by Frank Scott
The Wikileaks story has been treated by the establishment as a dangerous expose of imperial mind management and led to suppression, damage control and vindictive retribution. Meanwhile much of what passes for an anti establishment has expressed cynical disregard for what seems like old news, or treated the entire episode as another of the products of an all controlling deity-like complex of near invisible forces. These involve theories of manipulative plots and conspiracies to plot conspiratorial manipulations, all of them unknown to any but a chosen sect who seem to understand everything but how to stop the evil conspirators. The most extreme members of this cult are dangerously close to believing sunrise, sunset and the seasons are the result of machinations by a group of Talmudic billionaire Mossad agents sitting in a room in Tel Aviv or New York. In often mentally disabling ways these sources almost make the dangers of global capitalism and Zionist dominance of the American government pale in importance or even existence beside the threat of seemingly invisible forces that conspire to arrange just about everything. But many establishment figures, among them some of the foremost jackals and hyenas of the foreign policy establishment, have joined in cynically asking who is manipulating us here? All but totally submerged in consciousness is the risk that has been run by the Wikileaks group and its sources, nor is there enough awareness of the panic among keepers of the public mind and their lashing out in ways as irrational as some of the critics, though far more threatening.
Along with near comical
illuminati based theories of conspiracies, plots
and counter plots, we have defamation of the character
and intelligence of people taking heroic risk in making
public what was once private. They are maligned as
criminals, fools or enemy agents. A citizen of Australia
is accused of being a traitor to America while Sweden
charges him with a horrendous sex offense seemingly
invented by otherwise sane Scandinavians: he refused to
use a condom! It is almost bizarre enough to be funny but
the potential tragedy is hardly humorous. The Wikileakers
are subjected to death threats and demands for their
execution by irrational voices in and out of government
while small, shrill voices claim they are counter-counter-counter
spies or dupes of dupes of dupes. Just what is going on
Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and their cohorts are definitely a threat to diplomacy that hides reality from the public when not totally distorting it, and to perverted government policies of war carried out in the publics name and called dedication to peace. Establishment leaders and their stenographers in media treat this assault on logic, language and morality as patriotism. Meanwhile, efforts to bring information that should have reached us long ago if corporate media were not under control of the very forces it supposedly reports on, are seen as treason, disregarded as nothing new or treated as an adventure story. Maybe wed be better off is all of this were just the sort of conspiracy from a supernatural realm that some suspect, but it is very real and demands the concern of all who wish for a different reality. Assange, Manning, and all their cohorts yet unknown in this drama need and demand the support of all who believe in peace, social justice and open democratic government to achieve those things. They have given the lie to the notion that there are, or should be, secrets in an open society or that there should be behind the scenes manipulation of nations, governments and media sources.
The Wikileaks group are sending a
signal that we can know and should know everything that
is done in our name and that in this electronic age there
are no longer any secrets that can be kept from us, if we
would simply demand completely open government and
defend those who take great risk to bring it about. The
first call ought to be to come to the aid of Assange, and
especially Manning. If we allow either of them to be made
scapegoats and suffer more than they already have for
their acts on behalf of humanity, we may all suffer
far more ourselves. And we will deserve it.
Saturday, 04 December 2010 14:00
Why did Wilson make this number one on his list of war
aims? Because those Americans who paid attention to such
issues did not trust the European style of international
relations. They thought it was corrupt and tainted by
narrow interest that seemed always to lead to conflict.
This was one of the beliefs that encouraged American
isolationism. However, Wilson was not an isolationist. He
wanted the United States to engage in the world and take
a leadership position. He imagined that America was a
morally superior nation and its involvement in
international affairs would make the world better. "Diplomacy
proceeding frankly and in the public view" was his
first move in the effort to assert that idealistic
American leadership. So what would Woodrow Wilson, or for
that matter the educated and aware American citizen
supporting him in 1918, say about Secretary of State
Hilary Clinton and other U.S. officials and "pundits"
running about and insisting on the absolute need for
secret diplomacy, while calling those who defy that
standard criminals? What indeed?!
