Category Archives: WikiLeaks diplomatic cables

Academic imperialism: Cal schools look East


The University of California at Berkeley, cash-strapped by a state government already overburdened by covering costs of local and county governments impoverished by Proposition 13, is looking abroad for cash.

It makes sense, of course. The increasingly wealthy elites of former Second World countries like China and Russia and the oil-enriched aristocratic an technocratic elites of the Mideast are eager to give their children appropriately elite educations.

So while Cal cuts enrolments of students from the state it was created to serve and replaces them with overseas students whose parents or states are able to pay the far higher enrolments charged non-Californians, it has taken the next step and established offshore campuses as well.

And why not? For the host country, there are the benefits of technology transfer coupled with the presitge of hosting academic names. And for cash-strapped American schools, there’s all that lovely money.

From the 3 April 2013 issue of the East Bay Express:

UC Berkeley Seeks China Gold

The university is working on a new research facility in Shanghai that promises to attract more money from foreign students who pay higher tuition.

This summer, Cal’s engineering department plans to complete a new research and teaching facility in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, one of China’s biggest research and development centers. The facility is to be predominately funded by the Chinese government, and while it initially will only offer a few courses, it could eventually grow into a degree-granting satellite campus of UC Berkeley.

A few other universities, including NYU, Harvard, and Georgetown also operate campuses overseas. However, if UC Berkeley follows through with this proposal, it will become one of only two US public universities operating a full-scale international campus. And while such a partnership would surely provide opportunities to UC Berkeley students and faculty, the biggest motivator seems to be money.

Two years earlier — when the center was in the planning stages — the New York Times reported, tellingly:

The public university, which is struggling under budget constraints imposed by the state of California, said the Shanghai center would cater to engineering graduate students and be financed over the next five years largely by the Shanghai government and companies operating here.

And the Shanghai campus isn’t the only link to Beijing, as China Daily reported two weeks ago:

West Point, Berkeley become must-stops for Chinese CEOs

UC Berkeley, Stanford University and the US Military Academy at West Point have become popular must-stops for Chinese CEOs and business executives enrolled in an overseas education program organized by China’s Shanghai Jiaotong University.

A group of 66 Chinese business executives in the program ended their 10-day tour of New York, Washington, Philadelphia and San Francisco on April 20. The tour that included meetings with key international financial institutions and government officials is part of a 12-month non-degree course at the university that also includes the UK.

On April 18, the Haas School of Business at the UC Berkeley campus hosted the Chinese executives.

“The Shanghai Jiaotong University Global CEO program provides our group of Chinese CEOs with advanced management training and face-to-face dialogue with key people in the US, which helps us understand and participate effectively in the globalized market,” said Jiang Zhaobai, chairman of Shanghai Pengxin Group, a leading Chinese conglomerate with interests in real estate, infrastructure construction.

Berkeley isn’t new at the foreign partnership game. Nor has the imperial expansion been entirely without complications, as in the case of the Graduate School of Management at Russia’s St. Petersburg University, a partnership between Cal’s Haas School of Business and the Russian school launched in 1993.

UC Berkeley plutocratic professor David J. Teece , who directs the Center for Global Strategy and Governance at Cal’s Haas School of Business, also chairs of the St. Petersburg business school’s International Academic Council. [He’s also vied with David Koch for pride of place among the top five contributors to a California Republican senatorial candidate.]

Let us quote from a WikiLeaks-ed 5 February 2001 CONFIDENTIAL/NOFORN cable from Ambassador William J. Burns in Moscow to the Secretary of State’s office:

2. (C) During the November 2006 inauguration of the newly-opened premises of the St. Petersburg State University School of Management, an American academic long associated with the school told CG about Vice Governor Yuri Molchanov’s “sinister” presence in their dealings.

3. (C) The Haas School of Management at U.C. Berkeley has nurtured the development of a new St. Petersburg School of Management since 1993. In addition to academic exchanges and curriculum development, representatives of the Haas school led a unique fund-raising campaign which collected $6.5 million in private U.S. and Russian funds to entirely renovate a dilapidated building for classroom use. As steward of the funds, which included a whopping $1 million from U.S. citizen Arthur B. Schultz, the Haas School kept close tabs on all expenditures. At one point in the early 1990s, when lenders were sought to renovate the old building, Vice Governor Molchanov’s private construction firm placed a bid. As the only local bidder and as a close associate of the now Dean of the School of Management, Molchanov apparently expected to win the tender. He did not. This provoked an angry response in which he demanded compensation from the Haas School representatives for the costs of preparing his bid. While the Haas School did not comply with his demand, they did find a way to mollify the Vice Governor, who “was always present at all our discussions”, according to the American source. “He gave me the creeps.” Although the source did not describe any specific intimidation, it was clear that the Americans experienced some degree of fear – a not unreasonable reaction in 1990s Russia.

4. (C) Vice Governor Malchanov is widely rumored to be corrupt, enjoying a convenient intersection of interests between his construction company and his position in the city government. He played a very visible role in the School of Management inauguration alongside Governor Valentina Matviyenko and President Putin.

BURNS

Just what the school did to mollify Molchanov remains an open question. The only mention of him on the Russian university’s website is as one of seven judges in a 23 November 2000 student business plan competition. His name doesn’t appear in a search of UC Berkeley’s website.

What was most peculiar is that no mention of this fascinating story has appeared in the local news media after WikiLeaks put on line, with the notable help of Chelsea Manning. But then such is the plight of the impoverished, gutted, and pathetically understaffed American news media.

One has to wonder how many similar situations are confronted by other institutions, and by their staff members.

