Posts Tagged ‘Wikileaks’

Now it’s the Democrats (and their media) embracing conspiracy theories

July 25, 2016

We had some fun and games at the Republican convention last week. Especially from Ted Cruz who wanted his moment in the sun. Of course there is a scenario in which he can capitalise on his breaking of his “pledge”. That requires a Trump debacle in the November election, and Cruz winning the GOP nomination in 2020 on a “I told you so” platform. But Trump himself did rather better than expected in his final speech.

But the fun and games aren’t over yet. The Democratic convention this week promises to be equally entertaining. This morning the media were full of the Wikileaks release of the DNC e-mails. It is pretty clear that the entire nomination process was heavily rigged in Hillary Clinton’s favour and against Bernie Sanders. She would probably have won the nomination anyway but it does show rather conclusively that the DNC would not have permitted Sanders to be nominated in any circumstances. Even if he had won a majority of delegates, the super-delegates were all already in bed with Clinton.

What I find particularly entertaining is the entire liberal press trying to play down the substance of the emails, but instead floating the conspiracy theory that the Russians and Putin had orchestrated the release of the emails. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and, of course, Huffington Post headlined the Putin conspiracy theory and consigned the content of the emails to much smaller print. facebook went even further and blocked the Wikileaks page before the hue and cry about censorship led them to reverse that. Twitter started removing users who were Trump supporters.

Pots and kettles

What is ironic is that while the DNC and their pet media are ranting about a Trump/Putin conspiracy, they are carefully playing down the real conspiracy against Bernie Sanders.

Pots and kettles.

Black kettles too matter.


 

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Clinton Foundation got millions from Swedish firms to avoid being blacklisted for Iran involvement

June 3, 2015

That the Clinton Foundation functioned as a channel for lobbyists to get access to Hilary Clinton is an open secret. But I certainly had not expected that there were such large money flows from Sweden and Swedish firms to the Clinton Foundation which apparently allowed them to carry on business in Iran without being blacklisted. Some payments were even made directly to Bill Clinton. It seems almost as if the Clinton Foundation may have specifically targeted firms and countries susceptible to US actions as sources for lobbying money.

So far I don’t see this being covered by the Swedish media but the Washington Times has a very long article. There is a clear Wikileaks connection since much of this information is obtained from diplomatic cables revealed by Wikileaks.


Update: Swedish Radio is now carrying the story but just quoting the Washington Times article. The radio report points out that they have not been able to check the story and imply that it is not reliable since it is from a right wing paper which is opposed to Hilary Clinton. But I note also that Swedish radio is generally very biased in favour of the Democrats in the US (and the Social Democrats/Greens at home).


The Wikileaks connection is interesting. I cannot help thinking that there must be a hidden back story as to why Assange has been hunted and prosecuted by the Swedish authorities for a quite ridiculous molestation/rape allegation. The allegations are by two women who shared a bed with him – quite willingly by their own accounts. The prosecutors first declined to take the matter further and there is surely also a hidden back story as to why the whole prosecution was restarted. Maybe this story is one of the reasons. But why does the Swedish prosecution based on what seems to be rather flimsy “statements” continue? What other Swedish – US connections are there that the Swedish government did not or does not want revealed?

Washington Times:

Bill Clinton’s foundation cashed in as Sweden lobbied Hillary on sanctions

– The Washington Times – Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Bill Clinton’s foundation set up a fundraising arm in Sweden that collected $26 million in donations at the same time that country was lobbying Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department to forgo sanctions that threatened its thriving business with Iran, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Times.

The Swedish entity, called the William J. Clinton Foundation Insamlingsstiftelse, was never disclosed to or cleared by State Department ethics officials, even though one of its largest sources of donations was a Swedish government-sanctioned lottery.

As the money flowed to the foundation from Sweden, Mrs. Clinton’s team in Washington declined to blacklist any Swedish firms despite warnings from career officials at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm that Sweden was growing its economic ties with Iran and potentially undercutting Western efforts to end Tehran’s rogue nuclear program, diplomatic cables show.

