The Manning verdict

July 31st, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

U.S. soldier Bradley Manning has been acquitted of aiding the enemy for sending more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks.

It was the most serious charge the 25-year-old faced and was punishable by life in prison without parole.

However he was found guilty of all but two of the 21 counts he was contesting, including five theft counts and five espionage counts.

That seems a good outcome. There seemed little proof that what Manning did actually “aided the enemy”.

However it is appropriate he was found guilty of the other charges, and will face consequences for it. It is not up to individual soldiers and clerks to decide which classified material gets released publicly. The actions of those who do so are in fact anti-democratic.

Barack Obama got elected President of the United States. He ultimately decides what gets released and what doesn’t, within the laws passed by Congress. No one elected Manning.

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Whistle blower or traitor?

December 16th, 2012 at 1:38 pm by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

It’s tough being a whistleblower as Private Bradley Manning has found.

The US Army intelligence analyst is alleged to have provided a huge trove of classified information – everything from Iraq and Afghanistan war logs to 250,000 diplomatic cables – to WikiLeaks in 2010, triggering enormous media coverage and a witch hunt by US authorities to find the leak.

I don’t regard that as whistleblowing. A whistleblower would reveal specific information about specific alleged misdeeds. That is vastly different to stealing and passing on 250,000 cables.

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Assange is not a rapist but neither is he a hero

September 20th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A devastating critique of Julian Assange from Nick Cohen of the Guardian:

As soon as WikiLeaks received the State Department cables, Assange announced that the opponents of dictatorial regimes and movements were fair game. That the targets of the Taliban, for instance, were fighting a clerical-fascist force, which threatened every good liberal value, did not concern him. They had spoken to US diplomats. They had collaborated with the great Satan. Their safety was not his concern.

David Leigh and Luke Harding’s history of WikiLeaks describes how journalists took Assange to Moro’s, a classy Spanish restaurant in central London. A reporter worried that Assange would risk killing Afghans who had co-operated with American forces if he put US secrets online without taking the basic precaution of removing their names. “Well, they’re informants,” Assange replied. “So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.” A silence fell on the table as the reporters realised that the man the gullible hailed as the pioneer of a new age of transparency was willing to hand death lists to psychopaths.

Ouch, and it gets worse.

James Ball joined and thought that in his own small way he was making the world a better place. He realised that WikiLeaks was not what it seemed when an associate of Assange – a stocky man with a greying moustache, who called himself “Adam” – asked if he could pull out everything the State Department documents “had on the Jews”. Ball discovered that “Adam” was Israel Shamir, a dangerous crank who uses six different names as he agitates among the antisemitic groups of the far right and far left. As well as signing up to the conspiracy theories of fascism, Shamir was happy to collaborate with Belarus‘s decayed Brezhnevian dictatorship. Leftwing tyranny, rightwing tyranny, as long as it was anti-western and anti-Israel, Shamir did not care.

Nor did Assange. He made Shamir WikiLeaks’s representative in Russia and eastern Europe. Shamir praised the Belarusian dictatorship. He compared the pro-democracy protesters beaten and imprisoned by the KGB to football hooligans. On 19 December 2010, the Belarus-Telegraf, a state newspaper, said that WikiLeaks had allowed the dictatorship to identify the “organisers, instigators and rioters, including foreign ones” who had protested against rigged elections.

Wikileaks did some great stuff in their early days, when they were the enemies of dictators. With Assange involved it is hard to see how they can recover.

In Ethiopia, however, Assange has already claimed his first scalp. Argaw Ashine fled the country last week after WikiLeaks revealed that the reporter had spoken to an official from the American embassy in Addis Ababa about the regime’s plans to intimidate the independent press. WikiLeaks also revealed that a government official told Arshine about the planned assault on opposition journalists. Thus Assange and his colleagues not only endangered the journalist. They tipped off the cops that he had a source in the state apparatus.

What fine work.

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Real damage from Wikileaks

December 31st, 2010 at 11:28 am by David Farrar

Stephen Stratford sent me this story at The Atlantic. It looks at how Wikileaks has damaged the pro-democracy movement in Zimbabwe and helped prop up Mugabe. It is a great example of why secrecy does not always mean bad. When dealing with evil dictators, a lack of secrecy will often help the dictator only.