Perhaps these are just the moaning and musing of a stubborn old journalist who’s spent a great many years investigating corruption much closer to home. . .

The provocation for this rambling post follows, a pair of video reports from CCTV, like China Daily a Chinese state medium, reporting on similar deals by other American universities.

From CCTV:

USC President C.L. Max Nikias on Investment in China

Program notes:

China is also one of the biggest markets for U.S. universities. The number of Chinese students studying abroad is soaring, but the U.S. only attracts a fraction of them. Now American colleges are trying to change that: they already have the biggest number of satellite campuses and partnerships in China. The University of Southern California (USC) is one school investing time, money, and people towards this goal. CCTV’s Phillip Yin speaks to USC President C.L. Max Nikias about the university’s efforts in China.

Foreign Universities Setting up Shop in India

Program notes:

For years, India has been sending students away to learn the skills to build the economy back home. Now overseas universities are coming to India. CCTV’s Shweta Bajaj reports from New Delhi.

From RT, an extended talk with Julian Assange


An extended interview with the WIkiLeaks activist by RT Spanish’s Behind the News host Eva Golinger:

From the transcript:

EG: Well the head of MI5 has also just declared that Edward Snowden, his documents have placed national security in danger…

JA: Yeah, I mean just absurd. But also it’s a position by the UK which is clearly that they’re going after anyone who has had something to do with this matter, probably in order to show to the US that they feel their pain and that they are a part of the same club. And possibly in relation to GCHQ. So that’s a concern for us, what will happen to Sarah Harrison? But I think if we look at the bigger picture, OK, yes, there’s some development in the US and the UK, which is extremely serious. It’s obvious to everyone. The rule of law is gradually starting to collapse. The mechanisms of government are lifting off from the population, from the judicial system. The judicial processes are becoming more and more secret. Here, introduction of a secret court.

Even the Labour Party here, Ed Miliband from the Labour Party pushing legislation saying that soldiers should not be able to be criticized, adding them to hate speech legislation. This is a sort of proto-fascism. I mean, that’s a strong thing to say, but I think that’s a correct description. And the US – yes, that is making people extremely timid. It has made. The Guardian does good work here, but it has made the Guardian also very timid in its publications. It’s been holding a lot of stories back. It’s been extensively redacting, it has been holding documents back, same in the US.

From the point of view of WikiLeaks as a publisher, of course, we think that’s great, that we we’ll be the only player left in the field. From the point of view of Julian Assange as a free speech activist, I think that’s an abomination and extremely concerning. On the other hand, just because you can smell the gun powder in the air, you can smell the heat of the battle between those people, who are revealing information about the crimes of state, and war crimes and mass surveillance and so on. And those who are trying to suppress it. It doesn’t tell you which side is winning.

There’s a serious conflict going on between a growing national security system in the West and those people who are trying to expose what that system is doing. That’s for sure. Which one of these two groups is winning is not clear. We actually have some pretty important winds under our belt as well as saying many journalists are surveyed and prosecuted.

Read the rest.

An important video: Leaks, leakers, laws, pols


Imagine a panel discussion involving people at the heart of the political, legal, and social turmoil created by the leaks of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden could talk civilly about some of the most important issues of our day.

Well, that’s the content of this very important video from Ideas at the House. — the house being a building we love, the Sydney Opera House. Their YouTube channel is here.

It’s a 98-minute discussion, loaded with information, insights, and intelligence [in both senses].

Their criticism of the mainstream media is biting, as well as all too accurate.

Here’s an introductory paragraph from one of the participants, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald:

I’m working on several stories, so posting this week will be difficult. Until then, below is the video of the 90-minute event I did this week at the Sydney Opera House on the war on whistleblowers and journalism, along with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning’s lawyer David Coombs, the intrepid independent journalist Alexa O’Brien, and the Australian commentator Robert Manne, hosted by the Australian writer Bernard Keane. It was a great discussion and really covered in a broad way many of the issues discussed here over the last year, especially the last several months (I dropped out for roughly 25 minutes after I first spoke due to some technical difficulties with the video feed but returned to participate actively in the rest of the discussion).

Ideas at the House: Panel – The War on Whistleblowers and Their Publishers

The program notes:

US Journalist and activist Alexa O’Brien and Australian commentator Robert Manne are joined by video conference with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Guardian Journalist Glenn Greenwald and Chelsea Manning’s Lawyer David Coombs on stage at the Sydney Opera House (moderated by Bernard Keane of Crikey).

Powerful governments are waging a war on whistleblowers and those involved in publishing their material. Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, Manning has been convicted of espionage and is awaiting sentencing, and Julian Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador but cannot step outside its London Embassy. It’s clear that the actions of whistleblowers and their publishers – ‘traitors’ as they are known to some – have come at a significant personal cost, and while the human drama of these stories is engrossing, the focus should be on the very real issues they’ve raised: surveillance, press freedom, privacy, secrecy, and accountability.

The roles of governments and corporations in the future of the internet, and their use and abuse of data, have been put under the global spotlight. In the wake of Manning, Snowden and Wikileaks, we finally have the scope to properly debate the need for government transparency and the trade-off between privacy and security.

Watch our expert panel discuss the implications of the war on whistleblowers for the main actors, and the consequences if that war is lost for the rest of us.

