WikiLeaks-related Links:


Daniel Ellsberg. “I am Bradley Manning”
Daniel Ellsberg, the “I am Bradley Manning” campaign, IAm.BradleyManning.org

Back in 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst for the RAND Corporation, leaked the 7000-page Pentagon Papers—a secret history of the Vietnam war compiled by the Defense Department. Given the striking similarities to the WikiLeaks story, Ellsberg has, not surprisingly, commented extensively on it. See Daniel Ellsberg’s Website including, for example, Ellsberg: “EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.”

For more on Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers, definitely check out “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers (First Run Features, 2009, DVD, 94 mins., closed-captioned). Available at better library systems and video rental outlets. A fascinating story.

If you need a little comic relief at this point, and who wouldn’t, Daniel Ellsberg explains why his wife never really liked him being known as the most famous leaker in this humorous video on YouTube.

Amnesty International logo Amnesty International: The Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights organization, comments on the WikiLeaks–Julian Assange–Pvt. Bradley Manning story. See their position statement Q&A: WikiLeaks and Freedom of Expression.

Pvt. Bradley Manning. Source: CourageToResist.org
Pvt. Bradley Manning, alleged whistleblower, Photo source: CourageToResist.org

I think the thing that got me the most, that made me rethink the world more than anything, was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing ‘anti-Iraqi literature’. The Iraqi Federal Police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so I was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the ‘bad guys’ were, and how significant this was for the FPs. It turned out they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki. I had an interpreter read it for me, and when I found out that it was a benign political critique entitled Where did the money go? and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet, I ran to the officer to explain what was going on. He didn’t want to hear any of it. He told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding MORE detainees. 

– Pvt. Bradley Manning, alleged whistleblower. Excerpt from The Lamo Dialogues, aka The WikiLeaks Chats at Wired.com under May 25, 2010, edited, with Adrian Lamo’s comments omitted.

Browse the US Embassy Cables Courtesy of The Guardian

US Embassy Cables, The Guardian
US Embassy Cables
at The Guardian

This is an excellent resource for those of us with an interest in how the world works—an important part of which is international diplomacy. I had always wondered what it is that diplomats do. Go to lavish state banquets, which sounds great until one remembers that it requires donning confining, uncomfortable formal wear which, for me personally, would more than negate the enjoyment of the great meal. And I have recalled quotations about diplomacy wondering exactly what they mean—serious ones like “Diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.” (Zhou En Lai. Oh Joe, you’re such a card!). Or funny ones like “The principle of give and take is the principle of diplomacy—give one and take ten.” (Mark Twain). The US Embassy Cables reveal that the job of the diplomat is not an easy one. My reaction is that, overall, we are seeing the insightful communications of some very intelligent people who even, on occasion, indulge in humor. Overall, the cables seem to reflect very positively on State Department personnel. Claims that they feel horror over the leaks may be understandable in some cases, although I think embarrassment might be a more appropriate term, but calls for execution of the leakers by extremists outside the State Department are totally out of proportion to what actually happened—the public became informed. There is no evidence that any real harm has been done by any of the leaks. The embassy cables were carefully edited by the news organizations that released them.

You can very conveniently browse the US Embassy Cables at The Guardian by clicking on a country on the map. For example, click on the dot for Canada, then look at articles or read the cables about Canada. There are other search options, as well. It’s fun, and you can learn important things without being bored (which is always good if you can work it that way!). Click here…

WikiLeaks: A Hard Sell in the USA

I have devoted a lot of space on my site to the WikiLeaks issue, but it is a hard sell, especially in the USA. There are two major hurdles, especially for US citizens. First and most importantly, the majority of people feel that their media do a satisfactory job of reporting the news. Consequently, spectacular exposés of the WikiLeaks variety are viewed as unnecessary, malevolent, and destructive rather than as a positive good for society. Second, a great many people have become preoccupied with various sensational facets of the story—unable to separate stories about the protagonists and their alleged character flaws from the vastly more important principles at stake. It’s a little like discrediting a play by William Shakespeare based on the alleged improprieties of one or more of its lead actors. The personal lives of Julian Assange and others have absolutely nothing to do with whether they were right about publishing the documents in question. We have lost sight of issues like human rights, the people’s right to know, and transparency as an indispensable requirement for ethical government. We have abdicated our responsibility to pay attention to the things that matter. As a consequence we may well have wasted and destroyed a great many lives. Nonetheless, whether people like it or not, the truth is out. But it may take decades, if ever, for it to sink into the collective consciousness.

