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96 responses to “Wikileaks and Cablegate: what’s the political issue here, exactly?”

  1. Lefty E

    Well, my feeling is its the easily the biggest deal in the international system *since* 9/11 – though not at that level.

    What it means is yet to be played out. I dont think its going to be easily ‘assimilable’ for the elites though – it plays on too many contradictions in western liberal discourses about open societies, free press, the value of an educated informed citzenry.

    And though Assange and Wikileaks are really an elite anarchist cell-type movement (I accept that view) – the internet open source connection still entails much more citizen information and empowerment than previously allowable under the states system.

    And who wont be more circumspect about what theyre being told now? (I didnt believe it until I saw it LEAKED! etc).

    This is big!

    PS of course, a counter-intel leak industry is about to commence (if it hasnt already) but that’s the next challenge…

  2. Huggybunny

    The saga had already proven that our Julia is pathetic really stupid brown nose for US Imperialism. Her comments regarding Assange get my vote for the most utterly irrelevant, vicious and completely moronic of any PM ever.

  3. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Great post, Kim. This sentence needs double emphasis, although I’d make some exceptions.

    What we don’t have, and what we don’t see analysed, is the view from the periphery.

    My view of Wikileaks is that it gives far more information about other countries (especially Nigeria) than about the US itself. That’s not surprising, given that the bulk of cables are produced by and for the US State Department. I think I’ve learned more about how the US gov works this month from reading Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia.[*]

    One of the more amusing exceptions is one particular cable relating to the US-UK “special relationship” – a concept pollies tend to take more seriously over in Blighty. You get the view from the periphery all right, and it’s not flattering.

    Conservative party politicians lined up before the general election to promise that they would run a “pro-American regime” and buy more arms from the US if they came to power this year, the leaked American embassy cables show.

    Despite British leaders’ supportive stance, the dispatches also reveal – in what some will see as humiliating detail – how US diplomats in London are amused by what they call Britain’s “paranoid” fears about the so-called special relationship.

    One said the anxious British attitude “would often be humorous if it were not so corrosive” and that it was tempting to take advantage of this neurosis to “make London more willing to respond favourably when pressed for assistance”. The UK was said to offer “unparalleled” help in promoting America’s aims.

    Gillard and company: take note.

  4. Lefty E

    Wikileaks aint over Kim!

    249,000 to go! :)

  5. Fine

    I’m very interested in the relationship between Wikileaks and Fairfax. I’m not sure what I think about it. But undoubtedly, our current reading of what is contained within these cables is being framed by what Fairfax is choosing to publish. That’s what gets all the publicity, even though it may not be the most interesting material. There must be some sort of commercial relationship between Wikileaks and Fairfax and I’d love to know what’s contained within that contract.

  6. Andrae

    If we consider the ‘West’, we have: Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, Rome, Byzantium, Holy Roman Empire, Ottomans, France, Spain, England, Germany, America, Russia. By now I suspect the world yawns at the existence of a hegemonic empire. So a “catalytic tipping point” is not going to be some sudden recognition that the US is currently fulfilling this role.

    I have attended both Brisbane wikileaks protests, and I noticed that every attempt by the ‘usual suspects’ to lead an anti-US imperialism chant failed dismally. Approximately 1 in 200 Brisbane LGA residents marched on short-notice, during a work-day; and by and large they didn’t care enough about accusations of imperialism to chant when they were already there.

    The catalytic tipping point I suspect we are seeing the beginnings of is a significant change in the general populations recognition of the threat to our democratic traditions posed by the state-executive. Combined with the communication tools necessary to coordinate a meaningful response I am hopeful we could a revitalisation of democratic governance; at least, outside of the US.

  7. Brendon

    Let’s be clear about the fact that evidence of US imperialism and nefariousness has never been in short supply. There is some qualitative difference in terms of the level of hypocrisy revealed, and perhaps in collateral damage to the legitimacy of the state.

    I don’t call joining the dots evidence.

    There has been plenty of that pre Wikileaks. But not much evidence. The torture photos from Abu Grahib is one exception. But the Washington Post sat on that for months under advice from the Whitehouse while the Bush gang spent that time working the media for a case for torture. I think some of the articles were called just that. WAPO only released it when it was evident it was going to go viral on the net anyway, as I remember. What else? I cannot think of all that much in last decade or two that the media has exposed. Monica Lewinsky?

  8. Lefty E

    Just back to Dr Tad at 54 on the other thread: Couldnt agree more! Its just that I see no actual evidence of the Left getting cold feet on the wider issues.

    I simply dont accept that organising to protect the sources of those leaks, so that we get more of them, and force a shift to a more open world system, constitutes a backward step, in any way.

    Charging off exclusively on what this all means while the sources of disruption got locked up and shut down would, however, constitute a grave strategic error.

    IMHO :)

  9. sg

    Revelations about the relationship between the power of the centre and the periphery may also merely serve to make clear what most people going on the rallies recognize anyway – that our comfortable existence depends on the subordination of the periphery, and there’s no point in getting too heated up about the rights of those people if it’s going to undermine your own good life. So maybe people don’t chant at demos about Assange because, while they’re happy to get angry about egregious abuses, and don’t like seeing one of their own being treated badly for demanding transparency, there’s also a limit to how far most westerners are willing to push our criticism of the hegemony, when it’s our own lifestyle that might suffer.

