Posts Tagged ‘wikileaks’

Our country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…

Or so the song goes.  But what really is coming to light in the midst of the people’s revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is that America is not actively promoting liberty if it might interfere with its foreign policy.

The United States provides millions of dollars in military aid to Tunisia. In a WikiLeaks diplomatic cable that was recently released, America’s very own Ambassador called Tunisia,

a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems.

In Egypt, the United States provides $1.3 billion annually for mostly military aid to a known pro-torture government.  WikiLeaks provided another cable confirming that,

“torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread” and “there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone.”

Back in 2005, The Times broke a story about how Egypt carries out torture for the United States.

The United States is not the champion of liberty we are told we are. We have been reduced to being a shameful state that supports anti-democratic tyrants because the devil you know…

This in and of itself should not be news if you pay attention at all to any number of news outlets or if you paid any attention in history class.  What is interesting, and unfortunately expected, is the lengths to which American news outlets will go to make sure they provoke fear in the people’s revolution taking place in the Middle East.

Resident Washington Post douchebag Richard Cohen said yesterday that,

“My take on all this is relentlessly gloomy. I care about Israel. I care about Egypt, too, but its survival is hardly at stake. I care about democratic values, but they are worse than useless in societies that have no tradition of tolerance or respect for minority rights. What we want for Egypt is what we have ourselves. This, though, is an identity crisis. We are not them.”

Tolerance and respect for minority rights, eh?  Not much of that going around right here in the United States (unless that minority is the richest of the rich). It’s about what our foreign policy interests are.

Even the ever entertaining Christian Broadcasting Network broke a story about how Egypt’s minority Copti Christians are bonding with,

“their Muslim neighbors”

while demonstrating a line of an inclusive, nationalist message.

Talking heads are concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood (fear, fear, fear) will take control of Egypt (fear, fear, fear) and then attack Israel (fear, fear, fear).  They will go on and on about how they hate our freedoms and never mention that they really just dislike how we propped up their dictator who brutally repressed them.

The always briliant published an article yesterday with Nathan Brown, who is a political science professor at George Washington Univeristy and the director of its Institute for Middle East Studies.  He gives a brief once-over of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, where they came from, what role they play, their “radicalism”, their size, how they specifically and repeatedly repudiate political violence, and whether or not we really should be concerned with the people’s revolution in Egypt.  That link is here.

Another point that led the BrothersFiasco to internally discuss this situation was the soldiers and police officers discarding their uniforms and state-appointed duties and joining with the protesters. How many times have you just choked down something your boss told you to do that you were opposed to doing? How many times have you said, “oh well, my boss/representative/senator/president will never listen to me. Someone else can take care of it”? The BrothersFiasco, are apparently suckers for the honest conviction and poetic imagery of this scene.

“‘I can’t believe our own police, our own government would keep beating up on us like this,” said Cairo protester Ahmad Salah, 26. ‘I’ve been here for hours and gassed and keep going forward, and they keep gassing us, and I will keep going forward. This is a cowardly government and it has to fall. We’re going to make sure of it.”

Sound familiar? I digress.

On a final note, an interesting situation is happening during the revolution.  As the revolution continues, there are municiple duties that have been abandoned and ignored because of the turmoil the Egyptian government is going through.  This birthed the PCPPOT, or Popular Committee for the Protection of Properties and Organization of Traffic.

“The organization now counts dozens of members amongst its ranks, everyone from students to 40-year-old dentists. Divided into four branches—traffic, cleanup, protection, and emergency response—the PCPPOT often provides lightly armed guards (think pipes and knives) to walk women and children home at night and protect important utilities like water and power. If they catch a criminal, the team will hold him until the proper authorities can come pick him up.

“We want to show the world that we can take care of our country, and we are doing it without the government or police,” Khalid Toufik, a PCPPOT volunteer told The New York Times. “It doesn’t matter if one is a Muslim or a Christian, we all have the same goal.”

A people taking their own lives, present and future, into their own hands. Leading themselves and helping each other regain control of their fate. This is definitely going in the “things that give us hope” category BennettFiasco talked about recently.

What do you think about what’s happening in Egypt? Let us know in the comments.


O Hai

Posted: January 11, 2011 by bennettfiasco in Politics, Social Media
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So it’s 1.11.11 and it’s our first post of the new year.  Clearly, we’re very busy and important.  Clearly.

I woke up this morning and, whilst perusing the internets, something very common happened to me.  I read an article that got my hopes up.  Something that was finally going the way it should be.  Like someone actually “got it” and was doing the right thing.  I shouldn’t have to talk about how sad it is that that is what passes for up-lifting these days.  But this is what I saw.


On Friday, it emerged that the U.S. government recently got a court order demanding that Twitter turn over information about a number of people connected to WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, accused leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning, former WikiLeaks spokeswoman Birgitta Jonsdottir and WikiLeaks activist Jacob Appelbaum.

The request was approved by a magistrate judge in Alexandria, Virginia, where a federal grand jury is looking into charges against WikiLeaks related to its acquisition and publishing of U.S.-government classified information.

The court order came with a gag order that prevented Twitter from telling anyone, especially the targets, about the request’s existence.

That’s obviously not the good part.  This is what happened. Twitter, amazingly, beta tested a spine.

To Twitter’s credit, the company didn’t just open up its database, find the information the feds were seeking (such as the IP and e-mail addresses used by the targets) and quietly continue on with building new features. Instead the company successfully challenged the gag order in court, and then told the targets their data was being requested, giving them time to try and quash the order themselves.

Finally, after Mastercard, Visa, Amazon, Bank of America and PayPal all fail to see what’s going on, Twitter rises to the challenge.  Maybe there is hope yet.


But then again, maybe not.  The same US Government that is applying an uninformed, politically charged battle versus WikiLeaks is applying an uninformed, market-based affront to internet privacy.  But I mean, really, are you surprised that the Gov’t wants to know your business?

Cut to the chase: the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is a bad idea. On the surface having something that will increase online transactions and reduce identity theft makes (some) sense. Security is the #1 reason that people avoid online transactions and in an age that is continuously going more and more digital, it would appear prudent to take steps towards improving security.

But you know what this is really asking for? A singlepoint entry to all your commerce needs.  If you aren’t nervous yet, I probably worded that poorly.  Here’s some more.

In its most basic form, [a skeleton key] is what the Obama Administration is proposing. Rather than have different passwords and email validations to access the various places we surf, NSTIC will be a single point of entry for online interactions and transactions that consumers and businesses can use to engage.

Allowing access to our financial credentials and buying power through a single interface is ludicrous. eCommerce fraud is bad as it is and this solution is only an opportunity to empower the nefarious types to have more access in one tightly-wrapped package called NSTIC.

So while this does come with good intentions, it reeks of privacy-busting.  I’m not going to start spouting about National ID talk but that’s definitely worth pointing to.

“We are not talking about a national ID card. We are not talking about a government-controlled system,” United State Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Jan. 7.

The first thing that comes to mind (and should come to your mind) when hearing these words is, “Yet.”

This is a very dangerous step towards increasing the power and reach of the government into our pocketbooks. Until the details of the plan are released this is just a conspiracy-theory-laden section of paranoia without substance, but any time the government gets involved with anything pertaining to the Internet, the alarm bells ring in the back of my CPU.

Because I’ve found that when the government has the ability to misuse their authority, they inevitably will.


Oh internet, how you take me on an emotional roller coaster ride.  Time to get my laughs from lolcats or a Day[9] Funday Monday I suppose.

Another busy day for the BrothersFiasco.  Without much introduction, here is another installment of Assorted for your viewing pleasure.

How long will it take Republicans to demoralize their base?

Traditionally, movement conservatives send Republicans to Congress in great waves to clean everything up and create a glorious new Morning in America, and then about 10 minutes into the new Congress, all the Republicans are divvying up the pork-barrel money with as much gusto as Tammany Hall fat cats in a Thomas Nast cartoon, and no one really cares, because that’s just how things are done. The mainstream political press is too cynical about the entire concept of governance to get outraged and the partisan press is there to get Republicans elected, not punish them for sucking at the public teat.

But there are indications that that’s changing.

Hey, I wasn’t alive for this so I had no idea it ever happened. The day Niagara Falls ran dry: Newly-discovered photos show the moment the iconic waterfall came to a standstill

YESSSS! An expert panel convened by President Barack Obama advised vigilance and self-regulation as scientists seeks ways to create new organisms that could spark useful innovations in clean energy, pollution control and medicine.

Data visualization and all things related continued its ascent this year with projects popping up all over the place. Some were good, and a lot were not so good.

Diane Ravitch Is Making a Number of Interesting Claims

Crimes on the Book of Faces (subtitle: Criminals can be REALLY REALLY STUPID)

No, you didn’t read it wrong. WikiLeaks inspires sanitary pad ad in Pakistan

‘The sea gave her back’: Wonder in Israel as ancient Roman statue buried for centuries is uncovered by powerful winter storm

Does Economic Inequality Cause Crises?

I know, it seems like this one should be getting a little more play, right? Doctors Claim HIV-Positive Man Cured by Stem Cell Transplant

Voyager spacecraft nears exit of solar system

Image of the Day: A Map of Facebook’s World – A Facebook intern named Paul Butler has created a fascinating piece: a map of the world based only on Facebook friendships. There aren’t any lines here from anything but Facebook accounts and their links to friends in other cities.

Why do we let this creepy company called Google spy on our emails?

Free The Military Of Its Bigots – “It would seem to me that the military would be better served by ridding itself of its ignorant bigots than its gays and lesbians.  And the same could be said of the bigots in Congress opposed to the repeal of DADT.  Yes, that would mean you John McCain.”

The Secret Secret – “If you cannot decipher and interpret letters and symbols, you cannot read. If you cannot access letters and symbols, you also cannot read.”


Enjoy, friends.  There’s a lot there to get those gears a turnin’.

WikiLeaks Live Updates 12.08

Posted: December 8, 2010 by jeredfiasco in Politics
Tags: , , , , , ,

WikiLeaks US embassy cables: live updates

Posted by Richard Adams and Matthew Weaver Wednesday 8 December 2010 08.22 GMT
MasterCard credit cards The website of MasterCard is being targeted by WikiLeaks supporters after cutting payments to whistleblowing site. Photograph: Jonathan Bainbridge/Reuters 

1.32am: Time to wrap things up now that things seem to have quietened down for the night. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Thanks for reading.

1.14am: Vint Cerf, one of the inventors of the internet, spells it out to the Washington Post how WikiLeaks can survive and prosper:

“The Internet is an extremely open system with very low barriers to access and use,” said Vint Cerf, Google’s vice president and the co-author of the TCP/IP system, the basic language of computer-to-computer communication over the Internet. “The ease of moving digital information around makes it very difficult to suppress, once it is accessible.”

1.06am: The New York Times has a good piece up on the difficulties faced by Twitter and Facebook in dealing with WikiLeaks and its supporters on their sites:

The problem came into relief on Wednesday when a group calling itself Operation Payback spent much of the day posting notes on Facebook and Twitter, telling followers which companies to target and documenting hacking successes.

At some point on Wednesday, Facebook banned one of the group’s pages, saying that organizing attacks like that violated the social networking site’s terms of use. On Twitter, the group cried foul.

Later in the day, a Facebook spokesman issued a statement, saying the company was “sensitive to content that includes pornography, bullying, hate speech, and threats of violence” and would “take action on content that we find or that’s reported to us that promotes unlawful activity.”

12.46am: The Twitter official blog carries this explanation of how subjects become listed as trends on Twitter, in relation to WikiLeaks:

This week, people are wondering about WikiLeaks, with some asking if Twitter has blocked #wikileaks, #cablegate or other related topics from appearing in the list of top Trends.

The answer: Absolutely not. In fact, some of these terms, including #wikileaks and #cablegate, have previously trended either worldwide or in specific locations.

Given the widespread confusion about #wikileaks, we’d like to offer a longer explanation of how we measure Trends on Twitter, and why some popular topics may not make the list.

Its all done by a clever algorithm: “The Trends list captures the hottest emerging topics, not just what’s most popular. Put another way, Twitter favors novelty over popularity.”

12.33am: The Associated Press has a clear explanation of how the cyber-war works:

The hacking group Anonymous, known for previous attacks on the Church of Scientology and Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, is distributing software tools to allow anyone with a computer and an internet connection to join in the attacks as part of “Operation Payback.” Such tools are widely available on the internet and can easily launch a large number of attacks on targeted websites, said Dean Turner from the computer security firm Symantec.

12.20am: Ryan Tate at ValleyWag (part of the Gawker blog-pire) sticks the boot into PayPal’s weak explanations of why it kicked off WikiLeaks:

So PayPal cut off WikiLeaks’ access to its own money due to a State Department lawyer’s letter it was not a party to, and due specifically to an accusation of illegality within that letter that wasn’t even directed at Wikileaks….

