Tuesday, February 01, 2011






We'll start with Julian Assange just because I'm sick of the nonsense. We've said for sometime that Assange is not a journalist and he's not. He might, many months back, have been comparable to a book publisher and qualified as a journalist by that route. But he's not and has never been a journalist. Apologies to Jim because we toyed with writing about this subject at Third but couldn't pull it together. I'm grabbing it now. David Swanson (War Is A Crime) is outraged by a CBS profile on Julian Assange which aired Sunday. Among David's many complaints, "The CBS program 60 Minutes has just published video of an interview with Wikileaks' Julian Assange -- with the video focused, of course, on Assange himself, with almost no substantive content related to the massive crimes and abuses that have made news around the globe." For the record, 60 Minutes is a TV show; therefore, it "airs" reports, it does not "publish" them. The report aired Sunday night. First off, the profile on Julian Assange was billed as just that. Drop back to Friday's snapshot where we noted the upcoming broadcast and included their description of the segment: "Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, speaks to Steve Kroft about the U.S. attempt to indict him on criminal charges and the torrent of criticism aimed at him for publishing classified documents. (This is a double-length segment.)" Expressing shock today over what aired *Sunday* is a bit like going to one of Bruce Willis' shoot-em-up-bang-bang movies and leaving the theater complaining that you had no idea there would be violence in the film.

The segment was as advertised. David's also unhappy with Steve Kroft's style. That's fine, call it out. But to read David's long piece is to get that it's not really about Kroft. Take the criticism about Kroft not providing "substantive coverage" of WikiLeaks' 'exposures.' David never wrote the same about Amy Goodman. But Goody spent an hour (she called it an hour -- more like 45 minutes) with Assange on July 28th and she dealt far less with WikiLeaks' exposures. She wasted time, for example, asking Assange about the damage that might come from the Congress passing a law -- she asked Australian citizen Julian Assange about the US Congress passing a law. A topic he was clearly not qualified to speak on and no one should be surprised by that fact. It takes a real idiot (or maybe a xenophobe who assumes the whole world knows and follows the US Congress and how it makes a law and how . . .). She provided a lot of gossip. Steve Kroft -- we can cover this at Third where we can lay it out all side by side -- covered more of the exposures than did Goodman and where was David's angry article about Amy Goodman putting the BS in Panhandle Media? No where to be found.

The problem isn't 60 Minutes and it's not Steve Kroft. That's not to say either is above criticism. That is to say, Julian Assange agreed to a celebrity profile and that's what he got. It can be argued that at any point with Kroft (or with Goodman), Assange could have been raising exposures but didn't do that.

The problem is Julian Assange is emerging and he's not conforming with his fan base. Here, we called out the CNN 'reporter' who blew an interview with Assange. We called it out because the segment was supposed to be about the exposures but she made it instead about Assange. I have never had as much pressure from CNN friends to correct something. We haven't corrected it, that entry's still up. But as they argued for their reporter, they repeatedly told stories about Assange. He is not the man his fan boy base thinks he is. That's why we began to note immediately after that Julian Assange is the public face of WikiLeaks but he is not WikiLeaks. At this point, that may no longer be true due to the fact that so many have now jumped ship.

CNN refused to go into business with Assange for a reason. Other outlets were happy to go along with the source. Those include Der Spiegel, the Guardian and the New York Times. And fan boys like David Swanson never called that out. That went against WikiLeaks entire reason for being. WikiLeaks was where the people would find information, information that others tried to hide. Suddenly, the information was being filtered. A filter was completely against WikiLeak's reason for being. (Some have attacked WikiLeaks over not censoring names in an early document release. We didn't attack them for that and I defended them here over that noting that they are not supposed to be altering the documents in any way, they are supposed to be providing sunlight.) As the releases continued to be coordinated with the press, WikiLeaks stopped putting it online. Oh, they'd do so in a week or a few weeks or maybe a month . . .

No, that's not the mission statement or purpose of WikiLeaks. That's when people start leaving. Not because they're jealous of Julian Assange but because WikiLeaks is not living it up to its stated purpose. Julian Assange doesn't believe in the power of the internet. That's why he went to old media. He could have cut in a website -- The Huffington Post, for example. He didn't. He spat on new media and it's so amazing to watch as those spat upon rush to defend repeatedly.

Julian Assange is not a journalist. What he has done is be a source. And outlets have been far too kind to his whims. And maybe if John F. Burns (and his co-writer, but to the world, it is now John F. Burns' article) had been honest enough about what was going on, he could have written an honest article instead of one that read like an attack because it was an attack. Julian Assange isn't a journalist. He chases celebrity.

That's why he agreed to the CBS interview to begin with. Assange has no plans to come to the US. So why is he granting an interview to CBS? To promote WikiLeaks? If so, look at his own answers because Kroft's bringing up more specifics on revelations that Julian Assange does.

In Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark's "An Inside Look at Difficult Negotiaions with Julian Assange," Der Spiegel portrays the source's ego mania in a lengthy article and the most disturbing paragraph for Assange (and his groupies) would probably be this one where, having decided the New York Times is no longer 'in the loop,' Assange is confronting the Guardian and Der Spiegel in a meeting to find out if the Times has copies of the latest cables and how they got hold of them:

The mood was tense. "Does the New York Times have a copy?" Assange wanted to know. He repeated the question, and it sliced through the room, which by now was very still. "And if so, where did it get a copy?" Assange mentioned the written agreement he had signed with the Guardian in the summer, which stipulated that WikiLeaks was merely providing the Guardian with the embassy cables for its review, and that publication or duplication was only permissible with the consent of WikiLeaks. Assange felt that a breach of contract had taken place, which is why he had brought along his attorneys.

Check out the ego mania of Assange and how ridiculous he sounds insisting that the US government cables (which deserved to see the light of day, no question) must not be shared witout his consent and if they were shared with another paper this would be a violation of the written agreement? There's not a big difference between Assange's attacks and postures and those of the US State Dept. And, as the paragraph demonstrates, WikiLeaks was no longer WikiLeaks. It was about making Julian Assange a celebrity. That's what's destroyed the organization and why a number of people have left it and are setting up a new version which will adhere to the beliefs WikiLeaks once espoused. Note this paragraph and, Mascolo is Georg Mascolo, editor-in-chief of the Guardian.

Assange was using terms like "theft" and "criminal activities," against which he said he would take legal action, because the copy was, as he claimed, "illegal." At that moment, he was apparently unaware of the dual meaning of what he had just said. Mascolo replied: "There are nothing but illegal copies of this material."

Assange sounds like an idiot, granted. But grasp that someone risked their job (at the very least) to provide WikiLeaks with the material and instead of releasing it -- the WikiLeaks motto be damned, apparently -- Assange is having a freak-fest over the fact that it may get released.

None of these documents should have ever gone through the MSM to begin with. The Collateral Murder video got substantial attention and coverage after WikiLeaks published it online. And that's not just my argument, that's also the argument that took place inside WikiLeaks. The question was why, with no announcement (let alone discussion), WikiLeaks was transforming from a conduit of information directly to the people to one now using a filter (the MSM) and refusing to post the documents online?

Bill Keller had a lengthy article (like the Der Spiegel article, Keller's is actually part of a new book) in the New York Times' Sunday Magazine recounting the paper's interactions with Julian Assange:

Three months later, with the French daily Le Monde added to the group, we published Round 2, the Iraq War Logs, including articles on how the United States turned a blind eye to the torture of prisoners by Iraqi forces working with the U.S., how Iraq spawned an extraordinary American military reliance on private contractors and how extensively Iran had meddled in the conflict.
By this time, The Times's relationship with our source had gone from wary to hostile. I talked to Assange by phone a few times and heard out his complaints. He was angry that we declined to link our online coverage of the War Logs to the WikiLeaks Web site, a decision we made because we feared -- rightly, as it turned out -- that its trove would contain the names of low-level informants and make them Taliban targets. "Where's the respect?" he demanded. "Where's the respect?" Another time he called to tell me how much he disliked our profile of Bradley Manning, the Army private suspected of being the source of WikiLeaks's most startling revelations. The article traced Manning's childhood as an outsider and his distress as a gay man in the military. Assange complained that we "psychologicalized" Manning and gave short shrift to his "political awakening."
The final straw was a front-page profile of Assange by John Burns and Ravi Somaiya, published Oct. 24, that revealed fractures within WikiLeaks, attributed by Assange's critics to his imperious management style. Assange denounced the article to me, and in various public forums, as "a smear."
Assange was transformed by his outlaw celebrity. The derelict with the backpack and the sagging socks now wore his hair dyed and styled, and he favored fashionably skinny suits and ties. He became a kind of cult figure for the European young and leftish and was evidently a magnet for women. Two Swedish women filed police complaints claiming that Assange insisted on having sex without a condom; Sweden's strict laws on nonconsensual sex categorize such behavior as rape, and a prosecutor issued a warrant to question Assange, who initially described it as a plot concocted to silence or discredit WikiLeaks.
I came to think of Julian Assange as a character from a Stieg Larsson thriller -- a man who could figure either as hero or villain in one of the megaselling Swedish novels that mix hacker counterculture, high-level conspiracy and sex as both recreation and violation.

Bill Keller has not attacked Assange. But complexities escape the fan boys. (Doyle McManus has a commentary I haven't read yet but a friend at the Los Angeles Times asked for a link to it. Doyle's generally making several astute points and I'm sure someone in the community will end up quoting from it at their site tonight.) At the end of the day, has Assange been good or bad for WikiLeaks? They have had revelations make big splashes in MSM and that's a plus. Would they have had big splashes if they'd continued to follow the model they preached? No one knows but the fact that they morphed into something in complete opposition to what they preached is a minus. Assange became the story because Assange wanted to be the story. That's why he agreed to the celebrity profile. He is not and never has been Daniel Ellsberg. He is not a whistle blower. That would be the people who supplied WikiLeaks with information. Information which Julian Assange now sits on -- grasp that -- and claims he will release if there are any deaths.