“Sweden does not support implementing tighter financial sanctions on Iran” and believes “more stringent financial standards could hurt Swedish exports,” one such cable from 2009 alerted Mrs. Clinton’s office in Washington. Separately, U.S. intelligence was reporting that Sweden’s second-largest employer, telecommunications giant Ericsson AB, was pitching cellphone tracking technology to Iran that could be used by the country’s security services, officials told The Times. …….. 

Mr. Clinton’s Swedish fundraising shell escaped public notice, both because its incorporation papers were filed in Stockholm — some 4,200 miles from America’s shores — and the identities of its donors were lumped by Mr. Clinton’s team into the disclosure reports of his U.S.-based charity, blurring the lines between what were two separate organizations incorporated under two different countries’ laws.

……… At the time of Mr. Clinton’s foray into Swedish fundraising, the Swedish government was pressing Mrs. Clinton’s State Department not to impose new sanctions on firms doing business with Iran, including hometown companies Ericsson and Volvo.

Mrs. Clinton’s State Department issued two orders identifying lists of companies newly sanctioned in 2011 and 2012 for doing business with Iran, but neither listed any Swedish entities.

Behind the scenes, however, the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm was clearly warning the State Department in Washington that Sweden’s trade was growing with Iran — despite Swedish government claims to the contrary.

“Although our Swedish interlocutors continue to tell us that Europe’s overall trade with Iran is falling, the statements and information found on Swedish and English language websites shows that Sweden’s trade with Iran is growing,” the U.S. Embassy wrote in a Dec. 22, 2009, cable to the State Department that was released by WikiLeaks. The cable indicates it was sent to Mrs. Clinton’s office.

At the time of the warning, Mrs. Clinton was about a year into her tenure as Mr. Obama’s secretary of state and the two were leading efforts in Washington to tighten sanctions on Iran.

……… The Swedes were resistant to new sanctions, telling State Department officials repeatedly and unequivocally that they were worried new penalties would stifle the business between its country’s firms and Tehran. At the time, Iran was Sweden’s second-largest export market in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia.

“Behind the Swedish government’s reluctance to support further sanctions in Iran, especially unilateral European measures, is a dynamic (though still fairly small) trade involving some of Sweden’s largest and most politically well-connected companies: Volvo, Ericsson and ABB to name three,” the U.S. Embassy wrote in one cable to Washington.

Several top Swedish officials made the case against proposed U.S. sanctions in successive meetings in 2009 and 2010, according to classified cables released by WikiLeaks.

“[Swedish] Sanctions coordinator [Per] Saland told us that Sweden does not support implementing tighter financial sanctions on Iran and that more stringent financial standards could hurt Swedish exports,” one cable reported. Other cables quoted Swedish officials as saying they were powerless to order banks in their country to stop doing business with Tehran.

Sweden’s foreign trade minister, Ewa Bjroling, met with State officials and said even though her government was obeying all existing United Nations and European Union sanctions, “Iran is a major problem for the GOS (Government of Sweden) because Swedish businesses have a long-standing commercial relationship in the trucks and telecom industries.”

Eventually, Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt — Mrs. Clinton’s equal on the diplomatic stage — delivered the message personally to top State Department officials, who described him as “skeptical” about expanded Iran sanctions.

“Overall, I’m not a fan of sanctions because they are more a demonstration of our inability than our ability,” Mr. Bildt was quoted as telling State officials in a cable marked “secret.”

………. Current State Department officials and outside experts who advised the department on Iran sanctions told The Times that Sweden, and more specifically Ericsson, was a matter of internal discussion from 2009 to 2011 before new sanctions were finally issued. “The Ericsson concerns were well-known, but in the end many of the sanction decisions were arbitrary and often involved issues beyond the actual business transactions,” one adviser directly involved in the talks told The Times, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because he was describing private deliberations.

U.S. intelligence officials told The Times that they kept the Obama administration apprised of Ericsson’s activities inside Iran, including the fact that the Swedish firm had provided Iran’s second-largest cellular provider with location-based technology to track customers for billing purposes. The technology transfer occurred in late 2009, shortly after Tehran brutally suppressed a pro-democracy movement in that country, the officials said.

