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'Reagan' Comes to HBO: An Interview With Director Eugene Jarecki

An orgy of Ronald Reagan worship, including at the Super Bowl, will roll out today to mark the hundredth anniversary of his birth. For those who can stand to wait another day for a more evenhanded, though often critical, assessment, HBO will be airing Eugene Jarecki’s documentary, fresh from Sundance, titled Reagan, Monday night at nine.

 

Jarecki (left) is best known as the director of the acclaimed docs Why We Fight and The Trials of Henry Kissinger (and, more recently Freakonomics). Reagan is an extremely well-made film, featuring some expected and some surprising talking heads, plus occasional spurts of fun provided by a Daily Show clip, Phil Hartman’s famous SNL skit portraying two faces of Reagan (public bumbler, private strongman) and even a Simpsons moment.

Reagan’s two sons take center stage. That would be the right-wing radio talk show ranter Michael Reagan (who was adopted) and the much more liberal Ron Reagan. Others interviewed include familiar Reaganites such as George Schultz, James Baker and Grover Norquist, and what Jarecki calls “honest brokers,” including Tom Frank, Andrew Bacevich, Will Bunch, Frances Fitzgerald, James Mann and Simon Johnson.

At Sundance, Jarecki admitted he had “an axe to grind,” but not so much to expose Reagan as a bad guy but to dispel various “myths” that absurdly enlarge—or diminish—him. He also revealed that he had received a fair amount of criticism from some who feel the film is too kind to Reagan. Indeed, its first half paints a favorable picture of the man’s early life and rise to the governor’s mansion in California, but the second half, on his presidency and fallout from it, proves largely critical. What that means is that viewers who like the first half are more likely to stick around and learn something in the latter sections.

“The Reagan sales pitch has been going on a long time,” Jarecki told me in an interview this week. “If people see the real Reagan they may learn a lot. What’s amazing is how much we are told about Reagan today is only half true,” if that.

Here are some highlights from my talk with Jarecki, who was in New York (he hails from Rye, and his brother is Andrew Jarecki, who made Capturing The Friedmans), this past Thursday.

On the Inspiration for the Film

The idea to “set the record straight” came to him after watching the massive coverage of Reagan’s funeral. He was working on Why We Fight, which he describes as a “film about Eisenhower and the latter half of the century and how the American military and the policy machine grew into such an out of control system. So I could not do that without looking at the incredible impact Reagan had on America. He’s so much a part of our American conversation.”

The original home for the film was the BBC, but then he hooked up with HBO, which “guaranteed wide viewership, meaning this would encourage that many more Americans to look more closely at Reagan.”

On Those Interviewed

Jarecki drew up a long list of people to interview, but even among those once close to Reagan he did not want people who would merely sell him as “a brand.” He cites former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson as one who did not treat his boss as a “product.” Jarecki calls the Reagan critics “responsible journalists,” asserting, “We didn’t want to do another shouting match, but have a reasonable conversation.”

Andrew Bacevich, the former military officer now a critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was one who “moved” him profoundly in the course of the filming. Bacevich said that he’d voted for Reagan twice but “ultimately revealed the change in his view of Reagan—only decades later did he understand at what great cost he followed him.”

Jarecki found the contrast between the two Reagan sons stark: “Ron was very confident and relaxed in talking about his father, Michael more tortured,” perhaps (as the adopted child) because he felt he had to continually prove his link.

Despite being close to his father, “Ron Reagan amazingly qualifies as an honest broker,” Jarecki said. “I asked him if he was a mama’s boy and he said no, more of a papa’s boy. At the same time he was willing to say that his father had many shortcomings and needed to be held accountable.” For example, it is Ron who points out that his dad was way behind on recognizing the AIDS crisis and also acted callous toward the homeless. “I’d say that his son in the film represents himself and his father deeply and honorably, in willing to show tough love, not blinkered love,” Jarecki asserts.

The “big three” he could not nail down for questioning were Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter and Nancy Reagan, but he says this was mainly due to scheduling conflicts. Ron Reagan had said that his mother was not right for the kind of “rigorous interview” Jarecki always favors, so “not asking her was the better part of valor.”

The Lessons

Jarecki: “Reagan has very significant things to teach us, positive lessons and quite negative lessons. What can we do going forward about the legacy of Ronald Reagan so that the myths stop dominating, and start again with a real vision of Reagan, both the pros and cons? I want people to understand his life, from lifeguard to powerful president, but I would say I would have failed if the biographical material distracted from how the phenomenon of Reagan is regarded.”

Along the way we see Reagan’s assault on unions (notably the air traffic controllers), economic fallout from his anti-regulatory reforms, the growing gap between rich and poor, the Iran/Contra affair—although each earn rather brief episodes in the 100-minute film that should have been a bit longer. (Peter Dreier in a new piece here at The Nation offers a full accounting of Reagan misdeeds.)

On Reagan and the Tea Party

Among the wide range of people Jarecki interviewed or has talked with since, “it was widespread that the politics of Tea Party people would be foreign to Ronald Reagan and they would be seen by him as frivolous and uninformed. Reagan knew where countries were on the map, he knew a good deal about foreign affairs, he had been governor of the most populous state, had been a union leader, had been a Democrat, met people from all walks of life while traveling for GE.” The notion that he would have identified with largely ignorant people who cause such divisions is just “not possible,” Jarecki claims.

Tea Partyers, he adds, “are selling a product to the country and that product would not be popular with Americans if it would be sold to them as is…. Like cutting taxes for the rich would not appeal to Americans if not wrapped in a popular brand like Reagan. They say it’s okay ‘because Ronald Reagan did it.’ The reality is that Reagan when he gave his farewell address expressed deep regrets about the budget deficits. Why did it happen? The Laffer curve, trickle-down economics, and cutting taxes for the rich.”

The Myths

At the close of the interview, Jarecki was eager to, even insistent on, ticking off what he calls “the Reagan myths that need to be shattered because they are dangerous illusions.”

• For example, “he is held up as example of not negotiating with your enemies. Completely false.”

• “Reagan is held up to us as an example of never raising taxes. Correction: Reagan raised taxes six of his eight years as president. Why? He was a pragmatist, not doctrinaire. He saw problems emerging, and when his policies faltered he changed his views. Flexibility, not rigidity.”

• Reagan as opponent of immigration? He was in favor of immigration and even signed an amnesty bill.

•  Rigidly antiabortion? “He signed progressive abortion legislation” in California. While he “identified with ideals of the pro-life movement, he was careful in not using his office for undue pressures on that issue.”

Jarecki says he “could go on and on” in this vein. Somewhere, he suggests, some company is probably saying, ”We clean dishes like Ronald Reagan.” This “misuse” of Reagan, he says, is “unfair to his legacy, and misleads people about who he was, so we can’t learn.”

Obama and Reagan

Republicans insist that Obama should “learn” from Reagan. “Is Barack Obama supposed to emulate Reagan on the economy?” Jarecki asks “Or going behind the back of Congress, as in the Iran/Contra affair?” He points out that when Obama negotiated with the Russians on the START nuclear treaty, “right-wingers said that was not like Reagan, which was completely false. It was a remarkable thing that he reached across a giant gulf to actually become friends with Gorbachev.”

And, anyway, “what should Obama be learning from Reagan?” Jarecki concludes. “He’s more popular than Reagan at this point in office.”

Greg Mitchell’s new book is “The Age of WikiLeaks: From Collateral Murder to Cablegate (and Beyond).”

The WIKILEAKS NEWS & VIEW BLOG—Special Weekend Edition!

As I’ve done for more than nine weeks, I will be updating news and views on all things WikiLeaks all day, with new items added at the top. All times are ET in USA. You can contact me at epic1934@aol.com. Read about or order my new book, The Age of WikiLeaks: From Collateral Murder to Cablegate, here. 

UPDATE   Go here for Monday edition  of this blog.  Day 72.   Assange hearing etc.

*SUNDAY*

11:05 Man, I am a sucker for any Somali pirates cables, and here's a good one, via Foreign Policy.

10:10 See at 3:20 below, Assange leaking final score of game, 31-28 Packers.

10:05  New NYT piece on OpenLeaks takes more swipes at WikiLeaks--by guy who co-wrote with John Burns the famous anti-Assange profile last October.  "In private, Mr. Assange has told reporters that the spate of defections shut down the complex computer systems WikiLeaks uses to process new information and make it hard for governments and corporations to trace its source."

10:00  WikiLeaks releases, and writes, about cable with Yemeni leader hold prisoners on behalf of U.S. without evidence -- and begging for a visit with President Bush while demanding new military equipment.

