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Archive for the ‘WikiLeaks’ Category

Libya: Five Years On

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Five years ago, Libya’s one-time strongman Muammar Gaddafi was brutally murdered and mutilated by NATO and its Islamist allies on the ground.[1] Now, the writer and commentator John Wight argues that “Gaddafi’s crime in the eyes of the West was not that he was an authoritarian dictator – how could it be when their closest ally in the region is Saudi Arabia? His crime in their eyes, it was revealed in a tranche of classified Clinton emails, released by Wikileaks in January of [2016], was his intention of establishing a gold-backed currency to compete with the euro and the dollar as an international reserve currency in Africa. In this regard the then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and then US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, were key actors in pushing for NATO intervention. Libyan oil was also a factor”.[2]

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On April Fools’ Day 2011, Sidney Blumenthal, former aide to President Bill Clinton, long-time confidante to Hillary Clinton, (as well as being a sometime journalist) e-mailed the following missive to Hillary Clinton, then-Secretary of State (21 January 2009 – 1 February 2013): “According to sensitive information available to . . . these individuals, Qaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver. During late March, 2011 these stocks were moved to SABHA (south west in the direction of the Libyan border with Niger and Chad); taken from the vaults of the Libyan Central Bank in Tripoli. This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French.franc (CFA)”. And then adding this important note: “(Source Comment: According to knowledgeable individuals this quantity of gold and silver is valued at more than $7 billion. French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began, and this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya. According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues: a. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production, b.Increase French influence in North Africa, c. Improve his intemai political situation in France, d. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world, e. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa)”.[3]

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Blumenthal’s electronic missive purports that the driving force behind Gaddafi’s fall from grace and his subsequent bloody death was none other than the diminutive French President of Hungarian descent Nicolas Sarkozy, serving in the Élysée Palace between 16 May 2007 until 15 May 2012. As put by Wight, the “classified emails prove beyond any doubt that what took place in Libya was a monstrous crime for which those responsible have yet to be held accountable. On the contrary, Sarkozy is currently in the process of preparing a political return as French president, while Hillary Clinton is favorite to win the race for the White House against Republican nominee Donald Trump”, continuing that “[o]f the two, it is Clinton who was filmed clapping her hands and laughing at the news of Muammar Gaddafi’s murder in 2011. It is Clinton who pressed for the military intervention that ended in Libya’s destruction. And it is Hillary Clinton who has the gall to present herself as a moral giant in comparison to her rival for the US presidency”.[4]

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[1] “Whither Libya??? The Execution of Gadhafi, the NTC, and a New Prime Minister” The Erimtan Angle (02 Nov 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/whither-libya-the-execution-of-gadhafi-the-ntc-and-a-new-prime-minister/

[2] John Wight, “Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi” CounterPunch (21 Oct 2016). http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/21/hillary-clinton-and-the-brutal-murder-of-qaddafi/.

[3] “H: FRANCE’S CLIENT & Q’S GOLD. SID” ‘Hillary Clinton Email Archive’ WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/6528.

[4] John Wight, “Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi”.

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Caliphal Co-Founder: Hillary Rodham Clinton

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 Some time ago, the Drumpf (aka Donald J. Trump) shocked the world by saying: “No, I meant [Obama]’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton”.[1] In spite of his poor grasp of the English language, Drumpf was clearly accusing his Democratic rival of having been behind the Caliph’s sudden rise to infamy on the world stage. And then, the exiled Julian Assange dropped another time bomb: “Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said that Wikileaks have obtained information that, when released soon, will guarantee a Hillary Clinton indictment”.[2] On Tuesday, 11 October 2016, then, “Wikileaks released what is, by far, the most devastating leak of the entire campaign. This makes Trump’s dirty talk video looks like an episode of Barney and Friends”.[3]

