Archive

Archive for the ‘wikileaks’ Category

How I met Julian Assange and secured the American embassy cables

December 11, 2010 Leave a comment

GETTING to WikiLeaks’s secret headquarters took quite some time and was not without complications.

This year a careful reading of statements by the WikiLeaks co-founder, Julian Assange, led me to conclude his small organisation had landed what could be the biggest leak of classified information – a vast trove of US documents that, among other things, would provide deep insight into the realities of Australia’s relationship with our most important ally, the US.

Advertisement: Story continues below

As a journalist I thought this was a story worth going for. Curiously few, if any others, thought likewise. Consistent with the old journalistic maxim that ”Noah is a better story than flood control”, most media interest was focused on Assange himself, admittedly an elusive and intensely interesting figure, rather than what he might be about to release through the WikiLeaks website.

Six months of emails, clandestine meetings and confidential exchanges followed before arrangements for a visit to Britain were locked in.

WikiLeaks takes security very seriously, and it is right to do so. After all, it’s not paranoia when the vast intelligence and security apparatus of the US is arrayed against you. Consequently I flew out from Australia last month without a specific destination, only an instruction on arrival at Heathrow Airport to go to a certain railway station, taking precautions to see whether I was followed.

There, using a public telephone, I phoned a number that had been provided earlier through a secure channel. A voice on the other end gave a single-word reply to my call – the name of a railway station outside London.

I bought a ticket and some hours later arrived on a windswept, rain-splattered railway platform in rural England.

Only a couple of other passengers got off and the platform was quickly deserted. I wondered what the next step would be.

But after a moment a figure emerged from the early evening shadows, with cap pulled down over his head and coat collar turned up, perhaps to make identification difficult but more likely to protect against the bitter wind and sleet.

There was a quick greeting, then a long drive through the countryside to WikiLeaks’s temporary headquarters, made available by a benefactor.

I was greeted by the man himself: modest, unassuming, in T-shirt, tracksuit pants and socks with holes in them.

Assange doesn’t stand on ceremony and is always focused on the task. We got straight down to business – the imminent release, in conjunction with some of the world’s leading newspapers, of a torrent of highly sensitive US diplomatic secrets.

The setting was utterly incongruous. The home was a marvellous example of Georgian elegance, a relic of the pre-industrial age carefully preserved but demonstrating the challenges of maintaining buildings that are close to 300 years old.

On the walls of the drawing room, in effect WikiLeaks operations room, paintings of long-dead defenders of the empire, most in the scarlet uniforms, looked down on a tangle of laptops, printers, wires and power cables and other equipment.

It is said the security-conscious Assange changes mobile phones as often as most people change shirts. This is an understatement. Tables were covered with mobile phones and SIM cards were strewn around like confetti. Resting in one corner was Assange’s backpack, carrying all his worldly goods.

In the morning the countryside reverberated to the sounds of gunfire as the English upper class indulged its passion for bird shooting. Occasionally low-flying air force jets would rattle the windows, prompting jokes about a possible air strike.

For a tiny organisation under immense pressure the atmosphere in temporary WikiLeaks HQ was remarkably calm and relaxed. On the eve of its biggest documents release, the main work area was often silent apart from the sound of typing as documents were formatted and last-minute communications made with the newspapers partnered in the release.

Although WikiLeaks has a big pool of volunteers, the inner core is a small, highly committed group, all working on the basis of only expenses being reimbursed, with remarkably diverse skills ranging from computer programming and language translation to journalism and media liaison.

It is a truly multinational enterprise, with accents from around the globe heard across the breakfast table. Not that everyone appears at breakfast. WikiLeaks runs on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis so a good proportion of the key personnel are essentially nocturnal.

As for Assange, he is an impressive figure. Highly intelligent, articulate and deeply committed to his cause. And he certainly isn’t in it for the money. For someone under immense pressure he was remarkably calm, focused and measured.

Contrary to reports that he is an eccentric egomaniac, he gave every appearance of being good-tempered and humoured, ready to discuss issues and carefully consider advice.

He is certainly a strategic thinker with a fair amount of political and media nous that has turned his organisation into a global phenomenon.

Having entered into talks on the basis of confidentiality, I will not repeat his observations but I found him a highly engaging, thoughtful conversationalist.

He pays close attention to political developments in Australia and has a keen sense of the importance of encouraging more openness.

A frequent theme is the need to cut through the hypocrisy and cant that fills so much of political discourse by enabling citizens to see and hear directly what their leaders think and say in private.

Assange has well and truly kicked the hornets’ nest. He is now in an English prison awaiting extradition proceedings that could mean he will be taken to Sweden to be questioned about sexual misconduct allegations, but which could also open the door for him to be sent to face the wrath of the US government.

It is reported that he is in good spirits and as a highly self-contained person he probably has the inner resources to cope with his difficult circumstances.

Whatever the outcome of these proceedings, one thing was clear. He has given much thought to how WikiLeaks might defend itself from sustained attacks and how it might function without him. The frenzy about WikiLeaks is likely to continue. There will be twists and turns but it looks like WikiLeaks is here to stay and governments will have to get used to that.

source

Categories: wikileaks

Pope wanted Muslim Turkey kept out of EU

December 11, 2010 Leave a comment

A WikiLeaks cable reports that Pope Benedict XVI, seen here being received by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara in 2006, ‘might prefer to see Turkey develop a special relationship short of EU membership’. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/AFP/Getty Images

The pope is responsible for the Vatican‘s growing hostility towards Turkey joining the EU, previously secret cables sent from the US embassy to the Holy See in Rome claim.

