Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NATO, Gaddafi and Assange

"A man that the whole Western world wants to arrest and put behind bars for the rest of this life. And preferably, shot down its organization too. I am not really talking about  the NATO's  generated no-fly zone  over Mr. Gaddafi. This is another kind of NATO attack, and it is generated against a young man called Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks. That is the organization that America perhaps, and NATO,  fear more than Gaddafi himself. They are just terrified now about what WikiLeaks attack will come next".  Words of Prannoy Roi (NDTV 45 minutes exclusive interview with Julian Assange, broadcasted from New Delhi 22 March 2011)

The NDTV interview Professors blogg transcribes here was addressed to a population of 1.18 billion people. Sweden has instead a total population of only nine millions. Here the small monopolist duck pond consisting of the mainstream Swedish press (only four main nation-wide newspapers), the televisions network controlled by the state (only three channels) and by corporate business (likewise), and the most part of the political-influence blogosphere, all of them can easily devote to a disinformation campaign about Assange and the accusations orchestrated against him. Not to mention the direct interventions of the Sweden’s Prime Minister and the head of the Swedish Legal-Court system. They are practically uncontested.

But although Sweden has a total population of only nine millions, 14.3 percent are foreign-born immigrants. If we add up their daughters and sons born in Sweden in the last twenty five years we might end in about twice that figure. This vast sector of opinions – that corresponds to a cohort of individuals well over the population of entirely Stockholm or trice the populations of Gothenburg or Malmo together - it is counted in Sweden more or less for nothing.

As a main part of the immigrant population is composed by political refugees from the Third world, these populations should be regarded to a highest degree as implicated in the Swedish Assange-affair. This, since the origin of the Swedish vendetta against Julian Assange is traced to the WikiLeaks cables disclosing events around the selling of private data from Sweden to NATO referred principally to the immigrant population (the secret agreements in Stockholm between Swedish government officials and representatives of the CIA and FBI, added to the pro-NATO surveillance law directly instigated upon the Swedish authorities by the USA).

This immigrant/political-refugee population is, according to some Swedish cultural-supremacist views, the only risk for terrorism. Therefore, it is NOT a surprise at all that nine out of ten Swedes approves the attacks of the NATO-dominated "UN" forces against Libya, and which ostensibly has primarily to do with the oil reserves. As little concern as demonstrated by the same Swedes on the "collateral damage" (massacre of civilian populations) in Iraq and Afghanistan - where Sweden has also troops under the lead of NATO - they seem to demonstrate in the case of Libya. Sixty-five percent of Swedes favour an immediately Swedish military intervention in Libya on behalf of the NATO-lead operations nominally under FN flag and directly ask  for JAS-fighters to be sent from Sweden to bomb Libya.

The Swedish government actually ponders in these very moments on such demands. And of course Sweden is using the tragic events in Libya for renew warnings on the issue of terrorism and to argue for a tightening in such anti-terrorist measurements. Psychological warfare updates: see for instance the social democratic newspaper Aftonbladet running the headline Gadaffi hates us (without quotation-marks, implying agression directed to the Swedes). Such appealings to  "personal agressions" against Swedes  were not heard since  Aftonbladet's headline "Assange attacks the Swedish legal security". Information-control increases, transparency vanishes, and political organizations that in the past have made a gold mine of these issues, such as the declining Pirate party, do not say a single word on the matter.

Aftonbladet 23 March 2011

Aftonbladet 8 Feb 2011
What these authorities fail so dangerously to understand, is that it is instead the lack of transparency, the absurd effort to hide the “other side’s” positions or its blunt distortion, the excessive tightening of the surveillance and control-laws, the ominous transgression of the human-rights and the integrity-rights of these populations that put the system in the prospective of self-destruction. Democratic-terrorist self-destruction, that is.

Sweden, unlike democratic India – as proven of this formidable interview of NDTV in which among other are discussed details of the WikiLeaks disclosures implicating directly the government and politicians – has never indulged in such important discussions on the actual WikiLeaks disclosures in reference to the Swedish authorities of the past and current governments. I refer here to the spying on Swedish citizens on behalf of NATO, the agreements of the past social democratic government with the CIA (see politicians at the notorious law-firm acting against Assange) on rendition to USA of political prisoners from Sweden, or to the political issues behind or around their accusation against Julian Assange. The citizens would not have the opportunity to obtain or submit their own opinion in the awareness of all facts and views. The lock is put on, completely, in fear of democratic disruption.

