Monday, January 24, 2011

Leaks, Leaks, Leaks: A Dead Man Can’t Leak Stuff … There’s Only One Way To Do It: Illegally Shoot The Son Of A Bitch.” Now That’s Real Civility!

Leaks, Leaks, Leaks: A Dead Man Can’t Leak Stuff … There’s Only One Way To Do It: Illegally Shoot The Son Of A Bitch.” Now That’s Real Civility!

Three major newspapers in northern Europe will join forces with a Norwegian paper to comb through about 250,000 cables originally exclusively handled by WikiLeaks' media partners, newspaper Svenska Dagbladet told AFP on Sunday.

Norwegian daily Aftenposten will share its findings with three major media outlets in Denmark, Germany and Sweden, Martin Jönsson, the executive director of Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, said on Sunday. The other two papers are Germany's Die Welt and Denmark's Politiken, he said.

The content was so voluminous that "it would be easier from a logistical point of view to work in a team," Jönsson said. SvD and Aftenposten both belong to Norway's Schibsted Media group.

The mounting number of media that have gotten their hands on the cables is undermining WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's strategy of tightly controlling how and where the documents it obtains appear.

The whistleblower website had originally reached a deal with five major newspapers, The New York Times, France's Le Monde, Spain's El Pais, The Guardian in Britain and Germany's Der Spiegel, to gradually release the diplomatic cables.

The exact terms of the agreement are unknown. Aftenposten has refused to reveal how it obtained the database.

Since obtaining them late December, Aftenposten has published them regularly without marching in step with the slow release scripted by Assange. Svenska Dagbladet has so far published eight articles based on the secret data, its director said.

The WikiLeaks website last week leaked a secret State Department cable  from October 31, 2008, directing United States officials to spy on Israel. The cable, dated only days before the 2008 American presidential elections, was signed by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The recently leaked cable reveals former U.S. President George W. Bush’s foreign policy czar instructing American diplomats in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA, to conduct a massive espionage operation against the Jewish state. The sought-for information covered all aspects of Israel’s political system, society, communications infrastructures and the Israel Defense Forces.

Regarding the IDF, US diplomats and spies were instructed to gather intelligence on planned Israeli military operations against the American-backed Palestinian Authority, Syria and Lebanon.

American agents were also asked to probe the attitudes of Israeli military commanders and to gather information on “IDF units, equipment, maintenance levels, training, morale, and operational readiness[;] IDF tactics, techniques and procedures for conducting conventional and unconventional counterinsurgency and counterterrorist operations[; and] Israeli assessment of the impact of reserve duty in the territories on IDF readiness.”

As for political leaders, Rice instructed diplomats and spies to provide detailed information about government plans, potential ways Washington can influence politicians, how politicians decide to launch military strikes, the attitudes of Israeli leaders towards the U.S. and more.

Rice also sought information about various aspects of Israeli society. She instructed diplomats and spies to gather details on everything from “Information on and motivations for any increased Israeli population emigration from Israel” to detailed information on Israeli residents of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.

Regarding residents of the Golan, Samaria and Judea, collectively labeled by Rice as “settlers,” the cable requested information on “Divisions among various settlement groups[;] details on settlement-related budgets and subsidies[;] settlers’ relationships with the Israeli political and military establishment including their lobbying and settlement methods.”

Bush’s secretary of state expressed deep interest in all details related to Israel’s military and nonmilitary communications infrastructure. For instance, she directed American officials to gather information on “Current specifications, vulnerabilities, capabilities, and planned upgrades to national telecommunications infrastructure, networks, and technologies used by government and military authorities, intelligence and security services, and the public sector.”

Perhaps most interesting, Rice requested personal data on Israeli leaders, asking for “official and personal phone numbers, fax numbers, and e-mail addresses of principal civilian and military leaders.”