Given the level of integrity and due diligence the financial services industry has shown over the past two years, it’s fair to assume all those other Wikileaks accounts have been frozen due to legal and ethical consideration that’s about as solid as PayPal’s.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy kisses freed French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt on arrival at Villacoublay military airport in Paris. Betancourt and 14 others were rescued on Wednesday. France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy kisses freed French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt on arrival at Villacoublay military airport in Paris. Betancourt and 14 others were rescued on Wednesday Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/REUTERS

12.10am: A cracking story from the US embassy cables courtesy of El Pais: it reports French president Nicolas Sarkozy was willing to “pay any price” to free the hostage Ingrid Betancourt held by Farc. American and Colombian diplomats put Sarkozy’s compulsion down to his rivalry with Dominique de Villepin:

Durante un almuerzo con su colega norteamericano en París, hace dos años, el embajador de Bogotá, Fernando Cepeda, atribuyó la obsesión de Sarkozy por Ingrid Betancourt a su enemistad con el ex primer ministro Dominique de Villepin, muy amigo de la secuestrada desde sus tiempos de estudiante en la capital francesa. El objetivo de Sarkozy sería demostrar que él “podría conseguir lo que Villepin (después de tremendos esfuerzos) no pudo”, según un cable. La embajada norteamericana coincide con esa apreciación.

12.03am: Someone – not me – peeked into the IRC (internet relay chat) going on between the Anonymous/Operation Payback operatives, and it seems there’s a hot dispute going on over whether Twitter should be the group’s next target, with opinion sharply divided for and against.

Live blog: Twitter

11.48pm: The Nation’s doughty live blogger Greg Mitchell alerts us to the latest iteration of Operation Payback’s Twitter account, now named @Anon_Operationn.

This could go on for ever.

11.36pm: An official response from Visa in the US. Spokesman Ted Carr said Visa’s processing network – which handles credit card transactions – was working normally.

Meanwhile, both MasterCard and Visa are saying that card holders accounts have not been not at risk and that people can continue using their credit cards.

11.27pm: PayPal have also been taking flak over its decision to stop WikiLeak’s payment account – and the company has now issued an “updated statement”:

Media reports today regarding a statement made by our vice president of platform, mobile and new ventures, Osama Bedier, at the LeWeb conference in Paris, have created confusion about PayPal’s decision to permanently restrict the account that was raising funds for WikiLeaks. We want to set the record straight.

As a global payment service that moves billions of our customers’ funds across borders and across jurisdictions, we are required to comply with laws around the world. Compliance with these laws is something we take very seriously. PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy states that we do not allow any organization to use our service if it encourages, promotes, facilitates or instructs others to engage in illegal activity. This policy is part of an agreement we’ve made with our account holders and with the companies that allow us to process global payments. It’s also an important part of our commitment to protect our customers and to ensure our business can continue operating around the world.

In 2008 and 2009, PayPal reviewed and restricted the account associated with WikiLeaks for reasons unrelated to our Acceptable Use Policy. As soon as proper information was received from the account holder, the restrictions were lifted.

The account was again reviewed last week after the US Department of State publicised a letter to WikiLeaks on November 27, stating that WikiLeaks may be in possession of documents that were provided in violation of US law. PayPal was not contacted by any government organization in the US or abroad. We restricted the account based on our Acceptable Use Policy review. Ultimately, our difficult decision was based on a belief that the WikiLeaks website was encouraging sources to release classified material, which is likely a violation of law by the source.

While the account will remain restricted, PayPal will release all remaining funds in the account to the foundation that was raising funds for WikiLeaks.

We understand that PayPal’s decision has become part of a broader story involving political, legal and free speech debates surrounding WikiLeaks’ activities. None of these concerns factored into our decision. Our only consideration was whether or not the account
associated with WikiLeaks violated our Acceptable Use Policy and regulations required of us as a global payment company. Our actions in this matter are consistent with any account found to be in violation of our policies.

The question remains, for PayPal and the US government: what law exactly has WikiLeaks broken?

11.22pm: Barrett Lyon blogs on the nuts and bolts behind Operation Payback, which he likens to the movie Fight Club:

[Operation Payback’s] botnet is also rather unusual. Unlike botnets in the past (which take advantage of holes in operating systems to install the bot software) this botnet is made up of volunteers. It’s opt-in and if you follow their instructions, once it is up and running, you are to, “Sit back and watch the show”.

Right now they are a bit disorganized and they don’t have much polish to what they are doing. For example, their IRC servers are not tuned for high amounts of users and often crash (which is when Mastercard’s web site comes back online). They are also heavily dependent on the domain and so if those sites go down it will take some work to get reorganized.

Yet, over time, this could really become something resembling Flight Club where the group creates better attack software, better processes, has heightened security, membership vetting, and eventually their own governmental structure.

11.15pm: Take any stories about hacked “lists” of credit card numbers with a large pinch of salt: they are almost certainly rubbish based on a quick analysis of the purported numbers circulating.

Operation Payback Twitter screengrab A screengrab of Operation Payback’s Twitter account before it was suspended

11.02pm: Twitter appears to have suspended the @anon_operation account of Operation Payback … more to come. The group’s Facebook page was suspended earlier in the day.

11pm: Now Visa’s payment end Verified By Visa appears to be taken out briefly, making this as serious as the attack on Mastercard.

Internet security consultants Netcraft reports: has been taken down by a distributed denial of service attack carried out by WikiLeaks supporters. Despite having its own website suspended, Operation Payback successfully managed to take down by reconfiguring its existing LOIC botnet to attack the new target.

10.49pm: remains inaccessible, while operations at still appear to be painfully slow in the aftermath of cyber-attacks against its network earlier in the day.

We’re still awaiting an official response from Visa. But it may not be so badly off as Mastercard due to its site’s architecture: the attacks have been targeted at and not the company’s “Verified by Visa” server, meaning that the attack isn’t likely to disrupt Visa’s payment processing.

Update: a reader reports that Verified By Visa is also down briefly – so much for that theory.

10.40pm: Sarah Palin claims her website and credit card details have been attacked by Operation Payback, according to an email she sent to ABC News’s Jake Tapper:

The website and personal credit card information of former Gov. Sarah Palin were cyber-attacked today by Wikileaks supporters, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate tells ABC News in an email.

Hackers in London apparently affiliated with “Operation Payback” – a group of supporters of Julian Assange and Wikileaks – have tried to shut down SarahPac and have disrupted Sarah and Todd Palin’s personal credit card accounts.

“No wonder others are keeping silent about Assange’s antics,” Palin emailed. “This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts.”

10.21pm: The vice president of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera, has posted
all the leaked US diplomatic cables about his country on his official website

Garcia says he wants Bolivians to know the “barbarities and insults” of what he called Washington’s “interventionist infiltration”. Bolivia’s leftwing leaders expelled the US ambassador in 2008, accusing him of conspiring against the country.

The site includes two quotes, “The truth will set you free,” from the New Testament, and from Julian Assange, “Every organisation rests on a mountain of secrets”.

Live blog: substitutionAnd back over to Richard Adams in Washington for the rest of the night’s action and reaction.

10.10pm: Tonights reports include several leaked cables about South Africa, with most attention given to the temperament and reputation of the men who succeeded Nelson Mandela as president.

US diplomats expressed strong reservations to Washington about president Thabo Mbeki, who replaced Mandela as president, describing him as thin-skinned, shrill and defensive. Questioning Mbeki’s judgement and temperament, one cable warned he would require “deft handling” and raised concerns about his refusal to accept scientific evidence on HIV/Aids and his failure to criticise human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

Cables on Mbeki’s successor Jacob Zuma reveal US concerns about his controversial reputation, which diplomats noted appalled the middle classes, but recommend that he be given the benefit of the doubt due to his ability to connect with poor people across the racial divide.

9.57pm: Tonight’s leaked cables focus on Africa. Among the reports is a warning by the US ambassador to Kenya that the country could descend into violence worse than the 2008 post-election crisis unless rampant corruption in the ruling elite is tackled.

Meanwhile the ill health of Nigeria’s president sparked fears of a military coup and caused screaming matches over who was in charge of the country. Leaked cables reveal there were frantic negotiations in the corridors of power when Umaru Yar’Adua, who was terminally ill, left the country in November 2009 for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Live blog: substitution

9.53pm: Hi David Batty here, I’m taking over the liveblog for a while. The big news from tonight’s leaked US diplomatic cables is that the oil giant Shell claimed it has inserted its staff into all key ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians’ every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

9.20pm: is now unavailable with Operation Payback coordinating the attack.

8.56pm: That was quick: the Personal Democracy Forum is holding a symposium on WikiLeaks and internet freedom in New York City on Saturday, asking questions such as “Is WikiLeaks a terrorist organization, or the beginning of a new kind of transnational investigative journalism?”

The panel includes luminaries such as Esther Dyson, Emily Bell and Arianna Huffington.

8.29pm: A reader emails to say:

I’ve just watched Hillary Clinton stroll out of the Freedom Forum: First Amendment Center in DC, looking particularly cheerful.

The reason for the cheerfulness may be that according to her schedule, Clinton’s visit had nothing to do with the first amendment. She was there to meet CEOs from the Business Roundtable.

8.15pm: Is Visa the next target after Mastercard? This tweet purporting to come from the hacktivists at Operation Payback suggests it is:


Apply pinch of salt: this is the internet.

7.56pm: Charlie Savage of the New York Times looks at the legal tangle facing the US government in trying to figure out what law to charge Assange and Wikileaks with:

A government official familiar with the investigation said that treating WikiLeaks different from newspapers might be facilitated if investigators found any evidence that Mr Assange aided the leaker, who is believed to be a low-level Army intelligence analyst – for example, by directing him to look for certain things and providing technological assistance.

If Mr Assange did collaborate in the original disclosure, then prosecutors could charge him with conspiracy in the underlying leak, skirting the question of whether the subsequent publication of the documents constituted a separate criminal offense. But while investigators have looked for such evidence, there is no public sign suggesting that they have found any.

Meanwhile, according to another government official familiar with the investigation, Justice Department officials have also examined whether Mr Assange and WikiLeaks could be charged with trafficking in stolen government property.

Stolen government property? Not exactly high treason.

7.39pm: Salon interviews the Guardian’s legal affairs correspondent Afua Hirsch, about Julian Assange’s jail time in HMP Wandsworth:

What’s the facility like? For instance, is it high-security? Will he have an Internet connection?

He won’t have an Internet connection, but he will be allowed visits and phone calls. As far as I know he’s not being kept under particularly high security conditions, just usual prison conditions.

(hat tip to Greg Mitchell, live-blogging over at the Nation.)

Live blog: Twitter

7.16pm: Twitter’s official account tweets, in response to many queries circulating about the site’s supposed censorship of WikiLeaks or related terms as trending topics on Twitter:

Twitter is not censoring #wikileaks or related terms from the Trends list of trending topics:

The link is to a Buzzfeed graphic from a couple of days ago – “Is Twitter censoring WikiLeaks?” – which explains that it’s all Justin Bieber’s fault, because Twitter changed its trends algorithm after Bieber so dominated traffic for so long.

7pm: Mastercard is saying that its systems had not been compromised by what it called “a concentrated effort to flood our corporate web site with traffic and slow access.”

“We are working to restore normal service levels,” the company said in a statement. “It is important to note that our systems have not been compromised and there is no impact on our cardholders’ ability to use their cards for secure transactions globally.”

We’ll have more on this shortly.

6.34pm: If you really want to hear (and see) Glenn Beck’s use of what Gawker calls “crude chalk drawings” to explain the charges against Julian Assange, then here it is.

6.01pm: How did an online attack against also take down MasterCard’s payment system backdoor at Because, points out a reader, MasterCard unwisely has both sites linked on the same network connection. Overload one and you also block the other.

5.48pm: The Guardian has just posted a profile of Anonymous, the group of hackers said to be behind the online assaults on MasterCard and PayPal.

5.35pm: Suspected leaker Private Bradley Manning may be Public Enemy No 1 to many people in the US – but not in Berkeley, California, the epi-centre of American liberalism. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The [Berkeley city] council is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to declare its support for Bradley Manning, who’s suspected of providing WikiLeaks with classified military documents and a video depicting an Army helicopter attack in Baghdad in which 11 civilians were killed.

Manning, 22, currently in the brig in Quantico, Virginia, faces 52 years in prison if convicted. Manning has not commented on his guilt or innocence.

“If he did what he’s accused of doing, he’s a patriot and should get a medal,” said Bob Meola, the Berkeley peace and justice commissioner who authored the resolution. “I think the war criminals should be the ones prosecuted, not the whistle-blowers.

5.31pm: Internet security services firm Netcraft – based in Bath – also says Operation Payback is “a force to be reckoned with”:

As more companies distance themselves from WikiLeaks, we would not be surprised to see additional attacks taking place over the coming days. Concurrent attacks against the online payment services of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal would have a significant impact on online retailers, particularly in the run up to Christmas.

Although denial of service attacks are illegal in most countries, Operation Payback clearly has a sufficient supply of volunteers who are willing to take an active role in the attacks we have seen so far. They are a force to be reckoned with.

Here’s the effect on in a real time graph.

5.28pm: More high-tech details on how Operation Payback is managing to create chaos some of the world’s biggest e-commerce websites, thanks to Netcraft anaysis:

Operation Payback is announcing targets via its website, Twitter stream and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels. To muster the necessary volume of traffic to take sites offline, they are inviting people to take part in a ‘voluntary’ botnet by installing a tool called LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon – a fictional weapon of mass destruction popularised by computer games such as Command & Conquer).

