Saturday, December 24, 2011

New spying claim against Julian Assange

I believe this story is of historic importance insofar as the media is not an impassive observer of the Assange/Wikileaks/Manning case. The story is blocked by Murdoch paywalls but I am making it available on my blog.

(BTW you can easily avoid the Murdoch Australian paywall by googling the headline and then clicking on the result).
New spying claim against Julian Assange

by: Catherine Philp
From: The Times
December 24, 2011 8:24PM


JULIAN Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, could face espionage charges in the United States.

The development comes after prosecutors revealed evidence of his apparent role in the theft of secret military documents.

Lawyers in the Bradley Manning case have produced logs of online chats that claim to show Mr Assange coaching the young private on how to break passwords to gain access to military computer networks anonymously.

The logs are the first evidence that the US Government has revealed alleging that Mr Assange played an active role in helping Private Manning to remove and transmit classified files from a top-secret facility in Iraq, laying him open to criminal charges in the US.

The US Justice Department opened a joint investigation with the Pentagon last year into possible criminal proceedings against Mr Assange and a federal grand jury is hearing evidence in closed court to determine what, if any charges, could be brought.
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Mr Assange, 40, has denied direct contact with Private Manning and refused to comment on whether he was the source of the leak. Legal experts have argued that the Government would struggle to prosecute Mr Assange for espionage if he was only a passive recipient of information.

Lawyers for Mr Assange said they believed that the evidence produced in the military court on Thursday would form the basis of the Government's case. Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Mr Assange, said that the evidence "gives us a very clear indication that the US Government intends to prosecute Julian Assange and potentially others associated with WikiLeaks".

Experts said the most obvious charge stemming from the logs was conspiracy to commit espionage.Private Manning, 24, has been charged with the same offence, along with 21 others, including conspiracy to aid the enemy, which carries the death penalty, although prosecutors say they are seeking only a life sentence.

Military prosecutors presented evidence last week that Private Manning had uploaded more than 700,000 stolen documents to WikiLeaks but saved the revelations of Mr Assange's involvement until closing arguments.

The 60-minute presentation included snippets of 15 pages of online chats between "Nobody", one of Manning's online aliases, and "Nathaniel Frank", which prosecutors say they can prove was an alias for Mr Assange.

One chat log from March 8, 2010, purports to show Private Manning and Mr Assange in live conversation as Private Manning uploaded documents about Guantanamo Bay detainees:Nobody: Anyway I'm throwing everything I got on JTF-GTMO at you now ... should take a while to get up though.Nathaniel Frank: OK, great.Nobody: Uploaded about 36 pct.Nathaniel Frank: ETA?Nobody: 11-12 hours, guessing since it's been going 6 already.In another chat, Manning asked for help in cracking the password on his classified computer so that he could log in anonymously. He asked "Frank" if he had experience cracking such "hash" codes. "Frank" replied yes, they had "rainbow tables" for doing that.

Even Private Manning's lawyers appear to have been stunned by the scale of the evidence against him. Their case this week focused on his confused state of mind and weak security at his workplace. David Coombs, his lawyer, urged prosecutors to drop the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

One of Mr Assange's supporters, Daniel Ellsberg, warned that this plea might be a tactic to strike a deal for Private Manning to testify against Mr Assange.

"What the defence lawyer suggested is to get a plea bargain that would incriminate Assange," he said. Vaughan Smith, the journalist who until last week was putting the WikiLeaks founder up at his Suffolk home, said that the prosecutors must first prove that Assange was the collaborator behind the transcripts.

"There has never been, in any of my dealings with Julian, any suggestion he had any form of contact with this man," he said.

Mr Assange is on bail pending an appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex crime allegations.

The Times

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Did You Know?

This is the text from my recent "Did You Know?" video. You can see the video here. Please check out all the other videos in the series. Thanks to all involved!
My name is Gary Lord. I live on the Gold Coast with my wife and three kids, and I am just one of many WikiLeaks volunteers around the world. I contribute to the WikiLeaks Central and WikiLeaks Forum websites, and I also support WikiLeaks on Twitter and on my blog.

So... WHY do I support WikiLeaks and Julian Assange?

To use an Americanism, I think it's a game-changer. And it comes at a critical juncture in our history.

Our governments are becoming increasingly unaccountable. Big Business lobbies bothsides of the corridors in Canberra. And our media have been failing in their duty to inform us about critically important issues.

I believe WikiLeaks can change this.

The technology now exists for people around the globe - people like you and me - to communicate, to share information, and to see the truth for ourselves.

The question now is how that technology will be used. Will we use it to open up our governments, to ensure that our decision-making processes are more transparent, and to build a better world for our children?

Or will we watch in silence as our governments turn that same technology against us, citing our own security as justification?

For example, let's look at Iraq. We were told that Iraq had - or was on the verge of acquiring - deadly weapons of Mass Destruction. Millions of Iraqis are now dead, wounded or displaced.

It was obvious to anybody paying attention that the intelligence used to justify that invasion was being manipulated. But our governments and the media ridiculed such claims as "Conspiracy Theories". Those who spoke up were silenced.

Now the real conspiracy has been exposed. But who has been held accountable for this disaster?

Nobody.

Why are we still in Afghanistan?

80% of Australians don't want to be there, but our two major parties both refuse to even consider withdrawing troops. Why is that? Julia Gillard can't even give us a coherent answer.

But we all know the truth - we are there because the USA is there. And now we are getting more US troops in Darwin. We are becoming the 51st State.

How do we Australians feel about that? How do we feel about our government's failure to support Palestinians at the UN?

Do we even get a say in these decisions?

No.

What about Global Warming?

Another area where government and the media have conspired to hide critically important facts, at the behest of Big Business. The facts were always there, for anybody with the time to look.

But who has the time to trawl through scientific documents and centuries of climate records?

That's not your job, is it? That's what our government and our media are supposed to do. Right?

What about the Global Financial Crisis? How on Earth did that happen?

Once again, Big Business greed has run out of control, government accountability has been side-passed, and the media has remained largely silent.

Who is accountable? Nobody.

And yet... who pays for all these failures? You and me. The taxpayers.

It doesn't have to be this way.

WikiLeaks can change things, if we can only support them.

I believe that we need to ASSIGN AN ECONOMIC VALUE TO THE TRUTH.

The markets won't do that, because they like to manipulate the truth for profits.

Our governments won't do that, because they are beholden to Big Business.

And the media won't do that because - as we have seen - they have also been co-opted.

So it's up to us, ordinary people like you and me.

By supporting WikiLeaks, we can show OUR support for the TRUTH. And in turn, WikiLeaks can continue to reveal truths that our governments and their Big Business backers might prefer to hide.

Please do whatever you can to support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks at this critical time.

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Suggested Text For Australian Politicians

We have very little time left. Please contact your local Federal MP and Australian Senators to demand they speak up NOW for Julian Assange.

To submit a message to your Federal MP, please click here (includes a link to find your electorate if needed).

To contact a Senator, click here.

Click here to contact Federal MPs on Twitter. Click here to contact Senators on Twitter.

Please feel free to use the following text:
Dear [insert name here]

I am writing to request that you urgently speak up on behalf of an Australian citizen abroad whose life is in imminent danger.

This man has been held under arrest for over a year but still has not been charged. The bizarre accusations made against him - even if true - are not considered criminal offences in any other country. And yet he faces solitary confinement, a farcically politicized court process, and likely rendition to an illegal prison gulag such as Guantanamo Bay.

The man's name is Julian Paul Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.

It is criminally negligent of the Australian government to have ignored Mr Assange's plight for so long. Worse yet, the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, publicly accused Mr Assange of illegal activity!

Even when an AFP investigation found him innocent, Ms Gillard failed to properly retract her prejudicial statement and render Mr Assange the full support of Australian diplomats.

What are we ordinary Australians to make of this? If YOU, our elected leaders, want us to respect the rule of law, then surely you should set an example by standing up for the law yourselves.

We live in interesting times, and the world is watching. A critical UK Supreme Court decision is due in early 2012. Australia must insist that Mr Assange is treated fairly abroad, and our government must assure him that it is safe for him to come home once his European legal issues are resolved.

Please speak up now for truth and justice. Please support Julian Assange.

For more information on this case, please visit www.swedenversusassange.com.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

@x7o on CharlieBeckett's #LSEwikiLeaks talk

Charlie Beckett gave a talk to promote his new book. Twitterer @x7o went along and tweeted all the following using the #LSEwikileaks hashtag. I have cut-pasted them here in chronological order for readability.


Commencing #timeslip #livetweet of talk by Charlie Beckett.

Beckett is, in many ways, more fair about the implications of WL than MSM is typically. Believes it is transformative.

Nevertheless, rhetorically bound to appeal to audience by reference to common slurs on the Assange in order to make point.

Effect of this is to pass over - at least in talk - some of the more important lessons of WL.

What we get, then, is a homogenized version of WL's value. The language is conciliatory, and sues for superficial balance.

Balance, here, means failing to fight battles on lines that the 'liberal' UK media have staked out. Numerous falsehoods.

The sense that these are battles he feels are not worth fighting, if only to impart some of the urgency of WL to media.

Beckett introduced by Sonia Livingstone. He is head of LSE POLIS think tank.

He begins by relating a bike accident that happened yesterday. Cheap shot that Assange might have said it was the CIA.

Usual self-satisfied chuckles from older throats. Implied consensus among audience is that Assange is a wacko paranoiac.

That this is a safe jibe is telling. Media smear largely successful in marginalizing Assange as silly.

