Monday, December 06, 2010

The goals of Assange

After reading the first cables released by wikileaks one must wonder what was the real objective of Assange.  After all, the cables are relatively harmless and indicate a much better behaved US than what the idiotic left thought it was.  And as far as direct harm, it looks to me that those harmed will be more often than not non-US folks.  Surely that was not the real intent of Assange and the creeps that surround him, no?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today that confirms my suspicions of an earlier post.  First Assange is not a whistle blower.  He might have appeared to be so when early war material was released.  But with the diplomatic cables it is clear that no whistle blowing was at stake and that the Assange people could have gathered as much whenever they received the cables before passing them along to the press.  Thus there was an unquestionable intent at getting selectively at the US.

No you may argue that the US had it coming and that it deserves whatever you think it deserves but the only thing you are doing by promoting that position  is declaring that you are an enemy of the US, its government and its people for that matter.  As such this is not anymore a matter of freedom of speech anymore, it is a matter of freedom of accusation and there is no such freedom.  Or if you think that there is such freedom you should be able to articulate a moral case or at the very least prove that you are also seeking to leak more than just US information.  So far, wikileaks is only famous for releasing US stuff, no?

As such Assange is just a white collar terrorist and what he promotes is that Western society becomes more repressive, much less open than what it is and as such this will validate other repressive regimes. It is a bleak world that the Assange of the world are offering us, destroying the openness and freedom that allowed them to be what they are.


  1. Free speech is one thing, but what about respect for the freedoms and the rights of people to live without fear.Only a very manipulative mind or literal mind ( or a rotten lawyer) could call wiki leaks freedom of speech.

    There seems to be a fine line between the kooky left and the state of psychopathy( true also with the kooky right as well).

    The fanaticism of this branch of the left is treacherous, as is the worst of psychopathic minds.They seem to believe that they should break anyone and anything in the process of reaching their goals.The worst part is, is that to some degree it is now intellectually fashionable.But yet they do not realize that equating true intellect with fashion is an oxymoron.

    Their intent appears to be to overthrow individual rights and gain notoriety.

  2. One new quote sums up his intent for me: "I believe geopolitics will be separated into pre and post cablegate phases." .

    He's so proud of this fact, it seems that it's his real accomplishment in his eyes. He wants to be seen as having changed the world, to be "the man" who made the changes happen. In that respect, he's just like Chavez. The means do not matter, only that he receives glory in the end.

  3. As I said elsewhere, if Assange is all for transparency, why is he in hiding? If he's innocent, as he claims, why is he avoiding arrest warrants? When I was accused by Red Ken, the first thing I did was to visit the High Court to sue him, in the absolute conviction that I had nothing to hide. What's Assange trying to hide? Could it be that, after all, he does not want the same level of scrutiny on himself, and on his Wikileaks operation? Is he not aware, for instance, of connections of former Guardian's editors to the KGB?

    The guy is shrewd all right, but is clear he ain't what he purports to be. The more secretive he becomes, the more untenable his position and advocacy.

  4. Perhaps I am the "rotten lawyer" referred to above, but I think that, by and large, the information published--which was made secret by executive order--should nonetheless see the light of day.

    While Venezuelans may be accustomed to a cloak of darkness thrown over the doings of the Executive branch there, that does not mean that a free people must be similarly kept in ignorance of the activities of their government.

    When Woodrow Wilson was called upon to explain the 100,000 Americans killed in World War I, he announced the Fourteen Points as core American war aims, the first of which was:

    "1.Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view."

    It is always easier for the authorities to prefer the shadows, but they have promised us open diplomacy, and we should insist on it.

  5. jeffrey

    i disagree.

    a lot of people seem to be confusing secret and discretion. diplomacy without discretion cannot work at all, and complex diplomacy also requires some secretive practices.

    outing the state department cables only would serve a purpose if at the very least the cables from iran or russia were alos outed. failure to do so only weakens the US position and western democracy. is that what you and assange are advocating?

  6. Anonymous1:53 AM

    Jeffry, that's a fine argument, if you think the world should work the way it did back in 1918. The times, they are a-changin, and have been for a very, very long time.

    Also, when he says "private international understandings," he's talking about something other than the communication of messages back to HQ.