The LOIC tool connects to an IRC server and joins an invite-only ‘hive’ channel, where it can be updated with the current attack target. This allows Operation Payback to automatically reconfigure the entire botnet to switch to a different target at any time.

5.18pm: The writer Armanda Marcotte wonders why so many people can’t manage to keep two thoughts in their head at the same time when it comes to Julian Assange:

It’s possible both that Wikileaks is a necessary curative for government overreach and that its leader is out to serve his own ego needs above all. Anyone who thinks that’s impossible needs to think harder about what’s going on when politicians get sentimental on the campaign trail.

5pm: Law professor Jonathan Zittrain – the sharpest thinker on the internet and the law, a founder of the Chilling Effects website – recommends this FAQ on WikiLeaks that tells you everything you wanted to know about WikiLeaks but were afraid to ask.

4.50pm: Big news: MasterCard confirms that its SecureCode payments system is in trouble, issuing this statement:

Please be advised that MasterCard SecureCode Support has detected a service disruption to the MasterCard Directory Server. The Directory Server service has been failed over to a secondary site however customers may still be experiencing intermittent connectivity issues. More information on the estimated time of recovery will be shared in due course.

4.46pm: Regarding Politico’s attempts to cast the male lead to play Julian Assange in WikiLeaks: The Movie – the obvious choice is the CPS barrister from Law & Order: UK, Ben Daniels. Plus, he’s from Nuneaton.

4.37pm: Political scientist Henry Farrell has this smart take on the implications for WikiLeaks on the limits and extent of state power, on his Monkey Cage blog:

US political pressure caused Amazon to stop hosting WikiLeaks, EveryDNS to break’s domain name, eBay/Paypal to stop facilitating financial transactions, Swiss Post to freeze a WikiLeaks bank account (in perhaps the first instance in recorded history of a Swiss bank taking residency requirements seriously), and Mastercard and Visa to cease relations with it. This is unlikely to affect the availability of the information that WikiLeaks has already leaked. But it may plausibly affect the medium and long run viability of WikiLeaks as an organization. This will be a very interesting battle to watch.

So: yes, the horse may be out of the stable this time – but the US wants the door firmly bolted to keep the others locked inside.

4.26pm: The article mentioned below at 4.21pm also mentions this: the domain name is owned by Wikipedia. That’s right: Wikipedia, not WikiLeaks. Keeping it safe?

Update: Jay Walsh, head of communications for the Wikimedia Foundation, emails to point out that Wikipedia does not in fact own

This is absolutely note the case. Wikipedia is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation. The Wikimedia Foundation has no connection to Wikileaks whatsoever. We posses no domain names relating to Wikileaks.

You may be referring to other recent news reported by the BBC that the domain names are currently owned by Wikia, a completely distinct, for-profit company. Wikia is not connected to the Wikimedia Foundation. You may wish to reach out to Wikia directly to confirm that information.

The BBC carries this report on the matter:

However, some names, including, and, are owned by Wikia – a company founded by Jimmy Wales but separate from Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, told BBC News, this was because of a technicality. “When Wikileaks first started they issued a press release describing themselves as ‘the Wikipedia of secrets’,” he said.

To protect the name, Wikia registered a series of Wikileaks addresses, which were sold to Wikileaks a few years later. However, Wikileaks has never completed the transfer, said Mr Wales.

“We’ve been bugging them to do it since they hit the news,” he said. “We try to tell people we have nothing to do with Wikileaks everyday.

4.21pm: Has the attempts to take down WikiLeaks actually made it stronger? It seems that way based on this analysis of how WikiLeaks and the internet has responded to the various threats against it.

The article – by James Cowie at Renesys – is on the geeky end of the scale but worth reading for an understanding of the nuts and bolts.

Taking away WikiLeaks’ hosting, their DNS service, even their primary domain name, has had the net effect of increasing WikiLeaks’ effective use of Internet diversity to stay connected. And it just keeps going. As long as you can still reach any one copy of WikiLeaks, you can read their mirror page, which lists over 1,000 additional volunteer sites (including several dozen on the alternative IPv6 Internet). None of those is going to be as hardened as against DNS takedown or local court order — but they don’t need to be.

Within a couple days’ time, the WikiLeaks web content has been spread across enough independent parts of the Internet’s DNS and routing space that they are, for all intents and purposes, now immune to takedown by any single legal authority.

4.08pm: Good morning from Washington DC – where State Department spokesman PJ Crowley has just tweeted that the US government had nothing to do with PayPal’s action to block WikiLeaks donations:

The U.S. government did not write to PayPal requesting any action regarding #WikiLeaks. Not true.

3.35pm: Josh Halliday has been talking to a spokesman for Anonymous, the group behind Operation Payback. He suggested they could be changing tactics.

Josh Halliday.Just spoken to a London-based spokesman for Anonymous. He wished to remain, er, anonymous.

“Anonymous is supporting WikiLeaks not because we agree or disagree with the data that is being sent out, but we disagree with any from of censorship on the internet,” he said.

“This is why we are acting against these companies as we believe that if we let WikiLeaks fall without a fight then governments will think they can just take down any sites they wish or disagree with.”

The 22-year-old spokesman, who wished to be known only as “Coldblood”, said he was not at liberty to release any future plans. “Anything goes,” he teased.

Look out for our profile of Anonymous shortly.

3.24pm: The Guardian’s Josh Halliday reports this comment from a spokesman for Anonymous, the group behind Operation Payback:

“We will say that we are moving away from DDoS and working on methods to support WikiLeaks with methods like mirroring the site and other methods to allow WikiLeaks to keep operating.”

3.23pm: The Swedish Prosecution Authority’s site seems to be working fine, despite coming under attack. (Apologies for posting an incorrect link earlier – no wonder that didn’t work).

For Swedish speakers [and Google translation users] this statement says its IT supplier has confirmed a denial of service attack, which has been reported to the police.

3.14pm: MasterCard is playing down Operation Payback’s attacks on its site.

It issued this statement (published in a typically thorough post by the New York Times’s Robert Mackey):

MasterCard is experiencing heavy traffic on its external corporate website – We are working to restore normal speed of service. There is no impact whatsoever on our cardholders ability to use their cards for secure transactions.

3.06pm: Who should play Julian Assange in the movie? Take your pick from Politico’s five candidates.

2.57pm:PayPal boss Osama Bedier is rowing back on earlier statements about State Department pressure over WikiLeaks.

Tech Crunch has added this to its earlier story:

After talking to Bedier backstage, he clarified that the State Department did not directly talk to PayPal and that the letter in question here was actually sent by the State Department to WikiLeaks.

2.50pm: Operation Payback has also targeting the website of the Swedish prosecution authority, Reuters reports.

The authority, whose arrest order led a British court on Tuesday to remand Assange in custody, said it had made a complaint to the police after an “overload attack”, Reuters reports.

Of course, it’s easy to think it has a connection with WikiLeaks but we can’t confirm that,” prosecution authority web editor Fredrik Berg told Reuters Televsision.

2.36pm: The latest leaked provides interesting context to MasterCard and Visa touchiness over WikiLeaks.

The US lobbied Russia this year on behalf of Visa and MasterCard in an attempt to ensure the payment companies were not “adversely affected” by new legislation, according to American diplomats in Moscow.

A state department cable released this afternoon by WikiLeaks reveals that US diplomats intervened to try to amend a draft law going through Russia’s Duma. Their explicit aim was to ensure the new law did not “disadvantage” the two US firms, the cable states.

The revelation comes a day after Visa – apparently acting under intense pressure from Washington – announced it was suspending all payments to WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website. Visa was following MasterCard, PayPal and Amazon, all of which have severed ties with the site and its founder Julian Assange in the last few days.

2.20pm: A group of whistleblowers including Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon papers; Katharine Gun, the former GCHQ translator who leaked documents about the Iraq war; and Craig Murray, Britain’s former ambassador to Uzebekistan who sacked after revealing torture, have put out a statement in support of WikiLeaks.

Ellsberg is quoted as saying:

daniel ellsbergEvery attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.

The letter begins:

WikiLeaks has teased the genie of transparency out of a very opaque bottle, and powerful forces in America, who thrive on secrecy, are trying desperately to stuff the genie back in.

2.04pm:An IT firm that helps WikiLeaks collect payments is threatening to sue Visa and MasterCard, writes Josh Halliday.

Josh Halliday.The international credit card company, Visa, today ordered payments processor DataCell to suspend all of its transactions, just 23 hours after it cut off all donations being made to WikiLeaks.

DataCell, a small Icelandic company which facilitates transfers made by credit cards including Visa and Mastercard, says it will take up “immediate legal actions” to ensure that donations can once again be made to WikiLeaks.

Andreas Fink, the chief executive of DataCell, today warned that the powerful “duopoly” of Visa and Mastercard, which have both suspended payments to WikiLeaks in the past week, could spell “the end of the credit card business worldwide.”

“Visa is hurting Wikileaks and DataCell in high figures,” Fink said in a statement. “Putting all payments on hold for seven days or more is one thing but rejecting all further attempts to donate is making the donations impossible.

“This does clearly create massive financial losses to Wikileaks which seems to be the only purpose of this suspension. This is not about the brand of Visa, this is about politics and Visa should not be involved in this.”

Visa and Mastercard payments started being rejected on DataCell’s systems late on Wednesday evening. “We have received a suspension notice stating that Visa Europe has ordered our payment processor to suspend payments and undertake due diligence investigation in order to protect the Visa brand [and] ensure neither the payment processor nor Visa Europe is running legal risks by facilitating payments for the funding of the Wikileaks website,” Fink said.

He added: “We can not believe WikiLeaks would even create scratch at the brand name of Visa. The suspension of payments towards WikiLeaks is a violation of the agreements with their customers.

“Visa users have explicitly expressed their will to send their donations to WikiLeaks and Visa is not fulfilling this wish. It will probably hurt their brand much much more to block payments towards WikiLeaks than to have them occur.

“Visa customers are contacting us in masses to confirm that they really donate and they are not happy about Visa rejecting them. It is obvious that Visa is under political pressure to close us down.

“They have no problem transferring money for other businesses such as gambling sites, pornography services and the like so why a donation to a Website which is holding up for human rights should be morally any worse than that is outside of my understanding.”

Speaking to the Fresh Outlook Fink added: “It is simply ridiculous to even think Wikileaks has done anything criminal. If Wikileaks is criminal, then CNN, and BBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, al-Jazeera and many others would have to be considered criminals too as they publish the same informations. Nobody even tries to touch them though. You can still buy a New York times subscription and pay with your credit card I guess.”

1.50pm: MasterCard is staying tight-lipped about the campaign to hack its website, according to AP.

MasterCard said it was experiencing “heavy traffic” but did not elaborate.

In the same piece AP rounds-up the other skirmishes in the WikiLeaks cyber battle:

The online vengeance campaign appeared to be taking the form of denial of service attacks in which computers across the Internet are harnessed — sometimes surreptitiously — to jam target sites with mountains of requests for data, knocking them out of commission.

1.39pm: Twitter denies that it is censoring the term #wikileaks as a trending topic (thanks to @SirSteven for pointing this out).

Twitter told Mashable:

Twitter is not censoring #wikileaks, #cablegate or other related terms from the Trends list of trending topics.

Our Trends list is designed to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world, in real-time. The list is generated by an algorithm that identifies topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously.

There’s a number of factors that may come into play when seemingly popular terms don’t make the Trends list. Sometimes topics that are popular don’t break into the Trends list because the current velocity of conversation (volume of Tweets at a given moment) isn’t greater than in previous hours and days. Sometimes topics that are genuinely popular simply aren’t widespread enough to make the list of top Trends. And, on occasion, topics just aren’t as popular as people believe.

1.32pm: Here’s a Tech Crunch video of PayPal’s vice president Osama Bedier talking about suspending the WikiLeaks account “as a result” of a letter from the State Department.

12.59pm: PayPal has suggested that it was leant on by US government to cut off the funds to WikiLeaks.

Tech Crunch reports on comments made PayPal’s vice president Osama Bedier at Le Web conference in Paris.

He was asked why PayPal had blocked payments to WikiLeaks:

Bedier’s answered: “State Dept told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward.” The answer was met with boos from the mostly European audience.

Bedier basically admitted that PayPal has complied with governmental request, “We first comply with regulations around the world making sure that we protect our brand,” he said…

When asked about going down earlier today and whether or not Paypal had fears of retaliation, “One of the signs that you’re a successful payments company is that hackers start to target you, this case isn’t anything different.”

12.46pm: Operation Payback has also targeted PayPal, and Twitter may be next after speculation that it is preventing the term #wikileaks showing on its trending topics.

A online poster put out by the campaign says: “Twitter you’re next for censoring #Wikileaks discussion. The major shitstorm has begun.”

12.37pm: More on the MasterCard hack, from Esther Addely.

It is the “latest salvo in the increasingly febrile technological war over WikiLeaks,” she writes.

There’s an an interview at the end of this piece with Christopher Poole, who set up 4Chan, where Anonymous came together, who are now operating as Operation Payback

As my colleague Simon Jeffery says, Poole doesn’t talk about destributed denial of service attacks but it does get into where Anonymous came from.