U.S. intelligence further learned that Ericsson in 2010 discussed with Iran’s largest cellular firm providing tracking technology that could be used directly by Iranian security authorities but never formally pursued the contract, officials said.

Read the full story.

Australia covers up corruption in getting plastic currency contracts

July 30, 2014

The supply of, and the technology for producing, plastic currency are a big business for the Reserve Bank of Australia. Plastic currency is now used by 23 countries around the world. But it is also apparent that Australian parties have been involved in bribing high officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam (at least) in securing contracts for plastic currency. The Australian courts are apparently cooperating in some form of cover-up.

That has become apparent from the Wikileaks release of a gagging order by the Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne where the court forbids

any discloures, by publication or otherwise, of any information relating to the court case by anyone, including the Australian media, ensuring complete secrecy around the largest corruption case in Australia. The order also forbids any disclosures about the order itself, and specifically commands no mention be made of the affirmed affidavit submitted to the court by Gillian Bird, a career diplomat, currently appointed as a deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Bird is one of Australia’s most senior and experienced diplomats and is responsible for relations with South East Asia which is why her affidavit, currently held sealed by the court, is so important.

Not only a gagging order but also a gag on revealing the gag!

For such a blanket gagging order to have been issued suggests that some “big” names – both at home and abroad but probably mainly abroad – are running a little scared of embarrassment or something worse.

My “rule of thumb” is that in corruption cases of this sort about 3 – 4% of the contract value will find its way into the hands of individuals (officials/politicians) in the buying country and that from this amount about ½- 1% of the contract value will be channeled back to individuals in the selling organisation. The 3% is an important number since it is what is unofficially accepted as being acceptable as legitimate facilitation costs for selling by OECD rules. If bribes can be held to less than about 3% (including the kick-back to the kick-back), the contract can usually escape too much scrutiny.

Plastic currency is one of the few areas where Australian technology leads the world. As such it provides a very valuable source of revenue (and prestige) for the RBA.

Currently seven Australians have been charged in an ongoing $17 million corruption case:

SMH: A seventh Australian man has been charged over an alleged $17 million banknotes bribery scandal engulfing companies related to Australia’s central bank.

Clifford John Gerathy, 60, of Maroubra, in south-eastern Sydney, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court in Melbourne on Wednesday.

A former Securency sales manager, Gerathy faces two charges of conspiring to bribe a foreign official and falsifying documents in connection to the scandal involving currency contracts.

Before Gerathy appeared in court, the Australian Federal Police said it would be alleged he facilitated payments of $17.2 million in commissions to an agent in Vietnam and falsified accounts in relation to a contract in Malaysia.  …… 

Gerathy will next appear in court on September 23 with his co-accused, all six of whom are from Victoria. The others charged with bribes allegedly paid to secure banknote contracts are Myles Curtis, 55, John Leckenby, 66, Mitchell John Anderson, 50, Peter Sinclair Hutchinson, 61, Barry Thomas Brady, 62, and Rognvald Leslie Marchant, 64.

They all seem to have been represented for the gagging order hearing in front of the Hounarable Justice Hollingworth.

Australia gagging order attendants

Australia gagging order attendants

Australia was the first country to use plastic currency using technology developed jointly by the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). In 1996, RBA and Belgian multinational Union Chimique Belge (UCB) formed a joint venture, Securency Pty Ltd, to service demand for the polymer technology.

CSIRO: ……. polymer and synthetic chemistry was used to develop a non-fibrous and non-porous plastic film, which the banknotes are printed on. This substrate gives high tear initiation resistance, good fold characteristics and a longer lifetime than paper.

The substrate and the specially-developed protective overcoat prevent the absorption of moisture, sweat and grime so that the polymer banknotes stay cleaner.

CSIRO has also developed a variety of overt and covert security features for use on polymer banknotes. These security features are produced from a combination of spectroscopic techniques, synthetic chemistry, nanotechnology, surface science microstructure manipulation and polymer chemistry. …

….. Currently there are over thirty different denominations totalling some 3 billion polymer notes in service in 22 countries worldwide. 