    Maybe these revelations will just serve to make people more bloody-minded about their allegiances…

  10. Lefty E

    Just a couple of points for Liam on the other thread:

    Well noted caveat, though I hasten to add there’s STILL no evidence that any documetns are being rleased whcih actually put anyone at harm. So far, thats just opart of teh bullshit storm from floundering states, rather than established fact.

    As for the 30 year rule: not really just a question of acceleration. Take the Balibo case for example: there’s total shitstorm of an FOI case going on right now as the government STILL wont release them, 35 years on.

  11. Liam

    Izquierdista, as I’ve been on leave recently I haven’t been following the news or the details of wikileaks so I don’t really know about actual harm. I simply note the potential consequences in making the release of public information easier or (more importantly) more socially acceptable—a decent-sized dump from, say, any Australian Police force or State Justice or Health or child protection department would almost certainly involve personal information. That prospect is terrifying, to me.
    As a matter of the national politics of imperialism and anti-imperialism in Australia, I’m convinced that political campaigns which take the rhetoric of pointing to deplorable event x or y and adding “not in my name” are misguided here. They work in the US and in countries where the State bothers to use the language of acting as popular sovereign but that’s not the Australian national myth. Or history.

  12. Lefty E

    Agree on the differences with OZ political culture, Liam – (although we dont like tall poppies with overblown egos and war fantasies China much!). Although more prosaically, we also need to distinguish on the basis that not much is being done in “our” name at all in the leaks so far. Be interesting to see what happens if/when it does.

    As for “that prospect is terrifying, to me” – well, sure, if there was any sign Wikileaks was into publishing such stuff. But there isnt, and in fact, as has been well noted by those who loked, but widely ignored – their policy is to work in conjunction with major (and i mean MAJOR) media outlets to vet material first, eg NYT, Guardian, Der Spiegel etc.

  13. Liam

    Well there’s the rub isn’t it? It’s public information that’s been released counter to specific laws, but as laypeople and citizens we’re still dependent on trust and the good practice of “professionals” who work with information (wikileaks workers and journalists) not to do harm.
    How far do you trust the Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail, or Channel 9 News?

  14. Lefty E

    I for one welcome competition in the leaking field.

    I dont trust the ones you mentioned at all Liam! But fortunately we’re *actually* talking about NYT, Guardian and Der Spiegel, which I rate a bit higher.

    WikiLeaks isn’t acting alone — it’s partnered with the top newspapers in the world (New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc) to carefully review 250,000 US diplomatic cables and remove any information that it is irresponsible to publish. Only 800 cables have been published so far.

    If you like, I could tell you who I *dont* trust to vet intel carefully and make rational policy decisions on our behalf eg about going to war, selling wheat to dictators and so on :)

  15. sheep weather alert

    “Let’s be clear about the fact that evidence of US imperialism and nefariousness has never been in short supply. ”

    Imperialism: “the creation and maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination.”

    I’ve high, low and between and I’m not seeing any evidence of imperialism. Let’s try not to engage in hollow, Hollywood-style fantasies.

  16. Francis Xavier Holden

    Liam – What if the next dump is by a self righteous Derryn Hinch about some alleged peadophile he is obsessed with. It will contain all sorts of identifying data on victims, families of alleged perps etc, good people, bad people, neither good nor bad people, enough info to pinpoint addresses workplaces and such and likely spoil any investigation.

  17. akn

    Well, what is the political issue here? The answer: the sort of transparency in governance that is fundamental to healthy democracy. The absence of such transparency, amply illustrated by the wikileaks’ cablegate release and prior releases, illustrates the current current state of democracy.

    Illegality extending to criminality characterizes much of what constitutes ‘normal’ state business and private sector business. Brutal retribution (ie, sacking, trashing of reputation, unemployment) are frequently the consequences for those with sufficient integrity to bring improper corporate and state actions to public light. That is why wikileaks describes itself as a safe place to unload documents telling the truth.

    At the broadest level the move by many people to expose the truth, aided by wikileaks and similar sites, provides the greatest opportunity for democratic renewal for a long time.

    After that, I’m going back to reading wikileaks. Fascinating.

  18. j_p_z

    Heavens to Betsy, it’s as if nobody had ever read Graham Greene. You folks think the revolution is going to come because the mildly classified observations of some career diplomats have been exposed as trite and banal? Who do you think becomes a career diplomat in America, Sergey Brin? The reason we remember the name of a guy like Talleyrand or George Kennan is, there are never that many guys like Talleyrand or George Kennan working the street in any given epoch.

    Diplomacy on all sides will continue in its sordid little way. It’s possible that Wikileaks will accomplish some good in the world. But if you’re at all a thoughtful person, you have to entertain the possibility that it will also cause damage and harm in ways you won’t be able to see or measure.

    Well, everything’s a tradeoff, I guess.
    Waiter! Bring me another absinthe, and some of that tasty, slightly poisonous sushi!

  19. FDB

    I was expecting something from HL Mencken japerz.

    You’re dropping your game.

  20. akn

    Moreover, just for those who don’t believe that the leaks have any real import or that they don’t expose anything that isn’t already known just note that FOE Nigeria are claiming on the basis of an admission by the VP of Shell, Australian Ann Pickard, admitted to a former US envoy to Nigeria that its employees were seconded to all the relevant ministries and agencies of the Nigerian government and thanks to the infiltration, the company was able to keep a tab on all governmental policies and deliberations.