Headlines of the day I: Spooks, pols, idiocy


We begin with another major step toward the the destruction of labor power entombment of what was once hopefully called democracy, via Techdirt:

Desperate To Sew Up TPP Negotiations At Any Cost, Politicians Agree All Future Meetings Will Be Completely Secret

from the slap-in-the-public’s-face dept

From The Guardian, a backhanded slam at Obama and Cameron:

UN: Press should not be ‘intimidated into silence’ over state secrets

Representatives criticise UK government following detention of David Miranda, and call for public debate over NSA surveillance

From the London Daily Mail, another sign of the collapse of democracy:

Pictured: John McCain caught playing POKER on his iPhone during crucial Senate hearing on whether to take military action in Syria

From The Guardian, enabling wishful thinking:

Barack Obama raises possibility of new legislation to curb NSA powers

President defends NSA but acknowledges ‘legitimate questions’ about the agency’s role, especially with advance of technology

From Reuters, another reassurance that prompts another question: Then why are they saving all their phone calls, email, and web-surfing?:

Obama says U.S. not snooping on ordinary people

From The Verge, the shuck and juve:

NSA review panel reportedly meeting with privacy groups and tech companies next week

And more Snowden blowback via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

NSA leak might lead to cancellation of Brazil state visit

Deutsche Welle, From the department of “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you’re wrong”:

WikiLeaks’ Assange claims he was spied on in Germany

According to German media reports, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has filed a criminal complaint with Germany’s Federal Prosecutor in Karlsruhe. He claims a US marine spied on him during a visit to Berlin in 2009.

From RIA Novosti, history for sale:

WikiLeaks ‘Cablegate’ Server up for Auction on eBay

From Wired, where it’s all about the meta:

NSA Laughs at PCs, Prefers Hacking Routers and Switches

Another kind of reassurance, from RIA Novosti:

Russia Will Not Hand Snowden Over to US – Putin

And an opinion, via Business Insider:

PUTIN: Snowden Is A ‘Strange Guy’ Who Is In For A Tough Life

From Business Insider again, this time with Techwars:

HACKER WAR: Anonymous Takes Down Syrian Electronic Army

And from Techdirt, the oldest excuse of all:

State AG Says It’s OK Ohio Implemented Facial Recognition Program Without Notifying Public Because Everyone Else Is Doing It

from the the-fundamental-disconnect-between-public-and-public-servants dept

From Reuters, corporate opportunism:

Canon spies opportunity in surveillance as camera growth cools

Al Jazeera America offers up a cure to the post-retirement blues:

How a former CIA officer used spy skills to explore NY’s new electric cabs

From Spiegel, a bit of nostalgia:

Spy Games: Photos Reveal the Stasi Art of Disguise

East Germany’s feared secret police had a bit of a sartorial flair, photos found by artist Simon Menner in the Stasi archive reveal. The images, which offer a glimpse into the clandestine world of phony facial hair and the all-important hat, are set to be published in a book this fall.

And to close, the BBC, tracking the Honorable Members:

Parliamentary porn consumption laid bare in official figures

More than 300,000 attempts were made to access pornographic websites at the Houses of Parliament in the past year, official records suggest.

Assange marks 1,000 days’ house arrest, exile


From RT:

Assange’s Thousand Days: ‘Careless crackdown on whistleblowers won’t stop’

The program notes:

Monday marks one thousand days of confinement for WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, most of it under house arrest. But since June 2012 the whistleblower has been holed up in London’s Ecuadorian embassy attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden where’s he’s wanted on sex crime allegations. Assange fears should he step out of the embassy he will be arrested, and ultimately handed over to the U.S. to face life imprisonment. Wikileaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT why they’re so worried.

Court martial verdict: Manning gets 35 years


From RT:

A US military judge has sentenced Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison. Manning faced up to 90 years behind bars, while prosecutors sought to put the whistleblower away for a minimum of six decades.

Manning will be credited with the 1,294 days he spent in pre-trial confinement plus an additional 112 days. He was also dishonorably discharged, saw his rank reduced to private from private first class and was forced to forfeit all pay and benefits. No additional fine, however, was levied against him. Manning will have to serve a third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Col. Denise Lind, who on Tuesday began her deliberations in the court-martial case, announced the sentence shortly after 10am local time (14:00 GMT).  Lind read out the sentence succinctly and provided no other statement as a gaggle of journalists waited in anticipation. Flanked by his lawyers, Manning, 25, stood at attention and appeared not to react when  Lind announced the punishment, AP reports. He further made no statement after his fate was announced.

Read the rest.

And a pair of videos from, first from Russia today:

Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years behind bars

The program notes:

A US military judge has sentenced Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison. Manning faced up to 90 years behind bars, while prosecutors sought to put the whistleblower away for a minimum of six decades.

And a shorter video from RT America:

The program notes:

A US military judge has sentenced Army Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison in the WikiLeaks case. The Private was earlier found guilty of 20 criminal counts, including espionage and theft. Manning will be credited with the 1,294 days he spent in pre-trial confinement plus an additional 112 days. He was also dishonorably discharged, saw his rank reduced to private from private first class and was forced to forfeit all pay and benefits. No additional fine, however, was levied against him. Manning will have to serve a third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. RT web producer Andrew Blake, who was in the courtroom during sentencing, reports live from Ft. Meade.

Headlines of the day I: Stupid security tricks, more


We throw in a couple of videos for openers, covering THE story of the day, Glenn Greenwald’s Miranda warning.

First from RT:

‘Mafia tactic’: UK detains Greenwald’s partner under Terrorism Act for 9 hours

The program notes:

The partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald was held at Heathrow airport under the UK Terrorism Act for the maximum time allowed before pressing charges. Amnesty International dubbed the move an unwarranted revenge after Greenwald revealed NSA spy programs.