In addition, a press-ready polymer substrate (Guardian™) is available for countries with their own note printing facilities.

Guardian™ is produced by Securency Pty Ltd, a joint venture between the Reserve Bank of Australia and Innovia Films PLC, a European-based manufacturer of polypropylene films.

Innovia Security

The first Guardian® banknote was issued as a commemorative $10 note in 1988, the year of Australia’s bicentenary, containing both the first transparent window and first hologram of any type, making it the most secure banknote of its time. After being successfully received by the public, the RBA introduced a $5 note for general circulation in 1992 followed by successive notes in the years following. Throughout the 1990s, Guardian® banknote substrate steadily grew in popularity throughout the world, with the innovative polymer-based technology gaining the trust and confidence of more than 30 Central Banks to either adopt Guardian® for use in mainstream denominations or as a commemorative note as a test and forerunner to future use.

In 1996, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and Innovia Films entered into a joint venture to create Securency International, an arrangement that was concluded in February 2013 when Innovia acquired the RBA’s 50% share in the business. The RBA proved an outstanding partner in helping Securency establish itself in the global banknote industry during a period in which some of the world’s most successful companies including 3M and Mobil also attempted to enter the banknote substrate market but were unable to do so.

 

Wikileaks cable reveals the fraud that is the Kyoto protocol

October 1, 2011

Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer is the Co-Chair of Working Group III of the IPCC – deputy director and chief economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Researck (PIK). PIK is somewhat notorious for being a scientific institution where all their results are governed and constrained by political correctness. Only results which support global warming dogma are ever published by PIK. It is also the institution which is home for the sea level alarmist Stefan Rahmstorf.

But last year even a high priest such as Ottmar Edenhoffer was forced to admit:

“But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.  Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this.  One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy.  This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.”

It becomes increasingly apparent that climate policy has very little to do with science and everything to do with creating and tapping into vast flows of money. And now courtesy of the Wikileaks cable releases we learn:

(more…)

Next target for Wikileaks will be a megadump of banking information

November 30, 2010

The information paradigm is changing, whether in the political or industrial or commercial or academic world. We are now in the age of megadumps of information and megaleaks from Wikileaks and its inevitable successors.

While the world’s governments threaten legal action against Wikileaks, and bemoan the damage to diplomacy, Australia is considering whether to revoke Julian Assange’s passport. Media which were not in the group of 5 who received the documents in advance are writing heavyweight editorials about the dangers to society of publishing “confidential” information. Some politicians want Wikileaks to be declared a terrorist organisation and many are warning of the “number of lives that will be put at risk”. Professors are weighing in with the dangers to history ! They are all attacking the messenger but “methinks they do protest too much”.

The risk, if any, emanates ultimately from the information or action that is the subject of the document released, not from the release in itself. Diplomats – or others – who are involved in “speaking with a forked tongue” must accept that their duplicity may be revealed. When governments – in the name of the society they represent – take upon themselves the right to tap telephones, intercept documents divert emails, search or arrest members of that society to collect “confidential” information then they will just have to live with the fact that members of that society may feel – technology permitting – the necessity to access and disseminate “confidential” government information. The information world has changed irreversibly and megadumps of information is a reality. It is not a genie which can be stuffed back into the bottle — though some politicians will try.

Attacking the messenger is essentially counter-productive.

I am sure that the self-righteous (and self-serving) indignation currently being exhibited by many politicians and diplomats as their dirty laundry becomes visible will not be present with the next megadumpaccording to Forbes – of Wikileaks revelations – concerning the banking sector. I find that this information may be of greater public interest than some of the secrets of governments – but that is because I have such low expectations of politicians and diplomats. I have the belief that being in government is inherently corrosive (the corruption of power) and all who attain “positions of power” will always engage in hypocrisy and double-talk. Forbes writes:

Early next year, Julian Assange says, a major American bank will suddenly find itself turned inside out. Tens of thousands of its internal documents will be exposed on Wikileaks.org with no polite requests for executives’ response or other forewarnings. The data dump will lay bare the finance firm’s secrets on the Web for every customer, every competitor, every regulator to examine and pass judgment on.