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In order to make these revelations more readily intelligible, I would now like to quote the above-reproduced e-mail message: “*From*: John Podesta [mailto:john.podesta@gmail.com]” “*To*: H” [aka “H” <hrod17@clintonemail.com> aka Hillary Rodham Clinton], stating that “[a]rmed with proper equipment, and working with U.S. advisors, the >> Peshmerga can attack the ISIL with a coordinated assault supported from the >> air. This effort will come as a surprise to the ISIL, whose leaders >> believe we will always stop with targeted bombing, and weaken them both in >> Iraq and inside of Syria. At the same time we should return to plans to >> provide the FSA, or some group of moderate forces, with equipment that will >> allow them to deal with a weakened ISIL, and stepped up operations against >> the Syrian regime. This entire effort should be done with a low profile, >> avoiding the massive traditional military operations that are at best >> temporary solutions. While this military/para-military operation is moving >> forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence >> assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, >> which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region. This effort will be enhanced by >> the stepped up commitment in the KRG. The Qataris and Saudis will be put >> in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to >> dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure. By >> the same token, the threat of similar, realistic U.S. operations will serve >> to assist moderate forces in Libya, Lebanon, and even Jordan, where >> insurgents are increasingly fascinated by the ISIL success in Iraq”.[4]

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The U.S. is thus supporting the Peshmerga, the FSA or “or some group of moderate forces” as well as cooperating with the “governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia”, “which are [in turn] providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region” . . . While these sentences might come as a surprise to some, those in the know have known this all along . . . Still, the above-quoted e-mail missive shows the complicity of the Obama White House in full living colour . . . After all, Mister Podesta is at present the “Chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. [who] previously served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton and Counselor to President Barack Obama”.[5]

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[1] Tal Kopan,” Donald Trump: I meant that Obama founded ISIS, literally” CNN Politics (12 August 2016). http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/11/politics/donald-trump-hugh-hewitt-obama-founder-isis/.

[2] “Julian Assange: My Next Leak Will Ensure Hillary’s Arrest” Anonymous (s.d.). http://www.anonews.co/hillary-assange/.

[3] “IT’S OVER: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked & It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined…” Friends of Syria (11 Oct 2016). https://friendsofsyria.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/its-over-hillarys-isis-email-just-leaked-its-worse-than-anyone-could-have-imagined/.

[4] “Congrats!” WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/3774.

[5] “John Podesta” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Podesta.

Panama Papers: The Revolution Will Be Digitized

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About a month ago, the Panama Papers were first revealed . . . and the world has never been the same, or rather, for a few days the whole world was abuzz but then the buzz died down and people went about their business as usual. In the coming days, the whole circus is set to start up anew: “On May 9 ICIJ will publish information about secret offshore companies and the people behind them, based on data from the Panama Papers investigation. The searchable database will include information about more than 200,000 companies, trusts, foundations and funds incorporated in 21 tax havens, from Hong Kong to Nevada in the United States”.

Panama Papers (2016)

John Doe has now broken his silence and issued a public statement explaining himself: “Titled The Revolution Will Be Digitized the 1800-word statement gives justification for the leak, saying that “income inequality is one of the defining issues of our time” and says that government authorities need to do more to address it. Süddeutsche Zeitung has authenticated that the statement came from the Panama Papers source”.[i] And here are some of his words: “Income inequality is one of the defining issues of our time. It affects all of us, the world over. The debate over its sudden acceleration has raged for years, with politicians, academics and activists alike helpless to stop its steady growth despite countless speeches, statistical analyses, a few meagre protests, and the occasional documentary. Still, questions remain: why? And why now? The Panama Papers provide a compelling answer to these questions: massive, pervasive corruption. And it’s not a coincidence that the answer comes from a law firm. More than just a cog in the machine of ‘wealth management’, Mossack Fonseca used its influence to write and bend laws worldwide to favour the interests of criminals over a period of decades. In the case of the island of Niue, the firm essentially ran a tax haven from start to finish. Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack would have us believe that their firm’s shell companies, sometimes called ‘special purpose vehicles’, are just like cars. But used car salesmen don’t write laws. And the only ‘special purpose’ of the vehicles they produced was too often fraud, on a grand scale”.[2]

