Wikileaks: The Iraq War Logs

The big news this week is the release of 391,832 secret records that cover the U.S.’ Iraq War between 2004 and 2009, now being hailed as the biggest leak of official documents in history (that might be questionable, but certainly the most publicly accessible leak of that size). The logs can be accessed here:

Wikileaks teamed up with several news organizations, more this time than with the Afghan War Diary. You can find each organization’s dedicated pages below (Le Monde, at the time of writing, appeared to be the only one not to have a special Iraq War logs section), ranked in order of descending preference:

Since the media partners with an inside edge on analyzing the original documents will likely retain the monopoly in terms of most meaningful and useful reports, here are some of the first ones to be released that we recommend:

  1. Iraq Body Count: “Iraq War Logs: What the numbers reveal
  2. Iraq Body Count: “Iraq War Logs: The truth is in the details
  3. Iraq Body Count: “Iraq War Logs: Context
  4. BBC News: “Huge Wikileaks release shows US ‘ignored Iraq torture’
  5. Der Spiegel: “The WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs: Greatest Data Leak in US Military History
  6. Der Spiegel: “The WikiLeaks Disclosures: New Dimensions in the Iraq War
  7. CNN: “WikiLeaks redacted more information in latest documents release
  8. BIJ: “Pentagon response to publication of the war logs
  9. BIJ: “US soldier fires shots for fun
  10. BIJ: “US Apache guns down surrendering insurgents
  11. BIJ: “US troops ordered not to investigate Iraqi torture
  12. BIJ: “Hundreds of civilians gunned down at checkpoints
  13. BIJ: “Obama administration handed over detainees despite reports of torture
  14. BIJ: “Iraqi civilians used as minesweepers by a US soldier
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Debates in Digital Activism: Update

Biz Stone, co-founder and creative director of Twitter Inc., produces a response to Malcolm Gladwell: “Exclusive: Biz Stone on Twitter and Activism” (see the earlier post relevant to this). Everyone is an expert on activism these days, seemingly by virtue of being experts on social media. Interesting, because being an expert on issues concerning newsprint did not make one an expert on the Communist revolution in 1917. Stone’s argument in this article? Little things can make a big difference. He is unable to point to any “big difference” beyond media hype of discrete events. Sometimes little things are just that.

Evgeny Morozov’s forthcoming book, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, argues instead that “we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of ‘Internet freedom’ might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.” Though the book is still being prepared, two chapter excepts are being made available online: chapter 1 and chapter 7.

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Round Up of Wikileaks News: 01-21 October 2010

Important news that came to light in the last week of September, thanks to the “detective” work of Göran Rudling, has been assembled and outlined in Rixstep’s “Assange Case: Evidence Destroyed Over and Over Again.” We are shown evidence that Anna Ardin, one of Julian Assange’s two accusers, is partying up and enjoying herself during and after the time she is supposedly being “sexually molested.” She went to some lengths to eliminate the tweets that provide this evidence, but was clumsy, and left them up on one of her blogs. After she was confronted with this, she quickly deleted comments pointing this out, took down her blog, then launched it again with all of the tweets removed. It now seems even more likely that this was a set up and that Ardin engaged in false accusations, which under Swedish law carry a two year prison sentence. Perhaps Assange will consider suing for defamation.

Australian spies ‘may have tracked’ WikiLeaks founder,” says a report from AFP: “Australian spy agencies may have helped trace the movements of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.” What is not revealed is with which intelligence services of other states the information was shared.

As the next big Wikileaks release came due, we read: “Pentagon bracing for release of 400,000 secret Iraq reports.” In addition, the remaining 15,000 Afghan war documents, promised to be released since the end of August, are also supposedly due to come out. This is one list kept by a reporter detailing anticipated releases, what Wikileaks will publish, and when (especially given that the site has been down for weeks).

Two of the other main stories that attracted attention were:

(1) “WikiLeaks says funding has been blocked after government blacklisting” – “Founder Julian Assange hits out at decision by Moneybookers, which collects the whistleblowing website’s donations,” where we read that Moneybookers has clearly been pressed into terminating its business relationship with WL since WL was placed on a blacklist and watchlist by the governments of Australia and the U.S.

(2) An explosive article in the Los Angeles Times, “WikiLeaks and 9/11: What if?,” by Coleen Rowley (who was a special agent/legal counsel at the FBI) and Federal Air Marshal Bogdan Dzakovic (who once co-led the Federal Aviation Administration’s Red Team to probe for vulnerabilities in airport security). If 9/11 was not an “inside job” it certainly does not meant that the events happened with the aid of an inexplicable amount of criminal negligence on the part of knowledgeable U.S. authorities, with the facts formally excluded from the 9/11 Commission report.

