US government’s case against WikiLeaks falls apart


by Sunny
25th January, 2011 at 9:01 am    

MSNBC reported last night:

U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

This is big news, because it fundamentally undermines the US government’s case that this was a case of espionage, the charge they planned to make against Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, the US govt is still illegally detaining Bradley Manning without allowing him visitors properly. Amnesty International have now written a letter to the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates about his treatment.

Given this is a post on WikiLeaks, its also worthwhile reading this post at the New Yorker on how Al-Jazeera may have joined the ‘arms race’ by media organisations to become more like WikiLeaks and start soliciting confidential documents via untraceable electronic networks.

Naturally, I’m all for it. Unlike my fellow blogger Rumbold, I think the Guardian and Al-Jaz were completely right to publish the Palestinian Papers. Not only did they explode the Israeli narrative that the country had ‘no partner in peace’ to negotiate with, they also showed how one-sided the negotiations were. I’m afraid that’s not justice and the Palestinians deserve much more. If the fragile peace in Israel falls apart now, it will be their fault and no one else’s.

Coming back to WikiLeaks and Al-Jazeera, the New Yorker blog says:

If the WikiLeaks model were to grow beyond WikiLeaks—much in the way social networking outgrew its earliest online incarnations—and develop more fully within the ambit of conventional media, it is likely that it would change in a way that reflects the different sources of authority that a stateless publisher and a conventional news organization each draw upon. Some aspects of Assange’s initial vision might get lost. Others, such as the site’s ability to publish things that no one confined to single jurisdiction can publish, might become more valuable.

Sounds like a good thing to me.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  2. Amrita Singh

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  3. Wonko Grime

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db & on WIkileaks impact on media


  4. House Of Twits

    RT @sunny_hundal Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  5. Nerm

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  6. OldTrot

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  7. cheesley

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  8. Vihar Georgiev

    as expected MT @sunny_hundal: :US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  9. Chris Jones

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  10. Emma Adams

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  11. Tim Nunn

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  12. Therese

    RT @sunny_hundal: US government's case against #WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  13. Jan Bennett

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  14. Yasmin Khatun

    RT @Re_Asylum: RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db & on WIkileaks impac …


  15. Nick H.

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db


  16. Pickled Politics » US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart | The Daily Conservative

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  17. Miles Weaver

    RT @HouseofTwits: RT @sunny_hundal Blogged: : US government's case against WikiLeaks falls apart http://bit.ly/h776Db




  1. Kismet Hardy — on 25th January, 2011 at 10:31 am  

    You know, after years of us ‘lesser’ people being subjected to surveillance from cameras of all varieties and electronic recording being dismissed with the justification ‘if you ain’t done nuffink wrong, you ain’t got nuffink to worry about’, it’s such a joy to see those in power feel all put-upon that they feel snooped on and their privacy shat on

    Go wikileaks x

  2. douglas clark — on 25th January, 2011 at 11:14 am  

    Kismet Hardy @ 1

    +1

  3. Rumbold — on 25th January, 2011 at 1:51 pm  

    Nobody, except Kulvinder (who said negotiation is pointless), addressed the main point of my piece linked to by Sunny: that the leaks could make future negotiations harder. Sunny says Israel will be solely to blame if war returns, but, even if that is correct, so what? What good does that do?

  4. douglas clark — on 25th January, 2011 at 4:17 pm  

    Rumbold,

    I’d agree, that in theory at least, the role of a negotiator is a difficult one. Negotiators are rarely heroes for their own sides, far less the opposite side. Concessions by negotiators are almost always seen as surrendering to the opposition, no matter whether the main prize has been achieved, or not..

    But there are two points to be made here.

    This does not appear to have ever been a negotiation. So these rules don’t apply.

    Secondly we need a spotlight shone on some of the people who claim to act for us. And that has to be seen both within and outwith the I/P situation. It seems clear to me that without scrutiny by the general public, certain states will spin fiction as fact in quite egregious ways. The Blair dossier is one. Would we have gone to war with Iraq if we had had Wikileaks back then? Dunno, but it would seem to me to make it less likely.

    There is a growing disconnect between what people think they have signed up for with democratic governments and what is actually being delivered. If you see all democratic governments as alcoholics then they are currently at the ‘denial’ stage of recovery.

    I spent a few minutes earlier today looking at the media’s response to the Private Bradley issue. It is like watching the end of a hibernation induced by 9/11. Sadly, American exceptionalism is still very much in play, in the sense that a lot of commentary is to the effect of ‘but he’s an American, just like us’, but it is at least a step away from their more normal reponse that the US can do no wrong.

    Just saying…

  5. turkeyfucker — on 25th January, 2011 at 4:17 pm  

    [deleted]

  6. Scooby — on 25th January, 2011 at 4:54 pm  

    This is big news, because it fundamentally undermines the US government’s case that this was a case of espionage, the charge they planned to make against Julian Assange.

    It also undermines Assange’s case against being extradited to face the Swedish rape charges. I’m sure now that he’s in no danger of being thrown down a hole in Gitmo that he will be on the first plane to Sweden and eager to prove his innocence, right?

