Monday, December 13, 2010

Should international studies schools intimidate would-be diplomats?

One of my first students at the Korbel School of Intenational Studies (then the Graduate School of International Studies) was Paul Trivelli, who took courses with me on the conversation between Marxism, liberalism and conservatism, as well as democratic theory. He also specialized in Latin American politics. One day, Paul told me that he had taken the foreign service exam and been interviewed. When asked to discuss “the satellites,” Paul – having learned about dependency theory mainly in other courses – started talking about Latin America. “No,” the foreign service officer said, “I was asking you about Eastern Europe.” Paul gulped, and was sure, he told me, that they would never take him.

I pointed out to him that 99% of smart graduate students at the time (the late 1970s) might have made that mistake (Even the phrase was a generational thing, used by an older and comparatively conservative foreign service officer, for instance, Josef Korbel, extremely critical from his own life of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, did not choose to speak of “satellites” so that it is quite likely a number of well-informed students of Soviet oppression at our school, might nonetheless have guessed Latin America). An interviewee would have to be an ideologue, uninformed and pretty slow, to have fallen in with that question without missing a beat. If the State Department were smart, I suggested to Paul, you would be exactly the kind of person they want. Among other things, someone who knows about dependency theory, including its weaknesses, can probably talk to Latin Americans, then experiencing at gunpoint US influence, with sophistication, and represent US interests creatively where – extraordinarily during the Nixon-Kissinger, Reagan period in Latin America – diplomats have decent purposes or are trying to defend human rights.

Paul was out of touch for many years. But in the 1990s, I heard him, as spokesman for the Embassy in Nicaragua, decrying the Sandinistas. That could have been what he then believed, or what he had been instructed by higher-ups to say. I find it amusing, after our long ago conversation, that he has had a substantial career in the foreign service.

Now three of my students, Aaron Ferreira, Matt Bates and Joel Pruce, have reacted forcefully to the career counselling office at Korbel sending around a fear-mongering Washington Post op-ed about the "danger to your career" of looking at Wikileaks. Americans must quaver and make themselves small to get government jobs. In general, the Post editorial page is now disgustingly imperialist – neocon, not even the Democratic neo-neo con variety – and apparently believes (and wants to make) America again a hellhole of black lists. A little poisonous breath of McCarthyism… If you want a career in the foreign service, says Derrick Dortch, you must – must – close your mind and your search engine to Wikileaks. You must prove that your mind has always been – certifiably – closed to any thought or debate. Everyone else can look at the documents, particularly people you might have to work with (those foreigners…), but you must not - even though you are not yet working for, might not even yet have thought about working for the US government – exhibit a dollop of curiosity.

Or as Aaron writes: are you now or have you ever Wikileaked? Do your friends Wikileak? Do your parents Wikileak?…

It would be particularly surprising if this came from Hillary Clinton who knows and should do better. Now as Wikileaks has revealed, she has organized spying on Ban-ki Moon, head of the UN, so really not much is beyond her; she has not shaken the corruption she achieved in her Presidential campaign or the long, bipartisan hangover of Bush-Cheney (Barack of course may have signed off on this as on so much else…). Hopefully, however the wind blowing through will enable her to wake up, snap out of the tyrannical sleepwalking of American elite politics, and do something decent. That would be one of the many good things resulting from Wikileaks’ publication of Pentagon and diplomatic documents.

Of course, if Dortch is to be believed, the State Department now seeks only incurious and rigid/authoritarian recruits. In fairy tales, children are told not to do things, which of course they then do, and that starts the adventure. Intelligent people, inside and outside the State Department, have come up with very good arguments – see here – for what State Department people do and the need for discretion, and op-ed pieces, for instance in the International Herald Tribune express reassurance, judging by these memos, about the intelligence and decency of the American foreign service. As I have emphasized, these positions are often importantly right. But the overall argument fails because it deliberately ignores the sheerly criminal activity of quite a number of Ambassadors revealed in the documents and, more broadly, the context of American militarism. For instance, Bush crony and political appointee as ambassador to Spain Aguirre – i.e. not a person who makes a career in the foreign service - interfered massively in the Spanish courts as reported in El Pais. The American Ambassador in Germany tried covertly to block investigation into the kidnapping and extraordinary rendition of Khaled El-Masri, mistaken for a terrorist, flown to Spain (where Ambassador Aguirre also worked to kill legal proceedings) and then to Bagram, tortured and drugged for years, and then released, with the intervention at last of my student Condi Rice, naked and without money on a mountain road in Albania. El-Masri thought they were taking him out of the prison to kill him. Good to know how America treats the innocent against whom it has – for no reason at all – committed crimes…

