Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some Hold Out Hope For A New Sputnik Moment And Others Believe A Concord And Lexington Moment Is Essential And Inevitable.

Some Hold Out Hope For A  New Sputnik Moment And Others Believe A Concord And Lexington Moment Is Essential And Inevitable.

A report that investigators have so far failed to establish a direct link between the founder of the document-dumping website WikiLeaks and the Army private accused of providing the site with hundreds of thousands of secret State Department cables won't derail the military's case as much as it might seem.

The case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning didn't hinge on investigators uncovering a direct link to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange anyway, CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports.

On Monday, NBC News reported that military officials said Manning couldn't be directly linked to Assange in allegedly handing off the cables and other secret documents that led to last summer's publication of the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs.

But no one ever thought there was direct contact between Assange and Manning, Martin reports. Assange meeting or e-mailing Manning would be like the director of the Central Intelligence Agency meeting or e-mailing a CIA agent. The theory of the case is that Assange orchestrated the leak through cut outs deliberately designed to immunize himself from charges of espionage.
In his own e-mails, Manning refers to himself as a source for Assange even though he did not give the documents to Assange but allegedly to a third person while home on Christmas leave, Martin reports.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department was considering filing espionage charges in the case.

Meanwhile, Manning continues to be held in a military brig while the Army considers prosecuting him. He has been charged with illegally obtaining more than 150,000 secret cables and giving more than 50 of them and a classified video to an unauthorized person.

Manning's lawyer told The Associated Press Friday that a mental-health investigation to determine if Manning can stand trial will likely begin in February.

NY Times Considers Creating An ‘EZ Pass Lane For Leakers’

 The New York Times is considering options to create an in-house submission system that could make it easier for would-be leakers to provide large files to the paper.

Executive editor Bill Keller told The Cutline that he couldn't go into details, "especially since nothing is nailed down." But when asked if he could envision a system like Al Jazeera's  Transparency Unit, Keller said the paper has been "looking at something along those lines."

"A small group from computer-assisted reporting and interactive news, with advice from the investigative unit and the legal department, has been discussing options for creating a kind of EZ Pass lane for leakers," Keller said.

It should add to the intrigue over the leaking of government information, if the Times follows the model of Al Jazeera. Earlier this month, the Qatar-based network essentially created a WikiLeaks-style "anonymous electronic drop box" but with the promise of vetting by a news organization.

Like WikiLeaks, the Al Jazeera Transparency Unit allows users to submit files through an encrypted system that does not record any of their personal information. Al Jazeera launched the initiative earlier this month, but it's been getting a lot more attention since the network began reporting Sunday on more than 1,700 classified files in the network's possession, part of the biggest classified leak related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The New Yorker's Raffi Khatchadourian — who profiled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before theAfghanistan, Iraq and State Dept. megaleaks — asked Monday whether Al Jazeera had "taken the first step in a journalism arms race to begin acquiring mass document leaks."

"It would be surprising if other large news organizations are not already at work on their own encrypted WikiLeaks-style portals," Khatchadourian wrote. "The New York Times and Guardian, for instance, have every incentive to follow in Al Jazeera's footsteps and give people a way to submit sensitive material directly to them rather than through an intermediary, such as WikiLeaks."

Will news organizations try cutting out the middleman -- and, more specifically, Assange?

Last year, WikiLeaks provided the Times and Guardian with hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents, allegedly supplied by Army Pvt. Bradley Manning (who remains in solitary confinement). For the news organizations and WikiLeaks, it appeared to be a win-win.

The Times and Guardian — along with other publications, such as Der Spiegel, El Pais and Le Monde — published numerous articles on the leaked documents that offered many revelations about international diplomacy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange, who had been frustrated with news organizations not aggressively following up on documents and videos that were posted directly on WikiLeaks' site, now had major news organizations amplifying WikiLeaks' revelations while media outlets worldwide followed up.

