The object of Wikileaks is to dismantle the conspiracies that, according to its founder, rule the world. But what is a conspiracy and are you part of one? According to Assange, it’s possible to be a member of conspiracy without even knowing that you are. This week, we look at Julian Assange’s political philosophy and his view of the world as a network of conspiracies.
The administration was incensed by riparian states insistence on using the Nile for irrigation and other water consuming projects.
According to confidential cables, sent to Washington, by American diplomats based in Cairo, the Mubarak administration viewed access to its quota of Nile waters as a national security issue, “ and a creation of a system that threatens this quota will be seen as an existential threat.”
The documents, written in 2009 and released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, said Egypt felt its existence as a nation was under threat, following the failure of upstream countries to guarantee access to 55.5 billion cubic metres of water annually.
“Upstream countries led by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda argued that climate change has changed the circumstances, making it difficult to rely on rain-fed agriculture, and they need to use Nile water for agriculture, power, fisheries and other water-dependent industries necessary for their security,” said one of the cables sent by the US embassy in Cairo.
Egypt, however, with some support from Sudan, maintained that downstream countries must approve any water use by upstream countries that could reduce their “guaranteed quotas” and threaten their existence.
The use of the Nile, the world’s longest river, has in the recent past become controversial with analysts warning that it might be a potential for water wars is not carefully handled.
The Nile is an important resource for millions of people in East, Central and North Africa.
It has improved food security through fishing and farming, helped many access electricity generated by hydropower plants and contributed to the growth of agro-based industries, employing millions of people.
The major dams on the Nile are Roseires Dam, Sennar Dam, Aswan High Dam, and Owen Falls Dam.
The Nile Basin Initiative was established in 1999, by riparian states to promote co-operation and equitable use of the waters.
The members are Burundi, D.R Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
All the upstream countries, except Burundi and D.R Congo, have already signed the Nile Basin Draft Agreement, which has been contested by Egypt and Sudan.
If the two upstream countries sign the document, this year, it will pave the way for ratification of a pact that strips Egypt of its veto powers to the flow of the Nile.
Egypt pointed fingers at Kenya and Tanzania for being vocal about using Nile water for development “and have made domestic political promises to do so.”
Behind the Arab Revolt Is a Word We Dare Not Speak
Shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I interviewed Ray McGovern, one of an elite group of CIA officers who prepared then-president George W. Bush’s daily intelligence brief. At that time, McGovern was at the apex of the “national security” monolith that is American power and had retired with presidential plaudits. On the eve of the invasion, he and 45 other senior officers of the CIA and other intelligence agencies wrote to Bush that the “drumbeat for war” was based not on intelligence, but lies.
"It was 95 percent charade," McGovern told me.
"How did they get away with it?" I asked.
"The press allowed the crazies to get away with it."
"Who are the crazies?"
"The people running the [Bush] administration have a set of beliefs a lot like those expressed in ‘Mein Kampf,’" said McGovern. "These are the same people who were referred to, in the circles in which I moved at the top, as ‘the crazies.’"
I said: “Norman Mailer has written that he believes America has entered a pre-fascist state. What’s your view of that?”
"Well … I hope he’s right, because there are others saying we are already in a fascist mode."
On January 22, 2011, McGovern emailed me to express his disgust at the Obama administration’s barbaric treatment of the alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning and its pursuit of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.
"Way back when George and Tony decided it might be fun to attack Iraq," he wrote, "I said something to the effect that fascism had already begun here. I have to admit I did not think it would get this bad this quickly."
On February 16, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at George Washington University in which she condemned governments that arrested protestors and crushed free expression. She lauded the liberating power of the Internet, while failing to mention that her government was planning to close down those parts of the Internet that encouraged dissent and truth-telling. It was a speech of spectacular hypocrisy, and McGovern was in the audience. Outraged, he rose from his chair and silently turned his back on Clinton. He was immediately seized by police and a security goon and beaten to the floor, dragged out and thrown into jail, bleeding. He has sent me photographs of his injuries. He is 71. During the assault, which was clearly visible to Clinton, she did not pause in her remarks.