  7. I am advocating freedom to publish.

    The mere fact that someone in the US administration stamps these cables "secret" does not prove to me that they do not belong in the public sphere.

    While Assange and friends may be directing their attention at the US, the principle of freedom to publish government information is crucial if people are to know what is being done in their name by "their" governments. If you publish Chavez's secrets, I'm behind you all the way.

  8. jeffrey

    freedom to publish?

    it is very different when you steal documents and publish them and when you open your own blog to say whatever you want. can't you see the difference? so, if you were to steal my private diaries it would be OK to "publish" them without my consent even though nothing significant would be found in them except my personal secret opinions of my friends and colleagues?

    go back to my earlier post about the difference between prima donna and whistle blower in case you do not understand. assange is NO whistle blower, he is a breacher of privacy and a show off and "resentido social".

  9. I think it is important for citizens to know what their governments are doing. Daniel expresses the wish that cables from Russia and iran also be outed, and I share that wish.

    In the meantime, this is a pretty good substitute:

    "el entonces ministro del Interior de Nicaragua, Tomás Borge, y sus subordinados llegaron a ayudar a la gente de Pablo Escobar con la carga y descarga de drogas en sus aviones durante su escala nicaragüense.

    "La DEA logró colocar una cámara oculta en uno de los aviones y obtuvo la película de Escobar y de funcionarios del Ministerio del Interior cargando cocaína en un avión de Escobar en el aeropuerto internacional de Managua".

  10. 1979 Boat People6:09 AM

    I would go futher to call Assenge a WHIMP.

    He scares that he may drink Russian Radioactive tea someday.

  11. Jeffry, your argument is that the American people have a right to know the details of American diplomacy. Is that correct? That would seem to be the essence of this point: 'the principle of freedom to publish government information is crucial if people are to know what is being done in their name by "their" governments.'

    If that's correct, please explain how this event is helping the American people. I just don't see it. Did they not know that U.S. diplomats were seeking information abroad? Did they not know that said diplomats were conveying strong opinions - not necessarily their own - on various world figures back to Washington?

    Instead, the unilateral release is hindering that diplomacy, and I don't see how that could be good for Americans. Good for foreigners, yes - I'm sure the Chinese have a couple thousand people ready to dig through everything - if they don't have everything already.

    The mere fact that Assange - and you - stamps these cables "public" does not prove to me that they DO belong in the public sphere. You'll have to do better than that. The wish for other country's cables does not suffice. If someone had cables from all over and released them all, then your argument would stand. In the current circumstances, it does not.

  12. AIO: You see the point. There is nothing magical about the executive stamping something secret.

    The press, and certainly the foreign press, owes no allegiance to the US government, or any other government either.

    So, there is no particular reason for the press to refuse to publish US or other secrets.

    I am old enough to remember when the US press published Khrushchev's
    "secret speech" which denounced Stalin. Was the US press obligated to keep that unpublished because it was "stolen"?

    The ultimate utility to American citizens from wikileaks' revelations seems obvious to me; something so basic as discovering that the US is secretly bombing Yemen is a fact which should be part of public discourse.

    For further discussion, see the Economist:

  13. Jeffrey ,

    May I illustrate it in a clear and simple way for you :

    In the world in which we live, people are not yet evolved enough to handle too much transparency.All people still have negative emotions to deal with which include pride, grasping for power, belief in hierarchies, anger,greed,disloyalty, self centeredness etc etc.This is something we as adults have to accept, deal with in the healthiest way possible, in order to protect ourselves and others.If the day comes when people evolve enough to stop abusing power, then we can decide to be totally transparent with each other.Until such time we will have to settle for more transparency in appropriate ways, BUT secrecy in others.It is far more nuanced than your presentation would suggest.

    Given the above reality, look at it like this:

    An American Football game( where strategy and planning are vital)

    If one of the two teams decides to put his plan on the billboard, while the other team keeps their plans secret, guess who is going to win?

    In the real world we don't have total democracies as that would lead to anarchy.We elect representatives who , based on our general opinions will make the judgment calls including what needs to be kept secret or not.If any single member of an organization would have the authority to publish whatever secret he considers appropriate because in his personal opinion they should be be public, then we would have the collapse of our strategies and team efforts.

