WikiLeaks was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Pentagon produces a classified report assessing the damage the whistleblower website WikiLeaks could cause to it. The report concludes that “WikiLeaks.org represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, OPSEC [operational security], and INFOSEC [information security] threat to the US Army.” WikiLeaks published information about US Army operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo the previous year. The report says some of the interpretations WikiLeaks puts upon released documents are incorrect, but does not detail specific examples. The author also speculates that the organization is actually supported by the CIA. [New York Times, 3/17/2010] The report itself will later be leaked to WikiLeaks and published by it (see March 15, 2010).
WikiLeaks wins the Economist New Media Award for 2008. The award is given by a panel of judges for the Index on Censorship, a British organization established to promote freedom of expression. The Index comments, “Having faced down an attempt by an investment bank [Julius Baer] to have it shut down, WikiLeaks continues to be an invaluable resource for anonymous whistleblowers and investigative journalists.” [Index on Censorship, 4/22/2008]
A newly released government threat analysis shows that slain trust-fund millionaire James G. Cummings, an American Nazi sympathizer from Maine who was killed by his wife Amber in December 2008, possessed the radioactive components necessary to build a so-called “dirty bomb.” Cummings, infuriated by the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, purchased depleted uranium over the Internet from an American company.
FBI Confiscates Radioactive Materials - The Bangor Daily News reports, “According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center posted online by WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents, an investigation into the case revealed that radioactive materials were removed from Cummings’s home after his shooting death on December 9.” According to the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center: “Amber [Cummings] indicated James was very upset with Barack Obama being elected president. She indicated James had been in contact with ‘white supremacist group(s).’ Amber also indicated James mixed chemicals in the kitchen sink at their residence and had mentioned ‘dirty bombs.’” An FBI search of the Cummings home found four jars of depleted uranium-238 labeled “uranium metal” and the name of an unidentified US corporation, another jar labeled “thorium” and containing that material, and a second, unlabeled jar which also contained thorium-232. Other materials found in Cummings’s home were consistent with the manufacture of an explosive device, which if detonated could have spread radioactive debris throughout a relatively large local area. The FBI also found information on how to build “dirty bombs,” and information about cesium-137, strontium-90, cobalt-60, and other radioactive materials. FBI evidence shows Cummings had numerous ties to a variety of right-wing white supremacist groups. Cummings also owned a collection of Nazi memorabilia which, according to local tradesmen, he proudly displayed throughout his home. Police reports show that Cummings has a long history of violence. Amber Cummings contends she is innocent of her husband’s murder by reason of insanity, and claims she suffered years of mental, physical, and sexual abuse at his hands. The Department of Homeland Security has refused to comment on the incident. [Bangor Daily News, 2/10/2009; Raw Story, 3/9/2009] Local law enforcement officials downplay the threat Cummings posed, and the national media virtually ignores the story. [Time, 9/30/2010]
Later Information Shows Depth of Threat Posed by Cummings - Additional information gleaned by Time reporter Barton Gellman from Cummings’s notes and records later shows that the threat posed by Cummings was even more serious than initially reported. Cummings had applied to join the National Socialist Party (the American Nazi organization), and had detailed plans on how to assassinate President-elect Obama. Gellman will call Cummings “a viciously angry and resourceful man who had procured most of the supplies for a crude radiological dispersal device and made some progress in sketching a workable design.” Gellman says that in his attempt to construct a nuclear weapon, Cummings “was far ahead of Jose Padilla, the accused al-Qaeda dirty-bomb plotter (see June 10, 2002), and more advanced in his efforts than any previously known domestic threat involving a dirty bomb.” The materials were later confirmed to be the radioactive materials they were labeled as being; Amber Cummings will say that her husband bought them under the pretense of conducting legal research for a university. Although the materials Cummings had would not, themselves, succeed in unleashing large amounts of radiation over a large area, he was actively searching for three ingredients that would serve such a purpose: cobalt-60, cesium-137, and strontium-90. He had succeeded in manufacturing large amounts of TATP, an explosive favored by Islamist suicide bombers and brought on board an aircraft by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid (see December 22, 2001). “His intentions were to construct a dirty bomb and take it to Washington to kill President Obama,” Amber Cummings says. “He was planning to hide it in the undercarriage of our motor home.” She says her husband had practiced crossing checkpoints with dangerous materials aboard, taking her and their daughter along for an image of innocence. Maine state police detective Michael McFadden, who participated in the investigation throughout, says he came to believe that James Cummings posed “a legitimate threat” of a major terrorist attack. “When you’re cooking thorium and uranium under your kitchen sink, when you have a couple million dollars sitting in the bank and you’re hell-bent on doing something, I think at that point you become someone we want to sit up and pay attention to,” he says. “If she didn’t do what she did, maybe we would know Mr. Cummings a lot better than we do right now.” [Time, 9/30/2010]
