Note - First round of updates are from March 24th; new info as of March 26th a.m., including text of Wikileaks statement, found below
The rise of the internet brings the greatest challenge yet to the globe's existing centers of power, and those associated with those centers of power are at least partially aware of this. China has reacted with the construction of its second Great Wall, the Russian government appears to have shut down a website used to organize a recent spate of ad hoc protests, and there have been various murmurs by such degenerate political figures as Hugo Chavez to the effect that the internet's anarchic nature runs contrary to their own preferred schematic for humanity, one which is reliant on such people as themselves (I am paraphrasing for accuracy by implication, of course).
Among the institutions that have arisen as of late that challenge secrecy, and thus the status quo, is Wikileaks, which has provided a tremendous service to humanity by serving as a clearinghouse by which previously-secret information may be disseminated to the public, which may then decide for itself whether the more traditional institutions that operate in its name ought to be permitted to continue to do so. It has produced a great number of important scoops over the past few years, and it appears to be preparing for yet another. It also appears to be under present attack by portions of the U.S. intelligence community at this very moment.
As noted by a related blog, the Wikileaks Twitter feed produced a number of disturbing messages last night:
WikiLeaks to reveal Pentagon murder-coverup at US National Press Club, Apr 5, 9am; contact firstname.lastname@example.org
WikiLeaks is currently under an aggressive US and Icelandic surveillance operation. Following/photographing/filming/detaining
If anything happens to us, you know why: it is our Apr 5 film. And you know who is responsible.
Two under State Dep diplomatic cover followed our editor from Iceland to http://skup.no on Thursday.
One related person was detained for 22 hours. Computer's seized.That's http://www.skup.no
We know our possession of the decrypted airstrike video is now being discussed at the highest levels of US command.
We have been shown secret photos of our production meetings and been asked specific questions during detention related to the airstrike.
We have airline records of the State Dep/CIA tails. Don't think you can get away with it. You cannot. This is WikiLeaks.
These messages come a few days after Wikileaks produced what appears to be evidence that portions of the U.S. intelligence and diplomatic communities have floated the idea of discrediting this outlet by way of methods similar to those employed in the CIA's COINTELPRO operations of the late '60s.
If this is actually occurring, it is the most important story of the year thus far. Depending on who you are, though, you may not take it seriously. I will note, and you as a reader may verify for yourself, that nearly every single individual involved in matters of information freedom takes this extraordinarily seriously, and that this incident will be the focus of all of them no matter whether or not the defunct media decides to grace it with a passing mention (and thereby legitimize the story in the eyes of those who deem matters important on the basis of whether they are being discussed by big shiny news outlets run by producers who care only for handbags). I will have more to relate on that particular subject later today after I hear back from certain individuals with more information on this incident and the specific events that may have prompted it.
Some important links:
Wikileaks Twitter Feed - This hasn't been updated for some 14 hours as of 2:00 pm EST.
Update 2:29 EST
It's worth noting that German police last year raided the home of a certain individual who owned that nation's version of the Wikileaks domain name. Again, national governments take Wikileaks seriously, and so should you.
Update 2:40 EST
The New York Times deserves credit for having reported on the U.S. intel community's plan to discredit Wikileaks a few days ago. More to the point, this should help to convince those who may be coming to this late to the game that, yes, this is legitimate. Our nation's intelligence service has targeted this website for destruction, and is most likely carrying out some variant on the plan at this very moment.
Update 3:23 EST
Not a word of this on Memeorandum or any of the major U.S. media outlets. This is exactly why we need more and better institutions designed with improved information flow in mind. Consider e-mailing me for info about Project PM at email@example.com. Consider donating to Wikileaks. Consider getting in touch with a competent blogger and letting them know about this story.
Update 3:42 EST
If you have been directed to this page and are reading me for the first time, allow me to note that I am not in the habit of writing news updates of the breathless sort and do not specialize in these sorts of stories. I am also not the credulous type. I write for Skeptic and have a column for the Skeptical Inquirer, which is to say that I have earned some skeptic street cred over the years and am cashing those chips in today. If I take the position that a consortium of U.S. intel agencies are taking actions against an institution dedicated to transparency, it is because I have determined that this very thing is happening, and if I have made such a determination, it is only because the totality of the evidence points to such a thing as being not only probable, but obvious. Having said that, the evidence is here for all to see, and to act on.
Any assault on the ability of individuals to obtain the information necessary to ensure humanity's collective well-being is an assault on humanity itself and ought to be regarded as such.
Update 4:29 EST
Wikileaks Twitter feed finally updates with the following message: "To those worrying about us--we're fine, and will issue a suitable riposte shortly."