And in this London Telegraph video, Greenwald and his partner respond to the detention, with Greenwald using fluent Portuguese:

Greenwald: UK will be ‘sorry’ for detaining partner

The program notes:

Guardian journalist who wrote stories exposing mass American surveillance programmes says UK government will be “sorry” for holding his partner for nine hours under the Terrorism Act, and vows to publish further secrets.

Before our headlines on the airport detention, we turn first to the other major leak story, one nearing its end in a military courtroom.

From The Guardian:

Bradley Manning judge deliberates as experts predict ‘double-digit’ sentence

Manning unlikely to be given 90-year maximum, analysts say, but soldier can expect susbtantial prison term for leaking material

And an ominous number from The Irish Times:

US prosecutors seek 60-year prison sentence for Manning

Soldier’s lawyers ask judge to balance rehabilitation and punishment before sentencing

And now for the detention headlines, starting with this from The Independent:

Police face pressure to explain why reporter Glenn Greenwald’s partner, linked to Edward Snowden, is held at Heathrow

David Anderson QC weighs in to question why David Miranda was held for nine hours and released without charge, although ‘memory sticks’ were reportedly seized

And from RIA Novosti, the first blowback:

Amnesty International Slams Snowden-Linked Detention in UK

A brilliant take of meaning, from Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I:

Shorter UK Security Establishment: “Lovely Partner You Have. Pity if Something Were to Happen to Him.”

And the biggest blowback, from Reuters:

Snowden journalist to publish UK secrets after Britain detains partner

And the Obama question enters the picture, starting with this headline from Politico:

White House: U.S. had no role in detention of Greenwald’s partner

Leave it to Techdirt to capture the meat of it:

White House Says It Had ‘No Role’ In UK Detention Of David Miranda, But Did Have A ‘Heads Up’

from the and-what-did-it-say-in-response? dept

More from CNN:

White House knew Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda would be detained

And a broader statement, from The Guardian:

The White House credibility deficit

The NSA leaks ended the power of Obama officials to ration access. No self-respecting journalist believes what they say

And from our own Department of We Are Shocked, Shocked, this from Techdirt:

Intelligence Official Says He Was Fired For Not Lying To Congress; Says Rogers & Feinstein Don’t Know What’s Happening

from the more-whistleblowing dept

From EUbusiness, more blowback:

European data agencies press EU over US spying

Still more blowback this time from Spiegel:

Merkel and the NSA: A Scandal That Just Won’t Die

As the election approaches, Chancellor Angela Merkel is working hard to dissipate anger over controversial surveillance by German and US intelligence agencies. But every time Berlin assures voters that all is well, its claims are discredited.

Meanwhile, spooks are busy elsewhere, as Egypt Independent reports:

Washington heightens intelligence presence in Turkey

And from The Hill, better late than never?:

Sixty years later, CIA admits role in Iran coup

Quote of the day: A literal war on journalists


From Amy Davidson, writing in the New Yorker:

The Obama Administration has, in its practices, embraced the position that the leaking of classified information to reporters is a problem properly addressed with the Espionage Act. Bradley Manning was convicted under it even though the government failed on a charge of aiding the enemy. Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. leaker, has been charged with two violations of the Espionage Act, for starters. Snowden’s leaks made a crucial discussion about the N.S.A.’s overreach possible. President Obama said in a press conference last week that he didn’t consider him a “patriot”; others have openly called him a traitor. And the Administration has come close to calling reporters who work with leakers members of spy rings.

Peter Maass, in a profile of Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker to whom Snowden turned with his files, describes how she was stopped and harassed at border crossings for years before even meeting him, perhaps because of filming that she did in Iraq—but who knows why. [Update: David Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was detained for nine hours Sunday while transiting Heathrow Airport under a section of the U.K.’s Terrorism Act, apparently because he is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who also worked with Snowden, and had just visited Poitras; British authorities questioned him about the N.S.A. leaks, according to the Guardian.]

The other part of the equation is our drone regimen and the legal rationales that the Obama Administration has constructed for targeted killings—including the killings of Americans. In a post a few months ago, I asked whether an Administration white paper defending the extra-judicial killing of Americans abroad—people whom it had decided were a threat and involved with Al Qaeda or “associated forces”—could be used to justify, say, a drone strike against a journalist who was about to reveal classified information. The Administration has denied that reading of the paper, but it appears that it could indeed justify such an action; it is too easy to imagine a future President pointing to the language of the white paper as a precedent. And that just concerns Americans: foreigners have less protection.

Headlines of the day I: Spooks and Big Brother


We open with our Ominous Headline of the Day from Cryptogon:

Apple Patents Kill Switch for Mobile Devices Because: “Covert Police or Government Operations May Require Complete ‘Blackout’ Conditions.”

And from our Stupid Intimidation Tricks file, this from The Guardian:

Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours

David Miranda, partner of Guardian interviewer of whistleblower Edward Snowden, questioned under Terrorism Act

Also from The Guardian, the detainee’s partner responds:

Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation

The detention of my partner, David Miranda, by UK authorities will have the opposite effect of the one intended

And from the BBC, some Latin blowback from the detention:

Snowden case: Brazil ‘concerned’ after UK detention

Brazil says the detention under British terror laws of one of its citizens at London’s Heathrow airport caused “grave concern” and was “unjustified”.

Meanwhile, a corporate giant talks security in Moscow, via RIA Novosti:

Google, Russian Senators to Talk Data Protection

From The Daily Dot, an organization braces with battle:

Is WikiLeaks bluffing, or did it really just post all its secrets to Facebook?