  7. Suburban Alliance — on 25th January, 2011 at 5:11 pm  

    Tickled Bollock-Tricks

  8. dave bones — on 25th January, 2011 at 5:40 pm  

    Rumbold maybe negotiations behind closed doors and clandestine operations by governments and politicians should be moved into the past or given a good airing at least. Which of these leaks haven’t alerted the public to a truth which however bitter isn’t at least good to know?

  9. Sunny — on 25th January, 2011 at 5:47 pm  

    that the leaks could make future negotiations harder.

    Maybe, but only because Palestinians can’t give as many concessions now.

    Your reputation as a libertarian dedicated to transparency and free speech is taking a knock Rumbold! ;-)

  10. monkey spunk — on 25th January, 2011 at 6:36 pm  

    And your reputation as a political dullard of the first order only increases, Hundal.

  11. Don — on 25th January, 2011 at 6:38 pm  

    WikiLeaks probably has made some political processes more difficult in the short term. I don’t know enough about the technology to predict the long term, but perhaps those in power will have to reconsider the easy assumption that there are some things about the political process that the rest of us should not know. The truth, for example.

    Obviously, keeping the common people in the dark is a part of the history of power and the powerful will not willingly give that up, but knowing that their actions will very likely see the light of day not in decades but in weeks or months should give them cause to reflect.

    Years ago I read about a Roman public figure (I can’t remember who, Cicero?) who was building a house. The architect told him that for an extra fee he could build him a house into which no-one in Rome could see. He replied that he would pay double for a house into which everyone in Rome could see.

  12. Don — on 25th January, 2011 at 6:41 pm  

    OK, I’ve looked carefully and there is nothing resembling an edit function anywhere near that post. Is it just me?

  13. Kismet Hardy — on 25th January, 2011 at 7:19 pm  

    “And your reputation as a political dullard of the first order only increases, Hundal.”

    You mean ‘highest order’. First order is a complex arithmatic concept that relates to problems such as the theory Medvedev and Muchnik Lattices. Sheesh. Any arsehole knows that ;-)

  14. Kismet Hardy — on 25th January, 2011 at 7:55 pm  
  15. fug — on 25th January, 2011 at 11:06 pm  

    I’m not sure what is so suprising about officialising the pa’s rubbishness and the occupations arrogance. But there is something about this leaky stuff that works on the insecurities of our benevolent democratic tyrannical regimes.

  16. KJB — on 25th January, 2011 at 11:46 pm  

    Kismet – Urgh. That statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry is just urgh. Israeli politicians’ default setting seems to be ‘doublethink.’

    I second Douglas: +2 to your point @ 1!

    Douglas – You have said what I wanted to say on Rumbold’s piece perfectly, thank you.

  17. douglas clark — on 26th January, 2011 at 12:36 am  

    KJB,

    I am at a bit of a loss to find myself as more libertarian than my good friend Rumbold!

    I can understand the fear that big government will simply retrench and make it more difficult for this sort of material to come out.

    But we are many and they are few.

    It seems to me that state level diplomats already know what the other side thinks or can do. If they don’t, then what the hell are they for?

    So, for example, if the political class in Israel knows what the political class in Palestine thinks, and vice versa, then they are on a level playing field.

    It is perhaps useful for the two parties to these negotiations to be able to say things like, ‘I don’t know what they’ll say on the streets of Haifa / Gaza’, as added leverage to their position.

    But, by keeping their populations in the dark, they are playing a propoganda game with their own constituents.

    It strikes me as treating folk like cannon fodder, to be easily manipulated when the time comes.

    I think that is a huge democratic deficit. One that must be addressed. It is a levers of power game that mandarins play on the poor bloody infantry, who are you and I. Open negotiations and leaks, yes leaks, would benefit everyone.

    Wish I hadn’t used the I/P conflict as an example as it seems to me it is probably a global issue.

    The democratic or even pre-democratic compact between rulers and ruled is in dire need of a serious re-examination. Else we will all kill each other.

  18. douglas clark — on 26th January, 2011 at 12:48 am  

    fug @ 15,

    That is a brilliant comment!

    benevolent democratic tyrannical regimes

    You are the ghost of George Orwell and I claim my £5.

  19. Shamit — on 26th January, 2011 at 1:37 am  

    Douglas:

    Are you suggesting that we seek a referendum on every issue before a decision is taken?

    Are you suggesting that names or information that would clearly identify infiltrating agents into Al qaeda be disclosed through leaks?

    I am sure you do not – so who draws the line and where?

    Isn’t that why we have democracy so those who are elected by us make decisions based on much more detailed information they have. Yes they should be accountable for the decisions they make – and sometimes they would make decisions which we might not agree with but unless they lie to the parliament or break the law we have to live with those decisions.

    And we have constitutional procedures to remove governments, Presidents and Prime Ministers if we their employers do not like what they do.

    However, subscribing to this leak theory you are suggesting a world where anarchy rules – how do you authenticate these documents which every person involved are claiming to be false on both sides of the divide?

    Knowing your concern about operations of intelligence agenices why couldn’t Iran with assistance of hamas and hezboollah have provided these documents to Al-Jazeera undermine legitimately elected government of Palestine?

    What you are suggesting would not strengthen democracy – it would undermine democracy and the rule of law. Without the rule of law a society cannot survive – and if you do not like the law change the legislature – that’s within your rights but no one has the right to say I would follow this law but not that law.

    As long as the law or decisions have been made by a legitimate government and/or legislature – you may oppose it and protest against it – but it does not give you the right to break the law?