12.15pm: Here’s another contribution from Naomi Klein:

Rape is being used in the #Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up!”

This seems like a good moment to bring in Steve Bell’s cartoon today.

steve-bell-wikileaks Copyright © Steve Bell 2010

12.02pm: The writer Naomi Klein wades into the debate with this:

Defending #wikileaks is not the same as defending rape and anyone who can’t see the difference is a complete moron.less than a minute ago via webNaomi Klein

11.44am: One of the lawyers representing Assange’s accusers in Sweden today denied that Sweden is being influenced by the US in pressing the rape charges, writes Amelia Gentleman in Stockholm. The lawyer’s website also appears to have been hacked, he revealed.

You can read Amelia’s article in full later today. For now here’s a preview:

Amelia GentlemanClaes Borgström, the lawyer who is representing the two women, said this morning that his clients were “relieved” to hear that Julian Assange had been arrested. He said that the women were “credible witnesses” whose reputation was being exposed to uncomfortable global scrutiny.

In an interview at his Stockholm office Borgström said that it was “unfortunate” for the women that they had been assaulted by Assange, because his prominent position and widespread popularity meant that they were now being treated as the “perpetrators off a crime, rather than the victims”.

He rejected the suggestion that the rape allegations were part of a conspiracy to attack Mr Assange, stating that in his opinion there was “zero truth” in that theory. He said Sweden had not come under any pressure from the US to request Assange’s extradition, and said this would have happened as a matter of course, regardless of the identity of the defendant. He expected Assange to get a fair trial in Sweden, he said.

Borgström said his company’s website had been hacked into and shut down overnight, as had the website of the lawyer defending Assange. This had never happened to his company before, he said.

11.30am:It’s always amusing when Alastair Campbell accuses other people of spinning. Here he is trying some reverse spin on WikiLeaks and its supporters.

Alastair CampbellI know Mark Stephens, and like him. But he too, like many lawyers adept in the modern media age, is not averse to playing the spin game rather well. So it is hardly surprising that he claims the case is political.

His main line of defence seems to be that the allegations are all part of some conspiracy to get his client behind bars and WikiLeaks out of circulation, and that Sweden will be but a stepping stone to the US where some of the barmier elements have been making ludicrous calls for Mr Assange’s execution…

Nowhere yesterday, nor in today’s papers, could I see anything that could be claimed as evidence either that the US are orchestrating this, or that the Swedes are doing anything other than trying to investigate serious allegations of sexual misconduct which they would be investigating whether they concerned a Stockholm cabbie or a WikiLeaks founder who has made himself a centre of global attention.

11.19am: Legal help is on its way for Julian Assange, according to a tweet from Sky’s Tim Marshall.

Live blog: TwitterWIkileaks: Confirmed – Geoffrey Robertson – specialist in extradition is coming bk from Oz to represent Assange.

11.10am: The cyberwar over WikiLeaks shows every sign of escalating further. My colleague Josh Halliday has more on the attack on MasterCard:

Josh Halliday. Josh Halliday. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the GuardianMastercard, the multinational payments network which yesterday throttled money transfers to WikiLeaks, was this morning brought offline following an attack by internet avengers, Anonymous.

The website of Mastercard would not load just before 10am on Wednesday; an error page cited a “DNS fail”. (Here’s some technical background)

Anonymous, the group of “hacktivists” vaguely linked to the influential internet messageboard 4Chan, has been targeting companies that have severed ties with Assange or WikiLeaks with so-called “distributed denial of service attacks” (DDoS). Such attacks are illegal and have become something of a subplot in WikiLeaks ongoing release of US embassy cables.

10.57am: Operation Payback, a hacking group that claimed credit for
taking down the website of a Swiss Bank that cut off funds to Julian Assange, appears to have struck again.

MasterCard’s website is currently unavailable after a similar attack in protest at its decision to cut payments to WikiLeaks, according Business Insider. is down, and Anon_operation just tweeted that it’s due to a DDOS attack. Of course, Mastercard is one of the payment services that cut off the ability to donate to Wikileaks.

10.33am: WikiLeaks and Assange have “done substantial damage to US interests”, US State department spokesman PJ Crowley said last night. You can see those comments on a new Guardian video. It also shows Crowley claiming that the US did not take a position on the arrest of Assange. He said this was a matter between the UK and Sweden.

Defence secretary Robert Gates showed what the US really thought about the arrest. When asked about it on a trip to Afghanistan yesterday he smirked, and said: “That sounds like good news to me”.

10.12am: “This is the first real battleground between the political establishment and the open web,” argues Emily Bell, The Guardian’s former director of digital content.

The internet guru Clay Shirky said something similar on Newsnight last night. In an interesting discussion right at the end of the programme, he pointed to the American double standards being exposed by the WikiLeaks crisis.

“If WikiLeaks is attacked outside of due process and just run off the internet because the government has decided we don’t like it, that would be a catastrophic loss for free speech,” Shirky said.

Shirky’s blogpost on the issue, was quoted approvingly the Guardian’s unusually long editorial today.

10.04am: Stop writing about Assange, pleads the writer and Observer columnist John Naughton on his blog Memex 1.1.

John Naughton
The obsession with Julian Assange would be comical if it weren’t so misleading. One can see why news editors go for it, of course. First of all there’s a handsome, enigmatic, brooding, Svengali-like hero/villain allegedly pitting himself against the world’s only superpower. Add in allegations of sexual crimes, a handful of celebrity supporters and a Court-side scrum and you’ve got a tabloid dream story.

Assange is undoubtedly an interesting figure, but to personalise the crisis in these terms is a failure of journalism…

WikiLeaks is bigger than Assange, and it would survive his disappearance, whether by imprisonment or worse – just as Al Qaeda would survive the death of Osama bin Laden

9.41am: There’s been an almighty backlash to a piece in the Huffington Post by the writer Naomi Wolf defending Julian Assange against the rape charges.

In a sarcastic open letter to Interpol, Wolf wrote:

As a feminist, I am also pleased that the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings. That’s what our brave suffragette foremothers intended.

The piece provoked hundreds of hostile comments. Amy Siskind, president of the New Agenda, replied with a sarcastic open letter to Wolf.

It was so awesome that your piece made fun of Julian Assange’s [alleged] victims. What better way to discourage young women from reporting attempted or successful rapes.

9.14am: There’s been some interesting reaction and revelations overnight in Australia.

Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister and now foreign minister, said the leaks are the fault of the Americans, not the Australian Julian Assange.

Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the U.S. diplomatic communications network. The Americans are responsible for that,” Rudd told Reuters.

The context for this is that leaked cables portray Rudd as a “control freak”, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Another US cable accused Rudd of ”self-serving and inaccurate leaking”.

9.05am: Assange spent his first night in Wandsworth prison last night after being remanded until next Tuesday.

I’ve been told that his lawyer Mark Stephens says the first date he has been offered to visit Assange is next Monday, the day before his next bail hearing.

“That gives me one day to take instructions and prepare his case,” Stephens said.

Stephens also said he had asked the Australian High Commissioner to request copies of the Swedish prosecutors’ evidence against Assange ahead of his next hearing.

8.48am: Julian Assange is lionised in the Sydney Morning Herald as “the Ned Kelly of the digital age”.

Bryce Lowry writes:

Assange is a cyber-bushranger: a renegade taunter of authority and inspiration to many who marvel at his daring to challenge the status quo.

Like the 19th-century outlaw, the 21st-century incarnation has his hideouts, sympathisers and accomplices. In the digital age, though, the weapon is a website; the bullets, information. The problem for today’s enforcers is that it is not at all clear if it’s actually illegal for Assange to shoot.

Writing in the Independent, Johann Hari, also piles on the praise for Assange:

Every one of us owes a debt to Julian Assange. Thanks to him, we now know that our governments are pursuing policies that place you and your family in considerably greater danger. Wikileaks has informed us they have secretly launched war on yet another Muslim country, sanctioned torture, kidnapped innocent people from the streets of free countries and intimidated the police into hushing it up, and covered up the killing of 15,000 civilians – five times the number killed on 9/11. Each one of these acts has increased the number of jihadis. We can only change these policies if we know about them – and Assange has given us the black-and-white proof.

He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy, according to an editorial in the Times.

Mr Assange would probably not have been remanded in custody if he had shown more respect for the rule of law …

It may be that he is entirely innocent of the Swedish allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion, involving two women. If that is the case it would make more sense for him to face the charges and be cleared. Sweden is not a banana republic, after all…

He should not be made a martyr over a grubby issue that is wholly separate from freedom of expression.

8.38am: Scotland’s first minister was also asked about the cables on the Today programme. He said:

 Alex Salmond Frankly I don’t believe anybody seriously believes that the Scottish government acted in anything other than the precepts of Scots justice. And incidentally this information – as opposed to what is it suggests perhaps about other people – vindicates and bears out that position.

Last night, Salmond’s office issued this statement.

The cables confirm what we always said – that our only interest was taking a justice decision based on Scots law without fear or favour, which was exactly what was done, and that our public position was identical to our private one.

They also show that the former UK government were playing false on the issue, with a different public position from their private one – which must be deeply embarrassing for the Labour Party in Scotland – and that the US government was fully aware of the pressure being applied to the UK government.

8.26am: Move along now, nothing to see here was former justice secretary Jack Straw’s line on the cables about the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he trotted out a now familiar line that the cables don’t “really add anything to what was already known”. He insisted he had “nothing to do with the release” of the Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Jack StrawIt was a matter of record that Libya wanted al-Megrahi released. It is also a matter of record that I signed up to a prisoner transfer agreement in 2007 in respect of general prisoner transfers, but that the agreement was never the vehicle for al-Megrahi’s release.Indeed, he was refused transfer under the PTA.

This was a decision that was made by the Scottish Government and nobody else, they did it on the basis of their law and their practice so far as the release of people with serious medical conditions on compassionate grounds.

7.37am: It’s Libya day on the leaked cable front, plus all the fallout from the refusal of British judge to grant bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The events of yesterday raise a number of interesting questions.

What next for WikiLeaks? Critics say Assange’s imprisonment highlights the over-reliance of WikiLeaks on one person, writes Rob Booth. There are plans up to allow Assange to manage the organisation from a prison cell if his incarceration proves prolonged.
• Could Assange face an espionage trial in the US? The Independent thinks so. “Informal discussions have already taken place between US and Swedish officials over the possibility of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being delivered into American custody,” according to its diplomatic sources. It adds: “The US Justice Department is considering charging Mr Assange with espionage offences over his website’s unprecedented release of classified US diplomatic files.”
Are the rape charges against Assange trumped up? To all the conspiracy theorists Esther Addley has a disturbing must-read account of slander and misogny that has greeted Assange’s accusers. “Rarely can there have been a rape case where the personal details of the alleged victims have been so eagerly sought out by so many,” she writes. She concludes: “The lives of his two accusers … whether he is guilty or not, are likely to be depressingly predictable.”

Meanwhile, the latest cables make more compelling reading and pose yet more some awkward questions for world leaders particularly in Britain, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Here’s a round-up:

• The British government feared Libya would take “harsh and immediate” action against UK interests if the convicted Lockerbie bomber died.
• The cables describe Muammar Gaddafi, as a “mercurial and eccentric” figure who suffers from severe phobias, enjoys flamenco dancing and horse-racing, acts on his whims and irritates friends and enemies alike.
• “Gaddafi relies heavily on his long-time Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska, who has been described as a ‘voluptuous blonde’.”
• The cables expose a world of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll behind the official pieties of Saudi Arabian royalty.
Saudi Arabia proposed creating an Arab force backed by US and Nato air and sea power to intervene in Lebanon two years ago and destroy Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
• The US TV shows Desperate Housewives and Late Show With David Letterman are doing more to persuade Saudi youth to reject violent jihad than hundreds of millions of dollars of US government propaganda, according to US informants.

You can follow all the previous disclosures and reaction on our other live blogs about the cables. And for full coverage go to our US embassy cables page or follow our US embassy cable Twitter feed @GdnCables.

The arrest of Julian Assange: as it happened

Posted by Matthew Weaver and Richard Adams Tuesday 7 December 2010 09.06 GMT
wikileaks founder julian assange WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photograph: Getty Images

8.47am: The WikiLeaks story continues to focus on the fate of Julian Assange as much as the contents of the leaked cables.

Assange was meeting his lawyers Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson this morning and is expected to meet police within hours. He will release a video statement later today.

Last night Robinson said: “We have a received an arrest warrant [related to claims in Sweden]. We are negotiating a meeting with police.”

Our legal affairs correspondent Afua Hirsch explains how Assange’s legal team will fight extradition.

Robert Booth reports on how the net has tightened around Assange since WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of classified cables.

Meanwhile, the US attorney general Eric Holder said his justice department was examining ways to stem the flow of leaked cables, as PayPal and a Swiss bank took action against WikiLeaks.