8:55 WikiLeaks finally posts promised "Roundtable," sort of a sleepy Assange video press conference, below.  To get around the press who "suck up to power."  Mainly talks about press.  Hits NYT on several scores, sitting on stories, showing cables to State Dept., and so on.  Greatest touch: my hero Beethoven over his right shoulder.  "All Men Are Brothers," indeed.

7:15  The allegedly anti-Assange BBC "Panorama" special coming tomorrow night -- right in the middle of his extradition hearing.  Here's how The Guardian writes it up tonight:  "Who blows the whistle on the whistleblowers? In Panorama, John Sweeney investigates claims that the zeal of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for transparency in governmental affairs does not extend to its own organisation."

5:45  I'm told Assange hearing Monday starts at 10 am in London, meaning 5 in New York.  I am dedicated, but not THAT dedicated.

5:10  Just uploaded book for e-book, should be available in a day or two, will keep you updated, will only be $4.99.   Of course, the print book is only $11.99!

5:00  Former Ambassdaor @CarneRoss at twitter is highlighting latest cables releases, some good ones.

3:20  Assange just leaked final score of Super Bowl:  31-28.  (Oh, the winner: Packers.)

1:50  Financial Times with full take on cables showing U.S. has "faith" in Suleiman. "The dispatches also disclose that Mr Suleiman has authorised draconian steps to prevent African migrants from entering the Sinai Peninsula en route to Israel, a path trodden by many Sudanese refugees. A November 2007 cable quotes Mr Suleiman as saying that he is preventing 'all black people from accessing the Sinai, even as tourists'”.

12:15  AP with a new Q & A on Assange hearing tomorrow, British and Swedish law, possible jail penalty,  etc.

10:15  Good piece in Haaretz on what cables show about Egypt's Suleiman, including how he has demonized Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, raising questions about whether he can ever be seen as an "honest broker." And then there was the rendition and torture....

10:05  Great piece at Foreign Policy on new cables re: Afghanistan, and Karzai admitting that recent prez election there could hardly be fair, also defends kicking out contractors,  assesses Obama, and says "reconciliation" with Taliban inevitable and what people want.

9:45  Wash Post claims Assange's legal battle threatens to overwhelm WikiLeaks work. 

9:40  Assange extradition hearing starts tomorrow, to run two days, they say.  Will be many links for previews and opinions on this, from all views.   Here's one, and here's take on Assange lawyers' plans.

9:30    My book is already out in a second edition, with updates from the past week or so. Price remains ultra-low at $11.95. Contact me for special rates on bulk, copies for fundraising, etc. Six free excerpts here.

9:00  The Overnight Report (by Asher Wolf):   Brett Assange spoke at a Wikileaks rally in Sydney, urging support for his step-son Julian Assange http://bit.ly/hKgHFK (vid) / article: http://is.gd/77ali0 ... ABC Radio National (Australia) has just released an extensive Wikileaks radio documentary, including an interview with David House.  http://bit.ly/at6v1 ... U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice stated WikiLeaks' had little impact other than "a few days of awkwardness and a little bit of teasing." http://is.gd/6QLOfZ ... 

* SATURDAY *

11:40  The Guardian on the lighter side of the cables, written by bored diplomats in the backwaters.  Includes, a report on the Rolling Stones backing out of playing a gig to mark the 800th anniversary of .... Mongolia.  Who replaced them? The old German rockers The Scorpions. 

10:00 The Index on Censorship tried to get some answers from Wikileaks on the Israel Shamir / Belarus rumors and apparently made little headway.

9:20  Cables on Amr Moussa as possible successor to Mubarak.

6:00  @WLLegal tweets:  "NYT Public Editor lauds new journalism partners like @ProPublica, but makes sure to repeat #Wikileaks just "a source." http://nyti.ms/erdMFF "

4:20  State Dept. denies any news in the hotly-reported cable on U.S. divulging UK nuke sub secrets to Russia.  Our old friend PJ Crowley calls it  "bunk," via Time magazine.

3:10  A sense of hummus: Andy Borowitz jokes that WikiLeaks has leaked details of Mubarak’s severance package—he gets a ton of money but can’t be dictator of another country for six months.

2:10  Bush banned: Did WikiLeaks revelations of past year contribute to this? (AP) A visit by former President George W. Bush to Switzerland this week has been canceled because of security concerns, as the threat of mass protests loomed and the possibility emerged of a legal case against him for ordering torture. Mr. Bush was informed Friday by the charity he planned to address in Geneva, the United Israel Appeal, that his Feb. 12 dinner speech had been called off, said his spokesman, David Sherzer.

“The Swiss daily newspaper Tribune de Genève reported Saturday that the charity feared that protests against Mr. Bush planned by left-wing groups could result in violence.… Protest organizers had called for participants to each bring a shoe to the rally outside the lakeside Hotel Wilson where the dinner was to be held. The shoe was meant to recall the one an Iraqi journalist threw at Mr. Bush during a news conference in 2008.”

12:40  From WSJ: Hackers have repeatedly penetrated NASDAQ Stock Market computers, “and federal investigators are trying to identify the perpetrators and their purpose, according to people familiar with the matter…. Investigators are considering a range of possible motives, including unlawful financial gain, theft of trade secrets and a national-security threat designed to damage the exchange.… The Nasdaq situation has set off alarms within the government because of the exchange’s critical role, which officials put right up with power companies and air-traffic-control operations, all part of the nation’s basic infrastructure.” (h/t Maegan Carberry)

12:35  More on Milosevic in prison: Listening to Sinatra, reading trashy thriller, but “I Did It, My Way.”

11:00  Guardian video, “WikiLeaks and the Month that Shook Diplomacy.”

10:15  @WikiLeaks tweets: WikiLeaks releases over 800 secret cables today http://wikileaks.ch/reldate/2011-02-04_0.html

10:00  From AP: “Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that British officials initially considered Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari a ‘numbskull’ who would not last long in office. In cables released Saturday by the WikiLeaks website, British officials offer a pessimistic assessment of Pakistan’s prospects faced with financial turmoil and Taliban violence.”

9:55  My piece at The Nation: “Bradley Manning and the Tomb of the Well-Known Soldier.”

9:15  The Guardian reviews mixed signals on what US really intends to do to go after Assange.

9:05  Arianna Huffington op-ed: Yes, media published WikiLeaks cables but didn’t know quite what to do with them.

8:25  The Guardian’s view of how collaboration with Assange fell apart by Ian Katz, who also points out what they accomplished and “disappointing” end. He cites as one reason for Assange anger something I wrote about first (I think): the original listing of the Guardian book at Amazon with “the rise and fall of WikiLeaks” as its subtitle. The Guardian called this a “production error” but Assange was alarmed.

8:15  The Overnight Report (by Asher Wolf): David Miliband (former UK foreign secretary) writes in Guardian that Cablegate is NOT the “end of secrecy” or diplomacy. The Index on Censorship renews concerns at use of cables in Belarus against opposition actvists… The Telegraph continues to release WikiLeaks cables, including articles on Thailand’s royal pet and how millions in overseas aid to Africa was embezzled… Donald Bostrom, a Swedish journalist who knows both Assange and the two Swedish accusers, has raised questions about the veracity of the allegations

12:05 To mark the WikiLeaks phenomenon, the Egypt protests and the hideous Reagan tributes to come this weekend for his 100th birthday—one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs ever, Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” (written just after Reagan left office).

12:00  Assange speech screened at rally in Australia on Thursday. For one thing, makes distinction between private and public privacy. Also, “I am a publisher…I am a journalist.”

LATE FRIDAY

9:40  Latest big news cable from the Telegraph: US supposedly shared British nuclear secrets with… the Russians.

8:35  My HuffPost piece on Bradley Manning case and conditions has now drawn over 125 comments, see why.

7:40  Tim Wu at Foreign Policy says US should drop pursuing case against Assange.

7:30  We noted yesterday that Rep. Kucinich had sent letter to Pentagon chief Gates protesting conditions of Manning’s confinement. Now he says he wants to visit the prisoner.

3:40  Today’s laff: This might be the greatest WikiLeaks article yet. UFOlogist claims Assange in 60 Minutes interview was telling people in code that he is an alient from space and the coming “battle will be bloody.”

The WIKILEAKS NEWS & VIEWS BLOG for Friday, Day 69

As I've done for more than nine weeks, I will be updating news and views on all things WikiLeaks all day, with new items added at the top.  All times are ET in USA.  You can contact me at epic1934@aol.comRead about or order my new book, "The Age of WikiLeaks:  From Collateral Murder to Cablegate," here. 