Rice's secret orders also included espionage against the American-backed PA and its rival Hamas. The cable requested "biographical, financial and biometric information on key PA and Hamas leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank and outside."
It is not presently known whether or how the information gathered on Rice's orders was put to use by the U.S. or if the espionage efforts against Israel put in place by the Bush administration are still in effect under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In meet between Saeb Erekat and U.S. diplomat David Hale, Erekat describes difficulty arranging a phone call with Netanyahu, says Israelis want a two state solution 'sometimes more than Palestinians.'

A document leaked by Al-Jazeera TV on Sunday reveals a string of unsuccessful interactions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority, as well as a serious mistrust between the two sides.
The document, from January 15, 2010 is a summary of a meeting in Jericho between Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat and the United States diplomat David Hale.

During the meeting, Erekat complained about Netanyahu and National Security Advisor, Uzi Arad, describing incidents where he couldn’t manage to arrange a phone conversation between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"I called Uzi Arad before Passover and arranged a call from Abbas to Netanyahu to congratulate him. I got nothing. Come Ramadan, the feast, nothing. I called them to meet from the beginning, they kept canceling. This is Netanyahu," Erekat told Hale during the meeting.

The meeting between the two took place shortly after Netanyahu's cabinet had agreed to a 10 month freeze on West Bank settlement building.
Hale apparently pressured Erekat to renew negotiations with Israel, emphasizing to him that the U.S. government wanted to do this in a way that would honor the Palestinian viewpoint. He also told Erekat "a freeze in Jerusalem is beyond reach," saying that Netanyahu would never agree to it.
Further on in their conversation, Erekat tells Hale "Abbas will not allow Netanyahu to do to him what he did to Arafat."

"Abbas is the father of the peace camp," Erekat tells Hale. "His heart aches when he sees families thrown into the streets of Jerusalem."

He describes the Palestinian Authority desire for a state with "'67 borders with agreed swaps" and tells Hale "That is also your postion so say it."

"Israelis want the two state solution but they don't trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians," Erekat says.

He mentions a paper that lays out the Palestinian Authority position on negotiations, saying "What is in that paper gives them the biggest Jerusalem in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarized state… What more can I give?"

Sinking Peace: WikiLeaks Posts 1,600 Pages on Decline of Middle East Talks

(How Leaked Palestinian Documents Will Affect Abbas, Peace Process)

 Sunday morning, the Guardian and Al Jazeera began to serve the world a fresh batch of WikiLeaks. This time the material, while wide ranging and covering nearly a decade, was not random. This time the document dump encompasses material related to the Israel-Palestine peace process. The picture is nothing if not depressing; the story is one of desperation, humiliation and dead-ends stretching out over a decade.

The explosive news will be the great concessions made by the Palestinians to the Israelis in round after round of talks. Palestinian negotiators appear to have offered to allow Israel to annex all but one of the East Jerusalem settlements, a point of contention between Israelis and Palestinians for decades. Even the ever-unresolved question of a Palestinian Right of Return -- that is the right of Palestinian refugees driven, forced or scared out of Israel in 1948 to return to their ancestral homeland -- appears, on the Palestinian side, to have been wobbly at best. The offer, apparently, was for a tiny number of returnees -- a thin veil, in other words, to save face for negotiators, but otherwise a complete caving-in on the issue. Other major concessions included a proposal for a joint-committee to control the Temple Mount in the old city of Jerusalem. Finally it seems there were back-room conversations between Israelis and Palestinians around Gaza. And most of these concessions were made two years ago, a desperate effort, well before this last process, to end this hundred-years war.

The appearance of this huge release of papers, which encompasses the bulk of the last decades worth of negotiations on the seemingly ever-more intractable issue of peace in the region, could not come at a worse time. After tremendous build-up and fanfare, and a joint State Department and White House launch this September, the peace process is at a standstill. Israel refused to extend a moratorium on settlement building and the Palestinians, to save face, refused to return to the table. The Obama administration is scrambling now to restart talks. It will be much more difficult in light of this material.