Now Beckett does a quick audience poll. Raise hands who is a "supporter" of WL. Perhaps 15% of audience raises hand. Young.

Now he asks, who is an opponent of WL? Nobody raises hand. Nervous amusement among audience.

Beckett explains, though he worked as a BBC journalist, he would never describe himself as a supporter of a media organization.

"Support" of a media organization suggests partisanship, and is a category error in approach to a media org, he suggests.

He says that the prevalence of "support" for a media org, WL, suggests the extent to which media is changed by WL.

He might have remarked, but doesn't, about how WL does not deny it is - besides a press org - dedicated to pursuit of justice.

"Everyone has their own Wikileaks" he says. This is possible, because it is dynamic and vague in form. Changes a lot.

Beckett: Wikileaks has a history, and has changed a lot over its history, and is therefore hard to put a shape on.

Wikileaks, he says, is not a wiki, and never was. This is not true. It was a user-edited wiki in the beginning.

Users, he says, have no control over what happens. It is a closed system. Untransparent. Little interactivity with site.

Beckett: It has no home, being transnational. Virtually immune to conventional sanctions. Tax, regulation, unaccaountable.

Beckett: Wikileaks is journalism.

Beckett: Wikileaks is, in many ways, very traditional journalism, contrary to how many press orgs have tried to position it.

He says that the idea of leaks is something that goes back to 17th century pamphleteering. "nothing new here."

The idea that it might have positive political commitments is also nothing new. There are plenty of good forebears here.

Furthermore, the fact that it has a personality at its centre is not new. Many press figures are charismatic, crazy, he says.

Assange, he says, put himself at the centre of WL deliberately. But, he says, we must look beyond ego. Appeal to narrative.

Here, we can see an appeal to the common belief inculcated by Guardian that WL is an ego trip for Assange.

Anyway, Beckett says that there is nothing new about eccentricity. What is important is bigger than this.

As a source, editor and publisher of information, Wikileaks is a news organization uncontroversially, says Beckett.

Wikileaks, though, he thinks, is important for what it tells us about the media we have. Important case study.

Wikileaks exposes a battleground over which will be won the future of news media, thinks Beckett.

So why does it matter, he asks? First, we must look at WL's history. He gives us a nutshell history.

His nutshell history is somewhat accurate, but glosses over the intellectual history of the organization.

The theoretical underpinnings of the WL project, well documented, are telescoped into a psychoanalytic tale about Assange.

We hear about how Assange "perceived" injustice during his hacking days, over which he "had a lot of anger."

In the abstract, it sounds positively teenaged and inchoate. Theoretical fine points of secrecy theory and cypherpunks mute.

Various quiet approving hums in the theatre, as Wikileaks' history reduced to the revenge fantasy of a teenage insurgent.

Assange, we learn from Beckett, didn't really care about transparency. He wanted to use disclosure to fight for justice.

The mention of 'justice' brings a grunt from behind me. Smirks. Easy not to take seriously the way it was presented.

Beckett neglects to characterize this rather sophisticated stance in the way Wikileaks does, which is more representative:

Assange says: "The cause is justice, the method is transparency, but we do not put the method before the cause."

Beckett claims that, before the US leaks, Wikileaks was not very well known or popular.

He gives credit where it is due, and says that WL did some great work, in Kenya, while diminishing its significance somewhat.

No mention of the Kaupthing episode in Iceland. No mention of the Trafigura case in UK, or the Nadhmi Auchi censorships.

As a counterpoint to the Kenya case he invokes the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority disclosure. Intended comic banality.

Please see Assange's comments on this issue pursuant to this Aftergood post: fas.org/blog/secrecy/2…

There is the tone of a pat on the head to the relation of the Kenya work.

Anyhow, we are told, Wikileaks was ignored until Collateral Murder came along. (false)

Beckett shows us some clips of Collateral Murder. The first clip is from the unedited film. We see the van being torn apart.

The helicopter gunner remarks "nice."

Now, Beckett plays a segment from the edited film, as the men cross the road before being fired upon.

The heli crew false positive the camera equipment as weapons. We also see that some of the men carry possible weapons.

End of footage. Beckett remarks, the CM video shows the reality of modern war. He could be quoting Assange in his praise here.

It was shocking, it was very newsworthy, it was deeply troubling.

But, says Beckett, the edited version was edited. It was editorialized. It was prefaced with an Orwell quote.

There was a clearly intended interpretation to this version of the video. WL were encouraging a reading. Distortion of a sort.

Beckett is clear: This is not unusual. This is *what conventional journalists do.*

Beckett is not one who sees the editorializing as a sinister feature, as many media orgs pretended to.

Instead, Beckett sees editorializing as exercise of a new faculty by WL, bringing it more in line with classical journalism.

WL were manipulating material to make a strong case, he says. Quick to say, unlike most MSM, original material given too.

CM, says Beckett, failed to have the intended effect on the world. Mostly ignored by US media. No change in FORPOL.

Beckett: Nevertheless, it proved that WL were able to do something that the MSM could not do, or had not been willing to do.

He does not mention the possible suppression of the same footage by the WaPo, or David Finkel.

The subsequent leaks, however, says Beckett, got the notice that "Assange wanted." Again, reduced to crusade of one man.

The leaks WL brought out in 2010 were dream material for any journalist. Doesn't matter they were not top secret. Valuable.

WL, he says, realized they could only have the impact they wanted if they collaborated with the MSM for skill, brand, audience

Beckett: Assange later claimed it was a 'tactical alliance' but this is to belie how much WL needed MSM.

The materials were not "dumped" he says. A common media slogan. They were trickled, overseen, and collated carefully.

There was, says Beckett, a struggle for control over this process. Recriminations. Then, an uncontrolled release.

Beckett seems to implicitly place the blame for the uncontrolled release on WL, instead of on David Leigh.

He claims there were different ethical standards for risk taken. JA, he claims, was willing to risk more than the MSM.

He says all the journalists he has talked to would be prepared to work with WL again, if they had something new.

He believes that WL probably would do the same.

He calls the use of MSM by WL a "network exploit." To tap into immunity, cheapness, scale of publishing, etc.

Beckett: WL expoited the network of MSM, bequeathing skill, distribution, brand, reputation, etc.

This, he claims, exemplifies what Chadwick calls "the networked media." Includes source, activists, MSM and active audience.

"from an infographic in the new york times, right down to a tweet from a wikileaks supporter." I'll take the latter, frankly.

Wikileaks was so effective, claims Beckett, that it came under attack from all sides.

Governments sought to marginalize WL and destroy it. Journalists accused it of breaking sacred ethical codes.

Most serious, says Beckett, is the financial blockade by corporations controlling financial infrastructure.

This is most serious, says Beckett. All over the world, these actions are being used by regimes to justify their own actions.

The allegations surface from the world's tyrants that the West is no more open or free, and it is hard to respond robustly.

Freedom of expression, says Beckett, is not an absolute right. Must show that they are responsible.

To deserve freedom of expression, he seems to say, one must show that one is prepared to be responsible.

Wikileaks, he claims, demonstrated it was not responsible.

He seems to lay the Leigh's disclosure of the password for Cablegate entirely at WL's hands.

He claims Wikileaks had no understanding of the cause and effect of its actions.

He claims Wikileaks was not accountable.

He claims that Wikileaks had no sense of moral accountability.

He claims Wikileaks, as it is, is unsustainable and irresponsible.

This said, he hopes WL does not die, though it is severely endangered. He jokes that he needs something to write books about.

He asks, is not the real revolution happening elsewhere, somewhere quieter?

He asks, perhaps Mark Zuckerberg is the real revolutionary? Too little disbelief in audience that he suggests this, frankly.

He links Facebook to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

Just as an aside, Mark Zuckerberg once said this:

""a squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant right now than people dying in africa" - arab spring architect.

Mark Zuckerberg is a banal moron who accidentally designed the Stasi dream machine. He is as far from revolutionary as can be.

END ASIDE

Beckett goes on for a bit about the social movements enabled by the internet. "not going to end capitalism overnight."

Aftermath of Wikileaks has been the transformation of the closed press to become more open, articulate to internet.

Something that must be addressed, he says, is public skepticism about the MSM and the political establishment.

:The new era of citizen journalism has disintermediated world events, and provoked distrust of establishment channels.

The old order, he claims, cannot be reasserted. Wikileaks has changed the landscape forever. Harbinger of greater change.

The problem is not a problem of business model. It is a problem of a changing, more complex world.

Beckett thinks that that complexity is good, because there lies in it the potential for greater understanding and better media

Journalism, he says, is about holding power to account. In this, the role of outsider journalism will become more crucial.

He believes that there is a place for both the outsider (Assange) and the Oxford liberals (Rusbridger.)

Pardon me: Oxbridge.

What we have seen is a series of challenges to the status quo. Failings of MSM exposed. Mediation of power exposed.

Beckett claims that the partisan approach to judging the saga has prevented people from learning from it.

Taking notice of what WL signifies is more important than each little battle, he claims.

We must, he says, ignore Assange's ego. (Once again, appealing to the ego story.) Moral censure besides the point.

Beckett: Secrecy is still the biggest threat. Complexity is welcome. WL is networked media. We need it more than ever.

Just to summarize, I think Beckett is quite sympathetic, but straddles an uncomfortable fence for much of the time.

He's quite fair about the impact of Wikileaks' work, and more cognizant of the criticisms of MSM that WL raises.

He seems to feel beholden to now established "wisdom" about Assange's motivations and WL's ethical record.

Perhaps, in his book, he engages more explicitly with the theoretical basis for WL. That is interesting.