Here are the headlines on the latest leaked cables.
Secret Nato plans to defend Baltics from Russia
Burma general considered Manchester United buyout
Poland wants missile shield to protect against Russia
Sudan warned to block Iranian arms bound for Gaza
US pressured UN climate chief to bar Iranian from job
Algeria goes from security joke to US ally in Maghreb

You can follow all the previous disclosures and reaction on our other live blogs about the cables. And for full coverage go to our US embassy cables page or follow our US embassy cable Twitter feed @GdnCables.

9.19am: The Daily Mail’s Richard Pendlebury travelled to Enkoping in Sweden to examine the alleged sexual assault case against Julian Assange. The Mail has been portraying Assange as a international Bond villain in recent days, and there are plenty of sordid details in Pendlebury’s article. But it also examines “several puzzling flaws in the prosecution case”.

He says Assange’s supporters suspect US dirty tricks:

They argue that the whole squalid affair is a sexfalla, which translates loosely from the Swedish as a ‘honeytrap’.

One thing is clear, though: Sweden’s complex rape laws are central to the story.

Using a number of sources including leaked police interviews, we can begin to piece together the sequence of events which led to Assange’s liberty being threatened by Stockholm police rather than Washington, where already one U.S. politician has called on him to executed for “spying”.

9.28am: Assange’s lawyers have pointed out that he will not be appearing in court today, but is expected to meet police later.

My colleague Sam Jones has been talking to Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens.

Sam emailed this note:

Live blog: emailSeems the pre-hearing meeting with police has yet to go ahead and there will be “scheduling” discussions around the magistrates court appearance that could take days to hammer out. If and when it happens, Stephens says, they’ll give it out – or the police will leak it.

Last night Stephens told Newsnight that the arrest warrant against Assange was a “political stunt” and that his client had repeatedly offered to talk to the Swedish authorities.

It’s about time we got to the end of the day and we got some truth, justice and rule of law. Julian Assange has been the one in hot pursuit to vindicate himself to clear his good name.

He has been trying to meet with her [the Swedish prosecutor] to find out what the allegations are he has to face and also the evidence against him, which he still hasn’t seen.

9.40am: We are hanging on every word of Mark Stephens at the moment. This is what he told PA on his way to work:

Julian Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens appears on BBC1's Andrew Marr ShowI haven’t even seen the warrant yet. We have got 10 days to do this and a lot of complex schedules to organise.

I am sure it will be announced when it happens. I have not yet spoken to the police.

Stephens declined to say where Assange is and where he expected to be arrested and interviewed.

9.55am: The cyber war over WikiLeaks appears to be escalating, with supporters of the site reportedly taking revenge against the Swiss bank that froze Assange’s assets.

Operation Payback is now threatening to go after PayPal after claiming credit for shutting down the website of the Swiss bank PostFinance, Raw Story claims.

The site of the bank is currently unavailable.

On its Twitter account the group said: “PAYPAL.COM IS DOWN! AND YES WE ARE FIRING NOW!!! KEEP FIRING!”

10.18am: Sky News is reporting that Assange was arrested at 9.30am. It says he is expected to appear before City of Westminster magistrates court later today.

Julian Assange Photograph: Carmen Valino for the Guardian

10.26am: Police say Julian Assange (left) has been arrested on Swedish warrant, AP confirms.

10.30am: Here’s a statement from Metropolitan police:

Officers from the Metropolitan police extradition unit have this morning arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape.

Julian Assange, 39, was arrested on a European arrest warrant by appointment at a London police station at 9.30am.

He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.

Assange is due to appear at City of Westminster magistrates court today.

Sam Jones is on his way to the court.

10.33am: Assange has written a comment piece for the Australian, which is due to be published in about 90 minutes’ time.

The paper’s Caroline Overington tweets:

Here it is: Julian Assange writes, in hours before his arrest: #wikileaksless than a minute ago via webCaroline Overington

10.41am: As of last night Assange had still not been told of the full allegations against him, his lawyer Jennifer Robinson explained in a video to be published on our site soon.

10.45am: A spokesman for City of Westminster magistrates court said Assange must appear before 12.30pm, unless a judge gives special permission for a later hearing.

We do not know what is happening at the moment. We have not been told. 12.30pm is the cut-off time.

If they cannot produce him before then, we will have to wait for a decision from the judge, whether he or she gives permission.

10.53am: Here’s that video with comments from Assange’s lawyers.

11.02am: More details are emerging about Assange’s meeting with the police. He was accompanied by both his British lawyers, Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson. The plans for the meeting continued to “chop and change” to prevent the event becoming a media circus, according to sources.

Assange will release a video statement later today. WikiLeaks had threatened to issue an encryption code that would release all of the remaining cables, if Assange was arrested.

But our sources say there are no current plans to do that.

11.06am: The Australian has issued a sneak preview of Assange’s op-ed piece due later today:

Mr Assange begins by saying: “In 1958, a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s the News, wrote: ‘In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.'”

It goes on to say a few more things about freedom of speech; the “dark days” of corrupt government in Queensland (where Assange was raised); the Fitzgerald inquiry; and it says much about his upbringing in a country town, “where people spoke their minds bluntly”.

It says that Australian politicians are chanting a “provably false chorus” with the US State Department of “You’ll risk lives! You’ll endanger troops!” by releasing information, and “then they say there is nothing of importance in what Wikileaks publishes. It can’t be both.”

11.19am: The BBC tweets:

WikiLeaks spokesman says Julian Assange´s arrest is an attack on media freedom but won´t stop groupless than a minute ago via TweetDeckBBC Global News

Assange’s article in the Australian will be published in full at 1pm our time, an hour later than we said earlier.

11.28am: WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the arrest would not derail the release of the cables. “This will not change our operation,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

ITV’s Kier Simmons tweets that Assange will appear at 2pm, citing a court source.

The Guardian has two reporters at the court. Caroline Davies is inside and Sam Jones is waiting outside in the cold.

Court staff confirmed to Sam that Assange probably won’t appear before 2pm.

Caroline texted me this on the scene outside:

Caroline Davies.Scrum of up to 30 photographers outside Horseferry Road magistrates court. A van arrived with blacked-out windows about 10 minutes ago, but no one could see if it was Assange.

11.40am: Internet guru Clay Shirky has an interesting post on WikiLeaks and how America’s pursuit of the site opens it up to the charge of hypocrisy:

The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us: “You went after WikiLeaks’ domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don’t like the site. If that’s the way governments get to behave, we can live with that.”

In this context comments by Hillary Clinton (below) in a Foreign Policy article earlier this year are coming back to haunt her:

Hillary Clinton at the state department Photograph: Win Mcnamee/Getty ImagesOn their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognise that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.

This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the first amendment to the constitution [guaranteeing freedom of speech] are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.

11.54am: WikiLeaks claims the arrest is an attack on media freedom, but it is worth pointing out that one of the claimants making the sexual assault allegations has strongly denied that the charges are trumped up, saying: “The charges against Assange are of course not orchestrated by the Pentagon.”

It should also be pointed out of course that Assange strenuously denies the sex assault charges.

The New York Times reports on how the US have been going after Assange over the separate issue of the leaked cables.

Justice department prosecutors have been struggling to find a way to indict Assange since July, when WikiLeaks made public documents on the war in Afghanistan. But while it is clearly illegal for a government official with a security clearance to give a classified document to WikiLeaks, it is far from clear that it is illegal for the organisation to make it public.

The Justice department has considered trying to indict Assange under the Espionage Act, which has never been successfully used to prosecute a third-party recipient of a leak. Some lawmakers have suggested accusing WikiLeaks of receiving stolen government property, but experts said Monday that would also pose difficulties.

12.07pm: WikiLeaks just tweeted this:

Today’s actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won’t affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal”less than a minute ago via webWikiLeaks

Live blog: recap

12.19pm: Here’s a lunchtime summary:

• WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested at a London police station at 9.30am. He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape. He denies the charges. He is due to appear at City of Westminster magistrates at around 2pm.

WikiLeaks have condemned the arrest as an attack on media freedom. Sources claim that the group currently has no plans to publish an insurance encryption code that will release the remaining, unpublished classified cables. In his online chat with the Guardian last Friday, Assange suggested the code would be released if “something happens to us“.

The release of the cables will continue. The latest disclosures reveal US plans to defend the Baltic states and Poland against Russia.

Assange has criticised America’s handling of the leaks in a comment piece for the Australian, written before his arrest. His supporters also plan to release a prerecorded video message. In his Australian article, Assange says the US is trying to have it both ways by claiming that the contents of cables are not significant and that the release will endanger lives.

A cyber-war over WikiLeaks appears to be escalating. Supporters of the site are reportedly taking revenge against the Swiss bank that froze Assange’s assets, and are now targetting PayPal.

12.24pm: All the news networks in the US are leading with the Assange story, my colleague Richard Adams rang in to tell me.

NBC Today show anchorman Matt Lauer began today’s broadcast with this gravelly-voiced announcement: “The international manhunt for Julian Assange is over.”

12.30pm: My colleague Robert Booth has more on plans by WikiLeaks to carry on publishing, plus that new video message and the 256 digit encryption code for the rest of the documents.

A group calling itself Justice for Assange is planning a protest outside City of Wesminster magistrates court at 1.30pm.

12.47pm: Assange has entered the court. He went in the back entrance and was accompanied by his lawyers Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson. They are due to to examine the charges against him. I was on the phone to my colleague Sam Jones when it happened. This is what it sounded like:


Meanwhile, the Swedish chief prosecutor, Marianne Ny, is planning to release a statement this afternoon on the arrest of Assange, according to Foresight News.

12.54pm: Assange’s op-ed piece in the Australian has been published.

The paper says these are the main points:

• WikiLeaks is fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.

• The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.

• (My idea is) to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.

• People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars.

• The Gillard government (Australia) is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed.

It is worth quoting Assange’s final remarks in full:

The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts: the US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US officials in Jordan and Bahrain want [sic] Iran’s nuclear program stopped by any means available.

Britain’s Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect “US interests”.

Sweden is a covert member of Nato and US intelligence-sharing is kept from parliament.

The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantánamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian president only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.

In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US supreme court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

1.02pm: Another key paragraph from Assange’s Australian article:

Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

1.09pm: Back on the other side of the world, the Press Association news agency has this on Assange’s entering the magistrates court in Horseferry Road, London:

Julian Assange was mobbed by photographers as he arrived at court with Mark Stephens and the rest of his legal team.

He is due to appear before District Judge Caroline Tubbs in court one at 2pm, court staff said. Speaking outside court, Stephens said his client is “fine”.

Asked about the meeting with police, he replied: “It was very cordial. They have verified his identity. They are satisfied he is the real Julian Assange and we are ready to go into court.”

Mark Stephens, lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside Westminster magistrates court Mark Stephens, lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside Westminster magistrates court, London, today. Photograph: Julian Makey/Rex Features

1.15pm: Afua Hirsch, our legal affairs editor, explains the extradition process and what is likely to happen in the court:

Afua HirschAssange’s arrest by police this morning will kickstart the fast-tracked extradition process, using the European arrest warrant system to attempt to return him to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning regarding a rape charge.

Swedish criminal law experts said this morning that little was known about the actual rape allegations Assange is facing in the country, in line with legal requirements to protect anonymity and preserve confidentiality for sex crimes.

However the activation of an EAW by UK police suggests Assange has now been formally charged by Swedish prosecutors, and could face a period of detention in Sweden upon his return.

But Assange’s legal team remains determined to fight his extradition on grounds ranging from the failure of authorities to provide him with details of the warrant issued by Sweden, and human rights grounds – including that the WikiLeaks founder may be unfairly deprived of his liberty in Sweden, and that he risks not facing a fair trial.

The media attention surrounding Assange’s case is likely to complicate any future criminal proceedings, although the lack of a jury system in Sweden is likely to fuel arguments that he will be protected from public and media interest in the case.

Assange’s first appearance at Westminster magistrates court today will be primarily concerned with formalities, including establishing his identity and determining whether he consents to the extradition.

The court will then adjourn for a full extradition hearing, which has to be within 21 days. A key issue will be whether Assange is released on bail during that period. His lawyers are reported to be putting together a generous bail package, including a security of at least £100,000 and a surety – where third parties guarantee to pay the court if he absconds.

Experts say a large bail amount is likely to secure bail, although the crime for which Assange is wanted by Sweden is rape, a serious offence for which bail is often harder to secure.

If extradited to Sweden under the EAW – a process which could be concluded quickly under the fast-track procedure – Assange will be vulnerable to other extradition requests from countries including the US.

Afua Hirsch on Sky News on 7 December 2010. Photograph: Sky News Photograph: Sky News

1.48pm: Assange’s lawyers are likely to argue that the extradition hearing in the UK can’t be fair, because of the unprecedented media attention, the Guardian’s Afua Hirsch just told Sky News (left).

1.54pm: Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the US Senate’s intelligence committee, said Assange “should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage”.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, she says:

The law Mr Assange continues to violate is the Espionage Act of 1917. That law makes it a felony for an unauthorised person to possess or transmit “information relating to the national defence which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation”.

The Espionage Act also makes it a felony to fail to return such materials to the US government. Importantly, the courts have held that “information relating to the national defence” applies to both classified and unclassified material. Each violation is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

1.58pm: Assange is due to appear in court in the next few minutes, according to a tweet from Channel 4 News.