WikiLeaks publishes a 2008 Pentagon report about itself. The report was recently leaked to WikiLeaks, but was drafted after WikiLeaks began publishing US Army information and analysed the apparent threat the organization posed to the Defense Department (see 2008). The Army confirms the document’s authenticity. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes light of the report’s speculation that his organization is supported by the CIA. “I only wish they would step forward with a check if that’s the case,” he says. [New York Times, 3/17/2010]
Charges are filed against Bradley Manning, a US soldier formerly based in Iraq accused of leaking much material to WikiLeaks. The charges cover the leaking of a video of a 2007 US attack in Iraq that killed innocent people as well as 150,000 diplomatic cables. Manning is officially charged with four counts of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for disobeying an order or regulation, and eight counts of violating Article 134, a general charge for misconduct, which in this case involves breaking federal laws against disclosing classified information. Manning now faces an Article 32 investigation, the military’s equivalent of a civilian grand jury, into charges that he mishandled classified information “with reason to believe the information could cause injury to the United States.” That investigation could lead to administrative punishments or more likely, given the gravity of the charges, a court-martial. [New York Times, 7/6/2010]
Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) condemns WikiLeaks for disclosing classified war documents, calling the Web site an “ideological” organization with “an agenda.” WikiLeaks “is implacably hostile to our military and the most basic requirements of our national security,” says Lieberman. He adds that readers “should be wary of drawing conclusions based on materials selectively leaked by WikiLeaks, as it seeks to sap support for the Afghan war among the American people and our European allies.” According to Lieberman: “Most of these documents add nothing to the public understanding of the war in Afghanistan. The materials—which cover the period from 2004 to 2009—reflect the reality, recognized by everyone, that the insurgency was gaining momentum during these years while our coalition was losing ground.” [Hill, 7/26/2010]
A Washington Post article suggests that Hamid Gul, head of the ISI from 1987 to 1989, has been frequently linked to recent Islamist militant activity. The ISI is Pakistan’s intelligence agency, and in the 1980s Gul worked closely with the US to support the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and defeat the Soviets there (see April 1987). The Post article states that “more than two decades later, it appears that General Gul is still at work. [Newly leaked] documents indicate that he has worked tirelessly to reactivate his old networks, employing familiar allies like Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose networks of thousands of fighters are responsible for waves of violence in Afghanistan.” The Post is referring to thousands of classified US government documents made public by WikiLeaks, a non-profit whistleblower group. The documents often appear to be raw intelligence that sometimes turns out to be inaccurate. But nonetheless, the Post notes that “General Gul is mentioned so many times in the reports, if they are to be believed, that it seems unlikely that Pakistan’s current military and intelligence officials could not know of at least some of his wide-ranging activities.”
Link to Recent Taliban and Al-Qaeda Activity - For example, according to one intelligence report, Gul met with a group of militants in South Waziristan (in Pakistan’s tribal region), on January 5, 2009. He allegedly met with Taliban and al-Qaeda figures, and planned an attack to avenge the death of al-Qaeda leader Usama al-Kini (a.k.a. Fahid Muhammad Ally Msalam), who had been killed several days earlier by a US drone strike (see January 1, 2009). The group discussed driving a truck rigged with explosives into Afghanistan to be used against US forces there. According to another report, in January 2008, Gul directed the Taliban to kidnap high-level United Nations personnel in Afghanistan to trade for captured Pakistani soldiers. [Washington Post, 7/26/2010]
Gul Frequently Mentioned in Intelligence Reports - Gul lives openly in an exclusive district of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, and he frequently shares his pro-Taliban views with reporters. But a Der Spiegel article published on this day notes that the nearly 92,000 documents recently published by WikiLeaks “suggest that Gul is more than just a garrulous old man. If the accusations are true, Gul isn’t just an ally of the Taliban in spirit, but is also supplying them with weapons and thereby actively taking part in the fight against Western forces. Gul is effectively being accused of being an important helper of the Taliban, and possibly even one of their leaders.” In fact, “The name Hamid Gul appears more often than virtually any other” in the documents. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 7/26/2010]
Gul Still Linked to Pakistani Government? - Gul denies all the allegations. Pakistani officials also deny that Gul still works with the ISI in any way. But the Post reports: “Despite his denials, General Gul keeps close ties to his former employers. When a reporter visited General Gul this spring for an interview at his home, the former spy master canceled the appointment. According to his son, he had to attend meetings at army headquarters.” [Washington Post, 7/26/2010] In late 2008, the US government attempted to put Gul on a United Nations list of terrorist supporters, but apparently that move has been blocked by other countries (see December 7, 2008).
Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange arrives in Stockholm, Sweden, to give a speech at the invitation of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party. The event is organized by 31-year-old Anna Ardin, press secretary of the Brotherhood Movement, an adjunct of the Social Democratic Party. Ardin invites Assange to stay at her flat while she visits her family for a few days out in the country. [TNN, 12/9/2010]
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has sexual intercourse with Anna Ardin, a Swedish event organiser whose flat he is staying at. Assange has been at her flat since August 11 (see August 11, 2010), but she has been away. She now returns and the two end up in bed. The intercourse will later form the basis of sexual assault charges filed against Assange, although the precise reason for the charges is unclear. Ardin seems to have been willing to have sex with Assange, but there may have been a dispute over a broken condom. [TNN, 12/9/2010]
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gives a 90-minute speech about how the truth is the first casualty of war. The speech is attended by Anna Ardin, who will later give police information leading them to charge Assange with sexually assaulting her the day before (see August 13, 2010). Ardin does not show any signs of being disturbed by the alleged assault during the speech. The lecture is also attended by Sofia Wilen. She and Assange will have a sexual encounter, due to which further charges will be filed against him two days later (see August 16-17, 2010). [TNN, 12/9/2010]
Anna Ardin, a Swedish woman who will later make a complaint to the police against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leading them to file sexual asssault charges against him, sends a Tweet about a party she and Assange are currently attending at her flat. The Tweet reads, “Sitting outside; nearly freezing; with the world’s coolest people; it’s pretty amazing.” The encounter over which police will file charges against Assange took place the previous night (see August 13, 2010). After news of the charges becomes public, Ardin will delete the Tweet. [TNN, 12/9/2010]
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has sex with aspiring Swedish photographer Sofia Wilen. They have sex on the evening of August 16; the sex is consensual, Assange wears a condom, and no criminal complaint will be made about it. However, when they have sex again the next morning Assange does not wear a condom, apparently against Wilen’s wishes. It is this second encounter that will lead to a rape charge being filed against Assange, although he will say the sex was consensual this time as well. [TNN, 12/9/2010]
Sofia Wilen, a Swedish woman whose sexual encounter with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange two days ago will lead to charges being filed against him (see August 16-17, 2010), calls Anna Ardin, another woman who has had sex with Assange that will lead to charges (see August 13, 2010). Wilen says that she has had unprotected sex with Assange and is worried she may have contracted an STD or become pregnant. Ardin tells Wilen that she has also had sex with Assange. The two women moved in related circles before this call, but it is unclear if they knew each other and, if so, how well. [TNN, 12/9/2010] Two days later the two women will go to the police (see August 20, 2010).
Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen, two Swedish women WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange recently had sex with (see August 13, 2010 and August 16-17, 2010), go to the Swedish police to complain about him. The complaint will lead to criminal charges being filed against Assange for rape and sexual assault. Ardin and Wilen tell the police of their dealings with Assange, and Ardin says that she was willing to have sex with him, but that, against her wishes, he deliberately broke the condom they were using during sex. Wilen says that Assange wore a condom the first time they had sex, but not the second time, even though she wanted him to use a condom both times. [TNN, 12/9/2010]
The left-leaning periodical Counterpunch publishes an article by Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett saying that Anna Ardin, a woman who has made sexual assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (see August 20, 2010), is indirectly linked to the CIA. Towards the end of a long article with a tone of contempt for the allegations against Assange, Shamir and Bennett comment that Ardin is a politcal opponent of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and has published articles attacking the Cuban communist regime. The publisher of Ardin’s articles is apparently linked to the Union Liberal Cubana, run by the CIA-connected Carlos Alberto Montaner. Ardin has also visited—and been deported from—Cuba, where she interacted with the feminist anti-Castro Las Damas de Blanco organization, which receives funds from the US government and is linked to the convicted anti-communist terrorist Luis Posada. [CounterPunch, 9/14/2010] The allegations will later receive much attention on the Internet and be picked up by Internet news publication Raw Story. [Raw Story, 12/6/2010]
Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Joe Lieberman (I-CT) expresses doubts about designating WikiLeaks a foreign terrorist organization. Responding to a question on the Imus in the Morning radio show about a proposal from Representative Peter King (R-NY) to make such designation, Lieberman says: “Normally, we reserve that designation for groups that fit the traditional definition of terrorism, which is that they are using violence to achieve a political end.… While it’s true that what WikiLeaks did may result in damage to some people… it’s not al-Qaeda.” However, Lieberman does not rule out supporting the proposal, adding, “I want to talk to Pete and figure out what he’s got in mind.” In addition, he says that the group’s release of thousands of US documents over the past year is a “terrible thing,” and expresses the hope that “we are doing everything we can to take down their Web site.” [Hill, 11/29/2010]
Staff from the office of Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) contact the Internet retailer Amazon to ask about its hosting of WikiLeaks’ website. Lieberman is chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. [Guardian, 12/1/2010] His staff learns of the hosting from media accounts and leaves a series of questions, including, “Are there plans to take the site down,” with Amazon’s press secretary. [Talking Points Memo, 12/1/2010] The next day, Amazon will remove the website from its servers (see December 2, 2010).