Condi lacked the principle or courage to tell the German government that the US had kidnapped and tortured El-Masri. The Obama administration has now blocked El-Masri suing in American courts – a trashing of the rule of law in America (under pressure by the executive, our “courts” increasingly become shadows of judicial institutions) – and the Bush administration, now compounded bipartisanly by Obama - has undermined the German justice system as well. The rule of law and protection of the equal basic rights of individuals is, however, central to, a prerequisite for democracy. This is the action of a so-called democracy, an oligarchy with parliamentary forms crazed by militarism or the war complex, to undercut international law, German law and domestic law. It is the opposite of the ideologically much-touted “democratic peace.”

It is thus mistaken, merely to praise, as these commentators do, the intelligence of Anne Patterson in Pakistan, and overlook the war criminality which these other ambassadors embody. But foreign interlocutors – for instance, every Spaniard – are likely to have read about this and want to engage Americans and others about it. A would-be diplomat and citizen might be prepared, by looking and thinking about the memos, to talk about why such things must never happen again. Obama who gave a free pass to torturers but persecutes bizarrely the Australian Julian Assange is spinning a story that, as it comes out, is likely to make America a laughing-stock. See the third story below: the illegal “sex” for which Julian Assange is being held without bail in Britain now turns out to be a charge that his condom broke and he didn’t stop to put on another one, by a woman who threw a party for him afterwards, twittered over her sexual conquest, and then tried to remove the twitters while getting him charged…the case was dropped by the prosecution and then renewed, one of only two Interpol rape cases from Sweden, because of Ameican influence. The poor would-be diplomat might have a hard time with this travesty. Still, one can always hope in one's career to help the government to do better. Or following Dortch and the Washington Post, one might imitate the three monkeys (apologies for the speciesism): see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. But an intelligent State Department, for instance the one that recruited Paul Trivelli, would be uninterested in such a person, just as a serious editorial page would be uninterested in Dortch.

Second, there is a profound issue about whether America is becoming a police state. It is relentlessly stupid for the Obama administration to forbid officials even to look at the memos. But it is a crime against freedom of speech and freedom of thought for it to forbid any person who might want a job with the government in future, now as a private citizen, to read, think and engage in the ongoing debates. It really gave Prime Minister Putin, whose regime murders dissidents in London with polonium, a remarkable, new opportunity to nail America’s hypocrisy:

“Asked about cables depicting him as the ‘alpha-dog’ boss of a corrupt and anti-democratic bureaucracy, he responded “’do you think the American foreign service is a crystal-clean source of information?’”

‘…If it is a full democracy, why have they hidden Mr. Assange in prison? That’s what, democracy?’

‘So, you know, as we say in the village, some people’s cows can moo, but yours should keep quiet. So I would like to shoot the puck back at our American colleagues.’”

The hypocrisy of the Bush and now Obama administration’s criticizing others for torture or for lawlessness has long been evident. But this proceeding – which I guess they fantasize ending with a “show trial” of Assange in the United States, the place too cowardly to abolish Guantanamo because our maximum security prisons couldn’t hold the ‘terrorists,’ or even to try "terrorists" in American courts – is likely to end in farce. The US is a rapidly fading power; perhaps our future diplomats could learn enough hockey-speak to respond to Putin (i.e warn Obama that this is nuts). Or perhaps Mr. Dortch or some more powerful luminary will discover that hockey is Canadian, i.e "foreign."

The US is clear enough about freedom of speech in Russia or China, but tries ferociously to cut such freedom off about documents now in the public space by forcing Amazon, Paypal and Visa to cancel contractual agreements. Obama has remained silent while powerful Americans - the Kristols, Liebermans, Feinsteins (a member of Obama's own party), Palins and McConnells - issue threats of murder or changing the laws to make acts not previously criminal a crime (ex post facto laws are barred by the Constitution), etc. The elite mocks freedom of the press, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law.