The freedom on information campaigner Heather Brooke, who worked with the Guardian on the cables, is also there. She just tweeted this:

We’ve been instructed to switch phones off so no twets for awhile. That’s open justice in UK folks. No recording or new media. #wikileaksless than a minute ago via twidroidHeather Brooke

2.03pm: Hamid Karzai has been teasing the Americans and David Cameron about WikiLeaks, according to my colleague Polly Curtis, who accompanied Cameron to Kabul.

Polly Curtis byline pictureMaking light of what has clearly been a tricky diplomatic period after the WikiLeaks revelations, Karzai said: “You should wait for the British WikiLeaks.”

Cameron responded: “We were always nice about you,” to which Karzai answered: “Most of the time.”

2.07pm: More financial problems for WikiLeaks: Visa says it has suspended all payments to WikiLeaks “pending further investigation”.

Earlier MasterCard said: “MasterCard is taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products.”

2.08pm: US defence secretary Robert Gates has welcomed the arrest of Assange. Speaking to reporters on a visit to US troops in Afghanistan, Gates smirked on hearing the news.

“I hadn’t heard that, but that sounds like good news to me,” he said.

2.10pm: The socialite Jemima Khan has appeared in the court with Julian Assange, according to Sky News.

Julian Assange is driven into Westminster Magistrates Court Julian Assange is driven into Westminster magistrates court today. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

2.28pm: Assange said he would fight extradition to Sweden, according to the Associated Press news agency.

2.33pm: WikiLeaks has put out another appeal for funding. “KEEP US STRONG – DONATE“, it tweeted.

With what?

The Press Association news agency has more on Visa’s decision to cut off payments:

The card payment operator said an inquiry is under way into how the organisation operates.

The whistle-blowing website has suffered repeated denial of service attacks, moved server, lost its PayPal service and had a key Swiss bank account closed.

WikiLeaks relies on online donations from a worldwide network of supporters to fund its work.

A spokesman said: “Visa Europe has taken action to suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks’ website pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules.”

2.35pm: Assange sought consular assistance from the Australian high commission, according to Channel 4 News.

Sky claims that members of the commission are inside the court with Assange.

2.51pm: The two women concerned in the case regarded the used of a condom as a prerequiste for sex, the court heard, according to the legal affairs commentator Joshua Rozenberg, who was in the court.

Rozenberg told Sky News that charges were read out to Assange. In one of the cases Assange was alleged to have had sex with a woman who was asleep, the court heard, according to Rozenberg. The other case allegedly involved coercion, he said.

Assange’s lawyers made clear that the case would not finish today, Rozenberg said.

The prosecution, representing the Swedish authorities, objected to bail on two grounds: that Assange failed to surrender and that he should stay in custody for his own protection, Rozenberg reported.

A vehicle carrying WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives at the rear entrance of court A vehicle carrying WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives at the rear entrance of Westminster magistrates court in London today. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

2.58pm: The journalist John Pilger and the film director Ken Loach have also been seen in court, according to various sources. They together with Jemima Khan are apparently all there to provide surety if bail is granted to Assange.

3.03pm: AP has this filed its first take on court proceedings:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a London court on Tuesday he intends to fight his extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations, setting up what could be a drawn-out legal battle.

The 39-year-old Australian appeared before City of Westminster magistrates court after turning himself in to Scotland Yard earlier Tuesday to face a Swedish arrest warrant.

He was asked whether he understood that he could consent to be extradited to Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion.

Clearing his throat, Assange said: “I understand that and I do not consent.”

Assange denies the allegations, which stem from a visit to Sweden in August. Assange and his lawyers claim the accusations stem from a “dispute over consensual but unprotected sex,” and have said the case has taken on political overtones.

Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny has rejected those claims.

Lawyers for Assange and the British government were still arguing on Tuesday over whether Assange should be granted bail.

3.04pm: Assange was refused bail, and will be remanded in custody till 14 December.

3.22pm: My colleagues Paul Owen and Caroline Davies have filed this story on Assange being refused bail.

3.32pm: “This case is not about WikiLeaks,” district judge Howard Riddle told the court, according to my colleague Sam Jones, who was there.

Riddle refused bail on the grounds there was a risk he would fail to surrender. He rejected the prosecution claim that bail should be rejected on the grounds of Assange’s safety.

John Pilger, Ken Loach, and Jemima Khan were among six people in court willing to offer surety. They all offered at least £20,000. An anonymous individual offered surety of £60,000.

Assange appeared in court in a blue suit, white shirt and no tie.

Asked to give an address he replied “PO Box 4080”. When the question was asked again, he said: “Do you want it for correspondence or for some other reason?” Later he gave an address in Australia.

3.33pm: Speaking outside the court John Pilger described the judge’s failure to offer bail as “unjust”.

Every journalist should be supporting Assange 100% he said.

Richard Adams

3.34pm: My Washington-based colleague Richard Adams has been watching CNN’s coverage. He spotted this gem:

When Ken Loach appeared leaving the courtroom just now, to much excitement, it was shown live on cable news here and CNN were utterly stumped. “Who was that gentleman? It may be Julian Assange’s attorney; we’re trying to find out.”

3.37pm: My colleague Caroline Davies, who was also in court, has more detail on why the judge turned down Assange’s request for bail.

He said these were “serious allegations against someone who has comparatively weak community ties in this country and the means and ability to abscond”.

Jemima Kahn leaves magistrates court after offering to stand as surety for Julian Assange Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

3.38pm: Speaking to the media scrum Jemima Khan (left) said she did not know Julian Assange. She said she was offering support for him because of her backing for freedom on speech.

3.42pm: “We are in the rather exotic position of not seeing any of the evidence against him [Assange],” the WikiLeaks founder’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, has said.

“This is going to go viral,” he added. Many people believe these charges are politically motivated, he said.

Assange could have been safely released today, Stephens told reporters. These allegations are very thin indeed, he said. He confirmed that further bail applications will be made.

Stephens claimed that Assange will be vindicated.

He added that the release of the US embassy cables would continue.

3.45pm: More details on the charges, from the Press Association news agency:

Gemma Lindfield, for the Swedish authorities, told the court Assange was wanted in connection with four allegations.

She said the first complainant, Miss A, said she was victim of “unlawful coercion” on the night of 14 August in Stockholm.

The court heard Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.

The second charge alleged Assange “sexually molested” Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her “express wish” one should be used.

The third charge claimed Assange “deliberately molested” Miss A on 18 August “in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity”.

The fourth charge accused Assange of having sex with a second woman, Miss W, on 17 August without a condom while she was asleep at her Stockholm home.

3.54pm: Here’s more of the comments Stephens made outside the court, which I missed the first time:

WikiLeaks will continue. WikiLeaks is many thousands of journalists around the world. A renewed bail application will be made.

We have heard the judge today say that he wishes to see the evidence himself. He was impressed by the fact that a number of people were prepared to stand up on behalf of Mr Assange. In those circumstances I think we will see another bail application.

They [those offering surety] were but the tip of the iceberg. This is going to go viral. Many people believe Mr Assange to be innocent, myself included. Many people believe that this prosecution is politically motivated.

I’m sure that the British judicial system is robust enough not to be interfered with by politicians and that are judges are impartial and fair. I hope I can say the same about Swedish prosecutors in the future.

4.06pm: Sam Jones watched the moment Assange was driven away.

Sam JonesAt 3.41pm Assange was driven away from court to shouts from protesters of “Julian we love you.”

Sam also caught more of John Pilger’s comments. Speaking outside the court the veteran journalist and filmaker said: “I was prepared to do it [offer £20,000 as surety] because there was a possibility of an injustice being perpetrated against Julian Assange personally. He has been a doing the job of a journalist and he deserves the support of people who believe that the free flow of information is the bedrock of a democracy.”

4.07pm: Our legal affairs correspondent Afua Hirsch says it is very rare for bail to be offered in a rape case:

Afua HirschThe decision to deny Assange bail is less surprising than many might think. Rape is a notoriously difficult offence for which to get bail in criminal proceedings. In many cases this is because of the risk of reoffending or danger to the victim.

But in Assange’s case – as is often an issue with extradition proceedings – the problem is the lack of a permanent address in the UK, the difficulty of setting clear bail conditions that would persuade prosecutors that his whereabouts could be guaranteed, and the risk of his absconding.

In many cases those risks are regarded as sufficiently high that large amounts of security – a deposit paid into court and forfeited in the event of the suspect absconding – do not persuade magistrates that a person should be released on bail.

Although Assange will now be detained in prison, he will be kept in more relaxed conditions than those for prisoners who have been sentenced, including not having to wear prison uniform and having frequent access to visits and phone calls.

But his lawyers will be keen to speed up the coming extradition proceedings in light of his detention. In most cases where a suspect is kept in custody, a full extradition hearing is held within the legal time limit of 21 days.

4.14pm: Charles Arthur, the Guardian’s technology editor, points out that while MasterCard and Visa have cut WikiLeaks off you can still use those cards to donate to overtly racist organisations such as the Knights Party, which is supported by the Ku Klux Klan.

The Ku Klux Klan website directs users to a site called Christian Concepts. It takes Visa and MasterCard donations for users willing to state that they are “white and not of racially mixed descent. I am not married to a non-white. I do not date non-whites nor do I have non-white dependents. I believe in the ideals of western Christian civilisation and profess my belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God.”

4.20pm: Mark Stephens was asked about Visa and MasterCard’s withdrawal of support for WikiLeaks. He replied:

I am advised that WikiLeaks can continue to exist. They have many thousands of journalists in a virtual journalistic community around the world, and they will continue. We are at only cable 301 today. We will see the rest of those 250,000 cables coming out so that full information is available.

4.33pm: The WikiLeaks crisis is holding back talks on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak.

Haaretz quoted him saying that contacts with the United States over a renewed moratorium on West Bank construction had been frozen in the wake of the WikiLeaks crisis and the tensions between North and South Korea.

“We have not reached understanding with the United States on how to resume the construction freeze,” Barak told the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee.

“The negotiations with the Palestinians are of utmost priority for Israel and we must aspire to make them happen.”

4.49pm: Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny says the rape case against Assange has nothing to do WikiLeaks, Reuters reports:

The sexual misconduct case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a personal matter and not connected with his work releasing secret US diplomatic cables, a Swedish prosecutor said on Tuesday.

“We have nothing which indicates that this is a plot,” prosecutor Marianne Ny was quoted by newspaper Aftonbladet as saying at a news conference in the western city of Gothenburg.

Live blog: substitution

4.55pm: This is Richard Adams in the Guardian’s Washington bureau, taking over from Matthew Weaver. The arrest of Julian Assange is of course huge news here in the US, dominating the cable news coverage and a subject of debate pretty much everywhere else.

4.56pm: My colleagues Caroline Davies and Sam Jones have just filed this news story on the Assange case.

5.05pm: My colleague Josh Halliday sends over news of a warm welcome for Julian Assange being offered by the Swiss Pirate Party:

Josh Halliday.The Swiss Pirate party has just sent an open letter to the country’s federal council urging it to allow Julian Assange asylum.

“What has happened in the US – political pressure leading to the suppression of free speech by private companies like PayPal, Amazon, EveryDNS and Tableau – should not be allowed to happen in Switzerland,” the letter warns, adding: “For all these reasons a consistent and uncompromising digital policy is needed.”, currently the primary domain name for the whistleblowers’ site, was registered by the Swiss Pirate party in June, before becoming WikiLeaks’ main access point last week after being dropped by its DNS host. The party referred 4,000 people a second to WikiLeaks through on Sunday, it has told the Guardian.

“We urge you to counter the interventions by the US and their ambassador in Switzerland. On the grounds of digital politics, the question of asylum for Julian Assange should be examined,” the letter goes on.

5.14pm: The daily state department briefing has taken place in Foggy Bottom and WikiLeaks and Assange came up – here are some details.

Philip Crowley, the state department press spokesman, says: “What WikiLeaks has done is a crime under US law.”

Note that Crowley doesn’t say which law WikiLeaks has broken, and that’s the tricky part.

Senator Joe Lieberman is on Fox News, saying that the department of justice should indict Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act and try to extradict him from the UK. Asked why this hasn’t happened, Lieberman admits that there is probably an argument going on over how to charge Assange.

5.15pm: Ramping up his rhetoric on Fox News just now, Senator Joe Lieberman, the head of the Senate’s homeland security committee, suggests that the New York Times and other news organisations using the WikiLeaks cables may also be investigated for breaking the US’s espionage laws.

Lieberman told Fox News:

To me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime is a matter of discussion for the justice department.

5.25pm: The Drudge Report – which began life as a website for leaked material – is currently running a tenditious headline:


In fact the truth is that Julian Assange is currently leading Time’s online readers poll – and Time itself has put out a response to Drudge’s claim, saying:

We never confirm or deny rumors until we reveal Time’s choice.

Time also says the readers poll is only indicative and that its editors make their own decision.

Live blog: recap

5.27pm: Here’s an evening summary:

• Julian Assange was refused bail today and will be remanded in custody till 14 December. He was charged at City of Westminister magistrates on behalf of the Swedish authorities with of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape. He denies the charges.

