This morning, WikiLeaks Tweeted out the telephone number belonging to District Attorney Tracy McCormick – the DA in charge of a Grand Jury investigation against the organization to determine whether the activities of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, warrant an indictment against them.
The Tweet in question linked to a Salon article about the case noting that the FBI recently served a Grand Jury subpoena in Boston “on a Cambridge resident, compelling his appearance to testify in Alexandria, Virgina” in the wake of WikiLeaks’ decision to publish classified dossiers of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
We expect McCormick is going to have a busy, possibly frustrating day on her hands.
The lawyer, David H. Remes, who represents Saifullah Paracha, a Pakistani businessman accused of discussing plots against the United States with Al Qaeda leaders after Sept. 11, 2001, filed an emergency petition in the Federal District Court here. Mr. Remes is challenging a Justice Department notice on Monday that appears to prohibit lawyers from publicly discussing the leaked documents.
Mr. Remes, who has devoted his law practice to Guantánamo prisoners, asked the court to order the government to allow him “full and unfettered access to all publicly available classified WikiLeaks documents relevant to Mr. Paracha’s case.” He says he wants to be able to view the documents on his home and office computers and to “print, copy, disseminate and discuss” them without fear of punishment.
On Monday, the Justice Department’s Court Security Office sent a notice to lawyers for Guantánamo prisoners informing them that prison documents obtained by WikiLeaks, now being posted online by the antisecrecy group and several newspapers, remained classified by law.
The notice advised the lawyers, who have been granted security clearances, that they must handle the documents “in accordance with all relevant security precautions and safeguards.”
The notice did not explain what was prohibited. But Mr. Remes and other lawyers are concerned that if they view or discuss the documents, they may be stripped of their security clearances or face other punishments. “Losing his clearance will disable him from continuing to represent his current or future detainee clients,” Mr. Remes’s petition says. “Counsel is concerned that the government may even prosecute him.”
A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said he could not comment on Mr. Remes’s petition, which he said the department would answer in court.
“We’re aware that publication of these materials has prompted questions from habeas attorneys about the unusual position they find themselves in,” Mr. Boyd said, referring to habeas cases challenging the prisoners’ detention. He said the department was studying the issues posed by the disclosure of the documents.
Since last year, when WikiLeaks published or provided to news organizations military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department cables, government agencies have struggled to respond. In the case of the Guantánamo lawyers, there is a particular irony: people without security clearances can freely read and discuss the documents, while the lawyers cannot.
Mr. Remes included in his petition an article in The Times on Tuesday about Mr. Paracha, whom a classified document described as offering his shipping business to move explosives into the United States. Mr. Remes wrote that because he could not comment on the document, “counsel could not rebut the government’s accusations.”
FBI serves Grand Jury subpoena likely relating to WikiLeaks - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
In the wake of a massive disclosure of Guantanamo files by WikiLeaks, the FBI yesterday served a Grand Jury subpoena in Boston on a Cambridge resident, compelling his appearance to testify in Alexandria, Virgina. Alexandria is where a Grand Jury has been convened to criminally investigate WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and determine whether an indictment against them is warranted. The individual served has been publicly linked to the WikiLeaks case, and it is highly likely that the Subpoena was issued in connection with that investigation.
Notably, the Subopena explicitly indicates that the Grand Jury is investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act (18 U.S.C. 793), a draconian 1917 law under which no non-government-employee has ever been convicted for disclosing classified information. The most strident anti-WikiLeaks politicians — such as Dianne Feinstein and Newt Gingrich — have called for the prosecution of the whistle-blowing group under this law, and it appears that the Obama DOJ is at least strongly considering that possibility.
The investigation appears also to focus on Manning, as the Subpoena indicates the Grand Jury is investigating parties for “knowingly accessing a computer without authorization” — something that seems to refer to Manning — though it also cites the conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. 371, as well as the conspiracy provision of the Espionage Act (subsection (g)), suggesting that they are investigating those who may have helped Manning obtain access. The New York Timespreviously reported that the DOJ hoped to build a criminal case against WikiLeaks and Assange by proving they conspired with Manning ahead of time (rather than merely passively received his leaked documents). Also cited is 18 U.S.C. 641, which makes it a crime to “embezzle, steal, purloin, or knowingly convert . . any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States.”