The Guardian calls the first impression of Palestinian negotiators in these leaks -- namely Saeb Erekat, who has been working on the peace process since the Madrid conference of 1991, as "weak" and "desperate." In a conversation with the U.S. envoy George Mitchell -- sent last spring to conduct back-room conversations, "in-direct" talks between the parties, Palestinian senior negotiator Erekat is said to have cried out: "Nineteen years of promises and you haven't made up your minds what you want to do with us. ... We delivered on our road map obligations. Even Yuval Diskin [director of Israel's internal security service, Shabak] raises his hat on security. But no, they can't even give a six-month freeze to give me a figleaf." Blasting the United States for caring only about "PR" and "quick news," he added, "What good am I if I'm the joke of my wife, if I'm so weak?"

On Al Jazeera, as reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz, Erekat's quiet and personal frustration was revealed even more. The negotiator complained that he couldn't get his calls returned by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And that even small niceties, like acknowledging the holidays each religion observed, were overlooked. "I called Uzi Arad before Passover and arranged a call from Abbas to Netanyahu to congratulate him," Erekat said to U.S. diplomat David Hale. "I got nothing. Come Ramadan, the feast, nothing. I called them to meet from the beginning, they kept canceling. This is Netanyahu."

Hale was apparently pushing Erekat to restart negotiations. This was in the time period just before the 10-month moratorium on settlement building had begun. Erekat is angered that the United States won't be clearer on its position. And he believes the Israelis aren't sure partners in peace.

"Israelis want the two-state solution but they don't trust," Erekat told Hale. "They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians." Then he mentions a position paper that explicitly sets out the Palestinian Authority's red lines.

"What is in that paper gives them the biggest Jerusalem in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarized state. ... What more can I give?" Erekat said.

The publication of these papers may be intended to embarrass the United States, or Israel, but in actuality, it is not so much "news" to those who have been following the years of front- and back-room deals for years as a very public declaration in a region that trades on quiet talk.

 It will more than likely be a blow to Palestinian leaders who have conceded more than they would like the public to know. The publication will surely be another blow to what is terribly weakened, if not dead, process.

Karl Rove’s help for Sweden as it and the Obama administration investigate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be the latest example of the adage, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”

As sex and spy probes move forward, word is getting out about how Rove, the former Bush White House strategist, has advised Swedish Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt for the past two years.

“This all has Karl’s signature,” a reliable political source told me last month in encouraging our Justice Integrity Project to investigate Rove’s Swedish connections as an important factor in the WikiLeaks probes. “He [Rove] must be very happy. He’s right back in the middle of it. He’s making himself valuable to his new friends, seeing the U.S. government doing just what he’d like ─ and screwing his opponents big-time.”

The possibility that the Republican Rove might have hidden influence in Swedish and the United States law enforcement is inherently hard to prove because of the secrecy of proceedings. So, I refrained until now from writing about it for Connecticut Watchdog, especially because Rove himself has so far failed to respond to my invitation to comment. Instead, I recently published the relevant information as a political opinion column on the Huffington Post.

But the consumer stakes of potential WikiLeaks prosecutions are too important not to mention to this audience. In fact, underlying relationships between key figures in politics, law enforcement and the news media hold significant dangers for the public in restricting Net and web-based communications even if no improper action by Rove is ever established.

That’s particularly true if authorities use national security rationales to curtail Net access, as in the unprecedented and successful pressure by the U.S. government for, PayPal and others to cut off their services to WikiLeaks. Similarly, the Air Force forbade any of its employees from reading any part of the New York Times because it published redacted versions of some of the secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

So, we recap today scuttlebutt about the WikiLeaks probes and potential implications for U.S. consumers. We’ll touch also on why even such a partisan figure as Rove retains clout among security-conscious Democrats along with his base of Republicans as well as overseas supporters.

Rove himself says on his Karl Rove and Company website that he has been advising Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. It’s well-known in Sweden how Rove has helped Reinfeldt lead the nation’s Moderate Party to election success over liberal competitors who previously dominated the nation’s leadership.