    The claim is subsequently made:

    the oil-giant had become “a pseudo-political organization bent on taking political power and undermining our national interest, national security and our sovereignty.” The group, in a statement, issued yesterday, said Shell had gone beyond merely doing business in Nigeria but had “perfected its despicable act of corporate rule through which it has over the years evaded justice for all its atrocious activities against the environment and the Niger Delta People.”

  21. j_p_z

    Some of my teachers were old-skool British Sinologists who wore rumpled linen suits, sipped gin and tonics languorously, and quoted T’ang-dinasty poets in that beautifully off-handed way. Sometimes life is better than the movies. But then you remember that the movies are just a part of life, and you start to go Whoa, man! Too many levels…

  22. FDB

    Oh God Kim, don’t talk about Michael Caine like that.

    I’m trying to keep my undies clean for a dinner date.

  23. Katz

    Diplomacy on all sides will continue in its sordid little way. It’s possible that Wikileaks will accomplish some good in the world. But if you’re at all a thoughtful person, you have to entertain the possibility that it will also cause damage and harm in ways you won’t be able to see or measure.

    Japerz is correct.

    Some folks might recall when Australia’s own Office of National Assessment left very similar papers lying around in some South Sea pocket nation or other. Banality is the lingua franca of diplomacy.

    In future, for a time, non-Americans may be a little more cautious about talking to US diplomats. Forgetfulness and self-interest will restore customary practices in this matter.

    The US will rescind some of GWB’s imbecile directives. This will mean that only Mossad, the FSB, MI6 and Surete will have access to this level of communication in future. Once again, US taxpayers will be excluded from the informations loop and in time these exploited milk-cows will be convinced that their government is acting in their interests at an acceptable level of competence.

    The fools!

  24. sheep weather alert


    Iraq has a democratically elected Government thanks to the CoW engagement and the continued American presence (which has shrunk considerably) is at the behest of the elected Government.

    That is not imperialism. See my above dictionary definition for details. And please, let’s not get into definition creep- a favourite ploy of extremists both left and right.

    And pretty much ditto for the rest of your examples.

  25. Robert Bollard

    This drama cannot be reduced to the substance of the leaks and the extent to which what is being revealed is or isn’t “important”.
    Take, for instance, a comparison between the earlier leaks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the current leaking of diplomatic cables. It’s is surely unquestionable that the revelation of war crimes is more significant than the fact that a US Ambassador thought Rudd was a dud. But those earlier leaks have had little impact outside of a small circle who were mostly already aware that they were being lied to about Iraq and Afghanistan.
    The Pentagon Papers were released against a background of insurgency and radicalisation, most obviously, of a powerful anti-war movement. Wikileaks revelations about the wars appear to have, by comparison, dropped like a stone into a vast sea of apathy and resignation.
    If the US state had then had the sense to leave Wikileaks alone, there would have been a series of revelations in a handful of elite broadsheets. It would have been a minor sensation which would not have had much of an effect outside the political class – the increasingly narrow circle of people who follow political news seriously.
    By going after Wikileaks and Assange in such a blatant way, they have instead transformed Assange into a global celebrity (a “Ned Kelly of nerds” an “albino Che” etc). As a consequence they’ve drawn the attention of a wider audience to the substance of the leaks – it’s only a pity that they did so when the leaks were relatively unimportant, or at least where there importance is not immediately apparent).
    But more importantly the US state has exposed itself as, not a benign entity, but as secretive, vicious and vindictive.
    The consequence is a political crisis of legitimacy for the US state and its allies (most obviously those which like the Swedes or the Australians appear to have been too obsequious to their big nasty brother).
    That in itself would not be a major problem, and it may not be a major problem in Australia or the US itself for different reasons.
    Here is where I disagree with Lefty E and agree with Kim that the GFC is more significant. As both Karl Marx and Bill Clinton would agree: “It’s the economy stupid!”
    However, economic crisis, while a powerful generator of dissent does not always lead to radicalisation. Politics is important because politics determines where dissent is directed: to tea parties, to revived fascism, to the siren song of a Poujade or a Le Pen, a Father Coughlin or a Glen Beck.
    In Britain in the last week we saw an explosion of grass roots resistance and organisation involving the very young. It is the biggest revolt in Britain since the Poll Tax Riots. There is a parallel movement in Ireland. There have been of course explosions in France and Greece and (also last week) in Italy. But it is in the Anglo-Saxon countries where this particular crisis of state legitimacy is likely to be most important.
    And that is, in the end, I think, why this Wikileaks saga is important. The mixture of economic and political crisis is the most potent of brews.

  26. John Passant

    When workers go on strike for better wages or in defence of jobs, do we on the left criticise them for that? Of course not. We join them if we can in the struggle against the established order, no matter what the bourgeois terms it is fought out in.

  27. PeterTB

    When workers go on strike for better wages or in defence of jobs, do we on the left criticise them for that?

    Gee John, I guess that those on the left with integrity would consider each case on its merits.

    Of course not.


  28. Lefty E

    Speaking of which: Australian Productivity Commission finds bilateral free trade treaties are complete duds that cost us millions.