In 2004 Cardinal Ratzinger, the future pope, spoke out against letting a Muslim state join, although at the time the Vatican was formally neutral on the question.

The Vatican’s acting foreign minister, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, responded by telling US diplomats that Ratzinger’s comments were his own rather than the official Vatican position.

The cable released by WikiLeaks shows that Ratzinger was the leading voice behind the Holy See’s unsuccessful drive to secure a reference to Europe’s “Christian roots” in the EU constitution. The US diplomat noted that Ratzinger “clearly understands that allowing a Muslim country into the EU would further weaken his case for Europe’s Christian foundations”.

But by 2006 Parolin was working for Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and his tone had distinctly chilled. “Neither the pope nor the Vatican have endorsed Turkey’s EU membership per se,” he told the American charge d’affaires, “rather, the Holy See has been consistently open to accession, emphasising only that Turkey needs to fulfil the EU’s Copenhagen criteria to take its place in Europe.”

But he did not expect the demands on religious freedom to be fulfilled: “One great fear is that Turkey could enter the EU without having made the necessary advances in religious freedom. [Parolin] insisted that EU members – and the US – continue to press the [Turkish government] on these issues … He said that short of ‘open persecution’, it couldn’t get much worse for the Christian community in Turkey.”

The cables reveal the American government lobbying within Rome and Ankara for Turkish EU membership. “We hope a senior department official can visit the Holy See and encourage them to do more to push a positive message on Turkey and integration,” concluded the 2006 cable.

But by 2009, the American ambassador was briefing in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit, that “the Holy See’s position now is that as a non-EU member the Vatican has no role in promoting or vetoing Turkey’s membership. The Vatican might prefer to see Turkey develop a special relationship short of membership with the EU.”

Roman Catholicism is the only religion in the world with the status of a sovereign state, allowing the pope’s most senior clerics to sit at the top table with world leaders. The cables reveal the Vatican routinely wielding influence through diplomatic channels while sometimes denying it is doing so. The Vatican has diplomatic relations with 177 countries and has used its diplomatic status to lobby the US, United Nations and European Union in a concerted bid to impose its moral agenda through national and international parliaments.

The US charge d’affaires D Brent Hardt told Parolin, his diplomatic counterpart in Rome, of “the Holy See’s potential to influence Catholic countries to support a ban on human cloning” to which Parolin emphasised his agreement with the US position and promised to support fully UN efforts for such a ban.

On other global issues such as climate change, the Vatican sought to use its moral authority as leverage, while refusing itself to sign formal treaties, such as the Copenhagen accord, that require reporting commitments.

At a meeting in January this year Dr Paolo Conversi, the pope’s representative on climate change at the Vatican’s secretariat of state, told an American diplomat that the Vatican would “encourage other countries discreetly to associate themselves with the accord as opportunities arise”.

The Americans noted that Conversi’s offer to support the US, even if discreetly, was significant because the Vatican was often reluctant to appear to compromise its independence and moral authority by associating itself with particular lobbying efforts.

“Even more important than the Vatican’s lobbying assistance, however, is the influence the pope’s guidance can have on public opinion in countries with large Catholic majorities and beyond.”

The cables also reveal that the Vatican planned to use Poland as a trojan horse to spread Catholic family values through the structures of the European Union in Brussels.

The then US ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Rooney, briefed Washington in 2006, shortly after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, that “the Holy See hopes that Poland will hold the line at the EU on ‘life and family’ issues that arise” and would serve as a counterweight to western European secularism once the country had integrated into the EU.

The cable notes that Pope Benedict is preoccupied with Europe’s increasing psychological distance from its Christian roots.

“He has continued to focus on Poland’s potential in combating this trend. This was one of the themes of the visit of several groups of Polish bishops to the Vatican at the end of last year [2005]. ‘It’s a topic that always comes up,’ explained Monsignor Michael Banach, the Holy See minister of foreign affairs country director for Poland. He told us that the two sides recognised that the Polish bishops needed to exert leadership in the face of western European secularism.”

Across the Atlantic, the Vatican has told the Americans it wants to undermine the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, in Latin America because of worries about the deterioration of Catholic power there. It fears Chávez is seriously damaging relations between the Catholic church and the state by identifying the church hierarchy as part of the privileged class.

Monsignor Angelo Accattino, in charge of Caribbean and Andean matters for the Vatican, said Obama should reach out to Cuba “in order to reduce the influence of Chávez and break up his cabal in Latin America“.In December last year, America’s adviser for western Europe at the UN, Robert Smolik, said the Vatican observer was “as always active and influential behind the scenes” and “lobbied actively and influentially in the corridors and in informal consultations, particularly on social issues”.

In 2001 another American diplomat to the Vatican stated: “The Holy See will continue to seek to play a role in the Middle East peace process while denying this intention.” (1792)

Categories: wikileaks

The Worlds new view on USA

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

South America

Brazil

President Lula says he is to register his protest at Assange’s arrest on his blog. “This chap was only publishing something he read,” he said. “And if he read it, it is because somebody wrote it. The guilty one is not the publisher, it is the person who wrote [these things]. Blame the person who wrote this nonsense because there would be no scandal if they hadn’t.” Many leaks relate to the security situation in Rio de Janeiro. A 2009 cable warned that pre-Olympic attempts to expel drug traffickers from some of the city’s most violent favelas could resemble “the battles in Fallujah more than a conventional urban police operation”.

