Is there more to WikiLeaks than meets the eye?

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By Rahnuma Ahmed

The release of US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks on 29 November—dubbed the “9/11 of world diplomacy” —was immediately criticised by America’s political and military leadership. WikiLeaks will cost (American) lives, said Bill Clinton.  Sarah Palin blasted Obama for WikiLeaks.

Similar denunciations had occurred earlier. When WikiLeaks released the Afghan War Diary in July this year, a cache of 91,000 documents, covering the war from 2004 to 2010. When WikiLeaks released another cache in October, nearly 400,000 secret US files on the Iraq war, the largest classified military leak in history. When it posted a video on its website in April, showing a US Apache helicopter killing at least 12 innocent people, including 2 Reuters journalists, in an attack in Baghdad in July 2007.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary said he was “appalled” while the Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said, WikiLeaks “might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.” The Afghan War Diary was denounced by human rights organisations too, including Amnesty International. The international press freedom organisation, Reporters Without Borders said, it was “irresponsible,” it sets a “bad precedent for the Internet’s future.” The names of Afghan informants had not been redacted, leaving them vulnerable to Taliban retaliation.

Initial denunciations have now been replaced by harsher calls centering around the whistle-blowing website’s founder, Julian Assange, 39 year-old Australian journalist, publisher and activist. Variously described as “charismatic,” possessing “an exceptional ability to crack computer codes” and “mercurial in interviews,” demands to hunt him down just like al-Qaeda (Sarah Palin), to declare WikiLeaks a terrorist group and prosecute Assange (Representative Peter King) —are being replaced by murderous ones. He should be tried for treason and executed if found guilty (Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee) . He should be hit by a drone (political commentator Bill O’Reilly). He should be assassinated (professor Tom Flanagan, adviser to Canadian prime minister).

On December 1, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Assange. He was wanted for questioning in Sweden over alleged sex offences. Assange had visited Stockholm in August to defend WikiLeaks’ decision to publish the Afghan War Diary; while there, an arrest warrant had been issued by Swedish authorities against allegations of rape and sexual molestation. The charge of rape was later dropped, the warrant too was hastily withdrawn. The accusations had separately been brought by two women, sex had been “consensual” but Assange seems to have violated a Swedish law against having sex without a condom; he had used a condom on one occassion but it had split, on another, he had not. One of the women, afraid of catching STD wanted him to take a medical test, which he reportedly refused. He was finally charged with something called “sex by surprise,” this carries a fine of $715. Assange admitted having sex but the charges are “without basis.” The timing was “deeply disturbing.” It was aimed at smearing him. It was possibly initiated by the CIA or Pentagon.

Interestingly, the recent WikiLeaks release mentions Sweden’s close ties to the US military which, as the American ambassador to Sweden notes, “give the lie to the official policy” of non-participation in military alliances. This should remain a secret, he wrote, or else it would open the way for “domestic criticism.”

Julian Assange, founder, editor-in-chief of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks

The rising hysteria over Assange/WikiLeaks has led many among the western public, including well-respected figures known for their opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to extend their support. Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, the target of a White House hit squad in 1972 himself, has said, Assange is serving American democracy and the American rule of law precisely by challenging secrecy regulations. He called for a boycott of Amazon after it terminated hosting the WikiLeaks website. WikiLeaks must be protected, writes John Pilger; the Afghanistan war logs and the hounding of Assange prove that there’s never been a greater need to speak truth to power than today. Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in service during Iraq war, and Medea Benjamin of Code Pink: Women for Peace, urge US cities to offer Assange sanctuary. The government should desist in prosecuting Assange, or pressure Sweden in doing so, or sabotage WikiLeaks servers. Republican senator Ron Paul, often in opposition to fellow members for his libertaran beliefs, argues that the WikiLeaks founder should get the same protection as the media. Scoffing at the idea of an Australian being tried for treason in America, Paul asks, “why don’t we prosecute The New York Times or anybody else that releases this?”

But there are others, equally courageous and just as passionately opposed to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq (and Palestine), who view WikiLeaks and Assange, differently. Who argue that what has been presented has been cherry-picked, that the data presented is selective. That the consistent absence of particular actors is more telling than those who have been presented on the world stage through the leaks.

In other words, do the releases benefit anyone, if so, who? Cui bono?

Alan Hart, author, a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent specialising in the Middle East writes, if a visitor from Outer Space studied the WikiLeaks revelations of the first two days, she or he would come to the conclusion that,

“The main message is clear. Iran is the biggest single threat to the peace of the region and the world and not only because the Israelis say so. Arab leaders agree with them.  The secondary message is that apart from the Arab leaders who say they share Israel’s assessment, other Muslim leaders, those in Turkey and Pakistan especially, are not to be trusted.”

Cui bono? Hart says, the Zionist state of Israel. It is possible that Assange has been “compromised” in some manner, that he is open to “manipulation.” Assange’s denial of 9/11 truth is surprising—“I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11, when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud”—given the “irrefutable evidence” that the Twin Towers were not brought down by the planes and their burning fuel.