The serving of this Subpoena strongly suggests that the DOJ criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and Assange continues in a serious way; perhaps it was accelerated as a result of this latest leak, though that’s just speculation. It also appears clear that the DOJ is strongly considering an indictment under the Espionage Act — an act that would be radical indeed for non-government-employees doing nothing other than what American newspapers do on a daily basis (and have repeatedly done in partnership with WikiLeaks). The Subpoena is here; the two page letter accompanying the Subpoena are below (click on images to enlarge):
Dossiers on Australian suspects full of errors | The Australian
THE secret files released by WikiLeaks on the two Australians formerly consigned to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp provide a unique and disturbing window into the quality of the intelligence relied on by the US to confine terror suspects in the prison camp supposedly reserved for “the worst of the worst”.
The dossiers on Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks reveal the so-called evidence used to justify their incarceration to be a confused mishmash replete with glaring factual errors and inconsistencies, principally based on self-incrimination that would not be admitted in a proper court of law and tainted by the inclusion of information obtained under torture.
The case against Habib is summarised in a memorandum marked “secret” on the letterhead of the Department of Defence Joint Task Force, Guantanamo Bay, dated August 6, 2004, and addressed to the commander of the United States Southern Command in Miami.
The document begins with a “detainee summary”, which is said to be based on Habib’s own statements but is full of factual mistakes. For example, it says Habib lived in “Meadowbark” (a misspelling of Meadowbank) in Sydney in 1980, when he didn’t arrive in Australia until 1982; that he later moved to “Greenwika”, apparently a reference to Sydney’s Greenacre; that he visited Egypt with his wife and children in 1986 when in fact they went in 1988; that he travelled to the US in 1992, which he did not; and so on. These could be dismissed as trivial slips except that this is a quasi-legal document that was used to justify Habib’s detention in Guantanamo for more than three years.
The critical part of the dossier is the section headed “Reasons for Continued Detention” at JTF GTMO, the military acronym for Guantanamo Bay. Reason No 1 reads: “Detainee has been linked to the 11 Sept 2001 hijackers.”
No evidence to support this assertion has ever been produced, and none is offered here.
This now discredited claim was entirely based on information obtained from Habib in Egypt when he was detained incommunicado there from October 2001 to May 2002 and subjected to methods of torture including electric shock, water immersion to the point of near drowning, cigarette burns and extraction of finger and toe nails.
The memorandum’s author, Brigadier General Jay W. Hood, admits as much when he reports: “While in the custody of the Egyptian government, under extreme duress, the detainee alleged that he made the following admissions of guilt, which he now denies.” The admissions included that Habib trained six of the 9/11 hijackers and planned to hijack a Qantas flight, both entirely baseless.
This extract is critical for three reasons.
First, it confirms the fact of Habib’s imprisonment “under extreme duress in Egypt”, undermining the Australian government’s insistence that it was never able to confirm his detention there.
Second, it confirms that the key allegations against Habib were based on statements he made under torture and later retracted, which was why he was ultimately released without charge.
Third, it shows that despite acknowledging the admissions were obtained under torture, the US was still citing them as evidence against him in 2004.
The strongest evidence offered in the file against Habib is that he met al-Qa’ida commander Mohammed Atef and spent three or four days at an al-Qa’ida training base - both of which Habib denies - before being told to leave after the US began bombing Afghanistan.
Based on this and Habib’s “extensive international travels”, the file concludes that Habib was “suspected of being a money courier and a terrorist operations facilitator”, without providing any evidence to support this.
The US dossier on David Hicks is likewise filled with errors, unsupported assertions and hyperbole seemingly designed to bolster the US plan at the time to make the Australian the first person tried before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay. In a statement released yesterday through a spokesman, Hicks listed 13 errors in the US file.
The most glaring error is an assertion in the secret Defence Department file that after his well-publicised stint in Kosovo in 1999, Hicks “flew to East Timor in order to take part in the conflict there”.
Hicks says in his statement - which on this count is more credible than the secret US memo - that he has “at no time flown to East Timor - to engage in hostilities, or otherwise”.
This and the fact that the US file incorrectly gives Hicks’s middle name as Matthew, rather than Michael, suggests the US was confusing Hicks with another Australian, former soldier Matthew Stewart, who left the Australian army and allegedly joined al-Qa’ida after a stint in East Timor in the late 1990s.
It is hard to imagine a more flagrant mistake in a document that purported to be the legal justification for the historic first military commission trial.