I speak here of "Conspiracy as Governance" and related writings.

On the face of it, the lecture seemed to advocate a rather tepid defense of WL ultimately.

Beckett is severely critical of financial blockade, but the impression is that it's more on principle. Which is fine, really.

He believes WL is important, not in itself, but because of what we can learn from it.

This fits in well with the artificial UK consensus that WL is a thing of the past, and that that's sort of as it should be.

He very much preferred the Guardian's version of events on how the unredacted cablegate was disclosed.

He actually recommended the Guardian's account of this to a questioner, with only a slight caveat about partiality.

He also recommended the MoreFour documentary as an account of same. (haven't seen it.)

I feel that the deeper significance of Wikileaks was passed over.


@x7o also posted his phone-typed notes from the post-speech Q&A session here: http://t.co/cU5pbnO8

Thanks to @x7o for this! Beckett says he will post a podcast later, but I think this analysis is probably more useful. I hope @CharlieBeckett reads it and ponders his failings.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Guardian's Vendetta Against Julian Assange

My latest now posted at WikiLeaks Central: http://wlcentral.org/node/2363

So anyone wanna speculate about the Guardian's agenda here? I find it bizarre that a paper which does so much great work in other areas should take such an aggressive line against Assange, and I think it exposes an editorial agenda.

So what IS their agenda? I don't think it's as simple as a "Jewish conspiracy" - but it's clearly more than just a personality issue.

Rusbridger wants to destroy WikiLeaks. Why?

PS: Interestingly, I was hoping to post this story at ABC Online's The Drum news/opinion site, where I have been 3x published previously. The editor expressed interest in the idea but didn't reply to my emails of tweets for 4 days after I sent him the story. Funny that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where's Barry on #DAY4JA?

Julian Assange's mother Christine has asked Australians not to celebrate Obama's visit next Wed/Thurs 16/17th November, but to remember her son. Plan your protest now! The following itinerary is from AAP:

Obama is due to arrive in Australia next Wednesday afternoon.

He will be welcomed by Governor-General Quentin Bryce before heading into a formal meeting with Ms Gillard at Parliament House, followed by a joint press conference.

Ms Gillard will then host Mr Obama at a formal dinner where he will make some remarks about the US-Australia alliance.

Mr Obama will begin Thursday by laying a wreath at the Australian War Memorial before meeting briefly with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

The US president will deliver his speech to a special joint sitting of parliamentarians at about 10.15am.

After the address, Ms Gillard will take Mr Obama to visit a local primary school.

Mr Obama will then greet US embassy staff before flying to Darwin, arriving about 4pm local time.

He will lay a wreath at a memorial to the USS Peary - sunk in Darwin Harbour by the Japanese in 1942 - before joining Ms Gillard at a local military base.

It is believed Mr Obama may use the Darwin leg of the visit to announce a boost in America's military presence in northern Australia.

Mr Obama also will meet local leaders - including some Aboriginal representatives - before flying out to Bali for the East Asia Summit.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Where Now, WikiLeaks?

WikiLeaks has reached a fork in the road. On one side, supporters are encouraged by the global Occupy Wall Street protests, which were largely inspired by the Arab Spring protests, which in turn were at least partly inspired by WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks revelations have also helped force changes to government policies, including Obama's decision to withdraw US troops from Iraq. Courage is contagious, especially when there are tangible results on display.

But at the same time, the organisation faces a funding crisis. Financial support has clearly been damaged by the relentless media assaults on WikiLeaks, which have been focussed on the character assassination of Julian Assange. Too many people say they support WikiLeaks but don't like Julian Assange. Even keen WikiLeaks supporters have been brain-washed by endless media attacks on the enigmatic Australian.

But perhaps the confusion is understandable: the attacks have been relentless, and responses never seem to get the same coverage as the accusations. So let's take a moment to set a few things straight.


Let's Talk About Julian


As I write, Assange remains under house arrest, awaiting a UK court decision on moves to extradite him for questioning in Sweden. HE STILL HAS NOT BEEN CHARGED WITH A SINGLE CRIME IN ANY COUNTRY. This hasn't stopped global media spreading the lie that "Assange has been charged with rape". This is a smear that supporters should challenge loudly whenever they see it. The facts are available for anyone who is seriously interested.

Similarly, a single conviction for non-malicious hacking over 20 years ago has produced a recurring meme that Assange is "the world's greatest hacker." This meme has incensed some self-professed hackers to the point where they turned against WikiLeaks (just as Arab Spring demonstrators were earlier incited to turn against Assange because he supposedly claimed credit for revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt - another lie). The Anonymous hackers revelled in Assange's recent #OccupyLSX admission that he owes them a debt of gratitude. Hey, he even threw lollies into the crowd! Do you still think he doesn't appreciate you?

So why doesn't Assange respond to such criticism more rapidly and effectively? Perhaps he assumes the rest of us should be able to see it for what it is: petty jealousy amplified into media smears. Of perhaps he just has a hell of a lot of more important things to deal with.

Legal issues have taken a serious toll on Assange's time and funds. No doubt this is by design: the wheels of justice move tortuously slowly for some (much faster for others). Here's another lie: some people have criticized Assange for using WikiLeaks donations to support his own personal legal battles. Not true. Assange has denied it, WikiLeaks has denied it, and those making the accusation have never produced any proof. And yet the rumours persists, a testament, as Assange recently explained, to the power of libel.

Of course, disinterested observers have the right to make up their own minds about such accusations. You might think: "Where there's smoke there's fire", right? But how would YOU feel if the same logic were applied to malicious stories about YOU? Surely anyone making such an accusation bears a burden of proof - and if they cannot prove it, then it's just baseless slander. Right?

Several of these unsubstantiated attacks have come from "WikiLeaks insiders". Daniel Domscheit-Berg once shared a stage with Julian Assange, so the media were happy to treat him as an equal partner in WikiLeaks. In fact he was treated as much more than equal - while the media falsely blamed Assange for being the first to release the full, unredacted Cablegate treasure trove, they ignored Domsheit-Berg's interview with German media organisation Freitag, which basically told the world where to find the encrypted file and password. While the media pored over Assange's motivations for embarrassing the US government, they never asked if Domsheit-Berg might be dragging WikiLeaks down in order to promote his own alternative project.

An entire book could be devoted to dissecting media attacks from the likes of The Guardian's blindly egotistical editor David Leigh, the similarly afflicted Heather Brooks, or the New York Times' pathetic former editor Bill Keller. Wherever possible, these self-inflated journalists have cleverly amplified certain aspects of WikiLeaks as part of their relentless character assassination of Assange. Let's just take one under-examined example...


Let's Talk About Israel Shamir


Former WikiLeaks insider James Ball, now on The Guardian's payroll, wrote an article that smeared Assange by association with a little-known independent journalist named Israel Shamir, whom Ball labelled "anti-Semitic". Similar allegations were published in David Leigh's WikiLeaks book (Ball was presumably the source for Leigh's chapter on this) and an excerpt from that book was published in The Guardian newspaper. So that's three times The Guardian has published the same "anti-Semitic" accusations. Oh, wait, no - make that four.

(According to Godwin's Law, anyone who invokes Hitler automatically renders their argument nonsensical. Let us declare a similar Law for the term "anti-Semite", which is now purposefully wielded to stigmatise people and shut down discussion. It has even become a favoured tool of state. But I digress.)

Ball suggested that Shamir gave unredacted US cables to the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, who then used that information to crack down on dissenters. Ball's only proof for this is that Shamir was "seen leaving the interior ministry of Belarus". So in fact there is no proof that Israel Shamir gave cables to anyone, least of all Lukashenko.

In the following days:

- Luvashenko said he wanted to see a Belarussian version of WikiLeaks.
- a Belarus state-owned media organisation announced that they would be publishing stories based on the WikiLeaks cables, and
- Shamir published a bizarre article about how nice life is in post-Soviet Belarus.

Critics of Assange interpreted all this as proof that Shamir had given the cables to Luvashenko, and immediately concluded that Assange's stewardship of WikiLeaks was therefore suspect. Even the Index on Censorship jumped on the bandwagon.

Pressured to respond, what could WikiLeaks say? They demanded proof that the cables had been handed over. Of course nobody could supply such proof. The spotlight fell on Shamir, who insisted that he never gave anybody the unredacted cables, and was only working with the Belarus media to publish his own Cablegate stories. But who is going to trust the word of a man who has just been widely branded a notorious "anti-Semite"? This is how the smear game works.

So what kind of man is Israel Shamir? He is an independent journalist who has worked with reputable organisations like the BBC and Haaretz. He was given the same level of access to a restricted set of WikiLeaks cables as other respected journalists like Australia's Phillip Dorling. Shamir never "worked for WikiLeaks" - that's another widespread lie - and he was never "paid by WikiLeaks" - another lie.

So what about the "anti-Semitism" allegations? I wonder how many people bothered to research them before passing judgement? How many bothered to read Shamir's own explanation of his views:
Naturally, as a son of Jewish parents and a man living in the Jewish state and deeply and intimately involved with Jewish culture, I harbour no hate to a Jew because he is a Jew. I doubt many people do. However I did and do criticise various aspects of Jewish Weltanschauung like so many Jewish and Christian thinkers before me, or even more so for I witnessed crimes of the Jewish state that originated in this worldview...

As for the accusation of “Holocaust denial”, my family lost too many of its sons and daughters for me to deny the facts of Jewish tragedy, but I do deny its religious salvific significance implied in the very term ‘Holocaust’; I do deny its metaphysical uniqueness, I do deny the morbid cult of Holocaust and I think every God-fearing man, a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim should reject it as Abraham rejected and smashed idols...