    (FXH: AFAIK WIkileaks has no record whatsoever of publishing Hinch style scuttlebutt, or indeed any individual criminal allegations not involving state power, and I suspect, have not the slightest intention of ever doing so. Hinch can dump all day – he still needs a publisher. Might be worth seeing if they have a manifesto of some sort somewhere….I imagine it has guidelines of some sort)

  29. Robert Bollard

    Peter TB,
    You have a choice. Read Capital Volume One or google “Labour Theory of Value”. Alternatively you can tell us all why a strike for lower wages or for less jobs might be a good idea, in certain circumstances, considered on their merits.

  30. anthony

    But if you’re at all a thoughtful person, you have to entertain the possibility that it will also cause damage and harm in ways you won’t be able to see or measure.


  31. Brian

    Some expert today on the radio said that wikileaks was bad for diplomats but good for spooks. In other words, information will still be gathered at the periphery, but in a different and more secure way.

    Diplomats are going to be more careful as to what is committed to digitised form. Such ‘information’ is going to be more bland, and less useful.

    Whether the imperium will be less nefarious, and whether states will be less likely to lie to their people, is a different matter. It doesn’t necessarily follow IMHO.

  32. moz

    [email protected]: the point is that the state does not need wikileaks to do that. Paula Bennett, the NZ minister for bashing beneficiaries has released private information about her critics direct to the media (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2009/07/information-thuggery.html). Why bother with a website when you can leak direct to that night’s TV news?

    The answer is more information, not less of it. I very much doubt that there is any way to stop the state(s) from collecting ever-increasing amounts of information about their citizens. The answer is more FOIA, more publication, more visibility. Even name supression in court is becoming less useful.

    The state answer seems to be to cripple the internet. China is a great example of what can be done. Someone said to me the other dat that the key difference between China and the US is that in the US you know you’re being spied on.

  33. moz

    [email protected]: to me the point with the cable dump and ClimateGate is that the bought media will feed everything into their existing narrative. Especially when it’s a strong editorial direction, as with AGW denialism. So Faux News and Our ABC will only cover the bits that appeal to the RWDB sector, regardless of what is leaked.

    The next step is trying to paint that as somehow the responsibility of the source which is IMO unreasonable – if the ALP with their legislative powers and teams of media manipulators can’t make the ABC behave responsibly, why whould wikileaks be able to?

    With ClimateGate, it wasn’t so much the contents of the leak as the approach used. FFS, you’re dealing with Bible nitpickers here, they are extremely good at picking through a mass of badly organised gibberish and finding the fragments that they want to promote.

    “True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubts not; he knows all things but his own ignorance.”

  34. Ootz

    Kim @39, funny you should mention the two events in one sentence. I smelt a rat from the very beginning with that whole wikileak thingi, the timing, the content(what?) the charade of justice, the media frenzy and the whole public mania. All too convenient wouldn’t you think to hide real news, if such a thing is still able to float amongst the tsunami of journalistic crap washing up our collective shores of intelligence. Now somebody, quickly, label me a conspiracy fool, but I for one, I am not gona be had.

  35. Joe

    You know what the political issue is? As bas as Assange and Wikileaks is, he’s the only political alternative at the moment. That’s it.

  36. Lefty E

    The other parallel that popped into mind today was ‘Climate Gate’: that was a big infodump/leak which hardly had good results, unless you’re a polluter or a climate denialist.

    Not sure: I think that was ultimately good, as it allowed more transparency in that process, and in the end, the denialists’ attacks were blunted and repelled with good old-fashioned corrections, clarifications, and addressing certain complete misreadings of the material by amateur outsiders.

    I have to say, I feel this whole line of hypothetical and parallels is a little off beam. Again, lets keep clear: Wikileaks and Assange havent “leaked” anything. At all. At any point. They are publishers of material leaked by others.

  37. Digital Freedom Revolutionary

    “Maybe these revelations will just serve to make people more bloody-minded about their allegiances…”

    Fact: The Digital Freedom movement is non partisan – it contains the centre, the left and the right….and many off the pagers (like anarchists who disagree with wing-labels)

    Fact: The Left is imposing itself on it and this is scaring off non-Leftists. It did not come out and widely support anti-censorship because it was too busy with the Rudd/Gillard ALP love-in and Palestine. But now that Wikileaks is popular news? Sure. Let’s stick our name to it. Not trying to bitch about the Left, but this is NOT a partisan turf war

    Fact: Where this is going is anyone’s business. I would hope the voices of our youth are listened to. Youth want freedom. Youth don’t believe in Stalinism and don’t believe in Fascism and aren’t given a choice – just a divide to stand on.

    Meaning this constant “left this” and “right that” garbage has got to stop. It’s creating disunity when the people are ready to unite.

    Don’t waste this chance by being bloody minded yourselves, LP

  38. sg

    Digital Freedom Revolutionary, when I wrote that comment I was referring to peoples’ allegiances to their national and imperial project. That is, now that people see clearly what is done to preserve our first world wealth, maybe they’ll drop the polite fiction that they don’t know what’s going on out there, and become more blatantly supportive of the imperial project that supports first world wealth.

    It had nothing to do with left/right.

  39. Digital Freedom Revolutionary

    “It had nothing to do with left/right.”

    I was referring to the general discussion and situation mostly, apologies if in response to part of your comment, I took that comment out of context.

    However, I would argue that there are still people bandying around left/right with this issue more generally. It’s irrelevant – and that is where the future lies – non partisan, people and cause centered activism and commerce.