If the hapless Adelaide cowboy turned freedom fighter was truly “the worst of the worst”, we can all rest easier at night.
‘Collateral Murder’ Soldier Speaks in New Film | Threat Level
Ethan McCord, a 33-year-old Army specialist, was engaged in a firefight with insurgents in an Iraqi suburb in July 2007, when his platoon, part of Bravo Company, 2-16 Infantry, got orders to investigate the aftermath of a recent firefight on a nearby street.
When McCord’s platoon arrived, the soldiers found a scene of fresh carnage –- the scattered remains of a group of men, believed to be armed, who had just been gunned down by Apache attack helicopters. They also found 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his 5-year-old sister Doaha covered in blood in a van. Their 43-year-old father, Saleh, had been driving them to a class when he spotted one of the wounded men moving in the street and drove over to help him, only to become a victim of the Apache guns.
McCord was photographed in a video shot from one helicopter as he ran frantically to a military vehicle with Sajad in his arms seeking medical care. That video created its own firestorm when the whistleblower site WikiLeaks published it April 5, 2010, one year ago Tuesday, on a site called “Collateral Murder.” It was the leak that put WikiLeaks on the map and is among a multitude of high-profile leaks allegedly provided to the site by former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning.
Wired.com interviewed McCord last year about the incident and about his experience of suddenly seeing himself on the news, three years after the event. McCord had just returned from dropping his children at school on April 5, when he turned on the TV news to see grainy black-and-white video footage of himself running from a bombed-out van with Sajad in his arms. It was a scene that had played repeatedly in his mind for three years and had caused him much grief.
A new short film about the Baghdad incident will be showing this month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. In it, McCord goes into more detail about the events of that day and shows a number of photos he took of his fellow soldiers before and after the controversial attack. You can see a clip from the film Incident in New Baghdad above.
Latest WikiLeaks cables reveal Israel's fears and alliances | World news | The Guardian
Mohammed Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s ruling generals, was an obstacle to Israeli efforts to stop arms smuggling within the Gaza strip, according to Israeli security forces. The assessment was privately delivered to US diplomats, alongside praise for former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman’s efforts to stop weapons trafficking, according to the WikiLeaks embassy cables.
The revelations come in a tranche of the most militarily sensitive cables from the US embassy in Tel Aviv. They have been handed over to Israeli newspapers by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The Hebrew-language paper Yediot this week announced a deal under which it will print an interview with Assange, who has recently had to defend WikiLeaks from accusations of antisemitism.
The cables show intimate co-operation between US and Israeli intelligence organisations. Israel's preoccupation with Iranian nuclear ambitions is well known and the US cables detail the battering on the subject that diplomats repeatedly receive from Tel Aviv.
They also shed detailed and sometimes unexpected light on Israel’s military analyses of its other enemies and friends in the region.
Egypt is the primary route for weapons and munitions into the Gaza strip, and the US has been facilitating co-operation between Israel and Egypt to tackle this for several years.
On arms smuggling across the Egyptian border to Hamas in Gaza, Israeli intelligence chiefs described as “supportive” Omar Suleiman, who was Egypt’s intelligence minister, but said defence minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi was “an obstacle” in a November 2009 cable.
Another cable seen by the Guardian reveals that the King of Bahrain, whose Arab state has recently been shaken by protests, has had friendly links with the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.
The cables report a private talk between the then US ambassador, William Monroe, and King Hamad of Bahrain in the king’s palace on 15 February 2005. Monroe reported back to Washington: “He [the king] revealed that Bahrain already has contacts with Israel at the intelligence/security level (ie with Mossad) and indicated that Bahrain will be willing to move forward in other areas.”
The cables also shed light on Israel’s assessment of Hezbollah’s mounting capability to strike directly at Tel Aviv with an arsenal of more than 20,000 missiles.
Washington was told: “Hezbollah possesses over 20,000 rockets … Hezbollah was preparing for a long conflict with Israel in which it hopes to launch a massive number of rockets at Israel per day. A Mossad official estimated that Hezbollah will try to launch 400-600 rockets and missiles at Israel per day – 100 of which will be aimed at Tel Aviv. He noted that Hezbollah is looking to sustain such launches for at least two months.”
He told the Americans: “Israel’s political leadership has not yet made the necessary policy choices among competing priorities: a short-term priority of wanting Hamas to be strong enough to enforce the de facto ceasefire and prevent the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel; a medium priority of preventing Hamas from consolidating its hold on Gaza; and a longer-term priority of avoiding a return of Israeli control of Gaza and full responsibility for the wellbeing of Gaza’s civilian population.”