Uhm, I kind of think people who risked (at the very least) their jobs to provide WikiLeaks with information did so because they wanted the information to be out there in the public, not because they wanted to provide Julian Assange with a bargaining chip he could use to whip up even more press attention.

Greg Palast has warned about Julian Assange but the fan boy base wanted to ignore Palast. That's very strange considering I can't think of another time when the fan boy base has shut Palast out. But what Palast saw was an ever increasing gulf between what WikiLeaks stated it was doing and what it actually did. And by that measure, the current WikiLeaks is a failure. Hopefully, those who have left the organization to start OpenLeaks will fair better with the failure of WikiLeaks as an example. Jim, Dona, Ava and I came up with an outline a few weeks back on what we'd cover if we wrote a piece on WikiLeaks. I have deliberately ignored some of the points Jim and Dona raised so those aspects can be picked up at Third if they want.

But David Swanson has written a lengthy piece about Julian Assange today and about how poor Julian has been mistreated and yet again we're not focusing on real issues as a result. It's really past time that the fan boys stop rushing to defend their hero. He has clay feet, he's far from perfect and they need to let go of the illusions they hold of him and grow up. They have confused the best of WikiLeaks with Julian Assange and have taken to attacking facts because facts don't fit into their scheme. Here's a fact for you, the late and great Jaqueline Susann did more interviews than Julian Assange could ever dream of and, once she became a novelist, in every one of them, she ensured her books would be mentioned by mentioning her books. She plugged her books relentlessly. If she couldn't get on the program -- Johnny Carson had banned her from NBC's Tonight Show, for example -- she'd find another way to get her book mentioned (guest Bette Davis in Johnny's case). If Julian Assange wanted the revelations talked about in the interview with CBS, he would have ensured that they were talked about. Or are his fan boys admitting that Jacqueline Susann was far smarter than he is?

David Swanson picked Steve Kroft to go after and the real question there is why he's yet to defend Bradley Manning from the hatchet job Nancy A. Youssef did on him -- excuse me, the most recent hatchet job she's done on him. Who is Bradley Manning? Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." If the accusations are true, he's the hero everyone should be worrying about (not Julian Assange). If the accusations ar false (and they're false until proven in court), then an innocent person is being railroaded. In either case, Nancy A. Youssef did a hatchet job in print last week. Maybe people can be forgiven for missing all of her attacks on Bradley when she's been a guest on The Diane Rehm Show. However, when she attacks in print and many other outlets pick up on her smears and attacks, maybe David Swanson should set Julian Assange aside long enough to try defending Bradley? For those late to the party, we spent four paragraphs in Friday's snapshot calling out Youssef's attack on Bradley:

It means we don't link to Nancy A. Youssef's article for McClatchy Newspapers. Why not? Go through our archives, do a search of this site with "The Diane Rehm Show" and "Nancy A. Youssef" and "Bradley Manning" as key terms. Nancy has been on a one-woman witch hunt with regards to Bradley. She has repeatedly convicted him on air on The Diane Rehm Show -- not just once, not just twice, not just three times. She has done this over and over and over. (Though a guest on today's show, she didn't discuss Bradley -- they were obsessed with Egypt -- which had already been an hour long topic on Thursday's Diane Rehm Show but still became the thrust of today's international hour.) Nancy is also very close to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

A number of outlets are putting the claims in Nancy's bad article out there and treating them as fact. Let's review it. (If you must read it, the title is "Probe: Army ignored warnings over soldier" and you can Google that.) Nancy knows about an Army report -- how? Her friends she leaves unnamed. (But I can name them.) This report is the result of an investigation, she says, and it found unflattering things about Bradley. She says. And she can say so, she says, because she has "two military officials familiar with investigation" (but not the report?) who talked to her. Once upon a time, you had to have three sources. Always wonder about unsourced claims with two sources. Though she hasn't seen the report, Nancy yacks on and on about the report -- when not -- FOR NO NATURAL REASON -- bringing in Major Nidal Hasan. That's your clue that Nancy's gone skinny dipping in a cesspool she wants to pass off as journalism. Hasan shot dead many at Fort Hood. So Nance just wants to bring him into the article for . . . local color? Extra seasoning? She knows what she's doing and she knows it's not journalism.

You've been repeatedly warned about McClatchy of late and about Nancy in particular who is sending off alarms at McClatchy. What she's done is write a smear-job, she has not reported. For her friends in the Defense Dept, she has attacked Bradley in an unsourced article that doesn't pass the smell test. There is a term for it, "yellow journalism." She should be ashamed of herself and everyone running with the claims she's making in this article needs to ask how they think they're helping Bradley?

They also should note that Nancy made no effort to get a comment from Bradley's attorney. While painting Bradley in an unflattering light throughout her article, she never tries for a quote, she only repeats what her Defense 'chums' and . . . tell her. She's becoming the new Judith Miller and that's her fault but also the fault of a lot of people who should have been calling her out months ago but let her slide and slide.

Innocent or guilty of leaking, Bradley needs defenders. He's not traipsing around an English manor.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The power-grab"
"Troy Yocum"
"And the war drags on . . ."
"Violence continues, so does the spinning"
"Burials and deployments"

"One mistake after another for Barry"