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Things to consider—
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by WashingtonsBlog Puts Fox In Charge of the Henhouse … Again The party line is that Obama’s new pick for SEC boss – Mary Jo White – will be tough on Wall Street. For example, the Wall Street Journal writes: Obama Taps Ex-Prosecutor Mary Jo White, Portending Increased Policing of Wall Street In reality, this is putting the [...]
AS MANY WAGS HAVE NOTED, the disclosures of Wikileaks have subjected the US Empire and its operatives to a full-body scan. Turnaround is fair play, because, until now, in the US, the powerless masses are subject to arbitrary pat downs and body scans, while the powerful and connected are massaged by privilege and ensconced in immunity.
In hindsight, one realizes, when the Obama administration promised transparency and accountability in government, National Security State enabler that Barack Obama has proven himself to be, that his administration’s definition of transparency would entail the countenancing of said body scans at the nation’s airports, revealing the private bits of the hoi polloi, as, all the while, his administration was engaged in stonewalling the hidden agendas and felonies of the corporate and governing elite. Recent events should remove any doubt regarding who stands exposed and who will remain cloaked by official aegis.
Unlike Julian Assange at Wikileaks, when the Democratic Congress had the opportunity to create an atmosphere of openness and transparency, they demurred. Once granted positions of authority, the Democrats didn’t exercise their constitutionally granted powers to initiate investigations, hold hearings, nor issue subpoenas. This failure of will and integrity amounts to complicity by omission. Withal, Democrats gave their tacit support and approval to the last administration’s (as well as to the present one’s continuation of more of the same) constitution-shredding, morally repugnant policies.
On most occasions, existing within the tacit repression and the benumbing, virtual reality carnival of the corporate/National Security State leaves an individual with a sense of being stranded in anonymity … cast into circumstances wherein one feels the necessity to follow the unspoken dictates of a nebulous form of authority that remains hidden, both by physical distance and organizational insularity. In contrast, when one is introduced to the apparatus of the National Security State, by means of a full body search, this unnerving intrusion upon the body can bring clarity to the mind as to how the elite and apparatchik of the US government regard that mass annoyance known as its citizenry and any quaint notions those wretches clutch pertaining to their constitutional granted rights and liberties.
These present outrages will flair up and spiral through the news cycle. Yet, the practices will remain in place, and, after a time, become normalized. This has proven to be the case with other previously revealed excesses of the so-call War on Terror and the attendant assaults against civil liberties and breaches of international law incurred in the name of this ongoing, seemingly endless, national psychotic episode e.g., the existence of the “detention camp” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the illegal invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and those operations concomitant litany of war crimes and affronts to human dignity, such as the acts of torture committed at Abu Ghraib prison — as well as — the whole blood-sodden laundry list of outrages and excesses of present day US imperium.
If there is any hope for the US to ever function as a democratic republic, the revelations, unearthed by Wikileaks, should constitute the beginning of a long, painful process of grim discovery.
First, one must ask: Why is it the corporate media is so deeply invested in promulgating distracting and miss-the-point narratives, hyper-adrenaline arguments of narrowed context and little consequence — and, in general, trafficking in piffle packaged as news and public debate — rather than showing even a passing interest, much less an avidity, for the pursuit of stories that confront power and might present a challenge to the present order?
As with any criminal enterprise, the essential question to ask is: who benefits from the crime (and the subsequent coverup) and who gets the payoff? Although most of human existence is constituted by ambiguity, this situation is not. The evidence of war crimes and fiscal malfeasance committed by the nation’s political and financial elite are so pervasive that it cannot be missed, and that is precisely the reason the corporate media, as well as a large percentage of the general public, works so hard to ignore the situation.
Lord Northcliffe’s aphorism provides a clue:
“News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.” ~ Lord Northcliffe, British publisher 1865-1922
Accordingly, at present, there arrives a paucity of news, but, hour after hour, comes a drowning deluge of advertising. Enveloped in this commercially dominated hologram, on a cultural basis, it has proven difficult to arrive at a common lexicon to tell the tale of truths buried and freedoms imperiled.
The weightless, insubstantial quality of the consumer age engenders a state of mind wherein consequences cannot be grasped then processed. As a result, a sense of drift prevails. Yet below the surface churns a nebulous dread — a feeling of being propelled towards a time of unbearable reckoning.
But such enervating thoughts must be banished from the mind; hence, amnesia, as a way of life, becomes the prevailing mindset of psyches minted in the media age hologram i.e., a manner of perceiving the world in which official accountability becomes as evanescent as last season’s advertising campaign roll-out.
Voting for “change” becomes as meaningless and inconsequential as the introduction of Coke “Classic” and “Be all you can be.” The US might as well have election campaigns in which the Michelin Man runs against the Energizer Bunny.
By means of its inherently self-narrowing context, the lingua franca of the media hologram reduces complex and conflicted human aspirations into consumer choices — and the vastness of life to retail experience, as, simultaneously, its proliferate narratives envelop, saturate and bind to the architecture of our psyches becoming the quanta of our thoughts and the shared lexicon of our utterances.
Living in this milieu, that is as manic as it is mind-grinding, decisions must be made rapidly, with little time allowed for reflection (decision-making carrying no more depth and lasting meaning than a text message vote by cell phone involving some contrived Reality TV competition) because the proliferation of empty, non-choices just keeps being proffered and the rate of arrival keeps accelerating.
Tragically, in this environment, the recent Wikileaks revelations will be marginalized in the electronic image-crowded air and quickly dissipate like any other media age phantom.
Yet the US consumer state’s infantilized inhabitants will never transfigure the raging Furies of truth-deferred into cooing Teletubbies of endless, imagined innocence (albeit, as terrifying as those homunculi of hell-bound cuteness are). The childishness of US Uberculture seems the voice of Orwellian Newspeak as it might have been composed by Dr. Seuss, in a fever delirium, dreaming he is Glen Beck.
Often, it is not the content of what a cartoonish demagogue, such as Beck, is saying; rather, it is the way they say it — the emotional tonality of the line reading that resonates with their audience. Apropos, the US is a depressing place nowadays. Viewed in the context of emotional catharsis, Glen Beck’s crying jags and feigned emotional disclosures resonate with his audience because there is much reason to weep regarding the degraded state of their lives.
In an era where policies of official secrecy and corporatist predation meet little resistance, dread and feelings of dislocation will be present just below the surface. If one listens to the subliminal criteria playing out beneath Beck’s bathos, one can hear inadvertent arias intimating the end of empire — a cheese-bag death-swoon — operatic in scale.