Now Dortch’s column in the Post is that of an authoritarian bureaucrat rather than a democratic public servant. He wants only those recruits who will trim their sails at a moment’s notice because it is what the boss ordered. He shils for insecure bosses who want only yes- men and women, those who are ignorant, inexperienced and reactionary, for instance the Xe-Blackwater hires with which General David Petraeus’ seeks to replace the professional diplomats in Iraq…See here, here and here.

Worse yet, however, the Columbia international studies program and my school have circulated Dortch’s column to students without critical comment. But at Columbia, as Joel Pruce relates below, they have been greeted by protest and given up being the cat's-paw of a (perhaps imagined) tyrant. We should as a school protest against the government’s abridgment of free speech for citizens as well as the vapidity of the request. We should point out that it is against education and thoughtful debate to make any such requirement on citizens about documents now internationally in the public domain, and that it is against fundamental American principles. I should note as well that Christopher Hill, Joe Szyliowize and I debated Wikileaks at the Korbel School – see here – without feeling any constraint about examining documents. So it seems that our school in the forefront of actual democratic discussion of the documents as well as assessing the costs, sometimes serious, to that element in American diplomacy which is honorable.

Matt Bates also sent an interesting piece on Julian Assange from someone who knows him. See here. I also post below an intelligent piece on the foolishness of the Obama administration's attack on Assange by Jack Goldsmith from Lawfare (a neocon site named for the practice deliberately perverting law into a form of war fare, a self-consciously tyrannical policy of the Rove/Ashcroft/Gonzalez "Justice" Department. Though Goldsmith courageously withdrew Yoo's torture memos as head of the Office of Legal Counsel and thus deserves credit for an heroic public act, he is sometimes way reactionary).

Here is Matt's note:

"Hi Alan,

Just in case you missed it, DU sent out this email regarding Wikileaks to the students. I find it highly unlikely that the decision to send this out came from the Office of Career Services. I would guess that it is being routed through the OCS by the administration in order to deflect any criticism of self-censorship encouraged by the school. As I have graduated, however, I don't have a real sense of how the school is reacting otherwise.

It occurs to me that Freedom of speech in the U.S. currently accommodates ubiquitous disinformation from news outlets, the government and corporations, but shutters at the truth. Anonymous US lawyers have suggested that Assange has already been tried by the Justice Department in a sealed case. I have been following along with your blog and look forward to your future coverage.

Below is a short article I thought you may have missed by someone close to Assange:

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/the-geek-who-shook-the-world-20101211-18tep.html?from=smh_sb

Best wishes,
Matt"

"Alan,

I just received an email from the Josef Korbel Office of Career Services. It is a link to a Wash Post article warning job seekers not to read the Wikileaks cables. Here it is:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/09/AR2010120901124.html

This happened at Columbia a week ago and it seems to be spreading. Could it be because those who read them will be disgusted at the thought of gov't service? Hmmm. I spread the word to my fellow students via facebook.

I wonder if that will be a question on a security clearance questionnaire. Are you now, or have you ever read a Wikileak? Or do you associate with someone who has? Does your family read Wikileaks? This is absurd.

Aaron"

Joel Pruce also sent me a note: "I don't appreciate career services interjecting in student free speech, and am concerned about undercurrent of censorship around the Wikileaks issue," and appended a note to the career services office:

"Since the Careers Office felt it necessary to give advice on what to access on the internet through the link sent to students today, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you what the State Department actually says about this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/06/columbia-university-walks_n_792684.html and http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/12/columbia-wikileaks-policy/. The blog post from Wash Post you forwarded does not actually quote anyone from State; it merely makes guesses - and those guesses influence and compromise students' ability to view whatever they want on the internet, freely.

SIPA at Columbia gave this same advice to its students earlier this week, and then rescinded its remarks under pressure.

Best,
Joel"

Derrick T. Dortch
Washington Post, Thursday, December 9, 2010

You have always had an interest in the U.S. government and the missions of the agencies that deal with national security and international affairs.