But there was a downside. Both the Times and Guardian ended up having problems with Assange, whopublicly blasted the Times' "tabloid" coverage of him and reportedly threatened to sue the British paper. For that reason, news executives may see an advantage in creating an in-house system that might make them less reliant on WikiLeaks. Still, potential leakers — perhaps more sympathetic with WikiLeaks' mission than the New York Times — may opt to go with the anti-secrecy organization instead of a traditional news outlet.

WikiLeaks has evolved over the past year, and after publishing hundreds of thousands of documents relating to Afghanistan and Iraq, the organization has been much more restrained with the State Department cables. So far, WikiLeaks has published only about 1 percent of its cache of 251,000 (most of which were also published by mainstream news outlets).

The difference, however, is that WikiLeaks doesn't have the same reporting capabilities as a news organization.

Al Jazeera, in its appeal to leakers, promises that "all submitted content is subjected to a rigorous vetting and authentication process that encompasses respect for individual privacy, contextualization, and fierce adherence to our tradecraft commitment of 'journalism of depth.'" Presumably, other major news organizations could offer a portal for leakers with similar pledges.

Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli, when asked whether his paper would consider a system like Al Jazeera's, told The Cutline that he "wouldn't rule it out."

"People do contact us regularly with material they think we should see," Brauchli said. "Given U.S. laws, news organizations would want some certainty that they weren't exposing sources to risk or making themselves subpoena targets."

So it remains to be seen whether the Times, Post or other major newspapers follow suit. But Khatchadourian raised a few good questions if potential leakers begin dumping files anonymously in the electronic inboxes of traditional news outlets: "In a future where in-house WikiLeaks portals are common to mainstream news organizations, is there a role for the original site? Will Julian Assange's creation become a victim of its own success? And if his movement is taken over by established news organizations, how might it change?"

As if there weren't enough questions about WikiLeaks' future.

7 Pages…

LONDON – WikiLeaks hopes to enlist as many as 60 news organizations from around the world in a bid to help speed the publication of its massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic memos, the site's founder said Tuesday.

Julian Assange told The Associated Press that he was making an effort to reach beyond the major newspapers — such as The New York Times and The Guardian — that worked with him on earlier releases, saying that he already has about 20 media partners, and could triple that number within the next three months.

"We're striving for maximum impact for the material," Assange said in a telephone interview, in which he laid out his media strategy.

WikiLeaks has published 2,658 cables to its website — just over 1 percent of the 251,287 State Department cables it claims to have in reserve. Assange said that The Times, The Guardian, Spain's El Pais, France's LeMonde and Germany's Der Spiegel have yet to go through all of the cables, although he didn't say how many of the files remained unread.

WikiLeaks has been accused by senior U.S. officials of reckless disregard in the way it publishes documents, but Assange said — with a few exceptions — he was so far satisfied with the process….

(AP) – 10 hours ago

LONDON (AP) — A company asked by Visa to investigate WikiLeaks' finances found no proof the group's fundraising arm is breaking the law in its home base of Iceland, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

But Visa Europe Ltd. said Wednesday it would continue blocking donations to the secret-spilling site until it completes its own investigation. Company spokeswoman Amanda Kamin said she couldn't say when Visa's inquiry, now stretching into its eighth week, would be finished.

Visa was one of several American companies that cut its ties with WikiLeaks after it began publishing a massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic memos late last year. U.S. officials have accused the site of putting its national security at risk — a claim WikiLeaks says is an attempt to distract from the memos' embarrassing content.

When it announced its decision to suspend WikiLeaks donations on Dec. 8, Visa said it was awaiting an investigation into "the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules" — though it did not go into details. The Norway-based financial services company Teller AS, which Visa ordered to look into WikiLeaks and its fundraising body, the Sunshine Press, found no proof of any wrongdoing.

"Our lawyers have now completed their work and have found no indications that Sunshine Press ... acted in contravention of Visa's rules or Icelandic legislation," Teller's chief executive Peter Wiren said late last month in a letter obtained by the AP.

The two-page document said that Teller stood ready to process payments to WikiLeaks — but only if Visa gave the go-ahead. Teller confirmed the letter's authenticity Wednesday.