Last year, early on Christmas Eve morning, representatives from the U.S., United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the European Union arrived for a meeting with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. …

The topic of the meeting was the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by a collection of western countries, including the U.S. and E.U. Tsvangirai told the western officials that, while there had been some progress in the last year, Mugabe and his supporters were dragging their feet on delivering political reforms. To overcome this, he said that the sanctions on Zimbabwe “must be kept in place” to induce Mugabe into giving up some political power. The prime minister openly admitted the incongruity between his private support for the sanctions and his public statements in opposition. If his political adversaries knew Tsvangirai secretly supported the sanctions, deeply unpopular with Zimbabweans, they would have a powerful weapon to attack and discredit the democratic reformer.

Later that day, the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe dutifully reported the details of the meeting to Washington in a confidential U.S. State Department diplomatic cable. And slightly less than one year later, WikiLeaks released it to the world.

The reaction in Zimbabwe was swift. Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-appointed attorney general announced he was investigating the Prime Minister on treason charges based exclusively on the contents of the leaked cable.

The consequences may be servere:

It’s difficult to see this as anything but a major setback for democracy in Zimbabwe. Even if Tsvangirai is not charged with treason, the opponents to democratic reforms have won a significant victory. First, popular support for Tsvangirai and the MDC will suffer due to Mugabe’s inevitable smear campaign, including the attorney general’s “investigation.” Second, the Prime Minister might be forced to take positions in opposition to the international community to avoid accusation of being a foreign collaborator. Third, Zimbabwe’s fragile coalition government could collapse completely. Whatever happens, democratic reforms in Zimbabwe are far less likely now than before the leak.

To their supporters, WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange are heroes of the democratic cause. Assange himself has claimed that his organization promotes democracy by strengthening the media. But in Zimbabwe, Assange’s pursuit of this noble goal has provided a tyrant with the ammunition to wound, and perhaps kill, any chance for multiparty democracy. Earlier this month, Assange claimed that “not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed” by Wikileaks’ practices. This is no longer true, if it ever was.

I am surprised the mainstream media have not covered the Zimbabwe angle more.

I’m all for less secrecy, but that is not the same as no secrecy. And in terms of who decides what remains secret – I prefer those I elect to Parliament to do so, rather than Julian Assange who is accountable to no one at all.

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What the US Embassy was interested in

December 28th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve found the Wikileaks cables fascinating, as it shows us what the US Embassy was interested in, and reporting on.

In some areas, they have done an analysis which is superior to anything I have read in the local media.

This cable analyses the Kiwi Muslim community, and looks at whether they are heading for integration or insulation.

New Zealand’s small but active Muslim community points to a member of parliament, regular appearances on national television by community leaders, ready access to the Prime Minister and her cabinet, and joint statements with Jewish organizations as hallmarks of movement into the political mainstream. But a recent influx of Arab and African immigrants is creating tensions within New Zealand’s traditionally South Asian Muslim population. This changing ethnic makeup is causing some disagreement over members’ identity and assimilation, as well as concerns about preventing terrorist groups and Wahhabi ideology from gaining a toehold here. The community also faces other challenges )from hate crimes to job discrimination ) as it deals with its continued growth.

They correctly highlight the tensions between the traditional sources of Muslims – South Asia, and more recent migration from the Middle East and Africa. We have seen this play otu in just the last week with battles over the main Auckland mosque.

The Embassy also looks at the Wahhabi faction of Islam, and the internal politics within NZ:

In a meeting with ConOff, XXX2, president of [REDACTED], said FIANZ is essentially a Sunni establishment. X said Shias do not feel represented by the national organization. Although X claimed there are no tensions between FIANZ and the Shia community, X criticized FIANZ for not doing enough to educate New Zealanders about Islam.

And

Contrary to assertions by XXX1 (see ref A) that there are no extremists in New Zealand, XXX3 told Conoff that Wahhabi groups have “overtly tried to influence New Zealand’s Muslim society.” XXX3 said [REDACTED] has sponsored speakers from Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al Haramain. XXX3 claimed these two groups receive Saudi money for their activities. [REDACTED]’s alleged drift towards or tolerance of Wahhabi ideology made it difficult for Shias and even some Sunnis to stay with the group, and so XXX3 and other disaffected members left to form [REDACTED].

And a warning:

Reftel A showed that the first large wave of Muslim immigrants from the 1960s through the 1980s had no choice but to interact with their non-Muslim neighbors, and was thus quickly initiated into traditional New Zealand life. They were largely English-speaking, educated service providers whose language abilities and job skills dovetailed with Kiwi society. However, since the 1990s, immigrants with limited language and educational backgrounds have come into an already established Muslim community with mosques, Halal meat butchers, and government services available in their native language. If not carefully managed, this could lead to the kind of insulation seen in some Muslim populations in Europe that can potentially serve as a breeding ground for homegrown extremists. While we don’t see extremism taking hold here yet, our GNZ counterparts and many Muslim leaders recognize the ingredients are there.