Fascism is a difficult word, because it comes with an iconography that touches the Nazi nerve and is abused as propaganda against America’s official enemies and to promote the West’s foreign adventures with a moral vocabulary written in the struggle against Hitler. And yet, fascism and imperialism are twins. In the aftermath of World War II, those in the imperial states who had made respectable the racial and cultural superiority of “western civilization” found that Hitler and fascism had claimed the same, employing strikingly similar methods. Thereafter, the very notion of American imperialism was swept from the textbooks and popular culture of an imperial nation forged on the genocidal conquest of its native people, and a war on social justice and democracy became “US foreign policy.”
As the Washington historian William Blum has documented, since 1945, the US has destroyed or subverted more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and used mass murderers like Suharto, Mobutu and Pinochet to dominate by proxy. In the Middle East, every dictatorship and pseudo-monarchy has been sustained by America. In “Operation Cyclone,” the CIA and MI6 secretly fostered and bankrolled Islamic extremism. The object was to smash or deter nationalism and democracy. The victims of this western state terrorism have been mostly Muslims. The courageous people gunned down last week in Bahrain and Libya, the latter a “priority UK market,” according to Britain’s official arms “procurers,” join those children blown to bits in Gaza by the latest American F-16 aircraft.
The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator, but against a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people’s triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.
How did such extremism take hold in the liberal West? “It is necessary to destroy hope, idealism, solidarity, and concern for the poor and oppressed,” observed Noam Chomsky a generation ago, and “to replace these dangerous feelings with self-centered egoism, a pervasive cynicism that holds that … the state capitalist order with its inherent inequities and oppression is the best that can be achieved. In fact, a great international propaganda campaign is underway to convince people - particularly young people - that this not only is what they should feel but that it’s what they do feel.”
Like the European revolutions of 1848 and the uprising against Stalinism in 1989, the Arab revolt has rejected fear. An insurrection of suppressed ideas, hope and solidarity has begun. In the United States, where 45 percent of young African-Americans have no jobs and the top hedge fund managers are paid, on average, $1 billion a year, mass protests against cuts in services and jobs have spread to heartland states like Wisconsin. In Britain, the fastest-growing modern protest movement, UK Uncut, is about to take direct action against tax avoiders and rapacious banks. Something has changed that cannot be unchanged. The enemy has a name now.
If you’ve been uncomfortable with the confluence of commerce and activism that the Wikileaks merchandise store represents, you can now indulge in your secretly bourgeois ironic post-everything hipster tendencies by wrapping yourself in Helvetica-typefaced diplomatic cables! Genius, really.
What a brilliant way to get around that awkwardness. You can also have your winning points right there when you forget need it during a beer-fueled argument at the uni bar. These things are important to students.
Courage to Resist - PayPal cuts service to Courage to Resist, Bradley Manning support
By Bradley Manning Support Network. February 24, 2011
San Francisco, CA – The online payment provider PayPal has frozen the account of Courage to Resist, which in collaboration with the Bradley Manning Support Network is currently raising funds in support of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. PayPal was one way people—especially international residents—were able to contribute to the grassroots effort supporting the accused WikiLeaks whistleblower. “We’ve been in discussions with PayPal for weeks, and by their own admission there’s no legal obligation for them to close down our account,” noted Loraine Reitman of the Bradley Manning Support Network (Support Network). “This was an internal policy decision by PayPal.”
“We exchanged numerous emails and phone calls with the legal department and the office of executive escalations of PayPal,” explained Jeff Paterson. “They said they would not unrestrict our account unless we authorized PayPal to withdraw funds from our organization’s checking account by default. Our accounting does not allow for this type of direct access by a third party, nor do I trust PayPal as a business entity with this responsibility given their punitive actions against WikiLeaks—an entity not charged with any crime by any government on Earth.”
The Support Network repeatedly requested and was refused formal documentation from PayPal describing their policies in this matter.
PayPal is a private company and thus under no legal obligation to provide Courage to Resist, the Bradley Manning Support Network, or anyone else with services. This was something made very clear to the Support Network by PayPal representatives.