    What we are seeing here is unaccountable, unelected media or pseudo media organisations deciding what is to be shared with the public without any consideration to society or repurcussions of such actions?

    You may call it freedom – but what you are supporting is exactly News of the World Journalism –

    I want accountability and I want transparency but I also want our leaders to have the best possible information from all sources and make an informed judgement.

    With the Wikileaks, there were a lot of dodgy reports that came out in Pakistani media – which were all finally denied because US openly came out and said so.

    In this case, all three parties, some on record some off the record are saying these documents do not reflect the negotiations. Who would you believe?

    Would you believe elected leaders who are accountable for their actions – or Julian assange who refuses to be held accountable to anyone. And what happens when the leakers knowingly peddle falsehoods – no government in their right mind is going to come out and deny it – because its stupid and it gives credibility to unauthorised leaks.

    And if politicians are bad you reckon journalists and megalomaniacs such as Assange are driven solely by altruism – yeah don’t forget the bloke made a million quid out of this.

    What you are suggesting is the demise of democracy and people power not strengthening it – laws keep my child and your children safe at home and what you are suggesting undermines the rule of law?

    I am not sure we ought to really support this “arms race” for leaks because that would really truly start the proliferation of News of the World style journalism.

    I am not scoring political or debate points here – this is deadly serious. We must protect and try to make our institutions better – they are not perfect but they are better than the alternatives – it is upto us to make our democracy better – not hand it over to unaccountable, unelected people to determine what is right or what is wrong?

  20. Shamit — on 26th January, 2011 at 1:42 am  

    More importantly, how do you know what has been leaked is true – - how do you verify that?

    I am afraid most of the responses here are emotional –

    Don’s point about leaders thinking about backlashes would make them think twice – I disagree – it would make decision making process more opaque and history would lose out in the end. There won’t be too much archiving I can assure you. Further, this whole notion puts too much power in the organisation that disseminates the information – do you really want Rupert Murdoch to have these powers.

    When there is a cover up or clear breach of the law – proper investigative journalism with facts and evidence backed up by at least three different sources should and must be continued. But not this I wanna be hero Pseudo journalism – its dangerous for society and dangerous for the rule of law and DEMOCRACY.

  21. Refresh — on 26th January, 2011 at 2:12 am  

    Douglas Clark,

    ‘But, by keeping their populations in the dark, they are playing a propoganda game with their own constituents.’

    This is precisely the point. It is almost entirely about keeping your own populations in the dark. And it is for that reason the Wikileaks trend will continue and even accelerate.

    Governments will have to accept them as a new metric they need to account for. Ignore the natural born idiots who would have us believe it gets in the way of diplomacy, it does not. It creates a new environment where open dealing becomes essential. I have said elsewhere we need Wikileaks for internal party matters too – and that will come.

    Under these new rules, we will see new leaderships emerge around the globe.

    And when it comes to negotiations, you are correct – these negotiators will have to say that there are certain things which are unacceptable to their constituents.

    My first ever comment regarding Wikileaks was to say that it did not make America look bad, under their own rules of engagement. What I omitted to say was that it also showed foreign governments to be subservient with their levers of power fully exposed. Those are the issues their respective citizens will want to address, and it seems are beginning to address.

    On the whole I expect it will be a 25 year transition along the lines of Latin America ruled by graduates of the School of the Americas to home grown indigenous leadership.

    Sadly old habits die hard and if we are to see where the caravan will move to next, you only need to look at Central Asia. Lets hope they become internet-savvy before its too late.

  22. douglas clark — on 26th January, 2011 at 2:41 am  

    Shamit @ 19 / 20,

    Bloody hell, did I pour salt into a wound?

    I am attempting to argue in what I consider friendly territory, here, where folk know me and sometimes listen to me, that the current arrangements between you, shamit, or I dougie, and them – the government are a bit messed up.

    This is so sad:

    Are you suggesting that we seek a referendum on every issue before a decision is taken?

    No, I am not saying that. I am suggesting that all information should be available to everyone before Parliament takes a decision. There are obvious caveats, but these are trivial when compared to taking us to war under a false premise.

    Isn’t that why we have democracy so those who are elected by us make decisions based on much more detailed information they have. Yes they should be accountable for the decisions they make – and sometimes they would make decisions which we might not agree with but unless they lie to the parliament or break the law we have to live with those decisions.

    Well, sort of. My arguement is that, whilst it is not the function of the state to lie to us, it is most definitely not the function of the state to lie to Parliament. Your mileage may vary on the troothiness of Mr Blair. I think he lied to both us and Parliament. It is pretty clear that you think otherwise. If I am right, then lying to the people is the greater sin.

    However, subscribing to this leak theory you are suggesting a world where anarchy rules – how do you authenticate these documents which every person involved are claiming to be false on both sides of the divide?

    Well that is a more interesting point. In relation to Wilkileaks, as far as I know, no-one is denying it is true. In relation to AJ leaks, we are back into the deniability game.

    I completely reject the idea that you and I knowing stuff equals anarchy. You can take comfort from plausible deniability, I can take comfort from the fact that this is, and ought to be, in the public domain.

