By Jesse Brown - Monday, April 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Wikileaks has just dropped a data dump of 1.7 million U.S. diplomatic and intelligence cables, published on a site they call the Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy. The documents are all dated between 1973-76, and include over 200,000 items relating directly to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Journalists and academics have begun sorting through the missives, many of which shed new light on America’s relationships with oppressive regimes in Latin America. Also of note are detailed reports on The Yom Kippur war, Israel’s 1973 conflict with Egypt and Syria. Many formerly secret memos are included.
“Formerly” secret not because of Wikileaks, but because the documents have all been publicly available at the National Archives. All that Wikileaks has done here (and by Wikileaks, it seems that we’re talking chiefly about Julian Assange, who reportedly engineered this release personally while in exile) is collect the data, put it online, organize it, alert the media to it, and make it easily searchable.
Which is a lot.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 12:05 PM - 0 Comments
From time to time I’ve argued that Julian Assange is an epic donkey whose ego, personal agenda, and lust for celebrity infamy supersede Wikileaks’ stated goal to “open governments.” Each time I’ve done so, I’ve been labelled an MSM (mainstream media) shill, an establishment hack working to discredit a disruptive but crucial voice. Whether these sentiments are expressed in comment sections or in emails to me, some invariably contain the phrase “We are Legion” and are signed, Anonymous.
Now, Anonymous (the amorphous Internet culture/movement often described as a “hacker group” ) has broken off with Wikileaks. Why? Because Julian Assange has opted to monetize the data he leaks. Millions of documents have been shoved behind a Wikileaks paywall. To see them, users are asked to whip out their credit cards and donate to Wikileaks (a.k.a. the Julian Assange legal defense fund). Another option is to tweet the donation form or post it to Facebook, in an attempt to take the fundraising campaign viral. It’s very tacky, it betrays Wikileaks’ mission, and it has pissed off Anonymous.
No one voice speaks for all of Anonymous, but the collective does have certain influential channels that dictate the mood of the horde. One of these, AnonymousIRC, broke with Wikileaks in a public statement:
[The Wikileaks mission] has been pushed more and more into the background, instead we only hear about Julian Assange, like he had dinner last night with Lady Gaga….The conclusion for us is that we cannot support anymore what Wikileaks has become – the One Man Julian Assange show.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Wikileaks founder’s presidential supporter keeps his own country’s press on a short leash
Politics makes strange bedfellows. But even by those standards, the pairing of Julian Assange and Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, is a little hard to fathom. The Wikileaks founder has been holed up in the South American nation’s embassy in London since mid-June, seeking refuge from the British government’s attempts to extradite him to Sweden, where he is under police investigation for two alleged sexual assaults. Correa, a left-leaning populist, has offered him asylum, suggesting the charges—which basically boil down to Assange refusing to wear a condom—are trumped up and political. “The alleged sexual offences are not considered crimes in Latin America, or in 95 per cent of the world,” the president declared last week.
Whether or not there is a wider conspiracy to neuter the Internet muckraker is debatable. But surely someone who crusades for freedom of information and expression should be able to pick better friends. Since taking office in 2007, Correa has shut down or nationalized dozens of media outlets in Ecuador. And after tweaking the country’s libel and press laws, he has made full use of the courts to go after his critics—most infamously in a 2011 suit against an opposition newspaper that resulted in a $42-million fine and three-year jail terms for four journalists. (Under international pressure, the president later set the verdict aside and pardoned the men, although all four have since fled Ecuador.) In its most recent Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 104th in the world, noting a worrying uptick in physical attacks on the media as well.
“Rafael Correa is building an authoritarian system,” says Simón Pachano, a political scientist at FLACSO, a social sciences school in Quito, the Ecuadorian capital. “He doesn’t understand democracy as pluralism. He thinks all media are in opposition and that any critical position is against his government.”
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 2:02 PM - 0 Comments
Anonymous data transmission, peer-to-peer file sharing, cloud-based file storage: these are three technologies.
Julian Assange, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Kim Dotcom: these are three people.