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And then, John Doe goes on to explain himself: “For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor, and I never have. My viewpoint is entirely my own, as was my decision to share the documents with Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), not for any specific political purpose, but simply because I understood enough about their contents to realize the scale of the injustices they described. The prevailing media narrative thus far has focused on the scandal of what is legal and allowed in this system. What is allowed is indeed scandalous and must be changed. But we must not lose sight of another important fact: the law firm, its founders, and employees actually did knowingly violate myriad laws worldwide, repeatedly. Publicly they plead ignorance, but the documents show detailed knowledge and deliberate wrongdoing. At the very least we already know that Mossack personally perjured himself before a federal court in Nevada, and we also know that his information technology staff attempted to cover up the underlying lies. They should all be prosecuted accordingly with no special treatment. In the end, thousands of prosecutions could stem from the Panama Papers, if only law enforcement could access and evaluate the actual documents. ICIJ and its partner publications have rightly stated that they will not provide them to law enforcement agencies. I, however, would be willing to cooperate with law enforcement to the extent that I am able”.[3]

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As an apparently self-conscious and strong-willed whistleblower and moral crusader, John Doe then goes on to make the following case: “I call on the European Commission, the British Parliament, the United States Congress, and all nations to take swift action not only to protect whistleblowers, but to put an end to the global abuse of corporate registers. In the European Union, every member state’s corporate register should be freely accessible, with detailed data plainly available on ultimate beneficial owners. The United Kingdom can be proud of its domestic initiatives thus far, but it still has a vital role to play by ending financial secrecy on its various island territories, which are unquestionably the cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide. And the United States can clearly no longer trust its fifty states to make sound decisions about their own corporate data. It is long past time for Congress to step in and force transparency by setting standards for disclosure and public access. And while it’s one thing to extol the virtues of government transparency at summits and in sound bites, it’s quite another to actually implement it. It is an open secret that in the United States, elected representatives spend the majority of their time fundraising. Tax evasion cannot possibly be fixed while elected officials are pleading for money from the very elites who have the strongest incentives to avoid taxes relative to any other segment of the population. These unsavoury political practices have come full circle and they are irreconcilable. Reform of America’s broken campaign finance system cannot wait. Of course, those are hardly the only issues that need fixing. Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand has been curiously quiet about his country’s role in enabling the financial fraud Mecca that is the Cook Islands. In Britain, the Tories have been shameless about concealing their own practices involving offshore companies, while Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the United States Treasury, just announced her resignation to work instead for HSBC, one of the most notorious banks on the planet (not coincidentally headquartered in London). And so the familiar swish of America’s revolving door echoes amidst deafening global silence from thousands of yet-to-be-discovered ultimate beneficial owners who are likely praying that her replacement is equally spineless. In the face of political cowardice, it’s tempting to yield to defeatism, to argue that the status quo remains fundamentally unchanged, while the Panama Papers are, if nothing else, a glaring symptom of our society’s progressively diseased and decaying moral”.[4]

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Finally, John Doe calls for a revolution: “Democratic governance depends upon responsible individuals throughout the entire system who understand and uphold the law, not who understand and exploit it. On average, lawyers have become so deeply corrupt that it is imperative for major changes in the profession to take place, far beyond the meek proposals already on the table. To start, the term ‘legal ethics’, upon which codes of conduct and licensure are nominally based, has become an oxymoron. Mossack Fonseca did not work in a vacuum—despite repeated fines and documented regulatory violations, it found allies and clients at major law firms in virtually every nation. If the industry’s shattered economics were not already evidence enough, there is now no denying that lawyers can no longer be permitted to regulate one another. It simply doesn’t work. Those able to pay the most can always find a lawyer to serve their ends, whether that lawyer is at Mossack Fonseca or another firm of which we remain unaware. What about the rest of society? The collective impact of these failures has been a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery. In this system—our system—the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart where the intangible shackles are carefully hidden amongst reams of unreachable legalese. The horrific magnitude of detriment to the world should shock us all awake. But when it takes a whistleblower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern. It signals that democracy’s checks and balances have all failed, that the breakdown is systemic, and that severe instability could be just around the corner. So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions. Historians can easily recount how issues involving taxation and imbalances of power have led to revolutions in ages past. Then, military might was necessary to subjugate peoples, whereas now, curtailing information access is just as effective or more so, since the act is often invisible. Yet we live in a time of inexpensive, limitless digital storage and fast internet connections that transcend national boundaries. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots: from start to finish, inception to global media distribution, the next revolution will be digitized. Or perhaps it has already begun”.[5]

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[1] “Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come” ICIJ. https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160506-john-doe-statement.html.

