It’s Assange’s Move

Trump’s Approval Ratings Hit Historic Low

Donald Trump doesn’t take office as President of the United States until Friday, but his approval ratings have already hit a historic low for incoming American presidents, according to new polls. He’s the least popular incoming president in at least four decades

Vladimir Putin Defends Donald Trump After Russia Dossier

Russian President Putin accused the outgoing U.S. administration of trying to undermine President-elect Trump by spreading fake allegations. Putin described a dossier on Trump as part of efforts to “undermine the legitimacy of the president-elect”

Hannity, Who Called For Assange’s Arrest, Now Believes Every Word He Says

Carolyn Kaster

TPM LIVEWIRE

Fox News is set to air the first part of an interview Tuesday night between Sean Hannity and Julian Assange, who Hannity has said in the past should be arrested for “waging war” against the United States.

“I believe every word he says,” Hannity told his Fox News colleague Bill Hemmer Tuesday morning, defending the WikiLeaks founder against criticism that he published documents that U.S. intelligence officials say were stolen by Russian-backed hackers in order to benefit President-elect Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Hannity flew to London to interview Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy there, where the WikiLeaks founder, facing an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Sweden over rape allegations, has holed up since 2012.

However, in December of 2010, Hannity had criticized the Obama administration on his show for not arresting Assange after WikiLeaks published a quarter of a million confidential U.S. diplomatic cables.

“Assange is apparently not done waging his war against the U.S., at least not yet,” Hannity said at the time.

After WikiLeaks began publishing documents hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee this summer, however, Hannity changed his tone.

During a September interview with the WikiLeaks founder, Hannity told Assange: “I do hope you get free one day.”

“In 10 yrs @wikileaks has gotten nothing wrong & no one’s been killed bc of the info released. #freejulianassange #freeinternet for all,” he wrote on Twitter in October.

Hannity addressed the about-face in the interview with Hemmer Tuesday.

“Look, I was a very early critic of him. He’s well aware that I thought he was waging war on the United States. My opinion on it has evolved in large part because of what I have seen that he has done in ten years. Nothing he has published has ever been proven false,” Hannity said. “Nobody’s even questioned the veracity or truthfulness of what he’s doing.”

MATT SHUHAM

Forget conspiracy theories. This is why Trump’s Russian connection is actually a problem.

putin_trump

I’m publishing this tonight instead of including it with the rest of Wednesday’s news because it’s important…extremely important to put the puzzle pieces together.  If you are a Trump supporter then it’s quite likely that you will simply disregard this article.  That’s okay too. (ks)

VOX

In the past 12 hours, a flurry of stories have come out on Donald Trump’s links to Russia. One such story, at Slate, suggests that a server owned by Trump has been communicating with a Russian bank with ties to the Kremlin. Another, at Mother Jones, quotes an unnamed former intelligence officer claiming that Trump is a Russian operative, one who has been “compromised” by Moscow “for at least 5 years.”

These stories are overblown, for reasons my colleagues Matt Yglesias and Timothy Leeexplain rather well. Cybersecurity experts believe the server in question is most likely sending spam emails from Trump hotels, not secret missives to Russian handlers, and the FBI has found no credible evidence that Trump has direct ties to Russian intelligence.

The problem with these stories isn’t just that they’re speculative. It’s that they obscure and even discredit the more sober evidence about Trump’s troubling attitude toward the Russian state.

There is basically conclusive evidence that Russia is interfering in the US election, and that this interference has been designed to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. There is strong evidence linking Trump’s foreign policy advisers to Russia, and Trump’s stated policy ideas are extremely favorable to Russian interests.

You don’t need to construct poorly evidenced conspiracy theories to explain this. There is a confluence of interests between the Kremlin and Donald Trump, and they are, in effect, helping each other. Russia’s role in the election is plenty worrying without positing any Manchurian Candidate plots. Here’s why.

We know that Russia is hacking Clinton allies and dumping their info to WikiLeaks

Julian Assange.