The Internet retailer Amazon cancels WikiLeaks’ server account, removing its website from its servers. The move follows pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee (see December 1, 2010). As a result, the WikiLeaks website is inaccessible for a time, but it soon moves to servers in Sweden. The announcement that Amazon has got rid of WikiLeaks is also made by Lieberman, who adds that the “decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material.” Amazon attributes the break between the two organizations to a terms of service violation by WikiLeaks. However, WikiLeaks expresses disappointment with Amazon, saying in a post on Twitter that if Amazon is “so uncomfortable with the First Amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books.” [Guardian, 12/1/2010]
The Library of Congress blocks access to WikiLeaks’ website across its computer systems, including those operated by library users in reading rooms. The library puts out a statement saying that users should not access documents regarded as classified, even if the documents are placed in the public domain through leaking. “The library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information,” says the library. “Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.” [Matt Raymond, 12/3/2010]
The US has been conducting airstrikes against suspected terrorists in Yemen, but denying responsibility for them, according to cables provided by the whistleblower organization Wikileaks to the British daily The Guardian. The bombings are being attributed to local forces rather than the US in an attempt not to rile Arab public opinion. The Guardian breaks the story based on a number of cables provided by Wikileaks, which contain damning quotes. In a September 2009 cable Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh told US President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, John Brennan, “I have given you an open door on terrorism, so I am not responsible.” Following a strike that killed multiple civilians carried out by the US, but attributed to Yemenis in December 2009, US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche cabled Washington to say: “Yemen insisted it must ‘maintain the status quo’ regarding the official denial of US involvement. Saleh wanted operations to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease.’” Just over a week later, Saleh told General David Petraeus, then head of US Central Command, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” This prompted the deputy prime minister, Rashad al-Alimi, who was also at the meeting, to joke that he had just “lied” by telling parliament the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa (the alleged al-Qaeda strongholds) were American-made but deployed by Yemen. In addition to the secret bombings, the Yemen-related cables published by The Guardian on this day deal with Yemeni reluctance to meet some US demands, the inaccuracy of some US weapons, large payments to be made by the US to Yemen, the Saudi Arabian reaction to the strikes, poor counterterrorism training for staff at Yemeni airports, Yemen’s unwillingness to share information about Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, alleged to be an al-Qaeda bomb-maker, and poor counterterrorist infrastructure in Yemen. [Guardian, 12/3/2010] Before the “war on terror,” the last time the US bombed a country in secret was during the Vietnam War, when the US bombed Cambodia (see March 15-17, 1969). It was a New York Times report on the bombing that was one of the spurs behind President Richard Nixon’s formation of the later-infamous “plumbers” unit (see May 9-10, 1969).
Bryan Fischer. [Source: Renew America (.com)]Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis for government and public policy at the American Family Association (AFA), says that the criticism of the WikiLeaks cables proves that gays shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the US military. Fischer claims that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is actively promoting what he calls the “homosexual” agenda, and says Private Bradley Manning, who is in custody after being linked to State Department cables leaked by Wikileaks, may have “sold out his country in what may turn out to be fit of gay pique.” Fischer accuses Manning of being “seriously confused about his sexuality,” and says he may have “launched the WikiLeaks campaign to strike back at the military for its ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which he vehemently opposed.” Manning, Fischer writes, is “a one-man argument for keeping open homosexuals from serving in the military in the first place. If the 1993 law—which flatly prohibits homosexuals from a place in the armed services—had been followed, there would be no PFC Bradley Manning and no WikiLeaks.” Fischer shows no evidence that Manning’s actions were sparked by any antipathy towards the military’s ban on gays. Recently the Southern Poverty Law Center cited Fischer’s anti-gay writings when it labeled the AFA a “hate group.” In previous blog posts and on his radio talk show, Fischer has blamed Nazism on homosexuality, has proposed criminalizing homosexual activity, and has advocated forcing gays into “reparative” therapy. He opposes funding AIDS research because, he has written, “we know the cause, we know the cure: stop engaging in homosexual sex and stop shooting up with drugs.” He has also equated homosexuality with domestic terrorism. [Bryan Fischer, 12/7/2010; Raw Story, 12/10/2010]
