Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Wikileaks: The Cable Guys

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  • Clint Fern, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Have to say Packer completely ignores the main US related scandal to come out of this - the spying on the UN. That one certainly outweighs the right of confidentiality of the US and I guess would have put a fair size hole in his article.

    Along with the China abandoning North Korea and the Saudi bomb Iran one its probably the only really newsworthy one - the stating the bleeding obvious award must go to the Charles not respected like the Queen one.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Berlusconi is feckless, Sarkozy thin-skinned, Mugabe a megalomaniac: the accounts seem spot-on. The faceless corps of tight-lipped American embassy officials turn out to be an alert and discerning bunch.

    I’m just going to let that stand for a moment so we can all muse on the brilliance of the writing.

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

  • Russell Brown,

    Have to say Packer completely ignores the main US related scandal to come out of this – the spying on the UN. That one certainly outweighs the right of confidentiality of the US and I guess would have put a fair size hole in his article.

    True, but we knew they were doing that, and they're not the only ones. What Timothy Garton Ash notes -- why are foreign service staff doing the work of "low-level spooks"? -- is very relevant though. The War on Terror seems to have infected the entire American system.

    Along with the China abandoning North Korea and the Saudi bomb Iran one its probably the only really newsworthy one – the stating the bleeding obvious award must go to the Charles not respected like the Queen one.

    I've found the non-newsworthy stuff quite compelling in places, though. The 2007 assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe didn't quite get it right but it's a bloody good read.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Some more analysis from a fairly respectable group of talking heads here:

    China abandoning North Korea

    Some coment on that here.

    It's unfortunate that the current situation in N Korea is being treated by the media as something of a sideshow. It has the potential to get very nasty very quickly, I suspect.

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

  • Sam F, in reply to Rich Lock,

    It’s unfortunate that the current situation in N Korea is being treated by the media as something of a sideshow. It has the potential to get very nasty very quickly, I suspect.

    Indeed. After Pike River this is the story I've been watching the most closely over the last couple of weeks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1611 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Clint Fern,

    Slate expects to see Hillary Clinton's head on a stake soon.

    And Caribou Barbie asks why Assange isn't being hunted down like Al Quaeda.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    Whatever you may think of Wikileaks, and I'm not convinced that it's an unalloyed blessing myself, I'd rather live in a world where they can operate than one they can't.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    And Caribou Barbie asks why Assange isn’t being hunted down like Al Quaeda

    1. She's probably confused with George Quaeda, Al's younger brother

    2. And we know how well that's going!

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    It's unfortunate that the current situation in N Korea is being treated by the media as something of a sideshow. It has the potential to get very nasty very quickly, I suspect.

    Yes, the fact that North Korea is not a credible threat to anyone except South Korea rather hides the extremity of the threat that they do pose to South Korea. Within a few minutes, tens of thousands of people could die - they can literally open an artillery barrage on Seoul. In some ways this is even more dangerous than nukes, which have the checks of a single chain of command full of failsafes. Any dickhead can fire an artillery round, and a whole different chain-reaction is possible.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sam Vilain, in reply to Russell Brown,

    ┃ Assuming his lawyer’s claims are true then
    ┃ I think “smear tactic” is spot on.
    On whose part? The two complainants? The women’s lawyer, Claes Borgström, is certainly no right-winger: he’s he’s the Social Democratic party spokesman on gender equity issues.

    What? Who mentioned right-wing? Nobody is accusing anyone in particular of anything. Assange has said that someone has smearing him; as he said, when someone makes an accusation which is false, that is a smear. It doesn’t mean anyone is or is not behind it.

    The international arrest warrant was only issued because the prosecutor who re-opened the case had been unable to speak with him for weeks since doing so. And Sweden isn’t just any other place to him: he’d applied for residency and a work permit (which were denied late last month after his failure to present himself to the prosecutor).