(Carl Court/Getty Images)

There used to be some doubt as to whether Russia was behind the hacking of various people and organizations close to Hillary Clinton and the dump of their private emails to WikiLeaks.

No longer. The evidence that Russia is behind the two most significant hacks, of the Democratic National Committee and top Clinton aide John Podesta, is beyond any reasonable doubt.

The hacker who claims to be behind the DNC hack, Guccifer 2.0, is quite clearly a Russian cutout. His name is a reference to Marcel Lazăr Lehel — a now-jailed Romanian hacker who famously claimed to have hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Lehel’s nom de plume was, you guessed it, Guccifer.

So what’s the evidence he’s a Russian cutout? For one thing, Guccifer 2.0 doesn’t actually appear to speak Romanian. Vice’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai interviewed him, mostly in English but with a few Romanian questions peppered in. Guccifer tried to dodge chatting in his allegedly native language, and, per Franceschi-Bicchierai, “the few short sentences he sent in Romanian were filled with mistakes.”

For another, three cybersecurity firms investigated the hack and found direct evidence that two Russian-linked hacking groups, Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, did the DNC hack.

Perhaps most compellingly, they found that the malware infecting the DNC used an IP address that had previously been used in a hack targeting the German parliament. The German hack was — you guessed it — linked to Russian intelligence. It’s very unlikely that some other hacking group would use such similar code.

“The forensic evidence linking the DNC breach to known Russian operations is very strong,” Thomas Rid, a professor at King’s College who studies cybersecurity, wrote at Vice. “The forensic evidence that links network breaches to known groups is solid: used and reused tools, methods, infrastructure, even unique encryption keys.”

There’s similarly strong evidence linking Russian operatives to the Podesta hack.

The attack that got Podesta is something called “phishing.” In a phishing campaign, hackers send emails that are dressed up to look like something from a trustworthy source — in Podesta’s case, Gmail security. The emails tell the recipient to click on a link or attachment, which seems authentic but actually contains some nasty code that gives the hacker access to the target’s email account. Podesta fell for the phishing scam, hook, line, and sinker (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Generally, these attacks are highly effective, because they rely on human gullibility: our willingness to trust things that basically look legit. They’re also hard to trace, because there’s usually nothing in the email to give away the source.

But the Russian hackers messed up. The link they got Podesta to click on used an account from a public link-shortening service, Bitly, which the cybersecurity firm SecureWorks had been tracking. That Bitly account, according to SecureWorks, belonged to Fancy Bear.

The hackers’ laziness, or lack of caution, exposed their operation, negating one of the core advantages of a phishing attack.

“Unless you screw up and make your phishing campaign linkable like this group apparently did, it is very hard to attribute to any given actor,” Nicholas Weaver, a senior researcher at UC Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute, wrote to me via email in October.

In short: Russian operatives were sloppy enough to link themselves to two different hacks of Democrats. The idea that they’re not interfering in the US election is, at this point, just not credible.

The hacks fit squarely within Russian strategic doctrine

Sasha Mordovets/Getty(Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

The bigger picture here is that Russia under Putin has something of a habit of using information as a weapon in foreign countries.

This is born, as the New York Times’s Max Fisher explains, from a traumatic experience Russia had in the mid-2000s. A series of pro-Kremlin strongmen in former Eastern Bloc states were toppled by the so-called “Color Revolutions.” In 2011, protests in Moscow threatened the very stability of the Putin regime itself. These were seen, in the paranoid climate of Moscow, as American intelligence operations.

As a result, Russian strategic leaders came to see the internal politics of other countries as a key battlefield.

Fisher points to a 2013 article, by Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, as key evidence of this new Russian thinking. Gerasimov argued that “non-military means” had eclipsed weapons in their strategic importance. Controlling the information and propaganda environment can inflict serious blows on one’s enemies.

“The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gerasimov writes. He advocates using “military means of a concealed character,” including “actions of informational conflict” in order to accomplish Russian strategic objectives.