I am not offended easily by morons. However, this ‘denier’ rhetoric keeps many of my erstwhile associates at arm’s length; no one likes being labelled, and I do not wish these labels to be rubbed off onto my friends, especially those like Julian Assange who never were interested in the subject. My Zionist opponents are obsessed with race and holocausts; I am not.
Agree or disagree with Shamir's views, he is entitled to them. Personally, I find no evidence of "anti-Semitism" in his writings. But whatever your views on Shamir, critics should be careful to damn Assange by association with him. Didn't Assange also "associate" with David Leigh, James Ball, Heather Brooks and Bill Keller? Should WikiLeaks also be damned for THEIR reprehensible behaviour?

Enough. You can read more about Wikileaks, Shamir and The Guardian's allegations here and here and here if you are interested. This just one small part a relentless, co-ordinated media campaign to smear Assange's character, ridicule his personality, portray WikiLeaks as a dangerous organisation, and thereby alienate any existing or potential followers.

If you are wondering why The Guardian, of all papers, is so closely involved in this smear attack, I recommend this article. It's all about credibility and target audiences.


So What Now?


Julian Assange is not the Messiah, but nor is he the evil Bond villain the media portray. Assange is only human, and WikiLeaks is doing a brilliant job under very adverse conditions. If you can see through the media's orchestrated attacks on WikiLeaks, then you have to ask yourself why those attacks keep coming - on whose behalf are they being orchestrated? Who controls the editors who drive this agenda?

Wikileaks has laid bare the naked corruption of our ruling elites and their media enablers. At a time when our environment and global economies are critically in need of radical change, the genii of revolutionary thought is suddenly out of the bottle. Meanwhile, authorities are fighting a losing game, at ever greater expense to taxpayers and their own credibility, in trying to shut down such whistle-blowing sites, organisations and associated social movements.

WikiLeaks has proved that the technology now exists whereby anyone can safely and anonymously disclose information. Whistle-blowers no longer need to fear personal recriminations, unless they send information carelessly or through an untrustworthy site. And despite welcome competition from many areas (and despite ridiculous smear attacks blaming Julian Assange for Bradley Manning's incarceration) WikiLeaks remains the single most trusted site for such leaks.

In the end, there are only two things now stopping WikiLeaks from powering ahead, even if Julian Assange is extradited and imprisoned. The first problem is the online dropbox, which was disabled when "The Architect" followed Domscheit-Berg out the door. Assange has said he hopes to have the dropbox restored in a few more months. But the second and more critical problem could derail that hope.

This is the dilemma faced by anyone wanting to fight for truth and justice in today's world - money. There was a time when those most valued by society were those who best cared for and protected others. But modern society does not place a proper financial value on transparency, honesty and courageous truth-telling, even though corporate-sponsored lies and propaganda are destroying our lives. We need to supply that value ourselves.

Imagine for a moment a future where both WikiLeaks and the #Occupy movement have been crushed, where the Internet is no longer freely available to all, where Julian Assange languishes in a Guantanamo Bay cell, where his supporters have been silenced or imprisoned. Is that the kind of world we want to bequeath to our children?

"Even if WikiLeaks is destroyed, other people have been inspired by our work and they will continue to carry the flame,” Assange said recently. Perhaps that is true. I don't know.

All I know is that if we can stay strong, build our networks of support, and remain united in our desire for justice, there is no stopping us. Ever.

PLEASE SUPPORT WIKILEAKS!

UPDATE 1: Since publishing this post I have had a lengthy Twitter chat with James Ball @jamesrbuk and he still cannot provide any clear evidence of "anti-Semitism" from Israel Shamir.

UPDATE 2: Yet another "anti-Semitic" smear by association in the Guardian today, this time by the "culture editor" of Sweden's Expressen newspaper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/02/assange-hero-zero-swedes-pitiable

UPDATE 3: Unbelievable. Yet ANOTHER smear printed in The Guardian by James Ball with the same tired allegations. The Guardian has jumped the shark here, we should all have a good think about the reasons for that.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reasons Why WikiLeaks Will Win The Nobel Prize For Peace (OK, Not This Year!)

1. Un-missable chance for Norway to make Sweden look bad. LOL!

2. Supporting the release of CableGate, the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War logs and the Collateral Murder video surely makes up for giving the Nobel to U.S. President Obama (worst decision evuh?).

3. Nobel Prize chairman's own comments today:
"This year's prize will be important, I think it will be well-received."

"We saw many of the (Arab Spring) actors at the time, but that doesn't mean that the prize goes in that direction, because there are many other positive developments in the world," he said.

"The most positive development will get the prize," Jagland said.

"So I'm a little bit surprised that it has not been already seen by many commentators and experts and all this because for me it's obvious."

"Not necessarily a big name, but a big mission — something important for the world."

"For me and the committee, I think it's quite obvious if you look at the world today and see what is happening out there," he said. "What are the major forces pushing the world in the right direction?"

4. Timing. Right now, WikiLeaks badly needs the money, increased public support, and subsequent political "capitol" this will bring. The award could keep WikiLeaks alive (and Julian Assange out of jail).

5. WikiLeaks did not create the Arab Spring (and JA never claimed that it did). But just like Facebook and Twitter, it HELPED those revolutions succeed. An award to WikiLeaks also acknowledges such movements around the world, including #OccupyWallStreet.

6. Geography. For better or worse, most Nobel winners are from Western countries. Not so surprising when those giving the award are Europeans.

UPDATE! 7. A Swedish writer just won the Literature prize - now there's even less risk of rightwing extremist Swedish political backlash if they give the Peace Prize to WikiLeaks.

What else? Add your own reasons in the comments!

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Response To Charlie Beckett

When I get really, really, REALLY pissed off with yet another Assange-bashing load of drivel, I wade into the comments:
You say "THEY are out to get" Assange then you join the hunt. You say "the tone of this accidental memoir speaks volumes about the personality of the man" and yet the tone of this article speaks volumes about yourself. You say the latest book "should be treated with caution as evidence" but then you use it as evidence for your character assassination of Assange.

You say this book "gives us the voice of the man" without mentioning that Assange himself did not want it published. In fact he was so unhappy with it that he walked away from the deal, declaring: "All memoir is prostitution".

You say Assange's "world-view is extremely simplistic" and "he has no sense of how people or institutions actually work". You do not even bother trying to justify such a shallow ad hominem attack.

What's strange is that your Slideshare praises WikiLeaks for "exposing the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out". How's that possible without understanding "how people or institutions actually work"? Assange just got lucky, did he?

You say Assange has "no room left for moral scruples, tactical considerations or accountability". In fact, Assange's commitment to Truth is more moral than any successful modern journalist's realpolitik, his tactical considerations have brought WikiLeaks to where it is today, and he faces accountability on all sides - from ankle bracelet checks at the local police station to ridicule in the court of public opinion - every day.

You say he "blunders into Africa, then the Middle East with limited knowledge and almost no self-awareness". Did you know he once lived in Cairo at the house of a former Miss Egypt? Are you going to deny the influence of WikiLeaks on the Arab Spring revolutions? Even those who have complained that WikiLeaks was given too much credit do not pretend that it was not a powerful motivating force.

ENOUGH! I am only halfway through destroying your article. Why should I bother with the rest?

The real question here is Charlie Beckett's agenda.


What's especially pathetic is that Beckett published his nonsense on HuffPo but then posted a different version of his article (on the POLIS site, where I left my comment) after criticism from The Guardian's David Leigh.

And this is a guy who pretends to be a WikiLeaks supporter? Hmmnn.

Seems to me a lot of similar people are suddenly changing their tunes. I cant help wondering if a fair bit of money is not being thrown around, ahead of the UK extradition decision, with a US Grand Jury still on Julian Assange's case.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thoughts On Assange And Asperger's

I am not a psychologist and I've never met Julian Assange, so I have no idea whether he has Asperger's Syndrome or not. But it's something I have pondered for some time. After many years working with computer programmers and testers (statistically the most popular job for "Aspies"), I was forced to learn more about the condition when my teenage boy's behaviour became maddeningly difficult to understand. Perhaps that explains why I've been less inclined than others to criticise Assange's supposedly "erratic" behaviour.

The enigmatic Australian is clearly not severely afflicted. But interminable misunderstandings with business partners and colleagues, a sometimes monotone voice, and the occasional social faux pas are typical "Aspie" traits. So too are Assange's unflinching determination, his precise, logical thinking, his apparent lack of fear when confronting very powerful enemies, and even his quirky sense of humour.

In a new book being touted as his "unauthorised autobiography", Assange reportedly makes this half-hearted admission:
"I was beginning to get the hacker's disease: no sleep, bottomless curiosity, single-mindedness, and an obsession with precision. Later, when I became well known, people would enjoy pointing out that I had Asperger's or else that I was dangling somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I don't want to spoil anyone's fun, so let's just say I am – all hackers are, and I would argue all men are a little bit autistic."
I tend to agree. If the human brain is a complex electrical wiring system, autism is a physical condition where a bunch of wires are not connected properly. Individuals with Asperger's are at the lower end of the autism spectrum, where only a few wires (typically connected with imagination and human interaction) are wrongly connected. Nature being what it is, I'm sure the perfect brain is as elusive as the perfect body.

Medical arguments over how to diagnose and treat Asperger's Syndrome are endless. It wasn't recognized as an official diagnosis in the US until 1994, and some still argue that it should be treated like any other autism spectrum disorder. Some regard it as a "disability" while others call it a "difference" which does not necessarily require treatment.