You even hope to work for the feds or serve in the military one day.

Then you find yourself - an avid reader and seeker of knowledge - face-to-face with the WikiLeaks Web site.

This rare look inside government operations could also cost you a potential security clearance.

What WikiLeaks has done is considered illegal in the United States. U.S. law says that whoever receives or obtains, or agrees or attempts to receive or obtain, from any person or any source having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document or other materials relating to the national defense, or information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

This is serious business across all government agencies and the military, where people have been ordered not to access the WikiLeaks Web site.

So what does this have to do with you, the federal job seeker? You are not working for the government, and you think accessing WikiLeaks is acceptable. But according to the government, it is not.

Although the information is in the public domain, it does not change the status of that information.

Now, given that WikiLeaks is a public site, it's unlikely that the Justice Department will go after any U.S. citizen for accessing it. But if you are trying to get a government job and designated to get a security clearance, even at the lowest levels, you may be asked during your personnel security interview if you accessed the WikiLeaks Web site and looked at any classified documents. If your answer is yes, then the road ahead may be rocky.

Here's why:

Under the Adjudication Desk Reference, a guide published by the Defense Human Resources Activity that serves as a resource to personnel security adjudicators, investigators and managers, it notes in the "Handling Protected Information" section that deliberate or negligent failure to comply with rules and regulations for protecting classified information, or for protecting other sensitive information (such as for official use only, proprietary, export-controlled or privacy information), raises doubt about an individual's trustworthiness, judgment, reliability, or willingness and ability to safeguard such information and is a serious security concern.

The ADR points out potentially disqualifying conditions, ranging from "deliberate or negligent disclosure of classified information" to "efforts to obtain or view classified or other protected information outside one's need to know."

But all hope may not be lost if you took a gander at the WikiLeaks site. There are some mitigating conditions, according to the ADR: (A) So much time has elapsed since the behavior, or it has happened so infrequently or under such unusual circumstances, that it is unlikely to recur and does not cast doubt on the individual's reliability, trustworthiness or good judgment. (B) The individual responded favorably to counseling or remedial security training and demonstrates a positive attitude toward the discharge of security responsibilities. (C) The security violations were the result of improper or inadequate training.

The average job seeker can probably make the case that this situation happened so infrequently and was the result of inadequate training on security violations, because nine out of 10 times this is true. The key thing now, however, is to probably avoid WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks has harmed the U.S. government. Don't let it harm your job-hunting efforts.

Got a question about getting hired? Post it in the comments section for this column at washingtonpost.com/fedpage, or e-mail federal jobs expert Derrick T. Dortch at federalworker@washpost.com.

LAWFARE
HARD NATIONAL SECURITY CHOICES

Seven Thoughts on Wikileaks
by Jack Goldsmith

1. I find myself agreeing with those who think Assange is being unduly vilified. I certainly do not support or like his disclosure of secrets that harm U.S. national security or foreign policy interests. But as all the hand-wringing over the 1917 Espionage Act shows, it is not obvious what law he has violated. It is also important to remember, to paraphrase Justice Stewart in the Pentagon Papers, that the responsibility for these disclosures lies firmly with the institution empowered to keep them secret: the Executive branch. The Executive was unconscionably lax in allowing Bradley Manning to have access to all these secrets and to exfiltrate them so easily.

2. I do not understand why so much ire is directed at Assange and so little at the New York Times. What if there were no wikileaks and Manning had simply given the Lady Gaga CD to the Times? Presumably the Times would eventually have published most of the same information, with a few redactions, for all the world to see. Would our reaction to that have been more subdued than our reaction now to Assange? If so, why? If not, why is our reaction so subdued when the Times receives and publishes the information from Bradley through Assange the intermediary? Finally, in 2005-2006, the Times disclosed information about important but fragile government surveillance programs. There is no way to know, but I would bet that these disclosures were more harmful to national security than the wikileaks disclosures. There was outcry over the Times’ surveillance disclosures, but nothing compared to the outcry over wikileaks. Why the difference? Because of quantity? Because Assange is not a U.S. citizen? Because he has a philosophy more menacing than “freedom of the press”? Because he is not a journalist? Because he has a bad motive?