Gerasimov’s article uses the Arab Spring as a key example, which is telling. The Arab Spring wasn’t about wars between countries but rather upheaval inside countries. Gerasimov’s ideas, then, are explicitly designed to be used in attempts to influence other countries’ internal politics and conflicts.

That’s exactly what Russia is doing when it hands over the information to WikiLeaks. When you hand stolen information that’s damaging to Hillary Clinton to a radical transparency group that detests Hillary Clinton (mostly because of her relatively hawkish foreign policy), the result is eminently predictable: That information will be published online for the entire world to see.

The disclosures bring to light information that makes it seem like the American democratic process is fundamentally illegitimate. Some of the emails usually show normal behind-the-scenes maneuvering and activity that just looks shady because it happened in private, like Neera Tanden, head of the ideologically friendly Center for American Progress, emailing the Clinton campaign to talk about coordinating a Supreme Court message. Others show shadier stuff, like Democratic National Committee staffers discussing plans to undermine the Bernie Sanders campaign.

The result of either kind of leak, shady-seeming normal activity or actual malfeasance, is embarrassing to the United States and weakens the next likely president (Hillary Clinton) even before she takes office.

So it’s not just that the hack looks traceable back to Russian hackers. It’s that the strategic effect of the leak — releasing information that breeds infighting among American political factions — fits squarely within Russian strategic doctrine.

It looks a lot like Russia is running Gerasimov’s playbook in America.

Trump’s policies are objectively pro-Russia

Trump, rising in the polls. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

As the evidence suggesting Russia is behind the leak and the hack mounted, a number of theories cropped up as to why, exactly, Putin would do this. What’s the ultimate endgame of attacking Clinton?

Well, here’s the Occam’s razor explanation: Nothing Russia could do, on its own, would help its foreign policy more than what Trump is proposing. He is literally suggesting the United States transform global politics to make it more favorable to Russian interests.

Trump’s approach to American allies, specifically the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, is the biggest reason. Traditionally, American parties have seen its alliance commitments, NATO in particular, as ironclad guarantees — the core part of America’s global strategy.

Trump doesn’t agree. He thinks that alliances are only useful as tools for extracting money. The US is the strongest power in the world, Trump reasons — why protect tiny NATO allies like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania if they don’t pay up? At the very least, Trump has said, they should spend more on their own defense if they want to expect American protection.

If Trump put his ideas into practice and actually renounced commitments that didn’t do what he wanted, it would destroy NATO. The alliance depends entirely on an ironclad guarantee on behalf of all allies to defend any one of them — that is literally what it does. If the US won’t do that, then NATO is effectively dead.

This is music to Putin’s ears. He sees the NATO alliance (correctly!) as a major bulwark against Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe, and would be thrilled if it fractured. That would make it far easier to install friendly dictators in small nearby countries, like Estonia, or even annex them entirely.

A Trump victory, then, seems like it might allow Putin to fulfill his fundamental foreign policy goal — reviving Russia’s Soviet-era influence over its region — to a degree previously thought impossible.

Trump seems totally oblivious to the fact that he would be throwing US allies under the bus — and, in fact, oblivious to Putin’s hostility toward the United States entirely.

For example, he has effusively praised Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria: “What’s wrong with Russia bombing the hell out of ISIS and these other crazies so we don’t have to spend a million dollars a bomb?” Never mind that Russian bombs have targeted the relatively moderate opposition more than ISIS, and that the point is to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad rather than defeat ISIS.

Trump sees Russia as more of a partner than an adversary — mostly because he doesn’t seem to care about the independence of Eastern Europe or Syria’s freedom from dictatorship.

All Trump cares about, instead, is getting more money for the United States, as he’s said: “My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. … But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money.” His theories for how to do that — like spending less on alliances and other foreign commitments — line up exactly with a series of Russian foreign policy objectives.

Moreover, Trump seems to admire Putin personally. “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an ‘A’ and our president is not doing so well,” Trump said during the NBCCommander-in-Chief Forum in September.