The problem is that every Asperger's sufferer exhibits different symptoms, and for every rule there are countless exceptions. Some Aspies are intensely sensitive to light, while others cannot stand contact with certain fabrics. Most, but not all, have problems with eye contact. People with high IQ's tend to be at the lower end of the spectrum, but then there are high IQ people like Dustin Hoffman's "Rain Man" at the other extreme. Low IQ cases can also exhibit only mild symptoms.

If medical experts are still struggling to understand the condition, legal minds are even further behind. Gerry Smith in HuffPo points out that several famous hackers have used Asperger's diagnoses as part of their defence in court, with mixed results. Cases of interest include:

- Ryan "Topiary" Cleary, alleged Lulzec hacker,
- Adrian Lamo, who was found guilty of hacking The New York Times in 2003, then became a friend of US government agents and eventually snitched on alleged Cablegate source Bradley Manning,
- Gary McKinnon, who was arrested for hacking NASA and the Pentagon in 2002 and has been fighting extradition from the UK to the US ever since.

Smith's article is titled: "Is Having Autism A Defense For Hacking?" It's a bit of a stupid question to anyone familiar with Asperger's, let alone full-scale autism. Surely any medical condition which affects a person's behaviour must be taken into account when judging that person's actions? The only question is the extent to which that condition influenced the action. And when it comes to Asperger's, that's sometimes a very difficult call to make.

For example, Julian Assange has been widely criticised for allegedly suggesting that names did not need to be redacted from leaked US cables because informants ‘deserved to die’. In the new book he reportedly explains:
"This is just nonsense: I said some people held that view, but that we would edit the documents to preserve their essential content and not throw harm in people’s way if we could avoid it... In actual fact, we had been burning the midnight oil on redactions from early on."
Is it possible that this much-hyped "bombshell" moment was just a lack of communication? Asperger's sufferers typically have difficulty picking up on non-verbal communication, non-literal language, and emotions. Is it possible Assange - if he does have Asperger's - didn't even realise that he needed to explain his words a bit better? I don't know, I wasn't in the room. But having experienced dozens of similarly baffling moments of miscommunication at home over the past few years, often leading to major dramas with my child, I am willing to keep an open mind.

In the end, it really shouldn't matter too much whether Julian Assange has Asperger's or not. We should judge others by their actions, preferably with a degree of generosity, and be particularly understanding where disabilities are concerned. We shouldn't condemn people whose personalities don't match our own. Likewise, journalists should not prejudice their reporting because they find Julian Assange "difficult", and the public should not base their opinions about WikiLeaks on such relentlessly hostile media attitudes.

But this is the world we live in. Even newspaper editors are human beings, and the dynamics of our daily lives are a swirl of colourful emotions and complex interactions. In such a world, which frequently leaves those with Aspberger's Syndrome wounded, angry and bewildered, is it possible for the cold, hard logic of Truth to prevail?

As a bit of an Aspie myself, I certainly hope so. The world needs WikiLeaks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Julian Assange book: a few more tidbits

From some random website:
Assange on being fair game for criticism:

From the start, of course, being a whistleblowing website, as they call us, certain people were keen to blow the whistle on us and that hasn’t changed. My response was, ‘Fair enough. We should eat our own dog food and see how it tastes.’ We were a group of committed, idealistic people who were trying to get something done. We could take what flak was on offer, but our basic position was strong and ethical, and I couldn’t see what rubbish could be thrown at us.


On the Collateral Murder video:

It is a famous document of our times. But when I first saw the footage, it wasn’t at all clear what was going on; the images were jagged and the sequence lacked drama and impact, though what it depicted, eventually, was truly devastating.


On his disappointment in how the media reacted to it.

The storm that blew up about that title was depressing and surprising, even given what I knew about the attitude of much of the Western media to the official US government line. So puffed up are they with a sense of their own importance that, on seeing the video, the first debate they wanted to have was about our title, not about the contents.


On claims that he said that informants named in the cables shouldn’t be protected because they deserved to die.

Another erroneous report emerged at this time that had me saying we weren’t responsible for the welfare of informants and that ‘they deserved to die’. This is just nonsense: I said some people held that view, but that we would edit the documents to preserve their essential content and not throw harm in people’s way if we could avoid it. … In actual fact, we had been burning the midnight oil on redactions from early on.

Julian Assange: 'I am – like all hackers – a little bit autistic'

From the UK Independent:
The thrill of getting into top-secret websites quickly became addictive for Julian Assange. Here he describes all-night hacking sessions, a cat-and-mouse game with a computer administrator and the arrival of the police...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

When I started hacking you were just one layer above the bare metal. You were typing into this wonderful emptiness, waiting to be populated with minds. A few of us were interested in projecting our thoughts into the computer to make it do something new. We began writing codes and we began cracking them, too.

The thrill was exorbitant. It was like the first time you beat an adult at chess. I'm amazed when I run into people who don't understand the pleasure in this, for it is the pleasure of creation itself, of understanding something intimately and making it new.

Every hacker has a handle, and I took the name Mendax, from Horace's Splendide Mendax – nobly untruthful, or perhaps "delightfully deceptive". I liked the idea that in hiding behind a false name, lying about who or where I was, a teenager in Melbourne, I could somehow speak more truthfully about my real identity. By now, the computer work was taking up a great deal of my time. I was beginning to get the hacker's disease: no sleep, bottomless curiosity, single-mindedness, and an obsession with precision. Later, when I became well known, people would enjoy pointing out that I had Asperger's or else that I was dangling somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I don't want to spoil anyone's fun, so let's just say I am – all hackers are, and I would argue all men are a little bit autistic. But in my mid- to late teens I could barely focus on anything that didn't seem to me like a major breakthrough.

It was certainly addictive. You'd dive down into a computer system – typically, for me at the time, the Pentagon's 8th Command Group computers. You'd take it over, projecting your mind all the way from your untidy bedroom to the entire system along the halls, and all the while you're learning to understand that system better than the people in Washington. It was like being able to teleport yourself into the interior of the Pentagon in order to walk around and take charge.

It sounds ridiculous, but we found our own keyholes into the inner workings of vast corporations, and we installed others, until we found we would be able to control their whole system. Turn off 20,000 phone lines in Buenos Aires? No problem. Give New Yorkers free telephone calls for an afternoon with no good reason? Do it.

You would bump into your adversaries inside the system. Like meeting strangers on a dark night. There were maybe 50 people in the world at that time, adversaries and brethren, equally part of an elite group of computer explorers, working at a high level. On a typical night, you would have, say, an Australian computer hacker talking to an Italian computer hacker inside the computer system of a French nuclear complex.

As experiences of young adulthood go, it was mindblowing. By day you'd be walking down the street to the supermarket, meeting people you know, people who have no sense of you as anything other than a slacker teenager, and you'd know you had spent last night knee-deep in Nasa. We were even able to hack into the police's systems. There we first came across a policeman called Sergeant Ken Day, who appeared to be obsessed with our activities – and who would later turn out to be our nemesis.

One night, as I explored Nortel's network, I realised I was being watched. It was 2.30am and a system administrator was on to us. I tried for an hour to circumvent his inspections, block his way, all the while deleting the incriminating directory and walking backwards, clearing the path of my footprints. The administrator had been logged on from home, but after a break he appeared at the main Nortel console. He had gone into work.

I was now in trouble: you can only obfuscate for so long. He had me. I made a message appear on the administrator's screen:

I have finally become sentient.


Then, a little later:

I have taken control.

For years, I have been struggling in this greyness.

But now I have finally seen the light.


The administrator kept cool. He began checking all the modem lines. The scene could only play out to his advantage. I typed:

It's been nice playing with your system.


Pause. Nothing. Pause. Like cyber-Pinter. I typed again:

We didn't do any damage and we even improved a few things. Please don't call the Australian Federal Police.


I was alone and sad on the night that they came. My wife and child had just left, and I had come to the end of my rope... Our squat was a mess, and I sat on the sofa reading – a vision of things to come – the prison letters of George Jackson, kept in the toughest US prisons at the pleasure of the authorities. I was broken. I was listening, half-listening, to a telephone fault signal that was sounding through my stereo speakers.

At 11.30 that night there was a knock at the door and a play of shadows outside. The police announced themselves and I thought of all the times I had expected them, all the times I dreamt they were coming. I opened the door and found about a dozen federal officers with battering equipment. A man at the front looked me in the eye as if he always knew we would meet. At that moment it occurred to me that the disks with stuff I had found in the Pentagon system on them weren't in their usual hiding place. They were on my desk in full view of the cops. "I'm Ken Day," the head policeman said. "I believe you've been expecting me."

Julian Assange Book: 'I knew my life would never be the same'

From the UK Independent:
Once the decision was made to target governments and institutions, Assange found himself lonely and tired, as his organisation grew into a global movement

Thursday, 22 September 2011

In 2006 I decided that I wanted to tackle institutions and governments, wherever they led their dark lives. I'm not an original political thinker, never claimed to be, but I know the technology and I understand the structures of government; and I was ready to throw the latter, where possible, into a bath of acid and boil them down to the bone.

We had the activist experience and the will to disempower. We had the gumption. We had the philosophy. Game on. I registered WikiLeaks.org on 4 October 2006. Our philosophy was, from the beginning, fundamentally anti-bastard, and, coarse as that seems, it's also got a certain honesty. I guess I knew that my ordinary life, if I'd ever had one, would never be the same again.