“They opted to apply an exceptional hurdle for us to clear in order to continue as a customer, whereas we have clearly provided the legally required information and verification. I think our dealings with PayPal should be a cautionary tale for any possibly controversial not-for-profit entity with a PayPal account,” Paterson said, “While there may be no legal obligation to provide services, there is an ethical obligation. By shutting out legitimate nonprofit activity, PayPal shows itself to be morally bankrupt.”
Courage to Resist registered the PayPal account in 2006. There were no issues with this account until supporters were encouraged to donate via PayPal to help fund the “Stand with Bradley Manning” public statement and petition effort (www.standwithbrad.org).
In late 2010, PayPal, MasterCard and Visa closed down payment services to WikiLeaks, severely restricting that organization’s ability to accept online donations. Within days, Courage to Resist project director and Support Network steering committee member Jeff Paterson fielded lengthy calls from executives at PayPal regarding website content, the intended use of the funds being solicited in support of Bradley Manning, and accountings of the recent purchases (primarily envelopes, paper, and postage stamps) made with PayPal funds.
The PayPal account was briefly restricted at that time pending organizational “verification.” To meet PayPal’s standard verification requirements, the Support Network opted to open a line of credit with PayPal and provided Social Security numbers and other financial details in doing so. Approximately a month later on January 29, 2011, PayPal decided that these standard protocols did not apply to Bradley Manning related efforts.
Donations made via Visa, MasterCard, and Discover—along with checks and money orders—remain unaffected. Funds donated to Bradley Manning’s defense fund are used for legal defense expenses, public awareness efforts, and minimal administrative costs. Information regarding donations, including a fiscal accounting of funds, is publicly available on the Internet at couragetoresist.org/bradley
Manning is an American soldier who has been held in solitary confinement since June 2010. He is currently being held in pre-trial confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, and is not expected to face court martial until at least October 2011. Manning has been convicted of no crime and has a Constitutional right to a fair trial. The Support Network is dedicated to ending Manning’s extreme and illegal pre-trial punishment, ensuring he receives civilian legal representation of his choosing, and thwarting efforts by the U.S. government to hold a secret trial, out of sight of media and supporters. The Support Network has no organizational ties to WikiLeaks.
I realise that I have a lot of new readers since the uprising in Egypt began. That is why I thought I should write this note about how I see Wikileaks Tsunami carrying on.
I am a university student and I seriously have to get back to my study. I have already sacrificed enough study time to put my grades into some serious jeopardy. This means I will be spending decreasing amounts of time on blogging activities over coming weeks. I’ll need to be more economical with posts and tweets until the second half of the year when I should disappear into my thesis altogether until it’s done.
You may have noticed that I do not use the “royal we” or the plural we. That is because there really is no “we” here. Apart from the week I went away over Christmas when x7o and kompromat assisted, I have run this project entirely on my own and entirely for free. I have put out feelers for people interested in helping me with it beyond that one week but there has been no interest shown.
I have seen multiple new websites pop up since the end of last year, so I don’t feel the burden of responsibility that I did back when I was running the only blog documenting Wikileaks in the media.
There are multiple live blogs and twitter users documenting everything that Wikileaks does the very moment that it happens too. I really don’t see the point of reproducing their efforts.
I’m not too sure what that leaves me with, but I’m not worried by that. I think I’ve done good work over the past six months. I will still blog quality documentaries and articles as they come up but I can’t even try to cover everything.
Aiming to raise funds for both the controversial website and leader Julian Assange’s legal defense fund, Wikileaks this month opened an online gift shop.
The shop, run by German company Spreadshirt AG, features t-shirts, duffle bags, umbrellas and buttons with the Wikileaks logo, pictures of Assange and the organization’s tagline, “Courage is contagious.” A note on the page explains that “All proceedings go to Wikileaks operations.”
The effort comes as Assange is set to receive $1.3 million for his autobiography. In an interview with the Sunday Times in December, Assange explained his financial situation: “I don’t want to write this book, but I have to. I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat.”
