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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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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in World News

 

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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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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in World News

 

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrested in London

A detail from the Interpol website showing the appeal for the arrest of the editor-in-chief of the Wikileaks whistleblowing website, Julian Assange on December 6, 2010. Assange who has spearheaded the release of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables through Wikileaks is wanted in Sweden on rape charges against two women, and is currently in hiding. (Photo by Getty Images)

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December 07, 2010 (KATAKAMI/ BBC) — The founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has been arrested by the Metropolitan Police.

The 39-year-old Australian denies allegations he sexually assaulted two women in Sweden.

Scotland Yard said Mr Assange was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant by appointment at a London police station at 0930 GMT.

He is due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court later.

Mr Assange is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.  (*)

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2010 in World News

 

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Italian PM Berlusconi : No wild parties, just elegant soirees

FILE - In this April 18, 2008 file photo, Italy's Premier-elect Silvio Berlusconi, right, and Russia's President Vladmir Putin seen after a joint news conference following talks in Berlusconi's 'Villa Certosa' in Porto Rotondo, on the island region of Sardinia, Italy. The classified diplomatic cables released by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks and reported by The New York Times said a batch of documents raised questions about Berlusconi and his relationship with Putin. One cable said Berlusconi 'appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin' in Europe. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

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November 29, 2010 ROME (KATAKAMI / AP) – Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi insisted Monday he only throws elegant, dignified soirees at his villas and not wild parties as reportedly described by a Rome-based U.S. diplomat in a cable contained in the Wikileaks trove.

Berlusconi said he didn’t care to read what such diplomats had to report, saying “I don’t look at what third-rate or fourth-rate officials say.”

Berlusconi has been accused of entertaining escorts and underage girls at his villas — allegations that have fueled a political crisis that has brought the government to a no-confidence vote in two weeks.

According to the cable, reported by The Guardian newspaper, Berlusconi’s “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest.”

On Monday, Berlusconi shrugged off the commentary with a laugh.

“I unfortunately have never in my life been to a wild party,” he said. “Maybe they’re interesting. I’ve never been.”

He said once a month he hosts dinner parties at his homes because so many people want to see him. “At these dinners, everything that occurs is proper, elegant and dignified.” Otherwise, guests wouldn’t be allowed to take pictures, he added.

Several beautiful young women have come forward over the past year detailing the dinner parties they attended at Berlusconi’s villas in Rome, Milan and Sardinia and the gifts the premier allegedly gave them.

The most recent, Nadia Macri, a 28-year-old self-described escort, has said Berlusconi paid her ?10,000 ($13,000) — delivered in an envelope — for sexual favors after she was introduced to the premier by a television executive.

Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini has said there was no basis of truth in Macri’s claims and said they had been disproved.  (*)

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in World News

 

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President Ahmadinejad : Leaks a 'satanic plot'

FILE : Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad smiles while attending the 17th International Festival and Fair of Press and News Agencies closing ceremony in Tehran November 1, 2010. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

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President Ahamdinejad comments on WikiLeaks affair which revealed Arab world’s call to attack Islamic Republic, calling it satanic plot. ‘Such acts of mischief have no impact on relations between nations,’ he says, blaming Israel for nuclear scientist’s death earlier.

November 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / YNET) — Iran’s president says leaked American diplomatic cables recounting Arab calls for the US to launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities were intended to stir “mischief” and describes the affair as a satanic plot.

According to the cables released Sunday by online whistle-blower Wikileaks, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“We don’t give any value to these documents,”Ahmadinejad told a news conference “It’s without legal value. Iran and regional states are friends. Such acts of mischief have no impact on relations between nations.”

Ahmadinejad alleged the leaks were an “organized” effort by the US to stir trouble between Iran and Arab neighbors. He said the documents were “psychological warfare.”

“Some part of the American government produced these documents,” he said. “We don’t think this information was leaked. We think it was organized to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals.”

He went on to accuse Israel and the West of being behind thekilling of a nuclear scientist on Monday.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the man killed was involved in a major project with the country’s nuclear agency, though he did not give specifics. Some Iranian media reported that the wounded scientist was a laser expert at Iran’s Defense Ministry and one of the country’s few top specialists in nuclear isotope separation.

‘Hand of the Zionist regime’

Iranian officials said they suspected the assassination was part of a covert campaign aimed at damaging the country’s nuclear program, which the United States and its allies says is intended to build a weapon – a claim Tehran denies. At least two other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years, one of them in an attack similar to Monday’s.

Ahmadinejad told a press conference that “undoubtedly, the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination.”


Scene of assassination in Tehran

But he said the attack would not hamper the nuclear program and vowed that one day Iran would take retribution. “The day in the near future when time will come for taking them into account, their file will be very thick,” he said.

Asked about the Iranian accusations, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel did not comment on such matters. Washington has strongly denied any link to previous attacks.

The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. His wife, who was in the car with him, was wounded.  (*)


Reuters, The Associated Press and Dudi Cohen contributed to this report

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in World News

 

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Clinton calls leaked documents attack on world

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pauses during a bilateral meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Monday, Nov. 29, 2010, at the State Department in Washington. Bristling over the unauthorized release of more than a quarter million classified State Department documents, the Obama White House on Monday ordered a government-wide review of how agencies safeguard sensitive information (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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November 29, 2010 WASHINGTON (KATAKAMI / AP) – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic documents is an attack not only on the United States but also the international community.

In her first public comments since the weekend release of the classified State Department cables, Clinton said Monday that online whistleblower Wikileaks acted illegally in posting the material. She said the Obama administration was “aggressively pursuing” those responsible for the leak.

She said the leaks erode trust between nations. But Clinton also said she was “confident” that U.S. partnerships would withstand the challenges posed by the latest revelations. (*)

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in World News

 

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