Argentina

In Argentina the Wikileaks revelations have focused on apparent US concern about a new invasion of the Falklands islands and over president Cristina Kirchner mental health. In one cable Hillary Clintonmused over whether the current occupant of the Casa Rosada was “taking any medications.”

“How do Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s emotions affect her decision-making and how does she calm down when distressed?” one cable asked diplomats in the Argentine capital.

The English-language Buenos Aires Herald, however, pointed out that “the snickering about the President’s mental health comes at a time [when] she is perceived by much of the public, including those who oppose her, as having shown tremendous strength immediately after her husband’s death.”

Venezuela

Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, has called on Hillary Clinton to resign in the wake of “all of this spying and delinquency in the State Department”.

“Look at how they treat the leaders of powerful countries,” Chavez told state TV channel Telesur, describing the cables as proof of the “dirty war of Yankee embassies in the whole world”.

“Look how they are mistreating this great friend of ours, Vladimir Putin. What a lack of respect!”

Ecuador and Bolivia

The Ecuadorian government has been Wikileaks’ most vocal supporter in the region, offering the under-fire Julian Assange residency “without any conditions”. Bolivia has also expressed its irritation at its portrayal in the US diplomatic cables. The country’s vice-president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, this week posted Bolivia-focused Wikileaks cables, in full, on his official website in response to what he called “insults” and “third rate espionage”.

US authorities have been lampooned by much of the Bolivian press.

Juan José Toro Montoya, a columnist for the Cochabamba newspaper Los Tiempos newspaper described the accusations against Wikileaks’ founder as “laughable”.

“Julian Assange may be under arrest but he has been transformed into a hero and will go down in history as being the first human being to massively reveal the dirty-tricks of government,” he wrote yesterday.

Middle East

Iran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the Wikileaks revelations as “psychological warfare.” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman thundered: “The enemies of the Islamic world are pursuing a project of Iranophobia and disunity. This project only protects the interests of the Zionist regime and its supporters.” Still, the documents will reinforce the regime’s world view by underlining the huge effort being made by the US to contain Iran by applying pressure for UN sanctions over its nuclear programme or stopping arms deliveries to groups like Hamas and Hizbullah. It will be harder to maintain the pretence of good relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states because of exposure of their fear of Tehran. Iran remains defiant and is not as isolated as Washington would like. It is influential in Iraq and has good relations with Turkey. It is clear that Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to it have failed, with some arguing he was never serious about engagement. The status quo looks volatile and threatening.

Israel

Israel has been largely untroubled by because US views on key Middle Eastern issues especially on Iran, Syria and Lebanon, are so close to its own. “Israel is not the centre of international attention,” said Binyamin Netanyahu. “Normally, there’s a gap between what is said publicly and what is said privately, but in this case, the gap is not large.” The most significant revelation was that Israel believes that beyond a certain point attacking Iran would cause too much “collateral damage.”Israel can be seen maintaining discreet contact with Gulf states and have an intriguing intelligence link to Saudi Arabia. It suits Israel that the Palestinian issue and Jewish settlements in the occupied territories do not feature prominently. The Palestinian Authority denied suggestions it acquiesced in Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s only public comment on the revelations was to say “they do not concern us” despite the sensational exposure of comments made by King Abdullah about attacking Iran “to cut off the head of the snake.” It will be unhappy about US complaints that it remains a source of funding for the Taliban and other extremists. It may be pleased its counter-terrorist efforts against al-Qaida, at home and in neighbouring Yemen, have been given positive exposure. There is little evidence of US pressure over human rights and democracy.

Lebanon

Ever volatile Lebanon has been shaken by documents showing close links between the pro-western government and the US. The most damaging revelation described its defence minister offering advice on how Israel could defeat Hezbollah if a new war erupted. But Elias Murr complained that the cables were “inaccurate” and taken out of context. Tensions are already high because of expectations Hizbullah members will be indicted for the 2005 murder of Rafiq al-Hariri. Al-Akhbar, a leftist and pro-Hizbullah paper that has published leaks of the leaks about the Arab world, has come under cyber attack.

Syria

Syria has not responded officially to disclosures that it is the subject of intense US efforts to stop deliveries of weapons to Hezbollah. Syrians say they are struck by the absence of embarrassing information about Israel. Sami Moubayed, an influential commentator, wrote: “Perhaps WikiLeaks will one day tell us, for example, what the Israelis are hiding about the pre-Bush era.” Damascus insists it only supports resistance to Israel and blames it for ramping up regional tensions. Ample evidence of American strategy to weaken the alliance between Damascus and Tehran, but there is no sign that it has worked.

Yemen

Yemen’s government has faced embarrassing questions in parliament about evidence ministers lied about US air strikes against al-Qaida targets. Cables revealed President Ali Abdullah Saleh is worried about being painted as an American pawn and restricts counter-terrorist cooperation even as Washington presses for more determined action. Opposition MP Mansur al Zindani complained of a “powerful blow to parliament and the public.” There are fears the revelations could help al-Qaida win new recruits in the Arab world’s poorest country.

Libya

Muammar Gaddafi praised WikiLeaks for exposing US “hypocrisy.” The whistleblowing website has “proved America is not what it has led allies and friends to believe it to be.” There was no comment on threats against Britain if the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel-Basset al-Megrahi, died in prison in Scotland.