UPDATE:  Go to the Weekend edition of this blog here.

9:40  Latest big news cable from The Telegraph:  U.S. supposedly shared British nuclear secrets with...the Russians.

8:35  My Huff Post piece on Bradley Manning case and conditions has now drawn over 125 comments, see why.

7:40  Tim Wu at Foreign Policy says U.S. should drop pursuing case against Assange.

7:30  We noted yesterday that Rep. Kucinich had sent letter to Pentagon chief Gates protesting conditions of Manning's confinement.  Now he says he wants to visit the prisoner.

3:40  Today's laff: This might be the greatest WikiLeaks article yet.  UFOlogist claims Assange in "60 Minutes" interview was telling people in code that he is an alient from space and the coming "battle will be bloody."

2:45  NYT with big piece on wealthy with offshore banking accounts worried about the coming WikiLeak via Rudolf Elmer. 

1:15  New from Naomi Wolf, on WikiLeaks and "the Lost Cojones" of American Journalism. "So why do all these American reporters, who know quite well that they get praise and money for doing what Assange has done, stand in a silence that can only be called cowardly, while a fellow publisher faces threats of extradition, banning, prosecution for spying -- which can incur the death penalty -- and calls for his assassination?"

11:30  Just up at the Telegraph on latest cables:   Brits refused to talk to captive in Mali before he was executed to avoid "negotiating" with terrorists . "Edwin Dyer, 60, was beheaded by an al-Qaeda-linked group in the chaotic West African state after Britain refused demands to free the radical cleric Abu Qatada. At the time Gordon Brown described the execution as a "barbaric and appalling act of terrorism", but previously secret documents show that Britain was reluctant to engage directly with his captors to secure his release. The negotiations were instead mediated by the Libyans." 

 

11:20  If you'd like copies of my book for fundraising purposes, to sell yourself etc., let me know, I can get them to you for  1/3 off.

10:50  My new piece on Bradley Manning and how he was forgotten for months but now much in the news.  How and why? 

10:45  AP catches up to the leaked details from Assange sex-crime case. 

10:25 Good look by Kevin Gosztola at the Yemen crisis and what cables reveal.

10:05   Great post by  former Amb Carne Ross coming out of that Columbia U forum with NYT and Guardian eds.  He was there, hits a lot of what they said there, reports that they admitted that their papers had merely done word searches through documents leaving vast majority unread,  raises the thorny issue of did the Times cave to State Dept pressure on some, are documents too important to be left to whims of newspapers,  and much, much more.

9:10 New Clay Shirky piece in The Guardian:  Because this tension between governments and leakers is so important, and because WikiLeaks so dramatically helps leakers, it isn't just a new entrant in the existing media landscape. Its arrival creates a new landscape. This transformation is under-appreciated...."

9:05  Not sure I got full story on this when he described it  but Guardian ed Rusbridger at that Columbia U forum last night seemed to say that hackers got into the new Guardian book via Amazon and deleted some passages critical of Assange.  Not sure if this was the Kindle version, or an excerpt posted there, or what.   He revealed this after Keller talked about alleged hacking of 3 NYT email accounts. Anyone know more?  

8:05 Most people have forgotten that among WikiLeaks' rumored releases is one that concerns Gitmo personnal files.  Now comes word that a detainee, 48,  has died there and as Glenn Greenwald just tweeted, "8 years in a cage with no charges - designated for 'indefinite detention' by Obama admin."  

7:50  Business Week with a lengthy report on Rudolf Elmer (remember him?) and his hand over of Swiss banking secrets to Assange, and possible fallout.

7:30  The Overnight Report (with Asher Wolf) At a live-streamed event, the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance presented Assange his  journalist union membership card (via his Australian lawyer).  Assange also spoke via live-stream....The FBI raided a house in N. Eagleville, interrogated U. Conn Chem. Engineering students over suspected involvement in Anonymous DDoS attacks. Unfortunately the FBI got the wrong address, and interrogated two unconnected students.  Before leaving, agents told the students that the investigation of Anonymous is second on their priority list only to child pornography....Washington Post has more on cables revealing the life of  Milosevic,  and a German man using the cables to sue Macedonia over alleged CIA kidnapping.

12:15  Four excerpts from my book now published, latest here on the 32 major revelations that have already come out of Cablegate (and that doesn't count this week re:  Egypt).  Thanks to The Nation's Kevin Gosztola for getting another excerpt, on the Collateral Murder video, up at WL Central.   In the wonders of modern publishing, book already updated with events of past week.

12:05  Video, from Russia, no less, on NYT vs. WikiLeaks.  "The Grey Lady vs. the Silver-Haired Aussie."

12:00  Telegraph claims FBI has re-opened probe of missing 9/11 plotters after paper printed WIkiLeaks cables on this earlier this week.

From late yesterday

Wired on tonight's Columbia U event with NYT and Guardian eds and more (and see a few items below).

New cable reveals ransom paid -- to al-Qaeda -- two release two Canadian diplomats two years ago,  Toronto's Globe & Mail reports. Has always been mystery.  "The document does not divulge any ransom amount or which governments may have paid into it."

Bloomberg: Assange May Gain From Swedish `Haste' in Extradition.

Foreign Policy on 7 new cables released today on Egypt torture. "These particular cables no doubt were released when they were to drive home the hypocrisy of the U.S. government's dealings with the Mubarak, and they do that quite handily." 

From Collateral Mur...
By GREG MITCHELL
 

Cablegate to Date: 32 Major Revelations (and Counting)

Many critics of WikiLeaks still, somehow, claim that there’s “nothing new” in the Cablegate releases (now stretching back to November 28), that most of the issues raised raised by the cables are old hat, and the impact (as in Tunisia, for example) overhyped. So it seems useful here, for the first time in easy-to-consider format, to assemble most of the major revelations. This seems especially valuable because the reporting is now scattered around the globe, often emerging from smaller papers.

Consider this a followup to my recent piece here at The Nation on top WikiLeaks scoops going back to last April.

At the outset, the cables were published by the media partners, not WikiLeaks itself. The New York Times made good on its promise to cover them hot and heavy for about ten days, while the Guardian did all that and more. But Times coverage quickly grew sporadic, the Guardian fell out with Assange (he has now turned to the Telegraph), while the Norwegian daily Aftenposten picked up some of the slack.

Here are brief summaries, listed chronologically, as they appeared. There are even more in my new book, The Age of WikiLeaks. Not included are the shocking cables concerning corruption and torture in Egypt (and some other nations in the region) released in the past week.

• Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda.

• Saudis (and some other Middle Eastern states) pressed US to take stronger action against Iran.

• Yemeni president lied to his own people, claiming his military carried out air strikes on militants actually done by US. All part of giving US full rein in country against terrorists.

• Shocking levels of US spying at the United Nations (beyond what was commonly assumed) and intense use of diplomats abroad in intelligence-gathering roles.

• US tried to get Spain to curb its probes of Gitmo torture and rendition. Saudi king suggested to Obama that we plant microchips on Gitmo detainees.

• Cables showed the UK promised in 2009 to protect US interests in the official Chilcot inquiry on the start of the Iraq war.

• American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program—with poor security—could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India.

• Washington was misled by our own diplomats on Russia-Georgia showdown.

• The UK sidestepped a ban on housing cluster bombs. Officials concealed from Parliament how the US is allowed to bring weapons on to British soil in defiance of treaty.

• NYT headline: “An Afghan Quandary: Fighting Corruption With Corrupt Officials.” Excerpt:

From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest man is a distinct outlier. Describing the likely lineup of Afghanistan’s new cabinet last January, the American Embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”

• Afghan vice president left country with $52 million “in cash.”

• Potential environmental disaster kept secret by the US when a large consignment of highly enriched uranium in Libya came close to cracking open and leaking radioactive material into the atmosphere.

• US used threats, spying and more to try to get its way at last year’s crucial climate conference in Copenhagen.

• Iraqi government officials see Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state.

• Details on Vatican hiding big sex abuse cases in Ireland. Vatican cables so “inflammatory” they could spark violence against Catholics in UK.

• Oil giant Shell claims to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government.

•  North Koreans implored the US to get Eric Clapton to play a concert that might loosen up their glorious leader.

• Guardian goes nuclear: “The leaked US cables reveal the constant, largely unseen, work by American diplomatic missions around the world to try to keep the atomic genie in its bottle and forestall the nightmare of a terrorist nuclear attack.”