3. In Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward, with the obvious assistance of many top Obama administration officials, disclosed many details about top secret programs, code names, documents, meetings, and the like. I have a hard time squaring the anger the government is directing toward wikileaks with its top officials openly violating classification rules and opportunistically revealing without authorization top secret information.

4. Whatever one thinks of what Assange is doing, the flailing U.S. government reaction has been self-defeating. It cannot stop the publication of the documents that have already leaked out, and it should stop trying, for doing so makes the United States look very weak and gives the documents a greater significance than they deserve. It is also weak and pointless to prevent U.S. officials from viewing the wikileaks documents that the rest of the world can easily see. Also, I think trying to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act would be a mistake. The prosecution could fail for any number of reasons (no legal violation, extradition impossible, First Amendment). Trying but failing to put Assange in jail is worse than not trying at all. And succeeding will harm First Amendment press protections, make a martyr of Assange, and invite further chaotic Internet attacks. The best thing to do – I realize that this is politically impossible – would be to ignore Assange and fix the secrecy system so this does not happen again [why is common sense "politically impossible" in America? - AG]

5. As others have pointed out, the U.S. government reaction to wikileaks is more than a little awkward for the State Department’s Internet Freedom initiative. The contradictions of the initiative were apparent in the speech that announced it, where Secretary Clinton complained about cyberattacks seven paragraphs before she boasted of her support for hacktivism. I doubt the State Department is very keen about freedom of Internet speech or Internet hacktivism right now.

6. Tim Wu and I wrote a book called Who Controls The Internet? One thesis of the book was that states could exercise pretty good control over unwanted Internet communications and transactions from abroad by regulating the intermediaries that make the communications and transactions possible – e.g. backbone operators, ISPs, search engines, financial intermediaries (e.g. mastercard), and the like. The book identified one area where such intermediary regulation did not work terribly well: Cross-border cybercrime. An exception we did not discuss is the exposure of secrets. Once information is on the web, it is practically impossible to stop it from being copied and distributed. The current strategy of pressuring intermediaries (paypal, mastercard, amazon, various domain name services, etc.) to stop doing business with wikileaks will have a marginal effect on its ability to raise money and store information. But the information already in its possession has been encrypted and widely distributed, and once it is revealed it is practically impossible to stop it from being circulated globally. The United States could in theory take harsh steps to stop its circulation domestically – it could, for example, punish the New York Times and order ISPs and search engines to filter out a continuously updated list of identified wikileaks sites. But what would be the point of that? (Tim and I also did not anticipate that state attempts to pressure intermediaries would be met by distributed denial-of-service attacks on those intermediaries.)

7. The wikileaks saga gives the lie to the claim of United States omnipotence over the naming and numbering system via ICANN. Even assuming the United States could order ICANN (through its contractual arrangements and de facto control) to shut down all wikileaks sites (something that is far from obvious), ICANN could not follow through because its main leverage over unwanted wikileaks websites is its threat to de-list top-level domain names where the wikileaks sites appear. It is doubtful that ICANN could make that threat credibly for many reasons, including (a) the sites are shifting across top-level domains too quickly, (b) ICANN is not going to shut down a top-level domain to get at a handful of sites, and (c) alternative and perhaps root-splitting DNS alternatives might arise if it did.


Something is Rotten: The Strange Case of Interpol's Red Alert on Assange, and the US Attack on WikiLeaks
Friday 10 December 2010 Truthout

by: Dave Lindorff | This Can't Be Happening | Op-Ed

Far be it from me to minimize the issue of rape, but to borrow from the Bard, in the case of the “rape” case being alleged against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (technically, Swedish prosecutors say it's not rape, it's "sex by surprise"), currently being held in a British jail without bail pending an extradition request from Stockholm: “Something is rotten in Sweden.”