The Guardian publishes a cable drafted by US Ambassador to Tunisia Robert F. Godec in July 2009 containing a description of a meal with Mohammad Sakher El Materi, the son-in-law of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, and his wife Nesrine Ben Ali El Materi. The Guardian obtained the cable through its agreement with WikiLeaks. The cable is primarily a description of El Materi’s political views, which coincide with US positions in some respects. However, there are also descriptions of the couple’s lifestyle. The dinner is called “lavish,” and the ambassador comments that El Materi is “living, however, in the midst of great wealth and excess, illustrating one reason resentment of President Ben Ali’s in-laws is increasing.” Godec also gives a desciption of El Materi’s home, which is “spacious,” “includes an infinity pool,” and has “ancient artifacts everywhere.” In addition, El Materi “hopes to move into his new (and palatial) house in Sidi Bou Said in eight to 10 months.” Further, there is a description of the meal, which included “perhaps a dozen dishes, including fish, steak, turkey, octopus, fish couscous, and much more.” Most startlingly: “After dinner, he served ice cream and frozen yoghurt he brought in by plane from Saint Tropez, along with blueberries and raspberries and fresh fruit and chocolate cake. (NB. El Materi and Nesrine had just returned from Saint Tropez on their private jet after two weeks vacation…).” El Materi also has a large tiger on his compound, which reminded the ambassador “of Uday Hussein’s lion cage in Baghdad.” Godec’s final comment is: “The opulence with which El Materi and Nesrine live and their behavior make clear why they and other members of Ben Ali’s family are disliked and even hated by some Tunisians. The excesses of the Ben Ali family are growing.” [Guardian, 12/7/2010]
The Guardian publishes a cable drafted by US Ambassador to Tunisia Robert F. Godec in July 2009 containing a very candid assessment of the current Tunisian regime. The Guardian obtained the cable through its agreement with WikiLeaks. According to the cable, Tunisia should be a US ally, but is not, because of big problems in the form of “aging” President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, his “sclerotic regime,” the lack of a successor and political freedom, First Family corruption, high unemployment, regional inequalities, and the fact that Tunisia is a “police state.” Perhaps the most startling passage in the cable refers to Ben Ali’s wife: “Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, First Lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her; even those close to the government express dismay at her reported behavior.” Some portions of the cable are redacted; the context indicates they contain the names of pro-democracy leaders in contact with the embassy. [Guardian, 12/7/2010]
The government of Tunisia prevents its citizens from accessing the website of the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, which has republished US embassy cables about the current Tunisian regime. The cables were first published earlier in the day by The Guardian (see December 7, 2010 and December 7, 2010), which obtained them from WikiLeaks. The content of the cables is controversial because they contain candid assessments of Tunisia’s situation and deep-seated public anger about the ruling elite grouped around President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and its opulent lifestyle. [Guardian, 12/1/2010]
An anonymous Kremlin official suggests that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Following US criticism of Assange after Wikileaks began to release US diplomatic cables, the official tells the state news agency RIA Novosti: “[N]on-governmental and governmental organizations should think of ways to help him. Perhaps he could be awarded a Nobel prize.” [Haaretz, 12/8/2010]
The Guardian publishes a US diplomatic cable about the situation in Zimbabwe. [Guardian, 12/8/2010; Atlantic Monthly, 12/28/2010] The newspaper obtained the cable, dated December 24, 2009, from the whistleblower organization Wikileaks. The text, drafted by the US embassy in Harare for the State Department in Washington, is based on a conversation with Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and relates attempts by forces opposed to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to ease him out of power. Tsvangirai complains about Mugabe dragging his feet over the implementation of agreements, admits that “his public statements calling for easing of sanctions” have come into conflict with “his private conversations saying they must be kept in place,” and observes that Mugabe “appears old and very tired.” The Guardian appears to think this last quote is the most interesting, as it is highlighted in yellow in the text of the cable and is also incorporated into the headline. [Guardian, 12/8/2010]
Wikileaks publishes a leaked US cable about the situation in Zimbabwe that will later become the subject of controversy. The cable is first published in the form of a bit torrent file and then on the organization’s website. Approximately one hour before Wikileaks publishes the cable, it had been published by The Guardian (see 9:30 p.m. December 8, 2010). [Atlantic Monthly, 12/28/2010]
US Vice President Joseph Biden calls Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a “high-tech terrorist” on NBC’s Meet the Press. The interview was taped two days previously, but is broadcast on this day. Asked if he sees Assange as closer to a hi-tech terrorist than the whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers (see March 1971) in the 1970s, Biden replies: “I would argue it is closer to being a hi-tech terrorist than the Pentagon Papers. But, look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world.” Biden adds: “He’s made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends. For example, in my meetings—you know I meet with most of these world leaders—there is a desire now to meet with me alone, rather than have staff in the room. It makes things more cumbersome—so it has done damage.” Asked if the administration could prevent further leaks, Biden comments, “The Justice Department is taking a look at that.” Biden goes on to suggest that if Assange facilitated the leak of the documents by colluding with the whilstleblower who provided them, thought to be former intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, he could be open to prosecution. “If he conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the US military that is fundamentally different than if someone drops on your lap… you are a press person, here is classified material.” Biden’s comments show an increased level of annoyance in the administration with Wikileaks. For example, the day before this interview was taped, Biden had expressed different sentiments. “I don’t think there’s any substantive damage,” he had commented then. [Guardian, 12/19/2010]
