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Daily Archives: December 8, 2010

Australia blames U.S. over WikiLeaks, founder held in UK

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd

 

December 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Australia blamed the United States Wednesday for the release by WikiLeaks of U.S. diplomatic cables after a British court ordered the detention of the group’s founder over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, handed himself in to British police Tuesday after Sweden had issued a European Arrest Warrant for him. Assange, who denies the allegations, will remain behind bars until a hearing on December 14.

He has spent some time in Sweden and was accused this year of sexual misconduct by two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers. A Swedish prosecutor wants to question him about the accusation.

WikiLeaks, which has provoked fury in Washington with its publications, vowed it would continue making public details of the 250,000 secret U.S. documents it had obtained.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the people who originally leaked the documents, not Assange, were legally liable and the leaks raised questions over the “adequacy” of U.S. security.

“Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorized release of 250,000 documents from the U.S. diplomatic communications network,” Rudd told Reuters in an interview.

“The Americans are responsible for that,” said Rudd, who had been described in one leaked U.S. cable as a “control freak.”

The original source of the leak is not known, though a U.S. army private who worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Bradley Manning, has been charged by military authorities with unauthorized downloading of more than 150,000 State Department cables.

U.S. officials have declined to say whether those cables are the same ones now being released by WikiLeaks.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates welcomed news of Assange’s arrest.

“I hadn’t heard that but it sounds like good news to me,” Gates told reporters Tuesday during a trip to Afghanistan.

Assange defended his Internet publishing site in a newspaper commentary Wednesday, saying it was crucial to spreading democracy and likening himself to global media baron Rupert Murdoch in the quest to publish the truth.

At the Tuesday court hearing in London, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said: “There are substantial grounds to believe he could abscond if granted bail.”

He said the allegations were serious, and that Assange had comparatively weak community ties in Britain.

His British lawyer, Mark Stephens, told reporters a renewed bail application would be made, and that his client was “fine.”

Stephens said many people believed the prosecution was politically motivated, and that he would be “released and vindicated.”

But a Swedish prosecutor was cited in newspaper Aftonbladet as saying the case was a personal matter and was not connected with his WikiLeaks work.

Assange, dressed in a navy suit and wearing an open-neck white shirt, initially gave his address in court as a P.O. Box in Australia. Pressed for a more precise address, he gave a street in Victoria, Australia.

Australian journalist John Pilger, British film director Ken Loach and Jemima Khan, former wife of Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan, all offered to put up sureties to persuade the court Assange would not abscond.

The U.S. government and others across the world have argued the publication of the cables is irresponsible and could put their national security at risk.  (*)

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John Lennon's Final Interview

John Lennon photographed in New York on December 8th, 1980.

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December 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI/ ROLLING STONE) — On December 5, 1980, three days before he was murdered, John Lennon sat down with Rolling Stone‘s Jonathan Cott for a nine-hour interview. Select excerpts from the interview ran in Rolling Stone‘s tribute to John Lennon the following month — but Cott never transcribed all of the tapes. For 30 years they sat in the back of his closet.

“Earlier this year I was cleaning up to find some files in the recesses of my closet when I came across two cassette tapes marked ‘John Lennon, December 5th, 1980,'” Cott says. “It had been 30 years since I listened to them, and when I put them on this totally alive, uplifting voice started speaking on this magical strip of magnetic tape.”

Photos: John Lennon’s Final Years ( Rolling Stone )

John Lennon’s Last Days: Audio clips from Jonathan Cott’s 1980 interview with Lennon, plus video, photos, playlists and more

Cott’s interview with John Lennon — the artist’s last print interview — finally hits newsstands this Friday as the centerpiece of Rolling Stone‘s tribute to John Lennon on the 30th anniversary of his death. In the remarkably candid interview Lennon lashes out at fans and critics who went after him during his five-year break from music. “What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean,” Lennon says. “I’m not interested in being a dead fucking hero…so forget ’em, forget ’em.”

Hear Clips of John Lennon’s Last Interview

He also talked about plans for a possible return to the road. “We just might do it,” he said. “But there will be no smoke bombs, no lipstick, no flashing lights. It just has to be comfy. But we could have a laugh. We’re born-again rockers, and we’re starting over…There’s plenty of time, right? Plenty of time.”

Yoko Ono Picks John Lennon’s Best Songs

Yoko Ono also contributed an intensely personal essay to the issue about her final days with Lennon. “Just before we left the studio [minutes before he died] John looked at me,” Ono writes. “I looked at him. His eyes had an intensity of a guy about to tell me something important. ‘Yes,’ I asked. And I will never forget how, with a deep, soft voice, as if to carve his words in my mind, he said the most beautiful things to me. ‘Oh,’ I said after a while, and looked away, feeling a bit embarrassed.”   (*)

 
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PM David Cameron : Long term partnership with Afghanistan

David Cameron in Afghanistan

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December 07, 2010 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has  announced agreement on a long-term partnership plan which will see Britain offer economic, political and military support for Afghanistan once combat troops have gone home.