He even, weirdly, invented a story about the two of them becoming best buds in the green room before a 60 Minutes episode.

“I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes, we were stablemates, we did well that night,” Trump said on CBS’s Face the Nation back in November 2015. This meeting never happened: The two men were interviewed by different journalists on different continents. But it must comfort Putin to know that Trump’s ideas align with Russia’s interest, and that Trump himself is deeply impressed by Putin as a leader.

“That Russia is pulling for Trump is at this point beyond any dispute,” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes. “Putin’s Russia has been proven or credibly alleged to have boosted friendly candidates in France, Germany, Austria, and, most successfully, in the election of a pro-Russian government in Ukraine. Something like this seems to be happening in the American presidential election now.”

Chait’s “beyond any dispute” is kind of an overstatement. Figuring out what Putin’s exact thoughts on the American election are — well, it’s literal Kremlinology. It is quite possible that the Russians don’t believe they can make Trump win, and just want to weaken Clinton and distract Americans from foreign policy.

But if they actually are trying to make Trump win, it would make a certain kind of sense. There’s never been a major party candidate in the modern era more friendly to a Russian dictator’s interests.

Trump and his top advisers have taken a lot of money from Russian interests

There is no good evidence, despite suggestions to the contrary from Slate and Mother Jones, that Trump is in on such a plot — that he’s actively working with the Russians to get himself into the White House. Not only that, but his actual behavior militates against it: It would be very dumb for a Russian operative to openly announce his friendliness toward the Kremlin during a campaign.

Yet you can see where the conspiracy theorists are coming from.

Trump’s campaign staff and businesses have a disturbing number of connections to Russia and Russian interests. This isn’t exactly evidence of Trump being a secret agent, but it does raise serious questions about the kind of advice that he would get in the White House.

Michael Flynn, a Trump adviser and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was rumored to be on Trump’s VP shortlist. Flynn is currently a regular guest on RT, Russia’s English-language propaganda outlet, and he will not disclose whether the channel pays him. When he attended RT’s 10th anniversary party, he sat at the head table with Putin himself.

Carter Page, another Trump foreign policy adviser, has served as an adviser for Gazprom, Russia’s state-run energy corporation. As recently as March 2016, he said he owned shares in the company.

“Page has defended Russia with relish,” Slate’s Franklin Foer writes. “He wrote a columnexplicitly comparing the Obama administration’s Russia policy to chattel slavery in the American South.”

You can see where people get the impression that the Kremlin might wield some direct influence over Trump: More than one key adviser has direct business links to the Russian state.

Interestingly, so does Trump himself. We can’t be sure exactly how much, as he refuses to release his tax returns. But his son, Donald Trump Jr., said in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

The Washington Post has a great investigation into Trump’s “30 year” history of trying to build in Russia. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, but here’s the most relevant bit:

Trump’s partners on a Panama project traveled to Moscow in 2006 to sell condos to Russian investors, according to litigation filed in Florida. Trump also sold a mansion in Palm Beach in 2008 for $95 million to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, according to property records. Trump had purchased the mansion at a bankruptcy auction less than four years earlier for $41.4 million, records show.

In 2013, Trump found a new Russian partner for a Moscow real estate project, Aras Agalarov, an Azeri-born real estate developer who is sometimes called the “Trump of Russia” for his tendency to emblazon his name on his development projects.

The Agalarovs are wealthy developers who have received several contracts for state-funded construction projects, a sign of their closeness to the Putin government. Shortly after the pageant, Putin awarded the elder Agalarov the “Order of Honor of the Russian Federation,” a prestigious designation.

So Trump not only has a long history of investing in Russia but also has a recent history of working with pro-Kremlin oligarchs.

As extensive as these ties to Russia are, they still don’t vindicate the secret agent theory. Again, it’s kind of the opposite: Leaving such a public paper trail back to your paymaster would be incredibly incompetent tradecraft.

No, the issue instead is that everything about Trump — his advisers, his personal feelings on Putin, his own business interests — incline him toward seeing things from the Kremlin’s point of view.