  14. "There is nothing magical" - agreed - but there is something valuable, something useful. Otherwise it would never have been kept under wraps.

    "The press, and certainly the foreign press, owes no allegiance to the US government." I agree with this, as well. But what about you? Are you an American? If you are, I'm not sure how you can support the unilateral release of this information. Unless you believe that the U.S. government overseas is working directly AGAINST your interests.

    "there is no particular reason for the press to refuse to publish US or other secrets." Absolutely wrong. There is no reason of allegiance to the U.S. But publicizing some of this information will put people in harm's way. Not just U.S. employees, but foreigners all over the place. I've heard that some have already lost jobs, which is far from the worst that can happen, but too much (assuming they weren't sharing state secrets, but only opinions).

    But innocent people are at risk. Did you read the WSJ article Daniel linked to in his post? Excellent example there. Now think about the Venezuelans who will suffer once the regime knows their names. Is this true of every single cable that has been/will be released? Of course not. But it is proof that the way they are doing things is utterly irresponsible. I cannot use "public information" as an excuse for seeing people harmed, perhaps even killed. Ends do not justify means.

    (By the way, no clue on what you're trying to point out with the Economist link, as it doesn't take me to "Overseeing State Secrecy.")

  15. Kolya8:31 PM

    A few years ago, when I first heard of Wikileaks shortly after it launched, I like them. I like the idea behind them. And I thought many of those leaks were for the good. Interestingly, that was before Assange became well known. In other words, one heard of Wikileaks, but not of Assange. The focus was on the documents. But Assange's big ego enjoys the limelight and he started making more and more irresponsible decisions.

    So I'm one of those who thinks that the role of Wikileaks was initially laudable and positive. From what I recall, initially Wikileaks was rather careful in what info they released, so as to avoid exposing people to danger. For instance, I supported them for releasing some of the US military docs/videos that the Pentagon was so unhappy about. Later, though, Wikileaks stopped being as careful and started to make those huge document dumps.

    As to diplomatic and intelligence docs, I agree that the purported mission of Wikileaks is almost totally undermined by them not releasing the equivalent documents from places such as China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and so on. My guess is that Wikileaks does not have such documents because they are much, much harder to obtain. Moreover, we all know it's much less dangerous to leak confidential docs of liberal democracies than of authoritarian regimes.

    As I wrote elsewhere, though, from reading (and reading about) some of the US State Department cable, I think the US is coming out of it looking pretty good. Maybe my expectations were low because of all the bad rep the State Department got through the years, but my general impression from the cables I've seen is that US career diplomats are a competent bunch trying to provide an honest assessment to Washington. (If the cables seem much too mundane it is because most work product anywhere is mundane. Although classified, these cables are not Top Secret.)

    A last remark: if Assange is indeed a rapist, then he should be in jail for rape. Whether those charges are credible, I have no idea (didn't read much about them.)

  16. Kolya9:06 PM

    I just read an article by Greenwald that made me realize that some of my assumptions about Wikileaks and Assange were wrong. A quote and then the link for the whole thing:

    "Anyone listening to most media accounts would believe that WikiLeaks has indiscriminately published all 250,000 of the diplomatic cables it possesses ... The reality is the exact opposite -- literally -- of what Gitlin told TNR readers. WikiLeaks has posted to its website only 960 of the 251,297 diplomatic cables it has. Almost every one of these cables was first published by one of its newspaper partners which are disclosing them (The Guardian, the NYT, El Pais, Le Monde, Der Speigel, etc.). Moreover, the cables posted by WikiLeaks were not only first published by these newspapers, but contain the redactions applied by those papers to protect innocent people and otherwise minimize harm. Here is an AP article from yesterday detailing this process:
    [T]he group is releasing only a trickle of documents at a time from a trove of a quarter-million, and only after considering advice from five news organizations with which it chose to share all of the material."

