End game in sight for Wikileaks – or time to open the floodgates?
With Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of leaking war crimes, admitting to certain charges, together with the news of CIA interference in Ecuador to get rid of President Rafael Correa, some may argue that the end game is in sight for Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks. Unless, that is, the US can be outflanked by opening up a new front…
Firstly, we summarise the recent developments and their possible impact on short to medium-term strategy…
Just over a couple of weeks back, Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbeckistan, then whistleblower, stated he had knowledge that the US are funding the opposition parties in Ecuador in the run-up to the February 2013 election in order to get Rafael Correa out of the way and ensure they have a client state compliant to US Interests.
Then, last week, Bradley Manning, via his lawyer, offered to plead guilty to mishandling government or classified files, but not the main charges of aiding the enemy, espionage, hacking computers, etc. The plea does not have to be accepted by the judge, but even if Judge Lind does accept it the prosecution can still go ahead and try and prove a more severe case. Manning also made a choice to be tried only by the judge. Michael Ratner, the lawyer acting for Julian Assange, believes now that the US election is over the Government would prefer a speedy trial for Manning to minimise embarrassing documents being revealed.
So, what happens next? Well, assuming the US are successful in their mission to get rid of Correa, one by-product could see the new Government in Ecuador hand over Assange to the British police for extradition to Sweden. The Swedish authorities could then ‘suddenly’ discover a legal technicality why the sex assault charges should not proceed, so offering the US the opportunity to request the extradition of Assange to face charges – most likely computer crime charges – emanating from the Wikileaks Grand Jury – and just at the time when Bradley Manning is facing his trial. It is possible, however, that a conviction against Manning, even on lesser charges, may satisfy the US Administration, which could then decide not to proceed against Wikileaks, although it is more likely that Manning’s plea may be used by the Prosecution to implicate Wikileaks, so providing the US Administration with more ammunition in its war against the publisher. And even if Correa is re-elected, the US, as also Sweden, could simply sit it out, knowing all the cards are stacked in their favour (and happily let Assange remain holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London until there was a change of Government).
The War Against Wikileaks by the US Government (in conjunction with its allies – Sweden, the UK and Australia) is operating on three fronts: legal, via the Wikileaks Grand Jury and the Swedish Prosecution Service; financial, via the funding blockade; and psyops, via general harassment and capture (arrest) of Wikileaks supporters and activists. And, as in the course of any war, alliances change, there is battle fatigue, as well as the inevitable consequences of enemy propaganda. But when confronted by superior fire-power, one tried-and-tested tactic is to fall back on guerilla-style operations. Wikileaks – with the assistance of it newer allies, such as Anonymous – did exactly this by publishing more leaks – some, embarrassing to the US Government; others of embarrassment to the more traditional dictatorships of this world (e.g. Syria).
However, to win the war, Wikileaks needs to outflank the enemy – permanently. But how? By opening a fourth front…
As long as Wikileaks is perceived (erroneously or otherwise) as a single organisation, with a single head, it remains an easier entity to prey upon and prosecute. However, a multi-hydra Wikileaks, with Mr. Assange as editor-in-chief but with many other, highly-visible organisers around the world and boasting many sections/subsidiaries, would be a different matter. Wikileaks already has the basic structure in place – as well as journalists, software programmers, network engineers, etc – to enable it to reorganise in this way.
And if Wikileaks was reorganised, restructured and its operations expanded, then what better way to publicise that than via a major re-launch. This re-launch could be broadcast online and via television and be staged simultaneously at the Ecuadorian Embassy, the Frontline Club and other centres around the world. It could also include a line-up of ‘well-known’ supporters, such as John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Tariq Ali, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Craig Murray, Gavin McFaydan, Jemima Goldsmith, Scott Ludlam, Daniel Ellsberg, Felix Dennis, Bianca Jagger, Jacob Appelbaum, as well as the lawyers from Julian Assange’s entire legal team and not forgetting, of course, Christine Assange, whose support over the last two years has been nothing short of inspirational.
Meanwhile, it would be useful to look at possible initiatives that could contribute to this ‘fourth front’. Below, are specific ideas for two new Wikileaks divisions, as well as suggestions on how Wikileaks might be rejuvenated through new alliances with the media, with jurists and supporters generally…
Initiative 1. A Wikileaks Investigation Service
This arm of Wikileaks could operate along the following lines:
* employ news-gathering/investigation teams around the world via its existing setup,
* conduct proactive investigations into contemporary issues (this is in addition to its usual analysis of leaks) and
* publish an online daily newspaper/service to report on these investigations.
Initiative 2. A Wikileaks Training Service
This arm of Wikileaks could:
* provide online training in a number of specialisms: e.g. investigative research, computer security, writing for the web.
* courses could also be organised jointly with third party organisations, such as the UK Centre for Investigative Journalism and their equivalent in other countries, and accredited by those organisations.
* earn revenue from the courses, so enabling Wikileaks to not be so dependent on donations (but still operating on a not-for-profit basis).
Initiative 3. Renewal of Wikileaks alliances
The reason why newspapers such as The Guardian and the New York Times were not threatened by the US Administration for their part in publishing the Iraq War Logs, or publications like Rolling Stone or L’Espresso for publishing the Global Intelligence Files, was because in the end it is not about what is published but whether the publisher has financial clout or perceived widespread support. The original arrangement that Wikileaks entered into in 2010 with the world’s leading press proved – despite the subsequent disagreements – to be a quantum leap that transformed the journalistic landscape forever. Should that arrangement be revived (and past differences put aside) it would clearly benefit not only Wikileaks but the news media generally. Of course, it goes without saying that suc
h a media alliance would always be additional to any ad hoc, or formal, arrangements between Wikileaks and hactivists.
Initiative 4. Support of Jurists/commentators
The world’s leading jurists and commentators are fighting a losing battle by not acting collaboratively. The time for lone voices decrying the erosion of liberties has long passed and, before it is too late, jurists and commentators need to organise to announce their support for a new ethical alignment. This realignment might take the form of an international, online gathering, which would hopefully offer unqualified support for whistleblowers and their outlets (such as Wikileaks) and
condemn moves by governments to restrict dissent via control of media and the internet in particular. Wikileaks, or members of its legal team or its journalist supporters, may wish to examine this idea further, to work out what the next steps should be.
And finally… opening the floodgates
Wikileaks is not the only publishing organisation that specialises in leaks, but it is the most well known and the biggest purveyor. Many might argue that the more organisations and individuals there are that contribute to the freeing-up of information, whether or not via Wikileaks, then the easier it will be for Wikileaks to win the war it is currently fighting and to flourish. And this is where we could all play a part (and, in doing so, help draw the attention of the US authorities away from Wikileaks). So… if instead of thousands of anons, there were hundreds of thousands, engaged not only in hacking and leaking but conducting investigations and uncovering and publishing information that ought to have been in the public domain in the first place, then those dark forces that seek only to control will be fatally weakened and their moral bankruptcy exposed.
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