• Cable shows Israel cooperating with Abbas vs. Hamas during Gaza attacks.

• UK training death squads in Bangladesh, widely denounced by human rights groups.

• Cable finds US criticizing the Vatican for not supporting population control methods. The US ambassador there lamented, “The Vatican will continue to oppose aggressive population control measures to fight hunger or global warming.”

• US pressured the European Union to accept GM—genetic modification, that is.

•  Hundreds of cables detail US use of diplomats as “sales” agents, more than previously thought, centering on jet rivalry of Boeing vs. Airbus. Hints of corruption and bribes.

• Russia is a “mafia state.”

• Israel wanted to bring Gaza to the “brink of collapse.”

• Extremely important historical document finally released in full: Ambassador April Glaspie’s cable from Iraq in 1990 on meeting with Saddam Hussein before Kuwait invasion.

• Cables on Tunisia appear to help spark revolt in that country. The country’s ruling elite described as “The Family,” with Mafia-like skimming throughout the economy. The country’s first lady may have made massive profits off a private school.

• US knew all about massive corruption in Tunisia back in 2006 but went on supporting the government anyway, making it the pillar of its North Africa policy.

• The US secret services used Turkey as a base to transport terrorism suspects as part of its extraordinary rendition program.

And much more just in the past week, from torture and corruption and Egypt to the 9/11 plotters who got away.

From Collateral Mur…
By GREG MITCHELL
 
 
 
Like this Blog Post? Read it on the Nation’s free iPhone App, NationNow.

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 68

As I've done for more than nine weeks, I will be updating news and views on all things WikiLeaks all day, with new items added at the top.  All times are ET in USA.  You can contact me at epic1934@aol.comRead about or order my new book, "The Age of WikiLeaks:  From Collateral Murder to Cablegate," here. 

UPDATE: Go to Friday's blog here.

10:55 Wired on tonight's Columbia U event with NYT and Guardian eds and more (and see a few items below).

10:40  Four excerpts from my book now published, latest here on the 32 major revelations that have already come out of Cablegate (and that doesn't count latest on Egypt).  Thanks to The Nation's Kevin Gosztola for getting another excerpt, on the Collateral Murder video, up at WL Central.   In the wonders of modern publishing, book already updated with events of past week.

10:25  New cable reveals ransom paid -- to al-Qaeda -- two release two Canadian diplomats two years ago,  Toronto's Globe & Mail reports. Has always been mystery.  "The document does not divulge any ransom amount or which governments may have paid into it."

8:40  Bloomberg: Assange May Gain From Swedish `Haste' in Extradition.

8:20  Foreign Policy on 7 new cables released today on Egypt torture. "These particular cables no doubt were released when they were to drive home the hypocrisy of the U.S. government's dealings with the Mubarak, and they do that quite handily."

7:40  More from Columbia U forum (see below): Bart Gellman tweets, "Harvard's Jack Goldsmith: indicting Wikileaks, even if USG loses, has dangerous implications for 1st Amd and journalists."   Laura Flanders:  "Der Spiegel and Guardian both considering setting up their own #Wikileaks "drop boxes" but not so simple."   @GregMItch: "Hoping someone asks Keller why he didn't fire Judy Miller, in fact stood by her for two years."

7:35  A highlight from live steam of Keller-Rusbridger panel (see below), tweet from Carne Ross: "frmr US Assis Atty Gen suggests US charges agst  Assanage are likely thx 2 political pressure."  @WLLegal: 

 

"Keller's voice is dripping with condescension every time he talks about his relationship w/ Assange."

6:15  Good to see techies weighing in on yesterday's cables, via Telegraph, on China-U.S. space "battle" -- here's MIT's esteemed Technology Review.

5:55 Reminder, live stream tonite at 7 from Columbia U., NYT and Guardian eds on WikiLeaks.

5:00 Telegraph cables today focus on terrorist threat in UK (Mainly homegrown).

4:50  Japan has been pretty much left out of WL cables so far, but WSJ helps remedy that, covering Japan banks and Iran.  (h/t Kevin Gosztola)

3:25  Rep. Dennis Kucinich just released letter to Robert Gates asking him to end "extreme conditions" of confinement of Bradley Manning "and provide him with the mental health treatment that the Army recognized he needed even before his deployment to Iraq. At the very least, the Army must explain the justification for confining someone with mental health problems under conditions that are virtually certain to exacerbate those problems and explain the danger he now presents that only these extreme conditions of confinement can avoid."  Even cites Glenn Greenwald.

3:20   Reminder: I'll be doing live chat re: my book at FireDogLake's salon at 3:30 ET.

2:00 If you are curious on how the rightwing sees NYT defending ties to WikiLeaks.

1:15   My Nation colleague Kevin Gosztola on today as national "call-in day" re:  Bradley Manning.

1:10  Good rundown of key cables on Egypt and how we should-have-known from YaleGlobal.

12:35 Got to appreciate their transparency at least: Air Force posts release sent out forbidding checking out WikiLeaks docs.   "DO NOT access the WikiLeaks information on government or personal computers; DO treat the leaked material like any other content assumed to be classified. Classified information does not automatically become declassified as a result of unauthorized disclosure, and accessing the WikiLeaks site would introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks."

11:50  Today's panel at Columbia U with Bill Keller and Guardian ed will be live-streamed here.

11:05 WikiLeaks' tweet yesterday threatening action against The Guardian for "malicious libel" gets a critical review here.

10:50 More from Micah Sifry's notes (see below):  Graham Allison: "What's the difference between WikiLeaks and WoodwardLeaks?" Great question. And from Joe Nye: Idea of prosecuting Assange is a terrible mistake. If he had never been born, something like this would have happened anyway.

10:40  My new piece on "Cablegate to Date" includes, maybe, first list of nearly all of the major cable revelations to date.

10:35: Reminder: I'll be doing live chat re: my book at FireDogLake's salon at 3:30 ET.  Reuters has just included book in its review of new books on subject.

10:00 Micah Sifry live-noting WikiLeaks forum at Shorenstein Center at Harvard right now, see list of names there. He paraphrases NYT's David Sanger on how they handled Cablegate:  "Focused on subjects that were most in the news. Clearly we didn't spend enough time on the material on Egypt, tho not clear that would have helped."  Also Sanger reveals (first time I've seen) the number of cables Times showed to State Dept first: 100 to 150, and it was every one they planned to cite.

9:50  We covered this yesterday but now here is AP on cable showing U.S. lacks faith in reforms in Jordan.

9:15 Bill Keller of NYT was on Charlie Rose last night pushing the book (and he just got movie deal, see below).  I didn't catch it but a faithful  reader "EM" tells me he again pushed Assange-not-a-journalist meme but at least said that he is a publisher.  These characterizations would all play a part in a DOJ case against Assange.  Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes ended up calling Assange both a journo and a publisher.

9:10  Not even an old Hummer?  Love this based on new cable:  "Iran's missile launchers towed by Peugeots. Family cars made by Fiat, Peugeot and Renault are being used as missile platforms by the Iranian armed forces because of their difficulty obtaining proper military vehicles, leaked cables show."

8:15  New at The Guardian: a full look at how much WikiLeaks cable played strong role in Tunisia revolts (and what has followed).

8:10  WikiLeaks cable:  Google and State Department talked to unblock Egyptian vids

8:00  Kaspersky: Spammers exploiting WikiLeaks name.

7:45 Now we know we should take this seriously: Perez Hilton weighs in on Assange's Nobel Peace Prize nomination : Winning the prize would  "be making one hell of a statement against censorship." 

7:40  The Overnight Report (by Asher Wolf):  As protests heat up Wikileaks releases cables on "rampant official corruption" in Yemen. "Salih's feet must be held to the fire." ...The Telegraph publishes a slew of Wikileaks cables, including cables claiming  Treasury 'slow to act in blocking terrorist finance' ...British firms made millions from trading with Iranians ....Chinese weapons have fallen into hands of Iraqi and Afghanistani insurgents....Vanished FBI officer Robert Levinson 'held by Iranian Revolutionary Guards'

12:20  WikiLeaks released many more cables re: Egypt tonight, here is one on torture / abuse.

12:05  WikiLeaks and/or Assange defense fund now seems to be able to get money via PayPal, if roundabout.

12:00 Interesting look ahead to Assange's extradition hearing next week, but beyond that to the U.S. case against him and his standing as a "journalist' as viewed by The Guardian and NYT, and more.