Hart, and also others, point toward similar suspicions raised by Zbigniew Brzezinski, president Carter’s National Security Advisor. In a recent interview to PBS, Brzezinski said, “The real issue is, who is feeding Wikileaks? They’re getting a lot of information which seems trivial, inconsequential, but some of it seems surprisingly pointed… It’s a question of whether Wikileaks are being manipulated by interested parties that want to either complicate our relationship with other governments or want to undermine some governments… I have no doubt that Wikileaks is getting a lot of the stuff from sort of relatively unimportant sources, like the one that perhaps is identified on the air. But it may be getting stuff at the same time from interested intelligence parties who want to manipulate the process and achieve certain very specific objectives.”

Perceptive bloggers have pointed out how Israel is unharmed by the leaks, how Mossad and RAW are noticeably absent despite being very active in occupied war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq. Others have wondered why both the Guardian and The New York Times chose to leak the portion about Iran first, out of the 200,000 documents. Interestingly enough, the NYT article was co-authored by David Sanger, a “major conveyor” of American administration propaganda before Gulf War II.

The leaks seem to be a result of systematic work, purposively intentioned, says the Turkish president, while the deputy prime minister asks, “Documents were released and they immediately said, `Israel will not suffer from this.’ How did they know that?” A columnist for a pro-government Turkish newspaper writes, some people want to “drive the Obama administration in a different direction,” they want to “adjust the relations of many governments with the US.” They want to corner Turkey both in domestic and international politics, to show that Turkey is “alone” in defending Iran in the region. The cables, writes another columnist, seem to be part of a psychological campaign. In China, the English-language tabloid Global Times which belongs  to the ruling communist party’s newspaper, the People’s Daily, asks in its lead editorial, “Is there some tacit understanding between the Web site and the US government?” implying actual government complicity in the leaks.

Gordon Duff, senior editor of Veterans Today, wonders why no one has found the magic Wikileaks “treehouse” with dozens of elves sifting through documents, when the NSA and a dozen other agencies can pick the stroke on his computer the second they hit, can tap 200 million telephones, kidnap a woman off the streets of Karachi with a two minute phone request. Is it plausible?

It is widely believed that Wikileaks got the classified video of US troops killing Iraqi civilians in Baghdad and 260,000 pages of confidential diplomatic cables and intelligence assessments from Bradley Manning, a 22 year-old American soldier stationed in Baghdad who, as an intelligence specialist in the US army, had access to these, read them, became disillusioned about his country’s foreign policy and “used blank CDs to download classified information while pretending to be listening to Lady Gaga.” Manning was caught because he boasted of the leaks to a former hacker, who turned him over to the US authorities. He has been in custody since May, has been charged with transferring classified data; if convicted he could face a prison sentence of between 50 to 70 years.

The PBS interviewer had tried to sell the Bradley Manning `myth’ to Brzezinski, “But a lot of these documents have been in the hands—haven’t they been in the hands of WikiLeaks for some time?” His reply was, “We don’t know that for a fact.” When she said, “… because of— because of this private who is in jail and accused, Army private?” the other interviewee on the program Stephen Hadley (National Security Advisor to George W. Bush) responded, “We don’t know it!”

The more important question is, is there any evidence that anyone else—besides Wikileaks— has accessed US government’s classified  files? Former AIPAC foreign policy chief Steven Rosen, in a civil lawsuit filed in March 2009, reportedly fired for being caught spying against the US, says his actions were common practice at AIPAC. That masses of classified information come to AIPAC and Israel continually, that Washington’s major pro-Israeli lobbying group receives it approvingly, that it praises and financially rewards those who handle and channel it. Another former AIPAC employee, Douglas Broomfield, who was chief lobbyist says, AIPAC is not a classified information bazar, rather, a covert foreign agent for governments bent on thwarting US brokered peace deals. This makes them, Duff writes, “suspect #1 for being the source of Wikileaks.” Wikileaks are nothing but “the scraps, the chickenfeed, left over from a major spy organization that accessed real secrets, nuclear weapons, war plans.” He adds, Wikileaks will never release any of the highest number of classified White Papers to have been written in the Pentagon, `How Israel is Endangering the United States.’

Assange’s role model for world leader is… Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister. Speaking of him approvingly, Assange said, “leaders should speak in public like they do in private whenever they can.” Netanyahu returned the compliment, “Israel has not been damaged at all by the WikiLeaks publication.”

Not only is consent manufactured, in the present world, dissent too, is manufactured. There have been color `revolutions,’ courtesy of billionaire George Soros, and now, we have the lone ranger resurrected, suitable to fit the needs of a technocratic age: a whistle-blowing, crusading truth-seeker, hacking computers to `out’ deceptions in the high echelons of world power. Welcome to the dis-information highway.

Published in New Age Monday December 6 2010

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