Galant was to be made Israel’s chief of defence staff earlier this year but the appointment was cancelled due to scandal.
Wikileaks Open Letter | Open Letter in Defence of Wikileaks’ Right to Publish
DECLARATION Open Letter in Defence of WikiLeaks’ Right to Publish
We believe that free societies everywhere are best served by journalism that holds governments and corporations to account. We assert that the right to publish is equal to, and the consequence of, the citizen’s right to know. While we believe in personal privacy and accept a need for confidentiality, we hold that disclosure in the public interest is paramount. Liberty, accountability and true democratic choice can only be guaranteed by rigorous scrutiny. We defend the right to publish the truth responsibly without obstruction and persecution by the state. The primary duty of journalists everywhere is to advance the cause of understanding, not to assist governments and powerful interests in suppressing information, and never to defer to ingrained habits of secrecy.
With these principles in mind, we declare our support for the publication of documents released through leaks. They have cast significant light on the behaviour of governments and corporations in the modern world. WikiLeaks has done the world great service. We strenuously denounce the threats of death and criminal prosecution of its director for publishing, together with many organisations throughout the world, information that is clearly in the public interest.
Those in authority routinely oppose such disclosure, as they have done since the struggle to publish the proceedings of the British Parliament over two hundred years ago right through to the release of the Pentagon Papers. We believe no democracy has ever been harmed by an increase in the public’s knowledge and understanding.Therefore, we, the undersigned, declare our unyielding support for the principles of journalistic inquiry and openness, and condemn the forces that threaten both.
At Harvard Law School, Ellsberg draws parallels between Pentagon Papers and WikiLeaks (Video)
Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, was once called “the most dangerous man in America.”
March 30, 2011
Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, addressed a Harvard Law School audience on March 24 in a discussion of WikiLeaks, the organization that publishes classified documents submitted by whistleblowers worldwide.
Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson ’63, who was one of Daniel Ellsberg’s defense attorneys in 1971, introduced Ellsberg. See sidebar Q&A below.
Once called “the most dangerous man in America,” Ellsberg, who will turn 80 on April 7, engaged in a dialog with Scott Horton, a lecturer at Columbia Law School, about why states keep secrets and the consequences of this secrecy.
Horton began the discussion by referring to a leaked cable from December 2008, in which the United States embassy in Japan presciently cited concerns about the potential danger from a group of nuclear reactors near Tokyo in the event of serious seismic activity. When asked why American authorities had kept the cable secret, Ellsberg said that governments go to great lengths to conceal information that could lead to accountability, embarrassment, or blame.
“Avoiding blame is sort of the major number one principle in a bureaucracy or a politician, for that matter,” said Ellsberg. “So in this case, almost nothing is more secret than a warning within the government that a given policy which is going to be found out might be dangerous, or criminal, or wrong, (or) reckless.”
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He posited that in fact, most U.S. Government decisions to keep information secret are directed at keeping secrets not from other nations but from Congress, public courts, and citizens—“the ones who have the votes and vote the budgets, and might possibly prosecute, and the ones whose blame is to be feared.”
Although some information, such as data on nuclear stockpiles, communications intelligence, and identities of covert CIA agents should indeed remain classified, Ellsberg said, secrets about government actions that affect public opinion and safety should not be kept.
The work of whistleblowers can potentially shorten wars and avoid atrocities, and although the stakes of disclosing unauthorized information are incredibly high, he added, it’s puzzling that so few people have been willing to take on the inherent risks to expose corruption.
Addressing the consequences of WikiLeaks’ actions, Horton asserted that the massive leak of documents helped trigger the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as reveal the work of US diplomats overseas to undermine justice systems in Spain and Germany.
“I would say there’s not a single case where I see these disclosures have threatened the safety of a diplomat or undermined any legitimate US interest or security interest,” he said. “But they have actually contributed to a bit of justice.”
Ellsberg added that the consequences of keeping such dealings secret, on the other hand, pose genuine threats to public safety. His greatest concern stems from what WikiLeaks revealed as American ground offensive operations in Pakistan, a country armed with a rapidly growing nuclear arsenal and potentially allied with militant Islamist groups.
“We’re destabilizing a government now that could put nuclear weapons in the hands of al-Qaeda…” he said. “This is the most reckless, irresponsible policy I can imagine.”