    _____________________________

    You, or I would be just repeating ourselves until this:

    I am not scoring political or debate points here – this is deadly serious. We must protect and try to make our institutions better – they are not perfect but they are better than the alternatives – it is upto us to make our democracy better – not hand it over to unaccountable, unelected people to determine what is right or what is wrong?

    I have no more faith in a singularity of leaks than you do. I want it all to be leaked. From as many sources as possible.

    Our difference is about the information. Is it accurate? If the answer is ‘yes’ then we should know. Why would you possibly argue otherwise?

    You are, in your later post @ 20, correct.

    My response to this is emotional. I cannot understand an unemotional response to being kept in the dark. You are no idiot shamit, why do you surrender your judgement to fools? The basic building block of a democracy is the likes of you and me shamit, and you have the right to withdraw your mandate whenever you want to. I expect the difference between us is that you see a mandate and assume it is worth a Parliamentary term, and I’m not so sure….

    Phew!

  23. douglas clark — on 26th January, 2011 at 3:06 am  

    Refresh @ 21,

    And it is for that reason the Wikileaks trend will continue and even accelerate.

    Well said. I hope that idea spreads beyond democracies and the children of wiki leaks are able to protect their sources a bit better.

    _________________________

    Ahem, cough, cough, you are very welcome to comment on here:

    http://tinyurl.com/4hla9qp

    which is my revisionist idea about slow debate, rather than the cut and thrust of Pickled Politics. The idea is not new, but hopefully the implementation might end up interesting.

    Dunno.

  24. cronous81 — on 26th January, 2011 at 5:45 am  

    “I don’t know enough about the technology to predict the long term, but perhaps those in power will have to reconsider the easy assumption that there are some things about the political process that the rest of us should not know. The truth, for example.”

    Actually all it means is that none of these “thoughts” will be committed to paper and that diplomats will be less keen in speaking with one another. Frankly that is a blow to statecraft when diplomat’s cannot rely upon another’s discretion.

  25. cronous81 — on 26th January, 2011 at 5:59 am  

    @Sunny

    “This is big news, because it fundamentally undermines the US government’s case that this was a case of espionage, the charge they planned to make against Julian Assange.”

    Sorry to spoil your victory lap Sunny but the lack of direct link only vitiates the conspiracy charge, the espionage charge still stands.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503543_162-20029521-503543.html

    “Meanwhile, the US govt is still illegally detaining Bradley Manning without allowing him visitors properly. Amnesty International have now written a letter to the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates about his treatment.”

    Blah Blah Blah, the treasonous bastard deserves to be thrown down the deepest darkest hole. I don’t worry too much about the Manning case. There is overwhelming evidence and the law is pretty clear. He will likely spend the next 52 years in solitary confinement (presuming he lives that long). Or maybe if they let him out of solitary he will become Bubba’s new girlfriend? Either prospect seems appealing.

  26. Rumbold — on 26th January, 2011 at 8:52 am  

    Does anyone on this thread believe that all information should be published, such as names and addresses of domestic violence victims who have been relocated? I presume not. Therefore we all agree that some information should not be released.

    Secret negotiations can be beneficial. Based on British history, it would have been significantly more difficult to achieve a peace of sorts in Northern Ireland, as the IRA leadership would have been much more wary about being peace talks if they believed they were not secret.

    Could any replies please address the above paragraph, otherwise that is all I have to say on the matter.

  27. Kismet Hardy — on 26th January, 2011 at 9:56 am  

    Wiki needs to target the youth. They should have a forum, and sell ringtones, maybe a dating site. this way they could generate income by selling ad space and then if they were entertainment then America wouldn’t be upset because America wants entertainment to make money. And why not offer a Jim’ll Fix It style service where one lucky winner sees his or her request come true? I want to see the documents about Area 51 and the one that said ‘dear saudi prince, I’ve got this idea involving planes’. Also some secret pages of porn.

  28. douglas clark — on 26th January, 2011 at 10:22 am  

    Rumbold,

    Secret negotiations can be beneficial. Based on British history, it would have been significantly more difficult to achieve a peace of sorts in Northern Ireland, as the IRA leadership would have been much more wary about being peace talks if they believed they were not secret.

    To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

    A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

    A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

    A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

    A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

    A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

    It seems to me that there is some truth in that. In an open society we would be told these things up front. One of the more romantic points about Scottish Nationalism is the claim that sovereignty rests with the people. Not with the government, nor kings or queens. Whether that could be practically realised is, of course, moot.

    Leaders are, by their nature, at the very least arrogant PR men, and more likely congenital liars. And so it goes for the people that met over the Northern Ireland Peace process.

    I do not understand why the British government felt it necessary to keep it’s involvement in the talks that led to the Downing Street Declaration a secret. They knew what they were trying to achieve. Why should it have been kept a secret from the rest of us? This is the arrogance of power and, as they claim to act on our behalf – which they did – what exactly was gained by secrecy? If it was the assumption that the protestants in NI would attempt to disrupt the process then what difference does it make whether they were informed early or later? Because informed they had to be.

    The events of that era fit pretty well into the idea that it was ‘steam engine time’. The concept that there was a critical mass of information that allowed someone, somewhere, to invent a steam engine. It didn’t have to be Stephenson, someone else would have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. And, in fact did.

    Politicians love the idea that it is they, and they alone, that shook up events and made them fall just so. I do not think that applies to many historical figures. They react to ‘events, dear boy, events’ and make the most of that in their biographies or the hagiographs that their fans write afterwards.