What is lamentable is — the emotional and intellectually dishonest, demagogic displacements he attributes to the cause of his audience’s discontent and the sleight of hand employed to create the illusion of truths revealed.
“Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.”
This is the price paid when one affords scant deference to self-awareness, but, in contrast, possesses an unflagging fealty to the pursuit of shallow diversions and self-limiting delusion … All maintained by the crackpot casuistry, elevated to an art form, if not holy writ, in the US, that willful ignorance is a form of freedom of choice, that normalcy is maintained by official cover-ups and personal denial.
The system is rigged, from top to bottom; it is only through an astonishing (almost credulity-defying) degree of self-deception on the part of the general public of the US, in collaboration with the mendacity of its political and economic elite, this dim, brutal, unwieldy and wounded system continues to stagger onward.
Lamentably, the US Empire, as was the case with any imperium throughout history, has grown into a bloated abomination kept provisionally alive by self-deluded apparatchik and ignorant killers. What can one do about the situation, other than try to get out of the way of this wounded giant and stand clear upon its inevitable collapse? Unfortunately, damn little.
The structure of the revolving door dynamic of the governmental/corporate exploiter class has allowed the elite therein to escape any sense of accountability. In addition, their vastly inflated salaries, with attendant perks and privileges, have separated them even further from the general population; hence, providing them with immunity from consequences, as well as, insularity from commonplace experience; thus, allowing them to embrace the most airless of aspirations — that greed, grotesquely out of proportion privilege, and unchecked power run riot constitutes a viable means to move in the world and establish a social order.
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made […]” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (Pg. 180-181)
Among the political elite of both major parties come few calls for the kind of disclosure and official accountability that could stem the decline of the nation. Facing the fact that, in the US, there is not a true opposition party causes many people in the general population to become understandably angry, anxious, and depressed, thereby primed for pronouncements of demagogues and the diversions of commercial media palliatives.
“What WikiLeaks is doing is to short-circuit this entire democratic process — claiming for itself the exclusive, unilateral, and unchecked power to decide what should and shouldn’t be made public. This is therefore not only an attack on our national security, but an offense against our democracy and the principle of transparency.”
–Senator Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee
If one could cut through the thicket of false premises, logical fallacies, false dichotomies, arrays of strawmen, general flutter-headed palaver, and out and out paranoid fantasy marshaled by the caretakers and apologists of the present system, I would ask this question — why is it you are driven with such vehemence to defend and attempt to preserve the current order? As it is, it seems the nation is being held together with hydrogenated fat, wheat gluten, payday loans, Tyvek®, particleboard, and the provisional binding of homespun bigotry and official duplicity.
And what remains? How does one rise to meet the day confronted by such diminished prospects and prevailing degradations? Is there solace to be found in the following?
“It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” — Samuel Adams
Sadly, in the provinces beyond the Washington/New York government/corporate state nexus, it may well be impossible to start an authentic populist brushfire when the political landscape is covered in flame-retardant, corporate-laid Astroturf.
Still: It would be entertaining, in the very least, to rock the foundation of the US House of Empire with the repeated force of numerous Wikileaks type revelations, until its closet doors are flung open wide, causing the skeletons within to dance.
Only fools should feel sorry for Obama as he prepares for a Republican-led House and weakened Democratic control of the Senate. This is Obama’s “comfort zone,” where he can continue to woo Republicans to join his grand center-right coalition. The only people Obama has no tolerance for are liberalish Democrats, who will emerge relatively stronger in the new Congress thanks to the decimation of Obama’s Republican-Lite friends in conservative Democratic ranks. By freezing federal wages, Obama signals that he has no philosophical problems with the GOP’s general aims.
By BAR executive editor Glen Ford Created 12/01/2010 [print_link]
“Obama rushed to align himself with what he anticipates will be the ‘new’ center, following the GOP’s mid-term gains.”
True to his center-right DNA, President Obama surrendered critical political ground to the GOP even as the lame duck Democratic Congress remains in session. In declaring atwo-year pay freeze  for federal workers (who are disproportionately African American), Obama endorses two central corporate axioms: that too-high worker pay and benefits is what’s wrong with the American economy, and that federal spending is a drain on economic growth. Once one accepts these core rightist assumptions, there is nothing to stop the spiraling wage “race to the bottom,” as AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka points out, and no remaining rationale for meaningful public intervention in the total corporatization of American life. Obama has, essentially, dismantled any principled opposition to Republican dogma. It has for some time been apparent that this is the president’s primary political mission.
With unseemly haste, Obama rushed to align himself with what he anticipates will be the “new” center, following the GOP’s mid-term gains – but he would have gotten to the same political place, anyway, as soon as the new Congress convened in January. The truth is, with his pay freeze shuffle, Obama surrendered nothing dear to himself to the GOP since he is a true-believer in the rule of capital, having transferred more of it to Wall Street – $12 to $14 trillion – than anyone else in history.
“Obama has, essentially, dismantled any principled opposition to Republican dogma.”
The president enjoys cuddling with the putative opposition, just as he did in his first months in office when he packed White House health care events with Republicans and corporate CEOs, while banishing leftish Democrats from the premises. This is Obama’s comfort zone, his element, the political space where he might actually be the most “progressive” person in the room, by some minute calibration. And even if he is not, many folks will assume he is, based on his skin color – the corporate president’s perfect camouflage.
Republicans cuddled back, affectionately, at news of Obama’s freeze. “We are pleased that President Obama appears ready to join our efforts,” said incoming House majority leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia.
On Tuesday, Obama’s Frankenstein, the budget deficit reduction commission – a monstrosity he invented on his own volition, under no pressure whatsoever from his own party and relatively little from the GOP minority – emerged from solemn conclave to announce all 18 members will vote on a “final product” on Friday, December 3. Democratic co-chair Erskine Bowles, a rich former investment banker from Georgia, and his Republican counterpart Alan Simpson, the troglodyte former Utah senator, had earlier released their own, shared vision of a low corporate tax rate, barely existing safety net future. The irascible Simpson predicted  that progressives will react badly when they see the end result: "We will listen now in the next few days to the same old crap I've been dealing with all my public life: emotion, fear, guilt and racism." He means that people will be calling him, accurately, a hardhearted, racist bastard.
“Obama values the Simpsons of the world for making his own corporate politics look enlightened by comparison.”
Simpson need not worry. Obama, who scoffs at the very idea of white guilt and specializes in assuring racists that they can hold their heads high with no apologies, has Simpson’s back. Obama values the Simpsons of the world for making his own corporate politics look enlightened by comparison. Therefore, Obama will speak warmly of Simpson, the man who called Social Security  “a milk cow with 310 million tits,” and then choose a position substantially to the left of the Utah Neanderthal – but way to the right of most of the Democratic Party and its remaining members of Congress.