The PM made the comments during a pre-Christmas visit to the country where he stayed overnight at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province before travelling to Kabul to meet President Karzai.

Mr Cameron said the planned transition to Afghan control by 2014, agreed at last month’s NATO Summit, did not mean the international community would then abandon the country.

He said:

“On the contrary, we made it clear in Lisbon that we will stand by you for the long term. Britain will remain a close and reliable partner and friend for many years to come.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with President Karzai, the PM added that 2010 was “without doubt a year in which we made real progress” and that British troops could start coming home from Afghanistan as early as next year.

“2011 must be the year in which that progress becomes irreversible, because a safer Afghanistan means a safer Britain and a safer world.”

The Prime Minister said he had seen the people of Helmand displaying more confidence in returning to their ordinary lives as the surge of troops brought improvements to the security situation.

He added:

“Of course, there is no scope for complacency. This progress is still fragile.

“But I am cautiously optimistic. We have the right strategy… we have put in the right resources to back it up and we have also given it a very clear focus on national security and we are on the right track.

“What I have seen on this visit gives me confidence that our plans for transition are achievable.”

Speaking alongside Mr Karzai in Kabul, Mr Cameron highlighted three priorities for 2011, which he said must be ”a decisive year in this campaign”:

  • to maintain the security momentum created by the military surge;
  • to begin the process of transition of security responsibility to Afghan forces; and
  • to accelerate the Afghan-led political process of integration and reconciliation of insurgents.
 
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WikiLeaks founder is jailed in Britain in sex case

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, back to camera, is driven into Westminster Magistrates Court in London Tuesday Dec. 7, 2010 after being arrested on a European Arrest Warrant. Assange is appearing at the court for his extradition hearing for sexual assault allegations in Sweden.(AP Photo/ Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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December 08, 2010 LONDON (KATAKAMI / – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested and jailed without bail Tuesday in a sex-crimes investigation, but his organization scarcely missed a beat, releasing a new batch of the secret cables that U.S. officials say are damaging America’s security and relations worldwide.

A month after dropping out of public view, the 39-year-old Australian surrendered to Scotland Yard to answer a warrant issued for his arrest by Sweden. He is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of having sex with them without a condom and without their consent.

Assange said he would fight extradition to Sweden, setting the stage for what could be a pitched legal battle. And as if to prove that it can’t be intimidated, WikiLeaks promptly released a dozen new cables, including details of a NATO defense plan for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that made Russia bristle.

The Pentagon welcomed Assange’s arrest.

“That sounds like good news to me,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on a visit to Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson insisted Assange’s arrest and the decision Tuesday by both Visa and MasterCard to stop processing donations to the group “will not change our operation.” Hrafnsson said the organization has no plans yet to make good on its threat to release en masse some of its most sensitive U.S. documents if it comes under attack.

At a court hearing in London, Assange showed no reaction as Judge Howard Riddle denied him bail while he awaits an extradition hearing Dec. 14. The judge said Assange might flee if released. When the judge asked him whether he would agree to be extradited, Assange said: “I do not consent.”

It was not publicly known which jail Assange was sent to, since British police never reveal that for privacy and security reasons. Some prisoners occasionally get Internet access, though only under close supervision.

The U.S. government is investigating whether Assange can be prosecuted for espionage or other offenses. On Tuesday, Pentagon and State Department officials said some foreign officials have suddenly grown reluctant to trust the U.S. because of the secrets spilled by WikiLeaks.

“We have already seen some indications of meetings that used to involve several diplomats and now involve fewer diplomats,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “We’re conscious of at least one meeting where it was requested that notebooks be left outside the room.”

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the military had seen foreign contacts “pulling back.”

“Believing that the U.S. is not good at keeping secrets and having secrets out there certainly changed things,” Lapan said.

During the hour-long court hearing in London, attorney Gemma Lindfield, acting on behalf of the Swedish authorities, outlined the allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion that were brought against Assange following separate sexual encounters in August with two women in Sweden.

Lindfield said one woman accused Assange of pinning her down and refusing to use a condom on the night of Aug. 14 in Stockholm. That woman also accused of Assange of molesting her in a way “designed to violate her sexual integrity” several days later. A second woman accused Assange of having sex with her without a condom while he was a guest at her Stockholm home and she was asleep.

A person who has sex with an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person in Sweden can be convicted of rape and sentenced to two to six years in prison.

Assange’s lawyers have claimed the accusations stem from disputes “over consensual but unprotected sex” and say the women made the claims only after finding out that Assange had slept with both.

Prosecutors in Sweden have not brought any formal charges against Assange. WikiLeaks lawyer Mark Stephens said there are doubts as to whether Sweden has the legal right to extradite him simply for questioning.

Experts say European arrest warrants like the one issued by Sweden can be tough to beat. Even if the warrant were defeated on a technicality, Sweden could simply issue a new one.

The extradition process could take anywhere from a week to two months, according to Assange’s Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig. If Assange loses, he may appeal to the High Court. There can be further appeals, and Sweden also has a right to appeal if the court finds in Assange’s favor.