As I wrote earlier in this publication, the alleged sexual crimes that Assange is currently being sought for by a Swedish prosecutor are:

1. Allegedly failing to halt an act of consensual sexual intercourse when his sex partner and host, Anna Ardin, claims she somehow became aware that the condom he was using had “split” and,

2. Having consensual sex with a second woman a few days later without informing her that he had just been with Ardin, and then, a day later, allegedly refusing to return a phone call on his cell phone, when she tried to call him to ask him to take an STD test. (Assange says he had turned off and was not using his phone for fear he was being traced through it, not that refusing to take a call from a woman one recently slept with should be considered criminal. Cold or even cruel, maybe, but not justification for a rape charge!)

In most countries, including the US and UK, these would not pass the test to be considered a crime, much less qualify as a category of “rape," but Swedish authorities, who in all of this year have only submitted one other request to Interpol for assistance in capturing a sex crimes suspect, asked the international police agency to issue a so-called Red Alert for Assange, who was subsquently asked by police in the UK, where he was staying, to turn himself in or face arrest. (The other Interpol Red Alert sought by Swedish prosecutors this year was for Jan Christer Wallenkurtz, a 58-year-old Swedish national wanted on multiple charges of alleged sex crimes and sex crimes against children.)

You have to ask, given that Sweden has the highest per-capital number of reported rape cases in Europe, how it can be that only these two suspects--Wallenkurtz and Assange--are brought to Interpol.

You also have to wonder how it is that Assange--charged only with consensual sex “offenses”--is denied bail by a British court magistrate, despite having several people at his arraignment hearing, including a well-known British filmmaker, ready to post whatever bail might be required to assure his return to court for an extradition hearing, while even people charged with aggressive rape are apparently routinely released on bail in both the UK and Sweden.

Here’s an interesting letter that ran yesterday in the Guardian in England, authored by Katrin Axelsson, of the British organization Women Against Rape:

"Many women in both Sweden and Britain will wonder at the unusual zeal with which Julian Assange is being pursued for rape allegations. Women in Sweden don't fare better than we do in Britain when it comes to rape. Though Sweden has the highest per capita number of reported rapes in Europe and these have quadrupled in the last 20 years, conviction rates have decreased. On 23 April 2010 Carina Hägg and Nalin Pekgul (respectively MP and chairwoman of Social Democratic Women in Sweden) wrote in the Göteborgs-Posten that "up to 90% of all reported rapes never get to court. In 2006 six people were convicted of rape though almost 4,000 people were reported". They endorsed Amnesty International's call for an independent inquiry to examine the rape cases that had been closed and the quality of the original investigations.

“Assange, who it seems has no criminal convictions, was refused bail in England despite sureties of more than £120,000. Yet bail following rape allegations is routine. For two years we have been supporting a woman who suffered rape and domestic violence from a man previously convicted after attempting to murder an ex-partner and her children – he was granted bail while police investigated.

“There is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women's safety. In the south of the US, the lynching of black men was often justified on grounds that they had raped or even looked at a white woman. Women don't take kindly to our demand for safety being misused, while rape continues to be neglected at best or protected at worst.”

The long arm of the US in this case is hard to miss here.

Especially in view of one of the latest WikiLeaks State Department cables to be disclosed in the New York Times, which in an article on Thursday laid out how the US had strong-armed even the powerful German government into blocking German prosecutors from indicting and requesting the extradition to Germany of 13 CIA agents involved in the illegal kidnapping and renditioning to Bagram prison in Afghanistan of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen wrongly thought by the CIA to be a terrorist. El-Masri was kidnapped by these agents in 2003, stripped, bound, placed in an adult diaper with a plug in his rectum, and flown by the CIA to Bagram, where he was repeatedly tortured, sodomized, injected with mind-altering drugs, and held for months, before being simply dropped off by the CIA on an Albanian roadside, after it was determined by the US that a “mistake” had been made. The US did not want its rendition program and its policy of officially-sanctioned torture disclosed and so it pressed German authorities to drop all prosecution of the agency kidnappers, threatening “the implications for relations with the U.S.” (El-Masri has been barred from suing the US government for damages.)

It strains credulity to believe that the same US government that put such pressure on a NATO ally Germany is not behind Swedish prosecutors’ sudden intense interest in this preposterous case of consensual sex and a broken condom--particularly as the initial prosecutor in the case dropped it after learning that the two women, far from being upset following their nights with Assange, had in one case thrown a party for him following the alleged incident, and in the other, left him in her bed while she went out to buy him breakfast. (Both women reportedly sent twitters to friends bragging about their conquests, messages they later tried to have expunged from the Twitter system).