Although reduced to a minority, House Democrats are a dramatically more progressive group than before November 2. The good ole boys of the Blue Dog Caucus lost half their members, while one-third of the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council’s “New Democrats” – Obama’s nearest soul-mates – are gone. In contrast, less than a handful of Progressive Caucus members lost their seats. This is very bad chemistry for Obama, who has always regarded the Democratic “left” as his main adversaries, the people that might, at least theoretically, trip up his steady, stylized dance to the right by insisting on such nonsense as “public options” for health insurance or – heaven forbid! – defunding America’s wars.
Thinks tanks associated with “progressive” Democratic politics recently produced two budget counterproposals (see here  and here ) that are reminiscent of the Progressive Congressional Caucus’s budget-conjuring exercises of years ago. These alternative budgets cannot be pleasing to President Obama, since they are direct challenges to his deficit commission’s devilish machinations – and his own.
“Congressional Democrats have the potential to embarrass and unmask Obama as he seeks an ever-rightward consensus with the GOP.”
With the decimation of his like-minded Republican-Lite Blue Dogs and New Democrats, Obama will be forced in the next Congress to collaborate even more openly with Republicans if he is to continue to prop up Wall Street and sustain the American imperial offensive in the world, his primary concerns. Congressional Democrats have the potential to embarrass and unmask Obama as he seeks an ever-rightward consensus with the GOP. Judging by his behavior in the health care battle – which was entirely a clash between the right and left wings of the Democratic Party, with Obama leading the right – the president can be expected to act mercilessly to break the back of any movement to assert progressive principles in the House, or among “the base.” As usual, Obama can be depended on to move decisively against his fellow Democrats, even as he bares his neck to Republicans who have declared their intention to bury him.
In the midst of such brazen betrayals and deceits, Obama will call urgently on Blacks in and out of Congress to circle their wagons around him – to, in effect, join in his pact with the devil by becoming conservative Democrats, for the sake of the First Black Presidency.
During the presidential campaign, we at BAR warned that Obama was too heavy a burden for Black folks to carry. He has methodically fouled his own political nest, and demands that Black America – the people he told us did not exist, in 2004 – sacrifice its historical principles and proud progressive legacy, for his sake.
Let him march to hell on his own; he has plenty of friends there.
Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. Ford is one of America's most distinguished journalists and commentators.
I was on Democracy Now! this morning debating WikiLeaks with Steven Aftergood, the long-time transparency advocate with Federation for American Scientists and Secrecy News, and a vociferous critic of WikiLeaks. Because of hisharsh and continuous denunciations of the group, Aftergood has been held up by many media outlets such as Newsweek as evidence that even transparency campaigners condemn them. This debate, in my view, highlights the core disputes surrounding WikiLeaks quite vividly and is thus worth watching. One added note: Democracy Now, unsurprisingly, has been providing some of the best and most informative coverage of the WikiLeaks disclosures; see here (and scroll down) for the links to their superb reporting and interviews all week long: http://www.democracynow.org/
BY GLENN GREENWALD [print_link]
NOTE: For the prequel to this interview, check this piece out:
Is WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a Hero? Glenn Greenwald Debates Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News
WikiLeaks is coming under attack from all sides. The U.S. government and embassies around the world are criticizing the whistleblowing group for releasing a massive trove of secret State Department cables. The WikiLeaks website is struggling to stay online just days after Amazon pulled the site from its servers following political pressure. The U.S. State Department has blocked all its employees from accessing the site and is warning all government employees not to read the cables, even at home. "These attacks will not stop our mission, but should be setting off alarm bells about the rule of law in the United States," said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. We host a debate between Steven Aftergood, a transparency advocate who has become a leading critic of WikiLeaks, and Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional law attorney and legal blogger for Salon.com. [includes rush transcript]
Filed under WikiLeaks
Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney and political/legal blogger at Salon.com.
Steven Aftergood, senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. He directs the Project on Government Secrecy and runs Secrecy News.
U.N. Special Rapporteur Juan Méndez: Instead of Focusing on Assange, U.S. Should Address WikiLeaks’ Disclosures of Torture
Jeremy Scahill: WikiLeaks Cables Confirm Secret U.S. War Ops in Pakistan
Attorney Confirms WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange in Britain, Responds to U.S. Attacks
Leaked Cables Reveal U.S. Pressured Spain to Drop Case of Cameraman Killed in 2003 Attack on Journalists in Baghdad
WikiLeaks Cables Reveal U.S. Tried to Thwart Spanish Probes of Gitmo Torture and CIA Rendition
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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JUAN GONZALEZ: WikiLeaks is under attack. The whistelblowing group’s website has effectively been killed just days after Amazon pulled the site from its servers following political pressure. Wikileaks.org went offline this morning for the third time this week in what the Guardian newspaper is calling "the biggest threat to its online presence yet."
A California-based internet hosting provider called EveryDNS dropped WikiLeaks last night, late last night. The company says it did so to prevent its other 500,000 customers from being affected by the intense cyber attacks targeted at WikiLeaks.
This morning, WikiLeaks—and the massive trove of secret diplomatic cables it has been publishing since Sunday—was only accessible online through a string of digits known as a DNS address.
Earlier this week, Joe Lieberman, the chair of the Senate committee on Homeland Security, called for any organization helping to sustain WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them.
Meanwhile, the State Department has blocked all its employees from accessing the site and is warning all government workers not to read the cables, even at home.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told The Guardian the developments are an example of the, quote, "privatization of state censorship." Assange said, quote, "These attacks will not stop our mission, but should be setting off alarm bells about the rule of law in the United States."
AMY GOODMAN: Just what is WikiLeaks’ mission? On its website, the group says, quote, "WikiLeaks is a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public." The website goes on, "We publish material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of our sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices," unquote.
But not all transparency advocates support what WikiLeaks is doing. Today we’ll host a debate. Steven Aftergood is one of the most prominent critics of WikiLeaks and one of the most prominent transparency advocates. He’s the director of the government secrecy project at the Federation of American Scientists. He runs the Secrecy News project, which routinely posts non-public documents. He is joining us from Washington, D.C. We’re also joined by Glenn Greenwald. He’s a constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger for Salon.com who’s supportive of WikiLeaks. He’s joining us from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Why don’t we begin with Steven Aftergood? You have been a fierce proponent of transparency, yet you are a critic of WikiLeaks. Why?