Gadaffi – King of Kings. Libya could be the new Wikileaks.
By Richard Dowden
I am sure I am not the only person to have noticed the striking resemblance between Moamar el-Gadaffi and Ozmymandias, King of Kings, as recorded by the poet Shelley. At the 2008 African Union Summit in Addis Ababa Gadaffi actually got Africa’s traditional rulers to name him “King of Kings” and he called on all the traditional kings of Africa to rise up and lead when Africa’s presidents seemed less than enthusiastic about his anti Western rants.
But it is the “shattered visage” and “the frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,” that so brilliantly depicts Gadaffi at bay. And the final lines:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
For weeks commentators have been saying that Libya is unlikely to change because Gadaffi was so rich. He could simply buy off any opposition. Well. Let’s see.
Gadaffi has been lucky. He has escaped several assassination attempts during his decades in power including the American attempt to bomb him in 1986 and a Franco British attempt to restore King Idriss in 1971 - springing imprisoned army officers and political prisoners from Tripoli jail and arming them. Although the British contingent was in place and ready to go, the French backed out at the last minute.
One thing I hope is that whoever takes over will open the files and we will be able to learn more about the remarkable turnaround in European and American policy towards oil-rich Libya. Tony Blair was one of the leaders in this and seems to have persuaded himself – he was always good at that – that the Colonel had changed. Scared by the US invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi did, it is true, appear to give up his nuclear weapons ambitions. In return, Ali al-Megrahi - accused of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 - was set free, and in return for that a lot of British oil and arms companies got contracts.
According to Africa Confidential in May 2008, the British arms maker, General Dynamics UK, won a $165 million contract to equip the 32nd Reinforced Brigade of the Libyan armed forces whose commander was Gadaffi’s youngest son, Colonel Khamis Abu Minyar el Gadaffi. The deal was facilitated by Blair.
But Gaddafi’s crimes go way back and some are even worse than Lockerbie. In the early 1980s he supported the IRA and his secret servicemen murdered Libyan dissidents in London, but diplomatic relations were only broken when a Libyan “diplomat” opened fire on a tiny dissident demonstration outside the Libyan embassy and killed a British policewoman.
In the 1980s Gadaffi brought “revolutionaries” to Libya and gave them guerrilla training to overthrow the “pro-Western” governments of West Africa. Among them were Foday Sankoh who tried to liberate Sierra Leone by cutting off arms and feet of civilians, and Charles Taylor, lately President of Liberia, now on trial for his support for Sankoh, but probably more guilty of what he did to his own people. These “revolutionaries” were also supported by Felix Houphouet Boigny of Cote d’Ivoire and Blaise Compoare of Burkina Faso.
In Darfur, Gadaffi contributed to the massacres of thousands of people by his creation of and support for the military organisation, Tajumi el-Araba, which aimed to exterminate “African tribes” from the region.
The last few weeks across the Arab world have proved the impossible, possible. So the only thing I can predict is that anything can happen now. But I have three wishes:
Firstly that the Libyans maintain the same dignity and vision that the Egyptians still seem to have. The weeks after revolutions are always the most dangerous.
Secondly that no one gives Gadaffi asylum – or if they do they promptly hand him over to stand trial as the Nigerians did to Charles Taylor.
Thirdly that Gadaffi’s officials kept files on all his activities, which will now be opened and we will know more about his reign and who did what, and who among the oil men, politicians and journalists accepted his generous hospitality. It could be the new Wikileaks.
They revealed that our diplomats understood very well the corruption and dictatorial methods and dictatorship that we were supporting,” he said. “We understood that. In the course of supporting of giving those regimes, Tunisia and Egypt, major military aid, especially Egypt, and that the WikiLeaks cable … exposed was a major factor … that led people to say we’ve had enough.
In the newspaper he controlled, Seif indignantly denied the report — the big spender, he said, was his brother, Muatassim, Libya’s national security adviser, according to an American diplomatic cable from the capital, Tripoli.