    We don’t care which side of the fence is doing it – both suck, frankly.

  40. Nabakov

    I’d say anyone casting the whole hoo-ha in terms of left and right is more likely to be a neophobe than a neophile.

    My view is that cablegate, beyond totally embarrassing the US (admittedly at a farting while curtsying to the Queen level – but let us not forget people used challenge each other to duels over loss of face), is basically a highly visible and most entertaining reminder, along with the GFC and those Iraqi WMDs, that a) the authourities do not have our best interests at heart, b)they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing and c) like those saucy pictures an old girlfriend took of you dressed as Frank ‘n’ Furter* everything ends up on the interwebs these days.

    Wikileaks is not a gamechanger per se but it’s definitely added momentum to the avalanche.

    *If yer reading this T_____ D______, I’ve still got the pics of you nearly dressed as Brad, safely stored offline. For now.

  41. Joe

    The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention

    Why does the US insist on violating human rights? This is simply inhumane.

  42. Fran Barlow

    Curiouser and curiouser

    Julian Assange bail decision made by UK authorities, not Sweden

    Swedish prosecutor’s office says it has ‘not got a view at all on bail’ and that Britain made decision to oppose it


    Karin Rosander, director of communications for Sweden’s prosecutor’s office, told the Guardian: “The decision was made by the British prosecutor. I got it confirmed by the CPS this morning that the decision to appeal the granting of bail was entirely a matter for the CPS. The Swedish prosecutors are not entitled to make decisions within Britain. It is entirely up to the British authorities to handle it.”

    As a result, she said, Sweden will not be submitting any new evidence or arguments to the high court hearing tomorrow morning. “The Swedish authorities are not involved in these proceedings. We have not got a view at all on bail.”

    After the Swedish statement was put to the CPS, it confirmed that all decisions concerning the opposing of bail being granted to Assange had been taken by its lawyers. It said: “In all extradition cases, decisions on bail issues are always taken by the domestic prosecuting authority. It would not be practical for prosecutors in a foreign jurisdiction … to make such decisions.”

    Last week Sweden issued a warrant for Assange’s arrest and extradition over sexual assault allegations. On 7 December the British prosecutor, Gemma Lindfield, convinced the senior district court judge Howard Riddle that Assange must be kept in custody because he was a flight risk.

    Yesterday the judge accepted that Assange could be released on bail, but he was kept in Wandsworth prison after the CPS said it wanted to appeal against the decision to grant bail to a higher court.

    The CPS’s formal grounds of appeal for the hearing tomorrow morning, seen by the Guardian, will say that Assange must be kept in prison until a decision is made whether to extradite him, which could take months.


  43. Patricia WA

    Lefty E @ 44 – true they may not have leaked anything, but they have encouraged, invited, incited even, leaking of classified information (an illegal act) and then released it into the public domain. I think it’s reasonable for the legality of that to be questioned and clarifed. The partisan use to which that information may be put and the impact of that on any one country’s national security, and further on international stability, surely entitles those to whom the information belongs to seek some restraint on their activities.

  44. joe2

    The decision to have Julian Assange sent to a London jail and kept there was taken by the British authorities and not by prosecutors in Sweden, as previously thought, the Guardian has learned.


  45. akn

    A sinister development.

  46. adrian

    Yes, it appears that the UK CPS told Assange’s that it was acting on behalf of the Swedish prosecuters, but it that this not the case. Very strange.

  47. adrian

    Assange’s lawyers….

  48. Joe

    Well, there you go. Assange is in the process of tearing down the “justice” system.

    Willi Brandt said a week or so ago, that he thinks none of the current generation of politicians have any judgement. All they know is how to understand opinion polls and the sort of internecine close combat, which characterises their daily lives.

    If the US is just like China, I’m for China — out of sheer spite because I’ve had enough of our current masters.

    (The only thing holding the US today is an unspoken racism.)

  49. Digital Freedom Revolutionary

    “Wikileaks is not a gamechanger per se but it’s definitely added momentum to the avalanche.”

    It depends what we do with this situation.

    Also, I think your comment is based on a minimising of what’s going on. Let’s not forget that if these cables were just embarassing and if the US didn’t want to stuff it’s own up image any worse, it wouldn’t be trying calling to kill Assange, and extraditing him from europe, and creating retrospective laws that would prevent any news outlet from releasing whistleblower leaks, and beating the crap out of Manning, and a thousand other things that are going on right now, including almost daily protests all across the world, including multiple cities in Australia.

  50. Lefty E

    Patricia WA – well, strike at that, and you ultimately strike at press freedom. This is how newspapers work: they publish leaked material, *hopefully* things the govt is trying to hide.

    As long as it in the public interest (eg about major decisions taken by govts we elect, which affect us) I applaud the media doing so.

    But ZOMG! A non-corporate media source is doing that its suddenly about ‘national security’.

    Any critique of WIkileaks actions that cant equally be applied to a major media outlet is, in my view, almost certainly flawed.

    And once again – bear in mind here that they are using major media outlets to assist in vetting material before it goes online. That’s their method.

  51. Joe

    Here we go. Assange to be disintegrated.

    U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks

  52. paul of albury

    Ahh, conspiracy, born in the Star Chamber, and the act you’re conspiring over doesn’t need to be a crime itself, at least in the English tradition. Sounds perfect!