In what he described as a political climate that promotes “the opacity of the government” but “the total transparency of the public,” Ellsberg warned that there now exists in the US the infrastructure of a police state, which threatens to diminish the sovereignty of the public and renders it easier to get into “irresponsible wars” like Vietnam and Iraq.
“The challenge cannot be greater. So as lawyers, I hope you will stand up for the principles of a country that didn’t make it illegal up to now to tell secrets of state that the public needed to hear.”
In an interview this fall, HLS Professor Charles Nesson recalls his involvement in the Pentagon Papers case
Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson ’63, founder and faculty co-director of HLS’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, was one of Daniel Ellsberg’s defense attorneys in 1971. With Leonard Boudin, who was a visiting professor at Harvard Law from 1970 to 1971, Nesson defended Ellsberg against charges of theft and espionage.
At the March 24th event on the Pentagon Papers at HLS, Nesson introduced Daniel Ellsberg, and recalled their initial meeting: “I met [Daniel Ellsberg] before the Pentagon Papers arose as a big issue, over the question of what he should do with them, at the time when he had them, and no one seemed that interested in looking at them. It was, in fact, an exercise of Dan’s genius which I saw unfold that he took this body of documents in which he had invested himself and made it what it became. First, he was peddling them. He was trying to get the chairman of the foreign relations committee to publish them in the congressional record. He was trying to get Harvard Law School to make them the subject of our Ames Moot Court Final. … When the Pentagon Papers hit in the New York Times, all hell broke loose.”
In October, the PBS social issue documentary series, POV, aired “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” with interviews of Ellsberg and others involved in the case. Nesson, who was not involved in the documentary, described his involvement in the case in an interview this fall with Alexander Heffner.
Q. Take us back to that time, set the scene, how did you come to be involved in the Ellsberg case? When you think about the trial in 2010, what memory surfaces first?
A. My most prominent memory is the confrontation between Leonard Boudin, lead counsel for Ellsberg, and Judge Byrne…Boudin tried his best to give it to him.
Q. What did the case, if anything, illustrate about the American judicial system?
A. Hard to say. Back then, it impressed me that system could be good when run right and very bad when it was run wrong. Maybe it was a triumph for freedom of the press when the Supreme Court backed the New York Times. The rest of the press was really supportive of Ellsberg.
I wouldn’t say the trial was much of a triumph for anything. In some ways, it was a silly prosecution — won not by outright victory but by demonstration of malfeasance on the part of the government — both the Court and Executive branch. It wasn’t our nation’s finest hour.
Q. As one of the defense attorneys, how did your work on Ellsberg’s behalf inform future legal ventures here at Harvard?
A. It taught me the power of a good narrative story, in which a single man like Dan could become the focal point of a substantive message-generating-narrative. And the Courts become swept up in it as part of the story. In some ways it was consistent with the Chicago Seven Trial, with respect to the whole dimension of law as a kind of rhetorical space.
Q. Did the Ellsberg affair trigger any of your Berkman Center work on technology’s role in government?
A. Yes, certainly. I came to think of the potential of Cyberspace, in terms of the space to absorb and project rhetorical narrative.
About the Report | Media Piracy in Emerging Economies | A Report by the Social Science Research Council
Media Piracy in Emerging Economies is the first independent, large-scale study of music, film and software piracy in emerging economies, with a focus on Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Bolivia.
Based on three years of work by some thirty-five researchers, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies tells two overarching stories: one tracing the explosive growth of piracy as digital technologies became cheap and ubiquitous around the world, and another following the growth of industry lobbies that have reshaped laws and law enforcement around copyright protection. The report argues that these efforts have largely failed, and that the problem of piracy is better conceived as a failure of affordable access to media in legal markets.
Prices are too high. High prices for media goods, low incomes, and cheap digital technologies are the main ingredients of global media piracy. Relative to local incomes in Brazil, Russia, or South Africa, the retail price of a CD, DVD, or copy of MS Office is five to ten times higher than in the US or Europe. Legal media markets are correspondingly tiny and underdeveloped.
Competition is good. The chief predictor of low prices in legal media markets is the presence of strong domestic companies that compete for local audiences and consumers. In the developing world, where global film, music, and software companies dominate the market, such conditions are largely absent.
Antipiracy education has failed.The authors find no significant stigma attached to piracy in any of the countries examined. Rather, piracy is part of the daily media practices of large and growing portions of the population.