It was Muatassim, too, the cable said, who had demanded $1.2 billion in 2008 from the chairman of Libya’s national oil corporation, reportedly to establish his own militia. That would let him keep up with yet another brother, Khamis, commander of a special-forces group that “effectively serves as a regime protection unit.”
As the Qaddafi clan conducts a bloody struggle to hold onto power in Libya, cables obtained by WikiLeaks offer a vivid account of the lavish spending, rampant nepotism and bitter rivalries that have defined what a 2006 cable called “Qadhafi Incorporated,” using the State Department’s preference from the multiple spellings for Libya’s troubled first family.
The glimpses of the clan’s antics in recent years that have reached Libyans despite Col. Qaddafi’s tight control of the media have added to the public anger now boiling over. And the tensions between siblings could emerge as a factor in the chaos in the oil-rich African country.
Though the Qaddafi children are described as jockeying for position as their father ages — three sons fought to profit from a new Coca-Cola franchise — they have been well taken care of, cables say. “All of the Qaddafi children and favorites are supposed to have income streams from the National Oil Company and oil service subsidiaries,” one cable from 2006 says.
A year ago, a cable reported that proliferating scandals had sent the clan into a “tailspin” and “provided local observers with enough dirt for a Libyan soap opera.” Muatassim had repeated his St. Barts New Year’s fest, this time hiring the pop singers Beyoncé and Usher. An unnamed “local political observer” in Tripoli told American diplomats that Muatassim’s “carousing and extravagance angered some locals, who viewed his activities as impious and embarrassing to the nation.”
Another brother, Hannibal, meanwhile, had fled London after being accused of physically abusing his wife, Aline, and after the intervention of a Qaddafi daughter, Ayesha, who traveled to London despite being “many months pregnant,” the cable reported. Ayesha, along with Col. Qaddafi’s second wife, Safiya, the mother of six of his eight children, “advised Aline to report to the police that she had been hurt in an ‘accident,’ and not to mention anything about abuse,” the cable said.
Amid his siblings’ shenanigans, Seif, the president’s second-eldest son, had been “opportunely disengaged from local affairs,” spending the holidays hunting in New Zealand. His philanthropy, the Qaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, had sent hundreds of tons of aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, and he was seen as a reasonable prospect to succeed his father.
The same 2010 cable said young Libyan contacts had reported that Seif al-Islam is the ‘hope’ of ‘Libya al-Ghad’ (Libya of tomorrow), with men in their twenties saying that they aspire to be like Seif and think he is the right person to run the country. They describe him as educated, cultured, and someone who wants a better future for Libya,” by contrast with his brothers, the cable said.
That was then. Today the young protesters on the streets are demanding the ouster of the entire family, and it was Seif el-Qaddafi who declared on television at 1 a.m. Monday that Libya faced civil war and “rivers of blood” if the people did not rally around his father.
As for the 68-year-old Colonel Qaddafi, the cables provide an arresting portrait, describing him as a hypochondriac who fears flying over water and often fasts on Mondays and Thursdays. The cables said he was an avid fan of horse racing and flamenco dancing who once added “King of Culture” to the long list of titles he had awarded himself. The memos also said he was accompanied everywhere by a “voluptuous blonde,” the senior member of his posse of Ukrainian nurses.
After Colonel Qaddafi abandoned his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in 2003, many American officials praised his cooperation. Visiting with a congressional delegation in 2009, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut told the leader and his party-loving national security adviser, Muatassim, that Libya was “an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends.”
Before Condoleezza Rice visited Libya in 2008 — the first secretary of state to do so since 1953 — the embassy in Tripoli sought to accentuate the positive. True, Colonel Qaddafi was “notoriously mercurial” and “avoids making eye contact,” the cable warned Ms. Rice, and “there may be long, uncomfortable periods of silence.” But he was “a voracious consumer of news,” the cable added, who had such distinctive ideas as resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a single new state called “Isratine.”
“A self-styled intellectual and philosopher,” the cable told Ms. Rice, “he has been eagerly anticipating for several years the opportunity to share with you his views on global affairs.”
Andrew W. Lehren contributed reporting from New York.