From late Wednesday

I'll be doing a book salon chat at Fire Dog Lake at 3:30 on Thursday afternoon. My new book now updated in a 2nd edition: This is the only place it can purchased now, with no Amazon or store sales.   It sells for $11.95, and can be shipped all over the world. 

Lengthy report here from the Deadline Hollywood folks on Bill Keller's NYT Magazine cover story just snapped up for possible movie by screenwriter of Hurt Locker and exec producer of True Grit.  (I can't remember, did Keller tweak Assange in that piece for making money off WikiLeaks?)  Story also has wrap up on other movies in the works on Assange (Paul Greengrass to direct?). Few of these projects ever get far, but who knows.

 Business Insider on latest cables and what they reveal as U.S. top concern: CBW.

Noam Chomsky finally weighs in on WikiLeaks (in discussing current Egypt crisis).  He agrees that cables at times testify to America's "nobility, " with diplomats not "asleep at the switch"  -- even "while Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster."

New from Dave Winer: Does Assange have an agenda? Should we care?   "Overall, it's an embarassment the way American journalists conduct themselves re:  Assange and WikiLeaks. We can easily see the contradictions and faked naivete in their questions. They must not care that we see it."

The Telegraph just launched (as it were) bunch of cables on U.S. - China "Star Wars" space race, including stuff on each shooting down their own satellites as tests, U.S. threatening action against China, and much more.  Up to one year ago.   "The warning continued: 'Any purposeful interference with US space systems will be interpreted by the United States as an infringement of its rights and considered an escalation in a crisis or conflict. 'The United States reserves the right, consistent with the UN Charter and international law, to defend and protect its space systems with a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military.'”  Useful timeline here. 

The lawyer for a U.S. Army private suspected of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks says his client does not hold dual U.S.-British citizenship. The statement Wednesday by attorney David Coombs deflates an effort by Amnesty International to get British authorities involved in a dispute over the conditions of Pfc. Bradley Manning's pretrial confnement.   Because Manning's mother is Welsh, some had speculated that the soldier had dual citizenship.  Amnesty had asked British authorities on Tuesday to get involved should it be established that Manning was British.

 

In The New 'Age of Leaks,' WikiLeaks Is Only the Beginning

Leaks, of course, have always played an important part in journalism, but this direct-to-the-public approach championed by WikiLeaks (sometimes, but not always, with the help of major media) is new. It’s both promising and threatening, especially to journalists, officials and the usual sources who have long played, and enjoyed, their exclusive role as gatekeepers. Now there’s a new kid on the block.

Or rather, kids. Even the New York Times may join numerous smaller, far flung operations in launching their own platform, portal, “drop box” or “lock box” for leaks. If this notion continues to spread like wildfire, it might put WikiLeaks out of business, but it would still be “The Age of WikiLeaks,” the title of my new book.

Word had emerged about the time of the Cablegate release that WikiLeaks would soon have at least one competitor or, if you will, co-conspirator, called OpenLeaks, launched by Assange’s former spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg. He said that, unlike WikiLeaks, it would not be saddled with political pronouncements and would not publish documents itself, only act as a pure source. Other groups formed around certain subject areas, such as EnviroLeaks, or in specific countries (from Indonesia to the Czech Republic). Al Jazeera, without much fanfare, launched what it called a Transparency Unit where leaks could be funneled.

But even if the number of leaks exploded, would mainstream news outlets spend the time and money (and take the risks) to accept, study and publish them? This seemed to be answered when news outlets around the world, well beyond the original five, ended up with some or all of the Cablegate cache and started publishing the ones relevant for their audiences. WikiLeaks announced it was looking for several dozen more outlets to speed up the process of publishing the, oh, 247,000 remaining cables.

Then, dramatically, Al Jazeera, sharing its first massive leak with the Guardian, on January 24 broke the bombshell “Palestine Papers” package based on confidential documents, which had arrived at its new Transparency Unit, related to Israeli-Palestinian-US negotiations going back to the (Bill) Clinton era.

That, naturally, inspired speculation about the leak phenomenon now spreading far beyond WikiLeaks. New Yorker writer Raffi Khatchadourian on January 24 posted an article at the magazine’s web site titled, “A WikiLeaks Arms Race.” He recalled that he had previously observed “that WikiLeaks was increasingly adapting to the standards of conventional journalism in its editorial policy. The emergence of the Transparency Unit suggests that an opposite trend may also be slowly at work.”

Then he asked:

Has Al Jazeera taken the first step in a journalism arms race to begin acquiring mass document leaks? It would be surprising if other large news organizations are not already at work on their own encrypted WikiLeaks-style portals. The New York Times and The Guardian, for instance, have every incentive to follow in Al Jazeera’s footsteps and give people a way to submit sensitive material directly to them rather than through an intermediary, such as WikiLeaks. If they aren’t doing this, they most likely will start doing it eventually…

The article prompted Michael Calderone at Yahoo! to call the New York Times executive editor Bill Keller for comment. And, lo and behold, Keller said that at his paper, “A small group from computer-assisted reporting and interactive news, with advice from the investigative unit and the legal department, has been discussing options for creating a kind of EZ Pass lane for leakers.” He said he couldn’t go into details, “especially since nothing is nailed down.” But asked if he could envision a system like Al Jazeera’s Transparency Unit, Keller said the Times was “looking at something along those lines.”

The following day, the Times posted Keller’s introduction, obviously written days or weeks before, for its upcoming e-book on WikiLeaks. One would hope Keller felt a bit embarrassed to have written in this piece, “Frankly, I think the impact of WikiLeaks on the culture has probably been overblown.… Nor is it clear to me that WikiLeaks represents some kind of cosmic triumph of transparency.” Now, here he stood, hoping to launch the Gray Lady’s own WikiLeaks generator.

Every day, almost every hour, now brings news of fresh leak initiatives. GlobaLeaks arrived, calling itself “a project to create a worldwide distributed Leak Amplification Network supporting whistleblowers all around the world.” The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism unveiled a “drop box” for leaks, an anonymous leak submission unit that allows users to submit tips to over 1,400 local and state news organizations, as a feature of its MediaLobby project.

To be honest, like Khatchadourian, I haven’t completely thought through what that change would mean. But, as he puts it, “for the moment, no matter what the outcome, it is hard not to expect greater convergence between old and new media in a way that will strengthen the journalistic project overall.“

From Collateral Mur…
By GREG MITCHELL
 

 

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The WIKILEAKS NEWS & VIEWS Blog for Wednesday, Day 67

As I've done for more than nine weeks, I will be updating news and views on all things WikiLeaks all day, with new items added at the top.  All times are ET in USA.  You can contact me at epic1934@aol.comRead about or order my new book, "The Age of WikiLeaks:  From Collateral Murder to Cablegate," here.

UPDATE:  Here's Thursday's edition of this blog.

9:15  Lengthy report here from the Deadline: Hollywood folks on Bill Keller's NYT Magazine cover story just snapped up for possible movie by screenwriter of Hurt Locker and exec producer of True Grit.  (I can't remember, did Keller tweak Assange in that piece for making money off WikiLeaks?)  Story also has wrap up on other movies in the works on Assange (Paul Greengrass to direct?). Few of these projects ever get far, but who knows.

7:00 Business Insider on latest cables and what they reveal as U.S. top concern: CBW.

5:40  New cables from Aftenposten on Jordan, and we don't mean Michael.  Articles not translated but you can read cables.  A journalist there emails me:  "There’s a lot of good stuff in there, especially regarding King Abdullah. Apparently he’s not as reform-friendly as he likes to seem. The diplomats call him 'sphinx-like' and describe a Monarch at odds with the people he appoints to lead the country." 

5:15  Noam Chomsky finally weighs in on WikiLeaks (in discussing current Egypt crisis).  He agrees that cables at times testify to America's "nobility, " with diplomats not "asleep at the switch"  -- even "while Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster."

4:40  New from Dave Winer: Does Assange have an agenda? Should we care?   "Overall, it's an embarassment the way American journalists conduct themselves re:  Assange and WikiLeaks. We can easily see the contradictions and faked naivete in their questions. They must not care that we see it."

4:25  The Telegraph just launched (as it were) bunch of cables on U.S. - China "Star Wars" space race, including stuff on each shooting down their own satellites as tests, U.S. threatening action against China, and much more.  Up to one year ago.   "The warning continued: 'Any purposeful interference with US space systems will be interpreted by the United States as an infringement of its rights and considered an escalation in a crisis or conflict. 'The United States reserves the right, consistent with the UN Charter and international law, to defend and protect its space systems with a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military.'”  Useful timeline here. 