  17. Kolya, I think your first comment is spot on. As for your second, the fact that only a few cables have been released (I think the number may be those released directly by Wikileaks, and other news organizations have published some cables that are not on the Wikileaks site, but came from Wikileaks in the first place, so the real number is probably somehwat higher) is important, but the nature of the cables released strongly supports your first comment. That is, the cables that are being released seem essentially chosen at random, rather than focused on specific behavior/actions that were questionable, perhaps even illegal. The randomness of the selection hints in no way that we will end up seeing only a portion of the cables. Combined, I have to conclude that the goal is simply to release all of them eventually. The slow drip may be simply a strategy to keep the attention focused for a longer period of time.

    Put it all together - the lack of focus of what has been released, the apparent intent to release everything, and the slow drip - and it seems like this is less and less about the substance (or any principle at all), and more and more about Assange.

  18. I can't share firepigette's view that people have not "evolved enough" to have a democratic country, or that we should passively accept whatever decisions the Executive makes to hide things from us.

    Kolya makes the point that wikileaks should also make available documents from the various dictatorships he mentions. Daniel also made that point earlier.

    I believe that the PRINCIPLE of wikileaks will one day be applied to the other powers, too, including Venezuela. The world needs an alternative to the secrecy which nation states impose on their dealings, and right now, wikileaks is it.

    Therefore, I do not assess wikileaks by asking "Is it good for the US?" I ask "Is it good for humankind that state secrecy is not absolute?" And that means: ANY state.

    The worst offenders in the secrecy department are the authoritarian/totalitarian states. They tremble before any source not controlled by themselves.

  19. Kolya,

    Russians can shuttle a bit of polonium to Litvinenkoe any whistle blower gets Litvinenkoed.
    But then all these Wikileaks are, as I said, product of a very unique event. Then you have the fact the US is more digitalized, there was a more than unusual openness due to Sept 2001, etc.

    Now, perhaps this thing about the rape is true. I don't know. Still, this seems to me very suspicious: the case is reopened just the very same day when the new leaks pop up. This reminds me a bit to the way in which the Israelis got Mordechai Vanunu: through sex.

    This reminds me also of Viktor Ostrovski's fascinating book
    where Ostrovski describes very extensively how sex is one of the key research elements when the kassa want to get a given individual.

  20. Jeffry House,

    You did not understand my simple comment.I said:

    People are not evolved enough to have a world without secrecy, or a world of total transparency.

    Your ideas pertain to a fantasy world.


    I don't think that the Swedish judges take orders from the US government.If that were true then I guess their famed neutrality is just a myth, and they are just one more of our lackeys.

  21. 1979 Boat People5:25 AM

    Who's to blame for damage from WikiLeaks?

  22. Firepigette,

    I don't know. Neutrality has long become such an empty word even in Sweden.
    Besides, it is one thing the sending of troops abroad or engaging in "military alliances" and quite another big politicians being manipulated by foreign powers.
    It is just too much of a coincidence, after dropping the case for months to trigger it immediately when Wikileaks announced this new round.

    By the way: some people in the media say those women cannot be "setups" as they are "left activists". Left my foot, there have been plenty of these lefty activists (or righty activists, same thing) who have worked one time or the other for the best bidder.

    One of the guys going against the conspiration (or "conspiration") hypothesis is Swedish collumnist Peter Wolodarski...who happens to be a Jew. I really recommend you to check out Victor Ostrowski's book on Mossad methods.

    The way in which Israel (and US) authorities as they seem almost like Siamese siblings for decades now) pressurized Norway in the Lilehammer case -admitedly, not a neutral but NATO nation- to free the Mossad guys involved in the murder of innocent Ahmed Bouchiki
    shows those countries are not as independent as they want to be.
    Norway, of all places, (the ones on top and higher security, not the small police) let the killers of an innocent murdered in their territory (mind: not a Hamas murderer as recently) go away...for political pressure.

    This case is probably bigger.

    Of course, it could indeed be a rape.

  23. My "fantasy world" ideas involve a check on the power of the executive to simply declare everything it does a national secret.

    Yesterday, I apparently provided a faulty link to the debate in The Economist on this question, so will simply say that my view is approximately the same as this:

    "If secrecy is necessary for national security and effective diplomacy, it is also inevitable that the prerogative of secrecy will be used to hide the misdeeds of the permanent state and its privileged agents. I suspect that there is no scheme of government oversight that will not eventually come under the indirect control of the generals, spies, and foreign-service officers it is meant to oversee. Organisations such as WikiLeaks, which are philosophically opposed to state secrecy and which operate as much as is possible outside the global nation-state system, may be the best we can hope for in the way of promoting the climate of transparency and accountability necessary for authentically liberal democracy."