It’s easy to see Trump’s pro-Russian policies as a kind of novice mistake. Trump doesn’t know much about foreign policy, the reasoning goes, and so his policy preferences are the result of pure ignorance.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Instead of picking advisers from the anti-Russia neoconservative camp, which dominated GOP foreign policy before Trump, he has drawn some of the most pro-Russia people around. Trump sees Russia as a hot market, and has chosen to get into bed with suspiciously pro-Kremlin figures. He sees Putin as a model leader, not a disturbing authoritarian.

All of this suggests that Trump has thought a fair amount about Russia-related stuff, and come down on the Russian side. His skepticism about NATO and support for Russia’s intervention in Syria, then, are not incidental parts of his platform. They reflect the candidate’s actual worldview, and likely predict how he would act in office.

How to think about Trump and the Kremlin

Trump(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

So we come back to a basic question: How should we see the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 race?

The right approach, I think, is to avoid focusing too heavily on the question of whether Russia actively wants to plant Trump in the White House. That’s obviously incendiary, and makes for great headlines. But it’s more or less unknowable.

It’s also irrelevant. The key question about any politician isn’t his “real” motivation for doing something; it’s what he actually does when entrusted with power.

On that count, we now know two important facts about Putin and Trump, respectively.

The first is that Russian state interests are intervening in an American election, in a way that hurts Hillary Clinton and thus furthers Donald Trump’s electoral ambitions. The Kremlin, intentionally or not, is serving as a kind of pro-Trump Super PAC, albeit one with access to hackers.

The second is that Trump is deeply committed to reorienting American foreign policy in a pro-Russian direction. He’s said that he’ll do that, repeatedly, and both his campaign and his personal life give us every reason to believe he’s absolutely serious.

Given the power of the US presidency, Trump could go beyond merely altering American foreign policy. If he’s really serious about it, he could alter the very fundamental fabric of global politics, weakening core institutions like NATO that Russia hates. Hillary Clinton, a solid establishmentarian who’s hated by Russia, would do nothing of the kind.

Those are some pretty high stakes.

10 things you need to know today: March 13, 2015

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Week

1.Manhunt continues for suspects in Ferguson police ambush
St. Louis County police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol took over security responsibilities at protests in Ferguson on Thursday night as a manhunt continued for whoever shot two officers outside the city’s police station early that morning. The parents of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot dead by a white officer last year, condemned the shooting. Attorney General Eric Holder said the attack was the “cowardly” act of a “damn punk.” Both wounded officers were released from a hospital.

Source: The New York Times, NBC News

2.Major powers hold nuclear talks with Iran
The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia, and the U.S. — along with Germany and Iran have begun talks on lifting sanctions on Tehran if it strikes a deal curbing its controversial nuclear program. A deal the Obama administration is discussing with Tehran would not be legally binding, as Obama’s GOP critics in Congress pointed out in a letter to Iran. A Security Council resolution, however, could be legally binding, complicating any potential efforts to fight it.

Source: Reuters

3.Sweden offers to interview Assange in London about sex assault charges
Swedish prosecutors said Friday they had asked to question Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London about 2010 sexual assault allegations. Prosecutor Marianne Ny previously insisted that Assange travel to Sweden for the interview, but he is holed up at Ecuador’s London embassy and the statute of limitations runs out in August. Assange has long argued the charges were cooked up so Sweden could extradite him to the U.S. to face charges for leaked secrets.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

4.Secret Service agents drove through a crime scene on night of White House incident
Two senior Secret Service agents under investigation for crashing into a White House security barrier on March 4 also plowed through a crime scene and may have driven over a suspicious package during an active investigation, according to The Washington Post. Police had just cordoned off a package described as a bomb when the agents — Mark Connolly, second-in-charge on President Obama’s detail, and George Ogilvie — drove through police tape after leaving a work party, and came close to hitting the package, investigators said.
5.Islamic State accepts Boko Haram’s offer of allegiance
The Islamic State has accepted a promise of allegiance from the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, an ISIS spokesman said Thursday. Boko Haram is fighting to establish Islamic law, but it has suffered a series of setbacks under an offensive by a multinational force in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Sheka released an audio recording pledging allegiance to ISIS. In accepting it, Islamic State leaders said their caliphate had expanded from Syria and Iraq to include West Africa.