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Chávez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in Twitter

Hopefully some academic(s) will write papers or books about how the Venezuelan governing party has made effective and sophisticated use of social media, in a way that is probably quite distinctive outside of the U.S. Besides Chávez’s blog, and very active Twitter account (which he uses to rally supporters in Twitter, and for exchanging public tweets with other Latin American presidents), the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has its own website, and another equally active Twitter account, as well as that of its youth wing in Twitter. This is where it gets interesting. In addition to mass producing blogs for each of its many electoral candidates (such as this one, to take one example from dozens listed on the front of the PSUV main website), it has stacked Twitter with accounts for dozens of operatives, many of them relatively anonymous yet in party uniform, such as DeltaAmacuroC1 and DeltaAmacuroC2, producing a greater force of numbers and message amplifiers. In addition, there are allied sites and accounts, such as the website of the Frente Francisco de Miranda, and its Twitter account. Merely documenting how all of these relate and correspond with one another, online and in public view, would be quite a task in itself, looking at which messages and at what time, around which issue, are forcefully moved to higher visibility through followers’ retweets for example.

To have a look at some of the competing social media campaigns by the PSUV’s rivals, see Primero Justicia (barely starting in Twitter) and Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) (also in Twitter)

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Taleban Don’t Twitter


"Oh no! Not the Twaleban!"

“The Taliban in recent months has developed increasingly sophisticated and nimble propaganda tactics that have alarmed U.S. officials struggling to curb the militant group’s growing influence across Afghanistan. U.S. officials and Afghan analysts say the Taliban has become adept at portraying the West as being on the brink of defeat, at exploiting rifts between Washington and Kabul and at disparaging the administration of President Hamid Karzai as a ‘puppet’ state with little reach outside the capital….

“As the radical Islamist movement steps up conventional grass-roots propaganda efforts and polishes its online presence – going so as far as to provide Facebook and Twitter icons online that allow readers to disseminate press releases – the U.S.-led coalition finds itself on the defensive in the media war…. ‘It’s been getting better,’ a U.S. intelligence official in Kabul said of the Taliban’s media strategy. ‘It’s become increasingly complex. It’s definitively something we worry about’.

“‘They are not fighting a war that involves military victories…Everything they do is to create a perception that the government can’t win’.”

The U.S. military, and its media mouthpieces in the U.S. such as the Washington Post (see this very funny piece from which the quotes above came: “U.S. struggles to counter Taliban propaganda”) have become increasingly post-modern: there is no real reality outside one’s mind, and victory or loss is purely a function of labeling and spin, there are no objective and concrete developments on the ground to which we can all refer. NATO and the U.S. are winning, if you have the correct mindset—and they are losing if you are a victim of Taleban spin.

Indeed, the Taleban’s spin machine is so complex now that they have Twitter and Facebook buttons! And how do we know it’s propaganda? Simple: it repeats the exact same things said about the Karzai administration that have been said by Washington, that it is corrupt and lacks popular support—because the reality is that Karzai’s regime is pristine, and wildly popular across all of…oh wait.

In the meantime, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan website, which is more often than not the target of jamming that prevents it loading, gets virtually no mention in Twitter, ever. Indeed, few seem to know the Taleban have a website (if it’s up), or may doubt that it is really their site. Their YouTube channel is virtually dead. As for their Twitter and Facebook buttons…I am not seeing any.

Clearly, the U.S. and NATO would have had this war in the bag by now, were it not for all those Twitter and Facebook buttons getting in the way. Is there anything to cheer NATO up? Yes, as the story indicates…the U.S. successfully mounted the Aisha hoax that won over…Americans, the target constituency of the Taleban? If it doesn’t make any sense, not to worry: it’s not supposed to.

Where do we find the effects of the Taleban’s slick media campaign? The assumptions, and implications, are to say the least damning. Major General Jim Molan, Australia’s highest ranking officer deployed to Iraq had this to say about “Taleban propaganda” a truly remarkable statement of fantasy motivated by an obvious attempt to smear and diminish:

“I think they’ve been remarkably successful in the western world because they have a very slick propaganda and media operations network and they’re very good at that. So the picture that we see through the media and through commentators is a lot different to what’s actually happening on the ground in Afghanistan.”

In other words, Molan is suggesting that Western media are in the back pocket of the Taleban, their sway being so immense, ubiquitous, and irresistible. Of course, it also suggests that by reporting any of the “bad” news, that Western media are doing the enemy’s propaganda work…just one inch away from calling the Western media the enemy.