    The application of this principle to the struggle for democracy in Venezuela may someday be important, and that is why I feel that Venezuelan democrats should not summarily dismiss Assange and his works.

  24. jeffrey

    you are not getting it, aren't you?

    your model works when ALL play by the same rules. if a single one of them stops playing by the rules then it either gets an unfair advantage or wreaks full havoc.

    and you still have not let us see that you differentiate clearly between a whistle blower and a prima donna. assange, in addition of being a prima donna is probably a terrorist. then there is a certain redundancy in terms when one thinks of it which seems to also escape the economist if that quote comes from them.

    the way you see things is already in place such as making public all archives after a certain time. i will grant you one thing: the decades span current today could be shortened significantly. for example those cables by their content could certainly be made available in say, 10 years. so if you are in a post in say, kuala lumpur, and you know that your cable will be made public in ten years and that you expect 20 years of career, you will thus become more careful in writing and gathering information.

    but, exactly as it happens in court, exactly as it happens in the doctor office, exactly as it happens ion any sensitive situation, if you have no minimum of secrecy and confidence nothing will work out. or are you going to start advocating that anyone in some form of public situation must reveal all what they say and do even in the bedroom? because make no mistake, when wikileaks becomes the standard for diplomacy it will spread in other spheres of life, at least for politicians even at local levels, and then who knows where else. in other words the long term effect of wikileaks is violating the right of privacy, erasing all originality and creating a boring neutral generality which will be much easier to take over by some unscrupulous group that will find ways to really keep a secret, and thus tools for large scale social blackmail and control.

  25. Let us presume that you have justified the "miniumum of secrecy" referred to in your post above.

    The problem with the pro-censorship position is that it excepts what the Executive claims to be that minimum, at face value.

    Didn't Chavez recently create a Council with powers to arbitrarily "classify" information as a state secret? (I do not recall the name of the agency, but it was this summer I think.)

    If the noose starts to tighten in Venezuela as the Executive makes most government information secret, what arguments will you be relying on to ge the truth out?

  26. Kepler,

    It's impossible to disprove a conspiracy theory, and of course one can never know when they are true.

    Was the Assange case in Sweden totally dropped or was it somewhere in the bureaucratic pipeline ?It is not inconceivable that the Swedes decided to move quickly in their extradition request before the US got its own introduced.If he goes to the States first then the Swedes will have to wait for him to finish his sentence before getting a chance to put him on trial.

    From the US point of view the deterrent effect of having him convicted in Sweden first on unrelated charges might not be as powerful as having him convicted in the US first.

  27. "wikileaks should also make available documents from...various dictatorships"

    This argument is purely theoretical - a "fantasy world," as firepigette said. CAN Wikileaks do that? No, and they probably never will be able to. So the more valid question to ask is yours reworded: "Is it good for humankind that United States state secrecy is not absolute?" I think you will still say yes, but you at least have to admit that it's a very different question.

    But that, too, is really not the right question. Given that the U.S. has the Freedom of Information Act, it's simply an issue of getting virtually all of the information now rather than later. Frankly, that's not very compelling - especially when you balance it against the real risk and damage to human life and well-being by this being released by people with no sensitivity to the damage it might do, in part because of their ignorance.

    "WikiLeaks...may be the best we can hope for in the way of promoting the climate of transparency and accountability necessary for authentically liberal democracy."

    If you think this applies in any way to Venezuela, then you are definitely living in that fantasy world. If anything like this became public in Venezuela, do you really think Chavez could be held accountable, that there would be "a check on the power of the executive"? No way. Some poor fall guy(s) would suffer the punishment for him, while he spins it away as another conspiracy against him.

    And that's really the weakness in your argument, as Daniel pointed out. There's no equality here. The states that need this kind of oversight the most are the ones that would be least affected by it if it should happen. And the ones where the wrong people would - in this case, will, in Venezuela, Iran and elsewhere - be punished if it did.