Source: USA Today

6.Civil rights activist Rev. Willie T. Barrow dies at 90
Chicago civil rights leader Rev. Willie T. Barrow died Thursday after being hospitalized recently for a blood clot in her lung. She was 90. Barrow began fighting for civil rights at age 12 when she insisted she be allowed to ride an all-white school bus in Texas. She later became an organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., marching with him in Washington, D.C., and Selma, Alabama. President Obama called Barrow “a constant inspiration, a lifelong mentor, and a very dear friend.”

Source: Reuters

7.Utah’s governor signs gay rights bill
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday signed a bill making it illegal in the state to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment and housing matters. The bill also provides leeway for religious groups and affiliated organizations, such as schools and hospitals. The mix of protections for both rights and religious beliefs won endorsements from both gay rights groups and the powerful Mormon church.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Wreckage of Army helicopter found underwater off Florida
Divers on Thursday discovered the wreckage of a Black Hawk helicopter that went down this week off the coast of Florida. Search crews recovered the bodies of all but two of the seven Marines and four Louisiana National Guard members lost in the crash. Fog and rain continued to delay the recovery. The service members were conducting a nighttime training mission when the Black Hawk helicopter crashed. Another helicopter in the drill safely returned to base.

Source: TIME

9. Kathy Griffin quits Fashion Police panel after just seven episodes
Kathy Griffin announced Thursday that she was leaving the E! showFashion Police after just seven episodes. “I discovered my style does not fit with the creative direction of the show and now it’s time to move on,” she tweeted. Griffin joined the program after the death of Joan Rivers, and began appearing on the show in January. With a new panel, the program’s ratings fell, and another panelist, Kelly Osbourne, quit after co-host Giuliana Rancic insulted actress Zendaya Coleman’s dreadlocks at the Oscars.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

10.Disney announces Frozen sequel
Disney confirmed Thursday at its annual shareholder meeting that it would produce a sequel to the massive animated hit Frozen, which generated nearly $1.3 billion and won an Oscar for animated feature film. Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are developing Frozen 2 along with producer Peter Del Vecho for Walt Disney Animation Studios. “We’re taking you back to Arendelle,” said John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

Source: Boston Herald

As Manning Faces Life in Jail, Architects of Torture & Extrajudicial Murders Face Talk Show Circuit

Regardless of what side you come down on the Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden cases, the author of this article makes a valid point…

Daily Kos

While Bradley Manning has been found not guilty of the most serious charge he faced – aiding the enemy – he has been ‘convicted’ by a military court on 19 counts, several of which fall under the Espionage Act.

To be clear: a soldier who served the public interest by exposing war crimes and revealing gross legal violations by our government, will face a maximum of 136 years behind bars, likely in solitary confinement.

This was my reaction upon hearing the verdict:

Seriously, I don’t want to hear any lectures about how Manning deserves this time because he “broke the law.”

If he had illegally tortured Guantanamo detainees for the CIA, or even orchestrated such torture programs – illegal per U.S. and international law – he could very well have been promoted, if not left alone.

The Manning verdict’s central message, aside from this obvious hypocrisy and the injustices underlying it, is this: if you are a whistleblower in this country, do what Edward Snowden did (and what Daniel Ellsberg suggests): flee America, and fast.

However, if you commit crimes in the name of the state? Bulk up your profile.

There’s a microphone waiting.

Why would Edward Snowden seek asylum in Ecuador?

Apparently Edward Snowden left Hong Kong headed to Russia and by way of Cuba will head to South America.  Needless to say it’s quite complicated and is beginning to sound like a game of “Where in the world is Carmen Diego?”

