The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Wikileaks

Terrible Assange Extradition Ruling for Press Freedom

We have a brilliantly authoritarian ruling on the Assange extradition case. The judge (who was endlessly hostile to Assange) ruled he couldn’t be extradited because of his bad health, but said that none of the press freedom arguments worked.

Now this is good news for Assange, but it is terrible news for press freedom. If the judge had approved the extradition of Assange, he would have appealed, and there is a very good chance for a reversal on appeal. Assange isn’t a US citizen; the US has no jurisdiction, and he was clearly acting as a publisher through the entire sequence.

The Australian journalists’ union sums this up well:

MEAA, the union for Australian journalists, welcomes today’s decision by a British judge to prevent the extradition to the United States of our member Julian Assange and calls on the US government to now drop his prosecution.

The court ruled against extradition on health grounds, accepting medical evidence that Assange would be at risk in US custody.

However, journalists everywhere should be concerned at the hostile manner in which the court dismissed all defence arguments related to press freedom.

“Today’s court ruling is a huge relief for Julian, his partner and family, his legal team and his supporters around the world,” said MEAA Media Federal President Marcus Strom.

“Julian has suffered a ten-year ordeal for trying to bring information of public interest to the light of day, and it has had an immense impact on his mental and physical health.

“But we are dismayed that the judge showed no concern for press freedom in any of her comments today, and effectively accepted the US arguments that journalists can be prosecuted for exposing war crimes and other government secrets, and for protecting their sources.

“The stories for which he was being prosecuted were published by WikiLeaks a decade ago and revealed war crimes and other shameful actions by the United States government. They were clearly in the public interest.

“The case against Assange has always been politically motivated with the intent of curtailing free speech, criminalising journalism and sending a clear message to future whistleblowers and publishers that they too will be punished if they step out of line.”

MEAA now calls on the US government to drop all charges against Julian Assange and for the Australian government to expedite his safe passage to Australia if that is his wish.

This is a brilliant way to paint Assange guilty of a crime, who is just being let off for sympathy, when he is not guilty (or if he is, so are hundreds of other journalists who have reported on leaked or hacked data from “dubious” people). The US may be appeal, so it’s not clear whether (as of the time of writing) Assange will go free.

At any rate, mission accomplished: An evil law (The Official Secrets Act) is not declared a dead letter by British courts and so can be used as a cudgel in the future. Assange is a broken man; a shadow of himself, and a warning to anyone else who would reveal American war crimes or that the DNC colluded to elect a specific candidate (Clinton) against another candidate (Sanders.)

And no, I don’t give even one shit who hacked the info: It was in the public interest and the public had and has a right to know about American war crimes and Democratic party election fixing.

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Assange Was Right All Along

Julian Assange (he looks far worse now, but couldn’t find any non-copyrighted images)

So, you may have read that Sweden has dropped its sexual assault investigation and charges against Julian Assange.

Now that Assange is in British custody, and facing extradition to the United States, that is.

Oh, the Swedish prosecutor says it’s because so much time has gone by, but that didn’t stop them before.

Assange always claimed the idea was to get him into custody, then extradite him to the US. Now that he’s in custody and going to be extradited to the US, the Swedish charges are moot. If the Swedes had really been most concerned about those charges they would have accepted Assange’s offer to go to Sweden as soon as he had a written guarantee of no extradition to the US.

As for the US charges, at the end of the day they are charging a publisher for publishing information in the public interest. Reporters have, in the past, discussed how to get the information with sources, and not been charged. This is an over-reach, and against someone who is not an American citizen and was not in America during any of the “crimes”.

Assange has few supporters now: Woke types figure he’s a sex offender; Democrats hate him for revealing that the DNC was conspiring to help Clinton win the primary against Sanders (that’s the truth, and if you don’t like it, it’s still the truth, and still something the public should know), and; Republicans hate him for revealing Bush’s war crimes.

As for reporters, most of them really hate him: You just have to read the Guardian’s deranged complaints about how he was messy and didn’t act like one of the club, or watch their crazed jeremiad against him. Assange did their job and did it better than most of them, and, oh, they hate him for it.

And they think because he didn’t work for an official news source that precedents set in his prosecution for helping whistleblowers and for extra-territorial US law won’t be used against them.

They won’t.

Assange may or may not be the nicest guy (the hate mail I received last time for mentioning this was quite something), but that’s irrelevant: He was acting as a journalist and publisher, and the information he released was in most cases information that the public had the right to know. Any mis-judgements are nowhere near as bad as those the New York Times made when they published the Bush administration’s lies to push the Iraq war, for example. (And remember when the Intercept burned their own whistleblower? You can’t trust the media with your identity.)

Nor does it matter if he was partisan: Most press is partisan, and no one thinks that means it isn’t press (perhaps they should, but they don’t. I can’t imagine the Murdochs want them to either).