  28. AIO and Jeffrey

    I thin that AIO reply is definitive and can close this thread.

    Jeffrey, AIO raises an EXCELLENT reality check.

    A few months ago we had in Venezuela a scandal about maybe 150 THOUSAND tons of food that went into waste because of governmental ineptitude and corruption, a much worse offense than anything that wikileaks has produced so far.

    And yet, with an obvious scandal that did not need any leak (we could smell it, we did not even need to be told), the man in charge, Rafael Ramirez, is sitting tight at his job with a couple of suckers going to a mock trial when there should be dozens of people investigated and going to real trials and real jails.

    So you will forgive us living in dictatorships without any end inside to be, not only very doubtful about the worth of Assange terrorism, but be further concerned that it will weaken further any country that could actually do something to help the Venezuelan people.

  29. Kolya7:57 PM

    I don't have to like Assange as a person to be suspicious (and bothered) by the way he's being persecuted and demonized. Yes, Assange likes being the center of attention and he has his groupies, but the way many folks are clamoring for his head makes me very uneasy. From what I have read today, I'm not at all confident that the sexual offence charges against him are justified. He's in jail because he pissed off several governments, especially the US.

  30. Geez.....

    Sweden is supposed to have a pretty good record when it comes to corruption.


    Some people are so anti-American that they prefer to think that the Swedes are corrupt as long as they can also blame the US...

  31. Firepigette,
    It is not hatred towards the U.S.
    You are acting irrationally out of...let's call it patriotismo.

    I mentioned the case of a country that turns out as less corrupt than Sweden: Norway. Still, out of political pressure, the Norwegians let people who had actually murdered a perfectly innocent man go a bit about the Lilehammer affair. I can surely find similar cases, but: why bother? No country should be above the law, that other people demand that is not "hatred" or "envidia".

    These cases, anyway, are more complicated than "X pays Y so many dollars". Power goes beyond money and simple payments.

  32. Kepler,

    Actually I did not have you in mind in my previous comment ,as you were writing about the POSSIBILITY of a conspiracy, but rather Kolya, who makes a DEFINITE assertion regarding US's culpability in this case when he said:

    "He's in jail because he pissed off several governments, especially the US."

  33. Firepigette,

    I very much thought it was about Kolya and others than me. That does not matter. See...I so often hear and read "X is anti-USA" or "X hates the USA" and at most for explanation "he just hates us" or "tiene envidia".

    1) Kolya definitely does NOT hate the US. He is actually in love with it, even if he can be critical (which for me is normal if one is analytical and has principles). Kolya has actually contributed to the USA a lot. I won't go into that here, but he definitely does not hate the USA.
    2) There are people who indeed have a visceral hatred towards the US as a whole primarily because of complexes, of their own frustrations, etc. They react like mad when Daniel writes in French at Agorax, for instance.
    3) There are people who react in a civil way and others in a non-civil way and others in a completely illegal manner towards real or perceived wrongdoings (or a mixed of real and perceived) by the US and they react either towards the US as a whole or the government (mostly the first).
    Now, even among these, there are various reasons and even if those reasons are rubbish, they can be very different.

    It does not take us much further to say it's just about 'evil' or 'hatred'.
    The reasons can be more or less evil indeed, but one needs to know what originates them. Understanding the frame of mind of the other is not a psychological exercise for academic purposes, but a real need to find the best answers, the best ways to protect one's people, a possibility to prevent escalation, etc.

  34. Kepler,

    I understand all the reasons people criticize the US, and I do so as well, but there are ways and means, that are fruitful and there are ways and means that are not.These run the gamut from useless to harmful.Some cultures have the bad habit of criticizing most everything without thinking,while doing quite a bit of harm in the meantime.

    Kolya may or may not like the US( I don't know him personally)..I can only read his remarks, as when he states:

    "He's in jail because he pissed off several governments, especially the US."

    This is a non analytical and off the cuff condemnation.

    I suppose we should go on to other topics for the time being
    but to tie this in with Venezuela it is my opinion that Venezuelans and other Latin cultures as well are guilty of knee jerk criticisms of others and their own countries as well, to a point that self esteem is so low it hinders the ability to create uplifting solutions.


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