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: I’m all for the exposure of corruption, including classified corruption. And to the extent that WikiLeaks has done that, I support its actions. The problem is, it has done a lot more than that, much of which is problematic. It has invaded personal privacy. It has published libelous material. It has violated intellectual property rights. And above all, it has launched a sweeping attack not simply on corruption, but on secrecy itself. And I think that’s both a strategic and a tactical error. It’s a strategic error because some secrecy is perfectly legitimate and desirable. It’s a tactical error because it has unleashed a furious response from the U.S. government and other governments that I fear is likely to harm the interests of a lot of other people besides WikiLeaks who are concerned with open government.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And when you say—when you list some of the main errors that the organization has made, could you give some examples of what to you are most troubling, when you talk about the invasion of privacy rights and other—and the others that you’ve listed?
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: Last year, WikiLeaks published a thousand-page raw police investigative file from Belgium, investigating a case of child abuse and murder. And as one would expect, the police file included lots of unsubstantiated allegations that later turned out to be false. But by publishing the raw allegations in their original state, WikiLeaks brought embarrassment and disgrace to people who were in fact innocent. It got to the point where the Belgium government was looking into the possibility of blocking access to WikiLeaks, not as an act of censorship, but as an act of protection against libel.
WikiLeaks has also published what I think is probably the only actual blueprint of a nuclear fission device that has been made available online. It’s not an artist’s concept, but it’s an actual blueprint of a real nuclear weapon that they posted online. I think from a proliferation point of view, that was a terrible mistake.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, we want to bring you in before the break with a response.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. Well, it’s interesting because we led off the segment with you, Amy, detailing a whole variety of repressive actions that are being taken against WikiLeaks. And one of the reasons for that is because people like Steven Aftergood have volunteered themselves and thrust themselves into the spotlight to stand up and say, "I’m a transparency advocate, but I think that what WikiLeaks is doing in so many instances is terrible."
If you look at the overall record of WikiLeaks—and let me just stipulate right upfront that WikiLeaks is a four-year-old organization, four years old. They’re operating completely unchartered territory. Have they made some mistakes and taken some missteps? Absolutely. They’re an imperfect organization. But on the whole, the amount of corruption and injustice in the world that WikiLeaks is exposing, not only in the United States, but around the world, in Peru, in Australia, in Kenya and in West Africa and in Iceland, much—incidents that are not very well known in the United States, but where WikiLeaks single-handedly uncovered very pervasive and systematic improprieties that would not have otherwise been uncovered, on top of all of the grave crimes committed by the United States. There is nobody close to that organization in terms of shining light of what the world’s most powerful factions are doing and in subverting the secrecy regime that is used to spawn all sorts of evils.
And I think the big difference between myself and Steven Aftergood is it is true that WikiLeaks is somewhat of a severe response, but that’s because the problem that we’re confronting is quite severe, as well, this pervasive secrecy regime that the world’s powerful factions use to perpetrate all kinds of wrongdoing. And the types of solutions that Mr. Aftergood has been pursuing in his career, while commendable and nice and achieving very isolated successes here and there, is basically the equivalent of putting little nicks and scratches on an enormous monster. And WikiLeaks is really one of the very few, if not the only group, effectively putting fear into the hearts of the world’s most powerful and corrupt people, and that’s why they deserve, I think, enthusiastic support from anyone who truly believes in transparency, notwithstanding what might be valid, though relatively trivial, criticisms that Mr. Aftergood and a couple of others have been voicing.
AMY GOODMAN: [inaudible] to break, and then we’re going to come back to this discussion. We’ve just gotten word from a tweet that the WikiLeaks website is now being hosted in Switzerland, again taken down over the last hours. We are seeing here the WikiLeaks tweet says, "WikiLeaks moves to Switzerland, "http://wikileaks.ch">http://wikileaks.ch." We’ll bring you the latest as we go through this broadcast. We’re speaking with Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com and Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. Back with them in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com—he’s joining us from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil—and Steven Aftergood, the Federation of American Scientists, joining us from Washington, D.C., debating WikiLeaks and the trove of cables they’ve released. It ultimately will be the largest trove of U.S. diplomatic cables ever leaked in U.S. history, following the largest trove of government documents ever released in the Iraq war cables, close to 400,000 of those documents. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Steven Aftergood, I’d like to get your response to Glenn Greenwald just before our break and this issue of the fundamental challenge that he believes they are providing to elites all around the world.
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: You know, maybe he’s right, but I don’t think so. I think their theory of political action is extremely primitive. It’s basically throw a lot of stuff out there, and then good things will happen to good people and bad things will happen to bad people. They made a tremendous splash with their Apache helicopter video, showing the killing of people in Baghdad in 2007. But did it lead to a change in the rules of engagement that would prevent a similar event from happening in the future? No. Did it lead to compensation for or reparations for the people who were wounded there? No. It made a big splash, and then we went on to the next big splash. And, you know, again, I could easily be wrong; I often am. Maybe WikiLeaks is going to lead to an avalanche of openness and good government. My concern, though, is the opposite, that it’s going to lead to a new clampdown, new restrictions, more secrecy.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, your response?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, I find that standard that he just articulated to be unbelievable and absurd. The idea that WikiLeaks hasn’t single-handedly reformed the United States military’s rule of engagement, and that’s supposed to be some sort of criticism of what it does? I mean, Mr. Aftergood created a big splash back in June after Wikileaks released the Afghanistan war documents, and he made that same argument in response to something I had written when I praised Wikileaks, and he said, "Well, how many wars have WikiLeaks stopped?" How many wars has Mr. Aftergood stopped? How many rules of engagement has he caused to be changed? I mean, it’s not WikiLeaks’s fault or its responsibility that when they show grave injustices to the American people that the citizenry is either indifferent towards those injustices or apathetic towards them. WikiLeaks is devoted to shedding light on what these injustices are, and it’s then our responsibility to go about and do something about them.
Again, they’re a four-year-old organization. And they have led to all sorts of important reforms. I mean, in Iceland, WikiLeaks was basically the single-handed cause of a new law that is designed to protect whistleblowing and whistleblowing sites like WikiLeaks beyond anything else that exists in the world. Their exposure of corruption on the part of a Iceland’s biggest banks, that led to the financial meltdown, led to investigations and prosecutions. The same thing happened to exposure of injustices and corruption on the part of oil magnates in Peru. They exposed the Australian government’s efforts to target websites to be shut down under a program designed to target child pornography, when in reality the sites that were targeted were political sites. And in Spain this week, the headlines are dominated by documents that WikiLeaks released that you, Amy, covered two days ago with Harper’s Scott Horton about the fact of the Spanish government’s succumb to pressure by the American State Department not to investigate the torture of its own citizens and the death of a Spanish photojournalist in Iraq, because WikiLeaks exposed that. And so you see all over the world, in just a short history of four years, immense amounts of reforms and greater awareness of what political and financial elites are doing around the world. I think he’s imposing on them an absurd and unreasonable standard that he, himself, and essentially nobody else is able to meet, either.
