How Julian Assange’s Private Life Helped Conceal the Real Triumph of WikiLeaks | Common Dreams


How Julian Assange’s Private Life Helped Conceal the Real Triumph of WikiLeaks | Common Dreams.

Without the access to the US secret cables, the world would have no insight into how their governments behave

Gagged: A poster of Julian Assange at a demonstration outside London’s Ecuadorian embassy on Friday. (AFP/Getty Images)As Julian Assange evades arrest by taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge to escape extradition to Sweden, and possibly the US, British commentators have targeted him with shrill abuse. They almost froth with rage as they cite petty examples of his supposed gaucheness, egotism and appearance, as if these were criminal faults.

These criticisms tell one more about the conventionality and herd instinct of British opinion-makers than they do about Assange. Ignored, in all this, is his achievement as founder of WikiLeaks in publishing US government cables giving people across the world insight into how their governments really behave. Such public knowledge is the core of democracy because voters must be accurately informed if they are to be able to chose representatives to carry out their wishes.

Thanks to WikiLeaks, more information has become available about what the US and allied states are doing and thinking than ever before. The only competing revelations that come to mind were the publication by the victorious Bolsheviks in 1917 of secret treaties, including plans to carve up the Middle East by Britain and France. A more obvious parallel was the publication of the Pentagon Papers thanks to Daniel Ellsberg in 1971, revealing systematic lying by the Johnson administration about Vietnam. In similar fashion to Assange, Ellsberg was reviled by the US government and threatened with the severest punishment.

An extraordinary aspect of the campaign against Assange is that op-ed writers feel free to pump out thousands of words about his alleged faults, with never a mention of far more serious state crimes revealed by WikiLeaks. All these critics, and readers who agree them, should first switch on YouTube and watch a 17-minute video film taken by the crew of an Apache helicopter over east Baghdad on 12 July 2007. It shows the helicopter crew machine-gunning to death people on the ground in the belief that they are all armed insurgents. In fact, I cannot see any arms and what in one case was identified as a gun turned out to be the camera of a young Reuters‘ photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, who was killed along with his driver, Saeed Chmagh. The video shows the helicopter coming in for a second attack on a van that had stopped to pick up the dead and wounded. The driver was killed and two children wounded. „Ha! Ha! I hit ‚em,“ shouts one of the US crewmen triumphantly. „Look at those dead bastards.“

I was in Baghdad when the shooting took place and I remember at the time disbelieving, along with other journalists, the Pentagon’s claim that the dead were all armed insurgents, but we could not prove it. Rebel gunmen did not amble about the streets in plain view when a US helicopter was nearby. The existence of a video of the killings became known, but the US Defense Department adamantly refused to release it under the Freedom of Information Act. The official story of what had happened would not have been effectively challenged if a US soldier, Bradley Manning, had not turned over the video to WikiLeaks, which released it in 2010.

The cables obtained by Wiki–Leaks were published later that year in five newspapers – The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País – but the response to Assange himself was surprisingly mean-spirited and dismissive. Journalists seemed angry that their professional territory was being invaded by an Australian computer nerd who was doing their job. The British commentariat is notoriously club-like, conservative and hostile to those with different cultural and political norms.

But this in itself would not have been enough for so much of the media to declare open season on Assange. What created the difference were the allegations of rape made in Sweden. Allegations of rape destroy a reputation, however flimsy or non-existent the evidence or convincing the rebuttal. Assange has never really recovered from this. As for the suggestion that he exaggerates the chances of being extradited to the US from Sweden, this is surely very flip. Who would willingly take even a 5 per cent chance that their flight to Stockholm might result in 40 years‘ detention in a US prison cell?

Some adopt the official line that „lives had been put in danger“ by the leaks. This lobby began to fall silent in 2011 when Pentagon officials admitted, off the record, that they had no evidence that anybody had come to harm.

A more dismissive response was that the WikiLeaks revelations were not as secret as all that and the papers accessed by Private Manning did not carry the most secret classification. Another point was made to me by a US diplomat in Kabul, where I was at the time of publication. He said: „We are not going to learn the biggest secrets from WikiLeaks because these have already been leaked by the White House, Pentagon or State Department.“

In practice, the WikiLeaks documents are vastly and uniquely informative about what the US does and what it really thinks of the world in which we live. For instance, there is a cable sent by the US embassy in Kabul in 2009 describing Prime Minister Hamid Karzai as „a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation-building“.