Changing the law is easy. Changing the practice is hard. Industry lobbies have been very successful at changing laws to criminalize these practices, but largely unsuccessful at getting governments to apply them. There is, the authors argue, no realistic way to reconcile mass enforcement and due process, especially in countries with severely overburdened legal systems.
Criminals can’t compete with free. The study finds no systematic links between media piracy and organized crime or terrorism in any of the countries examined. Today, commercial pirates and transnational smugglers face the same dilemma as the legal industry: how to compete with free.
Enforcement hasn’t worked. After a decade of ramped up enforcement, the authors can find no impact on the overall supply of pirated goods.
US embassy cables: Guide to Bahrain's politics | World news | guardian.co.uk
ID:168471 Cable dated:2008-09-04T14:27:00 S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 MANAMA 000592 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/04/2018 TAGS: PGOV, ELAB, KDEM, PINR, PTER, LE, IR, BA SUBJECT: A FIELD GUIDE TO BAHRAINI POLITICAL PARTIES REF: A. 05 MANAMA 1773 B. 06 MANAMA 49 C. 06 MANAMA 1728 D. 07 MANAMA 113 E. 07 MANAMA 190 F. 07 MANAMA 810 G. 07 MANAMA 1046 H. MANAMA 336 I. MANAMA 404 J. MANAMA 407 K. MANAMA 420 L. MANAMA 510 M. MANAMA 536 Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (SBU) Summary: This message describes the leading political groupings in Bahrain. The Wifaq party remains the most popular party among the majority Shi’a underclass and advocates non-violent political activism on behalf of the Shi’a community. Two Islamist parties dominate the Sunni side of the political scene. Secular liberals and leftists did poorly in the 2006 elections and have demonstrated little recent evidence of street appeal, but continue to maintain high media profiles. End Summary.
2. (SBU) The 2002 constitution revived the 40-member, elected Majlis Al Nawab (Council of Representatives) after a 27 year hiatus. Although political parties remain, strictly speaking, illegal, the 2005 Political Societies Act allows for the formation of registered “political societies,” which function for all intents and purposes as political parties. The law provides for GOB financial support to registered societies, but forbids the societies from accepting foreign funding. The four societies with members in the elected lower house of parliament are Wifaq (17 seats), Asala (8), Minbar Al Islami (7), and Mustaqbal (4).
REGISTERED SOCIETIES WITH SEATS IN PARLIAMENT ——————————————————————-
Al Wifaq National Islamic Society
3. (C) Wifaq is the leading Shi’a political society. It is also the largest political party in Bahrain, both in terms of its membership and its strength at the polls. Wifaq holds a plurality in the elected lower house of parliament, but coalitions of smaller, pro-government Sunni parties usually outvote Wifaq. Most Wifaq leaders were exiled following the unrest of the 1990’s, and many continued oppositionist activities from London. With the amnesty of 2001, they returned to Bahrain and founded Wifaq. After boycotting the 2002 parliamentary elections, Wifaq won 17 seats in the 2006 elections. Sheikh Ali Salman, a mid-level Shi’a cleric, officially leads the party. Sheikh Isa Qassim, Bahrain’s most popular Shi’a cleric, claims to eschew politics but privately supports Wifaq (ref M) and probably exerts considerable influence over it.
4. (SBU) Wifaq’s base includes most of Bahrain’s poorer Shi’a; well-off Shi’a gravitate toward more secular societies or avoid politics. Wifaq continues to demand a “true” constitutional monarchy in which elected officials make policy decisions, the prime minister is accountable to the parliament, and the appointed upper house loses its legislative power.
5. (C) Wifaq works to combat perceived discrimination by the Sunni-dominated government through legislation and disciplined street demonstrations. Wifaq has used its growing parliamentary skill and strong leaders to bolster its position as the leading political force in the Shi’a community. Government officials have privately praised Wifaq for its rejection of illegal demonstrations and respect for “the rules” (ref K). Wifaq often works with other opposition societies, including Wa’ad (para 11), Al Minbar Progressive Democratic Society (paras 12 and 13), and Amal (paras 15 and 16).
6. (U) For more on Wifaq and its relationship with Haq (paras 20-22), see septel.