Assange told the court today that he intended to fight his extradition. His lawyers said they would appeal against the refusal to grant him bail. They also claimed that the prosecution was politically motivated, a point rejected by the Swedish authorities.

Six people, including the journalist John Pilger, filmmaker Ken Loach, and socialite Jemima Khan, were among six people in court willing to offer surety of at £20,000. Members of the Australian high commission were also in court after Assange sought consular assistance from them.

MasterCard and Visa have cut off support for WikiLeaks. They claimed WikiLeaks breaches its rules, but you can still use those cards to support overtly racist orgainsations supported by the Ku Klux Klan.

WikiLeaks has vowed to carry on publishing the classified cables. Its lawyer Mark Stephens said it was “virtual journalistic community around the world, and they will continue”. It has stopped short of release an encryption code that will automatically publish the remain documents.

The US has welcomed the arrest of Assange. “That sounds like good news to me,” said Robert Gates US defence secretary. “The international manhunt for Julian Assange is over,” NBC television declared.

The WikiLeaks crisis is holding back talks on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak.

5.30pm: With perfect timing an email arrives from Philip Crowley at the state department:

The United States is pleased to announce that it will host Unesco’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from 1-3 May in Washington, DC.

Ironic? Read the next paragraph from the press release:

The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

Shameless. You really could not make it up.

5.43pm: A quick “hats off” to our fellow WikiLeaks live bloggers over at the Nation, where Greg Mitchell has been doing a fine job every day since the first US embassy cables were published.

5.58pm: The White House has just announced that Barack Obama is holding a press briefing at 2.20pm ET (7.20pm GMT) – and if he takes questions (and it sounds like he will) then WikiLeaks and the embassy cables might come up, although the topic of the day is the tax deal he announced last night.

Still, the White House press corps may just ask him about the weather; it’s hard to tell.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has changed its tune on the impact of the US embassy cables. Last week the US defence secretary Robert Gates declared there would be no long-term impact from the WikiLeaks revelations. Today, though, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan says there are indications of foreign governments “pulling back” from ealings with the US since the cables began to be published.

Lapan wouldn’t give specific examples, though. The Associated Press news agency reports Lapan as saying that “believing the US is not good at keeping secrets … certainly changes things,” and that “generally, there has been a retrenchment” in cooperation.

And here’s more from Josh Halliday on cyber-trouble over WikiLeaks:

Josh Halliday.The website of the Swedish prosecution authority appears to be under attack by the group on online activists understood to be targetting all anti-WikiLeaks companies or departments.

Each of the six companies, including Amazon and eBay, that have severed ties with Assange and WikiLeaks in past weeks following political pressure have quickly become the subject of sustained online assaults from the group known only as Anonymous. It took just hours for the Swiss bank, Post Finance, to be brought offline after announcing that it was closing Assange’s account on Monday.

The distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) overload a website’s servers with requests to load. Depending on how much demand the servers can withstand – a beneficial facet of larger companies such as Amazon – the site will either take longer than usual to load or be brought completely offline for a period. Anonymous has gained notoriety for attacks on copyright-enforcement agencies and some of the world’s largest record labels.

6.08pm: Regarding the impious thought that US state department is bashing WikiLeaks with one hand and celebrating World Press Freedom Day with the other (see 5.30pm), my colleague Graeme Wearden tweets:

@janinegibson Perhaps the US think they’ll only have to put up with World Press Freedom on that one day?less than a minute ago via TweetDeckGraeme Wearden

Now suddenly it all makes sense.

6.12pm: My colleague Afua Hirsch explains why it is so difficult to get bail in cases involving allegations of rape, the shocked reaction of Assange’s legal team notwithstanding:

Afua HirschLawyers representing people suspected of rape – either for domestic or extraditable offences – try to secure a suspect’s freedom by offering conditions that would make prison custody unnecessary.

In Assange’s case, a surety of £180,000 – money placed in court that would be forfeited if Assagne absconded – was offered. The defence also said they were willing to consider further conditions, such as the requirement to remain at home during certain hours, or even to wear an electronic tag.

But the fact that Assange does not have a permanent address in the UK – he is currently staying with friends – made bail far more unlikely.

In court District Judge Howard Riddle said that those conditions, and claims that Assange’s safety was at risk if he were placed in prison, were not sufficient to overcome the obstacles to granting bail, mainly Assange’s lack of “community ties” in the UK.

As in many extradition cases where a suspect is not based permanently in the UK, Riddle said there was a risk that Assange would fail to surrender were he released on bail.

The fact that Assange’s surety was also offered by people with whom Assange does not have close relationships – including journalist John Pilger and Jemima Khan – could also have persuaded the court that his ties were not sufficient to prevent him leaving the country.

However there is a presumption of bail under UK law, and Assange’s lawyers have vowed to make a renewed bail application, possibly strengthening the conditions attached to any release on bail.

While Assange remains in custody, future extradition proceedings are likely to be speeded up, with lawyers keen to ensure the full hearing takes place within the 21 days allotted.

6.24pm: This just in: sources are telling the Guardian that Julian Assange is now being held in the remand wing of Wandsworth Prison in London. (This is unconfirmed, so pinch of salt there.)

As you can see, HMP Wandsworth is one of the more delightful examples of British prison architecture.

Wandsworth is also the largest prison in the UK, with 1,600 inmates.

Any readers who have been detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure in Wandsworth are encouraged to let us know what life is going to be like in there for Assange.

6.39pm: BoingBoing and others are flagging up the remarks by Senator Joe Lieberman that the New York Times may be the subject of investigation by the Department of Justice with a view to prosecution under the espionage laws.

It’s worth remembering that since the US government can’t find a way to use the current espionage laws against Julian Assange, the chances of it prosecuting the New York Times probably approaches zero. But Lieberman’s words will have a chilling effect on news organisations everywhere.

Senator Lieberman: prosecute the New York Times for espionage?

6.42pm: Speaking of Senator Joe Lieberman’s one-man war against WikiLeaks – which mainly consists of Joe going on TV – here’s a clip of the Fox News interview referred to earlier.

6.45pm: My colleagues Sam Jones tells me Julian Assange’s lawyers have confirmed their client is behind bars in Wandsworth Prison. As mentioned before, it is a typically delightful example of Victorian prison architecture.

Update: a reader emails –

“After seeing Wandsworth I bet Swedish prisons have suddenly got a lot more attractive to Mr Assange.”

Yes, although compared to the ADX Florence super-max Federal prison in Colorado, HM Wandsworth would feel like a Club Med.

6.48pm: Remember how a minor branch of Columbia University told its students not to access the US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks? Well Philip Crowley – Mr World Press Freedom Day – of the State Department says it got carried away. The AP reports:

Spokesman PJ Crowley said Tuesday the department had not issued any guidelines to private citizens on how to deal with the documents, which are still considered classified. He said department employees have been told not to download the material to their classified computer systems. He said that would create security concerns.

“We have given instructions to our employees here because we are treating these documents as still classified, which means if you download these documents from an outside website to our unclassified system, it creates a security concern,” Crowley told reporters.

“Our instructions are to protect our unclassified network, not mix classified and unclassified information on that network,” he said. “We do not control private Internet access. We do not control private networks. We have issued no authoritative instructions to people who are not employees of the Department of State.”

Update: The students involved at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs are themselves having a robust debate on the matter.

Live blog: Twitter

7pm: The best joke of the week – so far – comes from Ben Yarrow’s Twitter account (with a hat tip to @janinegibson):

Freedom of Speech – priceless. For everything else, there’s MasterCard

7.09pm: Obama is holding a press conference in the White House briefing room in 10 minutes – and surely even the self-absorbed White House press corps will have something to ask about the US embassy cables and WikiLeaks?

On the other hand, a tweet from the briefing room suggests otherwise:

the chatter in here awaiting Obama’s presser is about the WH Xmas party. Hot topic: can you pub your party pics on facebook?

7.25pm: President Obama speaking now – it’s all about the tax deal announced last night so far but there may be questions regarding WikiLeaks since this is the first time journalists have had an opportunity to ask Obama directly.

7.41pm: So far all the Obama press conference questions have been on yesterday’s tax cut deal with the Republicans.

7.51pm: Last question being taken at Obama’s press conference – and not a single journalist raised WikiLeaks or the US embassy cables. But why ask about the biggest story of the year when you can instead talk inside baseball about Republicans versus Democrats?

7.55pm: My colleague Ewen MacAskill points us towards these quotes from State Department flack PJ Crowley, suggesting that foreign governments are getting cold feet about talking to their US counterparts in the light of the WikiLeaks cables:

Crowley told journalists today:

“We have already seen some indications of meetings that used to involve several diplomats and now involve fewer diplomats… We’re conscious of at least one meeting where it was requested that notebooks be left outside the room.”

The Associated Press reports Crowley’s remarks that the extent of the damage remains to be seen but that it will complicate the US’s diplomatic efforts “for a period of time”.

“Obviously, it will be something that we will be watching to see if particular diplomats are frozen out in countries depending on their pique over what has been revealed,” AP quoted Crowley as saying.

Kinda sinister: Sarah Palin and her trademark glasses.

8.09pm: Hold the front page: Sarah Palin reacts via Twitter to an article by Julian Assange in Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Australian (I think that sentence may win a prize in online news buzzword bingo).

President Palin just Tweeted:

Someone making things up again? Keep seeing this quote attributed to me. Huh? Wikileaks Assange on Sarah Palin’s Criticism

We’ll try and translate that into English but Palin links to a National Review Online piece that quotes Assange’s comment piece: “Sarah Palin says I should be ‘hunted down like Osama bin Laden’.”

As the NRO writer Jim Geraghty points out, Assange has misquoted Palin there. What she actually said was: “Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?” And I think we still count OBL as an al-Qaida leader.

To be fair, Palin did say that Assange should be “pursued with the same urgency” as OBL. So if she meant Assange should be “fruitlessly hunted for nine years without success,” then yes, Assange did misquote her.

Julian Assange with a copy of the Guardian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Frontline Club earlier this year. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

8.23pm: So where was Julian Assange staying while in London? Vaughan Smith of the Frontline Club reveals all:

I can confirm that Mr Assange has spent much of the last several months working from our facilities at the Frontline Club. Earlier today I offered him an address for bail.

The Frontline Club is near Paddington station in west London, founded in 2003 as a home for foreign correspondents and other journalists by Vaughn Smith, and has a fine restaurant as well as hosting regular debates and media events.

Much of the recent footage of Assange was shot during his press conferences at the club, especially the briefing he held earlier this year when WikiLeaks released its cache of classified material from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Smith says he attended today’s court appearance to show his support for Assange and WikiLeaks on a point of principle:

“In the face of a concerted attempt to shut him down and after a decade since 9/11 that has been characterised by manipulation of the media by the authorities, the information released by Wikileaks is a refreshing glimpse into an increasingly opaque world.”

8.38pm: Here’s a statement by the Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger on our plans to keep publishing the US embassy cables:

“The charges [against Julian Assange] relate to alleged sex offences in Sweden and appear to have no bearing on the original leak of the US embassy cables, or on the Guardian’s publication of the material. We have been told by WikiLeaks that Mr Assange’s arrest will not affect plans for the publication of further cables.”

8.56pm: So what legal action can the US department of justice actually take against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange? NBC’s Pete Williams has thoughts:

What did Attorney General Eric Holder mean when he said Monday that “there are other statutes, other tools that we have at our disposal,” beyond the laws against espionage, that could be used to prosecute Julian Assange?

Department of Irony

9.02pm: With the US government championing World Press Freedom Day while also trying to squash WikiLeaks – Jeroen Kraan gets in touch: “Check out the World Press Freedom Day Facebook page. Commenters are having a ball, as you’d expect.”

And indeed, so they are:

“Will you be inviting Jullian Assange ? He’s done some fantastic work in this area,” wonders one. “This reminds me of the time Iran tried to join the UN’s womens’ rights groups,” writes another. Jeroen himself comments: “Stephen Colbert, you can admit you’re behind this event now.”

Meanwhile, BoingBoing offers its version of the State Department’s seal (above).

David Leigh

9.33pm: Back to the US embassy cables themselves – the Guardian’s David Leigh has the cables revealing that the Lockerbie bomber was released after the British government became concerned by Libya’s “thuggish” threats:

The British government’s deep fears that Libya would take “harsh and immediate” action against UK interests if the convicted Lockerbie bomber died in a Scottish prison are revealed in secret US embassy cables which show London’s full support for the early release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, made explicit and “thuggish” threats to halt all trade deals with Britain and harass embassy staff if Megrahi remained in jail, the cables show. At the same time “a parade of treats” was offered by Libya to the Scottish devolved administration if it agreed to let him go, though the cable says they were turned down.

9.38pm: The Guardian’s latest WikiLeaks coverage looks at what US diplomats think about Muammar Gaddafi, describing the Libyan leader as a “mercurial and eccentric” figure who suffers from severe phobias, enjoys flamenco dancing, acts on his whims and irritates his friends and enemies.

9.43pm: The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill has this bombshell revelation from the cables:

Saudi Arabia proposed creating an Arab force backed by US and Nato air and sea power to intervene in Lebanon two years ago and destroy Iranian-backed Hezbollah, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

How’s that “these cables are all old news” argument working out?

