Critics Probe WikiLeaks, CIA, Arab Uprisings

By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

There are so many revelations now about WikiLeaks, its supporters and North Africa uprisings that we must postpone publication of alarming news exclusives we've recently received about serious scandals in New Jersey, Alabama, Texas and Mississippi. The future of web-based investigative journalism is at risk by the security-related worldwide crackdown on whistleblowers and journalists. That has to take priority over any one case back home.

In a United Kingdom courtroom this week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faced potential extradition to Sweden to answer sex charges. We know that defenders of Sweden scoff as Assange's attorneys argued that extradition could lead to his extradition to the United States to face a death penalty or other extreme rights deprivations, such as those imposed pre-trial on Army Private Bradley Manning. But feminist author Naomi Wolf, right, cited our work at the Justice Integrity Project in arguing in a new column that Sweden’s all-out manhunt to capture Assange cannot really be just for misconduct in sex. Instead, she draws on research and her extensive experience to suggest political motivatations. She cites eight "aberrations" in normal police prosecedures that's she has studied for nearly a quarter century in rape cases. Similarly, medical school professor and human rights advocate Dr. Marcello Vittorio Ferrada-Noli in Italy published several hard-hitting columns criticizing Swedish legal procedures and political leaders. His critique also of Associated Press and other major media news accounts is part of the much larger story here whereby "old" and "new" media are using the case to battle for survival -- or the kind of vast wealth an power represented in Sweden by the two-century-old media powerhouse Bonnier, AB.

There's lots more. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington announced the sale of her start-up to AOL for more than $300 million. Meanwhile, an Associated Press investigative report shows that CIA personnel are rarely punished after breaking the law in cases of mistaken arrest, rendition, torture and other misconduct. That story is excerpted below. So are the others cited here, including ones about Justice Department investigations of WikiLeaks and the pan-Arab uprisings against dictators. The Wall Street Journal reports, for example, that the DOJ’s much heralded investigation of Manning is failing to find strong evidence linking him to Assange. Yet ligitation expert and legal reformer Harvey Silverglate argues that authorities wield so much power that they don’t need strong evidence to put Assange in prison for many years as a lesson to others tempted to air embarrassing government secrets. As part of this all-out enforcement effort, federal Assange investigators seek to use Twitter accounts go development information on everyone in the social networks. We know of this only because Twitter decided to fight for the protection of its users, with other social networks presumably involved as well but choosing silence and compliance with federal requests for personal data searches. Meanwhile, FireDogLake, Russia Today, and the Wayne Madsen Report each are digging into the past of WikiLeaks, and any government officials who may have cooperated with WikiLeaks, journalists or others.  A secretive group called Anonymous now boasts that it is exposing a government contractor who has offered to sell the fruits of hacking legal commentator Glenn Greenwald because he has defended Assange and Manning. Even the alternative media on the left are far from agreement on heroes and villains, but anyone who cares about the implications must pay attention at least to the facts being revealed primarily outside MSM channels. Additional reports below include ones by Harper’s legal commentator Scott Horton on torture in Egypt and by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman tying the Arab uprisings more to the rise in food prices than to torture and WikiLeaks revelations. It all makes for a full plate, at least of information, with details below. Digging deep, these matters have many connections and continuing mysteries. Wolf, for example, wrote in the Huffington Post last Friday that the mainstream media is too cowardly to report such matters honestly. A few days later, AOL announced its acquisition of Huffington Post and plan to retain its founder Arianna Huffington to edit the properties. AOL is both “mainstream” as a huge corporate player, but also betting on the web. As much as any other contributor and reader, I’ll be watching these developments with interest as a writer who published the hardest-hitting and most important investigative material of my four-decade career in its pages.

My experience with Huffington Post as a frequent contributor has been highly positive, and I wish their founders the best even though my own longtime New York literary agent and friend, Lewis Chambers of the Bethel Agencies, has fumed from the beginning (as he reminded me over the weekend) that professional writers should be publishing books and long-form articles, not blogging for free as most of us do on HuffPo. But I’ve willingly accepted the trade-off of sharing what I regard as important timely and often controversial information. As indicated below, my first piece was a HuffPo front-page scoop on the Obama inauguration. Soon after I was publishing increasingly critical columns and investigative stories about authorities with no unwarranted criticism – at least from editors. Readers are always welcome to say what they want,

In sum, I’ve seen the process up-close and am hopeful for the future. You can see for yourself in the clips below that HuffPo published very strong material that, while documented with sworn evidence, was way too hot for others to touch, including the vaunted investigators at CBS 60 Minutes. As we see this marriage of new and not-so-new media, let’s rely for the moment on one of the most ancient MSM bromides: Time will tell.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment

Below are excerpts from selected recent columns about legal reform and related issues in security, the news media and politics. The full text or videos are available from the button News Reports at the top of this site's Home Page.

Professors BloggProf. Med. Marcello Vittorio Ferrada-Noli, at left, Feb. 9, 2011. Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has tried a few times to give the notion that his government is “neutral” in the matter. He had to lie.

Professors Blogg, Karl Rove, Sweden and the Eight Major Aberrations in the Police Sex Crime Reporting Process in the Assange Case, Naomi Wolf, Feb. 9, 2011. Based on my 23 years of reporting on global rape law and my five years of supporting women at rape crisis centers and battered women's shelters, this case is not being treated as a normal rape or sexual assault case. [Published also in News from Underground, edited by Dr. Mark Crispin Miller.]