Lawrence Davidson is a Professor of Middle East History at West Chester University in West ChesterPennsylvania.He is the author of Americas Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University Press of Florida, 2001), Islamic Fundamentalism (Greenwood Press, 2003), and, co-author with Arthur Goldschmidt of the Concise History of the Middle East, 8th and 9th Editions (Westview Press, 2006 and 2009). His latest book is entitled Foreign Policy, Inc.: Privatizing American National Interest (University of Kentucky Press, 2009). Professor Davidson travels often and widely in the Middle East. He also has taken on the role of public intellectual in order to explain to American audiences the impact of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
WikiLeaks: US diplomats make fun of EU leaders, spy on EU citizens
Today @ 07:49 CET
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - American diplomats speak about EU leaders in terms of "Teflon Merkel," "authoritarian Sarkozy" and a "feckless, vain and ineffective Berlusconi" who is a "mouthpiece" for Russia, a first batch of secret cables sent to and from US embassies abroad and published by WikiLeaks shows.
The latest release of the whistle-blowing website, which recently published US war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq exposing war crimes and torture, began on Sunday evening (28 November) and will carry on throughout the next months until all 251,287 intercepted embassy cables are onlined.
The documents, dating from 1966 until the end of February 2010, are the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The move comes amid the US government's repeated warning to WikiLeaks that it will compromise relations with allies and military operations abroad.
"The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities" and expose "the extent of US spying on its allies," a statement on the WikiLeaks site says.
A first batch of documents, already processed by leading newspapers in Britain, Germany, Spain and the US, offers unflattering comments about European leaders and gives precise details about how US diplomats stationed in Europe should gather personal data such as email passwords and credit card data of European citizens.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for instance, is described as "avoiding risk" and being "seldom creative." A cable issued on 9 September 2009, three weeks before the parliamentary elections which swept her back into power, bears the headline: "Chancellor Angela 'Teflon' Merkel takes limelight as FDP waits in the wings."
Her foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, is seen as "arrogant" and "fixated on maintaining his 'cult of personality'," US diplomats note. They almost call him a liar, when reporting a meeting with the US ambassador following a crucial vote in the European Parliament in February, when the legislature rejected a data transfer deal with the US, known as the "Swift agreement."
"His comment that he was unable to affect the vote in the EU Parliament on TFTP [Terrorism Finance Tracking Program] was a bit disingenuous; on 4 February, an MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] official acknowledged to visiting Treasury officials in Berlin that German MEPs were in fact leading the charge against TFTP in the EU Parliament with the tacit support of the FDP [Mr Westerwelle's party], if not of specialists in the Justice Ministry and MFA themselves," the cable reads.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is described as having a "thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style," with US diplomats noting his tendency to noisily rebuke his team and the French prime minister, Francois Fillon.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is "feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader," according to Elizabeth Dibble, the US charge d'affaires in Rome. In reference to lavish parties and numerous scandals involving young escort girls, the US embassy noted that Mr Berlusconi is a "physically and politically weak" leader whose "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest."
As for the Italian leader's growing fondness of Russian premier Vladimir Putin, the Rome embassy expressed its concern in 2009 over the "lavish gifts," lucrative energy contracts and a "shadowy" Russian-speaking Italian go-between. US diplomats even went as far as saying that Mr Berlusconi "appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin" in Europe.
Mr Putin himself was dubbed an "alpha dog" by the US embassy in Moscow, while the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, "plays Robin to Putin's Batman." In a separate report, Mr Medvedev is described as "pale and hesitant" and having "none of the bravado" of the former KGB officer who is now, technically, his subordinate.
Regional leaders such as Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov, also came to the attention of American diplomats.
In a 2006 cable, Mr Kadyrov was spotted bringing "a five-kilo lump of gold" as a gift to a lavish wedding in Dagestan, where drunken guests were throwing $100 bills at child dancers, while nightttime water-scooters zig-zagged around on the Caspian Sea.
German regional politicians also make it into the cables sent to Washington. On 16 February, the US consulate in Munich, Bavaria's capital, reported on a meeting with Horst Seehofer, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), Ms Merkel's sister party in Germany's wealthiest state.
"An unpredictable politician," Mr Seehofer "revealed only shallow foreign policy expertise" and "seemed uninformed about basic things," for instance that his state, Bavaria, hosts 20,000 out of a total of 40,000 US soldiers stationed in Germany.
Entire countries are mocked too: the Belgian government was told that accepting Guantanmo inmates would be "a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe." Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if its leader wanted to meet with President Obama.
Other news likely to resonate loudly is the detailed "human intelligence" gathering US diplomats are being instructed to perform in Europe, blurring the traditional demarcation line between spies and government envoys.
A cable on Bulgarian "reporting and collection needs" dating back to 16 June 2009 reads that "intelligence on the rule of law, corruption, and crime in the national leadership is the top priority of a directive issued to diplomats in the months ahead of secretary of state Hillary Clinton's meeting with her Bulgarian counterpart."
Reporting officers are requested to include "as much of the following information as possible" on Bulgarian citizens in their texts: names, organisational titles, private phone numbers, email addresses, credit account numbers, frequent flyer numbers and work schedules.
"Details about organized crime groups, including leadership, links to government and foreign entities, drug and human trafficking, credit card fraud, and computer-related crimes, including child pornography," are also listed on the diplomat-spies' to-do-lists.
"Corruption among senior officials, including off-budget financial flows in support of senior leaders," is another area to be worked on, as well as "assessment, vulnerability, personality, financial, health, and biometric information about current and emerging leaders and advisers."
According to the New York Times, whose reporters analysed hundreds of cables prior to the Sunday release, "the more intrusive personal information diplomats are now being asked to gather could be used by the National Security Agency for data mining and surveillance operations. A frequent-flier number, for example, could be used to track the travel plans of foreign officials."
The details emerge just as a number of Nordic countries have launched investigations into alleged spying by the local US embassies on regular citizens, after Norwegian public TV uncovered that Washington secretly commissioned surveillance of hundreds of Norwegian nationals believed to pose a threat to US interests, such as the embassy in Oslo.
Washington has repeatedly denied that its diplomats are engaged in any illegal activities.
"Our diplomats are just that, diplomats," foreign affairs spokesman Philip J. Crowley told the New York Times on Sunday. "They represent our country around the world and engage openly and transparently with representatives of foreign governments and civil society. Through this process, they collect information that shapes our policies and actions. This is what diplomats, from our country and other countries, have done for hundreds of years."
WikiLeaks cables: CIA drew up UN spying wishlist for diplomats
The US state department's wishlist of information about the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and other senior members of his organisation was drawn up by the CIA, the Guardian has learned.
The disclosure comes as new information emerged about Washington's intelligence gathering on foreign diplomats, including surveillance of the telephone and internet use of Iranian and Chinese diplomats.
One of the most embarrassing revelations to emerge from US diplomatic cables obtained by the whistleblowers' website WikiLeaks has been that US diplomats were asked to gather intelligence on Ban, other senior UN staff, security council members and other foreign diplomats a possible violation of international law.
US state department spokesman PJ Crowley, in interviews since the release, has tried to deflect criticism by repeatedly hinting that although the cables were signed by secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, they originated with another agency. But he refused to identify it.
The Guardian has learned that the intelligence shopping list is drawn up annually by the manager of Humint (human intelligence), a post created by the Bush administration in 2005 in a push to better co-ordinate intelligence after 9/11.
Humint is part of the CIA, which deals with overseas spying overseas and is one of at least 12 US intelligence agencies.
The manager of Humint sets out priorities for the coming year and sends them to the state department. The actual form of words used in the diplomatic cables is written by the state department but a US official confirmed tonight that the original directives are written by the "intelligence community".