AMY GOODMAN:Steven Aftergood (left), how would you—what would you say the difference is between WikiLeaks and your own newsletter, Secrecy News?
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: I mean, there are several obvious differences in scope and scale and distribution. From my point of view, WikiLeaks is poorly focused in order to achieve its objective. And let me say, of course, I supported the release of the Apache helicopter video. I started out by saying that I favor the unauthorized disclosure of classified information that reveals corruption. It’s very hard, evidently, to say both good and bad things about WikiLeaks. People want you to say only one or the other.
But yesterday, Der Spiegel reported that a member, an official from the Free Democratic Party, had been relieved of his duties after he was identified as one of the persons who provided documents to the U.S. government in one of the WikiLeaks cables. Does that advance the public interest? WikiLeaks might call that a victory for open government, but I think it’s regrettable. I think if it’s multiplied dozens or hundreds of thousands of times over, it does real damage to the conduct of American diplomacy and to the national interest. So, just on principle, I oppose that kind of cavalier approach to disclosure.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Glenn Greenwald, your response?
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. Well, actually, WikiLeaks does not have a cavalier or indiscriminate approach to disclosure, contrary to accusations often made against it. They’ve certainly made mistakes in the past. I criticize them, for instance, for exercising insufficient care in redacting the names of various Afghan citizens who cooperated with the United States military. They accepted responsibility for that, and in subsequent releases, including in the Iraq document disclosures, they were very careful about redacting those names. And in the current diplomatic cable disclosure, thus far on their website, the only documents that have been posted were cables that were already published by their newspaper partners such as The Guardian and the New York Times and Der Spiegel, which included the redactions that those newspapers applied to those documents to protect the names of various people who are innocent and otherwise might be harmed in an inadvertent way. So they are constantly increasing their safeguards and their scrutiny. They’re perfecting their procedures. They acknowledge the responsibility that they have.
But what they—what I think is the crucial point is, is that, again, I mean, you know, what I hear from him speaking, it’s sort of like if you had a surgeon who had a cancer patient riddled with tumors and was removing huge tumors, this complaint, "Well, there was an ingrown toenail that he left and didn’t extract that very well." And just the more—no matter what you say, they just keep focusing on those relatively trivial flaws. I think that, you know, in order to criticize WikiLeaks—and it’s legitimate to do so—if you don’t think that their approach to bringing transparency and subverting the secrecy regime is an effective one or a commendable or noble one, you’re obligated to say what the alternative is, not in some fantasy world, but in the real world. And I don’t see one.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Glenn, I’d like to ask you, because the focus of so much of this is in killing the messenger and not dealing with the messages that are being released here. First of all, the comment on just the fact that as the internet and computerization of information has grown, it has made it easier for folks to download troves of information about an institution or a government, so that our societies have not dealt with this other side of the internet and computerization. And also, if this information was so secret, why did the government do such an amateurish job of protecting supposedly vital information that a—supposedly a PFC, as they suspect, downloaded so much of this critical information about Afghanistan, Iraq and even diplomatic cables?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I think that’s really—that last point is one of the critical issues, which is, the reality is that of all the hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of pages that WikiLeaks has released just in the last six months alone, a tiny portion of it is even interesting, let alone legitimately secret. And that underscores one of the real problems, is that the secrecy regime that we’re talking about is just—is not just a little bit excessive on the margins. What it means is that the government, the United States government, and all of its permanent national security state institutions reflexively do virtually everything behind a shield of secrecy. Essentially, the presumption is that whatever the government does in our name is secret, when the presumption is supposed to be the opposite. And you see that as clearly as you possibly can in these leaks, how much innocuous information is simply marked and stamped "secret."
And the reason that there’s not many safeguards placed on it is because what WikiLeaks is releasing—and I think this is so important—is that, you know, despite how much corruption and wrongdoing and impropriety and criminality it has revealed, this is really the lowest level of secrecy that the United States government has. The truly awful things exist on a far higher level of secrecy, at the top-secret level or even above. And it is true that if the United States government’s claim is correct, that what WikiLeaks has done has jeopardized so much that’s good and important in the world, a lot of the blame lies with the United States and the government and the military for not having safeguarded it more securely.
And the first question that you asked is, I think, critical, too, which is, we can debate WikiLeaks all we want, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, because the technology that exists is inevitably going to subvert these institutions’ secrecy regimes. It’s too easy to take massive amounts of secret and dump it on the internet. You know longer need the New York Times or the network news to agree. And I think that what we’re talking about is inevitable, whether people like Steven Aftergood or Joe Lieberman or others like it or not.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to get Steven Aftergood’s response, but first, here on Democracy Now!, we’ve conducted three extensive interviews with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The archives of the interview are on our website. But I wanted to play for you part of what he told us in July on government transparency.
JULIAN ASSANGE: We have clearly stated motives, but they are not antiwar motives. We are not pacifists. We are transparency activists who understand that transparent government tends to produce just government. And that is our sort of modus operandi behind our whole organization, is to get out suppressed information into the public, where the press and the public and our nation’s politics can work on it to produce better outcomes.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Julian Assange on Democracy Now! Yesterday, NBC News highlighted Democracy Now!’s interview yesterday with his attorney. And we are linking to all of this on our website. She says that Julian Assange is not in hiding from the authorities—they are contacting him through his lawyers—but in hiding from harm, that this character assassination, the possibility that could lead to an actual real one. Steven Aftergood, your response to what Assange said and Glenn Greenwald before that?
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: Well, I actually agree with everything that Assange said in that statement. What I don’t agree with is that it’s an accurate characterization of what WikiLeaks has done.
Glenn Greenwald had a lot to say. Let me just mention a couple of things. I don’t believe that it’s a choice between the WikiLeaks approach and giving up. This year, for the first time, the United States declassified and disclosed the size of its nuclear weapons arsenal. This year, for the first time, the U.S. government issued its first unclassified Nuclear Posture Review Report, the basic statement of nuclear weapons employment policy. This year, for the first time, the U.S. government disclosed the total intelligence budget, including both its civilian and military components. There is an alternative mechanism for progress. In today’s paper, there’s a story about ACLU having uncovered reports of violations of the Freedom—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendments. So it’s really not a question of WikiLeaks or nothing. It’s a question of a smart, well-targeted approach or a—you know, a reckless shotgun approach.