In the meantime, Stephens said he would reapply for bail, noting that several prominent Britons — including socialite Jemima Khan and filmmaker Ken Loach — have each offered to post 20,000 pounds ($31,500) so Assange could go free.

Australian government officials said they are providing Assange with consular assistance, as they do with any countryman arrested abroad. The consul general in London spoke to Assange to ensure he had legal representation, the government said.

Some people protested outside the London court, bearing signs reading, “Save Wikileaks, Save Free Speech” and “Trumped Up Charges.”

“I came to show my support for Julian,” said 26-year-old electrician Kim Krasniqi. “He is innocent. Europe is bullying him, They don’t want him to publish what he is publishing.”

The latest batch of confidential U.S. cables could strain relations between Washington and Moscow. The documents show that NATO secretly decided in January to defend the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against military attack.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, said Tuesday that Moscow will demand that NATO drop the agreement, which he argued is clearly aimed at his country.

“Against whom else could such a defense be intended? Against Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland? Against polar bears, or against the Russian bear?” Rogozin said.  (*)

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in World News

 

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WikiLeaks cables: Barack Obama is a bigger danger

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press regarding the U.S.-Korea trade agreement in the Old Executive Office Building December 4, 2010 in Washington, DC. The agreement comes several weeks after Obama attended the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Leslie E. Kossoff-Pool/Getty Images)

By : John Bolton ( John Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute )

WikiLeaks harms the US. But the president’s refusal to acknowledge the threats we face is a bigger danger.

December 05, 2010 (KATAKAMI / GUARDIAN.CO.UK) — WikiLeaks has yet again flooded the internet with thousands of classified American documents, this time state department cables. More troubling than WikiLeaks’ latest revelation of US secrets, however, is the Obama administration’s weak, wrong-headed and erratic response. Unfortunately, the administration has acted consistently with its demonstrated unwillingness to assert and defend US interests across a wide range of threats, such as Iran and North Korea, which, ironically, the leaked cables amply document.

On 29 November, secretary of state Hillary Clinton lamented that this third document dump was “not just an attack on United States foreign policy and interests, [but] an attack on the international community”. By contrast, on 1 December, the presidential press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the White House was “not scared of one guy with one keyboard and a laptop”. Hours later, a Pentagon spokesman disdained the notion that the military should have prevented the WikiLeaks release: “The determination of those who are charged with such things, the decision was made not to proceed with any sort of aggressive action of that sort in this case.”

Clinton is demonstrably incorrect in being preoccupied with defending the “international community”, whatever that is. Her inability to understand WikiLeaks’ obsession with causing harm to the US is a major reason why the Obama administration has done little or nothing in response – except talk, its usual foreign-policy default position.

At least Clinton saw it as an attack on someone. The White House/defence department view was that the leaks were no big deal. Obama’s ideological predecessors welcomed publication of the Pentagon Papers, and suspected subsequent presidencies of nefarious clandestine dealings internationally, capped by Bush administration “intelligence cherry-picking” on Iraq. The prior WikiLeaks releases were largely military information, which made the Pentagon’s earlier rhetoric more high-pitched, but the outcome for all three was the same: no response. What does it matter if half a million classified US documents become instantly unclassified and downloadable by friend and foe alike?

This sustained, collective inaction exemplifies the Obama administration’s all-too-common attitude towards threats to America’s international interests. The president, unlike the long line of his predecessors since Franklin Roosevelt, simply does not put national security at the centre of his political priorities. Thus, Europeans who welcomed Obama to the Oval Office should reflect on his Warren Harding-like interest in foreign policy. Europeans who believe they will never again face real security threats to their comfortable lifestyle should realise that if by chance one occurs during this administration, the president will be otherwise occupied. He will be continuing his efforts to restructure the US economy, and does not wish to be distracted by foreign affairs.

The more appropriate response is to prosecute everyone associated with these leaks to the fullest extent of US law, which the justice department at least appears to be considering. Next, we must stop oscillating between excessive stove-piping of information, as before 9/11, and excessive access, as demonstrated by WikiLeaks. There is no one final answer, but the balance must be under constant analysis. Finally, the Pentagon’s cyber-warriors need target practice in this new form of combat, and they could long ago have practised by obliterating WikiLeaks’ electrons. Had we acted after the first release in July, there might not have been subsequent leaks, and lives and critical interests would have been protected.

But that was not to be under Obama. His secretary of state does not comprehend that America is the subject of the attack, his department of defence is not interested in defending us, and the president himself seems utterly indifferent to the whole affair.

All of this underscores the real problem. It is not WikiLeaks that ultimately imperils our national security, but the failing Obama administration, which ignores the nature and extent of threats we face, and which is too often unwilling to act to thwart them. While our economic difficulties have dominated the national debate for two years, national security will inevitably again come to the fore, as Americans see the full extent of the devastation left by Obama’s policies. That shift cannot come too soon.  (*)

 
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