[2] “Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come”.

[3] “Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come”.

[4] “Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come”.

[5] “Panama Papers Source Offers Documents To Governments, Hints At More To Come”.

SNOWDEN

Snowden-2016SNOWDEN stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and is written and directed by Academy Award-Winning Director Oliver Stone. The script is based on the books The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. Published on Apr 27, 2016.

Annalee Newitz writes that “it’s no surprise that Oliver Stone, a master of political thrillers, is turning the real-life version of Snowden’s experiences into a movie that feels—at least in the trailer—as tense and exciting as the latest Mission Impossible installment. Which is good but also means that you’ll need to forgive this movie for its unrealistic tech tropes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper) does a pitch-perfect impression of Snowden as a patriotic geek with smartass tendencies. Injured during military training, he sets his sights on intelligence work, where he scores off the charts on every task the government throws at him. And then one night, one of his fellow intelligence geeks shows him a tool that they can use to spy on everyone in the country. As Snowden has a crisis of conscience, we’re treated to one of those classic ‘hacking scene’ moments where a nonexistent piece of software behaves in ways that make no sense, swirling around and showing us random pieces of private data from all the social networks ever. I know, I know. This is not how it happened. Just go with it. Probably the best part of the trailer, which captures both the serious and mischievous sides of Snowden, is when we see him sneaking data out of the NSA contractor where he works by hiding it on an SD card inside a Rubik’s Cube. Then we see a rapid-fire series of scenes where the stakes get higher, Snowden meets with Glenn Greenwald (played by Zachary Quinto, AKA Spock), and the tension mounts as blinky lights illuminate everybody’s faces. It’s satisfying to see events that aroused so much passion around the world translated into an emotionally gripping story. But ‘story’ is the operative term here. Stone, who co-wrote the film, has taken a lot of liberties to turn this tale of people typing and talking into a suspenseful drama”.[1]

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[1] Annalee Newitz, ” Oliver Stone’s Snowden looks like the greatest techno-thriller ever” ars technica (27 April 2016). http://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2016/04/oliver-stones-snowden-looks-like-the-greatest-techno-thriller-ever/.

Orwellian Google: Assange Talks Afshin Rattansi

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‘Afshin Rattansi goes underground on when WikiLeaks met Google. Julian Assange discusses the meeting he had in 2011 with Eric Schmidt, then a top executive and now chairman of Google, and 3 others. He says the meeting was nominally over a book that was being written, which was published and had pre-publication endorsements from the likes of Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger, but the question he wanted to know was why was this book being written? He examines the networks behind Google, and their ‘in-house state department’ Google ideas, and reveals that they are pushing the position that the State should control what is and is not published, to the extent of a state body overseeing whistleblowers that they have to go through before they can release any material. He says that Google is in bed with the state department, citing as an example that the girlfriend of Eric Schmidt contacted him regarding arranging a meeting with Hilary Clinton. He also points out that the argument the US military use against WikiLeaks, that the publication of cables could theoretically cause harm, was undermined when the general charged with investigating any harm caused by WikiLeaks testified under oath at the trial of Chelsea Manning that they couldn’t find a single person that had been harmed. He also talks about the mistakes he believe the Guardian made, and how HBGary tendered $2 million a month to attack WikiLeaks and Glen Greenwald. He talks about some of the more recent publications he has made, such as FinFisher, a cyberweapon which can hijack mobile phones and turn on the microphone, and can infect massive amounts of computers by putting itself in the major gateway of a country or ISP. He warns whilst people may be suspicious of the intentions of the NSA and the like regarding the internet, associations you may perceive to be working the other way are funded by the same players. He also points out that the amount of people with security clearances in the US has more than doubled since 2010, with 6 million people now part of this ‘state within a state’ who are subject to extra laws and requirements that are classified – ‘an extremely alarming phenomenon’. Published on Sep 22, 2014′.