But the Embassy also followed domestic politics closely – not just the national race, but even electorate contests, as seen in this cable about the Auckland Central race in 2008:

The National Party is making a serious play for Auckland Central, an electorate that has been in nearly uninterrupted Labour control for almost a century. That a 28-year-old virtual unknown has a serious chance of ousting a Labour stalwart demonstrates just how vulnerable the Labour Party is in this election cycle.

That was their summary. And they profile the electorate:

The electorate is dominated by well-educated young adults. It has the lowest proportions of children and pensioners of any electorate in the country, but the highest proportion of people in their twenties. It is the third-wealthiest electorate in the country, but is socially liberal. It ranks last of all New Zealand electorates in the percentage of inhabitants identifying themselves as Christian, and first among those who ascribe to no religion at all. It has the country’s lowest share of married residents, but highest share of partners in non-marriage relationships. It has a higher ratio of single people than any other electorate.

And in this cable they look at the Chinese vote in NZ:

New Zealand’s Chinese can be divided between those with deep roots in the country and more recent arrivals. Members of the first group trace their ancestry to the market gardeners and Otago gold miners that arrived in New Zealand as far back as the mid-19th century. Their forebears suffered overt racism and often toiled in poverty on the margins of society.

4. (SBU) Members of this group to this day often keep a low political profile. While many enjoy a standard of living their grandparents could not have dreamed of, they often stay loyal to the Labour Party. They remember Labour as the social welfare party that was most ready to help the working class and as the most racially tolerant party. This loyalty is weakening as Chinese Kiwis grow wealthier and as the National Party leaves race-baiting in its past.

The 70% of Chinese who arrived in New Zealand after 1991 make up the second group.

So a 30/70 split between those with traditional loyalties to Labour and those who are more heterogenous in their voting.

Huo nonetheless remains Labour’s most important Chinese candidate. Despite not getting the nod to run in Botany, Huo was given a far higher place on the party list than Tawa. Indeed, Huo placed higher on the list than a number of veteran Labour MPs. In a meeting with the CG, Huo’s lack of partisan passion was notable. While paying lip service to Labour policies, his remarks suggested he was drawn into politics not to support a particular ideology, but because the Chinese community’s voice “was not being heard.”

A fascinating insight into the Labour MP.

Huo argued that National’s Wong “does not connect well” with most Chinese New Zealanders because she’s from Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese rather than Mandarin. …

Also, like Huo, Wang told the CG that Wong is “not Chinese enough” and that Botany’s Chinese would prefer a Mandarin speaker like himself to a Cantonese speaker like Wong.

The importance of language!

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Clark on Wikileaks

December 27th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young at the NZ Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark believes the effort the United States has put into improving its relationship with New Zealand in the past few years has been damaged in the eyes of ordinary New Zealanders because the WikiLeaks cables showed “disrespect” for New Zealand’s independent foreign policy.

That is a typical Clark view of reality. Most would say that the cables have in fact showed Clark’s claim to have an independent foreign policy to be a platitude, as Clark sent troops to Iraq, in order to help Fonterra.

She said the ones authored in particular by former ambassador Charles Swindells and deputy chief of mission David Burnett were “distinctly unpleasant about New Zealand and about the Government, really quite disrespectful, if I can put it that way”.

I’d forgotten how much Clark tended to project herself as being the same as the Government and indeed even the country. So when she says the cables were unpleasant about New Zealand, she means unpleasant about her.

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Best Wikileaks cable yet

December 24th, 2010 at 7:09 am by David Farrar

Have a read of this one about the visit of Anna Nicole Smith to the Bahamas:

Other leaked cables released by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian dealt with Anna Nicole Smith in the Bahamas.

She may have been just a “B-list celebrity”, but she hit the Bahamas like a hurricane, spreading scandals that toppled a string of officials and endangered the whole Government, the cables said.

The Government fell two months after the last cable was written.

“Not since Category 4 Hurricane Betsy made landfall in 1965 has one woman done as much damage in Nassau,” reads a colourful November 2006 document, apparently written by Deputy Chief of Mission D. Brent Hardt.

“Lying in disarray in her wake are Doctor’s Hospital, the Coroner’s Court, the Department of Immigration, local mega-lawyers Callenders and Co, formerly popular Minister of Immigration Shane Gibson, and possibly Prime Minister [Perry] Christie’s PLP government,” the diplomat added.