These days, with Facebook and Twitter and social media galore, it can be increasingly hard to tell who your “friends” are.
But after this, Internet users would be well advised to ask another question entirely: Are my “friends” even real people?
In the continuing saga of data security firm HBGary, a new caveat has come to light: not only did they plot to help destroy secrets outlet WikiLeaks and discredit progressive bloggers, they also crafted detailed proposals for software that manages online “personas,” allowing a single human to assume the identities of as many fake people as they’d like.
The revelation was among those contained in the company’s emails, which were dumped onto bittorrent networks after hackers with cyber protest group “Anonymous” broke into their systems.
In another document unearthed by “Anonymous,” one of HBGary’s employees also mentioned gaming geolocation services to make it appear as though selected fake persons were at actual events.
"There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas," it said.
Eerie as that may be, more perplexing, however, is a federal contract from the 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, located south of Tampa, Florida, that solicits providers of “persona management software.”
While there are certainly legitimate applications for such software, such as managing multiple “official” social media accounts from a single input, the more nefarious potential is clear.
Unfortunately, the Air Force’s contract description doesn’t help dispel suspicions. As the text explains, the software would require licenses for 50 users with 10 personas each, for a total of 500. These personas would have to be “replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent.”
It continues, noting the need for secure virtual private networks that randomize the operator’s Internet protocol (IP) address, making it impossible to detect that it’s a single person orchestrating all these posts. Another entry calls for static IP address management for each persona, making it appear as though each fake person was consistently accessing from the same computer each time.
The contract also sought methods to anonymously establish virtual private servers with private hosting firms in specific geographic locations. This would allow that server’s “geosite” to be integrated with their social media profiles, effectively gaming geolocation services.
The Air Force added that the “place of performance” for the contract would be at MacDill Air Force Base, along with Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad. The contract was offered on June 22, 2010.
It was not clear exactly what the Air Force was doing with this software, or even if it had been procured.
Though many questions remain about how the military would apply such technology, the reasonable fear should be perfectly clear. “Persona management software” can be used to manipulate public opinion on key information, such as news reports. An unlimited number of virtual “people” could be marshaled by only a few real individuals, empowering them to create the illusion of consensus.
You could call it a virtual flash mob, or a digital “Brooks Brothers Riot,” so to speak: compelling, but not nearly as spontaneous as it appears.
"I don’t know about you, but it matters to me what fellow progressives think," the blogger wrote. "I consider all views. And if there appears to be a consensus that some reporter isn’t credible, for example, or some candidate for congress in another state can’t be trusted, I won’t base my entire judgment on it, but it carries some weight.
"That’s me. I believe there are many people though who will base their judgment on rumors and mob attacks. And for those people, a fake mob can be really effective."
It was Rockefeller who was first to highlight the Air Force’s “persona” contract, which was available on a public website.
A call to MacDill Air Force Base, requesting an explanation of the contract and what this software might be used for, was answered by a public affairs officer who promised a call-back. No reply was received at time of this story’s publication.
Other e-mails circulated by HBGary’s CEO illuminate highly personal data about critics of the US Chamber of Commerce, including detailed information about their spouses and children, as well as their locations and professional links. The firm, it was revealed, was just one part of a group called “Team Themis,” tasked by the Chamber to come up with strategies for responding to progressive bloggers and others.
"Team Themis" also included a proposal to use malware hacks against progressive organizations, and the submission of fake documents in an effort to discredit established groups.
HBGary was also behind a plot by Bank of America to destroy WikiLeaks’ technology platform, other emails revealed. The company was humiliated by members of “Anonymous” after CEO Aaron Barr bragged that he’d “infiltrated” the group.
A request for comment emailed to HBGary did not receive a reply.
Update: HBGary Federal among bidders
A list of interested vendors responding to the Air Force contract for “persona management software” included HBGary subsideary HBGary Federal, further analysis of a government website has revealed.
WikiLeaks: How Libya trade fears forced British ministers to back release of Lockerbie bomber
The warning from British officials in Tripoli could barely have been gloomier.