Egypt

Revelations about Egypt – some leaked to the independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm — have been dismissed by Cairo as containing “nothing new.” But they include evidence of its fears about Sudan breaking up, President Mubarak’s profound hostility to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and bleak US assessments of future prospects for democracy, including the prediction that Mubarak, now 82, will stand for yet another term next year. The recent parliamentary elections, widely dismissed as a charade, tend to confirm US views.

Tunisia

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali will be furious at cables describing high-level corruption, a sclerotic regime, and deep hatred of his wife and her family. Deeply unflattering reports from the US ambassador in Tunis make no bones about the state of the small Maghreb country, widely considered one of the most repressive in North Africa. No surprise that Tunisia blocked the website of Beirut’s al-Akhbar, which published some of the documents.

Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted furiously to US diplomatic cables that suggested he was a corrupt closet Islamist. As Turkey heads for elections next year, secular Republican opponents may try to exploit his evident discomfort.

The cables highlighted three principal issues. Erdogan’s personal probity – he was reported to have eight secret Swiss bank accounts; the supposed Islamist agenda of the ruling AKP party; and Turkey’s perceived drift away from the western alliance and closer embrace of countries such as Syria and Iran.

Erdogan’s response was both to dismiss the cables as tittle-tattle, and to conjure conspiracy theories.”The un-serious cables of American diplomats, formed from gossip, magazines, allegations and slander are spreading worldwide via the internet,” Erdogan said. “Are there disclosures of state secrets, or is there another aim?” he askedd. “… Is it carrying out a veiled, dark propaganda? Are there efforts to affect, manipulate relations between certain countries?”

Europe

Russia

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave the sharpest response to the WikiLeaks cables in which he was protrayed as Batman to Dmitry Medvedev’s Robin. “Slander”, he called it. The embassy cables portray Russia as a corrupt kleptocracy where politicians and criminals were inextricably linked. Medvedev has said that the cables “show a full measure of cynicism” in US foreign policy making. But he suggested the leaks would not damage relations between Moscow and WashingtonSergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, claimed to be surprised that “some petty thieves running around the Internet” are causing such a sensation. In reality, the cables have caused lasting damage in Russia, playing to the deep mistrust of US intentions that imbues Kremlin policy making.

Poland

The cables revealed a battle of wits and mutual dissembling between Warsaw and Washington over US military aid to Poland, missile defence, and attitudes towards Russia. While the Poles welcomed secret Nato plans for the defence of the three Baltic states, they worried the new plan would dilute Nato security guarantees for Poland.

The disclosures appear to be sparking a sober re-assessment in Warsaw of the closeness of the relationship with Washington.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk sounded bitter and disenchanted on Tuesday after the Guardian published material on Poland.

“We have a really serious problem,” he said. “Not with image, as some countries do, and not reputation, like the US does. It’s a problem of being stripped of illusions about the nature of relations between countries, including such close allies as Poland and the US.”

Italy

La Repubblica, one of Italy’s best-selling dailies, on Wednesday carried the first in a series of articles examining the relationship between Silvio Berlusconi and Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, in the light of claims reported by the US state department cables that the Italian leader was profiting from gas deals between their two countries.

Newspapers and other media have given extensive coverage to the WikiLeaks disclosures. Berlusconi, who has denied any financial interest in Italy’s energy dealings, was also embarrassed by a cable that quoted him as referring to Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev as an “apprentice”. He insisted he never said it.

But in a country where the prime minister cannot be forced to answer to parliament and where attention is now focussed mainly on two parliamentary censure motions that could topple the Berlusconi administration next week, the political fall-out has been limited. Pierluigi Bersani, the leader of Italy’s biggest opposition group, the Democratic party, said the cables showed that “the prime minister, with his behaviour and political decisions, harms the reputation of Italy in the world.”

But, for the most part, opposition politicians have heeded a warning from Berlusconi’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, not to exploit the cables for political purposes.

Austria

The cables show a rather withering US contempt for Austria and its leading politicians, with US diplomats complaining that Washington has little leverage in Vienna because the government there is barely interested in developing relations with the US. The social democratic chancellor, Werner Faymann, is described as a leader with scant interest in foreign affairs. The foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, is preoccupied with promoting Austrian business. And Austria, constitutionally neutral and not in Nato, is criticised for resisting US pressure to send forces to Afghanistan.

Norbert Darabos, the defence minister, described the US criticism as “inexplicable”, and said Austria would not increase its contribution to Afghanistan beyond the five policemen it has sent.

A leading Austrian Greens MP, Peter Pilz, proposed that the country should grant Julian Assange political asylum.

Kazakhstan

US cables described the peccadilloes of the Kazakh elite, including the 40-horse stable of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president, a private Elton John concert for a top politician and an extraordinary midnight dance by the prime minister at a nightclub called Chocolat. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, was at pains to privately apologise to several world leaders who were pilloried in the disclosures.

Turkmenistan

In perhaps the baldest character assassination of any world leader in the WikiLeaks cables, a US diplomat reported to Washington that president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan is seen as “vain, fastidious, vindictive, a micro-manager,” a “practised liar” and “not a very bright guy”. In keeping with the country’s insular regime, the charge provoked little reaction.

Georgia

Disclosures about the Caucasus state were a mixed bag. As the New York Times noted, they showed US diplomats’ catastrophic failure to recognise that Mikhail Saakashvili, the president, was planning to attack the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia in 2008. But they also concluded that before the conflict Russia had been “aggressively playing a high-stakes covert game” in an attempt to provoke Georgia into retaliation. Giga Bokeria, secretary of Georgia’s national security council, toed Washington’s line in his assessment of the WikiLeaks releases. “It is very cynical when one, under the guise of a martyr, fights against the greatest democracy [the US] using such prohibited methods,” he said of Julian Assange, in televised comments.

Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, was the setting for Prince Andrew’s infamous rant about geographically-challenged Americans and snooping “(expletive) journalists, especially from the National Guardian.” At a meeting with the prince, Tatiana Gfoeller, the US ambassador to Bishkek, decided he was a victim of “neuralgic patriotism” whose behaviour “verged on the rude”. Kyrgyzstan’s leadership has been silent on that sharp assessment, while local media have been more interested in claims that China offered the country a $3bn (£1.9bn) aid package if it would close the Manas airbase, which the US uses to supply its troops in Afghanistan.

Moldova

According to the WikiLeaks documents, Moldova’s then president, Vladimir Voronin, offered a $10m (£6.4m) bribe to a rival in 2009 in a desperate attempt to keep his communist government in power. A leading member of Voronin’s party, Mark Tkachuk, told reporters the claims were “fairy tales” and “low-life gossip”.

Africa

Kenya

It took just a few leaked words to create an outcry from the Kenyan government. In a teaser of what the cables from Nairobi would reveal, Der Spiegel said last week that US officials believed the country was a “swamp of corruption” — hardly a heretic view on the streets of Nairobi. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua immediately called a news conference to say the government was “surprised and shocked”.

“If what is reported is true, it is totally malicious, and a total misrepresentation of our country and our leaders,” he said.

He went on to say that foreign countries funding youth empowerment schemes in Kenya – a barely veiled reference to the US — were in fact trying to overthrow the government. The US ambassador to Nairobi, Michael Ranneberger, described Mutua’s claims as “utterly ridiculous”. The prime minister told parliament he welcomed the Wikileaks revelations.

‘We now know what some of our friends think about us … it is helpful.”

After the revelations on Thursday that the US ambassador believed rampant corruption could lead in renewed violence in the country, Kibaki’s office released a statement defending his record.

“We wish to state that President Kibaki’s record on reforms through out his career speaks for itself. ,” it said.

Uganda

The authorities in Uganda were also riled. In response to claims that President Yoweri Museveni feared his plane being shot down on the orders of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa issued a statement yesterday (Thursday).

“While it is true that we hold discussions with the US government on regional and internationals issues, the contents of the alleged cables are grossly inaccurate and illogical. For example, if the Ugandan president perceived the threat to fly the international airspace, the solution would be for him to stay at home. Other leaders in the world have done so in the past.”

But Museveni’s spokesman Tamale Mirundi confirmed that other leaked cables referring to the president’s concern about Sudan supporting the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels a few years ago, and Eritrea being a regional threat, were in fact accurate.

Eritrea

Despite its president being described by US officials as an “unhinged dictator”, there was no reaction from Eritrea to the leaked cables. There is also no free press in Eritrea.

Nigeria

Royal Dutch Shell said it was “absolutely untrue” that it had infiltrated every Nigerian ministry affecting its operations there. The company offered no further comment.

Zimbabwe

In an opinion piece in the state-run Herald newspaper, Reason Wafawarova focused on how the cables showed that Mugabe had defied US expectations of his demise from power. He also delighted in description of opposition leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as a “flawed figure”.

South Asia

Pakistan

The rich store of WikiLeaks revelations about Pakistan have monopolized headlines and the political agenda for over ten days. But some stories are considered too hot to touch. While cables exposing the foibles of Pakistan’s civilian leaders triggered a media feeding frenzy, the press largely ignored revelations that cast the powerful military in a bad light, including its alleged support for Islamist extremist groups such as the Taliban. That left politicians struggling to bat off embarrassing allegations, such as the bearded religious firebrand seen cosying up to the American ambassador, President Asif Zardari’s obsession with his death, or prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s secret support for CIA drone strikes.

“Don’t trust WikiLeaks,” Gilani told reporters in Kabul at the weekend, attempting to brush off the revelations as “the observations of junior diplomats”. Beside him President Hamid Karzai, also tarred in the dispatches, nodded solemnly. Rarely have the sparring neighbours agreed so easily. Coverage of army chief General Ashfaq Kayani focused on revelations that he threatened to oust Zardari last year but held back because he “distrusted” opposition contender Nawaz Sharif. The army issued a statement that Kayani “holds all political leaders in esteem”. But most reporters shied away from US intelligence assessments that the army under Kayani continues to support the Taliban and Mumbai attackers Lashkar-e-Taiba. “ISI extols the virtues of some Taliban elements” read one small headline that provided no other details; otherwise loquacious television anchors were largely silent on the matter. One exception was the new Express Tribune paper. “It has always been an open secret that the military acts as puppet master,” said an editorial “Only now do we have confirmation of just how tenuous the hold of democracy in the country really is.”

Pakistani conspiracy theorists insisted the cables had been deliberately leaked as part of a Washington plot to discredit the Muslim world; the Saudi ambassador described them as “a rapist’s propaganda”.

But for most Pakistanis, the cables simply confirmed how much influence the US wields over their military and civilian leaders. Several headlines referred to the “WikiLeaks shame”; former diplomat Asif Ezdi said they proved Pakistan had become “the world’s biggest banana republic”.

The judiciary, meanwhile, liked the cables. Dismissing an attempt to block their publication, High Court judge Sheikh Azmat Saeed, said that WikiLeaks “may cause trouble for some personalities” but would be “good for the progress of the nation in the long run.”