It also strains credulity to believe that the denial of bail to this particular suspect by a British court--particularly given that he is not charged with any violent act, and has no criminal record--is not the result of behind-the-scenes US pressure.

Indeed, it appears that the US is busy trumping up more serious charges against Assange, with his lawyers saying they are anticipating that the US Justice Department (already reportedly in discussions with Swedish authorities about getting their hands on Assange), is planning soon to charge him under the 1917 Espionage statute, the same law that the Nixon Justice Department tried to use unsuccessfully against Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers case. That could explain why efforts are being made to try to keep Assange held in a cell.

It could also explain why Assange is challenging the Swedish extradition request.

Opposition to the Afghan and Irag Wars is intense in the UK and is supported by the overwhelming majority of British citizens, which makes Assange something of a hero in Britain for his WikiLeaks exposes of the ongoing crimes by US and UK forces in those conflicts. British government acquiescence to an extradition order from the US on espionage charges would likely lead to massive opposition by British citizens. Sweden, on the other hand, which is not a member of NATO, but which has some 500 troops participating in the "NATO" war in Afghanistan, does not face the same kind of popular opposition to its role, and Assange may fear that Sweden, a very small country, could be pressured much more easily to hand Assange over to US authorities, with little resulting fuss from the Swedish public.

Back in the US, there has been no move by news organizations to come to Assange’s defense. In fact, the corporate media reaction to this whole issue has been the opposite. For the most part, the Swedish charges, and his arrest in Britain on the basis of the Interpol Red Alert, are reported as being about “rape,” without any explanation of the actual “violations,” which would not even rise to the level of a crime in the US. Meanwhile, most editorial pages are condemning the violation of diplomatic secrecy, not the government’s efforts to shut down a source of important news about government ineptness, malfeasance and deceit.

Yet if it turns out, as I’m confident it will, that the US government has been the driving force behind both the arrest and imprisonment of Assange, and his extradition to Sweden, and if it turns out, as appears increasingly likely, that the US government has also been behind simultaneous decisions by Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and several Swiss banks to refuse to handle donations to WikiLeaks, as well as by Amazon, which withdrew Wikileak's access to its cloud data storage system, and a DNS registry which de-registered WikiLeak's URL, publishers and broadcasters, and journalists themselves, should be up in arms defending him. As I wrote here earlier, this kind of attack on a news source for purely political reasons is a threat to the First Amendment as profound as the Nixonian attack on Daniel Ellsberg, and the attempt to block the New York Times from publishing his purloined documents about the origins of the Vietnam War.

Andreas Fink, CEO of DataCell ehf, the Swiss company that has been accepting donations on behalf of Wikileaks via Visa, had this to say about the Dec. 8 decision by Visa to cease processing Wikileaks donations:

“The suspension of payments towards Wikileaks is a violation of the agreements with their customers. Visa users have explicitly expressed their will to send their donations to Wikileaks and Visa is not fulfilling this wish. It will probably hurt their brand much much more to block payments towards Wikileaks than to have them occur. Visa customers are contacting us in masses to confirm that they really donate and they are not happy about Visa rejecting them. It is obvious that Visa is under political pressure to close us down. We strongly believe a world class company such as Visa should not get involved by politics and just simply do their business where they are good at. Transferring money. They have no problem transferring money for other businesses such as gambling sites, pornography services and the like so why a donation to a Website which is holding up for human rights should be morally any worse than that is outside of my understanding.”

Contributions can still be made to Wikileaks and to Assange’s Defense by wire transfer and by check and ordinary mail. To find out how to contribute, go to: http://mirror.wikileaks.info/
By the way, if there is anyone out there working for Visa, MasterCard, Paypal, or any banking organization, or in a government office, who can provide me [Dave Lindorff at Truthout] with evidence that the US has been behind the decision of any of those organizations to freeze out WikiLeaks and destroy it financially, I will guarantee your anonymity at all costs. Please contact me [Lindorff] or send me documentation

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