 

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Going Underground: Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks Files

‘Afshin Rattansi goes underground with the world’s most wanted publisher – the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. He has just co-authored a book – The WikiLeaks Files, and it paints a picture of systemic US torture and killing as well as the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of billions of people right around the world. Published on Sep 9, 2015′.

Assange said that in the WikiLeaks trove of treasures there “is a cable from US Ambassador William Roebuck, who was stationed in Damascus, which apparently discusses a plan for the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria”; expanding as follows, “[t]hat plan was to use a number of different factors to create paranoia within the Syrian government; to push it to overreact, to make it fear there’s a coup”.[1]  Assange details then that the plan was “to take rumors that are known to be false . . . or exaggerations and promote them – that Iran is trying to convert poor Sunnis, and to work with Saudi and Egypt to foster that perception in order to make it harder for Iran to have influence, and also harder for the government to have influence in the population”.[2]

On the WikiLeaks website, one can read that ‘s cable literally put it like this: “There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business. Both the local Egyptian and Saudi missions here, (as well as prominent Syrian Sunni religious leaders), are giving increasing attention to the matter and we should coordinate more closely with their governments on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on the issue”.[3]  The cable continues that “[w]e should continue to encourage the Saudis and others to allow Khaddam [‘(Abdul Halim) Khaddam and the National Salvation Front’, based in Belgium] access to their media outlets, providing him with venues for airing the SARG,s dirty laundry.  We should anticipate an overreaction by the regime that will add to its isolation and alienation from its Arab neighbors”.[4]  Earlier in the cable Roebuck says that “Bashar,s [sic] reaction to the prospect of Hariri tribunal and to publicity for Khaddam and the National Salvation Front borders on the irrational”.[5]

The good folks at Wikipedia then inform us that Abdul Halim Khaddam (born in 1932) ‘is a Syrian politician who was Vice President of Syria from 1984 to 2005. He was one of the few Sunni Muslims to make it to the top of the Alawite-dominated Syrian leadership. He was long known as a loyalist of Hafez Assad, and held a strong position within the Syrian government until he resigned his positions and fled the country in 2005 in protest against certain policies of Hafez’s son and successor, Bashar Assad’.[6]  In January 2006, the New York Times reported that a “former Syrian vice president, Abdel-Halim Khaddam, ratcheted up his allegations against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Thursday [, 6 January 2006] and said that Mr. Assad’s rule might not survive the political crisis caused by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon and the ensuing United Nations investigation. Last week, Mr. Khaddam caused an international furor when he told the satellite network Al Arabiya that Mr. Assad and other Syrian officials had threatened Mr. Hariri in the months before his death in a Beirut truck bombing in February 2005. In doing so, Mr. Khaddam became the most senior member of the Syrian inner circle to break ranks publicly “.[7]

The Roebuck cable also indicates that “[t]he [Assad] regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and military. Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to meet with figures like Khaddam and Rif,at [sic] Asad [,Bashar al-Assad’s uncle] as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate leaking of the meetings afterwards. This again touches on this insular regime,s [sic] paranoia and increases the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction”.[8]

[1] Kit O’Connell, “Julian Assange: US & Israel Planned To Overthrow Assad In 2006” MintPress News (14 Sep 2015). http://www.mintpressnews.com/julian-assange-us-israel-planned-to-overthrow-assad-in-2006/209493/.

[2] Kit O’Connell, “Julian Assange: US & Israel Planned To Overthrow Assad In 2006”.

[3] “INFLUENCING THE SARG IN THE END OF 2006” WikiLeaks (2006 December 13, 16:03). https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06DAMASCUS5399_a.html.

[4] “INFLUENCING THE SARG IN THE END OF 2006”.

[5] “INFLUENCING THE SARG IN THE END OF 2006”.

[6] “Abdul Halim Khaddam” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Halim_Khaddam.