The cables described how Smith’s remarkably rapid success in gaining permanent residency led to the ouster of Gibson while the alleged bungling of her son’s treatment and death cut short the careers of several lesser officials while energising the political opposition and the press.

What a pity she never visited New Zealand before she died!

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Goff exposed

December 23rd, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has highlighted two Wikileaks cables which show Phil Goff supporting not just the SAS returning to Afghanistan, but also in 2006 sending troops back into Iraq.

First the SAS quote:

Goff told the General that he could expect a positive outcome on redeploying the PRT past Sept 2006 and was reasonably assured the SAS (Special Forces) would deploy again after regeneration.

And the Iraq quote:

Goff noted Senator McCain’s comment that New Zealand should think about replicating its success in Bamiyan by heading a PRT in Iraq.

The Minister said he told McCain that New Zealand was not averse to doing so once the security situation had stabilized.

If I was a Young Labour member who has stuck up posters about how Don Brash would send troops to Iraq, I’d be looking for a new party, or at least a new leader, about now.

Fran O’Sullivan also whacks at Goff:

Frankly it’s been rather delicious to watch Phil Goff squirm on the head of a proverbial pin as he flatly denies the insinuation in a WikiLeaks cable that the former Labour Government was prepared to trade “blood for milk” in Iraq. …

Inevitably, there will have been a number of factors in the former Labour Cabinet’s decision to deploy New Zealand engineers alongside the British contingent in Basra.

But it would be pushing credulity to claim the Clark Government did not consider the clear desire by New Zealand business – particularly Fonterra – to ensure its Iraqi trade did not go down the tubes when the postwar reconstruction contracts were doled out. Particularly when America still controlled the game.

I think it was a good thing that Helen Clark and Phil Goff were mindful of NZ’s commercial interests, when they decide to send troops to Iraq.

Goff, while speaking about nations like France and Germany which had also opposed the invasion, said then that “they will want to be part of whatever benefits will flow from reconstructing Iraq and rebuilding the relationship [with the United States]”.

Given their respective comments in 2003 it would be fatuous indeed to believe the decision to commit troops to the reconstruction effort did not have a tinge of economic reality.

More than a tinge I say.

Goff’s problem is that he is embarrassed by the WikiLeaks revelation.

He should look closer to home.

He had no compunction using notes of a private meeting between former National leader Don Brash and a visiting United States delegation to claim New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy “would be gone by lunchtime” under a National government.

The WikiLeaks documents have something to say on this score too.

Former United States ambassador Bill McCormick wrote in November 2006 that Goff had “misquoted” an Mfat staffer’s notes from the meeting to claim that Brash had promised the nuclear ban would be “gone by lunchtime”.

Julian Assange at least releases the full cables and notes, unlike Phil Goff who broke a decades-long convention and quoted a small extract out of context.

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Clark denies milk for blood

December 22nd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has angrily denied a claim in a United States diplomatic cable that the previous Labour-led Government sent New Zealand non-combat engineers to Iraq so that dairy company Fonterra could secure a United Nations contract.

She described the claim as preposterous.

So why did Helen send tropps to Iraq, if it were not to help Fonterra?

Mr Goff yesterday said the allegation was ridiculous.

“No such trade-off was ever suggested and if it ever had been, it would have been rejected out-of-hand. We do not trade putting the lives of our military personnel at risk for commercial deals. It is a completely false claim.”

What is interesting is that Michael Cullen has not denied that he did talk about the risk to Fonterra.

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Thanks Bryce and Danyl

December 21st, 2010 at 9:29 am by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards has put up over 200 Wikileaks cables on his blog – it is a 613 page pdf.

And Danyl has broken them down into individual cables on his blog.

Fun reading.

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Milk for blood

December 20th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Critics of the Iraq war claimed it was about oil for blood – that the motives for the US sending troops and spilling blood, was to gain control of Iraq’s oil. This of course was leftish paranoia – the US has gained no control of any oil, and the cost of the war has been massively more, than any oil revenue could match.

But Wikileaks has revealed that one country which did send troops to Iraq, qas motivated by commercial factors. Yes, Helen Clark sent in troops to Iraq (something Labour hopes that people forget), and the reason was to help Fonterra.

So there was no oil for blood by the US, but Helen Clark was willing to trade blood for milk.

I look forward to Labour talking about their principled foreign policy.

