Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou, and the shaman’s wrath

Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou, and the shaman’s wrath

Dan’s blog

Writing in 1982, the anthropologist Laura Betzig noted a parallel between two very-long-term trends in human societies.

The first trend is increasing inequality and hierarchy. Roughly speaking, early human societies evolved from relatively simple, egalitarian bands of hunters and gatherers, to more complex, hierarchical, unequal societies. Over time, as a general tendency, leaders, chiefs and kings emerged with ever stronger authority and powers.

The second trend is increasing injustice in dispute resolution — what Betzig called “asymmetry in the resolution of conflicts”. Roughly speaking, when there are disputes, they are resolved less and less on the merits of the case, and more and more on the power and wealth of the parties. The powerful tend increasingly to win disputes even if they are in the wrong. Asymmetric rules may develop: for instance, insulting a peasant has rarely had serious consequences, but not so with insulting the king.

Betzig found that these two trends (among others) are correlated. Those societies which are more hierarchical and unequal, tend also to be the ones with unjust dispute resolution. The more powerful the leader or chief or monarch, the more the strong prevail in disputes and the less the weak can expect justice.

Well, surprise, surprise, one might say. We do not exactly expect economic injustice or political authoritarianism to lead to legal justice — or any type of benevolence for that matter.

The details, nonetheless, are interesting. Betzig gives the example of the Tlingit, an indigenous society of North America, studied by the anthropologist Kalervo Oberg. In traditional Tlingit society,

  If a man of low rank was caught stealing from another clan, they could kill him for it. If he was high in rank, his clan could settle with the other by a payment in goods. And if he was of very high rank, he was said to have been bewitched.

That’s right: if you’re sufficiently powerful, commit a crime, and it will automatically be assumed someone put a spell on you to make you do it. Continue reading

Julian Assange addresses UN on human rights (Video)

Julian Assange addresses UN on human rights

26/sept/2012 by RussiaToday

Julian Assange addressed permanent representatives to the UN General Assembly at a high-level talk on the legal and ethical legitimacy of diplomatic asylum – READ MORE


WikiLeaks: Transcript of Julian Assange Address to the UN

WikiLeaks – Published: Thursday 27 September 3am BST

Transcript of Julian Assange’s Address to the UN on Human Rights – given on Wednesday 26th September – Proofed from live speech

Watch the speech

Foreign Minister Patino, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

I speak to you today as a free man, because despite having been detained for 659 days without charge, I am free in the most basic and important sense. I am free to speak my mind.

This freedom exists because the nation of Ecuador has granted me political asylum and other nations have rallied to support its decision.

And it is because of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that WikiLeaks is able to “receive and impart information… through any media, and any medium and regardless of frontiers”. And it is because of Article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines the right to seek asylum from persecution, and the 1951 Refugee Convention and other conventions produced by the United Nations that I am able to be protected along with others from political persecution.

It is thanks to the United Nations that I am able to exercise my inalienable right to seek protection from the arbitrary and excessive actions taken by governments against me and the staff and supporters of my organisation. It is because of the absolute prohibition on torture enshrined in customary international law and the UN Convention Against Torture that we stand firmly to denounce torture and war crimes, as an organisation, regardless of who the perpetrators are.

I would like to thank the courtesy afforded to me by the Government of Ecuador in providing me with the space here today speak once again at the UN, in circumstances very different to my intervention in the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.

Almost two years ago today, I spoke there about our work uncovering the torture and killing of over 100,000 Iraqi citizens.

But today I want to tell you an American story.

I want to tell you the story of a young American soldier in Iraq.

The soldier was born in Cresent Oaklahoma to a Welsh mother and US Navy father. His parents fell in love. His father was stationed at a US military base in Wales.

The soldier showed early promise as a boy, winning top prize at science fairs 3 years in a row.

He believed in the truth, and like all of us, hated hypocrisy.

He believed in liberty and the right for all of us to pursue happiness. He believed in the values that founded an independent United States. He believed in Madison, he believed in Jefferson and he believed in Paine. Like many teenagers, he was unsure what to do with his life, but he knew he wanted to defend his country and he knew he wanted to learn about the world. He entered the US military and, like his father, trained as an intelligence analyst.

In late 2009, aged 21, he was deployed to Iraq.

There, it is alleged, he saw a US military that often did not follow the rule of law, and in fact, engaged in murder and supported political corruption.