By Robert Winnett and Christopher Hope 9:00PM GMT 31 Jan 2011
If the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was not released from a Scottish prison, Britain would effectively have to abandon its interests in Libya, one of the world’s most promising economic frontiers.
Britons would be advised not to travel to the country, the British school and British Council would be closed and all but a skeleton staff of embassy officials would be evacuated. The regime would then probably strip British firms of valuable multi-million-pound contracts.
“The consequences if Megrahi were to die in prison or if the transfer under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement were denied would be harsh, immediate and not easily remedied,” British officials concluded, according to leaked documents passed to The Daily Telegraph by the WikiLeaks website.
The situation led to a complicated diplomatic tightrope being walked – with senior British politicians in public insisting that it was for the Scottish Government to decide on whether the Lockerbie bomber could be released, while behind the scenes giving every assistance to the Libyans to ensure Megrahi’s return.
However, the disclosure of hundreds of sensitive documents detailing international relations with the Libyan regime has provided the first comprehensive picture of the delicate and controversial steps taken by the British Government. The records will lead to growing pressure on Labour ministers to provide a full account of their role in the release of Megrahi.
The imprisonment and subsequent release of the Libyan intelligence officer is one of the most long-running and controversial episodes in global diplomacy. In 1991, Megrahi was first indicted over the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988 – an act that killed 270 people. The Libyans initially refused to hand him over for trial but finally agreed to allow him to face a special court established in Holland, where he was convicted in 2001.
The trial paved the way for Libya to begin rebuilding its international reputation, with Tony Blair making a high-profile trade visit to court Libya’s leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and re-establish diplomatic relations. British firms including BP have since won multi-million-pound contracts in the country.
But the Libyans soon began pushing for Megrahi to be returned to serve his sentence in Libya. Initially, the focus was on ensuring that a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) between Britain and Libya covered the convicted terrorist. This deal was agreed in the spring of 2009 following intervention at the highest levels of the British Government.
However, in September 2008, Megrahi had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, which presented the Libyan government with another opportunity to secure his release. Under Scottish law, prisoners who are close to death can apply for compassionate release. Within days, as this newspaper discloses today, the Foreign Office was secretly advising the Libyan government on how to secure Megrahi’s freedom.
According to an American memo sent on Oct 24, 2008, from London to Washington: “The Libyans have not yet made a formal application for compassionate release for Megrahi, but HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] believes that the Scottish may be inclined to grant the request, when it comes, based on conversations between Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw. Although the general practice is to grant compassionate release within three months of end of life, this is not codified in the law, so the release, if granted, could occur sooner rather than later.”
In public, ministers insisted that any decision to release Megrahi was for the Scottish. But, behind the scenes, Whitehall officials were insistent that they controlled the relationship between Britain and Libya.
“HMG has made clear to the Libyans, to Embassy London and to the media that it will take no official position on Megrahi’s early release, but will leave the decision — whether through compassionate release or the PTA — to the devolved Scottish government,” the document records. “At the same time, FCO contacts tell us that HMG is adamant that, despite devolution, London controls foreign policy for the UK, not the Scottish.”
The first attempt to secure Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds in November 2008 failed, but the lobbying continued. As a later memo recorded: “He [Alex Salmond] said he and his government ‘had played straight’ with both the United States Government and UK Government, but implied that the UK Government had not … And he said that the Libyan Government had offered the Scottish Government ‘a parade of treats’, all of which were turned down.”
Finally, on Aug 20, 2009, Megrahi was released. However, the backlash against the decision – largely driven by the Americans – quickly began.
Megrahi returned to Libya on a private jet, accompanied by Saif Gaddafi, the leader’s son, to a hero’s welcome. Muammar Gaddafi quickly visited the released terrorist at his home.
The documents disclose that the British became concerned over what Libya may be planning for his funeral.
One document sent on Feb 25, 2010, records: “Saunders [senior Foreign Office official] explained that fear over how Tripoli will handle Megrahi’s eventual funeral remains a major concern and one that HMG continues to raise regularly. Under the direction of FCO MENA Director Christian Turner the UK Embassy in Tripoli is currently engaged in an effort to identify all possible UK levers of influence with Tripoli. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many, although she mentioned Tony Blair.