Specialists on Afghanistan commented that Karzai’s failings were scarcely news. They missed the point that there is a vast difference between what is suspected by the outside world and what is confirmed by those with daily access to the Afghan leader. Here were senior and experienced US officials giving their true opinion of the man whom the Americans and British were fighting and dying to keep in power.

All governments indulge in a degree of hypocrisy between what they say in public and in private. When democratic openness about general actions and policies is demanded, they pretend they are facing a call for total transparency which would prevent effective government. This deliberate and self-serving inflation of popular demands is usually aimed at the concealment of failure and monopolising power.

What the US government wanted to keep quiet about in Afghanistan was not just an embarrassingly negative assessment of Karzai as their main local ally. It was that it had no credible local Afghan partner and therefore could not win the war against the Taliban.

Assange and WikeLeaks unmasked not diplomatic reticence in the interests of the smooth functioning of government, but duplicity to justify lost wars in which tens of thousand died. Recent history shows that this official secrecy, frequently aided by „embedding“ journalists with armies, works all too well.

In Iraq, in the months before the US presidential election in 2004, foreign embassies in Baghdad all knew and reported that US soldiers were only clinging to islands of territory in a hostile land. But the Bush administration was able to persuade US voters that, on the contrary, it was fighting and winning a battle to establish democracy against the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the adherents of Osama bin Laden.

State control of information and the ability to manipulate it makes the right to vote largely meaningless. That is why people like Julian Assange are so essential to democratic choice.

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  Jimmy Carter : A Cruel and Unusual Record   : Information Clearing House


English: Human Rights logo: "FREE AS A MA...
English: Human Rights logo: „FREE AS A MAN“ esp ->svg Français : Logo pour les droits de l’homme : « Free as a man ». Русский: Свободен как человек, победитель в международном конкурсе логотипа, символзириюущего Прав человека, http://humanrightslogo.net/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  Jimmy Carter : A Cruel and Unusual Record   : Information Clearing House.


By Jimmy Carter

June 25, 2012 „New York Times“ – -THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, is the founder of the Carter Center and the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

© 2012 The New York Times Company

Sheriff Joe Arrests Six-Year-Old Undocumented Immigrant on Day of Obama’s Immigration Policy Shift | AlterNet


 Sheriff Joe Arrests Six-Year-Old Undocumented Immigrant on Day of Obama’s Immigration Policy Shift | AlterNet.

Joe Arpaio may be known as Sheriff Joe, but it’s also been proven he has little respect for the law if he deems it inconvenient to his beliefs. He is, of course, a frequent violator of civil rights (as viewed by the United States Justice Department) and used taxpayer funds to investigate his (debunked) conspiracy theory about Obama’s birth certificate. Distilled, it all boils down to Sheriff Joe being an archetypal old-style racist—one whose actions are consistently appalling despite never deviating from script. Of course, Arpaio’s actions were textbook the day President Obama announced he would soften his policies on deporting young immigrants:    Read more

By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | AlterNet
Posted on Monday, June 18, 2012 @ 07:05 AM

VOICES from SOLITARY


 

Voices from Solitary: Behind Enemy Lines

by Voices from Solitary

http://solitarywatch.com/2012/06/09/voices-from-solitary-behind-enemy-lines/

The artist Ojore Lutalo was released from Trenton State Penitentiary in August 2009 by way of a court order. He maxed out after 28 year. 22 of which were spent in the Management Control Unit (solitary confinement). Lutalo was imprisoned after an armed robbery conviction, but he was held in the MCU because his political beliefs–his association with the with the Anarchist Black Cross Federation and Black Liberation Army–were deemed a threat to the security of the prison. In order to keep his sanity during his internment, Lutalo says he abided by a strict regiment of physical exercise, mediation and study. He also began creating political art. Ojore Lutalo provided the following description of his artwork:

„Over the years Ojore was asked repeatedly to describe the conditions that he faced on a daily basis. These requests ranged from simple curiosity as to the physical particulars of his cell and surroundings to the profound emotional pressures and struggles associated with long-term solitary confinement. Ojore began creating his political propaganda both as a way to maintain his sanity and to more adequately convey to his friends the physical and emotional reality he experienced within solitary confinement. For the last 22 years of his confinement Ojore created a wide range of art pieces offering his unique perspective.