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More Wikileaks

December 19th, 2010 at 11:57 am by David Farrar

This week it is the Herald on Sunday thatembass has the stories. Note, that these are the views of US embassy staff, and are not generally first hand accounts of meetings.

  1. This story is about how the US was poised to mend the rift with NZ in 2005, but Trevor Mallard’s slander about how the National Party was having its policy written in Washington DC pissed them off so much it almost caused a rift.
  2. This story is about how John Key told the Chinese Premier that he would not be meeting with the Dalai Llama. This is not exactly news, but still disappointing – I commented previously here.
  3. An index of cables is here. Lots of them
  4. This cable is called “the sleaze hits the fan” and is about Labour’s lies. Interesting they say “Goff agreed that a line had been crossed”.
  5. This one is quite big – reveals that the NSA has an officer in Wellington attached to the Embassy but actually has an office in the GCSB.
  6. An interesting profile of Jenny Shipley when she became PM
  7. This cable notes relations between George W Bush and Helen Clark: “We further note that PM Clark is apparently much more willing to highlight her excellent relations with President Bush when speaking to an Australian audience than to domestic Kiwi audiences.”
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Finny not a spy!

December 13th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Sarah Harvey at Stuff reports:

Former Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive, diplomat and Government adviser Charles Finny has been named by WikiLeaks as the United States’ top Kiwi contact.

But Mr Finny denied being a spy and said the “key contact” mentions were flattering. He is quoted often in the US diplomatic cables controversially made public by website WikiLeaks, and in a cable from May 19, 2006, was singled out as a “close [US] embassy contact”.

“I am regularly talking to embassies, high commissions and journalists in New Zealand and around the world, in areas where I have expertise,” Mr Finny said. …

Mr Finny said he often saw important embassy contacts at functions in Wellington.

“You see them at cocktail parties, you have lunches occasionally and sometimes they formally call on you … once every four or five months. But you would probably see them once a week at cocktail parties.

If talking to embassy staff makes you a spy, then I’m a spy for the US, UK, and Australian Governments, plus the European Union.

Part of the job of embassy staff is to gain better understanding of NZ domestic and foreign policy. They do that by chatting to a variety of people. As Charles’ says, mainly at functions, but sometimes also over a meal.

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The undiplomatic Downer

December 13th, 2010 at 5:09 am by David Farrar

Former Australian Foreign Minister wasn’t always the most diplomatic of people, in private. This is seen in one cable where he is discussing North Korea with the Americans:

Downer and Madden compared their personal experiences in Pyongyang, with Downer calling the DPRK capital “”pathetic”” with its darkened streets, cracked pavements and unmowed grass. LaPorte concurred that the DPRK infrastructure, including the power grid and rail lines, was decrepit. In closing, Downer remarked, “”let the whole place go to s–t, that’s the best thing that could happen.”” Speaking off the top of his head, he added that aid should not be given that would prop up the infrastructure. If U.S. officials wanted to hear the “”bleeding hearts”” view of “”peace and love”” with respect to North Korea, Downer joked, they only had to visit his colleagues in New Zealand.

Heh. This was in 2005.

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Kiwi Wikileaks

December 12th, 2010 at 11:32 am by David Farrar

Nicky Hager and the Sunday Star Times have had Wikileaks hand over to them 1,500 cables mentioning New Zealand.

The main article reveals that last August saw the US Government restore New Zealand to full intelligence-sharing status.

They have a 53 page pdf of the cables here.

A story on journalists who have got state department visits is here.

Another story on the anti-nuke laws.

Danyl at the Dim-Post has sorted some of the cables into separate text files, with keywords.

Simon Lyall blogs on how one cable explicitly names the Deputy Director of the NZ SIS, which is a breach of the NZ SIS Act 1969, specifically s13A(1):

Every person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000, who (except with the written consent of the Minister) publishes or causes or allows to be published in a newspaper or other documsent, or broadcasts or causes or allows to be broadcast by radio or television or otherwise, the fact that any person is a member of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service other than the Director.

I guess the Sunday Star-Times decided that a maximum $1,000 fine is not much of a deterrent.

Having googled the name of the Deputy Director, it is fair to say that his involvement in the intelligence community is not exactly a secret – however his current role is.

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Assange arrested

December 8th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Julian Assange has been arrested in the UK and being held without bail awaiting extradition to Sweden.