My concern about where we—you know, going forward, I basically have two agenda items. In the security review process, I want to try and inject the idea, as Glenn Greenwald said, that overclassification is a problem here and that as we fix the other security measures, we also need to focus on fixing the classification system, reducing the scope of classification sharply. The other agenda item, which WikiLeaks has made more difficult, is to prevent a rewriting of the Espionage Act statutes in order to make them more versatile and useful against both those who disclose classified information and those who publish such information. That is now building up steam, and I think we’re likely to see efforts in that direction in the next Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, let me just say, I mean, you know, I have respect for the work that Steven Aftergood and other transparency activists do in Washington, working within the Congress and other American political institutions to try and bring about incremental reform. I think he’s well intentioned. I think we probably share the same values. The problem is that I just don’t think that his perspective is, A, realistic or, B, sufficiently urgent. I don’t think it’s realistic that the Congress of the United States, now dominated by the Republican Party in the House of Representatives and an extremely conservative Democratic Party in the Senate and led by an administration, the Obama administration, that has actually increased secrecy weapons, including the state secrecy privilege and other forms of immunity designed to shield high-level executive power wrongdoing and lawbreaking from all forms of accountability or judicial review, I think it’s incredibly unrealistic to take an optimistic view that that political system, dominated by those factions, is somehow on the verge of starting to bring about meaningful increases in transparency.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to—
GLENN GREENWALD: And I think it’s insufficiently—go ahead, I’m sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m going to interrupt, because I want to get to some memos that we’ve been getting from around the country that are very important and interesting. University students are being warned about WikiLeaks. An email from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, that we read in headlines, reads—I want to do it again—quote, "Hi students,
"We received a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department. He asked us to pass along the following information to anyone who will be applying for jobs in the federal government, since all would require a background investigation and in some instances a security clearance.
"The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. He recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.
"Regards, Office of Career Services."
That’s the email to Columbia University students at the School of International and Public Affairs.
Now, I want to go on to another memo. Democracy Now! has obtained the text of a memo that’s been sent to employees at USAID. This is to thousands of employees, about reading the recently released WikiLeaks documents, and it comes from the Department of State. They have also warned their own employees. This memo reads, quote, "Any classified information that may have been unlawfully disclosed and released on the Wikileaks web site was not 'declassified' by an appopriate authority and therefore requires continued classification and protection as such from government personnel... Accessing the Wikileaks web site from any computer may be viewed as a violation of the SF-312 agreement... Any discussions concerning the legitimacy of any documents or whether or not they are classified must be conducted within controlled access areas (overseas) or within restricted areas (USAID/Washington)... The documents should not be viewed, downloaded, or stored on your USAID unclassified network computer or home computer; they should not be printed or retransmitted in any fashion."
That was the memo that went out to thousands of employees at USAID. The State Department has warned all their employees, you are not to access WikiLeaks, not only at the State Department, which they’ve blocked, by the way, WikiLeaks, but even on your home computers. Even if you’ve written a cable yourself, one of these cables that are in the trove of the documents, you cannot put your name in to see if that is one of the cables that has been released. This warning is going out throughout not only the government, as we see, but to prospective employees all over the country, even on their home computers. Steven Aftergood, your response?
STEVEN AFTERGOOD: It’s obviously insane. I mean, if they’re not allowed to read the cables on WikiLeaks, they shouldn’t be allowed to read the cables on the New York Times or other sites. It’s obviously ridiculous. You know, this whole "cablegate" was intended as a provocation. Bradley Manning said it would give thousands of diplomats heart attacks. The system has been provoked. It is—you know, it is outrageous. It’s kind of disgusting. The question is, is it good politics? I don’t think so.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Glenn Greenwald, your final response?
GLENN GREENWALD: I think that that response is not one caused by WikiLeaks. I think that response is reflective of what our government is and the egos that prevails. And it’s every bit as severe as it was before WikiLeaks existed. And it’s WikiLeaks that is devoted to subverting it. And I think those memos, those disgustingly repressive and authoritarian memos, and the mindset in them, shows why WikiLeaks is so needed.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to leave it there, and we want to thank Glenn Greenwald, speaking to us from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, a legal blogger at Salon.com, and Steven Aftergood of the Federation for American Scientists, for engaging in this debate.
The response on our website has been just overwhelming. We’ve got the highest number of viewers online right now than we’ve had since the beginning of this. The interview we did with Daniel Ellsberg on October 22, Juan, the day that he was flying off to London to have the news conference with Julian Assange announcing the latest trove of documents—they’re releasing something like a quarter of a million documents—has now been hit close to 2.8 million times, and it is just soaring every day. The hunger for this information has been astounding. You can go to our website to see all the different coverage, as well as our interview with Noam Chomsky responding to the specific cables that have been released. Our website is http://www.democracynow.org/.
And we also just got this information: economy adds 39,000 jobs in November, far fewer than expected. Unemployment rate up to 9.8 percent.
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.
The Editors say: How is it possible for a man to prove he’s a complete, unredeemable piece of scum and still remain high in the councils of power? When it comes to Joe Lieberman and the U.S. these days, that’s not only possible, it’s inevitable. Incidentally, isn’t it painfully ironic that the vociferous Tea Party crowd, ostensibly so zealous about defending citizens’ liberties, is all for hanging Assange instead of hailing him as a hero?
BY GLENN GREENWALD | THURSDAY, DEC 2, 2010 | [print_link]
(Updated below - Update II - Update III (***more Lieberman censorship***)
The comparison of these two passages is so telling in so many ways:
The Washington Post, today:
"Revelations by the organization WikiLeaks have received blanket coverage this week on television, in newspapers and on Web sites around the globe. But in parts of the world where the leaks have some of the greatest potential to sow controversy, they have barely caused a ripple.
Authoritarian governments and tightly controlled media in China and across the Arab Middle East have suppressed virtually all mention of the documents, avoiding the public backlash that could result from such candid portrayals of their leaders' views.
In China, the WikiLeaks site has been blocked by the government's "Great Firewall," and access to other sources for the documents has been restricted. Most Chinese are unable to read the contents of the diplomatic cables. . . ."
The Guardian, yesterday:
WikiLeaks website pulled by Amazon after US political pressure
"The US struck its first blow against WikiLeaks after Amazon.com pulled the plug on hosting the whistleblowing website in reaction to heavy political pressure.
The company announced it was cutting WikiLeaks off yesterday only 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's committee on homeland security. . . .
While freedom of speech is a sensitive issue in the US, scope for a full-blown row is limited, given that Democrats and Republicans will largely applaud Amazon's move. . . .
The question is whether he was acting on his own or pressed to do so by the Obama administration, and how much pressure was applied to Amazon. . . .
Lieberman said: "[Amazon's] decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material. I call on any other company or organisation that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them."
The department of homeland security confirmed Amazon's move, referring journalists to Lieberman's statement.
Talking Points Memo -- in an article headlined: "How Lieberman Got Amazon To Drop Wikileaks" -- detailed that Lieberman's "staffers . . .called Amazon to ask about it, and left questions with a press secretary including, 'Are there plans to take the site down?'" Shortly thereafter, "Amazon called them back . . . to say they had kicked Wikileaks off." Lieberman's spokeswoman said: "Sen. Lieberman hopes that the Amazon case will send the message to other companies that might host Wikileaks that it would be irresponsible to host the site."
That Joe Lieberman is abusing his position as Homeland Security Chairman to thuggishly dictate to private companies which websites they should and should not host -- and, more important, what you can and cannot read on the Internet -- is one of the most pernicious acts by a U.S. Senator in quite some time.
Josh Marshall wrote yesterday: "When I'd heard that Amazon had agreed to host Wikileaks I was frankly surprised given all the fish a big corporation like Amazon has to fry with the federal government." That's true of all large corporations that own media outlets -- every one -- and that is one big reason why they're so servile to U.S. Government interests and easily manipulated by those in political power. That's precisely the dynamic Lieberman was exploiting with his menacing little phone call to Amazon (in essence: Hi, this is the Senate's Homeland Security Committee calling; you're going to be taking down that WikiLeaks site right away, right?). Amazon, of course, did what they were told.
Note that Lieberman here is desperate to prevent American citizens -- not The Terrorists -- from reading the WikiLeaks documents which shed light on what the U.S. Government is doing. His concern is domestic consumption. By his own account, he did this to "send a message to other companies that might host WikiLeaks" not to do so. No matter what you think of WikiLeaks, they have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime; Lieberman literally wants to dictate -- unilaterally -- what you can and cannot read on the Internet, to prevent Americans from accessing documents that much of the rest of the world is freely reading.
The Internet, of course, is rendering decrepit would-be petty tyrants like Lieberman impotent and obsolete:
WikiLeaks moved its website to a Swedish server and was accessible again within hours. But any attempt by political officials to start blocking Americans' access to political content on the Internet ought to provoke serious uproar and unrest. If the Tea Party movement and the Right generally were even minimally genuine in their ostensible beliefs, few things would trigger more intense objections than a political official trying to dictate to private actors which political content they should allow on the Internet (instead, you have Newt Gingrich demanding that Assange be declared an "enemy combatant" and Sarah Palin calling for his murder). Remember, though -- as The Post told us today -- it's "authoritarian governments and tightly controlled media in China and across the Arab Middle East" which are trying to prevent citizens from learning about the WikiLeaks documents.
THEN WE HAVE THIS EQUALLY REVEALING PASSAGE FROM THE POST ARTICLE:
In many Arab countries, the mainstream media have largely avoided reporting on the sensitive contents of the cables, including accounts of Arab leaders drinking alcohol and siding with Israel in advocating a U.S. military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
I genuinely laughed aloud when I read that. Does anyone think that "the mainstream media" in the U.S. has reported much "on the sensitive contents of the cables" specifically or the WikiLeaks war documents generally? I don't mean salacious gossip or David-Sanger/Michael-Gordan-type Government-serving fear-mongering about America's "enemies" (Iran is operating in Iraq!!; Iran is being armed by North Korea!!; Arab dictators want Iran attacked!!). I mean documents that reflect badly on what the U.S. Government is doing in the world.
Overwhelmingly, the reaction of establishment media figures has been to scorn these disclosures as somehow being both a Grave Threat and Nothing New. Watch this short segment I did yesterday on MSNBC with Jonathan Capehart (left) of The Washington Post Editorial Page and former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari. Technical difficulties impeded my participation, but what's important is not really what I said, but what they said.
TGP sez:Pay attention how of all guests it is Greenwald that gets shut up by supposedly a technical glitch, while the supposedly "impartial" MSNBC host, Chris Janssen, the American flag firmly planted on her chest, throws softballs at the other two worthless media maggots intent on assassinating the character of Julian Assange, especially Republican "strategist" Susan Molinari. The American media is —like its political class—literally crawling with such revolting creeps. Indeed, few things are as certain in this world as the rottenness of the establishment media and its overpaid, brainless mouthpieces.
Two notes about it: (1) Capehart, who calls himself a "journalist," could not be more contemptuous of WikiLeaks as it shines a light on the U.S. government, and (2) The snickering and disdain toward Assange from Capehart and Molinari are indistinguishable -- totally interchangeable -- because there is no distinction between how most American "journalists" and how standard politicians think about those who are actually providing adversarial checks on U.S. political power; media and political figures are in the same undifferentiated class:
If there's Nothing New in these documents, can Jonathan Capehart (or any other "journalist" claiming this) please point to where The Washington Post previously reported on these facts, all revealed by the WikiLeaks disclosures:
(1) the U.S. military formally adopted a policy of turning a blind eye to systematic, pervasive torture and other abuses by Iraqi forces;
(2) the State Department threatened Germany not to criminally investigate the CIA's kidnapping of one of its citizens who turned out to be completely innocent;
(3) the State Department under Bush and Obama applied continuous pressure on the Spanish Government to suppress investigations of the CIA's torture of its citizens and the 2003 killing of a Spanish photojournalist when the U.S. military fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad (see The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch today about this: "The day Barack Obama Lied to me");
(4) the British Government privately promised to shield Bush officials from embarrassment as part of its Iraq War "investigation";
(5) there were at least 15,000 people killed in Iraq that were previously uncounted;
(6) "American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world" about the Iraq war as it was prosecuted, a conclusion the Post's own former Baghdad Bureau Chiefwrote was proven by the WikiLeaks documents;
(7) the U.S.'s own Ambassador concluded that the July, 2009 removal of the Honduran President was illegal -- a coup -- but the State Department did not want to conclude that and thus ignored it until it was too late to matter;
(8) U.S. and British officials colluded to allow the U.S. to keep cluster bombs on British soil even though Britain had signed the treaty banning such weapons, and,
(9) Hillary Clinton's State Department ordered diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data on U.N. and other foreign officials, almost certainly in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961.
That's just a sampling.
This is what Joe Lieberman and his comrades are desperately trying to suppress -- literally prevent it from being accessible on the Internet. And "journalists" like Capehart play along by continuing to insist there's "nothing new" being revealed by WikiLeaks despite their never having reported any of this. And since the disclosures, does anyone believe that any of these revelations have received anything close to meaningful attention by the American establishment media? But remember -- as Capehart's newspaper taught us today -- "revelations by the organization WikiLeaks have received blanket coverage this week on television, in newspapers" in Free America -- showing what a Vibrant, Adversarial Press we are blessed with -- but "in many Arab countries, the mainstream media have largely avoided reporting on the sensitive contents of the cables."
* * * * *
If anyone is aware of some sort of campaign to boycott Amazon's web services over its capitulation to Joe Lieberman -- and there should be one -- please alert me to it so I can promote it. Of course, everyone is able on their own to cease using those services even without some formally organized campaign.
On a different note: the excellent website 3 Quarks Daily is hosting its 2nd annual prize for the best blog writing in politics, to be judged by long-time Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham, and it includes a cash prize of $1,000. As I won last year, I'm ineligible, but they are now accepting nominations, which entail submitting the URL for a specific post along with, if desired, a "brief comment describing the entry and saying why you think it should win." Everyone is encouraged to submit nominations of those they think are worthy winners.
UPDATE: Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has a characteristically insightful and thought-provoking analysis of WikiLeaks, expressed through a 14-minute video. Regarding why many valuable sources prefer to give their documents and other leaks to WikiLeaks rather than traditional press outlets, he says:
In the American case, one of the reasons is that the legitimacy of the press itself is in doubt in the minds of the leakers. And there's good reason for that. Because while we have what purports to be a "watchdog press," we also have -- laid out in front of us -- the clear record of the watchdog press' failure to do what it says it can do, which is provide a check on power when it tries to conceal its deeds and its purpose.
So I think it's a mistake to try to reckon with WikiLeaks and what it's about without including in the frame the spectacular failures of the watchdog press over the last 10, 20, 30, 40 years - but especially recently. And so without this legitimacy crisis in mainstream American journalism, the leakers might not be so inclined to trust an upstart like Julian Assange and a shadowly organization like WikiLeaks . . .
These kinds of huge, cataclysmic events [the Iraq War] within the legitimacy regime lie in the background of the WikiLeaks case, because if it wasn't for those things, WikiLeaks wouldn't have the supporters it has, the leakers wouldn't collaborate the way they do, and the moral force behind exposing what this Government is doing just wouldn't be there. . . . The watchdog press died, and what we have is WikiLeaks instead.
Most American journalists -- represented by Jonathan Capehart in the video above and the Post's self-praising contrast between the Free, Robust American Press and the anemic, controlled "Arab media" -- are so far away from even beginning to process those facts, indeed are constitutionally incapable of understanding or facing them, that they are just in a different universe than reality. And that -- combined with the fact that they are rooted in and dependent upon the very political system they are supposed to check and which these disclosures threaten -- are the reasons why most of them react to WikiLeaks with an equal dose of confoundedness and contempt.
UPDATE II: Charles Davis at change.org has one petition and an Amazon boycott plan here. I realize there is a variety of sentiments about boycotts, with some people arguing that Amazon is merely the "victim" here, but that strikes me as quite unrealistic. It's true that any company would take note if the Homeland Security Committeee called to complain about its aiding and abetting an organization that has been accused by leading political and media figures of being everything from a "terrorist organization" to an "enemy combatant"; that's what makes Lieberman's behavior so thuggish and wrong. But Amazon is quite a powerful corporation that did not need to capitulate to the likes of Joe Lieberman, and it would not have done so had it been the slightest bit inclined to resist.
On a related note: yesterday, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a postexplaining his cogent opposition to Obama's assassination program, and today he criticized Joe Lieberman rather emphatically for his conduct here regarding Amazon. I don't even know what to make of that development, so I'll just acknowledge it. I will note that my opposition to Obama's assassination program -- contrary to Goldberg's suggestion -- has nothing to do with my "understanding of Islamism or America's role in the world," but is rather grounded in my belief, which Goldberg says he shares, that "an American president (any American president) should [not] be allowed to order the assassination" of his own citizens absent the target's efforts imminently to kill -- "not merely argue for the killing, but kill" -- innocent people.
UPDATE III:The New York Times reports that another company has now capitulated to Lieberman's demands: "a Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which provides a free Web platform for interactive graphics, removed charts uploaded by WikiLeaks in response to Sen. Joe Lieberman's public statement that companies should stop helping the whistle-blowers." Tableau issued a statement, which reads in part:
Wednesday afternoon, Tableau Software removed data visualizations published by WikiLeaks to Tableau Public. We understand this is a sensitive issue and want to assure the public and our users that this was not an easy decision, nor one that we took lightly. . . .Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.
I just spoke with the creator of the "visualizations": a British freelance journalist named James Ball. The only thing these "visualizations" are were charts summarizing the material released by WikiLeaks (for instance, the charts counted the documents which originated from each country, the number of documents by year, and the like). These charts contained no classified information whatsoever, and disclosed nothing about the content of the cables. It was the completely innocuous work of a freelance journalist to inform the public about the categories of documents released. Those charts were then linked to from the WikiLeaks site, but hosted separately by Tableau.
Those are the benign, purely legal documents that have now been removed from the Internet in response to Joe Lieberman's demands and implied threats. He's on some kind of warped mission where he's literally running around single-handedly dictating what political content can and cannot be on the Internet, issuing broad-based threats to "all companies" that is causing suppression of political information. I understand Tableau's behavior here; imagine if you were a small company and Joe Lieberman basically announced: I am Homeland Security and you are to cease being involved with this organization which many say is a Terrorist group and Enemy Combatant. What Lieberman is doing is a severe abuse of power, and even for our anemic, power-revering media, it ought to be a major scandal (though it's not because, as Digby says, all our media stars can process is that "Julian Assange is icky").
If people -- and journalists -- can't be riled when Joe Lieberman is unilateraly causing the suppression of political content from the Internet, when will they be? After all, as Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out in condemning this, the same rationale Lieberman is using to demand that Amazon and all other companies cease any contact with WikiLeaks would justify similar attacks on The New York Times, since they've published the same exact diplomatic cables on its site as WikiLeaks has on its. What Joe Lieberman is doing is indescribably pernicious and if "journalists" cared in the slightest about their own self-interest -- never mind all the noble things they pretend to care about -- they ought to be vociferously objecting to this.
[Tomorrow morning, at 8:00 am, I'll be on Democracy Now, debating Steven Aftergood, the transparency advocate and WikiLeaks critic. Local listings and live video feed is here.] CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE PROGRAM
Glenn Greenwald’s Unclaimed Territory
I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. I am the author of two New York Times Bestselling books: “How Would a Patriot Act?” (May, 2006), a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, and “A Tragic Legacy” (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy. My most recent book, “Great American Hypocrites”, examines the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press, and was released in April, 2008, by Random House/Crown.