The domain name JulianAssangeMustDie.com, referencing Wikileaks leader Julian Assange, is registered, apparently by right-wing US blogger Melissa Clouthier. A few days after the domain name becomes news, it is deleted. [The Nation, 1/10/2011]
An image from a ‘Team Themis’ proposal given to the US Chamber of Commerce in late 2010. [Source: Docstoc (.com)]The liberal news Web site Think Progress, an affiliate of the Center for American Progress, reports that it has discovered evidence of a potentially illegal scheme to entrap and destabilize political organizations, including Think Progress, that support President Obama and other Democrats. The scheme, in development since November 2010 at least, centers around the US Chamber of Commerce (USCOC), a large trade organization that makes large secret donations to Republican candidates and organizations (see January 21-22, 2010 and October 2010), and a law firm, Hunton and Williams, hired by the USCOC. According to emails secured by Think Progress, Hunton and Williams is working with a set of private security firms—HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called “Team Themis”)—to develop tactics to damage progressive groups and labor unions. Some of the organizations and unions targeted include Think Progress, a labor coalition called Change to Win, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com. The last two are small organizations dedicated to exposing some of the secretive practices of the USCOC. One project proposed by Team Themis is an entrapment scheme. The proposal called for the creation of a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” to give to a progressive group opposing the USCOC, and then exposing the document as a fraud, thus undermining the credibility of the organization. Another proposal involved using potentially illegal computer-hacking techniques to create what the group calls a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with Change to Win and to undermine the credibility of US Chamber Watch. The proposal actually advocates the creation of two such personas, one to be used “as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the identity of the second.” Together, “Team Themis” asked for $200,000 for initial background research and another $2 million for an active disinformation campaign. It is unclear from the emails whether any of the proposals were accepted, and if the disinformation campaign was ever launched. Think Progress was recently provided with the emails by members of “Anonymous,” an online “hacktivist” community responsible for attacking the Web sites of oppressive regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, along with American corporations that have censored the online information repository WikiLeaks. The emails were secured from HBGary Federal after one of that firm’s executives, Aaron Barr, tried to take Anonymous down. Barr claimed to have penetrated the group and intended to sell the data he collected to Bank of America (BoA) and to US federal authorities. In return, Anonymous hackers penetrated Barr’s email account and published some 40,000 company emails. Barr intended to approach Bank of America, Think Progress writes, because WikiLeaks is believed to have sensitive information about the firm that it intends to publish later in the year. BoA hired Hunton and Williams and other law firms to pursue WikiLeaks. BoA’s legal team also targeted Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, an outspoken supporter of WikiLeaks, saying that it had plans for “actions to sabotage or discredit” him. The USCOC posts a response to Think Progress on its blog dismissing the report as “baseless attacks.” And prominent liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler (see April 18, 2009) says that the Think Progress report will probably “cause the Chamber of Commerce to rethink the spying work with HBGary it apparently has been considering.” [Berico Technologies, 11/3/2010 ; Think Progress, 2/10/2011] Liberal blogger Brad Friedman, who has spent years covering voter suppression tactics by political organizations, will soon learn that he is targeted by Team Themis. An email sent by Barr and provided to Friedman “focused on me included names, personal information, home addresses, etc. of myself, family members, and a number of other members of VR,” Friedman will write. (Velvet Revolution is an “umbrella group” that includes StopTheChamber.) “Part of the plan included highlighting me as a ‘Tier 1’ player in a sophisticated disinformation/discrediting scheme that relied on high-tech tools developed for the US government’s ‘War on Terror.’ Team Themis’ US Chamber of Commerce plan was to deploy the very same techniques and technology used to track terrorists, terror organizations, and nations such as Iran, against private non-profit political advocates and citizens in the US.” The email also lists the names of people whom Barr clearly believes to be Friedman’s wife and two children (Friedman says the names listed are not family members—he is not married and has no children). The email also lists a Maryland address as Friedman’s home—another error, as Friedman lives in another state. Friedman will write that obviously Barr and his researchers found another, unrelated person named Brad Friedman and learned personal details about that person and his family. Prominent officials such as Ilyse Hogue of MoveOn.org and Robert Weissman of Public Citizen are also listed for “targeting.” [Brad Friedman, 2/14/2011]
Entity Tags: Democratic Party, Change to Win, WikiLeaks, Berico Technologies, Barack Obama, Bank of America, Aaron Barr, US Chamber Watch, Think Progress (.org), US Chamber of Commerce, Service Employees International Union, Ilyse Hogue, Marcy Wheeler, Hunton and Williams, Glenn Greenwald, HBGary Federal, StopTheChamber.com, Robert Weissman, Palantir, Brad Friedman