    I have said it before, etc, but there are more intelligent and capable people writing here than there are in the current or previous cabinets. It would do us proud to assume that we are the people, not some sort of abstracted mob that governments of all flavours use as a convenient shorthand for the electorate. I genuinely think that once someone becomes a Minister they assume that they have god given talents, despite the almost universal evidence that they do not.

    Does that address your point @ 26?

    By the way, cronus81 is either an idiot or an American of the brain dead Tea Party complexion. It is such a shame that decent yanks are so thin on the ground.

  29. douglas clark — on 26th January, 2011 at 10:49 am  

    AbuF,

    Nope. If you have something to say other than the odd ad hominem, then say it. You have a particularily weak arguementative style which reflects badly on you, not me. Now, off you go to your nursery class. And don’t forget your diapers!

    You’ll find your chum cronus81 there already, sitting on the naughty step.

  30. Rumbold — on 26th January, 2011 at 11:46 am  

    Do be quiet AbuF.

  31. Arif — on 26th January, 2011 at 1:01 pm  

    Rumbold #26 – this is my take:

    Secrecy is beneficial if it allows for you to avoid norms which are destructive.

    Secrecy is destructive if it allows you to avoid norms which are beneficial.

    I would apply this to both government and non government actors.

    The problem is that it is hard to tell the purpose of secrecy.

    In theory, a democratic process to select negotiators you trust should solve the issue as you give them a license to act secretly on your behalf because you trust them.

    In practice it sets up all sorts of new problems:
    - the exclusion of the minorities which voted for other representatives.
    - the requirement for candidates to state up front their positions so that voters can make an informed choice which then reduces scope for compromise and lateral solutions.
    - the situation where voters cry betrayal afterwards in any case because they interpreted their mandate in a different way to those negotiators.
    - the possibility of corruption without transparency.

    What gets past these difficulties is the lack of alternatives, such as an overwhelming sense of powerlessness to achieve any goals any other way, or a generalised sense of exclusion and alienation which leaves people too jaded to protest.

    I think the benefit of Wikileaks etc is that they allow us to consider the norms that interest groups are trying to avoid by secrecy, and then decide whether these norms and the secrecy are beneficial or destructive. From that perspective it is giving us a greater level of self-consciousness about our politics, from which perhaps we can resume or restructure our norms of secrecy as well as our norms defining “national interests”.

    I would agree that any “norm” of transparency (or secrecy) needs to be self conscious and allow exceptions. But I’d contend that the norm of secrecy/privacy should be applied to the powerless in society to enable them/us to avoid victimisation. For the powerful the norm should be of transparency to enable them/us to maintain legitimacy and avoid corruption.

    But there is no perfect solution.

  32. Refresh — on 26th January, 2011 at 1:55 pm  

    Good points Arif.

    It reminded me of a document I read, generated I belief by someone in US government, it analysed the meaning and purpose of secrecy as a concept. Very interesting, if I recall it addressed the needs of different types of people and what they used secrecy for.

    It also triggered a thought in my mind, that document could very well be the basis of a solid defence for Bradley Manning. That the government itself is not sure what should be secret. Where secrecy is used to defend individuals’ decision-making or spare them embarrassment then it should not be secret.

    In Bradley Manning’s case, its clear he did not release the material to another state (friend or foe) but to the public. So his intention is important. Furthermore, his defence can also claim that the govt by giving access to the same information to 2~3 million people is varying the classic defintion of secret.

    And of course by not pursuing all leaks, especially the selective ones used to favour one politician as opposed to another, governments lose the moral authority to judge the likes of Bradley Manning.

    Cronous81, my prediction is he will walk free and a hero, but that does not mean you can leave the naughty step.

  33. Shamit — on 26th January, 2011 at 2:35 pm  

    “In Bradley Manning’s case, its clear he did not release the material to another state (friend or foe) but to the public. So his intention is important.”

    Utter rubbish.

    A soldier follows orders and that is what he/she signed up to do. In case of Manning he violated the Military Justice Code as well as violated secrecy laws of the the Federal Government which even the President of the United States cannot choose to ignore.

    Further, when you sign up for the armed forces you are required by law to follow orders from your superiors unless they are clearly “illegal” orders. Manning violated clear legal orders and nothing but a Presidential pardon is going to let him walk scot free. He would be a hero to nut jobs but not to most Americans and no court martial is setting him free. he would most likely be in life imprisonment without chance of parole.
    *************************

    Arif –

    The Oslo accord between Israel and Palestine – Yatzhik Rabin and Bill Clinton both agreed would not have been possible without having the negotiations in private.

    And similarly the Northern Ireland Peace process as Rumbold has argued. The divergence of opionios were huge and if they were played out in the media, like you and Douglas want – then every step any of the sides took towards reconciliation of those differences would have been exploited by extremists on both sides – just like it would have been in the case for Oslo accords.

    There is accountability and transparency still in the process – because the entire world gets to see the final outcome which is always usually hated by the extremists but welcomed by the silent majority. And, legislatures have to approve those deals and debate the agreement.

    That’s the way the process should work – we don’t need every bit of information of who called who an asshole and who got angry and walked out of a meeting are not bloody important.