The US has been keen to stress that its diplomats are not acting as spies, a label that could endanger their lives.
A senior US intelligence official said: "It shouldn't surprise anyone that US officials at the United Nations seek information on how other nations view topics of mutual concern. If you look at the list of topics of interest in this routine cable, the priorities represent not only what Americans view as critical issues, but our allies as well.
"No one should think of American diplomats as spies. But our diplomats do, in fact, help add to our country's body of knowledge on a wide range of important issues. That's logical and entirely appropriate, and they do so in strict accord with American law."
Earlier, Crowley continued to deny that the American diplomatic corps is involved in spying in any way. "They are diplomats, they are not intelligence assets," said Crowley. "They collect information that is of use in helping inform our policies and actions the secretary of state is not telling her diplomats to be spies."
The intelligence gathering directives were sent from the intelligence operations office within the state department's bureau of intelligence and research, which describes itself as "at the nexus of intelligence and foreign policy".
They made clear that the intelligence operation was not merely a useful addition to the work of a secret service, but that "the [intelligence] community relies on state-reporting officers for much of the biographical information collected worldwide". Biographic reporting is defined in the cables as including "credit card account numbers, frequent flyer account numbers" as well as "compendia of contact information".
New cables released tonight reveal that US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, were ordered to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American socialist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. The US is concerned about an increasing Islamist terrorist presence in Paraguay, and the influence of China.
Washington also wanted the foreign diplomats' internet user account details and passwords, and the same depth of information for some local government and military leaders and "criminal entities or their surrogates", according to a US cable sent in 2008.
New cables released tonight also reveal that Washington has called for diplomats in Romania, Hungary and Slovenia to provide "biometric" information on "current and emerging leaders and advisers" as well as information about "corruption" and information about leaders' health and "vulnerability".
Clinton continued to face awkward questions about an intelligence directive which went out under her name in 2009 aimed at the UN leadership, which was revealed in a separate "national human intelligence collection directive". It called for the collection of "biometric" data on permanent security council representatives, and passwords and personal encryption keys used by top UN officials in possible contravention on international law.
The UN directive also specifically asked for "biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats".
A similar cable to embassies in the Great Lakes region of Africa said biometric data included DNA, as well as iris scans and fingerprints.
A leading expert on UN law today said the proposed activity in the directive breached two international treaties and could lead to the US being censured by the UN general assembly or even, in extreme circumstances, prosecution at the international criminal court.
The targeting of diplomats from North Korea and the permanent representatives of the security council from China, Russia, France and the UK leaves the US government exposed to action from any of those countries.
Dapo Akande, lecturer in international law at Oxford University, said: "Obtaining passwords and information on communications systems violates the 1947 headquarters agreement between the US and UN and the general convention on the privileges and immunities of the United Nations.
"The only reason they can be asking for this information is to break into the communication systems or monitor them in some way."
2 December 2010 7:50PM Speranza
This is not surprising. ALL nations keep an eye on each other. The U.S. does it, as we've been shown, and you can bet that China, Russia, the U.K. etc. all do it, too.I was lucky enough to do an internship at the Foreign Office, working with Protocol.
Foreign relations and diplomacy is full of mistrust, childish games, and bureaucracy.It's also full of people who overestimate their own importance, which is why I'm taking this leaked documents with a pinch of salt.
2 December 2010 8:01PM Viper
Just goes to show how gutless the UN is, based in New York founded on a treaty which expressly forbids that any nation spy on it and then we find out that the nation hosting it, is spying on it - Says it all really.
With friends like these....
2 December 2010 8:02PM Proudon
The lack of surprise speaks a volume on the complete lack of confidence in our rulers. However this is corrupt behaviour and is disgraceful. Spying on the United Nations is probably the worst of the leaks. It is not surprising but it shows the complete disregard in America for an International organisation that might be seen to challenge US hegemony.