3:20  (AP) The lawyer for a U.S. Army private suspected of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks says his client does not hold dual U.S.-British citizenship. The statement Wednesday by attorney David Coombs deflates an effort by Amnesty International to get British authorities involved in a dispute over the conditions of Pfc. Bradley Manning's pretrial confnement.   Because Manning's mother is Welsh, some had speculated that the soldier had dual citizenship.  Amnesty had asked British authorities on Tuesday to get involved should it be established that Manning was British.

2:40  David Leigh of The Guardian responds to WikiLeaks threat (see below):  "Goodness! Malicious libels in the Guardian ? This will be the free speech case of the century. You're having a laugh, aren't you?"

2:05 Die Welt with cables on U.S. pulling soldiers out of Germany beyond what is commonly known.

2:00 We had this earlier but now an updated AP report on WikiLeaks nominated for Nobel Prize.

1:30  Raising the stakes, @WikiLeaks feed just now: "The Guardian book serialization contains malicious libels. We will be taking action."  Had previously denounced alleged "smears" but now this is legal language.  

12:30  Just scheduled, doing book salon "chat" at FireDogLake on Thursday re: new book, details here.

11:20  Here's direct link to the Egypt questionnaire below for our embassy there.  One sample: "...even though there is significant corruption within the police apparatus, this does not negatively affect their creditable support for American and other diplomatic missions. While not always the case, the most common corruption is met with some Egyptian cultural acceptance. Although it does affect the professional capabilities of the security services." 

11:15  Good tip from The Guardian blog: "In the first half of 2009, the US State Department sent what it called security environment profile questionnaires to various embassies. Aftenposten, the Norwegian newspaper, has published the completed questionnaires for Tunis, Cairo and Alexandra. "

11:10 Nice blog bit here at NYT on Assange using phrase to describe daily civilian casualties as "the car crashes of war" not covered by the media who only care about the big "bus crashes."

10:45  My new book: This is the only place it can be purchased now, with no Amazon or store sales.   It sells for $11.95, and can be shipped all over the world.  Hailed by Dan Ellsberg and Glenn Greenwald.   Covers events right through last  week.

10:35  NPR picks up excerpt from my book  on the NYT vs. Assange battle

10:20  I remember when this incident surfaced awhile back -- the Spanish politician whose picture was used to represent bin Laden (they did look alike).  Now there's a cable released about it.

9:15 Even though Assange spurned Guardian for The Telegraph, the Guardian WikiLeaks blog still with full coverage of the latest at rival paper.

9:10 Another excerpt from my book, this one on "Beyond WikiLeaks"--the new competitors for leaks.

7:35 You've never heard much about the hactivist attacks on WikiLeaks, but here's Guardian account of what happened the first day the cables were released last November.

7:30  Much more from the Telegraph with new cables on nuclear threats, al-Qaeda pursuit of "dirty bomb," and more.  Plus:  "Teddy Bear" bombs smuggled onboard flights.    "Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing 'workable and efficient' biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.  Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe."

7:25  The Overnight Report (by Asher Wolf)  The Telegraph reports cables show ex-PM Gordon Brown ordered Pakistani president to kill Osama bin Laden...The FBI hunt for Anonymous members who engaged in DDoS action heads to San Diego and "zombies"... Romanian TV has a good new interview with Assange...Peter Kemp, an Australian lawyer (NSW Supreme Court) responds to PM Gillard's comments denying Assange help with an open letter at WLCentral. 

7:20  Freedom of Info panel in London includes Assange lawyer and debate on whistleblowing doing more harm than good.

12:20 Amazon not banishing WikiLeaks here.

12:00  Wash Post:  Anonymous official plays down Daily Telegraph report on cable (see below) about 9/11 plotters who got away, saying "no manhunt" and it "washed out."

From late Tuesday

Wash Post with big take on what was mainly first reported by McClatchy last week--on mental health specialist advising that Bradley Manning not be sent to Iraq.   Report attributes much of this to Manning's problems with a "personal relationship." Some have accused Army of "leaking" this infomation now.

NY Magazine covers the WikiLeaks 9/11 cables and the plotters who got away that we noted earlier below.

And the hits keep on coming: new cable with report on radioactive uranium from U.S. allegedly found in the Philippines in 2007, nine bricks, for sale.

I noted earlier this very angle, but here's Marcy Wheeler at FDL on NYT turning over cables to State Dept before publishing while Guardian refused.

Seemingly major news break via WikiLeaks' new partnership with The Telegraph -- the 9/11 plotters who got away.  From Qatar.  Not sure what to make of it -- perhaps old story, much ado about little  --  but in several parts, here's one.  And here's another, on how they fled to London.  And this on how our 9/11 Commission mentioned that such accomplices might have existed and fled.

 Lengthy MediaShift account of former TV newsman Marvin Kalb interviewing Bill Keller and Dean Baquet of NYT for his Kalb Report.  In section on WIkiLeaks, Kalb hits Times as an "enabler" of the group.  Keller admits they are a "vigilante" group.  Baquet defends more strongly, says thanks to them we learned a lot about current U.S. wars and more.   Keller kept hitting Assange. 

Amnesty International declares flatly that Bradley Manning is a UK citizen and UK gov't should intervene and protest his harsh and "punitive" confinement.  

From "Collater...
By GREG MITCHELL
 

 

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Why Julian Assange Hates the 'New York Times'

As many know, Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, wrote a piece for his paper’s Sunday magazine this past week (actually it’s just an extract from their new book) critical of Julian Assange, even mocking him. WikiLeaks (presumably Assange) quickly called it a smear in a tweet and there was much made of the falling out between the paper, one of WikiLeaks’ media partners since last June, and Assange. Yet today, on NPR, Keller gave credit to WikiLeaks for fueling the recent revolt in Tunisia (and by extension, Egypt).

So what sparked the rift with Assange?

For one thing, Assange was upset that the Times refused to link directly to the WikiLeaks site. Then there was a shaky profile last summer of Bradley Manning. But In this third excerpt from my new book The Age of WikiLeaks: From Collateral Murder to Cablegate, we look at the prime offense, as seen by Assange: the now fabled front-page story that appeared last October.

*
As it had promised, The New York Times, the day after the release of the megaleak on Iraq, published a lengthy profile of Assange on its front page, written by John Burns (left) and Ravi Somaiya, and including the interview with the WikiLeaks leader over lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant in London the previous week. During that sitdown, when asked about finances and other non-content issues, Assange had responded by calling such queries “facile,” “cretinous,” and from “kindergarten.”

Even though the same newspaper had collaborated with WikiLeaks on its most recent two megaleak packages, and was still covering the latest one heavily, this profile was notable for its harsh tone and criticism of Assange, such as this:

— “Now it is not just governments that denounce him: some of his own comrades are abandoning him for what they see as erratic and imperious behavior, and a nearly delusional grandeur unmatched by an awareness that the digital secrets he reveals can have a price in flesh and blood.”

— “Several WikiLeaks colleagues say he alone decided to release the Afghan documents without removing the names of Afghan intelligence sources for NATO troops. ‘We were very, very upset with that, and with the way he spoke about it afterwards,’ said Birgitta Jonsdottir, a core WikiLeaks volunteer and a member of Iceland’s Parliament. ‘If he could just focus on the important things he does, it would be better.’ ”

The New York Times spoke with dozens of people who have worked with and supported him in Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the United States. What emerged was a picture of the founder of WikiLeaks as its prime innovator and charismatic force but as someone whose growing celebrity has been matched by an increasingly dictatorial, eccentric and capricious style.”

— “When Herbert Snorrason, a 25-year-old political activist in Iceland, questioned Mr. Assange’s judgment over a number of issues in an online exchange last month, Mr. Assange was uncompromising. ‘I don’t like your tone,’ he said, according to a transcript. ‘If it continues, you’re out.’ ”

Assange, at the Frontline Club in London, quickly responded to the piece this way: “It’s a smear piece, and more tabloid behavior by the Times. Is it that only journalists with bad character work for the Times?” He said his objections to the Times’s coverage included its “absolutely disgusting” profile of Bradley Manning back in August, which had “removed all higher-level political motivations from him and psychoanalyzed him down to problems in his childhood and a demand for attention. He later protested the tone of the new piece directly to Times editor Bill Keller and asked for a chance to respond in a significant way.

The following day, Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com jumped on fresh attacks on Assange from the press. The low point “of this smear campaign,” he wrote, “was led by the New York Times’s John Burns, who authored a sleazy hit piece on Assange—filled with every tawdry, scurrilous tabloid rumor about him….

