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More on the disappearance of Julian Assange

Apropos the last post, here are a couple of interesting links discussing the predicament of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who recently leaked a video showing US troops opening fire on a group of civilians in Iraq.

First, the Daily Beast has an interview with Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers back in the 1970s. Ellsberg claims he was the target of a US hit squad:

On May 3, 1972, a dozen CIA assets from the Bay of Pigs, Cuban émigrés were brought up from Miami with orders to “incapacitate me totally.” I said to the prosecutor, “What does that mean? Kill me.” He said, “It means to incapacitate you totally. But you have to understand these guys never use the word ‘kill.’”

As for Julian Assange being at risk:

Absolutely. On the same basis, I was….Obama is now proclaiming rights of life and death, being judge, jury, and executioner of Americans without due process.

Meanwhile, the politics editor of The Atlantic disagrees:

Assange is probably the safest person in the world right now, at least in so far as his ability to fend off arrest by the United States. […] If I were Assange, I wouldn’t  trust the U.S. government enough to believe their assurances that “we just want to talk to you.” However, the overriding interest of the U.S. counterintelligence establishment right now is in Assange NOT publishing additional secret information. The one way to ASSURE that the information gets published would be to detain, arrest, torture, kidnap, render, or assassinate Assange.

Regarding my question in the last post, concerning whether an outsider would make a distinction between WikiLeaks and the Icelandic government, I find Jessie’s comment interesting;

I don’t think it’s clear where the line is between Wikileaks and Iceland’s Parliament to an outsider. The recent New Yorker article helps some, but also makes clear that there are many Icelanders who are willing to help Wikileaks/Assange — not that that is a bad thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some ramifications from the US (not planes with bombs in them, but perhaps on a diplomatic level somehow).

I think it’s confusing to conflate transparency with what is clearly a political agenda on Assange’s part, but hey, I’m an American, so I must be blind.

As before, I’m interested to see whether there are Americans who feel the line between WikiLeaks and the Icelandic government is a bit blurry, particularly in view of recent developments in legislation.

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  • Martha Downs June 19, 2010, 3:39 pm

    Interesting….I didn’t feel the blur was so much with the Icelandic government, but that Jónsdóttir identifies pretty strongly with Assange..but how much she represents the Icelandic government or the Icelandic people I’d hesitate to say. But I, too, am an American. And, our so-called news magazines tend towards sensationalism, I’m not sure anyone was pursuing clarity in the interview.

  • Kris June 19, 2010, 4:34 pm

    I’m not an American, but my mom is via dual citizenship 😉 Is that close enough? I think we Icelandic people should just steer clear of this mess. High cost low benefit situation. There will always be risk in this type of investigative reporting. The risk does not go away, it is simply being transferred onto the Icelandic state. That is the cost. What is the benefit? Not a lot of countries are seeing the benefit: hint, hint.
    Is it blurry? That is not the issue. Dirt is political coin and used for all kinds of nefarious reasons. It’s a nasty business you may want to avoid.
    Better to keep you nose clean.

  • Michael Schulz June 19, 2010, 5:23 pm

    Dear Birgitta (Jónsdóttir), why don’t you comment and bring some clarity?
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • Kevin June 19, 2010, 5:35 pm

    I’m an American, and… well, what has that got to do with my perception of the blurry lines between Althingi and Wikileaks? They seem no more or less confusing to me than I would think they are to any outsider. This confusion doesn’t mean I am not in support of the work they are doing; on the contrary it should be seen as a feather in Iceland’s cap.

    But, as previous commenters have pointed out (esp. Michael Schulz last post), there needs to be a clear distinction made (by both WL and Iceland’s government) between secrecy and secretive behavior, and measures taken to ensure genuine confidentiality for informants. Iceland should pass laws that enable organizations like WikiLeaks to make Iceland their home–not be their fanboys and girls. Birgitta giving this cryptic interview to the sinister ABC anchor? Seems that this type of thing only fuels sensationalism rather than advancing the noble cause.

  • The Fred from the forums June 19, 2010, 5:51 pm

    The mainstream media don’t seem to be causing confusion. The typical American probably isn’t paying attention. I have, mercifully, no idea what Fox is saying.

  • Jeff Garland June 19, 2010, 6:43 pm

    The line which you refer to as blurry is crystal clear to me. IMMI is a private group of Icelandic citizens who are pushing transparency legislation which IMHO is extremely important to Icelandic citizens and the rest of the world as an added bonus. Wikileak’s Julian Assange is an adviser to the group due to his obvious expertise in making things transparent. It’s clear to me that Parliament has no involvement with Wikileaks or Julian, unless of course Iceland’s Members of Parliament are forbidden from having a life outside of the general assembly. Perhaps interviewing the persons under IMMI’s contact tab would sharpen the focus?: http://immi.is/?l=en&p=contact

    http://icelandweatherreport.com/2010/06/more-on-the-disappearance-of-julian-assange.html

  • Jessie June 19, 2010, 7:27 pm

    I’d just like to clarify my comment above. Birgitta Jónsdóttir was a self-proclaimed anarchist and political activist before she was elected to Parliament last year as a member of the Citizen’s Movement, whose main objective, I think, was to inject the voices of “ordinary” citizens into the day-to-day political process in Iceland.

    Having read her interview with The Daily Beast the other day, as well as The New Yorker article (Raffi Khatchadourian actually met Assange, Jónsdóttir, and several other Icelanders who helped edit the 2007 Iraq video), and now the ABC News segment, it is clear that she is personally a staunch supporter of Assange/Wikileaks. It is my understanding that she was the representative who introduced the IMMI to Parliament. That is why I felt the line between the “we” she refers to in the ABC segment seems a little murky from my point of view.

    As for Assange, I think Wikileaks has the potential to do a lot for democracy, but there is something off-putting about Assange. In the New Yorker article, he says, “To be completely impartial is to be an idiot. This would mean that we would have to treat the dust in the street the same as the lives of people who have been killed.” I disagree with this statement. Assange has claimed that he is not a journalist and that Wikileaks is not engaged in journalistic endeavors, yet he allegedly employed Icelandic journalists to fact-check the 2007 leaked video. He could have presented the video unedited (he did subsequently, after releasing a highly edited version), or even untitled, instead of “Collateral Murder,” and let his audience decide for themselves what they make of it. But I understand that to make things as sensationalist as possible is to make heads turnsand create page views and additional funding for his site.

    When you manipulate the way facts are presented, you manipulate reality. It is not only patronizing to the recipients of this information, but it is somehow deceitful. As someone who has never supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and never will, upon watching the “Collateral Damage” video, I found myself questioning Assange’s “message,” somehow feeling as though I wasn’t getting the full picture. Probably a lot of that was due to feeling so disgusted by what I saw, but some of that also had to do with feeling as though I was looking at the scene through a straw.

    Assange has been unremorseful about publishing information that has itself caused — for lack of a better term, collateral damage — to innocent people. For instance, the New Yorker piece mentions the site posted military documents with the social security numbers of soldiers. Now, I am certainly not suggesting that disclosing individual social security numbers is the same thing as killing innocent civilians, but this sort of stuff chips away at his credibility. If Assange is going to serve as the morality whistle-blower, then he needs to own up to his own behavior.

    Finally, I’d like to throw this out for consideration: No one is sure who calls the shots at Wikileaks and why have they killed stories like the State Department cables.*** Assange told the Telegraph that he is the final voice in Wikileaks. Is that a good thing to have one anti-establishment man be in charge of a site that can single-handedly destroy lives and careers?

    *** The Daily Beast article states:

    “Ms. Jonsdottir may help resolve one of the central mysteries of recent days in the WikiLeaks saga—what happened to the classified State Department cables that Manning is also alleged to have leaked to WikiLeaks.

    She said that Assange is telling the truth in his recent claims that he does not know if WikiLeaks has the cables—because the site’s electronic in-baskets have been so overwhelmed with leaked material in recent months that the site has not been able to dig the cables out, if they exist.”

    On the one hand, Wikileaks claims to have hundreds of volunteers, yet on the other hand, their spokesperson in Iceland is saying they don’t have enough people to go through all that has been leaked to their website. So, hundreds of State Department documents exposing corrupt leaders may be still be lying in their site. I wonder who made the editorial call that two anti-American military videos were more important than exposing corrupt political leaders that the State Department has information on?

    Of course, we apparently can’t ask Wikileaks to explain all such inconsistencies. It needs to operate in secrecy to expose corrupt political leaders.

  • Jeff Garland June 19, 2010, 7:29 pm
  • kevin June 19, 2010, 8:57 pm

    To me, as a US citizen, anything that supports and sustains honest and penetrating journalism in the world is heroic, and a true blessing. We are a blighted nation in that regard. Although, I do think that from this intense grit there may emerge a number of gleaming pearls. Hopefully sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we have Iceland!

  • alda June 19, 2010, 11:14 pm

    Thanks for the input everyone!

    Jeff Garland — I appreciate that the line is crystal clear to you, but you can hardly be classified as a common “outsider” since you seem very much involved with WikiLeaks and Birgitta.

  • rifek June 20, 2010, 1:30 am

    I’m a US citizen, currently in the US, and I have no problem distinguishing between a legislature and those protected by its legislation. As for Marc Ambinder, he’s clown shoes dipped in lame sauce. Does he honestly believe Assange is untouchable? And does he honestly believe Assange has no basis for believing there’s a threat?

  • Jeff Garland June 20, 2010, 2:47 am

    Jesse: In my opinion this is a war. The weapon is information. You seem to be saying that Julian is not allowed to use the same rules as the corporate media? Corporate media uses disinformation to grab attention, Julian used misinformation at worst. BTW, what word do you use for the act of intentionally killing someone in a questionable war, “damage”?

    Kevin: totally agree

    Alda, Alda, Alda,

    I am flattered that you would start such a rumor. Seeing as you used the word “seem” I will forgive you. I apologize if my strong interest in seeking and disseminating information regarding Iceland, Wikileaks, IMMI, “Iceland’s dreaded Water Act” http://tinyurl.com/25lzgpd and acting on it by writing to Island’s MPs has made you apparently believe I am “very much involved”. I am a mere mosquito and active loud cheerleader. The teams I root for are always playing on the fields of equality, freedom of speech, freedom of information, and responsible & equitable ownership of natural resources.
    Peace and Love,
    jg

    P.S. The common insulting term for foreigners, a common “outsider”, doesn’t fit because what I want to change is not Iceland or its culture. I want to change the world ! Iceland just happens to be the only pono country right now that is actually succeeding in a start to the Movement.

    “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of
    acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.
    Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”
    – James Madison –

  • Jeff Garland June 20, 2010, 3:39 am

    P.S. thank you for providing this electronic soapbox.

  • Jessie June 20, 2010, 1:13 pm

    Jeff: how can you say the line is crystal clear when Birgitta Jonsdottir is a member of Parliament and has worked closely with Assange/Wikileaks on at least the Apache video? (Are there others?) I am honestly curious.

  • alda June 20, 2010, 1:24 pm

    Jeff – to me, “involved” means being thoroughly acquainted with what someone is doing. To me, it appears that you are very much involved. I shall refrain from further discussion, including reacting to the patronizing tone of your comment, but will take this opportunity to kindly ask you to stop bombarding me with links. I didn’t ask for a loud and active cheerleader, and would appreciate less clutter in my inbox.

  • Jeff Garland June 20, 2010, 3:32 pm

    Jessiealda I guess we have to agree to disagree. Assuming the email address is the same for both egos, I have removed it from my address book. However, I may continue to make more contributions and purchases unless that will clutter your bank account. If so, let me know, I have not blocked your emails.

  • jo6pac June 20, 2010, 8:14 pm

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/06/18/wikileaks/index.html

    This is pretty good and I hope he can make his way to the Nice Place.

  • The Other Katherine Harris June 27, 2010, 4:40 am

    Alda, I can’t speak for “most Americans” — but we progressives who follow the news closely are most admiring of Iceland, both for the position taken concerning freedom of the press and for the example of a national referendum on whether or not to beggar yourselves on behalf of banksters who brought your economy down. No other country in the world is honestly operating as a democracy anymore. Bravo, Iceland!

  • The Other Katherine Harris June 27, 2010, 4:43 am

    And I should add: Please cherish your sovereignty and HANG ONTO IT. Joining the EU would be a disaster. Look what’s happening to the people across Europe — victims of deficit extortion by the same speculators who profited both from blowing the financial bubble and then bursting it.