It is alleged, it was there, in Baghdad, in 2010 that he gave to WikiLeaks, and to the world, details that exposed the torture of Iraqis, the murder of journalists and the detailed records of over 120,000 civilian killings in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He is also alleged to have given WikiLeaks 251,000 US diplomatic cables, which then went on to help trigger the Arab Spring. This young soldier’s name is Bradley Manning. Continue reading

War crimes & truth-tellers: Baltasar Garzón and Julian Assange

September 15, 2012 – By Michael Ratner –>

Editors’ note: Starting this issue, The Volunteer will feature a quarterly guest column by a prominent Human Rights activist.

In dramatic news last month, Baltasar Garzón–the acclaimed Spanish lawyer and former judge who built his career on doggedly pursuing accountability for human rights crimes–agreed to head the legal defense team for Julian Assange in the Wikileaks publisher’s efforts to avoid extradition to the United States via Sweden.

If there is such a thing as a perfect match in this high-stakes legal predicament, this is it:  both men, are smart, courageous, and command worldwide respect for their willingness to speak truth to power. And in a trend that only serves to underscore the need for such truth-tellers, both have suffered severe consequences for their unwavering commitment to truth and accountability.

Garzón’s rise to global recognition can be most attributed to the international arrest warrant he issued against Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile, on the grounds that Spanish citizens were among the many whom his regime had tortured. The warrant, the first use of what is known as universal jurisdiction against a former head of state, resulted in Pinochet’s house arrest in London for 18 months. Fearing what Pinochet’s arrest might mean for their own high officials accused of committing human rights crimes, the world’s most powerful nations did not support Garzón, or the arrest and, ultimately, the United Kingdom allowed Pinochet to return to Chile.

Contrast the treatment of Pinochet, a man responsible for unspeakable horrors, with that of Julian Assange, a journalist who helped to expose them. Recently, the Government of Ecuador granted Assange asylum at their embassy in London after determining that he faces persecution in the United States. Rather than the respect afforded to such internationally protected persons, Assange finds himself confined to the embassy, police officers at the ready to detain him at  his first misstep. Extraordinarily, the British government has not stopped there, further violating fundamental protections of international law by threatening to storm the embassy. Had Assange been named Pinochet, he’d be on a first-class flight to Ecuador.

Yet despite attempts to silence both Garzón and Assange, neither shows signs of yielding to the pressure. Continue reading

Julian Assange: Why His Freedom Is Also Ours

26 august 2012

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). This is the motto of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is a quote from The Bible and in very noble tones, it speaks of truth. This article is also about truth. It is about those who tell it and those who fear it.

Julian Assange  told us the truth. He gave it to us unadulterated and without the sugar coating that we have come to expect from the big news outlets. We were treated like adults, given the truth and then allowed to make up our own minds without editorial comment or bias. Yes, he leaked documents that the United States Government would have preferred remain confidential but then so did Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation. It’s not as though Assange sat in a room somewhere and made up fiction in order to discredit the US Government, every word released was the truth. It actually happened. Journalist, hacker, all around bad guy, it doesn’t matter what label you put on him, when everything else is pushed away, all that is left is a man who told the truth. Bradley Manning or someone else went to Assange with information about the unsavory dealings of the United States Government and provided evidence to support those claims. Assange, for whatever motivation, decided to publish the allegations and the evidence that backed them up. They were not troop movements or the combination to the White House safe. The Wikileaks cables were diplomatic correspondence. Personal opinions on matters of state. In short, Julian Assange did nothing more than cause the United States government a little embarrassment. In the post 9/11 world, did the evidence of United States duplicity really come as such a shock to foreign governments?

Julian Assange has been accused of a crime in Sweden and in order for justice to be served, he should make himself available to be questioned. He has done that repeatedly but the Swedish government has refused. The questions and answers will be the same in London as they would be in Stockholm so what difference does it make where those questions are asked? The difference is that Assange is probably correct in his assumption that after Sweden, the next stop will be Guantanamo Bay. It defies belief that a man who has not been charged with a crime but is only wanted for questioning about a non-violent sex offense would be the subject of a hugely expensive international manhunt like this. It has to be costing the British taxpayer a fortune and to what end? Apart from skipping bail to go to the Ecuadorian Embassy, Julian Assange has committed no actual crime in England, his liberty is no threat to the British people yet they continue to foot the bill for what appears to be an American vendetta. Continue reading

Whistle blowing: don’t shoot the messengers

Suelette Dreyfys – 24 july 2012

Julian Assange’s story is complex, as illustrated by the insightful Four Corners Suelette Dreyfuspiece on Monday night.

But there is one element of the story that is quite simple. You’ll recognise it because it’s repeated throughout history. When there’s bad news, shoot the messenger. Whistleblowers know this better than most.