More from Business Insider:

Wikileaks Just Released A Massive ‘Insurance’ File That No One Can Open

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, that damn T-word:

Egypt government paints opponents as terrorists; US journalists targeted

From the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong braces for Occupy:

Senior police officers asked to delay retiring amid manpower fears over Occupy Central

Senior officers being asked to delay leaving the force, sources say, amid fears over public order and the planned civil disobedience in Central

From Techdirt, stupid prosecutorial tricks:

Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service

from the either-you-help-us-spy-on-people-or-you’re-a-criminal dept

And from International Business Times, stupid journalism tricks:

Time Reporter Michael Grunwald Tweets About Defending A Drone Strike On WikiLeaks’ Assange

More from Mashable:

TIME Reporter Deletes Tweet About Killing Julian Assange

And from the San Francisco Chronicle, following a fatal fire truck runover of an injured Airplane crash victim, more proof that the panopticon is a one-way mirror:

SF fire chief bans helmet cameras in wake of crash

A Nobel Peace Prize for Bradley Manning?


Not a bad idea, but highly unlikely, given that the Nobel folk awarded the prize to Bellicose Barry. But that’s the idea discussed in this segment of RT America’s Breaking The Set, an idea we endorse however unlikely its actualization.

The product of a traumatic childhood politically catalyzed by his experiences in post-war Iraq, Bradley Manning gave the world a first-hand look at the sausage-makinbg of American foreign policy.

Following three years of harsh imprisonment before trial, Manning finally offered up a poignant apology at the conclusion of a court martial than could see him imprisoned for the rest of his life. We can understand why, given the long, sad history of the use of solitary to coerce confessions.

From RT America:

Why Bradley Manning Should Get Obama’s Peace Prize

The program notes:

Abby Martin talks to Norman Solomon, Co-founder of RootsAction.org about the petition to award whistleblower Bradley Manning with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent essay Solomon wrote for USAToday:

Consent of the governed is meaningful only to the extent that it is informed consent. Bradley Manning let Americans, and many others around the world, know what their governments were really doing. The disclosures caused problems for leaders in many nations who much preferred to operate behind an opaque curtain.

Over time, democracy and peace are closely entwined. Only a knowledgeable citizenry can come to grips with actual policies that perpetuate war when shielded from public scrutiny.

It’s easy to insist that Bradley Manning must face the consequences of his actions. But we badly need whistle-blowers like Manning because U.S. government leaders do not face the consequences of their actions, including perpetual warfare abroad and assaults on civil liberties at home.

No government should have the power to keep waging war while using secrecy to cloak policies that cannot stand the light of day. Thank goodness for the courage of Bradley Manning.

Read the rest.

Headlines of the day I: Spooks, secrets, ‘security’


We open with the obvious from Sky News:

Bradley Manning: I Hurt The United States

The soldier apologises to the US for his actions but says he didn’t think leaking files to WikiLeaks would cause harm.

Meanwhile, the American war on Wikileaks continues, reported by the Copenhagen Post:

FBI met WikiLeaks informant in Copenhagen

Unknown whether the FBI illegally interviewed an Icelandic informant in Denmark, or whether the government let the FBI pursue investigation against WikiLeaks

And Russians take a kinder look at America’s other major league leaker, via RIA Novosti:

Russians Say Snowden Only Wanted to Expose Intrusion – Poll

We follow with another Snowden story from RIA Novosti:

Snowdens’ Father-Son Online Chat Leaves Attorneys Furious — Source

And from Xinhua. More proof that Obama’s posturing was simply ornamental rage:

Snowden case not to affect U.S.-Russia missile defense talks: official

A second Xinhua headline, this one reporting the ongoing Latin American blowback that just won’t die:

Brazil says U.S. explanations on espionage case “not enough”

From The Register, a reminder that privacy no longer exists in the digital domain:

Your encrypted files are ‘exponentially easier’ to crack, warn MIT boffins

Maths gurus tug rug from under modern crypto: ‘You’d be surprised how quickly it takes’

More in the same vein from Mother Jones:

There Is No Such Thing As NSA-Proof Email

Just ask ultrasecure email providers.

And from the Associated Press, a terrorist reach-around?:

Terrorists turn to online chat rooms to evade US

But then there are hackers, hacking away. From the BBC:

Washington Post, CNN and Time websites hit by pro-Assad hackers

From El País, the inevitable:

Fake “spy chief” gave recruits sex tests

Victims were asked to provide money and sexual favors to secure fictitious jobs as secret agents

And from Techdirt, more irony:

Mayor Bloomberg Loves Cameras Watching Everyone… Except His Cops

from the the-public’s-best-interest-is-rarely-served-by-a-billionaire/police-chief-ta dept

Finally, from Business Insider, some common sense for local governments eager to suck up Homeland Security cash:

Former Marine Colonel To Town Council: ‘You’re Building A Domestic Army; Are You Blind?’

Wikileaks responds to Bradley Manning’s apologia


From WL Central:

[Wednesday] Bradley Manning reportedly made a statement of remorse in a sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning’s statement comes towards the end of a court martial trial pursued with unprecedented prosecutorial zeal.

Since his arrest, Mr. Manning has been an emblem of courage and endurance in the face of adversity. He has resisted extraordinary pressure. He has been held in solitary confinement, stripped naked and subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the United States government. His constitutional right to a speedy trial has been ignored. He has sat for three years in pretrial detention, while the government assembled 141 witnesses and withheld thousands of documents from his lawyers.

The government has denied him the right to conduct a basic whistleblower defense. It overcharged him until he faced over a century in prison and barred all but a handful of his witnesses. He was denied the right at trial to argue that no harm was caused by his alleged actions. His defence team was pre-emptively banned from describing his intent or showing that his actions harmed no one.