However, as I anticipated right here in these pages in “Sweden, the potential terrorist’s Paradise already in 2008 (about the surveillance-law requested by NATO-USA, as it now known thanks to WikiLeaks), this attitude may lead to exactly the opposite:

The debate has also questioned the state’s right and the state’s procedures, to in practical terms declare their citizens are not capable of having their opinion on sensitive political issues. It is just like an intellectual-based juridical interdiction decreed by the authority.

But the discussion should go beyond issues of psychological discomfort, for they are issues that also apply to essential human rights and aspects as defined in UN resolutions, European Convention, or the national Constitutions in several countries, including Sweden.

The scaring of people away and promote the practice of self-censorship, will result in the long run in people’s reluctance to examine and criticize any power in the future. In the absence of a  public observant attitude, the government and those in power will then become even more arrogant, and ready to intimidate a false obedience which will instead angry its citizens. This is the true potential terrorist paradise.

Do not move forwards in this control at the expense of the entire population’s dignity. For it has also become a symbol of a subordinate foreign policy. Do restore instead Swedish independent and strong neutrality!  /Prof. Marcello Ferrada-Noli, publisher of Professors blogg.

The NDTV Assange interview of 22 March 2011
Linked to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Prannoy Roi
New Delhi:  In an exclusive interview to NDTV's Prannoy Roy, Julian Assange talks about the WikiLeaks storm that has erupted in India. This is the transcript of the interview.

NDTV: You are under global attack...your home country Australia accuses you of treason...America wants to arrest you...in Sweden, you have been accused of rape. The West prides itself on the rule of law and its institutions of justice. Are you shocked by the ferocity and illegalities of the attacks on you?

Assange: I am disappointed that the US Administration has decided to betray the traditions of the founding fathers and those great traditions of Franklin and Madison.  Now the codified Bill of Rights within important protection for freedom is in the first amendment......... so that is disappointing. I would like to say that it is not shocking. We have been following the US military for 4-5 years now in this process of WikiLeaks and in other countries... but we can see that there is a burgeoning security state that has spread out not just for Washington because the centre of gravity is around there, but goes into all Western countries.  And there is a Western alliance that responds very aggressively.  And previous publications have received some of that response but it is really the size and the scale of the publication which has received and been stimulating such an aggressive attack.

NDTV: With this kind of a relentless attack.. where can you  live safely? Is there any country that is safe for you?

Assange: The question about the countries is interesting. In December last year, the Australian government  -  my home government -  stated that it had started a whole lot of investigation into us on behalf of the US government including (its) domestic intelligence agency and foreign intelligence agency, department of defence, the state federal police including the FBI.. and the CBI in the case of India. So that country does not seem to be a safe home for me and...similarly in one way, Sweden having a reputation built up in 1970s for neutrality will be a safe country.   But it is not true because of its proximity to Russia, and closer partnership with NATO...it is no longer possible. So there are perhaps other countries, perhaps Brazil or maybe even India, big enough countries to be able to stand up to the sort of the US interference, if they chose to do so. But right now it is not clear if there is any country that is safe for our publication. But we do have the will of the majority of people. My friends in Egypt and Tunisia say that these two countries perhaps would be the safest for us now because of the revolution of the governments that is bringing up... 

Here the Indian news report on the Assange NDTV interview
NDTV:  Many of us feel that you are a true new-world journalist, I mean you are fighting for freedom of information... but then you have got the US Vice President Joe Biden calling you a high-tech terrorist, the former Speaker  saying you should be treated as an enemy combatant. Now enemies in America, they are normally killed, that is their public statements. I just wonder what they say to you privately. Have you been threatened privately?

Assange: We do receive threats from time to time , there are many of them. But we do not take those threats too seriously... it is the people who are not making the threats and are concerned for us that are important. There is a bill going through the US Senate to clear us a transnational threat and therefore treat us in a legal sense the same way as Al-Qaida...hopefully we will work it through. The feeling in the United States is getting better...there are a number of academics and journalists in US that have come forward to announce those sort of moves. We just saw the State Department spokesperson Crowley resign over the treatment of Bradley Manning, one of our alleged sources. So it is not correct to say that US is of one voice to destroy us. There are still good people in US, still good people within the US administration, within the intelligence agencies, even in the Pentagon. And it is now bit of a fight between them to see that which way the US going to go.. is it going to be completely taken over by its security sector and throw all its good traditions out the window? Or are those reformists or we can even say the conservative forces that will want to conserve some of the good values of the United States, are they going to win? And that is why this is such an interesting period for us, and of course for everyone else, because after all the US is everyone's  superpower. And the US President is our President, my President and he is also India's President in the sense that the US is able to dispense its powers into many other countries. So which way it goes, that is very important. So it is quite an interesting time. It is possible that after the end of this process, we will actually see something better than what we had in the beginning. Yes, at the moment there is incredible overreach of power by the US administration. On the other hand, it is drawing a lot of attention to that power and abuse by the burgeoning security state in the US. And it may have struck too hard and as a result people will strike back...