Wall Street Journal, Assange Probe Hits Snag: Inquiry Suggests WikiLeaks Founder Didn't Induce Soldier to Leak Documents, Julian Barnes and Evan Perez, Feb. 9, 2011. U.S. investigators have been unable to uncover evidence that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange induced an Army private to leak government documents to his website, according to officials familiar with the matter. New findings suggest Pfc. Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst accused of handing over the data to the WikiLeaks website, initiated the theft himself, officials said. That contrasts with the initial portrait provided by Defense Department officials of a young man taken advantage of by Mr. Assange.

Huffington Post, The Government's Case Against Julian Assange Is Falling Apart, Jason Linkins, Feb. 9, 2011. With popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt spinning along, each with a certain amount of world-reshaping potential, there's been a lot of new attention focused on the role that WikiLeaks has played in these events. U.S. officials have been gamely attempting to make the case that Assange induced Manning to provide WikiLeaks with government documents.

Boston Phoenix, Four ways the United States can still prosecute WikiLeaks's Julian Assange, Harvey Silverglate and Kyle Smeallie, Jan. 5, 2011. Secret-sharing impresario Julian Assange, founder and editor of WikiLeaks, is said to be the target of a U.S. criminal investigation. While much attention has been paid to the feasibility of indictment under the 1917 Espionage Act, that path is by no means the U.S. government’s only option. Through a combination of breadth and vagueness, federal laws provide an arsenal for prosecutors to pursue Assange — and almost any other muckraker using pen or pixel. Whether you loathe or adore Assange, the precedent set in seeking to indict and arrest him can have implications far beyond his case.

Emptywheel/FireDogLake, Security Firms Pitching Bank of America on WikiLeaks Response Proposed Targeting Glenn Greenwald, Emptywheel, Feb. 9, 2011. See also an update. On Saturday, private security firm HBGary Federal bragged to the FT that it had discovered who key members of the hacking group Anonymous are. In response, Anonymous hacked HB Gary Federal and got 44,000 of their emails and made them publicly available. “You have blindly charged into the Anonymous hive, a hive from which you’ve tried to steal honey. Did you think the bees would not defend it? Well here we are. You’ve angered the hive, and now you are being stung.”

New York Times, Droughts, Floods and Food, Paul Krugman, Feb. 6, 2011. We’re in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. The consequences of this food crisis go far beyond economics. After all, the big question about uprisings against corrupt and oppressive regimes in the Middle East isn’t so much why they’re happening as why they’re happening now. And there’s little question that sky-high food prices have been an important trigger for popular rage.

Washington Post, Assange attorneys cast doubt on accusations at extradition hearing in London, Anthony Faiola and Karla Ada, Feb. 9, 2011. for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange launched a blistering attack on the credibility of Swedish prosecutors and two women who are accusing the 39-year-old Australian of sexual assault, arguing on the first day of an extradition hearing that he faces the prospect of a closed-door show trial if British authorities send him to Stockholm.

Associated Press/Washington Post, At CIA, Mistakes by Officers Are Often Overlooked, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo Feb. 9, 2011. In December 2003, security forces boarded a bus in Macedonia and snatched a German citizen named Khaled el-Masri. For the next five months, el-Masri was a ghost. Only a select group of CIA officers knew he had been taken to a secret prison for interrogation in Afghanistan. But he was the wrong guy. That botched case is but one example of a CIA accountability process that even some within the agency say is unpredictable and inconsistent. In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officers who committed mistakes that left people wrongly imprisoned or even dead received only minor admonishments or no punishment at all, an Associated Press investigation has found.’

Washington Post, 3 in WikiLeaks case fight Twitter disclosure order, Matt Apuzzo, Feb. 9, 2011. Three people associated with the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks are asking a federal judge in Alexandria not to force the social-networking site Twitter to turn over data about whom they communicate with online.

Anonymous Operation 'Want,' Jan. 20, 2011. Anonymous has delved into serious deep research of the published US Embassy Cables from Stockholm, Sweden and London, UK, in an attempt to uncover the Truth behind the "Set Up" of Julian Assange, editor of WikiLeaks.

Harper’s No Comment, The Institutionalization of Torture—Six Questions for Cherif Bassiouni, Scott Horton, Feb. 8, 2011. Cherif Bassiouni, a law professor at DePaul University in Chicago, was one of the key authors of the Convention Against Torture and is one of the world’s preeminent experts in international criminal law, particularly from the prosecutor’s perspective. He has just published The Institutionalization of Torture by the Bush Administration: Is Anyone Responsible?, a scholarly work that documents the development of torture policy in the Bush Administration and presents a roadmap for the use of future prosecutors. I put six questions to Professor Bassiouni about his book. He responded:

The numbers are quite staggering. It is not only the 820 or so Guantánamo detainees, and those that were outsourced through the euphemistically called “extraordinary rendition,” but also the estimated 150,000 persons who have gone through physical mistreatment and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 9 years. To exempt those in the Bush Administration who are criminally responsible only on the basis that there aren’t too many people who have been tortured, or because among them are some who would cause us harm if they could, is immoral and illegal. Our Constitution makes us a government of laws and not of opportunistic or selective choice of what laws to obey or not.

Russia Today, Stockholm Syndrome, Laura Emmett, Wayne Madsen and Anisa Ardway, Feb. 7, 2011. Huffington Post, WikiLeaks, Revolution, and the Lost Cojones of American Journalism, Naomi Wolf, Feb. 4, 2011. U.S. journalists also know perfectly well that they too traffic in classified material continually -- and many of our most prominent reporters have built lucrative careers doing exactly what Assange is being charged with. Any sophisticated dinner party in media circles in New York or Washington has journalists jauntily showing prospective employers their goods, or trading favors with each other, by disclosing classified information.

Huffington Post 2009 articles by Andrew Kreig include: