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Blogging the WikiLeaks Release: Day 1 | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Blogging the WikiLeaks Release: Day 1

Media coverage of the massive new WikiLeaks release began about 1:00 PM ET Sunday as an embargo ended.   We'll be following this important story and controversy from now until the end of the night, and will add the latest at the top, with an ET stamp. My email: epic1934@aol.com.    UPDATE   I am live-blogging the WikiLeaks on Monday, or Day 2, here.

12:05  Note completely different tone and angle of The Guardian's look at U.S. diplomatic "spying" around world and at UN, and the NYT's revised,  gentle version.  Pretty amazing.

11:45   Just noticed that original lead NYT story online earlier today said documents showed  that U.S. and South Korea had been "gaming" the collapse of North Korea.  Not reads "thinking about." 

11:00  David Frum tweets:  "If Julian Assange's goal is to protect Iran, as seems the case, I don't think he's done his cause much good." Well, certainly the NYT, and some others,  focused a lot on  the Iran-bashing aspect of the release, and allegedly getting missiles from North Korea. 

10:40  Unless something changes, I  will be on Democracy Now! tomorrow morning talking about all, or at least some, of this.

10:25  Interesting Q & A  interview from Australia today with NYT's Scott Shane on paper's handling of docs.  Shane points out:  "Perhaps if we had had more information on these secret internal deliberations of governments prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, we would have had a better understanding of the quality of the evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  Secrecy is not always in the interests of governments or people."

10:15 Mike Calderone at Yahoo reported earlier today that NYT mysteriously said it did NOT get its WIkiLeaks docs from...WikiLeaks.  So--from where? Now he reports that a top Guardian editor says his paper gave them to the Times....

10:05  The great Nancy Youssef of McClatchy with some perspective:  "American officials in recent days have warned repeatedly that the release of documents by WikiLeaks could put people's lives in danger.  But despite similar warnings before the previous two releases of classified U.S. intelligence reports by the website, U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone's death."

9:55  A full-text search engine for the WikilLaks docs posted so far -- just a couple of hundreds cables, it turns out -- has just gone up.

8:55  U.S. ambasador to Pakistan writes op-ed in Monday edition of a Pakistani daily on the Wikileaks release, i.e., damage control.

7:30  The Guardian says an ironic reason why Wikileaks docs were reachable -- after 9/11 we decided to ease sharing between agencies....

7:10  Democracy Now! on Twitter claims:  "Leaked State Dept memo: 2009 coup in Honduras was 'illegal and unconstitutional." 

7:00  Bradley Manning, arrested for earlier WikiLeaks and a suspect in this one, had said back in June "Everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed." 

6:35    Whatever the impact in the U.S., the fallout in the Arab world is likely to be monumental, writes Kevin Drum.  He also links to key assessment at The Arabist:  "There is so much information flowing around about US policy — and often, a good deal of transparency — that a smart observer with good contacts can get a good idea of what's happening. Not so in the Arab world, and the contents of the conversations Arab leader are having with their patron state are not out in the Arab public domain or easily guessable, as anyone who reads the meaningless press statements of government press agencies will tell you. Cablegate is in important record from the Arab perspective, perhaps more than from the US one."

6:00 Taking a little break after 6 hours.  Please no jokes about leaks.

5:45   Rep. Peter King  (R-NY), as per norm, calls WikiLeaks release "worse than a military attack" and wants org labeled "terrorist."

5:30   Wash Post, out of loop (again), finally says nothing "surprising" in WikiLeaks, calls our spying "low-level," and so on. Pathetic.

5:10  WikiLeaks site, surprisingly, says high number of  cables--over 6000--come from Iraq.  And Iraq is "most discussed" subject.  That has not been focus of reporting so far. Also suggests #cablegate hash tag for Twitter and offers other ways to spread word.  You can search cables by dates or countries of origin or subject.  

5:05   The WikiLeaks feed at Twitter notes:  "Tomorrow we will provide information on how other media groups can apply for embargo access to Cablegate info."

4:55  After being down all day -- hacked or compromised by some sort of official attack -- the WikiLeaks' site for what it calls "cablegate" is finally up.  Slow, but working, at the moment, and searchable.   Surprise: It says the embassy cables "will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice."  Main statement: 

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in "client states"; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments -- even the most corrupt -- around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.

4:50  NYT posts full letters from Assange to gov't officials defending release, says risks are "fanciful" and U.S. just wants to cover up human rights abuses and more.

4:30  Mike Calderone at Yahoo:  A top NYT editor tells him WikiLeaks was NOT source for documents it got.  Won't say how received.   Bradley Manning still top suspect (again).  Times also says White House did not tell them not to publish.

4:20  Editorial from tomorrow's Guardian: " Before US government officials point accusing fingers at others, they might first have the humility to reflect on their own role in scattering 'secrets' around a global intranet."

4:05  More from Haaretz:  The Israeli paper  focuses on the June 2009 memo.  It quotes Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, telling  American officials a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities was viable until the end of 2010, but after that "any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage."

4:00  Spencer Ackerman weighs in here from Wired, most troubled by N. Korea-Iran missile  sale.

3:50  Not many have stressed that this WikiLeaks event different from past ones -- not a one-day story but docs and analysis rolled out over next week.  Love this:  The Guardian, for example, notes, "There's plenty more to come, including 'claims of inappropriate behavior' by a British royal.'"

3:45   Sen. John Kerry rejects a certain comparison:  "This is not an academic exercise about freedom of information and it is not akin to the release of the Pentagon Papers, which involved an analysis aimed at saving American lives and exposing government deception."

3:40  Amazing story of how a 75-year-old American rode a horse over a mountain range to Turkey to finally get home from Iran.

3:35  Bill Kristol at Weekly Standard hits Der Spiegel calling the latest release a "meltdown" for U.S. foreign policy.  Sez Bill:   "From now on, a policy of no comment about anything in any of these documents should be the absolute rule. No apologies, no complaints, no explanations, no excuses."

3:20  Glenn Greenwald tweets: " that old 1-2 punch is coming within minutes: (1) Wikieaks endangered everything!!! ; (2) there's nothing new here; move on."   Ben Smith of Politico:  "So is this--as Guardian says--a 'worldwide diplomatic crisis'  or just -- as NYT plays it -- some interesting stories?"

3:00  Some wags on the Web noting that the U.S. is now experiencing a TSA-style nudie "porn scan,"  perhaps even getting its "junk" touched.

2:55   The BBC highlights issues here.    NYT finds a lighthearted dispatch:  "In a 2006 account, a wide-eyed American diplomat describes the lavish wedding of a well-connected couple in Dagestan, in Russia’s Caucasus, where one guest is the strongman who runs the war-ravaged Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.  The diplomat tells of drunken guests throwing $100 bills at child dancers, and nighttime water-scooter jaunts on the Caspian Sea."

2:45  El Pais also in on doc dump.  Even have a video of editor explaining what's up.   Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald tweets that the site he is visiting least often, "sadly," is the NYT.   Here's the Der Speigel site.

2:35  Scroll down a bit here for full Hillary Clinton -- who ordered spying at UN, the documents reveal -- reaction to the leaks.

2:30  The Guardian with fascinating full cable on Saudi King's advice to Obama, including he should plant chips in Gitmo detainees.

2:10  WikiLeaks' own site still down, under cyber attack.  But they keep tweeting on what they call "Cablegate."

2:05  Here's The Guardian's different take on U.S. spying on the UN -- involving FBI, CIA, Secret Service -- and more around the world, questions raised about "legality."  Also, all the Guardian coverage highlighted on one page for easy use.

2:00  Good Simon Jenkins column in The Guardian defending reporting.  Includes tantalizing detail of alleged U.S. bombing of refugee camps.

1:55  Robert Gibbs at White House:   "We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information."  Pentagon condemns "this reckless disclosure of classified information illegally obtained."

1:50  The Guardian on how the latest Wikileak occurred:  "From a fake Lady Gaga CD to a thumb drive that is a pocket-sized bombshell."    The paper's site has full data area for the cables which you can search and download.  It's also blogging the reaction -- not much so far but you can go here as day goes on.

1:45  Amazing from NYT on Yemen and U.S.:   "Even when they recount events that are already known, the cables offer remarkable details. 

"For instance, it has been previously reported that the Yemeni government has sought to cover up the American role in missile strikes against the local branch of Al Qaeda. But a cable’s fly-on-the-wall account of a January meeting between the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the American commander in the Middle East, is nonetheless breathtaking. 'We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,' Mr. Saleh said, according to the cable sent by the American ambassador, prompting Yemen’s deputy prime minister to 'joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament'” that Yemeni forces had carried out the strikes."

1:40  NYT note to readers The Times shared its planned redactions with other news orgs, WikiLeaks and the administration   Elsewhere, it calls today's stories just "day 1 of 9."

1:35  NYT confirms no WIkiLeaks cables are TOP secret, but it has removed certain names and withheld entire cables due to safety.  Go page two here.   

1:30  The Guardian's coverage now outHighlighting: "Saudi king pressed US for military action on Iran and Washington used diplomats to spy on UN."

1:25  More from NYT: Mark Mazzetti on cables showing that line is blurred between diplomacy and "spying." Must-read. 

1:20:   NYT posts its first report on leaks, titled "State's Secrets."  Cables dates from as recently as February, so much danger for Obama.   It says it will highlight over next few days:  A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel; Gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea; Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government."  And much more.  

Such as:  "Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the 'worst in the region'  in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. Qatar’s security service was 'hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals,' the cable said."

12:45  Apparently Der Spiegel is first out with something -- it prepared a print cover story that has appeared online  (scanned by readers),  with some basic facts and not too shocking U.S. assessments of Merkel as "teflon," and so on.  A review here.   Much more here from the Israeli daily Haaretz,  with cables calling  Ahmadinejad "Hitler," while French President Nikola Sarkozy is “an emperor without clothes.”   Hamid Karzai is described as "driven by paranoia."   Also,  "Obama prefers to look East than West.”

12:20   Italy calls Wikileaks release "9/11 of diplomacy."   On the other hand, Benjamin Netanyahu has downplayed, saying Israel doesn't think will be a big deal for them.

12:15  Already there's a new twist: WikiLeaks tweeted that its site, where it planned to post documents, is now "under attack," presumably by hackers or perhaps a government entity.  Here's the BBC report.  It also suggests that in the cables the U.S. offers a negative view of Prime Minister David Cameron.  The Guardian's investigative chief, David Leigh, tweets:  "The Guardian will publish US embassy cables tonight, even if Wikileaks goes down."  WikiLeaks says others that will publish and analyze tonight are LeMonde, Der Spiegel, NYT, ElPais.

12:05  Finally some bi-partisanship!  This morning senators Claire McCaskill and Lindsey Graham agree--we should aggressively try to prosecute Wikileaks and the original leakers.  Last night came reports that the U.S. had rejected talks with Julian Assange over redacting names of any personnel possibly endangered by the new WikiLeaks.  

A new edition of Greg Mitchell's award-winning book "The Campaign of the Century"  (and the birth of media politics) has just been published.  

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