NDTV: You mentioned that the US president is like the Super-President of us all. In the recent leaks about India, the diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, the overriding feature is the extent of  America's efforts in influencing policies in India, so are you surprised at that or was it expected?

Assange: Looking at what the US has done with other countries, which we have revealed through these cables, it's not at all a surprise, it is their modus operandi. When I first started reading this material I thought my God everything those South American Marxists in the 1960s were complaining about in relation with the state department, it is actually true. it is not just that they are making a political rhetoric, actually it does appear that state department is actually an instrument of US industry of all particular types and it goes around the world clicking political intelligence, interfering in unions and all. We even saw this in Australia where the Australian Cabinet Minister from the Labour government was a confidential source for US Embassy, going there frequently.

NDTV:  There is of course an alternate point of view that what you revealed in these cables is a set of opinions and assessments made by some American diplomats in the US embassy. And you were just saying that 'my task ends there in revealing these secret cables' but there are other points of view that says that it leaves a lot of collateral damage where opinions and assessments by these officials are taken as facts to embarrass and weaken their states. And people ask you is that a fair thing to do, just leave this out and wash your hands off it?

Assange:  Absolutely not....it is not correct to say that all these cables are mere opinions by US diplomats...that is not true. These are official correspondence sent by Ambassadors, sent in their official capacity back to Washington. Their motivations are to improve their career prospects generally. So they want Washington to understand that they are engaged in the country. They are getting good sources of information and they are reporting back. This seems to be the predominant thing. But they report what they say are facts and they also present opinions........it is important to keep these two different. In the cases of these Indian cables which are causing such a furor about bribery...such an interesting case...it is very hard to understand why the US Embassy official would lie about that to Washington. What is more interesting is under what basis was he told that information? That the US Embassy official was shown that cash? Could it have been...because this was a US issue.. to demonstrate how compliant certain parts of Indian Parliament work with US interest?  Or could it have been to set up or frame another group. It is hard to see what benefit there would be in framing another group to Washington through that method. It is not clear what benefit it would be. But when we look at the cables in other contexts, they have been used and accepted as evidence in the Taylor case in Hague, they have been used in courts in Spain to reopen a rendition case involving the CIA. They have been used in a number of places, they have been accepted as quotes, as probative evidence, as genuine official documents. Of course what the officials say and how they gain their knowledge too must be investigated and interrogated.

NDTV: You seem to agree that the content of these tapes needs to be investigated. They may or may not be correct.

Assange: The comments I have been hearing from Prime Minister Singh....these, to me, seem like a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by suggesting that governments around the world do not accept the material and it is not verified ...absolutely false! Hillary Clinton in December last year spoke to the Indian government last year, perhaps to Prime Minister Singh directly or that level to forewarn that this material would be coming out. There is no doubt that these are bonafide reports sent by the American Ambassador back to Washington and these should be seen in that context. That does not mean every fact in them is correct, you have to look at their sources and how they gave this information.

NDTV: Just to absolutely clarify -  The defence of the Indian govt is that a) authenticity of these cables cannot be verified. They may not be correct bits of evidence at all. B) Contents of cables are just views of people and could be factually wrong or at worst just gossip.  Are you absolutely confirming that the cables are genuine and that the government is wrong in saying that they cannot be verified?

  Photo Linda Nylind
Assange: That is absolutely correct. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that the cables are authentic. That is why we are being so heavily attacked by the Pentagon. That is why young intelligence officer Bradley Manning has been imprisoned in United States for 299 days now. There is absolutely no doubt. The content, of course, varies on a cable by cable basis. It is wrong to suggest that these are just opinions, these are official reports made by US Ambassadors, sometime it is opinion...sometimes not. It is done in a serious capacity. For example, if this cable on bribery is incorrect then the US Ambassador in India has a lot to answer for because he has been sending back very serious reports to Washington about senior politicians and behaviour in Indian Parliament, which casts it in a very negative light. It would affect the relationship between India and United States. So either he has committed a grave error that would damage Indian and American relations and should resign over that -  or the material was correct and he was reporting correctly and he had checked his facts before reporting back to Washington.

NDTV: We have actually heard from our senior former diplomats that all cables from India  - no matter what or whether from a junior -  go in the name of the Ambassador and all the cables from Washington to India go in the name of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obviously the Ambassador and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may not read every single cable, it just all goes in their name. This could have actually been just juniors in the Embassy and in Washington.