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The non-profit whistleblower group WikiLeaks releases documents that may inadvertently speed up the timing of the US effort to raid Osama bin Laden’s hideout. WikiLeaks releases secret military dossiers on about 750 prisoners held at the US base in Guantanamo, Cuba (see April 24, 2011). These documents cover nearly every prisoner held at Guantanamo since the prison opened there in 2002. All the dossiers are published in full and are easily accessible on well known websites, including those of the New York Times, The Guardian, and WikiLeaks. [Guardian, 4/25/2011]
Mentions of Ahmed - Numerous dossiers mention “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti,” or some variant on that name. This will later be revealed as a commonly used alias for Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, a trusted courier for bin Laden. In the dossiers, Ahmed is seen as an important al-Qaeda figure and a courier for important al-Qaeda leaders. [Express Tribune, 5/4/2011]
Mentions of Abbottabad - Even more crucially, the dossiers reveal al-Qaeda activity in Abbottabad, the Pakistan town where bin Laden is hiding at this time. For instance, the dossier on al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi states: “In July 2003, al-Libbi received a letter from Osama bin Laden’s designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee take on the responsibility of collecting donations, organizing travel, and distributing funds to families in Pakistan.… In mid-2003, al-Libbi moved his family to Abbottabad, and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.” [Daily Mail, 5/3/2011]
Data in the Dossiers Lead to Bin Laden - In fact, the courier mentioned as “Jan” appears to be Ahmed. “Jan” was a name al-Libbi made up in his interrogations in order to protect Ahmed. US intelligence had figured this out by late 2005. US analysts were able to use information on Ahmed from the interrogation of al-Libbi and other Guantanamo prisoners to find the exact location of bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout in 2010 (see August-September 2010). Bin Laden will be killed by a US Special Forces raid on his hideout on May 2, 2011, eight days after the dossiers are made public (see May 2, 2011).
Influence on Raid Timing or Not? - The Daily Mail will later suggest: “WikiLeaks may have triggered the killing of Osama bin Laden.… [S]pecial Forces stormed his fortress only days after the website published new secret documents.” [Daily Mail, 5/3/2011] Time magazine will say that according to an aide to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), “Though there may have been a reference to the compound in one of WikiLeaks’ classified document dumps, there wasn’t a serious concern that the information had become widely known through that source.” [Time, 5/3/2011] Plans for the raid were already well developed before the Wikileaks release (see for instance March 14, 2011). President Obama gives the final okay for the raid on April 29, four days after the release (see April 29, 2011).
WikiLeaks, a non-profit whistleblower group, releases some files on about 750 prisoners held at the US-run prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. This covers all but about 15 of the prisoners who have passed through the prison since it opened in early 2002 (see January 11, 2002). Nearly all of the prisoners were accused of belonging to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or associated Islamist militant groups. The files were written by US military intelligence officials between the prison’s opening and January 2009. They contain assessments on whether each prisoner should remain in US custody, be imprisoned by another country, or be set free. Most of the prisoners have been released over the years, and no new prisoners have been sent to Guantanamo since 2007, but 172 prisoners remain at Guantanamo in April 2011. Seven news organizations—the New York Times, The Guardian, McClatchy Newspapers, the Washington Post, El Pais, Der Spiegel, and NPR (National Public Radio)—were given early access to the files by WikiLeaks in order to vet and analyze them. Their publication was sped up when the New York Times prepared to publish them after claiming to get copies of them from another unnamed source. The Obama administration immediately condemns the publication of the classified information in the files. [New York Times, 4/24/2011; New Yorker, 4/25/2011]
Files Often Contain Dubious Evidence - Journalists who analyze the files question the accuracy of their prisoner assessments. The New York Times comments that the files “show that the United States has imprisoned hundreds of men for years without trial based on a difficult and strikingly subjective evaluation of who they were, what they had done in the past, and what they might do in the future.” Furthermore, the files “reveal that the analysts sometimes ignored serious flaws in the evidence—for example, that the information came from other detainees whose mental illness made them unreliable. Some assessments quote witnesses who say they saw a detainee at a camp run by al-Qaeda but omit the witnesses’ record of falsehood or misidentification. They include detainees’ admissions without acknowledging other government documents that show the statements were later withdrawn, often attributed to abusive treatment or torture.” [New York Times, 4/24/2011] The Guardian comments that Guantanamo has been “a place that portrayed itself as the ultimate expression of a forensic and rational war run by the most sophisticated power on the planet, with the best intelligence available. The reality was an almost random collection of [prisoners who were] the bad, the accidental, and the irrelevant.” [Guardian, 4/25/2011] McClatchy Newspapers comments: “The world may have thought the US was detaining a band of international terrorists whose questioning would help the hunt for Osama Bin Laden or foil the next 9/11. But [the files] not meant to surface for another 20 years shows that the military’s efforts at Guantanamo often were much less effective than the government has acknowledged. Viewed as a whole, the secret intelligence summaries help explain why in May 2009 President Barack Obama, after ordering his own review of wartime intelligence, called America’s experiment at Guantanamo ‘quite simply a mess.’”