  53. Patricia WA

    Freedom of the press? Licence if you’re talking about the much of the MSM today. For me that’s the worst feature of this whole Wikileaks saga; seeing young people marching for freedom of information which information is then selectively disseminated by a media controlled by moguls like Rupert Murdoch.

  54. Joe

    Yes Patricia,

    why would someone in charge of a media company release information if it wasn’t in their interest to do so?

    The economy is often seen and described as open and free, but it is in fact very controlling. Want a house? Get a job. Want a job? Get an education, etc. etc. Mostly we can live with this kind of thing, but there are more difficult problems like, want oil? Want (foreign) investment? Want sex?

    On another note:

    Assange has been released on bail. This is going to be a very long and drawn out affair.

    I’m beginning to feel very sorry for what is happening to Bradley Manning. Solitary confinement must be terrible.

  55. Lefty E

    My rule of thumb would be: if the govt wants to hide it, leak it!

    I’m prepared to admit of some exceptions, provided they’re argued for(with the onus squarely on those seeking to hide the information). But for an open democratic society, there’s a good general principle to start with.

    You want oodles of secret state files on issues of public policy and national diplomacy, go start an autocracy.

    Oh wait.

  56. Katz

    If the US is trying to fit up Assange with conspiracy charges as outlined in Joe’s link #60, they face two problems.

    1. Under UK law it is highly unlikely that the accusations cooked up by the US DOJ would amount to conspiracy. (Swedish conspiracy laws may be more accommodating.) Unless an act is illegal in an extraditing country, then there are now grounds for extradition.

    2. On the facts, under US law it is highly unlikely that Assange has engaged in a conspiracy with Bradley Manning. However, Bradley Manning is in a desperate situation. There is no telling what he might, in time, be induced to allege. Moreover, Assange could face death by litigation. Once in the US Justice System it may take decades for him to emerge from the other end. I can imagine, for example, endless civil claims for wrongful death mounted by all sorts of people with a grievance. These claims don’t have to be good. They merely need to be well-funded. And the bottomless pockets of the American Right are well enough known. And then of course, for a non-American citizen there is always the Gitmo option or extraordinary rendition to some torture chamber or another.

    Assange would prefer to avoid visiting the US, if possible.

  57. Katz

    confusing typo:

    now grounds = no grounds

  58. Mercurius

    Yes Katz, US prosecutors would have to come up with a formulation that:

    1) Uses aspects of the little-used, little-applied and barely-coherent Espionage Act of 1917.

    2) Is not considered to be a political offence in the UK (the UK and Sweden won’t extradite to the USA for ‘political’ offences)

    3) Doesn’t infringe the First Amendment.

    They effectively have to thread a camel simultaneously through the eye of three different needles while mounted backwards on a galloping horse. Considering these are the same people who let 250,000 cables go out the door on a home-made CD stamped ‘Lady Gaga’, I think Assange will be back to his couch-surfing before too many moons.

  59. adrian

    Mercurius, you can characterise what Assange does as ‘couch-surfing’, minimise the genuine risks that he is facing, overemphasise the significance of the charges he is facing (that the HC judge described as not serious), but I gotta ask the question: what have you got against the man?

  60. Terry

    Assange a “couch surfer”. As compared to people who furiously post indignant messages on blogs?

  61. joe2

    Get with the program adrian and Terry. He has celebrity friends, runs a cult and lives in a mansion. BAD BAD BAD

  62. Terry

    And he’s a quasi-Nietzchean with a dodgy haircut to boot.

  63. akn

    Assange is a game changer. That low growling you can hear is the sound that accompanies the entire US establishment gnawing at its own privates in frustration and rage at the way that he has exposed them as either hopeless dilettantes or imperial standover merchants. The post wikileaks rigidification of Hilary’s facial muscles is a wonder to behold. Progressive? Eff off Hil. Assange not accused of rape for political purposes? Bloody la-la land, that sort of thinking.

  64. moz

    akn, thank you ever so much for the mental imqage. Good thing I’ve already had lunch.

  65. Mercurius

    but I gotta ask the question: what have you got against the man? when did you stop beating your wife?

    There, fixed that for you.

    Sorry for not projecting the correct level of alarm and indignation. I perceive real, important, qualitative differences between the sort of danger Assange is in and what previous multitudes in his situation have faced. I wish Gusmao, Mandela, Suu Kyi and all the rest had had the same level of support and scrutiny at this stage of their respective persecutions and incarceration that Assange has. Can you not see this as progress? Do you really see no silver lining to the cloud?

  66. Mercurius

    If you won’t take my word for it, ask Julian Assange.

    Here is what he had to say upon his release on bail, where he now has adequate time, resources and energy to prepare his defence:

    During my time in solitary confinement, I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me.

    He gets it. Why don’t you?

  67. adrian

    Gets what? That there are people worse off than him?
    This may come as a revelation to you, but not to most

    Does it mean that he doesn’t face dangers himself? Of course not.
    So your point is?

  68. Fine

    “Assange not accused of rape for political purposes? Bloody la-la land, that sort of thinking.”

    This from Mel Campbell at ‘Crikey’.

    “The central hypocrisy of the Julian Assange coverage seems to be that it’s a good thing for information to be free, but women should be kept down as much as possible — or where would society be then?”

  69. akn

    Sure Fine. To which this.