Al Asala Political Society
MANAMA 00000592 002 OF 004
7. (SBU) Asala is exclusively Sunni and is closely associated with Salafist ideology. Al Tarbiya Al Islamiya (Islamic Education Charity Society) funds the party. Asala participated in the 2006 elections and won five seats in parliament; in addition, three Sunni independents generally vote with Asala. Asala often aligns with Minbar Al Islami (para 9) to outvote Wifaq (paras 3-6). Asala’s supporters are mostly from Sunni enclaves like Muharraq island.
8. (C) Asala says its goals are to increase the standard of living for Bahrainis; strengthen political, social and economic stability; and enhance financial and administrative oversight of the government and industry. Asala does not support women’s empowerment. Party chair Ghanim Albuanain is First Deputy Chairman in Parliament. Albuanain strikes emboffs as rational and open-minded, though many of his followers are not. Asala usually backs the government in parliament. Most Bahrainis believe the Royal Court provides extra financial support to both Asala and Minbar (para 9) as a counter to Wifaq.
Al Minbar Al Islami (Minbar)
9. (SBU) Minbar is Bahrain’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has seven seats in parliament. It often cooperates with the Salafi political bloc Asala (paras 7 and 8), especially on issues involving religious affairs and morals. Minbar seeks a personal status law that conforms to Sharia and is acceptable to both sects. Minbar’s former leader, Dr. Salah Ali Abdul Rahman, is parliament’s Second Deputy Chairman. Dr. Abdullatif Al Shaikh is the current Minbar leader. Most of Minbar’s leaders are related to one another, and are wealthy academics. Minbar does not allow its female members to stand for election to parliament. Minbar is pro-government, and it is widely rumored that the Royal Court and the Islamic banking sector bankroll the party. The 2006 “Bandar” report accused several prominent Minbar members of engaging in a complex bribery conspiracy to influence the outcome of parliamentary elections in favor of Sunni candidates (ref C).
10. (SBU) Four independent members of parliament formed the Mustaqbal bloc after they were elected. The bloc bills itself as the only secular grouping in parliament, though all four members are Sunni. It votes reliably for the government and its leader, Adel Al Asoomi, is close to the Prime Minister.
REGISTERED SOCIETIES WITHOUT PARLIAMENTARY SEATS ——————————————————————- —-
Wa’ad National Democratic Action Society
11. (SBU) Wa’ad is a socialist party formed by returning exiles in 2002. It failed to win any seats in the 2006 parliamentary elections despite support from Wifaq, and has demonstrated no recent indications that it has recovered politically. However, several of its members have good access to local and international media and are able to maintain a high media profile. Ebrahim Sharif took over the society when the former chairman, Rahman Al Nuaimi, a Sunni liberal who was exiled in 1970, fell ill in 2006. XXXXXXXXXXXX Wa’ad says it desires a peaceful rotation of power in a secular, liberal state, rather than an Islamist one. Abdulla Al Derazi resigned his seat on Wa’ad’s general secretariat when he ran for Secretary General of the Bahrain Human Rights Society. Wa’ad consists primarily of middle class professionals, male and female, from both sects. Wa’ad joined the opposition boycott of the 2002 elections. The party questions the legitimacy of the 2002 constitution, and supports a new family law. Sharif led a Wa’ad delegation to Lebanon in late July 2008, where he met and publicly praised recently released Hizballah fighter Samir Al Qantar.
Al Minbar Progressive Democratic Society (APDS)
12. (SBU) Established in 2001, APDS represents Bahrain’s former communists. Most of its approximately 100 members
MANAMA 00000592 003 OF 004
were exiled during the late Sheikh Isa’s reign. Many APDS members used their time in exile to gain experience through work with other Arab political parties. When they returned and founded APDS, the society benefited from their strong organizational skills. Dr. Hasan Madau, a Shi’a columnist for the daily Al-Ayam, chairs the society. Men and women from both sects are active APDS members. APDS had 3 seats in the 2002 parliament, but lost them to Wifaq in 2006.
13. (SBU) APDS controlled the General Federation of Trade Unions until Wifaq won control of the federation in February 2008.
Al Meethaq (National Action Charter Society)
14. (SBU) Wealthy businessmen from well-known families of both sects founded Meethaq in 2002. Meethaq is a pro-government party formerly backed by the Royal Court that now wields little influence. Abdulrahman Jamsheer, a prominent Sunni businessman close to the Royal Court, chaired the society until Mohammed Al Buanain, from a respected Muharraq family, defeated him in the society’s 2006 internal elections. After Meethaq members proved themselves inactive with little street influence, the Royal Court reportedly shifted its support to Sunni Islamists with more street appeal. In the 2006 parliamentary polls Meethaq lost its five seats to Wifaq (paras 3-6) and Minbar (para 9).