Sitting for a rare interview in a London garden flat on a rainy November day, he compares what he is ready to unleash to the damning e-mails that poured out of the Enron trial: a comprehensive vivisection of corporate bad behavior. “You could call it the ecosystem of corruption,” he says, refusing to characterize the coming release in more detail. “But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest.”

The diplomatic cable megadump is already a reality. The banking megadump will follow. And after banking it may be Energy.

The full transcript of Assange’s interview with Andy Greenberg is here.

Diplomacy in action? Two nuclear scientists attacked in Teheran, one killed

November 29, 2010

In view of the latest Wikileaks revelations where the Saudi’s were aggressively pushing for the US to attack Iran, this story about two nuclear scientists being attacked by car bombs, killing one, becomes particularly interesting. Perhaps this is an example of modern diplomacy in action. Whether carried out by Saudi or US or Israeli agents, the use of car bombs – long associated with terrorism – smacks of hypocrisy. But then in modern “diplomacy”, hypocrisy is not – it seems – considered particularly unethical and it seems that in relationships between nations the end does in fact justify the means. Judging from the reaction of the US State Department to the publication of their confidential cables, it could be concluded that politicians and diplomats do not think it necessary to have  – and are not expected to have  –  any firm ethical standards.

The BBC carries the story:

An Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed and another wounded in two separate but similar attacks, according to Iranian media reports. The scientists were targeted in Tehran by attackers who attached bombs to each of their cars, reports said. The scientist killed has been named as Majid Shahriari of Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, according to the official Irna news agency.

Another scientist was killed in a bomb blast at the beginning of the year.

The state television website says attackers riding on motorcycles attached bombs to the car windows of the scientists as they were driving to their workplaces on Monday morning. “In a criminal terrorist act, the agents of the Zionist regime attacked two prominent university professors who were on their way to work,” Iran’s state television’s website reported.

Dr Shahriari was a member of the nuclear engineering department of Shahid Beheshti University. His wife is said to have been injured in the attack. The nuclear scientist injured in the second attack was named as Fereydoon Abbasi. His wife was also wounded. According to the conservative news website Mashreghnews, Dr Abbasi is “one of the few specialists who can separate isotopes” and has been a member of the Revolutionary Guards since the 1979 revolution.

The Iranian scientist killed in January this year, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, was said to be a nuclear scientist assassinated by counter-revolutionaries, Zionists and agents of the “global arrogance”, Iranian media said at the time.

But I cannot help reflecting that as ethics and values become selective or are diluted as and when judged to be necessary, then decadence has set in and civilisation begins to crumble. As Einstein once said “Relativity applies to physics not to ethics”.

Former head of India’s counter-terrorism division expects next Wikileaks release to be about corruption

November 28, 2010

Update!

2030 hrs CET, 28th November,

The Wikileaks release has started and will likely continue through the night. The Guardian, Der Spiegel, The New York Times, El Pais and Le Monde have received the material in advance under embargo and have all started releasing the  US State Department cables.

Wikileaks has been subjected to a cyber-attack today and its site is currently inaccessible.

Link to Guardian ability to download all cables

=======================================

The BBC headline is

US warns Wikileaks’ Assange on possible leak

The US has stepped up its threats of legal action against Wikileaks while at the same time rushing to contact all “friendly” governments to try and defuse some of the expected fallout of such a release. The flurry of US government activity seems almost panicky and constant repetition of the claim that “countless lives could be put at risk” does not carry much credibility. Instead of taking responsibility for whatever might have been done or written in the past – and presumably they had good reason to believe it was the right and proper thing to do at the time – the strategy seems to be one of “shooting the messenger”.  But in the current paradigm of ease of information dissemination and increased covert operations by governments around the world, attacks on the messenger only reduce the credibility of the attacker and are counter-productive.

B. Raman: image intellibriefs.blogspot.com

B. Raman is a former Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat of the Government of India. He is the former head of the counter-terrorism division of India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He has been applying his mind to the imminent release of confidential US State Department information by Wikileaks and he expects the main subject to be corruption in high places. His thoughts make fascinating reading.