[7] Hassan M. Fattah, “A Critic, in Exile, Aims More Barbs at the President of Syria” The New York Times (06 January 2006). http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/06/international/middleeast/06syria.html?_r=0.

[8] “INFLUENCING THE SARG IN THE END OF 2006”.

Saudi Leaks: Assange is Back!!!

The Associated Press reports from Istanbul that “WikiLeaks is in the process of publishing more than 500,000 Saudi diplomatic documents to the Internet, the transparency website said Friday [, 19 June 2015], a move that echoes its famous release of U.S. State Department cables in 2010 . . . WikiLeaks said in a statement that it has already posted roughly 60,000 files. Most of them appear to be in Arabic. There was no immediate way to verify the authenticity of the documents, although WikiLeaks has a long track record of hosting large-scale leaks of government material. Many of the documents carried green letterhead marked ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ or ‘Ministry of Foreign Affairs’. Some were marked ‘urgent’ or ‘classified’. At least one appeared to be from the Saudi Embassy in Washington. If genuine, the documents would offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the notoriously opaque kingdom. They might also shed light on Riyadh’s longstanding regional rivalry with Iran, its support for Syrian rebels and Egypt’s military-backed government, and its opposition to an emerging international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program. One of the documents, dated to 2012, appears to highlight Saudi Arabia’s well-known skepticism about the Iranian nuclear talks. A message from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran to the Foreign Ministry in Riyadh describes ‘flirting American messages’ being carried to Iran via an unnamed Turkish mediator. Another 2012 missive, this time sent from the Saudi Embassy in Abu Dhabi, said the United Arab Emirates was putting ‘heavy pressure’ on the Egyptian government not to try former president Hosni Mubarak, who had been overthrown in a popular uprising the year before”.[1]

Going down the nitty-gritty, the AP report continues that in an “Aug. 14, 2008 message marked ‘classified and very urgent’, the Foreign Ministry wrote to the Saudi Embassy in Washington to warn that dozens of students from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries had visited the Israeli Embassy in the U.S. capital as part of an international leadership program. ‘They listened to diplomats’ briefings from the embassy employees, they asked questions and then they took pictures’, the message said, asking the embassy for a speedy update on the situation. Another eye-catching item was a document addressed to the interior and justice ministers notifying them that a son of Osama bin Laden had obtained a certificate from the American Embassy in Riyadh ‘showing death of his father’. Many more of the dozens of documents examined by The Associated Press appeared to be the product of mundane administrative work, such as emails about setting up a website or operating an office fax machine. The AP was not immediately able to reach anyone whose phone numbers or email addresses were published in the various documents, but WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told AP he was confident that the material was genuine. It is not clear how WikiLeaks got the documents, although in its statement the website referred to a recent electronic attack on the Saudi Foreign Ministry by a group calling itself the Yemen Cyber Army. Hrafnsson declined to elaborate on the statement or say whether the hackers subsequently passed documents on to WikiLeaks”.