Files Dependant on Dubious Informants - McClatchy further claims that the files were “tremendously dependant on informants—both prison camp snitches repeating what they’d heard from fellow captives and self-described, at times self-aggrandizing, alleged al-Qaeda insiders turned government witnesses who Pentagon records show have since been released.” The information in the files is based on other sources, including intelligence documents and some confessions. [McClatchy Newspapers, 4/24/2011] The New York Times similarly comments that “Guantanamo emerges from the documents as a nest of informants, a closed world where detainees were the main source of allegations against one another and sudden recollections of having spotted a fellow prisoner at an al-Qaeda training camp could curry favor with interrogators.” [New York Times, 4/24/2011]
Files Also Based on Torture and Legally Questionable Methods - The files rarely mention the abuse and torture scandals concerning treatment of US prisoners in Guantanamo, in secret CIA prisons, in other overseas US-run prisons, and in prisons run by some US allies where the use of torture was more widespread. However, there are hints. For instance, one file on an Australian man sent to Guantanamo in 2002 mentions that he confessed while “under extreme duress” and “in the custody of the Egyptian government” to training six of the 9/11 hijackers in martial arts. But despite the apparent seriousness of this accusation, he was released in early 2005. Additionally, important prisoners such as Abu Zubaida held in secret CIA prisons were shown photos of Guantanamo prisoners and asked about them around the time they were subjected to waterboarding and other torture methods. The interrogations of Zubaida, who was waterboarded many times (see May 2003), are cited in over 100 prisoner files. However, his accusations against others have been systematically removed from government filings in court cases in recent years, which would indicate that officials are increasingly doubtful about his reliability and/or the legality of his tortured confessions. Also, many foreign officials were allowed to interrogate some prisoners in Guantanamo, including officials from China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, Algeria, and Tajikistan. Information in some files comes from these legally questionable interrogation sessions. [McClatchy Newspapers, 4/24/2011; New York Times, 4/24/2011] One well-known case of torture involved Mohamed al-Khatani, the alleged 20th 9/11 hijacker (see December 2001). While being held in Guantanamo, he was interrogated for months with techniques that the senior Bush administration official in charge of bringing Guantanamo prisoners to trial later said legally met the definition of torture (see August 8, 2002-January 15, 2003 and January 14, 2009). His file says, “Although publicly released records allege detainee was subject to harsh interrogation techniques in the early stages of detention,” his confessions “appear to be true and are corroborated in reporting from other sources.” Claims al-Khatani made regarding 16 other Guantanamo prisoners are mentioned in their files without any caveats about the interrogation methods used on him. [New York Times, 4/24/2011]
Some Prisoners Unjustly Held - Some prisoners appear to be clearly innocent, and yet they often were held for years before being released. Some prisoners are still being held even though their files indicate that their interrogators are not even sure of their identities. In some cases, prisoners were held for years not because they were suspected of any crime, but because it was thought they knew useful information. For instance, files show one prisoner was sent to Guantanamo because of what he knew about the secret service of Uzbekistan. [McClatchy Newspapers, 4/24/2011; New York Times, 4/24/2011] In a cruel twist of fate, one man, Jamal al-Harith, appears to have been imprisoned mainly because he had been imprisoned by the Taliban. His file states, “He was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics.” [Guardian, 4/25/2011]
Prisoner Releases Based More on Luck than Evidence - The New York Times claims the determination of which prisoners were released has mostly been a “lottery” that was largely based on which country the prisoner came from. “Most European inmates were sent home, despite grave qualms on the analysts’ part. Saudis went home, even some of the most militant, to enter the rehabilitation program; some would graduate and then join al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Yemenis have generally stayed put, even those cleared for release, because of the chaos in their country. Even in clearly mistaken arrests, release could be slow.” [New York Times, 4/24/2011] In 2009, the new Obama administration put together a task force that re-evaluated the 240 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo. However, these more recent assessments remain secret. [New York Times, 4/24/2011]
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