    And finally, the leaks come from unaccountable sources and as I have said before it is quite easy in such an environment to peddle false information – but people on this thread are willing to give journalists and megalomaniacs more credibility than elected politicians.

    Journalists, when they can confirm a story from at least three different sources and at least two are willing to go on record, are pursuing investigative journalism -otherwise they are just peddling gossip.

    The latest version of leaks from Al Jazeera has got major credibility problems as major news outlets cannot verify most of the claims independently. When that happens and you do not have factual records – how can you say this improves transparency.

    Also, in some cases secrecy does help massively. In the recent Wikileaks revelations, it was reported that the United States and the United Kingdom played a key role in ensuring political stability in Pakistan when there was a massive chance of an army coup which would have further destabilised an almost failed state.

    if the role of the US and the UK came to light while it was going on – it would have played right into the hands of the fundamentalists both within and outside the army and would not have helped anything.

    We live in the real world and opinion formers and activists have their own specific agenda without looking at the big picture. And in those cases elected politicians in the highest offices of state do at least have a sense of the big picture and make their choices.

    If you do not like the policies or strategies they pursue there is a system to go and try to persuiade others and win elections. If you are not willing to do that carping on how politicians are bad and do not have a mandate may sound good on blogs but most serious people would laugh at it.

  34. Refresh — on 26th January, 2011 at 2:59 pm  

    Lets wait and see shall we.

  35. Shamit — on 26th January, 2011 at 3:12 pm  

    I don’t need to wait on that one – if you think he has got any chance of getting off may be you should familiarise with court martial proceedings and the US Military Code of Justice.

    Again when I write something factual I am usually confident that I have adequate knowledge.

    Are you willing to have a £100 bet? I say he would be found guilty and if I lose I would pay to any charity of your choice. Would you be willing to put your money where your mouth is?

    As I said utter rubbish

  36. Refresh — on 26th January, 2011 at 3:25 pm  

    No. I avoid gambling.

  37. Shamit — on 26th January, 2011 at 3:25 pm  

    Abu F – I think you are the one who is drinking and completely besotted with Douglas.

    Have you started fancying him? Otherwise why the preoccupation with him.

    While Rumbold and I may disagree with him on time to time – he is a mate and his opinions are highly valued on this platform.

  38. Shamit — on 26th January, 2011 at 3:33 pm  

    refresh – i thought so.

    See when there is no accountability or consequence its so bloody easy to pontificate isn’t it? just saying

  39. Rumbold — on 26th January, 2011 at 3:47 pm  

    Shamit- AbuF’s comment has been deleted, and anything else on those lines from him will be deleted too.

    Douglas:

    I do not understand why the British government felt it necessary to keep it’s involvement in the talks that led to the Downing Street Declaration a secret. They knew what they were trying to achieve. Why should it have been kept a secret from the rest of us? This is the arrogance of power and, as they claim to act on our behalf – which they did – what exactly was gained by secrecy? If it was the assumption that the protestants in NI would attempt to disrupt the process then what difference does it make whether they were informed early or later? Because informed they had to be.

    These sort of things are kept secret to keep the parties at the table. Counter-factual history is always dangerous, since it is speculation, but with the IRA (if one looks especially at the 1970s) it would have been much more difficult to get leaders to negotiate openly, as no IRA leader what to appear a traitor to the cause. That is why backroom channels were utilised.

    My focus is on the extremists in this movement, whether they be gunmen, settlers or whatever. It is they who have the power to prevent peace, because they have the means and motivations to do so. Which is why leaders have to agree deals without their knowledge, because to involve them in discussions would make any peace process harder. A leader who emerges from secret negotiations for his group with concessions for them is in a stronger position to enforce peace then a leader who has to make concession and concession in full view of the world in the hope of getting something.

    Arif:

    Thank you for responding.

    The problem is that it is hard to tell the purpose of secrecy.

    In theory, a democratic process to select negotiators you trust should solve the issue as you give them a license to act secretly on your behalf because you trust them.

    Good points. And that’s the nub of the matter isn’t it? How much can we trust them. I would argue that, based on historical precedent, negotiations between armed groups are usually better conducted in secret.

    But I’d contend that the norm of secrecy/privacy should be applied to the powerless in society to enable them/us to avoid victimisation. For the powerful the norm should be of transparency to enable them/us to maintain legitimacy and avoid corruption.

    I agree. But I think that this is one of those situations where it is not the norm, since it is about ending an armed conflict etc.

  40. Refresh — on 26th January, 2011 at 5:34 pm  

    ‘refresh – i thought so.’

    What good does it do using a bet to emphasise the worth of your argument. It doesn’t mean anything. And on the internet of all places!

    It just reminds me of being back in school.

    Why don’t you just give the £100 to charity, then we can both feel good? My suggestion would be War on Want.

  41. Refresh — on 26th January, 2011 at 6:07 pm  

    AbuF,

    ‘While Rumbold and I may disagree with him on time to time – he is a mate and his opinions are highly valued on this platform.’

    Seconded.

  42. douglas clark — on 26th January, 2011 at 6:11 pm  

    Cheers guys. Hopefully, y’all know it is reciprocated.

  43. cronous81 — on 26th January, 2011 at 8:46 pm  

    @Refresh

    “Where secrecy is used to defend individuals’ decision-making or spare them embarrassment then it should not be secret.