Got it? If so, you’re miles ahead of many executives, legislators, bureaucrats and police around the world. They’ve confused these dudes with the technologies they use. That’s why Julian Assange is getting even pastier as he holes up in Ecuador’s British embassy, avoiding extradition to Sweden for questioning on crimes he has yet to be charged with. That’s why Pirate Bay cofounder Gottfrid Warg has been arrested in Cambodia, facing deportation to Sweden, even though Cambodia has no extradition treaty with Sweden. That’s why MegaUpload baron Kim Dotcom had his assets frozen and New Zealand mansion seized on warrants later deemed invalid. In each case, the persecution has been literally extraordinary. Diplomatic and investigative protocols have been abandoned, laws have been twisted and abused. Whatever it takes, that’s what’s done to stop these men.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
Confession: I watched Julian Assange’s TV show. I promised myself I’d ignore it, but curiosity got the better of me. I wish I’d stuck with my instinct, because it annoyed me to the extent that I’m now going to compound the problem by writing about him. Sorry everybody.
Before I unburden myself, a note to Assange’s supporters: I know you feel your guy has been unfairly maligned and mocked by an international conspiracy to defame, imprison, and possibly kill him, even though he may not have broken any laws. And I think you’re probably right–he has been. But that doesn’t mean he’s not an ass.
And let’s face it, he’s such an ass. He establishes this in the first minute of the World Tomorrow, through an epically self-aggrandizing intro-montage that places Assange as some kind of messianic figurehead of both the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. He overplays the victim card by running footage of a rabid Fox News commentator barking that the U.S. should just “illegally shoot the son of a bitch!” Let’s remember that U.S. senator Joe Lieberman called for Assange to be tried for treason against the American government, a fantastical suggestion given that Assange is not a U.S. citizen. And Lieberman came within inches of the Vice Presidency, so he’s by no means a cable news cartoon character. Lieberman’s is a much more telling clip of the actual persecution Assange faces at the hands of the powerful. But I guess it wouldn’t make for as good television.
By Jesse Brown - Monday, March 5, 2012 at 5:27 PM - 0 Comments
Julian’s at it again. Following news of his Kremlin-funded talkshow (!?), last week saw the albino nomad kicking up controversy in London over WikiLeaks’ complicity with Belarusian despot Alexander Lukashenko. It seems WikiLeaks provided Belarus with the names of anti-Lukashenko American “agents” who were then targeted by the regime. And now, as WikiLeaks slowly releases millions of security think tank emails exposing everything from Iranian military secrets to American financial fraud, Assange has found a way to once again make it all about him and the secret U.S. plot to bring him down.
Assange’s juvenile politics, his shameless fame-whoring, his greed, his paranoia, his bad hygiene and worse behaviour: all of it has distracted from the real conversation about transparency. What if he didn’t hate the U.S., blame Jews and cozy up to despots? What if Assange was just a guy dedicated to acquiring and releasing confidential information? Continue…
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 9:20 PM - 0 Comments
From Julian Assange to RIM–this year’s reversals of fortune
As the hockey world adjusts to stricter hitting rules and increasing concerns over brain injuries, Cherry’s tough-guy rhetoric seems more and more antiquated. The man of a million suits bowed to pressure in October and apologized after he called three former NHL enforcers “pukes” and “turncoats.” Weeks later, he declined an honorary degree from the Royal Military College after a professor took issue with Cherry’s alleged intolerance of French-Canadians, immigrants and homosexuals.
In September the former business mogul was returned to the prison population he once described as “an ostracized, voiceless legion of the walking dead.” U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve had re-sentenced Black to 13 more months behind bars in Florida for mail fraud and obstruction of justice.
By Colby Cosh, Jaime J. Weinman, and Richard Warnica - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Miley gets political, the Pope gets stung and Julian Assange gets an autobiography he doesn’t want
No, they didn’t walk home
Two American hikers convicted of espionage in Iran were released after the sultan of Oman posted US$930,000 bail for them. Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, 29-year-old pro-Palestine activists and former Berkeley classmates, were seized along with a female friend while on holiday in 2009; Iran claims they illegally crossed their border on foot. The woman, Sarah Shourd, Bauer’s fiancée, was freed last fall on medical grounds. Bauer and Fattal’s release, with both in apparent good health, is seen as a political victory for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over hardline clerics in the Islamic republic.