“It shouldn’t be surprising that Burns is filling the role played in 1971 by Henry Kissinger and John Ehrlichman. His courageous and high-quality war reporting from Iraq notwithstanding, it’s long been clear from his U.S.-glorifying accounts that Burns was one of the media’s most enthusiastic supporters of the occupation of Iraq…. The Iraq War is John Burns’ war, and for the crime of making that war look bad, Julian Assange must have his character smeared and his psychiatric health maligned…. Richard Nixon and his plumbers could have only dreamed about being able to dispatch journalists to dutifully smear whistle-blowers in this manner…” What makes Burns’s role here all the more ironic is that he was one of the media ringleaders who attacked and condemned Michael Hastings for revealing, in Rolling Stone, the truth about the mindset of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was running America’s war in Afghanistan.

“So when it comes to top Generals running a war, it’s the duty of reporters to conceal from the public statements made by the General, even when they’re not off-the-record and even when they’re clearly relevant.… But when it comes to people like Julian Assange—who are not prosecuting American wars but exposing the truth about them (which is supposed to be a journalist’s job)—no such discretion is warranted. There, everything is fair game, including posing as an amateur psychiatrist issuing diagnoses of mental illness and passing on the most scurrilous accusations about personality, character and psyche.

“None of this is to say that WikiLeaks and Assange shouldn’t be subject to scrutiny. Anyone playing a significant role in political life should be, including them. But Julian Assange’s personality traits have absolutely nothing to do with the infinitely more significant revelations of this leak.”

John Burns responded to Greenwald, and many other critics of his piece, two days later in an interview with Michael Calderone of Yahoo! He complained that he could not “recall ever having been the subject of such absolutely relentless vituperation” following a story in his thirty-five years at the Times. This included e-mails from academics at Harvard, Yale, and MIT. Some, he said, used “language that I don’t think they would use at their own dinner table.”

The Assange profile, Burns said, was “an absolutely standard journalistic endeavor that we would use with any story of similar importance in the United States.” Burns said he spent parts of three months on the story and, along with colleagues, spoke with more than thirty sources who had some association, past or present, with WikiLeaks. He added that the Times is “not in the business of hagiography” but in the “business of giving our readers the fullest context for these documents” and “Assange’s motivations.”

Greenwald at his blog would respond: “Apparently, many people become quite angry when the newspaper which did more to enable the attack on Iraq than any other media outlet in the world covered one of the most significant war leaks in American history—documents detailing the deaths of more than 100,000 human beings in that war and the heinous abuse of thousands of others—by assigning its most celebrated war correspondent and London Bureau Chief to studiously examine and malign the totally irrelevant personality quirks, alleged mental health, and various personal relationships of Julian Assange. Imagine that.”

And: “What Burns did to Julian Assange is most certainly not a ‘standard journalistic endeavor’ for the New York Times. If anyone doubts that, please show me any article that paper has published which trashed the mental health, psyche and personality of a high-ranking American political or military official—a Senator or a General or a President or a cabinet secretary or even a prominent lobbyist—based on quotes from disgruntled associates of theirs. That is not done, and it never would be.”

Excerpted from Mitchell’s The Age of WikiLeaks, available only here.

THE WIKILEAKS NEWS & VIEWS BLOG for Tuesday, Day 66

As I've done for more than nine weeks, I will be updating news and views on all things WikiLeaks all day, with new items added at the top.  All times are ET in USA.  You can contact me at epic1934@aol.comRead about or order my new book, "The Age of WikiLeaks:  From Collateral Murder to Cablegate,"   here.

UPDATE: The Wednesday version of this blog.

10:40  Wash Post with big take on what was mainly first reported by McClatchy last week--on mental health specialist advising that Bradley Manning not be sent to Iraq.   Report attributes much of this to Manning's problems with a "personal relationship." Some have accused Army of "leaking" this infomation now.

10:35  NY Magazine covers the WikiLeaks 9/11 cables and the plotters who got away that we noted earlier below.

10:30  And the hits keep on coming: new cable with report on radioactive uranium from U.S. allegedly found in the Philippines in 2007, nine bricks, for sale.

10:25:  Just scheduled, doing book salon "chat" at FireDogLake on Thursday re: new book, details here.

7:55 I noted earlier this very angle, but here's Marcy Wheeler at FDL on NYT turning over cables to State Dept before publishing while Guardian refused.

5:45  Australia's prime minister rejects Assange's plea for help in extradition fight, but says he can return home, like a good boy, when it's all over.

4:40  Seemingly major news break via WikiLeaks' new partnership with The Telegraph -- the 9/11 plotters who got away.  From Qatar.  Not sure what to make of it -- perhaps old story, much ado about little  --  but in several parts, here's one.  And here's another, on how they fled to London.  And this on how our 9/11 Commission mentioned that such accomplices might have existed and fled.

4:30 Lengthy MediaShift account of former TV newsman Marvin Kalb interviewing Bill Keller and Dean Baquet of NYT for his Kalb Report.  In section on WIkiLeaks, Kalb hits Times as an "enabler" of the group.  Keller admits they are a "vigilante" group.  Baquet defends more strongly, says thanks to them we learned a lot about current U.S. wars and more.   Keller kept hitting Assange. 

3:25 We've followed this issue for a bit and now Amnesty International declares flatly that Bradley Manning is a UK citizen and UK gov't should intervene and protest his harsh and "punitive" confinement.  "The British government is under pressure to take up the case of Bradley Manning, the soldier being held in a maximum security military prison in Virginia on suspicion of having passed a massive trove of US state secrets to WikiLeaks, on the grounds that he is a UK citizen."

3:20  The Guardian just posted much debated  chapter from its book on Bradley Manning.  Judge for itself whether it crosses the line in treating him as certain guilty party.  Guardian has said everyone knows he is chief and only suspect and they don't treat him any differently.

2:20  My new book: This is the only place it can be purchased now, with no Amazon or store sales.   It sells for $11.95, and can be shipped all over the world.  Hailed by Dan Ellsberg and Glenn Greenwald.   Covers events right through last  week.  Just posted, 2nd exclusive excerpt from  book, on the epic meeting of Stephen Colbert and Julian Assange.

1:40  My Nation colleague, Kevin Gosztola, who helps with links here has big new piece at WL Central on Egypt cables and Mubarak.

1:30 Much speculation growing about upcoming BBC "Panorama" program, rumored to be very critical of Assange, that will air next Monday -- the day of Assange's big court hearing.  Stay tuned.  Here's  the BBC preview. Assange last weekend in an interview said he expected it to be "a sleazy piece."

1:25 WikiLeaks' first online  "town hall" or roundtable or something with press and public did not happen and no word why.

1:20  Counterpunch's Michael Brenner with latest response to Keller hit on Assange in NYT.  New excerpt from my book just posted:  "Why Julian Assange Hates The New York Times" features sparring between Glenn Greenwald and John Burns.

1:10  Israel Shamir denies he is a "Holocaust denier" -- but a denier of the "morbid cult of Holocaust." and "modern obsession with massacres."

11:30  NYT editor Keller, despite current rocky relations with Assange, in NPR interview gives full credit (more than most) to Wikileaks cables as a major spark, or fuel, for the Tunisian revolt  (which in turn helped lead to Egypt revolt and so on). "... the circulation of the Wikileaks documents that talked about how the Ben-Ali regime lived high off the hog ... clearly did circulate widely and if it didn't start what happened in Tunisia, it certainly fueled it."

11:00 U.S. concerns growing about growth in number of Pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenal, soon to overtake UK, NYT reports today.  WikiLeaks cables  revealed some of this in December, plus Times has this key graf:  "In State Department cables released by WikiLeaks late last year, Anne Patterson, then the American ambassador to Pakistan, wrote of concerns that nuclear material in Pakistan’s laboratories was vulnerable to slow theft from insiders. The cables also revealed an American effort to deny its ally technology that it could use to upgrade its arsenal to plutonium weapons."

10:50  Former ambassador Carne Ross tweets on new cable:  "US embassy reports that improved US-Libya ties inc anti-terrorism have secured $3 billion new contracts for US companies." 

10:35  Cables helped expose Israel's use of computer worm to disrupt Iran's nuclear program, and now there's a report from AP that the use of the worm could have caused a Chernobyl-type accident.

10:20 The Guardian blog links to how WikiLeaks is changing the Germans....in language, at least.

9:50  New excerpt from my book just posted:  "Why Julian Assange Hates The New York Times." 

9:15  Today's laugh: Cable on Libya sending a "frogman" to Italy to train on detecting underwater explosives -- and he couldn't swim.