Amal Islamic Action Society (Amal)
15. (SBU) Amal is the non-violent heir to the defunct Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, which launched a failed uprising in 1981 inspired by Iran’s Islamic revolution. Amal members are often referred to here as “Shirazis,” for their alleged ties to Ayatollah Muhammad Al-Shirazi, who died in 2001. A number of Amal’s current supporters did prison time, while Mohammed Ali Al Mahfouth, Amal’s founder, spent much of the nineties in Damascus calling for the overthrow of the Al Khalifas (ref M). He and his followers were pardoned in the 2001 general amnesty. Amal joined Wifaq’s boycott of the 2002 parliamentary elections. Al Mahfouth founded Amal in 2002, but refused to register the society until 2005.
16. (C) Amal has no seats in parliament, and continues to lose influence in the Shi’a community to Wifaq. The Ministry of Justice and Islamic affairs recently added to Amal’s troubles when it determined that Amal violated a law that bars the use of religious buildings for political purposes.
Al Watani (National Democratic Gathering Society)
17. (SBU) A few Wa’ad (para 11) members, led by Sunni Abdulla Hashim (see Adala, paras 18 and 19), split to form Watani in 2002. After Hashim failed to win a seat in the 2002 parliamentary elections, he began aligning the society with Salafis, even though Watani members hailed from both sects. This angered Watani members, who elected a new board and chairman, Fadhel Abbas, in March 2007. Hashim, an attorney, sued the party alleging that they had violated their bylaws, but lost the case. Since Abbas’ election, Watani has begun to reestablish relationships with other societies, including Wa’ad.
Adala National Justice Movement
18. (C) Abdulla Hashim founded Adala as an umbrella organization for extreme Sunni elements after Watani (para 17) kicked him out in 2006. Adala registered as a political society with the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs on October 22, 2007. Adala has a more nationalist identity than Asala and Minbar. The society initially focused its criticism on the U.K. and Iran, but now devotes all its energy to exposing the horrors of “U.S. imperialism.” Hashim has a real talent for attracting local and international media coverage for his stunts, such as an April 26 demonstration near the U.S. Navy base here that featured the beheading a mannequin dressed to represent a U.S. Marine. Despite their media profile, however, Adala has never produced more than 80 people at one of its demonstrations. Both Hashim and deputy Muhi aldin Khan stood for parliament in Muharraq in 2006 and lost to Al Minbar Al Islami (para 9).
19. (S) Adala is Bahrain’s most outspoken supporter of former Guantanamo detainees, and is usually the first to spring to the defense of Bahrainis arrested for alleged links to
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Al-Qaeda (ref G).
UNREGISTERED SOCIETIES WITHOUT PARLIAMENTARY SEATS ——————————————————————- ——-
THE UNREGISTERED HAQ MOVEMENT
20. (SBU) Hasan Mushaima, a founding, hard-line member of Wifaq, left to found Haq in November 2005. From the start, Haq has defied the requirements for registration of political societies (ref A). Haq opposes the 2002 constitution on the grounds that it rescinded liberties granted by the 1973 constitution, that the King drafted it unilaterally, and that it gave constitutional legitimacy and legislative authority to the appointed upper house of parliament. Haq accuses King Hamad of not fulfilling his promises to bring democratic reforms to Bahrain. Haq’s top public goal is a new constitution for Bahrain drafted by elected delegates. Since Haq competes with Wifaq for the same Shi’a supporters, Haq gains support whenever Wifaq is perceived as unsuccessful in parliament. When Wifaq is successful, Haq loses popularity.
21. (S) Post and the public perceive Haq as inspiring many of the small gangs of Shi’a youth who throw stones and Molotov cocktails at police almost every weekend. Haq has submitted petitions to the U.N., the USG, and the GOB calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation and condemning the GOB’s human rights record. Abduljalil Al Singace, Haq’s public affairs and media specialist, has contacts with U.S.-based and international NGOs and media outlets. GOB officials often assert that the Iranian regime controls Mushaima and other Haq supporters, however has yet to provide post with convincing evidence.
22. (U) For more on Haq and its relationship with Wifaq (paras 3-6), see septel.