I first got to know Julian Assange when we worked together on the book Underground in 1997. He has a journalist’s nose for news, and he is fearless in his willingness to publish. A trait bound to earn one powerful enemies and he’s been accumulating them for years.

You don’t have to like Assange to recognise that what he is doing is important for democracies. He’s got a sharp tongue and a well-developed ego. But the journalistic landscape would be poorer without him.WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (AFP: Leon Neal)

There are many journalists out there who go soft when faced with the hard and the ugly. They self-censor. They don’t want to offend the powerful. No fear of that from Assange. He really believes it’s a journalist’s job to keep the bastards honest.

A recent Newspoll found that 81 per cent of Australians support whistleblowers for revealing serious wrongdoing, despite the fact they may have to reveal inside information to do it. A whopping 87 per cent of Australians believe that whistleblowers should be able to go to the media. There is overwhelming public support for strong whistleblower protection that defends those who go reveal the truth. Despite promises to introduce whistleblower protection laws after the last election, the Government has failed to deliver.

You can judge a society by how it treats its truth tellers. The Four Corners report illustrated all too painfully what happens when you tell truth to power.

The Gillard Government has abandoned Assange instead of using its ‘special relationship’ with the US administration to demand protection of its own citizen. The Obama administration has allowed the Marines to torture alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning. He has been held in prison for two years without trial, much of it with sleep deprivation, isolation and the humiliation of forcing him to stand naked before superior officers. Even the US State Department’s spokesman thought the torture was a questionable approach; he was effectively sacked for saying so. The Four Corners story carefully pieced together the details of the Swedish matter. Continue reading

Kellie Tranter: ‘Assange and Manning remind us we have a right to know’

Monday, July 16, 2012
Sydney rally to support WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, July 16. Photo: Peter Boyle

Human rights lawyer and activist Kellie Tranter gave the speech below at a July 16 rally in Sydney organised by the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition.

* * *

I’d like to thank those involved in coordinating today’s event, and for the invitation to speak.

I decided long ago, as no doubt many of you did also, that our governments’ continuing threats to the fundamental principles we hold so dear leave us no choice but to get involved, to protest, to interfere and to resist. It is our common sense of injustice that brings us to the steps of the Sydney Town Hall today, and I sincerely thank you for coming.

How fortuitous that this very day the NSW ALP are debating and developing policy inside the Town Hall just behind us. The stated basic principles of the ALP NSW branch include the recognition and protection of fundamental political and civil rights, including freedom of expression, the press, assembly, association, conscience and religion; the protection of the individual from oppression by the state; and an independent Australian position in world affairs. Let’s hope those principles guide their policies!

When it comes to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks these principles sadly lie dormant, just words on paper. But as citizens and as voters, it is you and I who can and must give them life.

With a federal election around the corner we need as many people as possible to form partnerships, to pool resources, to continue to rally, to speak out publicly and online, to educate others, to build a war chest for independent polls, billboard signs, television ads and advertisements, and to sign petitions. We need to ask every sitting member of the major political parties where they stand on this issue, and to take the campaign to the streets of every marginal electorate. All you need to do is play whatever part you can, even a small part: keep coming to public meetings, volunteer to lend a hand where you can, keep spirits high and don’t leave the burdens of the campaign to be carried by a committed few.

The good news is that the work for Assange and WikiLeaks has well and truly begun. So with social media being as it is, I thought I’d try to give our campaign a further lift by appealing for help from the most powerful force in the United States. Not the President, or the democrats, or the republicans; not even the corporations. That force is the people of the United States of America. Continue reading

Julian Assange: The Price of Being a Western Dissident

by Wei Ling Chua / June 15th, 2012

Julian Assange is doing humanity a favour by exposing through the US Embassy Cables that “Oil motivates U.S. policy more than fighting terrorists” and that the killing and torturing of tens of thousands of civilians by the US and NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan through the Iraq War Logs and Afghanistan War Logs is evidence of war crimes.

However, to Assange’s dismay, as a western dissident, he does not enjoy the soft-power of being a Chinese dissident. The “free” world politicians fail to acknowledge the nobility of his work in exposing human rights violations and war crimes committed by NATO and the US. President Obama described his act as a “deplorable documents dump”; former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich believed that he should be “ treated as an enemy combatant”; Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell called him a “high-tech terrorist”; while Sarah Palin wanted him to be “hunted down like al-Qaeda.” Other politicians including some mainstream media “pundits openly call for his death.”