As for Twitter, according to this article from the Annenberg School of Communication, “The Unused Weapon In Afghanistan? Twitter” (which with rapid ease labels the Taleban “terrorists”) it doesn’t seem like having a Twitter campaign would do anything for the Taleban. Besides, they are too busy kicking real ass in meatspace to think about polishing up their MySpace profile or creating Facebook groups. Indeed, contrary to the propaganda above, the Annenberg propaganda concludes: “The terrorists don’t seem to [sic] up-to-date on the newest social media technology.” No really? Taleb don’t Twitter?

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Wikileaks News Updates

Logo used by Wikileaks

Image via Wikipedia

The Congressional Research Service in the U.S. says that the publication by Wikileaks of the Afghan War Diaries is not “criminal.” It was not unlawful to publish the information, according to the report (which can be downloaded from here). The CRS report concludes: “although unlawful acquisition of information might be subject to criminal prosecution, the publication of that information remains protected.”

In Australia, Attorney General Robert McClelland (who is apparently unaware that Julian Assange is in the UK and not Sweden) said that Australia may pressure Sweden to prosecute Julian Assange or others linked to his whistleblower website WikiLeaks if planned releases of military documents outlining the Iraq and Afghanistan wars pose a risk to serving forces. Interestingly, the Attorney General would not comment on whether Australia had already assisted “other countries” in “pursuing” Wikileaks. It would also be interesting to see the authorities try to prove that troops were endangered, and if troop safety is the high water mark for public debate, why Australia chose to endanger its troops by sending them to Afghanistan, a country that never attacked nor threatened Australia, an act which is itself a violation of international law. The Attorney General, acting as war propagandist, claimed that Australian and other troops are “placing their personal safety at risk in the interests of defending their nations [and] promoting international security,” without explaining how the Afghan mission has anything at all to do with either goal.

An independent journalist has dedicated himself to questioning, and then exposing the apparent fabrication by Jeanne Whalen of the Wall Street Journal of a supposed letter sent to Wikileaks by five human rights organizations—a letter which Wikileaks itself affirmed it never received. It appears that a few of the signatories are neither human rights organizations, nor represented by persons entitled to speak for such organizations. The WSJ refuses to provide a copy of the original letter. For more see these two articles: first, “Why is Jeanne Whalen Stonewalling Me on Her WikiLeaks Story?,” then the latest, “More Errors Found in WSJ WikiLeaks Article.”

Also interesting and informative is coverage of Julian Assange’s London press conference on 30 September 2010, which without a live feed was tweeted by the audience and tracked and then analyzed on GeorgieBC’s blog: “The City University Debate ‘Too Much Information?’

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Breaking the Internet in the Name of Freedom? Internet Censorship and Domestic Spying in the U.S.

Sensuurimielenosoitus 4.3.2008 (Demonstration ...

Demonstration against Internet censorship in Helsinki, Finland, 2008: Image via Wikipedia

U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet,” by Charlie Savage in The New York Times speaks of Federal law enforcement and national security officials who “are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet” that would enable all Web communication services to be wiretapped. This surveillance bill is being marshaled by the Obama administration—seeking a transparent population ruled by a secretive government.

“The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.”

The government is seeking the following:

  • Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
  • Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
  • Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.

Censorship of the Internet Takes Center Stage in ‘Online Infringement’ Bill,” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), critically analyzes the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) introduced in the U.S. Senate which,

“would allow the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to break the Internet one domain at a time — by requiring domain registrars/registries, ISPs, DNS providers, and others to block Internet users from reaching certain websites. The bill would also create two Internet blacklists. The first is a list of all the websites hit with a censorship court order from the Attorney General. The second, more worrying, blacklist is a list of domain names that the Department of Justice determines — without judicial review — are ‘dedicated to infringing activities’.”

The EFF describes it as a censorship bill, broad in its scope of “infringing activities” and broad in its “solution,” which is to block entire domain names. The U.S. already blocks over 60 foreign websites, as indicated in the previous EE report. The EFF argues that COICA,

“sends the world the message that the United States approves of unilateral Internet censorship. Which governments deny their citizens access to parts of the Internet? For now, it is mostly totalitarian, profoundly anti-democratic regimes that keep their citizens from seeing the whole Internet. With this bill, the United States risks telling countries throughout the world, ‘Unilateral censorship of websites that the government doesn’t like is okay — and this is how you do it’.”

COICA would allow the government “to suppress truthful speech and could block access to a wealth of non-infringing speech,” in the name of protecting copyright, on behalf of an industry that the EFF argues only tried to break the Internet.

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