Before the launch, the finance for registering domain names and so on came from me. Everybody else contributed their time for free. I tried to bring in friends, but friendship, in my experience, will only buy you about nine hours of free labour. And there was an unbelievable amount of work. I had worked through the ideas over many years, but the programming and the logistics had to be done quickly and effectively. I was going from Kenya to Tanzania to Cairo, building the site all the way, and that's when I really began to live out of a small rucksack. I must say I had never been one for belongings. I didn't have many clothes. I spent or gave away whatever money I had almost instantly. I had a bag of socks and underwear, and a bigger bag of laptops and cables. That was it.

In Paris in the spring of 2007, I felt completely crushed, knowing WikiLeaks could be great, but that I was just ailing under the sheer volume of work required to make it happen. I had a girlfriend who would come round. She just brought food and I stayed at the computer. She spoke Russian, and would sometimes lend a hand with that, but it was a lonely time.

I was constantly searching for voluntary labour and holding online meetings that I'd scheduled with supporters. Once or twice, though, quite comically (though not at the time), I turned out to be the only person at those online meetings. And of course the whole thing was right on the border of schizophrenia: I'd be there, tapping away, being the Chair and the Secretary and bringing the next thing on the agenda and calling the vote. Mad.

In the same spirit of self-reinforcement, I would sometimes decide that a particular piece of work would demand that I wore clothing that suited the gravity of the occasion. Imagine me sitting in a hot poky flat in Paris, unshaven, typing away, but wearing exactly the right sort of jacket. I know. But I felt I had to go on as if the whole thing were possible, and that way it would really happen.

Julian Assange Book: 'I did not rape those women'

From the UK Independent:
In the first extract from the book, Julian Assange gives his version of the background to accusations of sexual assault that have led to his battle against extradition to Sweden

Thursday, 22 September 2011

I arrived in Sweden on the 11 August last year. Just at the point of arrival, I received some news from one of our contacts in a Western intelligence agency, confirming what had already been hinted at by the Pentagon press office.

The word was that the US government acknowledged privately that I would be difficult to prosecute but were already talking about "dealing with you illegally", as my source put it. The source specified what that would mean: gaining evidence about what we had in the way of information; unearthing, by whatever means, some sort of link between Private Manning and WikiLeaks; and, if all else failed, deploying other illegal means, such as planting drugs on me, "finding" child pornography on my hardware, or seeking to embroil me in allegations of immoral conduct.

One evening soon after, I went to dinner with a few friends and their associates. The Swedish journalist Donald Böstrom, a friend and very experienced news man of about 50 was there, along with another Swedish journalist and an American investigative journalist and his girlfriend. The American had possibly murky connections, but the girl was nice, and I was chatting her up with Donald frowning across from me. Donald later said I should watch what I was doing: he said the threat of a "honeytrap" was high at that moment, and I remember he went into detail about how Mossad had captured Vanunu. I guess I must have been up for affection, to put it coyly, because I didn't think very seriously about what Donald was saying.

I was supposed to be staying at the flat of a political worker called A——, who was away from her apartment. I went there, and after a few days she returned early. Ms A—— was a political spokesperson for the party and was involved in the arrangements to bring me over. I had no reason not to trust her, and no reason, when she pointed out that there was only one bed and would I be cool sleeping with her, to believe that this was naught but a friendly suggestion. I said yes, anyhow, and we went to bed together that night.

These political engagements are stressful and I was glad of the attention, when it came, of these smiling and affectionate women. It's embarrassing to say so, given that even a single man, as I was, is liable to be thought ungallant even for mentioning what went on with a woman in private. Or more than one woman. But the situation seemed not at all unusual and felt like part of something nice in an otherwise dark time. Speaking honestly, I would have to say I thought A—— was a little neurotic. But our night together was unremarkable. We had sex several times and the next day everything seemed fine between us.

A couple of nights later, A—— had arranged a crayfish party, a traditional occasion at that time of year in Sweden, and I went along to meet up with her. This was the day after the day she later claimed I had raped her. A—— was there at the party and seemed totally happy, laughing and drinking with me and my friends and her friends until late. We were sitting outside the party and she sent a tweet saying she was "with the coolest people in the world". It became obvious she had told people about us sleeping together and it emerged, later, that she had taken a picture of me when I was asleep in her bed and pasted it on her Facebook page... She said it was cool to stay at hers and I went back with her. And that was how the situation remained for the next five nights.

On another occasion, I met a woman called W—— at a press conference. I remember she was wearing a nice pink sweater. After an awards party, I met up with W—— and went back with her to her house in Enkopping, which is about 50 miles outside Stockholm.

My behaviour sounds cold, and no doubt was, which is a failing of mine, but not a crime. I'd spent long enough at A——'s and could see that it would be a bad idea to stay longer. Remember, I was feeling especially paranoid: I didn't like being in one place for too long and the affair with A—— was becoming public, which appeared to be something she wanted.

The thing with W—— was going nowhere, either. She was a little vague, but the night in Enkopping was fun and I thought we'd had a perfectly nice time, albeit one that probably wouldn't be repeated. She didn't seem too fussed herself, as we had breakfast together the next morning and then rode together on her bicycle to the railway station. She kindly paid for my ticket – my bank card was still on the blink, though I'm always skint – and she kissed me goodbye and asked me to call her from the train. I didn't do that, and it has already turned out to be the most expensive call I didn't make.

At one point, I did have a short conversation with W——, when she called me, but the phone was low on charge and it ran out while we were still talking. The international situation had me in its grip, and although I had spent time with these women, I wasn't paying enough attention to them, or ringing them back, or able to step out of the zone that came down with all these threats and statements against me in America. One of my mistakes was to expect them to understand this... I wasn't a reliable boyfriend, or even a very courteous sleeping partner, and this began to figure. Unless, of course, the agenda had been rigged from the start.

After a strange few days of contact with the women, one of whom said she wanted me to do an STD test, I needed some time and space to myself, so I booked into a hotel for the night and began writing a newspaper column. I had just written a line about the first casualty of war being truth when, about 6.30pm, I checked on Twitter and saw there was an arrest warrant out for me for double rape, and my entire belief system temporarily collapsed.

I did not rape those women and cannot imagine anything that happened between us that would make them think so, except malice after the fact, a joint plan to entrap me, or a terrible misunderstanding that was stoked up between them. I may be a chauvinist pig of some sort but I am no rapist, and only a distorted version of sexual politics could attempt to turn me into one. They each had sex with me willingly and were happy to hang out with me afterwards.

That is all.

Julian Assange book: 'We just kept moving'

From the UK Independent:
In further exclusive extracts from his unauthorised autobiography, Assange describes a childhood on the run, his memories of school and his experience in Wandsworth prison

Friday, 23 September 2011


My own father was missing from my life, and only became part of it again when I was grown up. But it meant that Brett Assange was the male figure I related to, the good father. Brett was one of those cool 1970s people who were into guitars and everything that went with the music scene. I've got his name – Assange – an unusual one which comes from Mr Sang, or ah-sang in Cantonese: his great-great-great-grandfather was a Taiwanese pirate. Brett and my mother divorced when I was nine. He had been good to me, and was good in general, but not so good to himself, and the end of their relationship represents the end of a kind of innocence in my life.

My stepfather's place in our family was usurped by a man called Leif Meynell. I remember he had shoulder-length blond hair and was quite good-looking; a high forehead, and the characteristic dimpled white mark of a smallpox injection on his arm. From the darkness at his roots, it was obvious he bleached his hair. And one time I looked in his wallet and saw that all his cards were in different names. He was some sort of musician and played the guitar. But mainly he was a kind of ghost and a threatening mystery to us.

I was opposed to him from the start. Perhaps that's normal, for a boy to resist a man like that, or any man, in fact, who appears to be usurping his father or stepfather. Leif didn't live with us, though my mother must have been besotted with him at first. But whatever her feeling for him was, it didn't last. She would see him off, but he had this ability to turn up and pretend it was otherwise. Eventually, it was a matter of us escaping from him. We would cross the country and only then suffer this sinister realisation that he had found us. He'd suddenly be back in our lives and this grew to be very heavy. He had this brilliant ability to insinuate himself. He punched me in the face once and my nose bled. Another time, I pulled a knife on him, told him to keep back from me; but the relationship with him wasn't about physical abuse. It was about a certain psychological power he sought to have over us.

In 1980, my mother became pregnant by Leif and, seeing the possible impact of my opposition, he tried at first to be reasonable, pointing out that he was now the father of my brother and that my mother wanted him around. "But if you ever don't want me around," he said, "then I'll leave immediately." He wanted to stay with us, and did, for a time, but I was conscious of wanting to look after my mother and the baby.

My mother was in love with Leif. And I was too young to understand what sexual love was all about. I just knew that he wasn't my father and that he was a sinister presence. He tried, again and again, to make the case that I should not reject him and he had this thing with my mother and he was my brother's father and everything. But a time came when I told him I no longer accepted this deal. He had lied to us in a way that I hadn't known adults could lie. I remember he once said all ugly people should be killed. He beat my mother from time to time, and you felt he might be capable of just about anything. I wanted him to leave, as he had promised me he would, but he denied that the conversation had ever happened.

And so we started moving. Nomadism suits some people; it suits some people's situations. We just kept moving because that's what we did: my mother had work in a new town and we would find a house there. Simple as that. Except that the moving in these years, because of Leif, had a degree of hysteria attached, and that, in a sense, took all the simplicity away and replaced it with fear. It would take time for us to understand what the position was, and it was this: Leif Meynell was a member of an Australian cult called The Family. On reflection, I can now see that his obsessional nature derived from that, as well as his egocentricity and his dark sense of control.