As an instant response, WikiLeaks has been blocked from being accessed by federal employees of the US. It is the same in Germany.

In Canada, censors blocked his WikiLeaks website; Interpol issued an arrest warrant and the key advisor to Canada’s PM Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, called for his assassination by drone.

Facebook reportedly deleted his WikiLeaks page together with his 30,000 fans; US government funded press watchdog (press freedom group), Reporters Without Borders accused him of “irresponsible.”

His sources of finance have been blocked by western corporations such as VISA, MasterCard, Amazon, PayPal, Western Union and Bank of America. As a result, WikiLeaks was forced to shut down briefly in 2010 due to their inability to plug the funding gap.

We can hardly find the mainstream western media showing any zest in promoting him as a human rights campaigner or press freedom fighter. In fact, as The Australian has observed, “the editors turn on him”; The Guardian noticed that “more American journalists back away from WikiLeaks and Assange.” An opinion piece in the Washington Post called for his prosecution and reform of the espionage law. Continue reading

Breaking the Silence: Beyond the Doctrine of Nihilism


“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This familiar philosophical question came to my mind in response to a friend’s challenge of my support for WikiLeaks and call for investigation into the recent shooting of a black teen in Florida. She said, “How do you know what the truth is? How do you know that George Zimmerman didn’t act in self-defense? How do you know that Julian Assange didn’t sexually assault women in Scandinavia? … Unless you get on an airplane, go the scene of the action, and see for yourself, you can’t be absolutely certain. You can check and crosscheck multiple different sources and you can draw reasonable inferences, but you still have to inject a certain amount of faith unless you conduct your own personal investigation”.

It is true. We were not there at the moment of Trayvon Martin’s death. Someone pulled the trigger and as a result the young man was dead. At the moment of his death, the neighbor’s 911 call recorded someone crying for help. Someone was being threatened. Was it Zimmerman or Martin? We don’t know if this was a murder or an act of self defense by Zimmerman. When the tree fell down, we were not in the woods to hear it.

Later I contemplated my friend’s perspective and realized how it represents a psychological condition prevalent in American society. It is a kind of social disease, which perhaps explains the public silence around many problems in the world. This is a kind of belief system that says; I wasn’t there. I don’t know the truth, so I withhold judgment and remain aloof.

But this is why there is investigative journalism. The journalist’s role is to get as close as possible to an incident and report the story on behalf of those who were not there. For instance, the Bahrain revolution was totally blacked out from the international media. While many reporters left the country, a brave filmmaker, May Ying Welsh, the only Western television journalist to stay, went undercover and documented it from beginning to end. She put forward her footage “Shouting in the Dark” for the whole world to see. Another example is Jeremy Scahill who investigated the violent impunity of the private mercenary army BlackWater, now named Academi. His reporting showed the American people how their tax money is used to support hired assassins in the Middle East.

Through these brave journalists, our senses are extended. We hear with their ears and see through their eyes events that we ourselves cannot witness. Though I alone cannot hear the sound of the tree falling, I can vicariously experience it by entering the space and time in which the incident occurred and relive it as if it is happening in the present moment.

Yet, how much real investigative reporting is happening? Continue reading

Truth of Assange is stranger than fiction

Elizabeth Farrelly – April 12, 2012

I’m not given to conspiracy theories, incompetence being so much easier to imagine, but one thing gives credibility to Clive Palmer’s otherwise nutty CIA phantasm about US influence in Australia.

<em>Illustration: Aragon</em>It is Julian Assange, a story that hinges on the uncomfortable relationship between truth and power.

We expect truth-telling from our four-year-olds but not from our politicians. In the case of Assange, truth is actively and repeatedly punished.

This implies that, as you move up through society’s power strata, there’s a point where morality flips.

A sort of moral inversion layer, beneath which the rules apply but above which they’re reversed.

The modern Labor Party seems to illustrate this as well as anyone.

It seemed rather a giggle last year when, after their electoral drubbing, NSW Labor felt the need for ethics classes to learn how to be “honest with ourselves and … the people we represent”. But prolonged electroconvulsive therapy might have been more in order, for whichever thread you pull, the last decade of Labor emerges like an episode of the Jason Bourne film franchise.

Start anywhere. Say, at Mark Arbib. Arbib, then a Labor senator crucial in deposing a first-term prime minister and crowning Julia Gillard, was later revealed as a secret US government source. He also owned a beachfront apartment in Maroubra, built by a Labor donor developer, as did Labor’s former NSW treasurer Eric Roozendaal, both in the very same block where Moses Obeid, son of Labor MLC Eddie, also resided. Continue reading