„Since his release is 2008, Ojore dedicates himself to assisting the American Friends Service Committee in its attempt to expose the true nature and extent of long-term isolation, its effect both on the prisoner individually as well as society at large. This outreach often involves speaking engagements in which he uses artwork to re-enforce his text, finding visuals often communicate more effectively than a purely oral presentation. Often after speaking, Ojore receives requests from individuals to purchase his artwork. The limited proceeds from the sale of these pieces allow Ojore to continue to volunteer his time to the American Friends Service Committee.“

What follows is a small sample of Ojore Lutalo’s work. His collages are for sale on the website www.ojorebehindenemylines.com, and he is available for art showings: e-mail kerness.b@verizon.net.    –Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

„Stand Your Ground“, „Make My Day“ etc…..


http://www.propublica.org/article/the-23-states-that-have-sweeping-self-defense-laws-just-like-floridas

Here some lines:

by Cora Currier
ProPublica, March 22, 2012, 1:05 p.m.

March 26: This post has been updated to reflect the latest in the ongoing investigation of the shooting, and corrected [1].

„Stand Your Ground,“ „Shoot First,“ „Make My Day“ — state laws asserting an expansive right to self-defense — have come into focus after last month’s killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin [2].

In 2005, Florida became the first state to explicitly expand a person’s right to use deadly force for self-defense. Deadly force is justified if a person is gravely threatened, in the home or „any other place where he or she has a right to be [3].“

Most states have long allowed the use of reasonable force, sometimes including deadly force, to protect oneself inside one’s home — the so-called Castle Doctrine [4]. Outside the home, people generally still have a „duty to retreat“ from an attacker, if possible, to avoid confrontation. In other words, if you can get away and you shoot anyway, you can be prosecuted. In Florida, there is no duty to retreat. You can „stand your ground“ outside your home, too.“ …..please, read whole article there!

Canadian Murder Suspect Looked at for Hollywood Decapitation Case – National – The Atlantic Wire


Canadian Murder Suspect Looked at for Hollywood Decapitation Case – National – The Atlantic Wire.

Dashiell Bennett 6:34 AM ET

Police in Los Angeles say they’re looking into the possibility that accused murder suspect Luka Magnotta could be connected to a dismembered body found near the famous Hollywood sign in January. Magnotta is believed to have murdered his lover (and posted a video of the death online) and then mailed his severed body parts to various locations across Canada. He fled to Europe and was arrested in Berlin on Monday.

The decapitated and dismembered body of Hervey Medellin was discovered by hikers in the Hollywood Hills earlier this year, but no suspects were ever identified. After Magnotta’s story became worldwide news, an investigation of his online history by Hunter Walker at The New York Observer revealed that he may have been in Los Angeles at the time of Medellin’s murder. Postings on Magnotta’s Facebook account from February said that he was „doing massages“ in L.A. and was trying to arrange meetings with friends.

The connection may be a complete longshot as right now the only „evidence“ that Magnotta is the killer is that both victims were gay, their bodies were cut up, and the parts were placed in prominent locations where they would be easily discovered. However, LAPD officials say they are looking into it as any lead is worth following when you don’t have a lot of other options.

Did Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Officers Kill a Latino Vet? Autopsy Suggests Violent Arrest Led to Death | AlterNet


Did Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Officers Kill a Latino Vet? Autopsy Suggests Violent Arrest Led to Death | AlterNet.

Read whole article there! Here some lines:

Did Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Officers Kill a Latino Vet? Autopsy Suggests Violent Arrest Led to Death
 Talking Points Memo is reporting that an autopsy reveals officers working for the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio may be responsible for the death of a 44-year-old Latino military veteran, Ernest „Marty“ Atencio. According to TPM, attorney Michael Manning plans to request an outside investigation:

 

Manning said the results of an autopsy released this week, six months after the death, proved what surveillance footage from the jail had already led him to believe: that Atencio would still be alive if sheriff’s detention officers and Phoenix cops hadn’t ganged up on him, pinned him down and given him electric shocks with a stun gun.    Read more