Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Wikileaks: The Cable Guys

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  • giovanni tiso,

    He reminds me so much of Ben Kingsley's character in Sneakers - it's like the screenwriters modelled him on Assange. And of course since it was an American film the guy who wanted to end secrecy had to be the villain.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Hannah,

    Now compare him to, say, Roman Polanski, who confessed to the anal rape of a minor and was allowed to travel around Europe for forty years without harrasement.

    Or compare him to Woodward and Bernstein, who released secret US documents, hugely embarrassed very powerful people and weren’t accused of rape.


    Edit - unless they were. That would make this an embarrassing post.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tim Hannah,

    Or compare him to Woodward and Bernstein, who released secret US documents, hugely embarrassed very powerful people and weren’t accused of rape.

    Or Seymour Hersh, who's still doing that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Or compare him to Woodward and Bernstein, who released secret US documents, hugely embarrassed very powerful people and weren't accused of rape.

    That you have to go back in time forty years to find a counterfactual is significant in of itself. If you look at more recent very high-profile whistle-blowers like Scott Ritter and Joe Wilson you find them exposed to a similar style of smears and character assasination as Assange.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Does this really affect anybody’s ability to think like a conspiracy? The most likely effect of this, as Yglesias (forgive me) put it, was that US diplomats will communicate confidential stuff over the phone from now on. That doesn’t degrade the ability to act conspiratorially, and in as much as it minimises openness and accountability, probably aids it.

    I don’t think that any of the leaks really are that interesting. Everything is either stuff we already knew, or stuff that barely matters. Most of the diplomatic outrage is utterly insincere — Putin is upset that the US thinks he’s authoritarian? Well, yeah.

    So really, discussing the character of a major actor on the world stage is not that surprising. I have difficulty seeing why it should be a bad thing to do — it isn’t like Assange has any right to my positive opinion of him, and even if the CIA wants me to think he’s a tosser, it is entirely possible he is a tosser.

    Assange embarrases the most powerful people in the world, immediately afterwards Interpol puts him on their global most wanted list.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc! Come on.

    PS. you know how we know that the CIA didn’t do it? It hasn’t been bungled yet.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    That you have to go back in time forty years to find a counterfactual is significant in of itself. If you look at more recent very high-profile whistle-blowers like Scott Ritter and Joe Wilson you find them exposed to a similar style of smears and character assasination as Assange.

    Wilson was undoubtedly the subject of smears, but that’s not the same thing as a multinational conspiracy to frame and prosecute, involving Assange’s erstwhile colleagues, which is what you’re proposing.

    And Ritter’s repeated problems with underage girls and the internet began before he had any profile as a critic of the US war policy (ie: from 2002).

    From Wikipedia:

    Ritter was arrested in April 2001[31] and again in June 2001 in connection with police stings in which officers posed as under-aged girls to arrange meetings of a sexual nature. The first incident did not lead to any charges.[31] He was charged with a misdemeanor crime of “attempted endangerment of the welfare of a child” after the second, but charges were dropped and the record was sealed on condition that he avoid further trouble for a period of time.[31][34] News of the arrests became public after sealed court records were anonymously provided to the press. Ritter claimed that the timing of the leak was a politically motivated effort to distract attention from his statements about Iraq.[32][33][35]

    Ritter was arrested again in November 2009[36] over communications with a police decoy he met on an Internet chat site. Police claim that he showed himself masturbating via a web camera after the officer said she was a 15-year-old girl; Ritter claims he was not made aware of the ostensible age of his correspondent before the act. The next month, Ritter waived his right to a preliminary hearing and was released on a $25,000 unsecured bail. Charges included “unlawful contact with a minor, criminal use of a communications facility, corruption of minors, indecent exposure, possessing instruments of crime, criminal attempt and criminal solicitation”.[37] Ritter is scheduled to face trial on these charges in September 2010.[38]

    It seems probable that the leak of his court records was political, but, again – that’s not the same thing as a conspiracy to have him entrapped and prosecuted. He appears to have come to the attention of the police in a conventional manner.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson,

    By his own account, he has a utopian goal in mind for all of us. That’s probably worth talking about.

    I think Charles Stross hit the nail on the head when it comes to that -

    I think we could do with some convincing utopias this decade. Otherwise, things are looking pretty bleak all over.

    In the comments of his post here

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 294 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Hannah, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    That you have to go back in time forty years to find a counterfactual is significant in of itself.

    To be honest, I think it signifies my lack of penetrating thought about historical parallels rather than evidence that Assange is obviously innocent because some powerful people don't like him.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I think we could do with some convincing utopias this decade. Otherwise, things are looking pretty bleak all over.

    I suppose I could be talked into the right utopia. I'd prefer to have, say, a vote in the matter though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But anyway, about those cables ...

    Yes please. Some of us are over the cult of personality stuff.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I suppose I could be talked into the right utopia. I'd prefer to have, say, a vote in the matter though.

    Why, do you think you have a vote in how power operates in your state? You really, really don't.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Why, do you think you have a vote in how power operates in your state? You really, really don’t.