B. Raman writes on his blog:

1. Wikileaks announced through Twitter on November 22,2010, that it will be shortly releasing its third instalment of classified US documents.

2. The first instalment of 77,000 documents related to Afghanistan. The second instalment of 400,000 documents related to Iraq. According to the Twiiter message, its third instalment will contain a much larger number of documents.

3. Wikileaks did not say in its message what will be the subject-matter of the third instalment. However, a Reuters despatch from Washington DC said that classified US diplomatic cables reporting corruption allegations against foreign governments and leaders are expected in the official documents that Wikileaks plans to release. It added: “Three sources familiar with the US State Department cables held by Wikileaks say the corruption allegations in them are major enough to cause serious embarrassment for foreign governments and politicians named in them. They said the release was expected next week, but it could come earlier. The detailed, candid reports by US diplomats also may create foreign policy complications for the administration of US President Barack Obama, the sources said. Among the countries whose politicians feature in the reports are Russia, Afghanistan and former Soviet republics in Central Asia. But other reports also detail potentially embarrassing allegations reported to Washington from US diplomats in other regions, including East Asia and Europe. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Washington was assessing the implications of what Wikileaks may reveal and was notifying foreign governments about the possible release. “We wish that this would not happen, but we are obviously prepared for the possibility that it will,” he said.

4.The media has reported that the US has warned India and other key governments across the world about the expected release. Crowley has been quoted as saying: “We have reached out to India to warn them about a possible release of documents.” Among other Governments reportedly cautioned are those of Israel, Russia, Turkey, Canada and the UK.

5. After October last year when Wikileaks reportedly developed electronic access to the data bases of the US State Department and the Pentagon and the US military formations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US authorities were reported to have tightened document security to prevent further leaks. If this tightening has been effective, it is likely that the latest load of documents acquired by Wikileaks (is) related to the period before October last year.

6.While corruption allegations as collected by the US Embassis in these countries could form a part of these documents, it is likely that considering the large number of documents mentioned by Wikileaks, the documents also cover US Embassy reporting on other subjects. Previously, Pakistan’s relations with the US were the focus of Wikileaks. It now seems to be focusing on India’s relations with the US too. It is, therefore, possible that in addition to corruption involving Indian personalities, the documents about India which have reached Wikileaks also relate to India’s policies on Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

7. Among the various events relating to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran in which India figured during this period, four could be sensitive from India’s point of view. Firstly, the pressure on the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government by the administration of George Bush to send a Division of the Indian Army to Iraq. By July,2003, the Vajpayee Government had decided to say no to Washington DC, but there was a lot of voices in Delhi in favour of accepting the US request. Secondly, the papers captured by the US intelligence after the occupation of Iraq from the Iraqi Government Departments showing or corroborating the alleged involvement of a leader or leaders of the Congress (I) in contacts with the Saddam Hussein Government for acquiring preferential quotas for the import of oil from Iraq (the oil for food scandal). Thirdly, the pressure exercised by the Bush Administration on the Manmohan Singh Government for voting against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The Government of India succumbed to this pressure as a quid pro quo for the Indo-US civil nuclear co-operation agreement of July,2005. Fourthly, the analysis and assessment made in the State Department and the Pentagon regarding Pakistani allegations of Indian involvement in Balochistan.

8. Is it possible that Wikileaks might have also got hold of diplomatic cables between the US Embassy in New Delhi and Washinton DC on Indian political leaders, bureaucrats and policy-making? Has it also got hold of messages sent by the US Embassy in New Delhi to Washington DC about the escape of Major Rabinder Singh, the mole of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Research & Analysis Wing, to the US in 2004 and about the detection by the Indian counter-intelligence of a US mole in the sensitive National Security Council Secretariat in 2006? The documents to be released by Wikileaks need to be carefully scrutinised.. ( 28-11-10)

Shooting the messenger to discredit the message

November 27, 2010

From ancient times, envoys, messengers, heralds and town criers have all had to live with the risk of the messages they delivered incensing their audiences sufficiently to cause a backlash against the messenger. “Shooting the messenger” is then the metaphoric expression of this illogical but understandable lashing out against the bearer of bad news. Envoys and heralds were sometimes arrested or beheaded and sent back not just because the message was disliked but to create and transmit a new message by the action itself.