Assange embarrassed everyone: the Republicans, the Democrats, the identitarian left and “professional” journalists. For that, he will burn, and because of that, he has no friends left.

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Julian Assange Arrested for Violating Bail

Update 2: So, we have a US extradition charge. This is a direct assault on the freedom of the press and those who say it isn’t are fools. The DOJ claim is that Assange didn’t just accept Manning’s documents, he encouraged Manning to go get more. Journalists do this all the time. Likewise, Assange is not American and Wikileaks is not an American institution, so the US is claiming extraordinary extradition rights.

So, it begins. The US put a ton of pressure on Ecuador to make this happen:

Julian Assange

In itself, this isn’t a big deal, though Ecuador’s caving is pathetic (if rather expected). The question is: What comes next? If Assange is extradited to the US, it will be a huge blow for freedom of the press. Since the Swedish sexual assault charges have been rescinded, if that doesn’t happen this all seems rather overblown.

This has nothing to do with Assange being something of a piece of work. It has to do with the fact that the information Wikileaks released with collateral murder, and even with the DNC leak, was legitimate journalistic information. The idea that journalists don’t accept info from state actors or don’t have political biases and preferences is hilariously wrong and stupid.

It’s also absurd to pretend that Assange has been treated as any other suspect. He hasn’t. His entire case has been politicized from the start, with pressure exerted that is not routine for the sort of sexual assault of which he was accused.

This is a political situation, from its start to its conclusion, whatever that might be.

Remember that Manning was just recently sent to prison on contempt charges because she refused to cooperate with a US grand jury on Wikileaks.

Assange isn’t a nice guy and that isn’t relevant to either his rights, or the bad precedent which will be set if he is prosecuted for releasing information, no matter what the source or reason.

Discuss below, and we’ll see how this plays out.

Update: video of the removal. Pathetic.

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The Person Most Responsible for Clinton's Loss

Everything Cost Clinton the Election

When the result (in popular vote margin in the key states) is as close as it was in the US election, every factor in play contributed to the result.

Did the Wikileaks release cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did Comey’s last minute letter to Congress about Clinton’s email cost the election? Probably.

Did Clinton choosing not to campaign in Wisconsin cost the election? Probably.

Did Clinton’s neglect of the Rust belt cost the election? Probably.

Did the Clinton campaign’s refusal to listen to locals cost the election? Probably.

Did the Clinton campaign’s flawed model cost them the election? Probably.

Did Trump’s superiority in earned media cost the election? Probably.

Did Jared Kushner’s innovative ad campaign cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did voter suppression cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Did calling a quarter of the electorate “deplorables” cost Clinton the election? Probably.

Right. Hopefully you have understood the point.

What is happening right now is hysteria. An attempt is being made to overthrow the election by saying Russia influenced it, through Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0.

So far there is no hard evidence for this, and Wikileaks, at least denies it. That US intelligence believes it to be true is nice, but almost irrelevant to anyone with enough memory to remember what they believed in”high confidence” about Iraq.

I seriously suggest you READ the NIE on Iraq from 2002. It was essentially ALL WRONG.

So, if the intelligence community and Obama want to make this charge, they need to release the hard evidence. Their word is not good enough, especially that Putin was personally involved.

I point out, once more, that even if true, this amounts to “overturn the election because a foreign government helped release TRUE information about one of the candidates.”

If it actually occurred, I would regard it as a neoliberal coup, similar to the ones which occurred in Greece and Italy, meant to insure policy continuity in the face of someone who doesn’t agree with all the tenets of neoliberalism.

I don’t think faithless electors will throw the election (but who knows), however I note something else important: creating this as the primary storyline mitigates, hard, at looking at stuff which Democrats can actually control: like their own abysmal campaign, at virtually ever level from basics like canvassing (“we don’t need literature”, said the Clinton campaign), to their model, to their message “America is already great”, “deplorables”, to clearning the field so a candidate with huge negatives would be annointed the candidate.

If Democrats had gotten even one or two of the things listed above which were in their control right, and which did not depend on their opponents actions at all (and the list is incomplete) Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect today.

Running against Russia in the election was stupid; the act of a Goldwater girl who doesn’t understand that the USSR fell almost 30 years ago. Making them the primary actor in Clinton’s loss and Trump’s win pushes attention away from the things which can be fixed by Democrats unilaterally, and is dangerous to boot, both domestically, by degrading political norms even further, and internationally, by hyping a heavily nuclear armed state as an enemy when America has almost no actual interests in opposition to Russia’s. (Syria and the Ukraine are unimportant to the US’s interests. Period.)

Meanwhile, the Democrats have spent the last eight years being slaughtered at the State and local levels. In February of 2009, I wrote that Obama was planning to ditch the 50 state strategy, and received a torrent of abuse (mostly from Kossacks.) The Whitehouse said that was bullshit; their hero wouldn’t do that!