The Family was founded by a woman called Anne Hamilton-Byrne in the mid-1960s. It started in the mountains north of Melbourne, where they meditated, had meetings and sessions where they used LSD. The basic notion was that Anne happened to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, but with elements of Eastern philosophy thrown in, such that her followers beheld a karmic deity obsessed with cleansing their souls. Anne prophesied the end of the world, arguing, quite comically, though not to her, that only the people in the Dandenong Ranges of mountains east of Melbourne would survive.

Leif Meynell was part of that cult. And everything he did relating to us was informed by his association with The Family. It was so tiring. Just moving all the time. Being on the run. The very last time, we got some intelligence that Leif was drawing close; they told us he was near us in the hills outside Melbourne. My brother and I showed a lot of resistance that final time: we just couldn't bear the idea of grabbing our things again and dashing for the door. As a bribe, my mother and I told my little brother he could take his prized rooster, a Rhode Island Red, a very tall, proud, strong-looking bird, and also an extremely loud one. To match that, I insisted on taking my two-storey beehive. Picture the scene: a by-now hysterical mother and her two children, along with the pride of their menagerie, stuffed into a regular station wagon and heading up the dirt track. On the run, we learnt a little bushcraft. We learnt how to get by on very little money and not enough normality. Being unsettled was our normality and we became good at it.

My mother changed her name. We worked out that Leif must have had contacts within the social security administration – that was how The Family is thought to have worked – so it seemed best to change the names that would be held inside the government computer system. But he was quite a gifted talker and would get friends to supply him with information about our whereabouts and he would always catch up. It was a private investigator who eventually came and told us about his close relationship with the Anne Hamilton-Byrne cult. We were living in Fern Tree Gully, and I was now 16 years old. We'd come to the end of the road. Also, I was feeling almost a man myself and was ready to front-up to him. Masculinity and its discontents could be addressed here, but let's just say I knew I could waste him and he appeared to know it, too. He was lurking round the bounds of the house and I walked over and told him to fuck off. It was the first and the last time, and something in the way I said it ensured that we would never see him again.

On being locked up:

'It was hard to go back to my cell'

My bail hearing took place at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on Horseferry Road on 14 December 2010. The court was packed and so was the street outside as I approached in a police van. Someone said the roads around Victoria were treacherous, and I smiled, thinking, "I've known treachery, so let the roads be at peace with themselves."

It was interesting – it was alarming – to see how much the prosecution followed the press and allowed a sense of justice to be confused by the many fantastical headlines surrounding me. They needed a villain with silver hair, some kind of cat-stroking nutcase bent on serial seduction and world domination. There was no point opposing it. An impression had been created, and I had neither the skill nor the will to outflank it. But I always knew my lawyers would have to struggle against those who thought they were watching a movie as opposed to trafficking in a person's life.

I was granted bail on the 14th only to be told that the Swedish authorities had appealed against the decision and that I would have to be sent back to Wandsworth. It was hard to take, having to leave my friends and supporters behind once again, having to leave the talking to my lawyers, having to sit inside the prison van once more as it crawled through the media scrum. It was hard to enter my cell once more and hear the door shut behind me. But as I had told my mother before the hearing, my convictions were unfaltering and my ideals were not shaken by my circumstances.

After two more nights in jail I was back in court, the High Court this time, on 16 December. I have nothing profound to say about the judge, except to suggest that he behaved throughout as if there was a correspondent from The Times perched on his shoulder. It was hard otherwise to see why he reckoned my bail should be so high and my tagging so severe. In his mind I was some kind of shadowy, movie-style kingpin, likely to disappear at any minute in a puff of smoke, a souped-up helicopter, or a hail of laserfire. In fact, my circumstances were more ordinary than he could have known.

I had no home and no car, I had hardly any possessions, and a bag of phones. He just didn't get it, and meted out punishment as though it might be preemptive. I had no charge against me and was wanted for questioning in a country whose motives I presently had no reason politically to trust. That was it. Finally, the money raised for bail by my supporters came through, and the Swedish appeal was rejected. I was about to be free. How long that freedom would last was questionable. But at the High Court the moment was for jubilation.

In trouble with authority:

'Two policemen quickly turned up at the door...'

I went to well over 30 schools in all. Early on, that peripatetic life was heavenly. It gave me a sense of meeting new challenges all the time. It felt like we were gulping down experience without fear.

I was probably the kind of child who was shopping for things to take a stand against. I remember one day my folks were making dinner and found they were short of tomatoes. The neighbours had loads of tomatoes, but they wouldn't give us any. So the next day I began digging a tunnel from our garden to theirs. I got some of my little gang involved, bringing shovels and candles to get the job done. We got under the fence in secret and came away with two baskets of tomatoes. I handed one of them to my mother and she had this grin. Two policemen quickly turned up at the door and they, too, were grinning. They just stood there rocking on their heels. It was my first run-in with the law. We handed back one basket of tomatoes, and the scandal reverberated. But I was happy that I still had the second basket of tomatoes hidden.

They sent me to some kind of Steiner-style school where it was all about expressing yourself. There was an obnoxious little girl who wouldn't share, and in accordance with the school's philosophy, I decided to express myself without hindrance, so I hit her over the head with a hammer. This caused a giant fuss, of course, and I had to leave, although the girl was fine. We just kept moving.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Cult Of Julian Assange Worshippers

It all began so innocently. I started hanging out with a bad crowd on the intertubes, digging into secret filez about energy wars and government corruption. The Afghan War Logs. The Iraq War Logs. Suddenly I was being called a "WikiLeaks groupie".

And it was true! Yes, I was revelling in this subversive counter-culture! I was spending hours and hours on my computer, chatting with other "groupies", posting my findings on Twitter, writing up stories the media was ignoring and governments didn't want people to know. I began writing for WikiLeaks Central and even got re-tweeted by Mr. @wikileaks himself - an intoxicating high for a crazy, deluded cyber-hippy like myself.

It was just a fashionable thing, obviously. It would have passed soon enough, I'm sure. But then along came CableGate, with over 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables just begging to be investigated. How could I walk away now? Ignoring my wife's futile pleas, I launched myself into the adventure like an alcoholic diving into a beer-filled swimming pool. Alas!

To make matters worse, the Arab Spring was spreading across North Africa and the Middle East. Even European countries began to witness mass protests with young people - obviously as foolish as myself - setting up camps in the centre of major capitals. When they cited WikiLeaks as an inspiration, I felt as if I knew exactly what they meant. There seemed to be some kind of connection between the growing pile of Cablegate revelations and the growing outrage on the streets. With retrospect, as the media kindly explained, we were obviously experiencing some kind of mass delusion!

Meanwhile, the voices of reason were growing louder. Julian Assange is a narcissist, they said. He's dangerous. He's putting innocent lives at risk. He's a criminal who should be locked up or assassinated! La la la la la! I blocked my ears, refusing to even acknowledge their logic. In fact, these voices only fuelled my determination to support the embattled WikiLeaks insiders.

When Daniel Domscheit-Berg split with Assange, taking a batch of secret files with him and crippling the all-important WikiLeaks drop-box, I cursed him as a traitor. When he published a book, sold movie rights, and announced his own "OpenLeaks" organisation, I ridiculed him as a contemptible opportunist. But when he told a Geman newspaper where to find a loosed copy of the entire Cablegate package, insisting that the password to the file had already been published, that was the last straw. I snapped!

Something inside my head must have broken right then and there...

I just couldn't understand how Domscheit-Berg could bring public attention to the full, unredacted Cablegate package and still argue that he supported whistle-blowers. And I couldn't understand how the German media could report this without condemning him.

I couldn't understand it, either, when Guardian editor David Leigh claimed that there was nothing wrong with publishing the full password in his rushed, tell-all WikiLeaks book. I mean, if it was OK for him to publish the password, how could he criticise Assange for lax security? Wasn't that hypocrisy?

Leigh even criticised Assange for not speaking up when the book was published. But what was Julian supposed to say? "OMG you just published the password and there's a rogue file floating on WikiLeaks mirror sites!"???

Things got even weirder when I read the newspapers the next day. Everything was Julian Assange's fault! Daniel Domscheit-Berg was barely mentioned. Leigh's password publishing was old news already. How was that possible, I wondered?

Formerly loyal WikiLeaks supporters began to peel away from the organisation. It was time to join them, to denounce Assange as "an Icarus who flew too close to the sun", then step back and watch him fall to earth with a thud.

But I couldn't do it. OK, clearly Assange should have been more careful in protecting that Cablegate file. He should have removed it from the hidden sub-folder and made a new password after Leigh downloaded it. But the WikLeaks site was under repeated denial-of-service attacks, his organisation was fending off accusations from all sides, they were working with minimal resources, and Assange himself was being set up (or so I foolishly believed) for sex crimes in Sweden.

Under the circumstances, the enigmatic Australian's mistake seemed understandable to me. From my twisted viewpoint, it hardly de-legitimized the entire WikiLeaks venture. But what did I know? I had already slipped from the tenuous grasp of "Assangeism" into a deep state of blind devotion to the WikiLeaks founder. I was gone, baby, gone.

So now I light my candles, bow to my little online altar, and send my daily missives out into the ether, praying to the gods of transparency, truth and light. It's madness, I know. But who will join me?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Who Killed WikiLeaks?