Assange: They don't tend to be too much more junior...it depends on the seriousness of the issue. You would probably find a political officer or an ambassador who usually clears it. By reading the content of the cable, you will see that Pauloff  - that's the political officer -  was told that. The content of the cable does not fabricate the Ambassador's name. For example, suppose when there is a meeting between the Embassy official or employee or political officer or Ambassador, they are named as that. What is written at the bottom of the cable going back is frequently the Ambassador or the political officer that wrote most of the material. But there is a reason for that. The Ambassador is made to read the cable and sign it off and send it out in his writing that he has approved.

NDTV:  What about America's reaction to WikiLeaks. The person who is said to have leaked those diplomatic cables-- Bradley Manning is in jail, and is being treated terribly, is being kept naked for hours... but the US media and society do not seem to be doing anything about it. Why do you think there have been no angry reactions to what has been happening?

Assange:  Bradley Manning is America's foremost political prisoner. The allegations against him, whether they are true or not, are of a political nature and he has been kept in solitary confinement for 299 days as a result of the political allegations that he has revealed - information like this for political reasons  - to demonstrate the inequities and abuses that were happening. There are people in the United States who are angry about this. The state department spokesperson resigned over this issue. However, it is not getting any big media play...it is bubbling there but is not being aggressively picked up and that is the nature of the mainstream press of the United States. It is a very destructive thing for all of us.
That is a fact about the United States and the security sector has grown so fast and so influential that its tendrils merge into most big companies and big media companies. That is the reality of the US economy and the US media. Unfortunately the US media is so strong, aggressive and has such sophisticated distribution mechanism that the bias then  pushed down in English language all over the world and to the other English speakers in the world, like the Australians, Indians, the Canadians and the British to somehow develop their own media infrastructure and to be able to resist the propaganda.

NDTV: The WikiLeaks cables on India have created a storm in Parliament. The response has been for the Opposition to accept it without question and the response of the government has been to live in denial. Two totally different responses. Is this normal behaviour to politicise your material?

Assange: In response to our publishing , the US government has taken certain steps, like to pressure banks to cut financial transactions to us. That is very revealing about the power connections between high finance and the US state department. Similarly, in the response to the cables alleging that that US state Embassy was shown cash boxes for bribing Parliamentarians, we saw something rather disturbing. We saw an immediate rush, not to deny that allegations in these facts were not true...we want to investigate properly to make sure everything is clear.. that we are innocent. Rather what we saw was an attempt to distort the record and fool the public about the nature of the material. First to say, they refused to comment at all, to suggest that the materials are not verified and that no other government accepted it. Absolutely false...that is actually the behaviour of guilty men. Man who is innocent doesn't tend to behave like that. That doesn't mean, people making those statements like Prime Minister Singh and so on are guilty of this particular crime, it suggests something that how Indian Parliamentarians and Indian politicians respond to very serious allegations. They respond through indirection, by lying and attempting to cover up the issue for the public rather than address it fully and frankly. The most serious issue in the cable, I suspect, is yet to be revealed. Just looking at what happened with other countries, that doesn't mean The Hindu is necessarily holding back what it thinks to be most important for Indians to last. In other countries they have dealt with ...you know an issue can catch fire, imagination of the public may not be the one you first think. There is quite a bit of time to get through the material...the material from Pakistan, from China.....it is likely to be interest to the Indian population.

NDTV: There is an impact of WikiLeaks and I know you are all fighting for freedom of thought and expression...if everybody from now is worried about their writings becoming public through WikLleaks, maybe they would be constrained and inhibited in their writings in case they are going to be leaked. So ironically the impact of WikiLeaks could be the end of free and fearless expression because everyone is terrified that it is going to be public...

Assange: It depends on what are you trying to express....should there be an end to frank and fearless expression of how to conduct a conspiracy which is against the public interest? Of course they should, we want to make it very hard for government officials to speak to each other in a frank and free way.

NDTV: So do you believe in the concept of official secrecy at all, or secrecy and privacy is for individuals only?