Despite these obstacles, Mr. Manning and his defense team have fought at every step. Last month, he was eventually convicted of charges carrying up to 90 years of prison time. The US government admitted that his actions did not physically harm a single person, and he was acquitted of “aiding the enemy.” His convictions solely relate to his alleged decision to inform the public of war crimes and systematic injustice.

But Mr. Manning’s options have run out. The only currency this military court will take is Bradley Manning’s humiliation. In light of this, Mr. Manning’s forced decision to apologise to the US government in the hope of shaving a decade or more off his sentence must be regarded with compassion and understanding.

Mr. Manning’s apology is a statement extorted from him under the overbearing weight of the United States military justice system. It took three years and millions of dollars to extract two minutes of tactical remorse from this brave soldier.

Bradley Manning’s apology was extracted by force, but in a just court the US government would be apologizing to Bradley Manning. As over 100,000 signatories of his Nobel Peace Prize nomination attest, Bradley Manning has changed the world for the better. He remains a symbol of courage and humanitarian resistance.

Mr. Manning’s apology shows that as far as his sentencing is concerned there are still decades to play for. Public pressure on Bradley Manning’s military court must intensify in these final days before the sentencing decision against him is made.

WikiLeaks continues to support Bradley Manning, and will continue to campaign for his unconditional release.

Free Bradley Manning.

Headlines of the day II: The spooky edition


We open with a skeptical note from The Christian Science Monitor:

Yemen plot foiled: Could it have been an Al Qaeda ruse?

Yemen plot foiled, but the intercepted chatter that preceded it has raised a few eyebrows. Some think it might have been an attempt to goad the US into action. Others reject that theory.

And while we’re on the subject of attacks, notional or otherwise, consider the folks Obama wants to arm in another land. From the McClatchy foreign staff:

Al Qaida groups lead Syrian rebels’ seizure of air base in sign they continue to dominate anti-Assad forces

Reuters has been getting into the business of breaking Big Brother stories, too, including evidence that evidence supposedly collected to fight terror is being used for other purposes:

Exclusive: IRS manual detailed DEA’s use of hidden intel evidence

And from the New York Times, more than mere metadata:

N.S.A. Said to Search Content of Messages to and From U.S.

From The Independent, another hopeful augury for the first high-profile leaker:

Judge casts doubt on damage caused by whistleblower Bradley Manning’s US secret data leaks

And from The Guardian, another supporter for his best-known successor:

Russian senator raises funds for Edward Snowden

United Russia politician Ruslan Gattarov says he has set up a website to gather money for the NSA whistleblower

A leaker’s dad has faith, reports the Buenos Aires Herald:

Putin will not ‘cave’ to Obama pressure, Snowden’s father says

And then there’s the absurd, as noted by Raw Story:

Fox News host demands escalation of nuclear hostilities with Russia over Snowden

Xinhua reports on an ambiguous message:

Snowden case not worth hurting Russia-U.S. relations: Russian lawmaker

And more blowback, this time for the corporate sector [including Amazon, one of the world’s leading providers], via Bloomberg:

Thanks to the NSA, the Sky May Be Falling on U.S. Cloud Providers

From Techdirt, a business choses to die rather than spy:

Ed Snowden’s Email Provider, Lavabit, Shuts Down To Fight US Gov’t Intrusion

More from Threat Level:

Edward Snowden’s Email Provider Shuts Down After Secret Court Battle

And from Reuters, a report on other data security worries:

Obamacare months behind in testing IT data security: government

And from The Agitator, something to think about:

One In 25 Americans Was Arrested In 2011

Finally, at least we now know what we are. From Techdirt:

Government Considers Dissatisfaction With US Policies To Be A ‘High Threat’

from the looks-like-someone’s-going-to-spend-some-time-at-the-Ministry-of-Love! dept

Washington Post sale raises ownership questions


Jeff Bezos, the tycoon behind Amazon, has become thw owner of the paper of record in the nation’s capital, an institution of immense power and influence.

So what does it mean for American journalism and democracy itself.

A fascinating discussion on Democracy Now! raises most of the key questions:

How The Washington Post’s New Owner Aided the CIA, Blocked WikiLeaks & Decimated Book Industry, Part 1

How The Washington Post’s New Owner Aided the CIA, Blocked WikiLeaks & Decimated Book Industry, Part 2

The program notes:

The Washington Post announced on Monday the paper had been sold to Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million. Bezos, one of the world’s wealthiest men, now controls one of the most powerful newspapers in the country. Some critics of the sale have cited Bezos’ close ties to the U.S. government. In 2010, Amazon pulled the plug on hosting the WikiLeaks website under heavy political pressure. Earlier this year, Amazon inked a $600 million cloud computing deal with the CIA. Independent booksellers and publishers have also long complained about Amazon’s business practices.

Democracy Now! hosts a roundtable on the history of Amazon and the future of the newspaper industry. “Monopoly newspapers, especially The Washington Post in the nation’s capital, while it might not be a commercially viable undertaking, it still has tremendous political power,” says Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press, “a plaything for these billionaires that they can then use aggressively to promote their own politics.” Media critic Jeff Cohen notes that while The Washington Post notably published reports on Watergate and the Pentagon Papers decades ago, he thinks concerns that Bezos will ruin their journalistic tradition is unfounded, saying that in recent years, “The Washington Post has really been the newspaper of the bipartisan consensus.” We also speak to Dennis Johnson, publisher of Melville Books. “Amazon is a company that feels no pain. They’ve, as far as I can tell, never made money. … So, when you see him taking over The Washington Post and you wonder is he going to be able to monetize it, is he going to make it profitable, he probably doesn’t care,” Johnson says.