Watch the TED Interview of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) logo
Julian Assange
at www.TED.com

What is a hacker? Are all hackers bad? Is it important for people to know what governments are doing? Should people know about human-rights abuses? Lies? Corruption? How does one combat these problems in a world where courageous investigative reporting is in serious decline? What is the philosophy of transparency, and can it be used as a force for good in the world? When do secrets deserve to be kept, and when do they not? Should secret information ever be leaked? You can see how the founder of WikiLeaks answers many of these questions by watching his TED interview of July 2010. See Julian Assange: Why the World Needs WikiLeaks. Approximately 20 minutes. The video is subtitled in numerous languages, including English, and includes a sidebar with a very useful interactive transcript of a type I’ve never seen before. So check it out.

Assange: “The Goal is Justice, the Method is Transparency”

Julian Assange
Julian Assange
at www.JohnPilger.com

Another excellent interview: Julian Assange in conversation with John Pilger. Intelligent, sensible and, most-importantly, issues-oriented. Highly recommended.

  • The interview on JohnPilger.com.

  • The same interview on YouTube.

  • The transcript is available through Google docs. On my system, the display for this document has text running off the right side of the screen, but the problem clears up when I click “File” (Google docs’ “File” that is), and go through the motions just short of actually printing it.

Is the World Better Off with WikiLeaks? …

Doha Debates logo
Motion debated:
“This House believes
the world is better off
with WikiLeaks”

… is the question examined in this debate, one of a series of the so-called “Doha” debates. (Doha is the largest city in Qatar, a small country on the Persian Gulf.) The debates are sponsored by the Quatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development, moderated by journalist Tim Sebastian, and aired eight times yearly on the BBC. Here we see both sides of the WikiLeaks issue examined with a number and diversity of ideas that is seldom-seen, making this program well worth watching. Debates can be an excellent way to inventory the basic ideas pro and con of an issue, and this particular debate does that job very well with WikiLeaks, in my opinion. It is a good starting point for research into the topic. Of course the good basic ideas always get tangled up with the emotional rhetoric, logical fallacies, and all the other devices used to make ideas seem more or less important than they deserve to be. But I don’t see any way to avoid that problem in the debate format or any other format for that matter. The disentanglement process is left to you, the viewer. In addition to the debate itself, many of the comments of students in the audience were very appropriate, I thought, and one of the most positive and encouraging parts of the program.

Debate Links:

If you are getting aspect ratio distortion at Doha Debates and find all the tall, skinny people disconcerting, try the following links on YouTube:

For other helpful links within DohaDebates.com, go to the debates list, “Past Debates: Series 7”, and scroll down to “Monday, January 24 2011, This House believes the world is better off with WikiLeaks”. Click here…

WikiLeaks: Which Story Really Matters?

Apache helicopter video
Apache helicopter video
at www.DemocracyNow.org

I have been following the WikiLeaks stories for a long time now, and have witnessed people’s attention shift away from the leaks themselves—the information revealed by Assange and presumably Private Manning—and shift toward details of their personal lives. At first, I began following these stories like everyone else. What made me lose interest was a review of the Apache helicopter video released by WikiLeaks in April, 2010, which I had never seen in full.

The video is about 46 minutes long with an accompanying transcript that is quite helpful. You can watch the video and/or read the transcript.

Compared to the events shown in the video, whatever mistakes Assange or Manning may or may not have made in their personal lives just don’t seem that important. Reporting a possible war crime is not a crime, and even if the attack was justified, which seems unlikely, it was right to reveal it to the public for closer examination.

It is very concerning that anyone criticizing a war these days is automatically labeled a supporter of Al Qaeda. So much so that it has become the contemporary equivalent of “Communist sympathizer” back in the “witch hunt” days of the McCarthy era of the ‘50s. Actions like the Apache helicopter incident increase the membership of Al Qaeda far more than any criticism of the war. In times like these, when we need people thinking clearly, indulging in character assassination only adds to the confusion.

The evil actions of extremist organizations like Al Qaeda do not justify evil actions on our part. We are supposed to respect human rights in this country. If we lose that, what is there left to fight for?

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