  70. FDB

    Adrian, I believe Mercurius’ point is that Assange knows he is in no physical danger in the UK remand system, and that others elsewhere are (without any spotlight or UK-like civil institutions to keep them safe). Add a dash of subtext that wikileaks is about protecting people more vulnerable than JA himself, and we have a message which suits Mercurius’ argument that he hasn’t been treated that badly nicely, as well as JA’s somewhat messianic view of things (I’m suffering a little injustice because my mission is to prevent ever greater ones being visited on the defenceless).

    I find it hard to get too exercised about his treatment under UK law, because the alternatives seem to be worse at this point. Given a choice between a lengthy deprivation of liberty in the UK and the US, I know which way I’d decide.

  71. Mercurius

    So your point is?

    Lost on you. *shrugs*

  72. Kim

    I’d just observe that the topic of the post is around the question of the most important political issue raised: obviously a number of commentators believe that focuses on Assange.

  73. Fine

    Except that the facts in that ‘Crikey’ article you posted are incorrect. You just keep spreading lies about the women on the internet and you manage to think of yourself as a progressive as well, I’m sure. The hypocrisy and the ignorance and the misogyny is painful to experience. I’ve certainly learned a great deal from this. But, I’m not going to replay the whole previous thread.

  74. akn

    Oh yeah, and then there is this: Keith Olbermann’s interview with Michael Moore. That’s an interview that gets to the point.

  75. adrian

    It’s fair to say that Olbermann and Moore understand what the point is.

  76. Paul Burns

    The political issue; seems to be several. A desire to embarass the US, perhaps; the desire of the US ruling elite for revenge = referring here to alleged plans to charge Assange with espionage etc – nothing to do with the Swedish rsape charges which may or may not be a different issue -only time will tell. A desire for freedom of speech and the defence of democracy, which is fine, but there are some things which need to be kept secret by governments. And some things which shouldn’t be kept secret – the latter are fair game. That’s all that comes to mind at the moment.

  77. Joe

    Talked briefly with an old hard-core lefty while at Kindergarten a couple of days ago. Ex-PKK member, came as a political refugee to Germany and has been living here since the late 80s/early 90s, PhD in sociology. Studies integration. IMO a hard-core Communist. He has much the same opinion as Mercurius– completely disregarding of Assange. Assange is just a vain computer user, who knows nothing about the real world. Wikileaks is good though. Very funny … etc.

    I just find that incredibly self-centered. A cry of frustration, due to increasing lack of self-relevance. Some people are under some serious disillusions about the power of computing in today’s world. Computers have, for example, completely revolutionised market trading. Completely revolutionised the speed and ability of people to observe inter-personal communication and track individuals etc. etc. Well, don’t take down your posters of Ghandi but be prepared to broaden your minds…

  78. Mercurius

    PB @ 85 I think that’s a pretty good summary of the political issues.


    Talked briefly with an old hard-core lefty while at Kindergarten a couple of days ago.

    That sentence is unintentionally funny, for all sorts of reasons. I hope Razor and Japerz get to read it, it will make their weekend.

    Joe — @86 you get A+ for effort, but amateur psychoanalysing ain’t your strong suit.

    Kim, before you hit the ‘moderate’ button, I promise I will get to the political point of all this, after a couple of necessary detours…

    Computers have, for example, completely revolutionised market trading. Completely revolutionised the speed and ability of people to observe inter-personal communication and track individuals etc. etc.

    And to think I read that on a blog. Thank you, Captain Obvious! Some of us even remember what life was like before all this happened, so we are in an especially good position to understand just how much life has been, as you say, ‘revolutionised’ by it all. I work as a teacher, so I am in particularly good position to understand just how old-hat things like, you know, email are, and how only the fossils use Twitter

    I just find that incredibly self-centered. A cry of frustration, due to increasing lack of self-relevance.
    Some people are under some serious disillusions about the power of computing in today’s world.

    Really? Like who? The author of XKCD? He seems to be in on the joke, too.

    I’m four years younger than Assange. I recognise in his public statements and mannerisms an embodiment of a great many features of the cyberpunk heroes from the novels I grew up on. In fact, it would be a fair question to ask whether Gibson and Stephenson were writing about people like Assange, or whether their work in fact went a long way towards creating people like Assange.

    The political point is this: Nobody springs out of a vacuum. Assange and his actions embody a particular set of cultural beliefs and a late-20C self-conscious identity — and people his age are just starting to hit their stride in terms of political effect. It will be an interesting ride.

  79. Joe

    Cyberpunk has next to nothing to do with automated stock trading. In fact networks are as good as nothing like the artful imaginings of William Gibson. This art follows life, life follows art stuff is too much in this case.

    I think you’re a couch surfer, Mercurius, and I think people like Assange are (among other things) computer technicians.

    Twitter and Facebook are crappy consumer products more akin to to a shopping catalog than the network/computing infrastructure which they rely on. You think it’s cyberpunk when someone tells you how email really works? Or why your email is readable on the network?!

    Amazing, how everyone uses computers/ computer networks and hardly anyone understands how they work. And most of us have one sitting at home.

  80. Katz

    but there are some things which need to be kept secret by governments.

    If this is true (and I am quite amenable to the validity of this assertion for some classes of information) then it is up to governments to take better care with their secrets.

    The huge fact related to the US diplomatic cables episode of WL is that the info that Bradley Manning allegedly leaked was available to more than 2 million individuals!