Assange: Well, privacy is for individuals, the governments try and use secrecy...sometimes for legitimate reasons, sometimes for a legitimate period of time... and most often, for illegitimate reasons. The big problem with secrecy is that how do you know that it is not being abused? So if somebody can just put a stamp on internal correspondence every time it's embarrassing because they are engaged in some sort of correspondence or abuse... then they can put a stamp 'secret' on it... no one can review to see whether that stamp is being correctly applied or not because in order to review it, you have to read the material. Of course it is a system that instantly escalates, the stamp starts getting on everything, confidentiality is extremely controlled...you end with a corrupt, inefficient and abusive organization. I say, of course there is time where secrecy is legitimate, but organizations and individuals must fight for it. They must really fight for it and prove it is illegitimate and there shouldn't be any false assumption that it is for only a legitimate amount of time...and after that time lapses and it ceases to be secret. That way the burden of truth is on those people who are trying to conceal things from the public. secretive

NDTV: So, would you at WikiLeaks ever publish private secrets of leaders' personal lives? Would you ever do that?

For saying in figures, the personal and political is all mixed up - who their friends are, who their relatives are is all factored in into their business and political decision- making. You can see, for example, in these cables, there is personal character, details revealed. Certainly, we think that there are many cases where personal information is not just personal, it enters into alliances and decision- making and who is someone's opponent or enemy. But as an organization, we have a very simple standard which is, we accept information of political, ethical, historical or diplomatic importance that is significant and has not been published before and is trying to be suppressed. We are not interested in people's love letters.

NDTV: How do you react to the many who accuse you of being secretive about yourself? Is that a conflict? How do you resolve that?

Assange: We are an organisation that is being harassed and attacked by a super power and of course, that requires certain defensive measures and has since 2008 at least where we had people affiliated with us being assassinated. So, that is not a matter of hypocrisy. It's a matter of a small organisation doing its best to continue carrying out its work and that includes defending us from state surveillance.

NDTV: Coming back to the cables in India, the previous set of cables, especially the ones on Afghanistan exposed the extent of Pakistan's role in terror against India. I am looking ahead at the new material that's about to come. Does it substantiate that role a little more? The Hindu newspaper has already done an excellent job in analysing all the stuff that has come out of WikiLeaks. Now, is there more big stuff to come?

Assange: There are some 6000 cables from the US embassies they have been tagged by the State Department about India. We have only just seen the first part of that now being published by our partner, The Hindu. I am sure that some of that material that we will see in the coming weeks will go into some of the Pakistani relationships. But, what we are really looking at more closely is the cables from Pakistan and those are something that are yet to be published. We are working to have those published and I am sure Indians and Pakistanis will be very interested to see what they reveal. Well, I wouldn't want to pre- judge them before they are published.

NDTV: Coming back to the impact of WikiLeaks, you have heard of widespread criticism that often loose conversations are released in WikiLeaks and some people are named who may be doing good work covertly or working underground, infiltrating and fighting against terrorism and once their names are public, their lives are in danger. What do you do about that?

Assange: This is something the Pentagon has tried to throw out every time it has been criticized by the Press, back to the 1950s. There is no allegation even by the Pentagon, even by the state department or by any American official that anything we have ever published in our entire history, has resulted to a single individual's personal or physical harm. Something that is repeatedly asserted without evidence can be dismissed without argument. We have a harm-minimisation process and clearly it has been 100% effective till date. While no organization is free from making mistakes when you deal with things of this scale and with this level of seriousness, today we have two perfect records: we have a perfect record of never having been fooled by information sent to us and we have a perfect record in having no one come to physical harm as a direct result of anything being published.

Your WikiLeaks have generally focused on the United States. Is Julian Assange anti-United States?

Assange: Not at all. We are an organization. Through our work, we aim to protect the Press and publishing... carrying on the tradition of Madison and Jefferson. We are actually upholding the founding values of the United States. We have published materials for over 120 different countries, exposed the assassination in Kenya to East Timor, billions of dollars of corruption in Africa. So we are not at all particularly focused on the United States. Rather, we have to publish our material in order of its significance, and simply cannot turn it away because it comes to United States. The reality of the United States now is that about 30-40 per cent of its economy, directly or indirectly, is bound up to the security sector. So it has a lot of secrets, a lot of computers and it has a lot of people within its state department, within the government, with the military. We are very unhappy about the way they are conducting themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, that leads to those brave people stepping forward to give us material...we can try and do something about it.

NDTV: In the life of Julian Assange, do you have heroes?

Assange: Well, I think Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon paper whistleblower, he has become a friend over the past couple of years and can fairly described as a hero. There are others in different fields...it is better to say there are people who engage in heroic acts. Every individual is of course human, one must be careful with the hero label. Many people call me, for example, a hero but I am a man and a human being, just like all of us.

Other articles in Professors blogg on the Swedish case Assange case 

19 March 2011. Censorship of Assange-articles in the Guardian & Swedish press

1 comment:

Klartexten said...

Freedom of speech! The heart of any real democracy!Thats how we distinguish the true humanists and democrats from the disguised fascists!