And right on cue, Reuters reports that “Saudi Arabia Saturday [, 20 June] urged its citizens not to distribute ‘documents that might be faked’ in an apparent response to WikiLeaks’ publication Friday of more than 60,000 documents it says are secret Saudi diplomatic communications. The statement, made by the Foreign Ministry on its Twitter account, did not directly deny the documents’ authenticity”.[2]  On the WikiLeaks website, on the other hand, this could be read on Saturday, 20 June: “The Saudi Cables. Over half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry.A total of 61195 published so far”.[3]  But then the WikiLeaks team also released this for the press: “Today, Friday 19th June at 1pm GMT, WikiLeaks began publishing The Saudi Cables: more than half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications from various Saudi Embassies around the world. The publication includes ‘Top Secret’ reports from other Saudi State institutions, including the Ministry of Interior and the Kingdom’s General Intelligence Services. The massive cache of data also contains a large number of email communications between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and foreign entities. The Saudi Cables are being published in tranches of tens of thousands of documents at a time over the coming weeks. Today WikiLeaks is releasing around 70,000 documents from the trove as the first tranche. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks publisher, said: ‘The Saudi Cables lift the lid on a increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship that has not only celebrated its 100th beheading this year, but which has also become a menace to its neighbours and itself’. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a hereditary dictatorship bordering the Persian Gulf. Despite the Kingdom’s infamous human rights record, Saudi Arabia remains a top-tier ally of the United States and the United Kingdom in the Middle East, largely owing to its globally unrivalled oil reserves. The Kingdom frequently tops the list of oil-producing countries, which has given the Kingdom disproportionate influence in international affairs. Each year it pushes billions of petro-dollars into the pockets of UK banks and US arms companies. Last year it became the largest arms importer in the world, eclipsing China, India and the combined countries of Western Europe. The Kingdom has since the 1960s played a major role in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and dominates the global Islamic charity market. For 40 years the Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was headed by one man: Saud al Faisal bin Abdulaziz, a member of the Saudi royal family, and the world’s longest-serving foreign minister. The end of Saud al Faisal’s tenure, which began in 1975, coincided with the royal succession upon the death of King Abdullah in January 2015. Saud al Faisal’s tenure over the Ministry covered its handling of key events and issues in the foreign relations of Saudi Arabia, from the fall of the Shah and the second Oil Crisis to the September 11 attacks and its ongoing proxy war against Iran. The Saudi Cables provide key insights into the Kingdom’s operations and how it has managed its alliances and consolidated its position as a regional Middle East superpower, including through bribing and co-opting key individuals and institutions. The cables also illustrate the highly centralised bureaucratic structure of the Kingdom, where even the most minute issues are addressed by the most senior officials. Since late March 2015 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been involved in a war in neighbouring Yemen. The Saudi Foreign Ministry in May 2015 admitted to a breach of its computer networks. Responsibility for the breach was attributed to a group calling itself the Yemeni Cyber Army. The group subsequently released a number of valuable “sample” document sets from the breach on file-sharing sites, which then fell under censorship attacks. The full WikiLeaks trove comprises thousands of times the number of documents and includes hundreds of thousands of pages of scanned images of Arabic text. In a major journalistic research effort, WikiLeaks has extracted the text from these images and placed them into our searchable database. The trove also includes tens of thousands of text files and spreadsheets as well as email messages, which have been made searchable through the WikiLeaks search engine. By coincidence, the Saudi Cables release also marks two other events. Today marks three years since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London seeking asylum from US persecution, having been held for almost five years without charge in the United Kingdom. Also today Google revealed that it had been forced to hand over more data to the US government in order to assist the prosecution of WikiLeaks staff under US espionage charges arising from our publication of US diplomatic cables”.[4]