    Any info available to 2 million people is NOT a secret.

    The primary function of state security according to all mouthpieces of the state is to prevent secrets from falling into the hands of the enemies of the state.

    Make no mistake, when more than 2 million individuals have access to information, it is inevitable that the intelligence agencies of the world have access to it. Therefore, the primary function of security is certain to have been breached.

    It is not in the interests of the enemies and competitors of the US to own up to the fact that they have this information. In fact, the publication of this information has devalued it as a tool for the enemies and competitors of the US. This effect is an accidental one.

    The primary political issue here is for the US government to decide more precisely what is and is not secret and for its agencies to take better care of its secrets.

    And a matter of almost equal importance is that US citizens should have access to the same material as the enemies and competitors of the US.

    For US citizens, not to know these facts is simply an act of denialism.

  81. Mercurius

    I think you’re a couch surfer, Mercurius, and I think people like Assange are (among other things) computer technicians.

    Filed under WTF, cross-referenced to LOLWUT? and ‘not even wrong’. Rule #432562 of the internet is that you never attempt to infer anything personal about your interlocutor, unless you enjoy looking foolish.

    Amazing, how everyone uses computers/ computer networks and hardly anyone understands how they work.

    Yes, amazing, *stifles yawn*. Same goes for refrigeration, automobiles, powered flight, telecommunication, television, vaccination, manufactured textiles, light bulbs, modern food production, television, radio, GPS navigation, the list goes on. Anytime you’d like to explain what generalised low-level technical/technological ignorance has to do with the political issues of WL and Cablegate, feel free to get back to us.

    @89 Yes Katz – isn’t that one of the announced goals of the WL project — to weaken the modern state through a kind of self-induced information arteriosclerosis? To cause these large organisations to either dispense with their ‘secrets’ or clam up so much on their ‘secrets’ that they cease to function effectively?..

    …BTW, the absurdity of the ‘modern state secret’ has been shown time and again from the East German paper-shredders, to ‘secrets’ multiplying like confetti throughout the bureaucracies of the world during the Cold War — Cablegate may prove to be a fitting denouement to this conspiracy of incompetents.

    …By way of answering Kim’s question in the OP.

  82. Paul Burns

    I read somewhere on teh internet the other day – I think BBC News but I’ve lost it so I can’t link to it – that one of the consequences of the leaks that countries are limiting the number of US officials being invited to diplomatic functions at the one time, and US diplomats are being asked to leave their pencils and notebooks at home.
    Assuming this is true, it may or may not be limiting the US’s ability to collect intelligence. I know much of the cable traffic on Wikileaks is third-rate gossip, but intelligence agency analysts build up a comprehensive, though not necessarily accurate pictrure of thresats to the national interest by assimilating all kinds of information, including stuff found in newspapers and presumably on teh internet. American intelligence analysts may feel, justifiably or not, that Assange and Wikileaks have put a really big spoke in their wheel when it comes to presumably present, and certainly future operations. Which may be a partial explanation for the rage, the embarrassment of the ruling elites aside.

  83. tigtog

    Joe: I think you’re a couch surfer, Mercurius, and I think people like Assange are (among other things) computer technicians.

    Merc: Filed under WTF, cross-referenced to LOLWUT? and ‘not even wrong’. Rule #432562 of the internet is that you never attempt to infer anything personal about your interlocutor, unless you enjoy looking foolish.

    Joe, have you actually bothered to type “couch surfer” into a search engine to see what it means? Or have you just assumed that it’s something to do with recreationally “surfing the net” (hint: it isn’t) and blithered accordingly?

  84. Mercurius

    I know much of the cable traffic on Wikileaks is third-rate gossip…

    Another interesting dynamic of the #Cablegate leaks — and this speaks to inbreeding of media and politics — is how many of the cables seem to be retailing local MSM memes (eg. Rudd is a nasty pastie!), which, upon being leaked, then get recycled through those same MSM outlets as “See! We were right all along!”

  85. Mercurius

    Or have you just assumed that [couch surfer is] something to do with recreationally “surfing the net” (hint: it isn’t) and blithered accordingly?

    Ahhh…thank you tigtog. That explains 90% of the WTF-ness of the remark, which I shall also now cross-index with *headdesk*

    (and Joe, please look up *headdesk* before you reply further, it is not an obscene act involving office furniture…)

  86. tigtog

    It would certainly explain why the relevance of his couch surfing lifestyle to his bail application was dismissed out of hand, if there was that level of miscomprehension as to what the term means.

  87. Brendon

    I’m not decrying here, or specifying which way I think things should go, but I am interested in some explanation by those who see what’s occurred and is occurring as a watershed moment of why precisely that is; and what the actual political and structural implications are.

    I’ve now read some of the cables.

    The key to a lot of them is the Diplomat’s views of other state’s politics and motivations. In one cable for instance, the reason given for New Zealand’s nuclear ban was because New Zealand had high deficits and a break from the US alliance would mean less defence spending costs. In another cable on NZ the diplomat says that NZ is cozying up to China to thwart US/Australian influence in the region. To me these claims are preposterous. But I would believe that the cables don’t so much represent what the diplomats believe, but what their political masters believe. And they are just telling them what they want to hear. Cablegate is about how the US state executive thinks of the world. Very cynically, I would say.

    I would not under-estimate the damage.