Only in France is having it and not flaunting it a crime. Last week, a court outside Paris fined two women for refusing to show their faces in public. Hind Ahmas and Najate Nait Ali were the ﬁrst Frenchwomen charged under a law that bans full facial coverings outside the home. Passed last spring, the ban was aimed, rather transparently, at France’s substantial Muslim minority. It may also have been an attempt by President Nicolas Sarkozy to shore up his vulnerable right flank. But if anything, the law has galvanized supporters of the niqab. Ahmas told reporters she intends to challenge her fine in the European Court of Human Rights—while Kenza Drider, who also wears the niqab, now says she intends to run against Sarkozy in the presidential election. “When a woman wants to maintain her freedom she must be bold,” Drider told the Associated Press.
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 12:51 PM - 41 Comments
Until last week, Julian Assange seemed to be receding from view. As he wrestled with criminal charges and a financial chokehold on donations to his cause, Wikileaks’ data releases slowed to a trickle, and nothing that emerged proved too juicy. Then, all of a sudden, Wikileaks burst open—134,000 diplomatic cables were dumped in just a few days.
This was not the tactical, deliberate approach that served Assange so well in the past. When Wikileaks began, Assange threw data online only to be disappointed by the lack of mainstream news attention. So Assange famously partnered with leading media outlets in 2010, dispersing his revelations under trusted mastheads that reassured the public that the information was authentic. Sensitive information, such as the names of confidential informants and operatives, was redacted by his mainstream media partners. (Some bristled at this characterization, preferring to call Assange a ‘source’. Whatever.) In this manner, Wikileaks dominated the headlines for months, embarrassed governments, and perhaps led to some real political change—Assange’s stated goal. Continue…
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 2:47 PM - 22 Comments
Mere months ago, Julian Assange’s anonymous whistleblowing site was touted as a journalism “game-changer” that would do to news distribution what Napster did for music distribution: disrupt and democratize it.
What would this new era of transparency look like? Every online news story would include a “disclose” button to allow readers to safely dump additional info. Leaks would go local—in addition to big targets like the U.S. government or multinational banks, public school principals and gum factory foremen would also be vulnerable to being exposed. Media organizations would outsource news gathering to the public, and turn their internal efforts towards verifying, analyzing, editing and packaging compelling stories. And we wouldn’t be stuck with a douchey ideologue like Assange, either: new sites like OpenLeaks, LocalLeaks, EuroLeaks, IsraeliLeaks and HackerLeaks were popping up to poke holes in secrecy and conspiracy wherever they are found.
But let’s say that right now you had some dynamite data to dump. Who would you leak it to?
Wikileaks will accept your donation to Julian Assange’s legal defense fund, but it won’t accept your info leak. The site is currently not taking new submissions “due to re-engineering improvements“. OpenLeaks, a spinoff project by former members of Wikileaks, isn’t functional, and there’s no word on when it will be. Same with LocalLeaks, a project from the friendly folks of Anonymous. The rest have yet to gain much traction, and as for legacy media finally smartening up and offering their own secure data drops, the one major newspaper to try was practically laughed off the Internet.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Safehouse site was immediately ripped apart by security experts and transparency advocates alike. At launch, it was insecure both by technical bug (your I.P. address might be sniffed as you uploaded) and by deliberate design (the site’s terms and conditions warns leakers that the WSJ reserves the right to snitch them out to the cops whenever they feel like it). In other words, you’d have to be nuts to trust Safehouse to keep you safe, and unsurprisingly, nobody with anything good has. There has yet to be a notable revelation to come from the effort.
Perhaps I’m speaking too soon—it has been only nine months or so since Wikileaks’ notorious diplomatic cable-dumps. Or perhaps I’m simply ignorant of some truly consequential leak sites out there (it would help if I read Russian). If so, I’d love to know about them.
But if I’m right, and it’s true that in the wake of Wikileaks, nobody else has stepped up to take their place—well why on Earth not?