The refusal of Visa and other companies — including MasterCard Inc., PayPal Inc., and Moneybookers Ltd. — to handle WikiLeaks' donations has hit the site hard at a time when its founder, 39-year-old Julian Assange, is fighting an attempt to extradite him to Sweden over allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Republicans' Bogus Budget Plan

The GOP's budget proposal is a preposterous, dangerous fantasy.


The time has finally come for both parties to create a federal budget that simultaneously addresses the economy's structural deficits—tackles the immediate, recession-driven shortfall and still allows us to invest long-term in education, infrastructure, energy, and research and development.

There are basic budget and revenue facts that are not in dispute. These should factor into every discussion about the budget:

Top marginal rates have been generally descending for the past 70 years, from 81 percent in 1940 to 35 percent today.

Over the past 30 years, income has grown nearly 300 percent for the top 1 percent, but only 25 percent for middle-income Americans.

The percentage of all taxes paid by each income group—including income, payroll, sales, etc.—roughly reflects its total income. In other words, our tax system is barelyprogressive. Despite the cries of the wealthy for tax relief, they pay only a slightly greater share of taxes than the significantly less wealthy, as a percentage of total income earned.

Our annual budget is significantly out of balance:

Spending is about $3.8 trillion.
 Revenue is about $2.5 trillion.
 This leaves a deficit of about $1.3 trillion.

The big buckets of spending are pretty clearly separable:

 Defense—about $900 billion.
 Social Security—$730 billion.
 Medicare—$490 billion.
 Medicaid—$300 billion.
 Interest—$250 billion.
 Nondefense discretionary—$610 billion.

Where do you begin to scale back spending or raise revenue to bring us into long-term balance, while laying a foundation for a competitive economy?

Keep in mind, there are only three things that can be done to close the gap—borrow more, tax more, or spend less. There is a clear consensus that dramatic borrowing will not be acceptable to the markets once we are beyond the immediate recession. The political will to raise taxes, unfortunately, is not there—witness the unfortunate extension of the Bush tax cuts last December.

This means that the only real issue becomes which spending will be cut—and by how much?

The Republican answer is simple, and wrong. We got a glimpse of the Republican answer last week, in the Spending Reduction Act issued by the Republican Study Committee—the policy voice of the Republican Party. (Presumably, the response to the president's State of the Union, to be delivered by Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican anointed budget whiz and incoming chairman of the House budget committee, will echo this document.)

First off, the RSC proposes to cut only $2.5 trillion over 10 years—not even enough to make up for the additional deficit created by extending the Bush tax cuts.

And where exactly do the Republicans want to cut? Not at all in defense, Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, the biggest drivers of current spending. Moreover, these are the buckets of spending that if not altered will generate larger deficits every year and contribute almost nothing to our future competitiveness.

Instead, they propose that virtually the entirety of the cuts—$2.3 trillion of $2.5 trillion—come from nondefense discretionary spending. That means slashing spending in everything from education to scientific research funding by a whopping 20 percent to 30 percent over the next decade.

This approach is a political punt of the worst form. The Republicans appear to be afraid to make a single tough decision on entitlement spending, defense, or equity issues. They are simply caught in a dogma of "cut where the political cost will be least" and ignore what the impact on the future will be.

Nowhere in the Republican document is there mention of even sensible defense cuts—such as the trillion dollars over a decade suggested by Lawrence Korb, a senior Reagan Defense department official, or any discussion of raising the retirement age for Social Security, or any consideration of raising payroll taxes on the wealthy to keep Social Security solvent into the future.

Nope. The Republican approach to the federal budget continues to be vapid and dangerous for our future.

The moment for President Obama to draw a line in the sand approaches. Whatever disappointment there may have been over the decisions that got us here—the lame-duck tax agreement in particular—this is the moment when budget decisions will set the trajectory for the next decade. He must insist that the obligation to bring greater balance to the federal budget not forsake the education, R&D, and infrastructure investments critical to the future.

Bid Launched To Draft Olbermann For Senate

USA Today - Catalina Camia - Jan 24, 2011
A bid to draft Keith Olbermann to run for Joe Lieberman's Senate seat in Connecticut has been launched. ...

Military documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union provide important new evidence of American war crimes.