The Manning verdict & the disease of endless war


Jessica Desvarieux of The Real News Network talks to Larry Wilkerson, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served as chief of staff to Gen Colin Powell.

Wilkerson dissects the Bradley Manning verdict, and “at the heart of the matter,” he says, is a disease: “This case is a symptom of a disease here in the U.S., and the disease is interminable war.”

War abroad has spread to massive surveillance at home, he says, and until the disease is cured, the symptoms — the whistleblowing — will continue.

We can only hope so.

Military Court Finds Manning Not Guilty of “Aiding the Enemy”

Mixed verdict for Manning, faces 150 years


A military judge rejected the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, but convicted the WikiLeaker of other charges which, together with Bradley Manning’s earlier guilty pleas, could lead to a sentence of a century and a half.

From Michael Doyle of the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

A military judge on Tuesday acquitted Army Pfc. Bradley Manning of the most serious charge against him but found the former intelligence analyst and self-styled whistleblower guilty of various charges involving stolen documents turned over to the WikiLeaks website.

In the most highly scrutinized court-martial in years, Army Col. Denise Lind acquitted Manning on a charge of aiding the enemy. A conviction could have sent the 25-year-old Manning to prison for life.

But following a nearly two-month trial held at Maryland’s Fort Meade, outside of Washington, D.C., Lind found Manning guilty of multiple espionage counts related to the theft and distribution of some 700,000 digital government documents. Manning provided the documentary treasure trove to WikiLeaks, which publishes material from U.S. and foreign corporations and governments.

Lind will sentence Manning following another extended hearing that starts Wednesday and will include additional testimony. In theory, according to a tally by the Manning Support Network, Manning could still face a sentence of more than 150 years.

Read the rest.

UPDATE: A video report from Sky News:

Headlines of the day II: Of spooks and silly walks


From MapLight.org, a case of fidelity to their sponsors, not their constituents:

House Members Voting to Continue NSA’s Dragnet Surveillance Received Twice as Much From Defense Contractors

From The Guardian, politicians who stand up:

Wyden calls Fisa court ‘anachronistic’ as pressure builds on Senate to act

Dick Durbin joins growing outcry among senators to rein in power of secretive court meant to serve as a check on NSA

Meanwhile, from International Business Times, another revelation about the power of the anonymous spook in Obama’s America:

Greenwald Says Low-Level NSA Analysts Can Access E-mails, Phone Calls

From Antiwar.com, making a crucial point:

The Fourth Amendment was Mortally Wounded by the Drug War Long Before National Security Tried to Kill It

From In These Times, a timely reminder:

Why NSA Surveillance Should Alarm Labor

If unions are not speaking out against PRISM, it is because they have short memories.

And on to the leaker, first with this from China Daily:

No time limit for Snowden’s stay: Russia

And a studied ambiguity, reported by RIA Novosti:

Russia to Reply to US Attorney General’s Snowden Letter

From Reuters, a German speaks truth:

German president says whistleblowers like Snowden merit respect

From New Europe, reporting on other Germans who agree:

Thousands take to streets in Germany to protest US surveillance of Internet

From AlterNet, a reminder of how some see “security”:

Shocking ‘Extermination’ Fantasies By the People Running America’s Empire on Full Display at Aspen Summit

Security Forum participants expressed total confidence in American empire, but could not contain their panic at the mention of Snowden.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, reporting on sacrificial lambs:

U.S. allowed Italian kidnap prosecution to shield higher-ups, ex-CIA officer says

From EUbusiness, a reminder that ornamental rage is still just ornamental rage:

France, Germany call for closer EU military cooperation

From The Guardian, an entry for the Department of But People Really Die:

Life as a US drone operator: ‘It’s like playing a video game for four years’

Artist Omer Fast looks at the military staff who fly drones from Nevada in a film commissioned by the Imperial War Museum

From The Guardian, a reminder that uber-WikiLeaker Bradley Manning also blew the whistle:

Bradley Manning’s ‘sole purpose was to make a difference’, lawyer insists

In closing arguments, defence lawyer paints portrait of Wikileaks source as someone without ‘evil intent’

From the New York Times, more spooky doing, this time inthe South:

Video of Clashes in Brazil Appears to Show Police Infiltrators Among Protesters

From The Guardian, reporting on the latest move to protect the rich:

Scientist banned from revealing codes used to start luxury cars

High court imposes injunction on Flavio Garcia, who has cracked security system of cars including Porsches and Bentleys

And for our final item, via The Independent, a help wanted ad from British spooks. Or perhaps the Ministry of Silly Walks:

MI5 needs a health and safety chief (but you didn’t hear it from us)

British intelligence service advertises post, but warns ‘we can’t tell you much about the job. We can’t give exact locations’

Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks (Full Sketch)

Headlines of the day II: The spooks edition


Stories are growing fewer as media interest wanes. But they continue, as in this from The Guardian:

Revealed: how Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted message

  • Secret files show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism

  • Outlook.com encryption unlocked even before official launch

  • Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls

  • Company says it is legally compelled to comply

And once again from The Guardian, which effectively owns the NSA journalism franchise:

Snowden: I never gave any information to Chinese or Russian governments

As a new poll shows widespread American approval for him, the NSA whistleblower vehemently denies media claims

From Gawker, a reminder that spies get spied upon, too:

Top Spy’s Sexy Emails Hacked

And again from The Guardian, how the scandal has benefited one of the apparently good guys:

NSA scandal delivers record numbers of internet users to DuckDuckGo

Gabriel Weinberg, founder of search engine with zero tracking, credits Prism revelations with prompting huge rise in traffic

From the BBC:

US allies Mexico, Chile and Brazil seek spying answers

And from The Guardian yet again, one of the costs of kissing up to Uncle Sam:

Julian Assange stakeout at Ecuadorean embassy costs Met police £3.8m

Spend on operation to attempt arrest and extradition of Wikileaks founder is described as ridiculous by London assembly member

Latin backlash to Obama’s strong-arm politics


First, David Dougherty of The Real News Network reports from La Paz, Bolivia, on the outrage among Latin American countries over the forced grounding in Vienna carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales:

Bolivians Indignant at European Treatment of President Morales

A transcript is posted here.