But it is only in modern times with the advent of readily available duplication (micro-film, photocopiers, magnetic tapes, electronic scanning and now cut-and-paste) and of easy dissemination across the globe (fax, computers, email and internet) that the leaking of confidential documents has come into its own. That confidential documents have always existed and will always exist is axiomatic and it is not only governments that have an interest in keeping documents secret. While the act of keeping some information secret may well be to hide some wrongdoing, it is not in itself indicative of illegality. Nevertheless the judgement that something needs to be kept secret is in itself  acknowledgement that the information would cause harm – to someone – if disclosed.

“Whistleblowing” – defined as revealing wrongdoing which is being kept secret – is now taken to be  admirable whether the wrongdoings are by politicians or governments or corporations.  Legislation is in place in many countries ostensibly to “protect” whistleblowers but is usually quite ineffective in preventing reprisals against the whistleblower. Often the legislation is intentionally ineffective and the only purpose is to project an image of “open government” but not actually to permit the disclosure of government secrets. Reprisals have often been crude and violent. In India, whistleblowers have even been killed out of hand. So-called Freedom of Information legislation also strives to maintain this balance of creating an impression of openness but where what is desired to be kept secret can be maintained secret (either by rejection of the request or by introducing delays or by deletion of sensitive information).

The messengers today are often a part of the message. Whistleblowing may have a political agenda. Whistleblowers may be political activists trying to mobilise the forces of public opinion. “Shooting the messenger” in the form of discrediting the messenger or his objectives has now come to be seen as a legitimate method of trying to discredit the message. This was attempted in the Climategate disclosures. Numerous articles were written to label the disclosure the work of a “hacker” (and therefore an illegal act) rather than that of a “leaker” (and therefore the act of an internal whistleblower). In the event the substance of the revelations carried their own weight and even so called “whitewash” enquiries carried out to downplay the substance of the revelations have not been very successful.

Logo used by Wikileaks

Wikileaks: image via Wikipedia

In October this year Wikileaks disclosed the Iraq War Logs. Governments around the world first tried to prevent the release by claiming that people would be in danger of their lives and security would be undermined. Nobody denied that the information was authentic. Once the material had been released, the objectives of the release and the people behind the release were attacked. Governments across the world cooperated to try and discredit the messages. “National Security concerns” became the common theme for the governments in the US and Australia and the UK. The Swedish authorities have accused the Wikileaks founder (Julian Assange) of rape and attempted rape in a crude and rather bizarre incident – but presumably as part of a concerted effort to prevent further revelations. But the information revealed about the number of civilians killed in Iraq and the manner of their killing can no longer be kept secret.

Now, further revelations of confidential US State Department information are expected from Wikileaks. The attacks on the messenger have started. The US government has contacted scores of other governments to try and defuse and discredit the information before it is disclosed. As the BBC writes:

The plan by whistleblower website Wikileaks to release millions more classified US documents will put lives at risk and damage national security, the state department has warned. A spokesman said it would do harm to US international relations if the leaks contained diplomatic cables.

The Pentagon said US military interests could also be damaged. The Wikileaks website said the US authorities were afraid of being held to account.

The state department spokesman, PJ Crowley, said the release of confidential communications was “harmful to our national security. It does put lives at risk. It does put national interests at risk”. Mr Crowley said that diplomatic cables involved discussions with governments and private citizens, and their release could erode trust in the US as a diplomatic partner. “They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world,” he said. “When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television or radio, it has an impact,” Mr Crowley said.

It is notable that when information is disclosed there is not much effort expended in denying the authenticity of the information. Instead the focus is more and more on attacking the purpose of the disclosure and on attacking the messengers. But even the most horrifying disclosures do not seem to have increased the accountability of governments or their desire to justify their behaviour. “National Security” is the new mantra they can hide behind.

But I cannot help thinking that this tendency of governments, politicians and officials increasingly to attack the messenger is ultimately due to an inability to stand up for one’s own behaviour. It boils down to a lack of courage.



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