Update 4:37 EST
Wikileaks is planning on releasing segments or at least stills from the video in question on April 5th. Apparently, it is a decrypted video displaying some sort of "massacre." Insomuch as that the video was encrypted in the first place, it was likely stolen/leaked from some government military agency; it is possible that what worries the agency in question is not the contents, but the fact that an encryption schematic in use by said agency has been broken by people in the business of distributing secrets.
Update 5:30 EST
To clarify, Wikileaks has previously claimed that the video in question shows the deliberate murder of journalists and civilians, and that the video comes from some branch of the U.S. military. Obviously, there a number of conclusions one could draw from this regarding specifics and thus the full extent of the potential scandal; I'm trying to get in touch with those close to the matter before speculating further.
Update, 6:00 EST
This recent post by Scott Horton of Harper's provides a good rundown of the context regarding Wikileaks, secrecy, and the mindset that defines too many U.S. government agencies:
What does the Pentagon have in common with North Korea, China, Zimbabwe, and a number of private Swiss banks? They all feel threatened by WikiLeaks, the Internet service that offers whistleblowers an opportunity to publish documents that expose corruption and wrongdoing by state and private actors.
Update 8:43 EST
Based on all available information, I would guess that the video clip depicts a Predator strike gone wrong - one that inadvertently killed a few journalists - and that certain officials took steps to minimize knowledge of the incident, to put it cutely. Again, this is simply an estimation.
Update 9:09 EST
A quote from the DoD report published on the 15th that deserves particular emphasis:
The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistlblowers could potentially damage, or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the Wikileaks.org Web site.
Update 9:38 EST
Another quote from the DoD report that's worth emphasizing for different reasons:
The governments of China, Israel, North Korea, Russia, Thailand, Zimbabwe, and several other countries have blocked access to Wikileaks.org-type Web sites, claimed they have
the right to investigate and prosecute Wikileaks.org and associated whistleblowers, or insisted they remove false, sensitive, or classified government information, propaganda, or malicious content from the Internet. The governments of China, Israel, and Russia claim the right to remove objectionable content from, block access to, and investigate crimes related to the posting of documents or comments to Web sites such as Wikileaks.org. The governments of these
countries most likely have the technical skills to take such action should they choose to do so.
Update 10:08 EST
They must indeed be okay insomuch as that they're now posting links to Gawker articles about themselves and analysis about why China hates them.
Update 11:08 EST
The Modern Media Initiative, with which Wikileaks is involved, probably merits more attention from those who agree that Iceland's possible role as a global safe haven for information freedom is a crucial response to the inevitable attempts that will be made to encroach upon humanity's fundamentally improved access to information.
Update March 26 4:16 am EST
Wikileaks has just disseminated the following press release regarding its editors' recent confrontations with members of the U.S. intelligence community, with these incidents having occurred a little over a week after the organization published a leaked and formerly-secret 2008 Army Intelligence report focused on Wikileaks itself. Among other interesting things, the document includes passages in which are proposed non-too-imaginative methods by which Wikileaks could be marginalized. The full press release may be found below; I'll have more on this later today after I get some sleep, along with some early analysis of the contents of the Army Intel report. I was also interviewed on this and related subjects yesterday afternoon by Scott Horton of Antiwar.com radio's syndicated news program; this and other segments are now up on the site.
Media attention on this has been pretty sparse thus far, which is ironic insomuch as that a number of prominent outlets have been more than happy to use the information that the editors of Wikileak provide at the expense of their own security. Bloggers need to be covering this; it is extraordinarily important in terms of our ability to access the best information possible on what governments and other entities would prefer remain unknown.
If you're interested in ensuring that major outlets are prompted to report on such things as this in the future, consider assisting with Project PM, if only by telling a competent blogger about it or otherwise spreading the word; we'll be launching in a couple of months, while further details will be available soon.
This move on the part of certain segments of the U.S. intelligence community comes amidst a campaign to make Iceland a safe haven for information freedom at a time when a very large portion of humanity has no legal assurances of being able to access knowledge regardless of whether or not various governments deem it appropriate for mere citizens. Wikileaks admins have been involved in drafting this potential legislation, the Modern Media Initiative, which would help to ensure that individuals across the globe will have the option to disseminate and consume information as they see fit. These recent incidents, coupled with the attitude made clear in the 2008 Army Intelligence report, are a slap in the face to humanity's legitimate aspirations for the 21st century, which one would hope to be an improvement on the 20th.
Wikileaks runs on donations, and they're going to need all the resources they can get in the run-up to their planned National Press Club conference on April 5th, at which point they'll be releasing the decrypted video that they've been referencing of late and which allegedly depicts the killing of civilians and journalists.
Update 9:40 am EST
The chief of police of Reykjavik just denied that Iceland police were involved in any of the U.S. operations. He does acknowledge the detainment of what would seem to be the fellow Wikileaks identifies as a "volunteer" in the press release below. From the article:
An assistant to the Minister of Justice said the ministry and its staff would like to distance themselves from the Wikileaks editor's allegations and said that any such action, if it took place, would have been a police matter, Visir.is reports.