    + very, very many

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Why, do you think you have a vote in how power operates in your state? You really, really don’t.

    + very, very many

    Well, as things stand, I do think I have more of a vote in the way my state operates than I do in Assange’s glamorous but untried utopian fait accompli.

    Indeed, my potential influence on Assange's actions is precisely zero.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    There is not, however, a defence against incoming artillery fire that doesn't rely on many metres of dirt and concrete between you and the shells. So ROK is very seriously at risk, both its infrastructure and citizens.

    Sure, but unless it has a nuclear warhead in it, a rocket isn't really that much of a threat. But massive concentrations of artillery with range of a densely populated city is a very frightening prospect indeed.

    Certainly not a direct and physical threat in the same way that artillery is - in that sense, the threat to Japan is insignificant compared to the threat to S Korea. But a couple of tons of metal landing at high speed in downtown Tokyo would certainly present a threat to the political stability of the region.

    I don't think it's very likely. At all. But given that the N Korean leadership seems a little unstable right now, who knows?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Speaking of state power.

    The main website and a sub-site devoted to the diplomatic documents were unavailable from the US and Europe on Wednesday, as Amazon servers refused to acknowledge requests for data.

    The plug was pulled as the influential senator and chairman of the homeland security committee, Joe Lieberman, called for a boycott of the site by US companies.

    ...

    The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, shrugged aside as "ridiculous" a call by Assange, interviewed by Time magazine, via Skype from an undisclosed location, for the resignation of the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, over an order to spy on the United Nations. "I'm not entirely sure why we care about the opinion of one guy with one website," Gibbs said. "Our foreign policy and the interests of this country are far stronger than his one website."

    ...

    But others, particularly rightwingers, are seeking retribution, with Assange as the prime target. Legal experts in the US were divided over whether the US could successfully prosecute Assange under the 1917 espionage act.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Lieberman's vileness keeps on coming, doesn't it?

    From TPM's story:

    Wikileaks is reportedly back on servers based in Sweden. Lieberman, in his statement today, called on "any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them."

    Phillips said Lieberman has no plans to reach out to other web-hosting services that may host Wikileaks, and has not contacted the Swedish government to discuss servers in its country.

    "Sen. Lieberman hopes that the Amazon case will send the message to other companies that might host Wikileaks that it would be irresponsible to host the site," she said.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    Meanwhile, over at Kiwiblog, DPF says:

    Without being overly conspirational, I wonder if he will be still alive in 12 months time? Pissing off almost every country on Earth isn’t the best of ideas possibly.

    I suppose by saying "Without being overly conspirational..." DPF might be concerned that Assange might suffer a stroke, brought on the stress of dealing with media attention, et al, but really, saying "Without being overly conspirational..." almost always precedes a conspiracy theory.[1]

    1. Actually, saying "Without being overly conspirational..." can make anything you say subsequently sound like it relates to a major and secret plot being committed by a cabal of co-conspirators out to achieve some end. For example:

    "Without being overly conspirational, my child will be late to school this morning due to a doctor's visit," and

    "Without being overly conspirational, I love you."

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Well, as things stand, I do think I have more of a vote in the way my state operates than I do in Assange’s glamorous but untried utopian fait accompli.

    Indeed, my potential influence on Assange's actions is precisely zero.

    More of a vote, sure, but it's still not all that much more than zero. We're talking decimals. And I'm not sure if you'd expect Assange to be the first revolutionary in world's history to put his ideas to a vote, but if you are then I don't like your chances.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    And I’m not sure if you’d expect Assange to be the first revolutionary in world’s history to put his ideas to a vote, but if you are then I don’t like your chances.

    Oh, okay. Nothing to be done about it, clearly. All in motion. I’ll be in the pub nursing some mixed feelings if you need me ;-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Without being overly conspirational

    A late entry for word of the year?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    Without being overly conspirational, I agree with Rich.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Oh, okay. Nothing to be done about it, clearly. All in motion. I’ll be in the pub nursing some mixed feelings if you need me ;-)

    It's usually the best plan

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I’ll be in the pub nursing some mixed feelings if you need me ;-)

    Wikileaks is an insurgency - so, yes, you don't get to have a say in how they operate. That's not to say you don't have a right to analyse and criticise it, and surely if it is to bring about any form of social change it will have to learn to work with other organisations and movements.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    But a couple of tons of metal landing at high speed in downtown Tokyo would certainly present a threat to the political stability of the region.

    I don't think it's very likely. At all. But given that the N Korean leadership seems a little unstable right now, who knows?

    It would be tantamount to a declaration of war, and Japan would kick their arse with or without direct US military support. It's not going to happen.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F, in reply to BenWilson,

    It would be tantamount to a declaration of war, and Japan would kick their arse with or without direct US military support. It's not going to happen.

    Agreed - it's the artillery tubes pointing at Seoul that are the real concern.

    It gave a certain frisson to a very pleasant 2006 stopover in Seoul to look up at the surrounding hills and ponder all that weaponry, just waiting there for word from Pyongyang.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1611 posts Report Reply

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