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Old 11th Dec 2010, 3:56   #11
Beth
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Default Re: Wikileaks

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Originally Posted by Stewart View Post
We all knew there was a shadowy underworld of international diplomacy...
...which is why I'm glad Assange is in custody. His attitude about the data, to my way of thinking, is congruent with the sex crime charge alleging withdrawal of consent. I think his self importance and its accompanying violations of privacy and person make him extremely dangerous. I'd equate privacy and sexual rights as equally sacrosanct and am viewing Assange at this point as an all-around rapist.
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Old 11th Dec 2010, 12:32   #12
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Default Re: Wikileaks

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I'd equate privacy and sexual rights as equally sacrosanct...
It depends on what the privacy is being used for. If confidentiality is being used to cover up accountability, then it's definitely in the public interest.
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Old 11th Dec 2010, 17:13   #13
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Default Re: Wikileaks

Beth, if you haven't already, please read up a bit on the charges against Assange. There are tons of stories out there. Slate.com has a couple that are particularly enlightening; one by Christopher Hitchens, who, predictably finds Assange contemptible, and another by Jack Shafer, who, also predictably, does not. The one thing they agree upon is that the sexual assault charges seem to be based on little or no evidence.

Assange does seem to be an egotistical twat, but that does not make him a rapist.
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Old 11th Dec 2010, 18:12   #14
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Default Re: Wikileaks

An interview before a live audience with Julian Assange, from July 2010, talking about how Wikileaks works; the Kenyan elections; the 'Collatoral Murder' video; an Albanian oil incident (funny!); and involvement in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative.
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Old 11th Dec 2010, 20:07   #15
Beth
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Default Re: Wikileaks

Hi Oryx, good to see you! Since I often disagree with Hitchens, I read him first, then Assange's own words about the Icelandic initiative. I followed a link within Hitch's Slate comments to an October assessment by John Burns, sketching some of the internal dissension within the wikileaks volunteer organization.

Something Assange said to Burns speaks loudly:
Quote:
Originally Posted by John F. Burns
In London, Mr. Assange was dismissive of all those who have criticized him. “These are not consequential people,” he said.
Stewart, I can see the need for accountability in the public interest, but when does the intrusion into privacy ever blur positively into accountability? Transparency is best, agreed, but, as Hitchens notes, the violations of the "ancient tradition" of diplomacy, including secrecy, are far reaching. We just don't know yet who is going to be hurt by this.

At the risk of sounding like Richard Nixon, it seems to me that we have to fight to maintain the expectations of privacy across the board. As Hitchens notes, the same people who are outraged over Assange's apprehension are some of the ones who were outraged at the outing of Valerie Plame. I can't find a consistency there...
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Old 11th Dec 2010, 21:28   #16
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Default Re: Wikileaks

I am not decided yet on the value of these wikileaks. I agree that secrecy can be vital to certain negotiations, diplomacy etc. However, I think the notion of privacy goes out the window when speaking of public life and those in public positions must be far more careful than the rest of us in what they express in any type of public forum. These "cables" are one such forum.

I am not so sure why the outrage at only Assange, however. He is "just the messenger", as they say. He's just publishing information being sent to him, as are just about every mainstream news organization around. Reprints of the more interesting, and probably more damaging, cables have appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Der Speigel and on and on. (On a personal note, I for one hope that Secretary of State Clinton will be forced to resign over this matter).

Hitchens speaks out of both sides of this mouth in the article in Slate-as he so often, so eloquently, does. He mentions, in his article, a cable that came to him, written by a British diplomat about the coming to power of Saddam Hussein, and as it had been declassified by the time he got it, he reprinted it to make some point or other. Although he does not state outright that he would NOT have printed it had he seen it at the time it was sent, and still classified, it is inferred. He does not, however, invoke the "ancient tradition of diplomacy" as his reasoning, but rather the British Official Secrets Act, which would have him charged with treason. He then goes on to cite this Act as a primary reason for him immigrating to the U.S. where he is protected by the First Amendment- the free speech one. I take it from this that he would have happily reproduced that cable had he the opportunity.

Anyway, my real interest in all of this is the reaction by the banking institutions, vis a vis the credit card companies, in effectively shutting Wikileaks (if not the numerous mirror sites) down SO quickly.

I for one can't wait to see what the Bank of America documents contain.
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Old 12th Dec 2010, 21:43   #17
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Default Re: Wikileaks

Sod the Bank of America. This is far more disturbing....
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...e-Vatican.html

I found this bit nauseating:- "The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See also condemned the leaks and said the Vatican and America cooperate in promoting universal values."

Universal values? Sez who?
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Old 13th Dec 2010, 5:12   #18
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Default Re: Wikileaks

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It depends on what the privacy is being used for. If confidentiality is being used to cover up accountability, then it's definitely in the public interest.
I agree and would be absolutely certain that governments often use secrecy to cover up embarrassing details. However, that isn't the case with many of these cables. Assange is on the record as saying he will release them all, irrespective of their content. Irrespective of whether they compromise sensitive operations or investigations, contain snippets terrorists would be interested in and so on. This is why this reckless man is a severe danger and interesting though the cables may be, an insight into a world very few people are famililar with they may be, it really would be better overall if they'd never seen light of day.
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Old 20th Dec 2010, 18:46   #19
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Default Re: Wikileaks

This weekend there was a great documentary about the Wikileaks phenomenon on Dutch TV (made by Zembla, a sort of Dutch Panorama programme). The first half covered the rise of Wikileaks, and it was infectious to see Julian Assange and his co-leaker, Daniel Schmitt, evangelicize about their project and the way it would change the world. Most persuasively, all of the early leaks hit deserving targets: corruption in the Kenyan government, conditions in Guantanamo Bay, the 'bibles' of Scientology, the video of the Baghdad airstrike that killed two Reuters employees. Yes, I thought as I watched, this is true democracy! Leak all the information!

