NY Times for this? If it doesn’t, how does it justify cracking down on Wikileaks? If it does, how does it justify violating the First Amendment? Ah: choices, choices…

While we’re on the subject of cracking down, Greenwald comments on the suspected direction of DoJ prosecution together with the military’s recent admission it can’t tie Manning and Assange together: Various matters.

The DOJ’s apparent failure to find the evidence it needs to prosecute WikiLeaks underscores the reasons for the increasingly inhumane treatment to which Bradley Manning is being subjected.  It’s long been clear — and reported — that the Obama DOJ desperately needs Manning to incriminate Assange in order to be able to prosecute him (by, for instance, providing the Manning-Assange link that the DOJ is unable to prove).  The harsh, punitive conditions under which Manning are being held is designed — like most detainee abuse — to force him to say what his captors want him to say (yesterday, Amnesty USA followed Amnesty International in denouncing Manning’s detention conditions as “inhumane”).

Not only did Quantico officials this weekend contrive reasons to deny Manning his only real reprieve from isolation — periodic Saturday visits from his friend David House — but they also last week made his conditions even harsher by placing him on suicide watch even though three separate brig psychiatrists said it was unwarranted.

On a brighter note, though

The one silver lining from all of this has been the surprisingly substantial attention now being paid to the inhumane conditions of Manning’s detention.  Yesterday, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Robert Gibbs about it; MSNBC yesterday featured an excellent interview with Jane Hamsher about what is being done to Manning; the Amnesty and U.N. actions have brought even more attention; and as part of Miklaszewski’s featured report last night, he noted that “U.S. military officials also strongly denied allegations that Manning . . . . has been ‘tortured’ and held in ‘solitary confinement’ without due process.”  This has become a real issue, as it should be.

We need to keep the pressure up and we need to reexamine how we’re using “solitary confinement” in general, not just in high profile media cases. Because Manning’s treatment is clearly not unusual — it’s all part of our country’s retreat from democracy. Just look at how well oiled that machine appears to be — the precise application of entirely non-physical coercive means to prisoners is a strong indication of how much we’ve been using it already.

Should note, though that a report today: Assange-Manning Link Not Key to WikiLeaks Case indicates that the DoJ case “doesn’t hinge” on a direct Assange-Manning connection. If that is the case, I’m at a loss to understand why Manning is being treated so harshly. If the connection can’t be proved because Manning zerofiled the evidence on his computer (which he remarks doing in the infamous Wired “chat logs”) then it might be to pressure him to confess what exactly he zerofiled — but if that connection isn’t important according to the above report, then why pressure him?

Following Tunisia, Egypt: Egypt braced for ‘day of revolution’ protests. See twitter #jan25 for much, much more info, but this pic is impressive:

In a move that suggests the uprising in Tunisia may be spreading to other parts of the Arab world, Tunisian activists announced they would be holding their own protests in solidarity with their Egyptian counterparts, while many Egyptians plan to wave Tunisian flags. Parallel protests are also scheduled to take place outside the Egyptian embassies in London and Washington.

Also, fairly predictable: Twitter BLOCKED In Egypt As Demonstrations Turn Violent. Many are getting around these government blocks by turning to anonymous proxy servers and other workarounds. Whether social media or Wikileaks is instigating these revolutions is an open question still, but it’s clear that social media is an integral part of the promulgation of information in times of unrest and thus targets for being taken down or censored. No reports on Facebook accessibility yet (but that’s clearly an amazing picture I linked to above — I’ve spotted a few later ones that show what looks like the same crowd turning into a riot or a battle against government forces). Also, information about Facebook in Tunisia is starting to emerge: The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks. Given all that, the fact that the Obama administration is looking for “data retention” is increasingly ominous, no matter how much you might think it can be waved away as a matter of “security.”

Isn’t it ironic how as the U.S. slides toward authoritarianism, the Arab countries look like they’re going one by one for more democracy? Assuming, of course that we (or other similar countries) don’t try to Shock Doctrine them at vulnerable moments. But the fact that it’s so well known how we’ve propped up dictatorships across the board in these regions may make it much more difficult for us to continue to interfere.

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