    In Bradley Manning’s case, its clear he did not release the material to another state (friend or foe) but to the public. So his intention is important. Furthermore, his defence can also claim that the govt by giving access to the same information to 2~3 million people is varying the classic defintion of secret.”

    Is this your own moral opinion or do you have any case law to back up such an assertion? The courts will rule on statutes passed by Congress not on someone’s personal opinions. The Court’s job is to interpret the law not make it.

    18 USC 793(d) of the Espionage Act makes it criminal to:

    “Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.”

    In other words there is no requirement it that it be released directly to a foe, nor is their a specific secrecy requirement (however classification means that it is secret for purposes of the Espionage Act).

    “And of course by not pursuing all leaks, especially the selective ones used to favour one politician as opposed to another, governments lose the moral authority to judge the likes of Bradley Manning.”

    It is called prosecutorial discretion. Only leaks pertaining to national defense or the interests of the nation (such as our diplomatic interests) need be prosecuted. Leaks about personal political fortunes are irrelevant in my view.

    “Cronous81, my prediction is he will walk free and a hero, but that does not mean you can leave the naughty step.”

    Yea I also heard a bunch of lefties predicted that Wikileaks would cause Clinton to resign and usher in their progressive wet dream of a govt. Still waiting on that one.

  44. Refresh — on 26th January, 2011 at 10:36 pm  

    I hope you are not looking for a side-bet.

  45. douglas clark — on 27th January, 2011 at 12:32 am  

    Rumbold @ 39,

    Thanks for the reply. My problem with this model of conflict resolution is that it doesn’t work. Unless of course, there are external parameters, away from the negotiating table itself, that support a deal. The ‘moderate’ terrorist or the ‘fed up’ member of the general public. The ‘peace’ in Northern Ireland was obtained because most folk were sick and tired of the immediate conflict. It is that, as much as anything else, that brought HMG and the IRA to the negotiating table.

    I think it is a legitimate question to ask – what changed? And why did it change?

    My arguement is that the ability to negotiate, whether in private or not, was down to a sea change in the opinion of the general public in both NI and the rest of the UK. It was that that allowed representatives of HMG and the IRA to sit around a table. Not secrecy.

    My point – which I am putting up here for debate, evidenced like the raggedy arsed child that it is – is that counter factually – HMG and the IRA accidentally colluded to perpetuate conflict after it’s sell by date. That openess by both of them, in the sense of actually listening and reflecting their own constituences could have shortened the end game significantly.

    In essence I am saying that men of war seem to have too big a say in our politics, and that general ennui doesn’t.

  46. Shamit — on 27th January, 2011 at 12:52 am  

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/magazine/30Wikileaks-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=global-home

    The link above is a very thoughtful piece from bill keller the executive editor of NY times on the times and its collboration with Wikileaks.

    The NY times actually kept the US government in the loop and while the government sometimes urged them not to publish something – the US government did not try to stifle or stop publication.

    And once again from this account of Mr. Keller it is clear that Assange is a twat and anyone who thinks he is doing the world a favour is bonkers.

    Have a read folks – it is good and worthwhile reading.

  47. douglas clark — on 27th January, 2011 at 8:58 am  

    Shamit @ 46,

    Thanks for the link. Leak?

    I suppose we read what you or I want to. It is not at all clear to me that Mr Keller is doing anything much other than covering his own ass.

    It is interesting that Mr Keller does his best to distance himself from claims that Assange is a journalist, leaving less scope for Assange to claim first ammendment indemnity for Wikileaks. Though I was given to believe it was a universal right, but apparently not…

    I think that article says more about power relationships in the US of A than it does about leaking data.

    It is insider speak, as far as it goes, for apologising for upsetting those inside the Beltway.

    It is, in essence, pathetic.

  48. Rumbold — on 27th January, 2011 at 9:34 am  

    Douglas:

    Thanks for the reply. My problem with this model of conflict resolution is that it doesn’t work. Unless of course, there are external parameters, away from the negotiating table itself, that support a deal. The ‘moderate’ terrorist or the ‘fed up’ member of the general public. The ‘peace’ in Northern Ireland was obtained because most folk were sick and tired of the immediate conflict. It is that, as much as anything else, that brought HMG and the IRA to the negotiating table.

    But those conditions are there in the Middle East too. The average Palestinian doesn’t want a life of Israeli checkpoints, incursions and settlers. The average Israeli doesn’t want a suicide bomber or rockets being fired at their house. There are also those fighters who are willing to negotiate.

    My arguement is that the ability to negotiate, whether in private or not, was down to a sea change in the opinion of the general public in both NI and the rest of the UK. It was that that allowed representatives of HMG and the IRA to sit around a table. Not secrecy.

    I agree that other factors helped create an environment which made it advantageous for the two/three sides to negotiate. But it was the secrecy of the negotiations which contributed to the two sides being able to make concessions, without fear of their radical wings deeming them traitors and taking action.

  49. boyo — on 27th January, 2011 at 9:48 am  

    Sunny – “I’m afraid that’s not justice and the Palestinians deserve much more. If the fragile peace in Israel falls apart now, it will be their fault and no one else’s.”

    I vote we hand over the Palestinian negotiations to Sunny. He plainly has a better understanding of the issues and has broad enough shoulders to handle the responsibility for the future of all those men, women and children. My only condition would be, that if it all falls apart, the consequences are visited not on the Palestinians, but his own home town.