NBC News

NSA leaker Edward Snowden was reportedly traveling to Ecuador on Sunday to pursue political asylum, and the question on many casual observers’ lips is: Why?

The move comes a year after the small South American nation offered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange safe haven at its London embassy.

And Assange is now lending his support to Snowden.

“He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks,” the anti-secrecy group said in a statement, noting that they are giving the one-time CIA contractor legal counsel. “Once Mr. Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.”

WikiLeaks said that Snowden — who is charged with espionage for allegedly leaking information about top-secret U.S. government surveillance programs — was “accompanied” by former Spanish judge Balthasar Garzon, who is WikiLeaks’ counsel and Assange’s personal lawyer.

It was not immediately obvious why, exactly, Snowden chose to seek asylum in Ecuador, although the country’s association with Assange may offer some clues, said Fordham Law School professor Andrew Kent.

“Ecuador clearly has some kind of history of sticking their finger in the eye of the United States on security issues,” Kent said.

Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s left-leaning third-term president, is a vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy and Western economic influence in Latin America. And he is part of a cadre of Latin American leaders — including Raúl Castro of Cuba and the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — perceived to have an anti-American political worldview.

A sense of political kinship often helps an asylum-seeker decide where to go, said Robert J. Anello, a New York attorney who has handled extradition cases.

“A lot of people choose a country where they think the government will be sympathetic,” Anello said.

Ecuador is among 109 countries that have a bilateral extradition treaty with the U.S., according to the State Department. However, the treaty does not specify espionage as an extraditable offense, Kent said.

“There’s nothing that really obviously covers what Snowden allegedly did,” Kent said.

Other crimes listed in the treaty — including larceny, obtaining property by false pretenses, and fraud — could conceivably be used by officials to extradite someone accused of espionage, he said.

Yet while Ecuador is seemingly turning into a haven for digital desperadoes, the country has a mixed track record on press freedoms.

The Ecuadorean legislature earlier this month passed a restrictive media law, establishing government-run media overseers and imposing sanctions on citizens who tarnish “people’s good name,” the Associated Press reported. The measure created several government commissions authorized to level civil and criminal penalties against journalists.

The legislation could run counter to statements made by Correa in June 2011 in an interview with Assange, just weeks before the president offered the WikiLeaks firebrand political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy, where he remains.

“We believe, my dear Julian, that the only things that should be protected against information sharing and freedom of speech are those set in the international treaties, in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights: the dignity and the reputation of people, and the safety of people and the State,” Correa said during an appearance on Assange’s defunct television talk show.

“The rest, the more people find out about it, the better.”

Anonymous Announces Wikileaks Alternative (VIDEO)

I’m not sure what to make of Anonymous.  I do know that they have piqued my curiosity…

Addicting Info

Love it or hate it, Wikileaks has become entrenched in popular culture. By releasing what are otherwise secret documents, Wikileaks has changed the world. But the repeated attacks on the group has exposed weaknesses of its centralized operation and have driven a wedge between it and previously allied groups, such as the hactivist collective Anonymous. And with Wikileaks founder and spokesman Julian Assange a wanted man, the days of Wikileaks have always been numbered.

But, as with the attacks on Napster, the attacks on Wikileaks did not crush the customers of the service. Instead, it restructures the operation, changing from a centralized agency to a de-centralized. Napster became replaced by bittorrent, and now Anonymous has announced its replacement for Wikileaks, a service they call TYLER.

The issues between Wikileaks and Anonymous go back to the financial problems forced upon Wikileaks after its finances were cut off. In order to continue functioning, Wikileaks had to begin to demand payment. This in turn added liabilities to Wikileaks and its supporters. Facing the added pressure, and the proven liability of the single target to focus efforts against the access of information, Anonymous took the same approach as taken several times before: decentralize. So began Anonymous’s “Project Mayhem” which has produced TYLER:

Now instead of a single target, every single machine connected to Tyler will become a hub. Millions of machines, all churning over and handling the data. It is a nightmare scenario for any group or agency seeking to hide its secrets. No longer will there be a large rat to target, but millions of scurrying cockroaches, any single survivor enabling the reconstruction of the entire network.