Cables illuminate U.S. relations with Bahrain, potential for unrest | WikiLeaked
The United States and Bahrain are close allies. In fact, according to an April 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable, one of several released by WikiLeaks this week, the two countries have “about as good a bilateral relationship as anywhere.” The cables recount a number of interesting details, particularly in light of ongoing unrest there this week, about the government’s leadership, U.S. interests in Bahrain and the region, and about the backstory of sectarian tensions between a ruling Sunni government and a large underclass Shiite majority.
U.S. interests in Bahrain, according to the cables, center around two issue: Iran and Iraq. And the two are related. The April 2008 cables notes that Bahrain’s “number-one security concern is Iran. They support [the U.S.] tough stand toward Tehran.” The cables claim that Bahrain worked with the U.S. government to monitor financial transactions from Iran. And perhaps even more importantly, Manama expressed interest in creating a broader alliance of countries in the Gulf and the region to resist Iran, the cables claim. And here’s where Iraq comes in, according to a 2008 cable: “Our point that reintegrating Iraq into the Arab fold is critical to limiting Iranian influence has had real resonance with the Bahraini leadership.”
Personally, too, U.S. diplomats convey a strong connection to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. A December 2009 cable describes him as “personable and engaging. He rules as something of a ‘corporate king,’ giving direction and letting his top people manage the government.” Part of the personal affinity derives from the fact that King Hamad spent time in the United States, according to another August 2008 cable, in which the king describes his time at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College as “the most personally and professionally rewarding of his life.”
Despite this strong bilateral relationship, however, U.S. cables indicate a acute awareness of the volatility of Bahrain’s internal politics. In April 2008, Americans described the political atmosphere as simmering, offering an ominous warning:
Small but violent bands of Shi’a underclass youth, frustrated with persistent discrimination and what they perceive as too gradual a pace of reform, clash with police nearly every week. The Sunni minority, which rules the country and controls all security forces, has generally acted with restraint, but it takes only one mistake to provoke a potentially disastrous escalation.
Interestingly, the U.S. diplomats also noted a change in tactics by the government in dealing with unrest during the summer of 2008, according to a July 2008 cable.
Over the past two months the King has departed from his traditional detached style and intervened personally in several controversies arising from Bahrain’s Shi’a-Sunni tensions. He has publicly, both personally and through his ministers, summoned communal leaders, newspaper editors and bloggers to warn them against crossing red lines against discussion of issues like royal family disputes and criticism of judges who have sentenced Shi’a rioters to prison terms.
The U.S. diplomats writing in the released cables didn’t ever think that this would come to a head, largely because of a confidence in the government’s ability to handle the situation. Most recently, in the 2009 cable, diplomats write that ” King Hamad understands that Bahrain cannot prosper if he rules by repression.” Those words might ring particularly true today — if not as intended.
Bahrain's crown prince: Not a fan of democracy - By David Kenner | WikiLeaked
With the growing chaos on the streets of Manama, the powers that be at WikiLeaks realized that it would be a good time to release a slew of U.S. diplomatic cables related to Bahrain. The cables contain some interesting revelations about the country’s ruling Khalifa family.
Crown Prince Salman, for example, isn’t a huge fan of democracy in Iraq. In a November 2007 meeting with then U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker there, the crown prince, who is the king’s eldest son and his heir apparent, remarked that the U.S. strategy of securing its interests through democracy would continue to founder in the absence of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If that proved impossible, he urged the United States to “drop democracy promotion as the main element of its strategy in Iraq and the region.”
Rather than promoting democracy, the crown prince said the United States could “rely instead on traditional power politics — i.e., identify strong groups that would support U.S. policies, and stand by them.”
“You did it in the Cold War,” he said, according to the cable, “and you can do it now.”
With the Bahrain regime seemingly intent on crushing the incipient demonstrations, that’s not exactly the message protesters are hoping to hear from their leaders.