Besides drawing instant condemnation from other Latin American countries, the grounding of the presidential jet bore fuit in another way today.

From Deutsche Welle:

Bolivia’s president has said he would grant asylum to former US intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden. The leaders of Nicaragua and Venezuela had said on Friday they would be willing to grant him asylum as well.

After apparently languishing for almost two weeks in the transit area of Moscow’s main international airport, Snowden now has considerably more options, thanks to Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.

Bolivia has “no fear” of the US and its European allies, Morales said Saturday, referring to an incident earlier this week when his own plane was denied airspace by multiple countries and forced to land in Austria, apparently on suspicions that the president himself was harboring Snowden. Morales continued that Bolivia would “give asylum to the American if he asks.”

Read the rest.

Recorded before the asylum announcement, this episode of Al Jazeera’s
Inside Story look at the jet grounding and its consequences through three distinct viewpoints, one of particular interest.

Inside Story : Americas – Grounded by Snowden?

Host Shihab Rattansi brings together an interesting panel comprised of

  • Diana Villiers Negroponte, trade law specialist, law prof, Brookings Institution senior fellow specializing in Latin America, and British-born blue-blooded spouse of former Deputy Secretary of State and Director of National Intelligence James Negroponte,
  • Keane Bhatt, writer and editor for the North American Congress of Latin American Report, and
  • Gerardo Munck, professor of Latin American politics at the University of Southern California.

Negroponte said that the incident made some impact in South America, particularly among allies of the Bolivarian movement, it has no lasting meaning.

Bhatt disagrees, noting the apparent role played by the U.S. in leading the Spanish ambassador to demand to search Morales plane after it was forced to land in Austria after other nations denied landing rights — a breach of international law.

Munck notes that this is the first time UNASUR has issued a declaration concerning an external power, and that condemnation also came with an eminently reasonable demand for explanation, including the origin of the orders for force Morales’ plain down in Vienna.

Negroponte agreed that the plane grounding was a breach on international law, but, in the end, what could they actually do?

Bhatt points to the skewing of stories by mainstream media in the U.S. Europe to suggest that Latin American governments had been wavering on support for Snowden’s pleas for asylum.

Note the particular manners of dress of the four participants, with three hewing closely to a theme, while Negroponte, despite her shellacked and leonine mane, appears casually dressed indeed, as though for a picnic.

Munck points out that granting asylumn could come with costs in the form of sanctions from the U.S.

I would note that a dear friend says we shouldn’t mention Negroponte’s spouse and instead allow folks to judge her on her own merits. But long-time practice of in-depth journalism has left us with the distinct impression that familial relations are often very important in understanding power and its relations. But we raise her point for your consideration.

Finally, a video from RT:

Bolivian president threatens to close US embassy

The program notes:

Earlier this week, Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was downed in Austria after suspicion that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was onboard attempting to avoid extradition to the US. It turned out that Snowden wasn’t on board and now Morales has gathered the support of several South American presidents in asking for an apology from the European countries involved in the matter. Margaret Howell has more.

Quote of the day: Assange on the Manning trial


The trial of soldier and alleged Wiki-leaker Bradley Manning began yesterday. Here’s telling part of a statement on the prosecution from Wikileaks co-founder and political refugee Julian Assange:

The alleged act in respect of which Bradley Manning is charged is an act of great conscience – the single most important disclosure of subjugated history, ever. There is not a political system anywhere on the earth that has not seen light as a result. In court, in February, Bradley Manning said that he wanted to expose injustice, and to provoke worldwide debate and reform. Bradley Manning is accused of being a whistleblower, a good man, who cared for others and who followed higher orders.

But this is not the language the prosecution uses. The most serious charge against Bradley Manning is that he “aided the enemy” – a capital offence that should require the greatest gravity, but here the US government laughs at the world, to breathe life into a phantom. The government argues that Bradley Manning communicated with a media organisation, WikiLeaks, who communicated to the public. It also argues that al-Qaeda (who else) is a member of the public. Hence, it argues that Bradley Manning communicated “indirectly” with al-Qaeda, a formally declared US “enemy”, and therefore that Bradley Manning communicated with “the enemy”.

But what about “aiding” in that most serious charge, “aiding the enemy”? Don’t forget that this is a show trial. The court has banned any evidence of intent. The court has banned any evidence of the outcome, the lack of harm, the lack of any victim. It has ruled that the government doesn’t need to show that any “aiding” occurred and the prosecution doesn’t claim it did. The judge has stated that it is enough for the prosecution to show that al-Qaeda, like the rest of the world, reads WikiLeaks.

In the end it is not Bradley Manning who is on trial. The trial of Bradley Manning ended long ago. The defendant now, and for the next 12 weeks, is the United States and the collapse of its institutions. The runaway military, the deferent courts, the hand-maiden press, and the rotten institutions of government. They sit in the docks. We are called to serve as jurists, during this, their lowest hour. We must not turn away.

Free Bradley Manning.

Read the rest.