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
WikiLeaks founder’s attorney says Swedish case for extradition is unfounded
Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s attorney fought to prevent his client’s extradition to Sweden over sexual assault charges in a London court on Monday. Defence attorney Bob Emmerson contends that the Swedish authorities have no right to extradite Assange because the European arrest warrant they’re using to detain him is flawed. As well, the accused is wanted for questioning only, which, Emerson argues, makes extradition unfounded. Assage denies the charges against him, claiming only consensual sex took place. He currently resides under house arrest in a Bungay, England estate belonging to a wealthy supporter. Assange fears Sweden will send him to the United States where a grand jury is investigating WikiLeaks—and its disclosures of classified U.S. information. If the court rules in favour of extradition, Assange says he will take his case to Britian’s Supreme court of the European Court of Human Rights.
By Brian Bethune - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 9:27 AM - 48 Comments
A tell-all book by his once-trusted No. 2 reveals the strange life of Julian Assange
As a polarizing figure, Julian Assange, the Australian founder and public face of WikiLeaks, makes Sarah Palin look like everyone’s favourite grandmother. A hero of the digital age for millions after posting thousands of government and corporate secrets online, for others—including government officials worldwide—Assange is a reckless endangerer of lives. Now in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sex crimes—intentionally damaging a condom during sex with one woman and forcing sex on another while she was asleep—the 39-year-old Australian is also variously viewed as the victim of a CIA plot, a rapist or simply a cad.
But for his former No. 2 at WikiLeaks, once a hero-worshipping acolyte, Assange is pretty much all these things. As Daniel Domscheit-Berg, known (after his cat) as Daniel Schmitt in his days as WikiLeaks’ chief spokesman, writes in his just-released book, Inside WikiLeaks, never before or since has he met anyone like Assange: “So imaginative, so energetic, so brilliant, so paranoid, so power-hungry, so megalomaniac.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, December 13, 2010 at 5:20 PM - 69 Comments
Crusader. Hacker. Megalomaniac. Extortionist.
When Julian Assange was finally arrested in London on Dec. 7, it was on allegations of having had unwelcome, unprotected intercourse with two Swedish women, and not for convulsing global diplomacy with his slow, controversial leak of diplomatic cables that infuriated allies, embarrassed kings and princes, were condemned by Washington for endangering lives, and dismissed by Tehran as a CIA plot. In a story worthy of a bestseller by Stieg Larsson, with its mix of state secrets, sex, and self-righteous computer geeks, it could come to pass that the man at the helm of WikiLeaks, who could not be pinned down by the U.S. Espionage Act, is vulnerable to a Swedish law against “sex by surprise.”
Assange, with his pale Warholian looks, is now a world hyper-celebrity or international super-villain, out of hiding and in custody, but still defiant. The Swedes may be the first to get him, but many more governments would like to get their hands on him. It has been a remarkable journey for someone who started out as a teenage hacker in his native Australia but became one of the most notorious men in the world—an individual who may have drastically altered the rules both in the world of diplomacy and the business of journalism. It is a story that has left people wondering about his motives, and pondering the question: what drives Julian Assange?
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Skeletons in Princess Victoria’s closet, Dick Cheney meets his match, and LeBron James goes home
Helena Bonham Carter, fashion plate
Her corsets, crinoline and frizzy hair have made her a constant on “worst dressed” lists over the years, so when the British actor, who counts Marie Antoinette as her style icon and claims a “f–k it attitude” to red-carpet dressing, heard she’d made Vanity Fair’s “best dressed” list, even she burst into laughter.
When nature’s in your path . . .
Vancouver’s organic breakfast moguls, Ratana and Arran Stephens, may have cast their professional lot with the environment—their cereal company, Nature’s Path, aspires to “advance the cause of people and planet along the path of sustainability.” But this week they came under fire for razing 25 trees from their lawn in tony Point Grey: a violation of the city’s famously strict tree-protection bylaw, and a major no-no in Lotusland. Their sins made headline news in Vancouver, which bars homeowners from removing trees from their property, prompting the pair to apologize profusely and repeatedly, even writing a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson insisting that they be heavily fined.