Swedish political blogger Martin Moberg reported Nov. 5, for example, that Rove was visiting Sweden for unknown purposes. But Moberg warned his readers, according to a translation by Google’s automatic toolbar, that their country has “been spared the vulgar way” political campaigns are conducted in the U.S. “but the question is for how long?”

Going further, the Swedish web-tabloid daily News 24 published on Dec. 26 an article, “Karl Rove helps Reinfeldt to manage Julian Assange.” News 24, which says it’s the ninth best-read online news site in Sweden, cited as evidence my Huffington Post column and a similar blog by Alabama-based legal commentator Roger Shuler. News 24’s Swedish readers helped flesh out the story in their comments. Shuler today wrote on his Legal Schnauzer blog, Daily Kos and elsewhere, “The Rove/Assange Story Hits the International Press in Sweden.” Shuler provided a translation of the Swedish story and links to other materials.

The Stakes

More generally, let’s summarize the high stakes involved: Any U.S. prosecutions of WikiLeaks, if successful, might criminalize many kinds of investigative news reporting about government, not just the WikiLeaks disclosures that are embarrassing Sweden along with the Bush and Obama administrations. The disclosures are prompting authorities in both countries to demonize Assange for alleged sex and spy crimes even though neither country has filed a criminal indictment. Nonetheless, Sweden initiated a rare Interpol manhunt that prompted Assange’s arrest in the United Kingdom for potential extradition to Sweden.

Fallout could include new legal restraints on journalists and readers alike. Even if authorities create spy law exceptions for traditional broadcasters and newspapers, the public stands to lose big if the government can use the WikiLeaks reports as an excuse to restrict other communicators, thereby enhancing the power of embattled press lords who fear the new media.

But government and media decision-makers alike would be hurt if the public suspects political prosecutions and restraints on fair news coverage. That’s already happening, as indicated by reader comments from both sides of the Atlantic on the columns that have reported on the WikiLeaks probes.

Rove’s potential role is particularly divisive, as indicated by reader comments on sites discussing his Swedish work in recent days.

Many Americans look on him as a respected strategist who is unfairly maligned by liberals. Thus, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and other mainstream outlets regularly feature Rove because of his expertise, and he rarely faces any sustained criticism in friendly establishment circles. This was illustrated by his famous “Rapping Rove” dance routine at the annual Radio and TV White House Correspondent’s black-tie gala in March 2007 at the height of the U.S. attorney firing scandal. It’s here, enshrined on video as an illustration of how much the nation’s leading reporters enjoying hob-nobbing with their news sources.

But others recall that Rove was implicated in that unprecedented White House 2006 purge of nine U.S. attorneys to foster a cadre of what one Justice Department leader called “loyal Bushies” in the nation’s 93 regional U.S. attorney offices. These powerful Presidentially appointed Republicans who proved their loyalty pursued what critics call political prosecutions around the nation, primarily of Democratic candidates and donors.

Many of the victims are still imprisoned or otherwise financially ruined. My group has reported on Connecticut Watchdog and elsewhere how the Obama administration closed ranks with its predecessors to produce a whitewash investigation of the matter led by Connecticut federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, who was recently appointed deputy Connecticut attorney general. 

Dannehy and the Obama Justice Department focused largely on one attorney’s firing. They failed to interview victims of other prosecutors around the country retained as “loyal Bushies” and ultimately found no criminal wrongdoing by anyone.

WikiLeaks Embarrasses Sweden

In Sweden, WikiLeaks created a problem for that nation’s authorities by revealing a 2008 cable disclosing that its executive branch asked American officials to keep intelligence-gathering “informal” to avoid required Parliamentary scrutiny. That secret was among the 251,000 U.S. cables obtained by WikiLeaks and relayed to the New York Times and four other media partners. They have so far reported about 1,300 of the secret cables after trying for months to vet them through U.S. authorities.

Assange, a nomadic 39-year-old Australian, fell into the arms of two Swedish women who offered to put him up at their apartments on his speaking trip to Sweden last August. He has not been formally charged with a crime, only sought for further questioning about what happened during his two encounters.