    According to his lawyer:

    “Despite his right to silence, my client has repeatedly offered to be interviewed, first in Sweden, and then in the UK (including at the Swedish Embassy), either in person or by telephone, videoconferencing or email and he has also offered to make a sworn statement on affidavit. All of these offers have been flatly refused by [the] prosecutor …”

    Basically, the first set of charges were dropped within 24 hours by the the Chief Prosecutor. He has already consented to the questioning they demand. He is currently not being charged with anything – what, exactly, is there in Sweden for him to “sort out”?

    It’s hardly surprising that he doesn’t want to live there any more..

    San Francisco (was Wellin… • Since Jun 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    What? Who mentioned right-wing? Nobody is accusing anyone in particular of anything. Assange has said that someone has smearing him; as he said, when someone makes an accusation which is false, that is a smear. It doesn’t mean anyone is or is not behind it.

    You did say “smear tactic ’, which implied it was, well, tactical on someone’s part. Assange claimed it was a "set up".

    Basically, the first set of charges were dropped within 24 hours by the the Chief Prosecutor. He has already consented to the questioning they demand. He is currently not being charged with anything – what, exactly, is there in Sweden for him to “sort out”?

    An Interpol arrest warrant “on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion" – issued this month by Sweden’s Director of Prosecution, Marianne Ny, after she re-opened the investigation in September on the basis of “new information”, and was subsequently unable to persuade him to come and be interviewed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • James George,

    Hardly surprising to see most in here have taken up the shooting the messenger distraction which the US government has been crafting about the same time as Assange was pulled up on BS sex charges.
    Sometimes I really wonder how it is humans can allow themselves to be manipulated so easily. (Note to the usual mudslingers insinuating that it is I who is being 'taken for a ride' is as clichéd and old as all the other 'turn it back on the poster" sledges which lazy and ill-informed types need to resort to)

    Who cares what Assange gets up to in his own life? What does that have to do with anything?
    Especially since the Afghani war logs Assange's life has been circumscribed by some of the most dreadful state interference in the private life of an individual since the US began chucking 14 year old kids into Guantanamo Bay without trial, or any other recognisable form of due process.

    The same peeps, who accuse Assange of endangering others, then complain about WikiLeaks no longer publishing "the other stuff".

    Wikileaks would love to be able to keep all that stuff up. However since western governments have cut off most of the avenues WikiLeaks had to receive donations, there is no money to pay for the servers to host the other data.

    Right now WikiLeaks is able to keep its front page up, but only the front page, documents are hosted on much smaller servers which are harassed 24-7 with DDOS attacks.
    Being a target for denial of service doesn't endear a site to any hosting service. Most of those that do want extra dough.


    So why keep on the US thing? As I understand it from trips to WL when they aren't being harassed, the stalwarts of WL are trying to help a comrade.
    This is not a vendetta; it is out of a sense of loyalty. Bradley Manning is the reason.

    Not that WL can say so publicly for obvious reasons. That young man was being held indefinitely in a Middle Eastern prison of poor repute until WikiLeaks decided to play hardball back with the US. The bulk of the evidence against him appears to be the accusations of self-confessed computer hacker Adrian Lamo, who may be trying to get out of charges against himself by giving up someone else.

    There is a great deal of BS out there. Rather than believe the tide of disinformation about WikiLeaks pumped continuously out of the mega-media, why don't people check out what Glenn Greenwald has to say about the activities of his colleagues in the US media when it comes to libelling Assange?
    [url|http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/10/24/assange] is a column he wrote after the NYT hatchet job on Assange the week the Iraqi documents were released.

    For all his alleged character flaws, no one can accuse Assange of being stupid, which means he is aware as anyone else where his actions are likely going to take him. That is either dead or into a super max for life. I'm sure he would prefer that not to be the case, but this is a strange world we live in, one where an amerikan president the media call a liberal is praised for a determination that anyone including US citizens can be 'legally' murdered, if they are suspected of acting against US interests.