The actions against Wikileaks have, instead of prevented the leaking of sensitive data, now made the leaking of that data now a trivial occurence, done by anyone in a matter of minutes, all in complete anonymity. The concerns over another Bradley Manning, being held for releasing secret documentation, are almost trivial, since  it will be next to impossible to track when the next Private Manning comes along. It has now become no longer a matter of if, but when.

The Anonymous TYLER system, the culmination of years of work for the hactivist collective, stands poised to change the rules of not only the internet, but of society itself. The age of state secrets, of corporate lies, can not continue with the bright light of TYLER to shine on them. This is a disruptive technology, you cannot fight it, only adapt to it.

WikiLeaks cable: U.S. troops handcuffed, shot Iraqi children in raid

I must admit that when I read this story at around 8:00 am on the McClatchey site, I was hesitant about reporting it for various reasons which I won’t detail here.

I will not post the horrifying picture that accompanies the story on either McClatchey or The Raw Story.  One would have to click on the link to either site to witness the horrific graphic detail.

In every war this country has ever fought, there are a few soldiers, who for whatever reason, have sunken into the darkest depths of the so-called fog of war.

The Raw Story

According to a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, U.S. troops massacred an Iraqi family in the town of Ishaqi in 2006, handcuffing and then shooting 11 people in the head including a woman in her 70’s and five children ages five and under.

McClatchy is reporting that the soldiers then called in an air strike on the house to cover up evidence of the killings.

This account differs sharply from an official version of the 2006 incident, which indicated that coalition forces captured an al Qaeda in Iraq operative in the house, which was destroyed in a firefight. The WikiLeaks cable, however, corroborates accounts by Ishaqi townspeople and includes questions about the incident by Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The cable is dated twelve days after the incident, which took place March 15, 2006. In it, Alston says that autopsies performed in Tikrit on bodies pulled from the wreckage of the farmhouse indicated that all of the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head.

The victims included “at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay’ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra’a (aged 5) Aisha (aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz’s mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz’s sister (name unknown), Faiz’s nieces Asma’a Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.”

Here is the cable…

Politico’s “The Week In One Liners” 1-14-11

Politico

“An attempt on you could bring the republic down.” – Fox News’s Glenn Beck, encouraging Sarah Palin in a letter to “look into protection for your family.” 

“Keep your mouth shut.” – Commentator Bernie Goldberg, knocking Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik for his remarks in the wake of the Tucson shootings. 

“I wouldn’t have done it.” – Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, on Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” map. 

“This Jared guy’s chalkboard in his basement, I’m not sure it wouldn’t look that different than Glenn Beck’s chalkboard.” – HBO’s Bill Maher, discussing the Tucson shooter. 

“Oh, you guys are nothing if not entertaining over there. It’s like living next door to The Simpsons, you know, the dysfunctional family down the block. Watching you guys, I mean I shouldn’t make too light of it, I think this is really a bad situation.” – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, comparing neighboring Illinois to “The Simpsons.” 

“Tone it down.” – Fox News Channel President Roger Ailes, requesting that his on-air employees take down the rhetoric a notch in the wake of the Tucson shooting. 

“Whack-job nut maggot.” – Mike Huckabee, describing accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner. 

“I can’t be remorseful for something I think I didn’t do.” – Former Rep. Tom DeLay, defending himself despite being sentenced to three years in prison. 

“Oh, so he’s into love-making. He’ll make great love to you then tell you what’s wrong with you. That’s called ‘seducing and reducing.'” – “Millionaire Matchmaker” Patti Stanger, offering analysis after some of Julian Assange’s earlier online profiles were read to her (she didn’t know it was Assange at the time). 

“Still taking bites of the bacon, chewing and talking, VPOTUS chatted up the Delaware troops, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.” – A pool report, describing a scene from Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Afghanistan.