After he responded to initial questions and left Sweden the country initiated a manhunt by Interpol that prompted him to turn himself in to British authorities. Now free on bond, he could be extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to answer further questions. Prosecutors have requested he be held without bail for questioning in a case with relatively minor liability under Swedish law. Critics say this is so rare that top-level Swedish authorities must be planning to extradite him to the United States on spy charges.

Sweden’s foreign minister has denied any such discussions with his U.S. counterparts. But one curse (or blessing) of WikiLeaks disclosures of past such diplomatic discussions is proof-positive that diplomats routinely lie about such matters. That’s their job, like it or not.

The New York Times reports that the Obama Justice Department is devising espionage conspiracy charges under an innovative use of spy law to force Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, now being held in solitary confinement with sensory deprivation pre-trial, to break down and testify against Assange. 

Attacks on WikiLeaks come from all sides of United States leadership, including by congressional Homeland Security leaders: Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent, and New York Republican Rep. Peter King.
Shuler, a pioneer in covering the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, wrote about Rove’s Swedish work in his Dec. 14 column, “Is Karl Rove Driving the Effort to Prosecute Julian Assange?”

Those of us investigating such complex matters build upon one another’s work. In an Atlantic article entitled, “Karl Rove in a Corner,” writer Joshua Green wrote in 2004, “Anyone who takes an honest look at his history will come away awed by Rove’s power, when challenged, to draw on an animal ferocity that far exceeds the chest-thumping bravado common to professional political operatives.”

Shuler is an expert on how Rove-era prosecutors imprisoned Siegelman, his state’s leading Democrat, on trumped-up corruption charges. The Justice Department prosecution has become the most notorious U.S. political prosecution of the decade, and an international human rights disgrace fostered by the Obama administration in bipartisan fashion. But the prosecution had the benefit to Republicans of altering that state’s politics and improving business opportunities for companies well-connected to Bush, Rove and their state GOP supporters.

Given the secrecy imposed by authorities, it takes years for outsiders to unravel the inside secrets of prosecutions. So, it’s not surprise that the specifics of any such efforts by Rove in Sweden might remain in doubt. Was Rove providing routine political advice for Reinfeldt’s successful re-election in September? Was it fund-raising help to the former president the European Council based on Rove’s experience using last year’s Supreme Court Citizens United ruling to create the American Crossroads political money machine that helped destroy Democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections? Perhaps Rove provided media advice, based on his work with Murdoch-owned Fox News and the Wall Street Journal and many other traditional broadcasting and print outlets.

Or has Rove drawn on any of his opposition research and dirty tricks skills that have earned him such nicknames as “Turd-Blossom?” from Bush and “Bush’s Brain” from others?

Siegelman’s convictions came only after years of pretrial smears by prosecutors, witness sexual blackmail, and a bizarre trial before a judge enriched on the side by Bush contracts for his closely-held company. All of the wrongdoing was covered up by years of whitewashes by the Obama administration and congress. Siegelman, 64, maintains that his prosecution was orchestrated by Karl Rove and his friend Bill Canary, whose wife Leura led the Alabama U.S. attorney office that prosecuted Siegelman using a host of controversial methods. Remarkably, she still runs the office more than two years after Obama’s election, much to the horror of Siegelman’s supporters nationwide.

One way to learn about the specifics is to ask Rove himself. I did so via his chief of staff on Dec. 14, attaching the Shuler column for convenience. Rove has not yet responded to my inquiry. His memoir “Courage and Consequence” published this year contains no mention either of Sweden or his client Reinfeldt. Rove’s book also denies that he was forced from the White House over the firing scandal and denies any improper role in the Siegelman case.

Whether or not Rove advised Sweden on how to go after Assange, the WikiLeaks revelations bring into plain view dramatic developments on both sides of the Atlantic.

Feminist scholar, rape victim and longtime volunteer rape counselor Naomi Wolf, for example, describes the Swedish sex assault investigation as “theater” designed to bring Assange into U.S. custody on more serious charges, not enforce the law in routine fashion. “How do I know that Interpol, Britain and Sweden’s treatment of Julian Assange is a form of theater?” she wrote. “Because I know what happens in rape accusations against men that don’t involve the embarrassing of powerful governments.”