He did.

Self-goal. Something completely under the party’s control that they chose to do, which hurt them.

In the end, whether or not Russia released some derogatory–but true–information about Clinton and other Democratic candidates, that act was only one of many factors which cost Clinton the election.

Concentrating on it is stupid, demagogic, and dangerous and allows people whose fuck-ups were far more responsible for the loss to largely slide.

Democrats should concentrate on what they can control, and understand that, as the side with less guns, constitutional norms protect them more than they do the other side.

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On Wikileaks’ Actions in this Election

The last post, a guest post by Mandos, about Wikileaks’ releases concerning Clinton, has spawned a lot of controversy in the comments.

All of which we both expected.

So here’s my quick take on Wikileaks:

First, (Removed, as may be inaccurate) (Edit 3:06pm Oct 28th: it appears Wikileaks only linked to the Turkish database of women, and did not release that information itself.)

Second, the information Wikileaks has released on the US election is germane to the election. It is information which it is in the interests of the public to know. I believe that it should have been released. I do not know if it came from Russia, the evidence is circumstantial at best, but I don’t care if it did or not. The information is real, not fake, and that is what matters.

In 2004, the New York Times knew about widespread spying on ordinary people by the Bush administration. They chose not to release that information because they didn’t want to sway the election. That information might have been the difference between Kerry or Bush winning, the election was that close.

That was vast journalistic malpractice. Journalism is about the public’s right to know, and that information was clearly information the public should have known when making its decision who to vote for. It was germane.

That Clinton is a corporate hack who is essentially on the side of bankers (which is one thing the leaks clearly show) is germane to the election. It matters.

Most information held from public view should not be. We keep far too much stuff that the public should know, private. The public needed to know just how sympathetic to bankers Clinton was right after the financial collapse.

That is, actually, journalism.

So, I don’t agree with everything Wikileaks has done, but I support what it has done in relation to the US election. I also believe Assange when he says that if he had information on Trump he would release that as well. I don’t think the source of the information is particularly important, IF the information is real, which it appears to be.

That many people view this through partisan lenses is understandable and expected. Since the leaks have been Clinton leaks, suddenly the Right supports Wikileaks and “the Left” is against them.

I supported Wikileaks when they were goring Bush and Republicans with “Collateral Murder” and I support them now when they are goring Clinton, because I support Wikileaks on the basis of the public’s right to know; if any information can help the public judge whether they support the governments they have elected or those they may elect in the future.

This is not a partisan issue for me. It is an issue of principles. Information is either in the public interest, or it is not. If it is, and I believe, in this instance, it is, then I support its release.

As for the politics, if Trump loses, that will be on political and personal merits which have little to do with Wikileaks. In this I agree with Mandos; in a normal election, the information in the leaks might have sunk Clinton, but it is insufficient in the face of Trump’s problems.

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DDOS Attacks Effective: Omidyar

So, the CEO of EBay, parent company of PayPal, writes to suggest leniency in the punishment of the people accused of running a denial of service attack against PayPal because of PayPal’s boycott of Wikileaks.  His claims of powerlessness, of being against PayPal’s boycott but unable to do anything about it are amusing, but as a commenter to his post notes, what is interesting is his confirmation that DDOS attacks actually inflict costs, unlike normal protests:

If we want to make parallels between real-world protests and online protests, that means that one thousand people can have the effect of six million people demonstrating in front of your office. That seems like an excessive impact in the hands of each person. It’s like each protester can bring along 6,000 phantom friends without going to the trouble of convincing each of them to take an afternoon off and join the protest in the street.

That’s why I’ve concluded that the use of these attack tools is vastly different than other forms of protest.

Normal protests don’t get to 6 million except in extraordinary circumstances.  What he really means is “this works, this inflicts actual costs.”

As for all the apologetics for PayPal, MasterCard and Visa, I note simply that American Express did not cut off Wikileaks.  I guess a major multinational can resist the Federal government if it chooses?  Anyone aware of any harm AmEx has suffered due to not cutting Wikileaks off?

I want to remind readers of a simple rule: your Lords and Masters respond only to pain and personal inconvenience.  Either you must cost them real money, or you must get in their personal space in a way they can’t ignore.  Gays got much of what they wanted from Obama because they heckled him in person, and they cut off the money.

The people involved in the DDOS will receive vastly disproportionate sentences, it will be interesting to see how many receive more jail time than the average rapist.  Meanwhile, those who caused the financial collapse by acting in clearly fraudulent ways, costing the economy trillions of dollars, continue to go unpunished and live the high life.

Law that is selectively enforced cannot make even the slightest claim to be just.  If we had a legal system that came down on everyone like a ton of bricks, one could say “well, I don’t agree, but they are just enforcing the law”.

Maybe I’ll live in such a country before I die.


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