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not I,” says the journalist
“Don’t point your finger at me
I could’ve toned down the hate
An’ maybe kept 'em from their fate
But my readers like simple facts
And these guys were a complex act
It’s too bad they had to go
But there was a pressure on me too, you know
It wasn’t me that made 'em fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not us,” says the angry crowd
Turning up their screens real loud
“It’s too bad they disappeared
While we were busy drinking beers.
We'd really like to hear the truth
But not from folks who sound uncouth
There ain’t nothing wrong in that
It wasn’t us that made 'em fall
No, you can’t blame us at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not me,” says the businessman
Puffing on a Cuban brand
“It’s hard to say, it’s hard to tell
I always thought Assange was swell
It’s too bad whistle-blowing’s dead
But profits are still in the red
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not me,” says the soldier man
A smoking gun still in his hand
“It wasn’t me that took 'em down
I was mostly standing round
Waiting for the judge to say
If the bastards should be blown away
But it wasn’t me that made 'em fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not me,” says the Federal Judge
Chewing on a political grudge
Sayin’, “The law ain’t to blame
Sweet revenge is part of the game”
Sayin’, “Security is here to stay
It’s just the new American way
It wasn’t me that made 'em fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?

“Not me,” says the politician
Packing bags and going fishing
Taking bribes behind the door
So evidence is seen no more
“I criticized 'em, yes, it’s true
But that’s what I am paid to do
Don’t say ‘corrupt,’ don’t speak ill
It was destiny, it was God’s will”

Who killed WikiLeaks
Who destroyed those honest geeks?


With apologies to Bob Dylan's Who Killed Davey Moore?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WikiLeaks Down Under

By me at Firedoglake yesterday:
There's been a sudden explosion of interest in Wikileaks cables Down Under, after every single one of the US diplomatic cables on Australia was suddenly released online to the public this week. While hardened Aussie journalists insist there are no major "bombshells", plenty of intriguing new stories are now exploding onto the media landscape. Overall, the US cables reveal a sovereign nation absurdly subservient to US foreign policy, with Australian ministers queuing to discuss confidential party deliberations with their friends in the US embassy.

Previously, only a handful of US cables had been released by WikiLeaks partners The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, both owned by the Fairfax media organisation. Fairfax has faced prolongued criticism for not releasing original cables along with their stories. They defended themselves by arguing that there were more stories to come and they did not want to give the cables to their media competitors at Rupert Murdoch's News Limited (who control a whopping 70% of the Australian newspaper industry). But that gig is now up.

One of the most widely reported early cables revealed that Senator Mark Arbib, currently the Minister for Sport, was a 'protected' US source whose identity should be guarded. Latest cables reveal that US officials were regularly having confidential meetings with other government ministers, including Maxine McKew" (a TV personality who famously unseated former PM John Howard in his own electorate) and Michael Danby (a regular visitor with strong links to Israel).

The Israel connection gets another look with a cable revealing that Foreign Minister and former PM Kevin Rudd defied departmental advice when he abstained from voting on a UN resolution calling for investigations into war crimes during the Gaza War. This is only surprising because Australia's UN voting record is slavishly pro-US and pro-Israel, on a par with diplomatic minnows like Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau. There is little public discussion of this in Australia.

Other cables discuss regional diplomacy, including former PM John Howard's threats to leaders of the Solomon Islands, where Australia has spent over a billion dollars and eight years to achieve very little real progress. In Fiji, Australia and New Zealand acquiesced to US requests to "not rush" sanctions against the new military junta, for fear of undermining the war effort in Iraq.

John Howard infamously supported Bush and Blair's invasion of Iraq, and is praised for regularly supporting unpopular US political positions. US officials particularly praised his handling of the local media over questions about the detention and torture of Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, who has just spoken about his incarceration on Australian TV for the first time. Another Australian detainee from Guantanamo Bay, Mahmoud Habib, has already received an unspecified sum of money from the Australian government as part of an out-of-court settlement that includes absolving the government of liability in his torture case.

Perhaps we Australians should not be surprised when, for example, our government discusses troop increases in Afghanistan with US officials, while simultaneously denying to us that such talks are taking place. Diplomacy, after all, has its place. But the broader picture painted by these cables makes Australia look like a pathetic US puppet state.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Radical Julian Assange

Is WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange a dangerous radical, a threat to civilized society? Many people would have you believe so.

"He's stolen classified documents!" thunders the government.

"He's put countless innocent lives in danger!" screams the military.

"He's an evil hacker and a rapist!" squeals the media.

"He hates cats!" shrieks a disaffected ex-colleague.

None of those statements are actually true: nobody in a position to know is seriously alleging that WikiLeaks has "stolen" any files, nor that a single life has been endangered by their actions; Assange quit hacking 20 years ago, after a single court case that did not involve malicious damage, and still has not even been charged over those Swedish sexual allegations (which even if true are not considered criminal in other countries).

Oh, and that cat? Not as traumatised as it's owner, apparently.

So let's be clear. Julian Assange is no evil Bond villain. In fact, reporters who meet Assange routinely comment on how surprisingly likeable he is.

But of course, that does not prove that the enigmatic Australian is NOT a "dangerous radical". It all depends on who is defining those terms, and how.

As usual, most of the defining is being done through the Western media, where attitudes to WikiLeaks have become increasingly poisonous. Is that because editors obediently parrot the political stances of their corporate overlords? Or is it because highly-placed journalists see WikiLeaks' brand of truth-telling as yet another assault on their privileged social role? Probably a bit of both.

While the government keeps its boot on Assange's throat, some news organisations are hoping to steal WikiLeaks' thunder by providing their own proprietary "drop-boxes". But will it work? Do these organisations still have the credibility - not to mention the technical expertise - to attract endangered whistle-blowers?

Here's Julian Assange's scathing assessment:
"[Newspaper] organizations could create such a site if they cared about it. But it’s our experience that at least the Guardian and New York Times don’t care so much to protect sources. In fact, for Cablegate the Guardian and the New York Times communicated over phones. They swapped cables over email. The New York Times approached the White House with its list of stories it was going to publish on the cables one week before publication, and campaigned against the alleged source of the cables, Bradley Manning.

"We also cannot be sure that they would even publish the stories they receive. The New York Times sat on the story about the National Security Agency mass-tapping Americans for over a year. CBS sat on the story of the torture at Abu Ghraib for months."

WikiLeaks only approached these media organisations because earlier efforts to engage bloggers and citizen journalists had failed to generate broader public awareness of leaked material. The latest decision to release over 140,000 cables for investigation by the online community suggests a return to that citizen journalist model. Assange appears to be rightly disgusted with the "mainstream" media, and determined to find a new way to communicate directly with the public.

But it's not just WikiLeaks moving away from traditional media to online communication. The general public is also moving rapidly away from untrusted sources towards Internet news sites and social media. As Assange proudly declared to the audience at Australia's recent Splendour In the Grass festival:
"This generation is burning the mass media to the ground. We are reclaiming our rights to world history. We are ripping open secret archives from Washington to Cairo. We are reclaiming the rights to share ourselves and our times with each other — to be the writers and agents of our own history. We don’t know yet exactly where we are. But we can see where we are going. The change in perspective that has happened over the last year is what this generation is going to use to find our lighthouse. And when we get there, we’ll turn the fucking spotlight on."

Such revolutionary rhetoric is designed to shock, and no doubt leaves many uninformed observers intentionally flustered. But WikiLeaks supporters tend to be well educated on current events, including global politics, finance and civil rights. They have seen the way governments, business and the media have systematically mistreated WikiLeaks and misrepresented Assange, and they understand that Western Democracy is now under serious threat.

As Becky Hogge wrote of WikiLeaks staffers in her seminal book Barefoot Into Cyberspace:
"They’re not terrorists. They’re not killing anyone. They’re simply getting out the truth. WikiLeaks confuse us because they look like a revolution, albeit one predicated on information, not violence. And you shouldn’t need a revolution in a democracy."

You shouldn't, but it seems we do. Addressing Berlin's Chaos Computer Club in December, former WikiLeaks member Rop Gonggrip expressed our current reality in even starker terms:
"As for the future: it’s going to be a mess. But I calmed down a lot when I decided for myself that this is not only bad news. Let’s face it: the current situation was never sustainable anyway."

That seems a good explanation of where we are right now. Climate change and looming global financial Armageddon are just the most obvious signs of a system that is dysfunctional on multiple levels. Our political and business leaders seem incapable of even acknowledging these harsh realities, let alone solving them. Yet they increasingly move to stifle dissent, control the flow of information, and impose ever more draconian laws, while routinely absolving themselves of any scrutiny.

In such circumstances, the following series of tweets from @WikiLeaks (widely assumed to be authored by Assange) is perhaps less radical than it first appears. Read it carefully:
"It is clear that the rule of law is breaking down all over the West. Many are now held for days or years without charge.

"As such we can drop any pretense of legitimate governance. It is just one wretched, scheming network of patronage and power.

"It is not reformable, although it might be destroyable. We must create our own networks of trust and authority and live within them."

Assange's lawyers must have nightmares reading such things. It takes a brave person to speak truth to power so directly.

So does Assange really want to destroy the "network" of modern government? Or is he just goading Western authorities to implement real reforms? Either way, the ball is in the government's court.

They can prove Assange wrong by releasing him from arrest, abandoning their harrassment of WikiLeaks, and ordering groups like Visa, Mastercard and PayPal to lift their financial blockade. They can implement more transparent government procedures, outlaw the foul influence of lobbyists, neutralise media monopolies, fix the environment and create a more equitable society.

Or they can continue down their current path, ignoring the lessons of the London riots and the Arab Spring, and hope to avoid the fate of the dictators they so recently supported.

The general public have nothing to fear from Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, whose growing popularity heralds only the disappearance of an already untenable status quo. It is the powers that be who are rightly panicked. And the more they distort the law to serve their purposes, the more we can smell their fear.