Robert Fisk: A New Truth Dawns On The Arab World

Scott Harris: Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC Departure A Wake-Up Call To Fix Broken US Corporate Media System

Common Cause: For Now, It Appears Senate Returning To Dysfunction-As-Usual

America Has Gone Away

Anyone who doesn’t believe that the US is an incipient fascist state needs only to consult the latest assault on civil liberty by Fox News (sic). Instead of informing citizens, Fox News (sic) informs on citizens. Jason Ditz reports ( Dec. 28) that Fox News (sic) "no longer content to simply shill for a growing police state," turned in a grandmother to the Department of Homeland Security for making "anti-American comments."

The media have segued into the police attitude, which regards insistence on civil liberties and references to the Constitution as signs of extremism, especially when the Constitution is invoked in defense of dissent or privacy or placarded on a bumper sticker. President George W. Bush set the scene when he declared: "you are with us or against us."

Bush’s words demonstrate a frightening decline in our government’s respect for dissent since the presidency of John F. Kennedy. In a speech to the Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961, President Kennedy said:

"No president should fear public scrutiny of his program, for from that scrutiny comes understanding, and from that understanding comes support or opposition; and both are necessary. . . . Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed, and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law makers once decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment."

The press is not protected, Kennedy told the newspaper publishers, in order that it can amuse and entertain, emphasize the trivial, or simply tell the public what it wants to hear. The press is protected so that it can find and report facts and, thus, inform, arouse "and sometimes even anger public opinion."

In a statement unlikely to be repeated by an American president, Kennedy told the newspaper publishers:

"I’m not asking your newspapers to support an administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people, for I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed."

The America of Kennedy’s day and the America of today are two different worlds. In America today the media are expected to lie for the government in order to prevent the people from finding out what the government is up to. If polls can be believed, Americans brainwashed and programmed by O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh want Bradley Manning and Julian Assange torn limb from limb for informing Americans of the criminal acts of their government. Politicians and journalists are screeching for their execution.

President Kennedy told the Newspaper Publishers Association that "it is to the printing press, the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: Free and Independent." Who can imagine a Bill Clinton, a George W. Bush, or a Barack Obama saying such a thing today?

Today the press is a propaganda ministry for the government. Any member who departs from his duty to lie and spin the news is expelled from the fraternity. A public increasingly unemployed, broke and homeless is told that they have vast enemies plotting to destroy them in the absence of annual trillion dollar expenditures for the military/security complex, wars lasting decades, no-fly lists, unlimited spying and collecting of dossiers on citizens supplemented by neighbors reporting on neighbors, full body scanners at airports, shopping centers, metro and train stations, traffic checks, and the equivalence of treason with the uttering of a truth.

Two years ago when he came into office President Obama admitted that no one knew what the military mission was in Afghanistan, including the president himself, but that he would find a mission and define it. On his recent trip to Afghanistan, Obama came up with the mission: to make the families of the troops safe in America, his version of Bush’s "we have to kill them over there before they kill us over here."

No one snorted with derision or even mildly giggled. Neither the New York Times nor Fox News (sic) dared to wonder if perhaps, maybe, murdering and displacing large numbers of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen and US support for Israel’s similar treatment of Lebanese and Palestinians might be creating a hostile environment that could breed terrorists. If there still is such a thing as the Newspaper Publishers Association, its members are incapable of such an unpatriotic thought.

Today no one believes that our country’s success depends on an informed public and a free press. America’s success depends on its financial and military hegemony over the world. Any information inconsistent with the indispensable people’s god-given right to dominate the world must be suppressed and the messenger discredited and destroyed.

Now that the press has voluntarily shed its First Amendment rights, the government is

working to redefine free speech as a privilege limited to the media, not a right of citizens. Thus, the insistence that WikiLeaks is not a media organization and Fox News (sic) turning in a citizen for exercising free speech. Washington’s assault on Assange and WikiLeaks is an assault on what remains of the US Constitution. When we cheer for WikiLeaks’ demise, we are cheering for our own.

Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term.  He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.  He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in WashingtonAlienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.

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