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan the Wikileaks disclosure have been a source of endless fascination for the general public, with the country’s journalists devoting hours of airtime to pouring over the cables. Among pundits debate has raged about the meaning of the revelations, and even whether they can be believed with some incredulous commentators refusing to accept that the world’s most powerful country could ever lose so much confidential information. Some have even suggested it was a put up job by the Americans themselves.

But so far there have been no major political casualties, despite the deeply critical remarks of Hamid Karzai made by his own senior ministers and the US ambassador.

The Afghan president has publicly thrown his support behind Omar Zakhiwal, his finance minister who was quoted in cables describing his boss as “extremely weak man”. But a cabinet reshuffle is expected after the new parliament is inaugurated.

Also thought to be vulnerable is Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador who wrote at times despairing notes back to Washington about Karzai.

The Afghan and US governments have insisted their relationship remains strong but former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has publicly said Eikenberry’s position is untenable.

Many believe there is now no chance that he will extend his soon to expire two year term, if he wanted to.

India

In India the reaction to WikiLeaks was initially muted or positive, though the revelations were covered by all sectors of the press, including the local language media. “The first lot of WikiLeaks documents paints a flattering picture of India as a reliable, trusted and respected power in a world that worries itself sick about neighbouring Pakistan,” the Times of India newspaper said. Coverage focused on revelations from Pakistan and particularly about Islamabad’s security services’ relationship with local Islamic extremists. India’s external affairs ministry refused to comment on the leak other than to stress its continuing “candid” dialogue with the United States. As the week has passed criticism, both of Western countries and of the leak, has built up, particularly as police in the UK moved to arrest the Wikileaks founder. “The way these governments have been going after Assange and his group raises the question whether what is commonly called the free world is really free,” said the Mumbai-based newspaper Daily News Analysis. Others attacked those behind the leak. “There is a strong feeling that the sense of responsibility lacks,” union law minister Veerappa Moily told The Guardian yesterday (Wednesday). “This just creates mutual misunderstanding. The trust is endangered by such leaks and that is a very unhealthy trend.” Shashi Tharoor, former minister of state for external affairs, called the leaks “unethical and wrong”.

“The confidentiality of government communications is the lifeblood of diplomatic comfort,” Tharoor told a local reporter. “You do not effectively run a government if your own diplomats cannot report to their own capitals in utter candour.” Other commentators however called for an Indian version of the leak, arguing that the Indian bureaucracy was one of the most opaque in the world and could only benefit from public scrutiny. ends

Bangladesh

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have been on the front page of most newspapers in Bangladesh over the last week. The story has been of particular interest to the country’s many students who thronged street tea stalls in Dhaka, the capital, to discuss “how WikiLeaks has shaken the US administration by revealing its confidential cables”, according to one local journalist. Anis Pervez, an associate professor at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, said he had discussed the leaks in his classroom lecture on media ethics. “Every state has sovereignty and sometimes some information can create tension. Then again, there is a dilemma over how much information one should reveal to the public just because he or she has it,” he said. One particularly cable alleging that the Islamic extremist group Lashkar-e-Toiba had established sleeper cells in Bangladesh hit headlines. “The information divulged on the WikiLeaks is creating an odd situation for many countries. We have not yet checked the documents found regarding Bangladesh,” said Yafeash Osman, state minister for science and technology, said.

Nepal

In Nepal there has therefore been some disappointment that most of the 2,600 documents that were sent from the US Embassy in Kathmandu have not yet to be released. The leaks sparked frantic efforts by Nepali politicians as well as journalists to find out what revelations about the Himalayan nation could be expected with journalists offices in Kathmandu bombarded by calls from politicians and leaderships seeking tips on what might be coming. As elsewhere released cables have been scoured for elements of local interest. Documents suggesting that Maoist rebels had received Indian funding provoked an inevitably strongly worded reaction from Nepal’s Maoist party. Other cables touching on the relations between regional giants China and India have also been minutely scrutinised.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the leaks provoked a political and media storm as many focused on the island nation’s controversial and bloody recent history. While one effectively accused President Mahinda Rajapaksa of being complicit in war crimes – a charge he denies – another described a diplomatic campaign by British former foreign secretary David Miliband to champion aid and human rights during the Sri Lankan humanitarian crisis last year as largely driven by domestic political calculations. Media reactions have varied. Newspapers loyal to the government have covered the various allegations made in the cables but have particularly focused on material that is embarrassing to the US or the UK The campaigning Sunday Leader however published a call to journalistic arms: “As media acquired books, the powerful enacted bans. As media developed newspapers, the powerful found ways to seal them in courts or seduce them with access and wealth. Through all this one force, however, is constant. You can’t keep a good story down. You can’t stop the thirst for justice, you can only mask it for a while. This is a lesson that WikiLeaks is teaching the world, and we hope that it will reach Sri Lankan ears.”

Asia Pacific

China

China has been tight-lipped. It has also been increasingly keen to stop others from having their say, deleting articles and discussions about the cables. It called the contents of the diplomatic memos “absurd” but has otherwise refused to comment on the information they contain, such as reports of official frustration with North Korea and a source’s claim that a senior official was behind the attack on Google.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday that Beijing hoped the emergence of the cables would not affect relations with Washington.

Censorship has not stopped some people from reading about the cables on overseas websites.