    A world where the Australian government, another bunch of suits who talk loudly about freedom and democracy, can abuse a law passed to prevent the publication of kiddie porn, by using that law as a mechanism to block Australian citizens' access to sites whose opinions they (the Australian Government) disagree with.

    Enough of the soap opera, what about the real issues, what US diplomatic missions are up to in nations that the US considers to be BFF (best friends forever)
    Perseverance will get you past the wiki-leaks front page. May I suggest that when you do manage to slip past the constant hammering on the front door, that you grab the compressed archive containing all the cables that have been released thus far (there will be more, I understand US banks are next in line for a going over unless some sort of reasonable deal about Bradley Manning is made).

    The archive is available as a torrent (Yuk) but Opera is browser that handles torrents in a straightforward manner without port forwarding or any of the other dramas that made P2P such a bore.

    Once you have the archive in either SQL or CSV format it contains over 1500 cables from the Wellington NZ embassy, amongst many thousands of others, grab a great utility called dtSearch [url|http://www.dtsearch.com/] unless you are a type who knows their way around a database and can construct SQL searches with the sort of ease I don't have.

    dtSearch is an app I have used since Win7 search turned out to be hit and miss, it will build an index of all the cables and then you can look for subjects which you consider apposite.

    for example the original Afghani diaries had some 70 hits on the text string 'kiwi' using dt search was great for finding the location of particular words and phrases, then the other tools (google earth, and the guardian/WikiLeaks statistical analysis could be used to create perspective on the string.

    Yes these diplomatic cables are different but a little bit of elbow grease which NZ media rarely undertook even back in the day when they had resources may reveal things we should already have been told.

    It is apparent that as pressure builds on those media outlets that have a WikiLeaks deal, much of the emphasis of the scoops has shifted, from talking about what it is the US gets up to, towards selective release of bits that promote warmongering eg repeating a US diplomat’s assertion that a Saudi Prince wants to nuke Iran.


    Rather than attack Assange with the lynch mob, wouldn't it be smarter to take advantage of the fact our govt hasn't barred the site (yet) and find out if there has been anything really dodgy about those always stymied, free trade 'deals' with the US.

    Since Sep 2007 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    I'd recommend this, from Evan Osnos in Beijing

    A US diplomat quoted Kyrgyz officials saying that China had offered $US3 billion dollars to close Manas air base, a key US conduit for the war in Afghanistan. US Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller said she asked her Chinese counterpart, Zhang Yannian, about the allegations and that he became so flustered he briefly lost his ability to converse in Russian.”

    If nothing else, this whole episode has bought out some rather wonderful writing and stories from around the globe.

    But, yes I agree with Clint in that we have two substantial stories so far, the UN and the North Korean/Chinese relationships, neither of which are revelations in general terms but both are worthy in their detail, and I suspect there is much more to come on both.

    And it's the detail that I find fascinating. Detail can move the path of history when the overall drift doesn't - witness the capture of the letters of Charles I by Parliament in the 1640s or the German telegram in 1917.

    And Caribou Barbie asks why Assange isn't being hunted down like Al Quaeda.

    Her facebook page provides endless diversion if you have the inclination (which I did very recently - although just the once). The response to her North Korean slip was an essay of tit for tat that most third formers would tag as immature. I think she saw it as decisive.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    James, people (here) are not attacking Assange and using that to ignore the work he is doing. Instead, we are talking about how there is a seedy side to Assange and how this, in turn, affects the various opinions of Wikileaks and its operations. This is a quite legitimate activity; we can both be in awe [not everyone is in awe, though; there are legitimate questions as to what this means for the future operation of government] of what Assange and Wikileaks have done and find some of Assange's behaviour (as well as obvious questions about how Wikileaks runs and why its focus is primarily on US activity) questionable.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to HORansome,

    and why its focus is primarily on US activity

    Except that's not really correct. That focus has really been over the last three releases and you could argue that two of those are the major and defining international events of the past decade.