Will update with any more specifics as they come up.
Update March 26th 3:45 p.m. EST
My Antiwar.com radio interview from yesterday, along with those of Michael Hastings and Lt. General Robert G. Card, Jr., chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, are now available.
Wikileaks Press Release
Over the last few years, WikiLeaks has been the subject of hostile acts by security organizations. In the developing world, these range from the appalling assassination of two related human rights lawyers in Nairobi last March (an armed attack on my compound there in 2007 is still unattributed) to an unsuccessful mass attack by Chinese computers on our servers in Stockholm, after we published photos of murders in Tibet. In the West this has ranged from a police raid in Germany over an Australian censorship list, to an ambush by a "James Bond" character in a Luxembourg car park, an event that ended with a mere "we think it would be in your interest to...".
Developing world violence aside, we've become used to the level of security service interest in us and have established procedures to ignore that interest.
But the increase in surveillance activities this last month, in a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, are excessive. Some of the new interest is related to a film exposing a U.S. massacre we will release at the U.S. National Press Club on April 5.
The spying includes attempted covert following, photographng, filming and the overt detention & questioning of a WikiLeaks' volunteer in Iceland on Monday night.
I, and others were in Iceland to advise Icelandic parliamentarians on the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a new package of laws designed to protect investigative journalists and internet services from spying and censorship. As such, the spying has an extra poignancy.
The possible triggers:
(1) our ongoing work on a classified film revealing civilian casualties occurring under the command of the U.S, general, David Petraeus.
(2) our release of a classified 32 page US intelligence report on how to fatally marginalize WikiLeaks (expose our sources, destroy our reputation for integrity, hack us).
(3) our release of a classified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik reporting on contact between the U.S. and the U.K. over billions of euros in claimed loan guarantees.
(4) pending releases related to the collapse of the Icelandic banks and Icelandic "oligarchs".
We have discovered half a dozen attempts at covert surveillance in Reykjavik both by native English speakers and Icelanders. On the occasions where these individuals were approached, they ran away. One had marked police equipment and the license plates for another suspicious vehicle track back to the Icelandic private VIP bodyguard firm Terr ( h ). What does that mean? We don't know. But as you will see, other events are clear.
U.S. sources told Icelandic state media's deputy head of news, that the State Department was aggressively investigating a leak from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. I was seen at a private U.S Embassy party at the Ambassador's residence, late last year and it is known I had contact with Embassay staff, after.
On Thursday March 18, 2010, I took the 2.15 PM flight out of Reykjavik to Copenhagen--on the way to speak at the SKUP investigative journalism conference in Norway. After receiving a tip, we obtained airline records for the flght concerned. Two individuals, recorded as brandishing diplomatic credentials checked in for my flight at 12:03 and 12:06 under the name of "US State Department". The two are not recorded as having any luggage.
Iceland doesn't have a separate security service. It folds its intelligence function into its police forces, leading to an uneasy overlap of policing and intelligence functions and values.
On Monday 22, March, at approximately 8.30pm, a WikiLeaks volunteer was detained by Icelandic police for over 20 hours on an insignificant matter. The police then apparently took the opportunity to detain the volunteer over night, without charge--an unusual act in Iceland. The next day, during the course of interrogation, the volunteer was shown covert photos of me outside the Reykjavik restaurant "Icelandic Fish & Chips", where a WikiLeaks production meeting took place on Wednesday March 17, 2010--the day before individuals operating under the name of the U.S. State Department boarded my flight to Copenhagen.
The spied on production meeting used a discreet, closed, backroom. The subject: a concealed, scandalous, U.S. military video showing civilian kills by U.S. pilots. During the interrogation, a specific reference was made by police to the video---which could not have been understood from that day's exterior surveillance alone. Another specific reference was made to "important", but unnamed Icelandic figures. References were also made to the names of two senior journalists at the production meeting.
Who are the Icelandic security services loyal to in their values? The new government of April 2009, the old pro-Iraq war government of the Independence party, or perhaps to their personal relationships with peers from another country who have them on a permanment intelligence information drip?
Only a few years ago, Icelandic airspace was used for CIA rendition flights. Why did the CIA think that this was acceptable? In a classified U.S. profile on the former Icelandic Ambassador to the United States, obtained by WikiLeaks, the Ambassador is praised for helping to quell publicity of the CIA's activities.
Often when a bold new government arises, bureaucratic institutions remain loyal to the old regime and it can take time to change the guard. Former regime loyalists must be discovered, dissuaded and removed. But for the security services, that first vital step, discovery, is awry. Congenitally scared of the light, such services hide their activities; if it is not known what security services are doing, then it is surely impossible to know who they are doing it for.