“Reading [about] China and Google, I want to say: WikiLeaks rocks!” one wrote on a microblog service of the popular portal Sina earlier this week.

Another argued: “What Wikileaks says about China must be a slander from the US. What do you think? The US government hates Wikileaks too? It must be a conspiracy.”

China Digital Times, which monitors censorship, believes the Central Propaganda Bureau issued an order telling websites not to issue further reports on the cables, although some have reported on Julian Assange’s arrest.

Australia

The role of Assange, the country’s prodigal son, has generated the most coverage and debate. Referring to him as the ‘Ned Kelly of the digital age’, Bryce Lowry said: “Assange is a cyber bushranger: a renegade taunter of authority and inspiration to many who marvel at his daring to challenge the status quo.” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the publication of the cables is illegal, and Assange’s actions are “grossly irresponsible”. She has made it clear the Australian government will offer him no support although the Australian consulate in the UK has offered him access to their services.

The cables themselves reveal an unflattering view of former prime minister – now foreign minister – Kevin Rudd. He was an abrasive, impulsive ”control freak” who presided over a series of foreign policy blunders. Another cable referenced how Rudd angered the US by detailing a private conversation he had with Bush which included the moment he was “stunned to hear Bush say, ‘What’s the G20?'”

Rudd retaliated this week. “Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network. “The Americans are responsible for that,” he said.

Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day 12

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

• The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer paid investigators to unearth corruption links to Nigeria’s attorney general in an attempt to persuade him to stop his legal action against a controversial drug trial involving children with meningitis.

• The US is concerned that pressure from the Serbs will lead to the partition of Kosovo and a possible surge in ethnic violence.

Britain’s blocking of Croatia’s entry to the EU frustrated the Americans, who feared it could destabilise the country and risk the accession chances of the rest of the former Yugoslavia states.

• Senior Serbian officials have told US diplomats in Belgrade that Russia may know the whereabouts of the fugitive Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic.

• The Chinese government is losing patience with Burma’s military regime, and is keen to work with the US in promoting change.

• Witnesses claim to have seen evidence of North Koreans, aided by Burmese workers, constructing secret nuclear and missile sites in the remote Burmese jungle.

• The Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, is likely to stay in power until he dies. The absence of free and fair elections means he will almost certainly hold the post for as long as he is willing to stand.

Der Spiegel

• In 2007, the German government made it clear to US officials that they were not interested in following through with the arrest warrants issued for 13 CIA operatives involved in the 2003 abduction of Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German. In public, Angela Merkel’s office continued to call for an investigation.

• Cables from the US ambassador in Kenya sent in 2008 show that the Bush administration was consulted regularly over Nairobi’s arming of the Sudanese guerillas, the SPLA. The Kenyan programme came to light after Somali pirates struck lucky, capturing a cargo ship packed with Russian T-72 tanks bound for Kenya.

New York Times

• Julian Assange, the former hacker who founded WikiLeaks, becomes a cause célèbre for proponents of internet freedom.

Thoughts on how the US is being perceived abroad in the wake of wikileaks revelations.

• Washington officials are anticipating a WikiLeaks cache of leaked documents pertaining to Guantanamo detainees.

El País

• Senior Spanish government officials and other high-profile public figures used very undiplomatic language to describe various Latin American leaders: President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela was called a clown, not stupid but a rude man with no manners. Venezuela was “a disaster of a country” according to Prime Minister Zapatero.
President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua was “crazy”. The current foreign secretary, Trinidad Jiménez, described him as “the worst possible leader she had to work with”.

Le Monde

• President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast revealed to US diplomats that in 2005, the then French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, had asked him to try and persuade President Chirac to appoint him prime minister.

• When the military junta chief of Guinea, Moussa Dadis Camara, went to Morocco for hospital treatment after an assassination attempt, the French schemed with Americans to prevent him going back to his country and had him sent to Burkina Faso instead, in order to help restore a democratic regime in Guinea.

Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day 11

December 9, 2010 1 comment

Ann Pickard, Shell’s VP for sub-Saharan Africa, claimed in Oct 2009 that the oil giant had infiltrated all the main ministries of the Nigerian government.

• Two British civil servants, Dr Richard Freer and Judith Gough,contradicted Gordon Brown’s statement on reduction of the Trident fleetin conversations with US embassy officials in London.

• A Moscow-based US diplomat, Matthias Mitman, persuaded the Obama administration to lobby the Russian government on behalf of Visa and Mastercard to ensure new Russian legislation did not adversely affect their interests in the country.

• The US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, warned in a January 2010 cable that corruption among the country’s political elite risked tipping the nation into violent chaos. A February cable expressed concern over the increasing influence of China in the region.

• Eritrea is at risk of a military coup or “implosion”, according to cables sent by the-then US ambassador to the country, Ronald McMullen, in February 2009.

• The US ambassador in Kampala sought assurances from the Ugandan government in December 2010 that it would consult the US before using American intelligence to commit war crimes in the conflict against the LRA.

Der Spiegel

• The Swiss diplomat charged with brokering a deal with Libya, following the arrest of the son of Colonel Gaddafi in Switzerland, and Libya’s abduction of two Swiss businessmen in response, struggled to cope with the pressure. Stefano Lazzarotto is quoted as saying: “They do not understand the kind of pressure I am under. I have lost seven kilos in the past 10 days.”

El País

• The sale of patrol boats and transport planes to Venezuela divided the Spanish government in 2005 and slowed down the normalisation of relations with the US following the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.

• In 2009, Russia sold at least 100 anti-aircraft missiles to Venezuela, worrying the USA.