    Prior to that WL had been fairly wide ranging in its focus.

    As Assange says, too, they have little contact with Taliban whistleblowers.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    Sometimes I really wonder how it is humans can allow themselves to be manipulated so easily. (Note to the usual mudslingers insinuating that it is I who is being ‘taken for a ride’ is as clichéd and old as all the other ’turn it back on the poster” sledges which lazy and ill-informed types need to resort to)

    Oh damn! You got me there. I give up. You win. I think your argument is so powerful that no further debate is needed.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    Yeah, I should have said "...why its focus has primarily on US activity recently."

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Hardly surprising to see most in here have taken up the shooting the messenger distraction which the US government has been crafting about the same time as Assange was pulled up on BS sex charges.
    Sometimes I really wonder how it is humans can allow themselves to be manipulated so easily.

    There's certainly a well-rehearsed defence out there on the nets, revolving around the idea that these two women are crazy feminist bitches who each found he was shagging the other. And it's possible they did just both get the hump after discovering he was doing two groupies at once.

    A more nuanced account is that after having sex with a condom he later took the opportunity for some unprotected sex in the night -- and that the two women found out about each other when one, concerned about having had unprotected sex, called the other after Assange refused to go to a sexual health clinic. This site links to some of the stories.

    Who cares what Assange gets up to in his own life? What does that have to do with anything?

    Well, he's releasing quite a bit of stuff about other people's personal lives this week ...

    But as Matthew says, this kind of thing does have an impact on perceptions of the organisation of which he has made himself the face. He is a man making some large moral claims right now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    we can both be in awe [not everyone is in awe, though; there are legitimate questions as to what this means for the future operation of government

    I’m in awe – he has changed the world this week – and also concerned as to what this means for the future operation of government.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    Russell, let me be the first to assure you that those of us in charge (the Inebriati [thanks, David Mitchell and Robert Webb]) have yet to be discovered by the likes of Julian Assange. If he know what the One World Government was really up to... Well, he'd probably want in. We throw great parties.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    (there will be more, I understand US banks are next in line for a going over unless some sort of reasonable deal about Bradley Manning is made).

    That would be blackmail, then.

    But yes, Wikileaks apparently has the goods on a Wall Street bank. Assange talks about it in a fascinating interview with a Forbes blogger.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    A world where the Australian government, another bunch of suits who talk loudly about freedom and democracy, can abuse a law passed to prevent the publication of kiddie porn, by using that law as a mechanism to block Australian citizens’ access to sites whose opinions they (the Australian Government) disagree with.

    This is simply not true. I know there was a flurry of tweets yesterday about the Australian filter blocking Wikileaks and linking to an article about that. However, that article was from 2009 and related to a list of childporn sites blocked by the Danish filter that had been uploaded to Wikileaks.

    In fact, Wikileaks has now been removed from the filter (ZDNet).

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Sam Vilain, in reply to Russell Brown,

    An Interpol arrest warrant “on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion” – issued this month by Sweden’s Director of Prosecution, Marianne Ny, after she re-opened the investigation in September on the basis of “new information”, and was subsequently unable to persuade him to come and be interviewed.

    Ok, perhaps that statement from the lawyer was before that warrant was arrested. So alright, Assange is now being formally accused of something. And the appeal seems to have lost.

    But why did the prosecution turn down all earlier offers for discussion? It just smells of skullduggery...

    San Francisco (was Wellin… • Since Jun 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    We should always assume cock-up rather than conspiracy. Just because you suspect skullduggery does not entail that there is a sinister plot at work here.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    However, that article was from 2009 and related to a list of childporn sites blocked by the Danish filter that had been uploaded to Wikileaks.

    Yeah, my bad. I picked it up from a tweet by someone else.

    Although it does appear that the Australian government is fixin' to do something with Assange.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

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