The WikiLeaks team continues its attack on Saudi Arabia as follows: “On Monday [, 15 June 2015}, Saudi Arabia celebrated the beheading of its 100th prisoner this year. The story was nowhere to be seen on Arab media despite the story’s circulation on wire services. Even international media [were] relatively mute about this milestone compared to what it might have been if it had concerned a different country. How does a story like this go unnoticed? Today’s release of the WikiLeaks ‘Saudi Cables’ from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs show how it’s done. The oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its ruling family take a systematic approach to maintaining the country’s positive image on the international stage. Most world governments engage in PR campaigns to fend off criticism and build relations in influential places. Saudi Arabia controls its image by monitoring media and buying loyalties from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between. Documents reveal the extensive efforts to monitor and co-opt Arab media, making sure to correct any deviations in regional coverage of Saudi Arabia and Saudi-related matters. Saudi Arabia’s strategy for co-opting Arab media takes two forms, corresponding to the ‘carrot and stick’ approach, referred to in the documents as ‘neutralisation’ and ‘containment’. The approach is customised depending on the market and the media in question . . . The initial reaction to any negative coverage in the regional media is to ‘neutralise’ it. The term is used frequently in the cables and it pertains to individual journalists and media institutions whose silence and co-operation has been bought. ‘Neutralised’ journalists and media institutions are not expected to praise and defend the Kingdom, only to refrain from publishing news that reflects negatively on the Kingdom, or any criticism of its policies. The ‘containment’ approach is used when a more active propaganda effort is required. Journalists and media institutions relied upon for ‘containment’ are expected not only to sing the Kingdom’s praises, but to lead attacks on any party that dares to air criticisms of the powerful Gulf state. One of the ways ‘neutralisation’ and ‘containment’ are ensured is by purchasing hundreds or thousands of subscriptions in targeted publications. These publications are then expected to return the favour by becoming an ‘asset’ in the Kingdom’s propaganda strategy. A document listing the subscriptions that needed renewal by 1 January 2010 details a series of contributory sums meant for two dozen publications in Damascus, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Kuwait, Amman and Nouakchott. The sums range from $500 to 9,750 Kuwaiti Dinars ($33,000). The Kingdom effectively buys reverse ‘shares’ in the media outlets, where the cash ‘dividends’ flow the opposite way, from the shareholder to the media outlet. In return Saudi Arabia gets political ‘dividends’ – an obliging press. An example of these co-optive practices in action can be seen in an exchange between the Saudi Foreign Ministry and its Embassy in Cairo. On 24 November 2011 Egypt’s Arabic-language broadcast station ONTV hosted the Saudi opposition figure Saad al-Faqih, which prompted the Foreign Ministry to task the embassy with inquiring into the channel. The Ministry asked the embassy to find out how ‘to co-opt it or else we must consider it standing in the line opposed to the Kingdom’s policies’. The document reports that the billionaire owner of the station, Naguib Sawiris, did not want to be ‘opposed to the Kingdom’s policies’ and that he scolded the channel director, asking him ‘never to host al-Faqih again’. He also asked the Ambassador if he’d like to be ‘a guest on the show’. The Saudi Cables are rife with similar examples, some detailing the figures and the methods of payment. These range from small but vital sums of around $2000/year to developing country media outlets – a figure the Guinean News Agency ‘urgently needs’ as ‘it would solve many problems that the agency is facing’ – to millions of dollars, as in the case of Lebanese right-wing television station MTV . . . The ‘neutralisation’ and ‘containment’ approaches are not the only techniques the Saudi Ministry is willing to employ. In cases where ‘containment’ fails to produce the desired effect, the Kingdom moves on to confrontation. In one example, the Foreign Minister was following a Royal Decree dated 20 January 2010 to remove Iran’s new Arabic-language news network, Al-Alam, from the main Riyadh-based regional communications satellite operator, Arabsat. After the plan failed, Saud Al Faisal sought to ‘weaken its broadcast signal’. The documents show concerns within the Saudi administration over the social upheavals of 2011, which became known in the international media as the ‘Arab Spring’. The cables note with concern that after the fall of Mubarak, coverage of the upheavals in Egyptian media was ‘being driven by public opinion instead of driving public opinion’. The Ministry resolved ‘to give financial support to influential media institutions in Tunisia’, the birthplace of the ‘Arab Spring’. The cables reveal that the government employs a different approach for its own domestic media. There, a wave of the Royal hand is all that is required to adjust the output of state-controlled media. A complaint from former Lebanese Prime Minister and Saudi citizen Saad Hariri concerning articles critical of him in the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers prompted a directive to ‘stop these type of articles’ from the Foreign Ministry. This is a general overview of the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s strategy in dealing with the media. WikiLeaks’ Saudi Cables contain numerous other examples that form an indictment of both the Kingdom and the state of the media globally”.[5]

[1] “WikiLeaks says it’s leaking over 500,000 Saudi documents” AP (20 June 2015). http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/wikileaks-publishes-more-than-60-000-leaked-cables-from-saudi-arabia/article1-1360724.aspx.

[2] “Saudi Arabia warns citizens against sharing ‘faked’ documents after Wikileaks release” Reuters (20 June 2015). https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2015/Jun-20/303059-saudi-arabia-warns-citizens-against-sharing-faked-documents-after-wikileaks-release.ashx.

[3] “The Saudi Cables” WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/.

[4] “WikiLeaks publishes the Saudi Cables” WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/press.

[5] ” Buying Silence: How the Saudi Foreign Ministry controls Arab media” WikiLeaks. https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/buying-silence.