Traditional news organizations are more reliant on authorities. Thus, a New York Times report Dec. 18 implies a more straightforward investigation via leak of a 68-page confidential Swedish police report. Earlier, more context was reported in a Daily Mail article and a Crikey blog.

Regarding espionage allegations, several commentators have made statements contrary to typical party affiliations:

• U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican and tea party hero, spoke on the House floor defending the right of WikiLeaks to cooperate with conventional news organization to publish secret cables.

• Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: ‘A dead man can’t leak stuff … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”

• Former CIA agent Ray McGovern rebuked CNN anchor Don Lemon for disparaging WikiLeaks as “pariah,” and urged Lemon and his network to emulate Assange by reporting more such news.

In varying ways, Arianna Huffington, Robert Parry and Scott Horton argue compellingly that spy conspiracy charges endanger all investigative reporting on national security issues, not simply WikiLeaks.

What’s really going on? For our next report, we’ll look at cozy connections between prominent diplomatic, law enforcement and media opinion-leaders who traditionally provide whatever the public knows about how government works.

A fascinating example is Sweden’s former Justice Minister Thomas Bodstrom, a best-selling spy novelist and former soccer star and political party leader who recently moved to the United States. He moved after beginning legal representation last August with his law partner of Assange’s accusers. Bodstrom is currently writing another spy novel. But his own recent, real-life activities surely rival anything he could concoct.

Another interesting figure is Roland Poirier Martinsson, a Swedish think tank leader and longtime Rove ally who has taken a lead in both Sweden and the United States in assailing WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks “is supported by all sorts of hare-brained characters,” Martinsson wrote last month in the prominent Swedish daily SvD. “It is a humiliating charade.”

Like Sweden’s prime minister, Martinsson has worked with Rove for years to help reorient Sweden’s politics to fight threats of terror and foster free-market democracies. In fairness, vigorous defenders of the status quo in government and the media abound in both nations. They say that Sweden’s sex misconduct investigation of Assange and the United States spy probe of WikiLeaks have nothing to do with each other, or with each nation’s due process and press freedom rights.

We’ll see. Is it a coincidence that these unusual investigations occur just when WikiLeaks and similar web-based reporting enable the public to read about candid and secret descriptions by government officials about major issues?
In the meantime, many powerful figures are seemingly in bed together — and warning that we must keep secrets and prosecute offenders in new ways. “Rape! Rape!” they seem to shout. “Terror! Terror!” They’re certainly getting the world’s attention. But hopefully this is in-depth attention by those with a passion for justice.

Andrew Kreig

Executive Director, Justice Integrity Project
Justice Integrity Project Executive Director Andrew Kreig has two decades experience as an attorney and non-profit executive in Washington, DC.

An author and longtime investigative reporter, his primary focus since 2008 has been exploring allegations of official corruption and other misconduct in federal agencies.

Last year, five potential Republican presidential candidates (Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, John Bolton, and Rick Santorum) who also serve as Fox News contributors or hosts appeared on the network for more than 85 hours. Media Matters for America estimates this time to be worth approximately $54.7 million in free advertising.

Media Matters also estimated the cost advertisers would pay for the amount of time Fox gave to each of the potential GOP presidential candidates in 2010. Advertisers would have spent about $31 million for Huckabee's time for the entire year. Gingrich's and Palin's time each would have cost advertisers about $7.5 million each for the entire year. Santorum's estimated ad-value equivalency for the year comes to almost $5 million, while Bolton's is approximately $3.7 million.

Media Matters calculated the amount of on-screen time each of the five potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates appeared on Fox News as contributors or hosts in 2010. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared for a total of almost 48 hours. Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, appeared for close to 14 hours. Fox gave former House Speaker Newt Gingrich almost 12 hours. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under George W. Bush, and Rick Santorum, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, each received around six hours.

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