9:10  All soccer matches in Libya cancelled for fear of anti-gov't protests, partly due to latest cables.

8:40  Yes, despite the Egypt revolt, Al Jazeera does have time to report on Bradley Manning's confinement, video here.

8:35  Guardian live-blog as usual good on events in Egypt.  Plus, just up, top minister replaced in Jordan.

8:25  My new WikiLeaks book is now #1 bestseller at Blurb -- well, it's not exactly Amazon (but in this case, a good thing?).  Thanks for your support.  Another excerpt coming in a few minutes.

8:00 Yesterday's NYT front page covered massive corruption at Afghan's biggest bank.  Today:  the cables, from Aftenposten.  

7:50  The Overnight Report (by Asher Wolf)   Robert Parry at Alternet on the dangers of the "witchhunt" against Assange....  Larry Doyle of Dailymarkets.com suggests Wikileaks is more effective than the SEC... WSJ : 'Wikileaks vs. Wall Street in a war for our souls: Middle-class battles Super Rich in fight to the finish' ....Assange's lawyer has stated FOIA inspired WikiLeaks.... Assange wants to return his original hometown, Melbourne, Australia...

12:15 From Marketwatch: Wall Street terrified of WikiLeaks -- and Wikinomics.

12:10  Al Jazeera's live blog for historic day of protests in Egypt now.

12:05  Interesting break down here, a bit down on the page, of the number of cables, not found elsewhere, published by each news outlet.  So, for example, Afternposten and a Lebanese paper far outstrip the NYT.

From late Monday

David House in video talks about visit with Bradley Manning yesterday.  

Do I need to say this again to the lazy cynics?  WikiLeaks cables continue to prove valuable in so many ways.  Just check out this piece by the estimable James Mann at Foreign Policy on what they show about U.S. - China relations, how tense they are "in real time," and how one state dinner won't do much really.

My brand-new book: This is the only place it can be purchased now, with no Amazon or store sales.   It's a 156-page paperback, selling for $11.95, and can be shipped all over the world.  Hailed by Dan Ellsberg and Glenn Greenwald.   Covers events right through last  week.  Just posted, 2nd exclusive excerpt from  book, on the epic meeting of Stephen Colbert and Julian Assange.

@WikiLeaks tweets: "WikiLeaks releases 480 secret cables on Libya http://wikileaks.ch/reldate/2011-01-31_0.html ."

Another excerpt from The Guardian book which reveals that the paper's editor refused to share cables it planned to use with the State Dept. in a dramatic phone call --even refused to give them their ID numbers.  Yet the NYT, as editor Keller writes, shared quite a few and also decided not to publish some.

Another embarrassment from L.A. Times with headline: "R.I.P. WikiLeaks?"

Joe Klein at Time with hysterical attack on WIkiLeaks, or "WikiLoss" as he puts it.  Makes claims about damage done by cable that go way beyond what nearly anyone else is saying.  Says with no evidence at all that China has hacked into the entire cable cache.  Hails the prissy Bill Keller  NYT piece from Sunday.  Suggests Qaddafi could help al-Qaeda stage operaton from his country because he's ticked about buxom nurse cable. And so on.

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The Great Debate: Stephen Colbert vs. Julian Assange

Last night, Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes challenged Julian Assange on a variety of issues surrounding WikiLeaks, and failed miserably. But what happened last spring when Assange met a real master of the debate—Stephen Colbert?

Here is a second excerpt from my just-published book, THE AGE OF WIKILEAKS From Collateral Murder to Cablegate (and Beyond). It grew out of my popular daily live-blog here on all things WikiLeaks, but covers a lot more ground, such as the following….

During this first week of publicity for WikiLeaks after the release of the “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq, most Americans had only met Assange in brief snippets on the nightly news or on one of the cable programs. For a few million people (via its original airing and then on the web), a more revealing and intense introduction came from an unusual platform: Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. On April 12, Assange appeared for the trademark, show-closing interview with its host.

Sitting across from Assange, who was wearing a light-colored, open-necked shirt and his usual brown blazer, Colbert goofed around for a minute, his own face pixilated and voice modified to protect against a drone attack. (Some reports in the media suggested, with little evidence, that the US was conducting a manhunt for Assange and seeking to detain him.) When that charade ended he gave his guest a chance to explain US constitutional guarantees on freedom of speech and the press and the need for “the flow of information.”

Maintaining a light manner, Colbert said, “If we don’t know what the government is doing, we can’t be sad about it. Why are you trying to make me sad?” This produced a boyish grin from Assange. “You are trying to bum us out about the world. All of these terrible things are going on behind closed doors and you decided I needed to hear about it.”

“That’s just an interim state, Stephen, you’ll be happier about it later on,” Assange said, smiling again.

So far, a typical Colbert interview segment. But now Colbert got serious. “Let’s talk about this footage that has gotten you so much attention recently,” he said. “This is footage of an Apache helicopter attack in 2007. The army described this as a group that gave resistance during the fight, and that doesn’t seem to be happening. But there are armed men in the group, they did find a rocket-propelled grenade among the group, the Reuters photographers who were regrettably killed were not identified as photographers. And you have edited this tape, and you have given it a title called ‘Collateral Murder.’ That’s not leaking, that’s a pure editorial.”

Assange, no smile this time, explained, “the promise we make to our sources is that…we will attempt to get the maximum political impact for the materials they give to us.”

“So ‘Collateral Murder’ is to get it political impact?”

“Absolutely. Our promise to the public is that we will release the full source material…. it’s there for them to analyze and assess.”

“Actually I admire that,” Colbert said. “I admire someone who is willing to put ‘Collateral Murder’ on the first thing people see knowing that they probably won’t look at the rest of it.”

Assange grinned again, but Colbert continued: “That way you have manipulated the audience into the emotional state you want before something goes on the air. That is an emotional manipulation…. That’s journalism I can get behind,” he added, obviously tongue-in-cheek.

“That’s true,” Assange replied, “only one in ten people did actually look at the full footage.”

“So 90 percent of the people accept the definition of collateral murder?”

“Yes.”

“Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you believe it was collateral murder?”

“Yes.”

“You do? Did you get to make that call?”

“Yes. That was our call.”

“Really?” Turning to the audience, Colbert announced, “I want the Pentagon to know he is actually not in my studio right now.” After laughs from the crowd, Stephen returned on point: “How can you call that collateral murder?” Then hitting an uncharacteristic low blow, Colbert asked, “What branch of the service did you serve in, sir? Huh?”

Assange pointed out, “Well, I’m an Australian, actually.”

“You guys don’t fight down there? How can you call it collateral murder? I watched the entire thing, I’m one of that 10 percent. And you did not reveal there was a firefight that had gone on nearby.”

“Because that’s a lie.”

Colbert, caught off guard, paused, then replied, “That’s a lie?”

“We have records that showed all that there was, twenty-eight minutes before, was a report of small arms fire, the person involved and location not identified.”

“What were these men doing in the streets, uh, carrying rifles and rocket propelled grenades?”

Assange said “it appears that possibly” one man was carrying an AK-47 and one carrying an RPG, “although we’re not 100 percent sure of that…. However, the permission to engage was given before the word RPG was ever used and before the Reuters cameraman ever pulled up his camera.”

Colbert backed off and returned to witticisms. “What is the purpose of letting the public know—it’s as if you’re saying it is better to know than not to know. Have you not heard the expression, ‘Ignorance is bliss’?”

“All too frequently,” Assange said with a laugh and perfect timing.

Sensing the news value of the interview, Colbert’s people put the entire unedited segment online, at more than eleven minutes. As it turned out, there were a few choice moments rescued from the cutting room floor. Assange disclosed that twenty minutes were already missing from the middle of the video when WikiLeaks received the tape.

Then there was this exchange:

Colbert: “War is war. I haven’t fought in a war, therefore I don’t judge it. How can you judge it?”

“You can make the justification that, well, a lot of bad things happen in war, but what is war?” Assange replied. “Well, this is what it is.”

When his guest said he’d sent people to Baghdad to notify victims’ families about the video, Colbert asked about the soldiers in the helicopters. Does Assange think only civilians are harmed by war?

Assange replied rather eloquently: “Soldiers are debased in war, and this is one thing this video shows, that the character of these young soldiers in the air has been corrupted by the process of war. We should have some sympathy for these soldiers who go to war, but understand that it is an inevitable outcome in sending them, and stop sending them.”

Greg Mitchell's THE AGE OF WIKILEAKS now available in both print and E-book form.

 

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