But I was surprised to discover how much political influence Assange wields. After Iceland went bankrupt, he appeared on national television advising the country to redirect all their energies into becoming the first bastion of total freedom of information. The bill he co-authored with various members of the Icelandic parliament was apparently the first to be passed unanimously in the history of that government.

Then it began to unravel. The moment Assange becomes demonstrably too self-important is after the leak of the Afghan war logs. Defending those leaks against critics claiming that the lives of Afghan civilians and US soldiers named in the documents are in danger, Assange says (and I'm paraphrasing from memory here): "Of course I'm against any loss of innocent life. But if the deaths of these few innocents bring an end to the war, and in doing so save many more lives that would otherwise be lost, then they will have died for a good reason.” In other words, he uses a utilitarian argument: the greatest happiness or fewest deaths is the most ethical road to take, and so if the war in Afghanistan ends because of the leaks, the leak-related deaths are collateral damage. The problem with this line of reasoning is that if, as is the case, the leaks do not stop the war in Afghanistan, Assange has no defence of them; he is directly responsible for the deaths of innocent people. What is more, if we are to stick strictly to this mode of analysis, the American politicians who call for Assange’s assassination are wholly justified if it would save two of the lives which would be otherwise endangered by future leaks.

Daniel Schmitt, who set up Wikileaks with Assange, jumped ship soon after it became clear that Assange’s cult of personality was engulfing any good that was coming from the site. He is now in the process of setting up openleaks.org, dedicated simply to acting as a conduit for third parties who wish to leak information. The documentary portrayed him in a more positive light than Assange, but I’m not sure this amoral approach is any better than Assange’s. Schmitt, by acting only as a conduit, refuses to ask any questions of the material he is leaking – all responsibility for its content or effect rests with the original leaker, though Schmitt is the one who makes it globally available. This fits with the way some of the ‘information activists’ interviewed for the documentary talk about information: always about ‘information’ in the abstract, without ever taking the time to examine the nature of particular information in specific cases, or the harm that could come from it being released to anyone who cares to read it. This bothers me.

The problem with my objection to the information activists, of course, is that I seem to want them to exercise more responsibility or moral judgment when deciding what to leak. But they are unelected, self-selecting individuals operating on a global scale, and in the act of choosing which information to leak they would be wielding an enormous amount of illegitimate power. So the real question, when separated from my personal dislike of Julian Assange and his delusions of grandeur, is whether everything should be released, without the mediating influence of a chooser, or nothing at all. And, infuriatingly, as much as I want to have a strong opinion on this one, I just can’t decide which option to plump for. I’ll have to wait and see what happens as a result of the continuing leaks and then decide: another case of a utilitarian mode of reasoning, searching for the way to cause the least harm/most happiness.

As a last thought: Assange also explained the rationale behind the gradual-leaking of the US embassy cables which have been slowly unfurling across the front-pages over the last few weeks. His responsibility, he says, is to represent the material so that it gets the maximum possible press coverage; anything else fails the ‘heroic’ leaker who is counting on him. Apart from the dilution of interest that occurs in response to day after day of trivial gossip, however, there seems to be a graver consequence for international news. The Guardian, Der Spiegel and the other newspapers who have entered into the pact to cover everything Wikileaks releases, are over a barrel being vigorously raped by Assange (probably without a condom). They can’t afford to alienate this white-haired news-Gandalf, because then he’ll start sluicing his warm diarrhoea to other sources. So they’re forced to devote valuable pages of newsprint to stories which really aren’t that interesting, and in the process fail to exercise their own editorial judgments. I don’t really know where to take this observation any further. I’ll leave it at that.
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Old 21st Dec 2010, 8:13   #20
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Default Re: Wikileaks

Consider this hypothetical scenario. Assange receives leaked secret papers which reveal that Terrorist x planned to attack London, but owing to information passed by his trusted lieutenent, who had a sudden crisis of conscience which led him to the British Embassy to tell them everything he knew, agency x was able to use methods x, x and x in order to foil the attack.

Should that be released by Assange? More to the point,does Assange possess the ability to say 'you know what, let's not publish this one? If made public, this information would certainly lead to the death of the leiutenent and also compromise the capacity for security agencies to protect the public if their methods are widely known.' All the evidence so far points to a resounding no. Admittedly, 90% of these cables seem to me to be of absolutely the maximum tediousness, but I don't think the above scenario is all that outlandish.

That's why Assange is a liability who is up to his nuts in stuff he doesn't comprehend. The other thing is the incredible naiveity he displays if he thinks secret cables are the pinnacle of a government's secrecy.

I have no doubt that governments abuse their ability to keep embarrassing things secret. But I'd rather know nothing than allow terrorists and lunatic Islamic fascists to know anything.
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