My take on Assange and Wikileaks:

  1. The rape and molestation charges are quite clearly bogus. There is significant proof that his sexual relations with the complainants was completely consensual. They are just angry that he was sleeping around. That is pretty scummy behaviour on his part but far from illegal.
  2. Like most, my initial instinct was to wonder how the NSA had managed to get rape charges laid against Assange. But I don’t think one can point the finger at the US Govt. At least one of the complainants is a left-wing politician, who is a most unlikely front for the US military-industrial complex. Her motivations seem personal, not political. She has actually written before about getting revenge on people etc.
  3. Wikileaks in its early days exposed significant wrong doing in multiple countries and was a force for good.
  4. It seems to have become obsessed with the United States, and has somewhat lost the plot.
  5. Exposing the footage of civilian killings in Iraq is arguably justifiable, but publishing tens of thousands of diplomatic cables is not. Revealing what Kevin Rudd said to Hillary Clinton on China could have a disastrous impact on stability in the region.
  6. The nature of the Internet means that Wikileaks will not be closed down. It has hundreds of mirrors.
  7. However it is entirely predictable that companies such as Amazon, Paypal will choose not to provides services to Wikileaks. They have every right to decide not to do so based on their disapproval of what Wikileaks does. Actions have consequences and Wikileaks is no different.
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Julian Assange

December 2nd, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Without being overly conspirational, I wonder if he will be still alive in 12 months time? Pissing off almost every country on Earth isn’t the best of ideas possibly.

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The Wikileaks rape charges

August 24th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Many will have seen the story about the Swedish Police announcing rape charges had been filed against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The charges have now been dropped.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. In fact I like to mock people who think Bush planned 9/11 etc.

But I have to say that when I heard of the rape charges against Assange, my first reaction was to wonder “How the hell did the NSA manage to arrange that?”

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256 bit keys in context

August 10th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

AP in reporting on the encrypted Wikileaks files:

At the center of the drama was the posting last week of a massive 1.4 gigabyte mystery file named “Insurance” on the WikiLeaks website.

The “Insurance” file is encrypted, nearly impossible to open until WikiLeaks provides the passwords. But experts suggest that if anyone can crack it – it would be the National Security Agency. …

Legal questions aside, the encrypted file conjures visions of secret codebreakers hunched over their laptops, tearing open secret, protected files in seconds with a few keystrokes.

Reality is not that simple. It appears WikiLeaks used state-of-the-art software requiring a sophisticated electronic sequence of numbers, called a 256-bit key, to open them.

The main way to break such an encrypted file is by what’s called a “brute force attack,” which means trying every possible key, or password, said Herbert Lin, a senior computer science and cryptology expert at the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

Unlike a regular six- or eight-character password that most people use every day, a 256-bit key would equal a 40 to 50 character password, he said.

If it takes 0.1 nanosecond to test one possible key and you had 100 billion computers to test the possible number variations, “it would take this massive array of computers 10 to the 56th power seconds – the number 1, followed by 56 zeros” to plow through all the possibilities, said Lin.

How long is that?

“The age of the universe is 10 to the 17th power seconds,” explained Lin. “We will wait a long time for the US government or anyone else to decrypt that file by brute force.”

I may be wrong but I think the entire universe will have died by the time that file gets broken.

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Wikileaks

July 27th, 2010 at 4:37 pm by David Farrar

Isn’t it great that NATO reports are placed on Wikileaks now, so the NZ Minister of Defence can get fuller details of what NZ Forces in Afghanistan have been doing.

Maybe we should dispense with formal reports, and just have the Ministy of Defence supply an RSS feed to the Minister :-)

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Wikileaks doing good

April 7th, 2010 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

This is the video posted by Wikileaks, and I am glad they have exposed this to the public.

Newsweek sum it up well:

The footage is horrific; the attack killed 12 people and injured two children, none of whom appear to have been engaged in combat. Two of the men killed were Iraqi civilians employed by Reuters. All the while, the voices of the U.S. military personnel can be heard radioing back and forth about the shooting, demonstrating a cavalier disdain for the lives they are ending. At one point, they chuckle about a tank rolling over a dead body.

And regardless of the legality of their actions, that is a horrific culture. Of course you get desensitised to death in combat – you have to, to survive. But there is a difference between being desensitised and gloating.

It’s stomach-churning, but is it a crime, as WikiLeaks contends? As I pointed out, the pilot was very clearly following a military protocol, which explains, for example, why he was looking for a weapon before firing upon a wounded man (he never found one, but got permission to fire after a van showed up to take the man away). Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was following the protocol correctly, nor that the protocol lives up to international laws of war.

Questions the US military has to answer.

Andrew Sullivan has a summary of reaction, as to whether it was legal or not.

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