  50. Arif — on 27th January, 2011 at 9:51 am  

    Thanks for the link Shamit. Big egos all round it seems. The article itself strikes me as quite self-righteous in pointing out motes in Assange’s eyes. But I don’t disbelieve it on any facts. It is in fact surprisingly candid in terms of how integrally connected the NYT is to the US Government and closely identifying with promoting a “national interest”.

    Rumbold, Shamit, I don’t take the view that there should be no secrecy. I agree that it would make negotiations difficult, and I give my reasons why too.

    But I think that giving away someone’s tactics before a game is different from giving them away after a game. The former is something which undermines their autonomy, the latter may enhance it. It allows us to see what really happened, learn and improve our strategies. This doesn’t mean that it can’t also wreck a game in progress, but it isn’t necessarily so.

    I think that in these contexts the leaks appear to me to contribute to democratic critical self-reflection. I do not get the sense that the Palestinian negotiators were on the cusp of a great breakthrough (I may be wrong). It seems to me a reasonable time for people to step back and consider the nature of their representation and constructions of national interests.

    I don’t think that the wikileaks have made negotiations more difficult either. As the article shows, it can provide new levers for US diplomacy, given that the allies they have insulted now know they have to work harder to retain their client status. Just as it may provide an education to any really naive statesman or woman who believes that US foreign policy (or any other county’s) is always guileless and respectful.

    For the rest of the USA, it is an opportunity for people to consider how the national interest is constructed and represented abroad. While the NYT maybe isn’t going to take a reflective stance on this, if it is taken together with, for example, the overthrow of Ben Ali and the protests against Mubarak, to discuss whether the US should be promoting dictatorships. If taken together with the documents on corruption in Afghanistan and Iraq, it can discuss how and whether the US can also promote democracy. What is democracy for? What constitutes it? Clearly democracies do not serve US interests any better than dictatorships – something else is going on and wikileaks helps us understand this without having the discussion falter for lack of evidence or for fear of being labelled a conspiracy theory. It is an opportunity for analysis.

    At its best, wikileaks may serve US democracy by undermining a very simplistic representation of complex national interests. It may also undermine an insufficiently self-critical approach to national self-interest. I think the desire to avoid such self-criticism leads to an impulse to shoot the messenger instead. States will continue to guard their secrets, as citizens though we should not act as arms of the State. We should take the opportunity to see what is being done in our name and whether we agree with it.

    Negotiators will do things with which we disagree, and we can react with horror and cry betrayal, or we can make an effort to understand the institutional dynamics that make those things necessary, possible or possible to avoid. If we don’t do this as citizens now, then there is no real point in voting either. We aren’t players in the game, just fans of one side or another of those who do play.

  51. douglas clark — on 27th January, 2011 at 10:04 am  

    Arif @ 50,

    Great post. That is some incisive analysis.

    You may, or may not, wish to engage with the general perspective that negotiations should be open forums, which is my current position.

    I am not at all convinced that a lasting settlement on any issue is successfully resolved though ‘our betters’ agreeing a compromise, especially when they have no mandate to do so. Or only one that they obtain retrospectively.

  52. Arif — on 28th January, 2011 at 10:16 am  

    douglas clarke @ 51 – thanks for the appreciation, and for taking the time to read the post!

    On the question of open forums, to work out what I think, I think I would need to work the implications through with you more than is possible on a blog like this. But I’ll give it a go.

    I have nothing against open forums, and think that they could probably take place at the same time as closed forums. We could then see how they worked and whether in any cases open forums came to resolutions more quickly or acceptably.

    In any case, I don’t think we can stop secret negotiations as long as governments (or corporations etc) have the power (officially or unofficially) to keep their activities secret and an interest in getting something out of others. We will still need leaks for any meaningful level of democracy.

    Whether open forums raise or lower the level of discussion is a key issue. In a closed negotiation, fallout from misunderstandings and acts of bad faith, aggression and humiliation is limited. In open forums they might gain their own momentum – like trolls derailing discussions here. It could be a waste of political energy and even increase hostility in some cases where it would be avoided if limited to private forums.

    To put it in another way, in a private forum, there are group dynamics which can be separated from political dynamics. Skilled facilitators can use these to help build trust to enable meaningful discussions to start more quickly in closed forums than in open forums. In open forums would negotiators be under a personal as well as political scrutiny which would undermine their focus and therefore effectiveness as well as candour? They also might be less easy to trust by their interlocutors who can see them looking over their shoulder for how they are being received.

    I think it might work nonetheless, and it should be tried, despite the dangers. It may create a different kind of politics, though I would be a bit sceptical. In fact I think the refusal to hold secret negotiations often signals an unwillingness to come to a peaceful solution – if you want to box people in to a lose-lose choice between humiliation or conflict, then you can give public ultimatums and label your own refusal to negotiate “public diplomacy”. What does that tell us?

    I can see that I am arguing that the ends (an uncertain agreement) justify the means (pressures and principles applied in secret). I guess it depends on how bad we think the means are and how good we think the ends are. With Wikileaks and Al Jazeera we have now got some data to use to make such judgments about the means that have been used and can compare them both to the means we would prefer and to the ends achieved.

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