• The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, became so fixated on the plight of Ingrid Betancourt, held by the Farc in Colombia, that he was prepared to get her free at “any price”.

Le Monde

• In August 2005, the US told Colombia that lack of progress in human rights remained an obstacle to good relations with the US, and particularly in fighting an effective war against drugs in the region.

The New York Times

• Websites of multinational companies deemed hostile to WikiLeaks, such as MasterCard and Paypal, have been hacked by cyber activists in a retaliatory move.

• The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, met with President Karzai of Afghanistan in Kabul, to the backdrop of more Wikileaks revelations about the war in Afghanistan.

• Revelations that US officials put pressure on Germany not to arrest Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in the 2003 kidnapping of a German citizen mistakenly identified as a terrorist.

 

Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day Ten

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Libya threatened UK with “dire reprisals” if the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, died in a Scottish prison.

• Julian Assange is refused bail, and spends the night in Wandsworth prison.

• The future of the WikiLeaks website is thrown into doubt.

• The Obama administration is suspected of co-ordinating reprisals against Wikileaks. Major companies, including Visa and MasterCard, sever links with the whistle-blowing website.

• Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, is described as a dangerous eccentric, suffering from severe phobias and often acting on impulse.

• Tunisia blocks the website of a Lebanese newspaper for publishing unflattering US embassy cables about the regime.

• A leaked cable reveals that in 2008 Saudi Arabia suggested the intervention in Lebanon by an Arab force, backed by US and Nato troops, to destroy Hezbollah.

• US consulate officials in Jeddah describe a party thrown by a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family at which, contrary to Saudi law, alcohol and prostitutes were present.

• Cameron and Karzai meet in Kabul to repair the damage caused by leaks revealing Afghan officials’ criticism of British troops in Helmand.

Der Speigel

• Leaked cables show that the US sees Austria as increasingly isolationist, and is frustrated by their lack of influence over the neutral country.

• The US and China worked together to prevent European nations from reaching an agreement at last year’s climate summit in Copenhagen.

El País

• In a 2005 cable, the US scolded Spain for not committing more troops to Afghanistan and put pressure on them to reconsider their position.

• According to a US embassy cable form August 2008, the great majority of the Spanish military leadership have a profound dislike of Prime Minister Zapatero. Many have become “fans” of the US after spending time there, although they remained proud to be Spanish.

Le Monde

• US diplomats in Somalia do not think that the country is about to become an al-Qaida base, in spite of warnings by the transitional government that thousands of foreigners are flooding in to fight.

New York Times

• Swedish laws protecting women in their sexual encounters gets a fuller explanation, as Julian Assange, who is currently in Britain, faces an extradition request from Swedish prosecutors.

• The US justice department is reportedly looking at laws other than the Espionage Act to pursue wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

 

Categories: wikileaks

Cable Gate Day Nine

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Burma’s military junta considered making a $1bn (£634m) bid to buy Manchester United around the time the regime faced UN censure over its slow response to cyclone Nargis in 2008. Than Shwe, commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces and United fan, was urged to mount a takeover bid by his grandson.

Nato has drawn up a secret military plan to defend Poland and the Baltic states from Russia.

• The US privately lobbied to block an Iranian scientist’s appointment to a key position on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

• Intelligence co-operation has improved so much that the US now considers Algeria the key player in the fight against al-Qaida in the Maghreb region.

• US embassy cables revealed America’s ongoing battle to stem the flow of arms from eastern Europe to the Middle East.

Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel focuses on a “non-paper” describing US attempts to co-opt Riyadh’s assistance in its quest to cut off the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia to al-Qaida. The magazine highlights the US state department’s barely concealed frustration with America’s partners: “The authorities in Qatar are described as ‘largely passive’ in the fight against terror and ‘overall … considered the worst in the region’. Indonesia is said to be an ‘alphabet soup’ of government bodies supposedly responsible, and a ‘universe of aliases’ of suspected terrorists and terrorism sponsors.”

New York Times

• The cables reveal that a week after Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, assured a top US state department official that his country was not sending weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Obama administration lodged a confidential protest accusing Damascus of doing precisely that.

• They also show US diplomats expressing concern that huge cargo planes operated by Badr Airlines of Sudan were flying weapons from Tehran to Khartoum, from where they were shipped to Hamas in Gaza. The US asked countries in the region to deny overflight rights to the airlines. Jordan and several other countries agreed, but Yemen declined, a February 2009 cable reported.

• The New York Times reports how North Korea has abetted the arms race in the Middle East by providing missile technology to Iran and Syria, which then backed Hamas and Hezbollah, according to American intelligence officials and a cable from the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. US diplomats raised questions in the spring of 2009 about planned purchases from North Korea of rocket launchers by Sri Lanka and Scud missile launchers by Yemen.

El País

• The former Spanish foreign minister complained to the US ambassador about the contemptuous way President George Bush was treating Spain: “Spain is the eighth world power and we are treated like a country which does not matter.”

• Spain is worried by the prospect of Mauritania becoming a failed state, a “second Somalia” and an al-Qaida base as it is only 185 miles from the Canary Islands.

• The US embassy in Nicaragua describes the country as a corrupt criminal state financed by drugs and “suitcases full of money sent by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. President Daniel Ortega is seen as unhinged and obsessed by his own security.

Le Monde

• The US and Russia decided to join forces to fight a drug war and identified the main culprit as Afghanistan.

 

Categories: wikileaks