Emily Bell

9.51pm: Professor Emily Bell, formerly of the Guardian, has this analysis of the dramatic impact of the WikiLeaks deluge on the media:

If you follow the latest cache of diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks and reported by the Guardian, The New York Times and others it is impossible not to conclude that this is a pivotal moment for journalism, its teaching and its practice.

In her piece Bell asks some of the most difficult questions raised for the media, in both old and new iterations:

How many news organisations now feel differently about how to host and serve content across the web in the wake of Amazon using its commercial prerogative to kick Wikileaks off its servers? How many correspondents and editors would balk at ruining long term relationships with the State Department to publish classified material of the leaked cables-type?

Esther Addley

10.12pm: The Guardian’s Esther Addley writes a clear and comprehensive article on the sex charges that Julian Assange now faces, a must-read for those wanting to know more about the allegations and what they mean:

If the WikiLeaks controversy has seemed ferocious in its intensity to date, the fact that Assange is tonight in custody as an accused rapist means that the political, technological and moral culture wars that have been skirmishing for months around the website have reached a new pitch of vitriol, in which conspiracy theories, slander and misogyny have become every bit as central to the debate as high-minded principles of justice or freedom of information.

10.37pm: Exploding the idea that the US embassy cables don’t show duplicity by US diplomats – the Politco’s Josh Gerstein reveals how the WikiLeaks cables catch State Department spokesman PJ Crowley being economical with the truth.

Gerstein points out this transcript of a public news briefing by Crowley on 15 December last year:

Q: Is the US involved in any military operations in Yemen?

Crowley: No.

Q: No?

Crowley: But we – those kinds of reports keep cropping up. We do not have a military role in this conflict.

That’s clear, isn’t it? Except that the US embassy cables show the opposite. Here’s the Guardian’s coverage of the Yemen cables:

While Saleh’s government publicly insists its own forces are responsible for counter-terrorism operations, the cables detail how the president struck a secret deal to allow the US to carry out cruise missile attacks on [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] targets. The first strike in December last year, which killed dozens of civilians along with wanted jihadis, was presented by Saleh as Yemen’s own work, supported by US intelligence.

Justin Elliott at Salon’s War Room blog also has a good take on the revelations.

10.55pm: Spiegel Online has published a brilliant interview with Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, an advisor to the president of Iran who is amusingly sceptical about the origins of the WikiLeaks documents:

Spiegel Online: But the diplomatic reports were published against Washington’s will and are damaging to the United States. The WikiLeaks disclosures are not a State Department PR campaign.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashai: Are you sure about that? How, then, did WikiLeaks gain access to the documents?

Spiegel: Presumably through a US Army private who had access to a central government database and has since been arrested.

Mashai: Do you believe that? Then you must be very naïve indeed. No, the United States is behind this deliberate leak. The Americans are trying to paint the world in black and white. They underscore the differences among nations and want to show everyone that peace is only possible in cooperation with them.

Spiegel: Do you question the authenticity of the more than 250,000 documents?

Mashai: I don’t want to get into individual documents and their authenticity. But I have no doubt that a US government plan is behind this disclosure. When someone wants to suggest something, they include fake information with real information so as to create a certain impression. That’s why each country has to analyze the documents that relate to it, which is what our experts in Tehran are doing now.

Spiegel: In other words, you do take the embassy reports very seriously.

Mashai: We are only examining them to figure out the Americans’ tricks.


Desperate Housewives US ambassadors Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Brenda Strong and Felicity Huffman

11pm: The latest Guardian coverage suggests that US cultural imperialism in the form of Desperate Housewives is doing a better job at winning over hearts and minds in Saudi Arabia than all its investments in friendly media:

Diplomats said they believed the allure of actors such as Eva Longoria, Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer meant commercial TV had a far greater impact than [US-funded TV news channel] al-Hurra which, according to one report, has cost US taxpayers up to $500m.

Another unusual fact: the Rotana channel, part-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, is proving to be remarkably popular in Saudi Arabia despite (or perhaps because of?) screening Fox News – not noted for its subtle coverage of Islam or the Middle East.

11.15pm: The New York Times has responded to Senator Joe Lieberman, from Robert Mackey’s top-notch WikiLeaks live blog:

A spokeswoman for The New York Times has responded to a suggestion by Sen. Joe Lieberman on Tuesday that the news organization, and others that published American diplomatic cables obtained and distributed by WikiLeaks, might be subject to criminal investigation.

“We believe that our decision to publish was responsible journalism, legal, and important to a democratic society,” Danielle Rhoades Ha, the communications director of The Times Company, said.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, explained this in detail in “A Note to Readers: The Decision to Publish Diplomatic Documents,” which was published on Nov. 29, with the first articles on the cables.

11.31pm: Mike Mukasey, George Bush’s last attorney general, appeared on the BBC tonight to join the chorus threatening action against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The Guardian’s Owen Bowcott reports:

The former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey last night said that US lawyers should try and extradite Assange to the United States for betraying government secrets. “If I was still in charge there would have been an investigation,” he told BBC Newsnight, “it would have been done promptly.

“This is a crime of a very high order. Julian Assange has been leaking this information. He came into possession of it knowing that it was harmful.”

Mukasey also implied that the Swedish sex accusations may only be holding charge. “When one is accused of a very serious crime it’s common to hold him in respect of a lesser crime … while you assemble evidence of a second crime.”

Once again, Mukasey doesn’t say exactly what US law either WikiLeaks or Assange has broken. But if he’s right then we will find out soon enough.

11.46pm: The latest revelations about the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi over fears of retribution by Libya draws a swift response from Scotland’s first minister (and SNP leader) Alec Salmond:

“The cables confirm what we always said – that our only interest was taking a justice decision based on Scots law without fear or favour, which was exactly what was done, and that our public position was identical to our private one.

“They also show that the former UK government were playing false on the issue, with a different public position from their private one – which must be deeply embarrassing for the Labour Party in Scotland – and that the US government was fully aware of the pressure being applied to the UK government.”

The Guardian’s coverage of the cables notes:

American diplomats were worried “Salmond and the SNP will look for opportunities to exploit the Megrahi case for their own advantage”. But when the Scottish justice minister finally announced a “compassionate release” to a storm of protest the following August, the US ambassador said the Scots had got out of their depth.

“The Scottish government severely underestimated both US government and UK public reaction to its decision … Alex Salmond has privately indicated that he was ‘shocked’.”

12 midnight: Time to wrap things up for the evening – here’s some last links to chew on.

• Reuters has this analysis of the charges against Julian Assange in Sweden:

The two Swedish women who accuse WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sexual misconduct were at first not seeking to bring charges against him. They just wanted to track him down and persuade him to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, according to several people in contact with his entourage at the time.

• The Associated Press has this eye-opener from the cables regarding Nicaragua:

US diplomats accuse Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government of taking bribes from drug traffickers and receiving “suitcases full of cash” from Venezuelan officials, according to confidential documents released this week by WikiLeaks.

The leaked documents from the US Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua, allege that Ortega has used drug money to finance campaigns for the Sandinista National Liberation Front. The money from international drug traffickers is “usually in return for ordering Sandinista judges to allow traffickers caught by the police and military to go free,” reads a May 5, 2006, cable from an embassy official.

• And finally: the author Naomi Wolf has drawn considerable hostile reaction for her piece in the Huffington Post today.

[EDIT: Thanks to bennettfiasco for the link]

The lawless Wild West attacks WikiLeaks

Monday, Dec 6, 2010 12:07 ET

The lawless Wild West attacks WikiLeaks 


(updated below – Update II – Update III)

WikiLeaks has never been charged with a crime, let alone indicted for one or convicted of one.  A consensus of legal experts agree that prosecuting the organization or Julian Assange for any of its leaks would be difficult in the extreme.  Despite those facts, look at just some of the punishment that has been doled out to them and what has been threatened:

The Guardian, December 3:

Wired, December 4:

News 24, December 4:

Raw Story, today:

CNET, December 2:

New York Times, December 2:

The Telegraph, December 1:

New York Daily News, November 28:

Just look at what the U.S. Government and its friends are willing to do and capable of doing to someone who challenges or defies them — all without any charges being filed or a shred of legal authority.  They’ve blocked access to their assets, tried to remove them from the Internet, bullied most everyone out of doing any business with them, froze the funds marked for Assange’s legal defense at exactly the time that they prepare a strange international arrest warrant to be executed, repeatedly threatened him with murder, had their Australian vassals openly threaten to revoke his passport, and declared them “Terrorists” even though — unlike the authorities who are doing all of these things — neither Assange nor WikiLeaks ever engaged in violence, advocated violence, or caused the slaughter of civilians.

This is all grounded in the toxic mindset expressed yesterday on Meet the Press (without challenge, naturally) by GOP Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said of Assange:  “I think the man is a high-tech terrorist. He’s done an enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law.”  As usual, when wielded by American authorities, the term “terrorist” means nothing more than: “those who impede or defy the will of the U.S. Government with any degree of efficacy.”  Anyone who does that is, by definition, a Terrorist.  And note McConnell’s typical, highly representative view that if someone he wants to punish isn’t a criminal under the law, then you just “change the law” to make him one.

But that sort of legal scheming isn’t even necessary.  The U.S. and its “friends” in the Western and business worlds are more than able and happy to severely punish anyone they want without the slightest basis in “law.”  That’s what the lawless, Wild Western World is:  political leaders punishing whomever they want without any limits, certainly without regard to bothersome concepts of “law.”  Anyone who doubts that should just look at what has been done to Wikileaks and Assange over the last week.  In this series of events, there are indeed genuine and pernicious threats to basic freedom and security; they most assuredly aren’t coming from WikiLeaks or Julian Assange.

People often have a hard time believing that the terms “authoritarian” and “tyranny” apply to their own government, but that’s because those who meekly stay in line and remain unthreatening are never targeted by such forces.  The face of authoritarianism and tyranny reveals itself with how it responds to those who meaningfully dissent from and effectively challenge its authority:  do they act within the law or solely through the use of unconstrained force?

* * * * *

Yahoo News!‘ Michael Calderone has a very good article documenting how major American media outlets — as always — snapped into line with the authorities they serve by ceasing to use the term “whistle-blower” to describe WikiLeaks.

One encouraging development is the emergence of hundreds of “mirror-WikiLeaks” sites around the world which make abolishing WikiLeaks pointless; that’s a good model for how to subvert Internet censorship efforts.  Those interested in doing that can find instructions here.

And here is a well-done site which asks:  “Why is WikiLeaks a Good Thing?”

UPDATE:  Just to underscore the climate of lawless initmidation that has been created:  before WikiLeaks was on many people’s radars (i.e., before the Apache video release), I wrote about the war being waged on them by the Pentagon, interviewed Assange, and urged people to donate money to them.  In response, numerous people asked — both in comments and via email — whether they would be in danger, could incur legal liability for providing material support to Terrorism or some other crime, if they donated to WikiLeaks.  Those were American citizens expressing that fear over an organization which had never been remotely charged with any wrongdoing.

Similarly, I met several weeks ago with an individual who once worked closely with WikiLeaks, but since stopped because he feared that his country — which has a very broad extradition treaty with the U.S. — would arrest him and turn him over to the Americans upon request.  He knew he had violated no laws, but given that he’s a foreigner, he feared — justifiably — that he could easily be held by the United States without charges, denied all sorts of basic rights under the Patriot Act, and otherwise be subject to a system of “justice” which recognizes few limits or liberties, especially when dealing with foreigners accused of aiding Terrorists.

All the oppressive, lawless policies of the last decade — lawless detention, Guantanamo, disappearing people to CIA black sites, rendition, the torture regime, denial of habeas corpus, drones, assassinations, private mercenary forces, etc. — were designed, first and foremost, to instill exactly this fear, to deter any challenge.   Many of these policies continue, and that climate of fear thus endures (see this comment from today as but one of many examples).  As the treatment just thus far of WikiLeaks and Assange demonstrates, that reaction — though paralyzing and counter-productive — is not irrational.  And one thing is for sure:  there is nothing the U.S. Government could do — no matter how lawless or heinous — which (with rare exception) would provoke the objections of the American establishment media.

UPDATE II:  Those wishing to donate to WikiLeaks can still do so here, via Options 2 (online credit card) or 3 (wire to bank in Iceland).

UPDATE III:  One more, from CNET, roughly 30 minutes ago:

As the article says, this is “a move that will dry up another source of funds for the embattled document-sharing Web site.”  Remember:  this is all being done not only without any charges or convictions, but also any real prospect of charging them with a crime, because they did nothing illegal.

WikiLeaks Live Updates 12.06

Posted: December 6, 2010 by jeredfiasco in Politics
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Via The Guardian

Posted by Matthew Weaver and Richard Adams Monday 6 December 2010 07.52 GMT

WikiLeaks US embassy cables: as it happened

• Julian Assange’s account frozen by Swiss bankers
• Burmese general considered buying Manchester United
• Qatar accused of using al-Jazeera as tool of diplomacy
Full coverage of the WikiLeaks cables
Today’s WikiLeaks US embassy cables live updates

wikileaks us blocks federal access WikiLeaks has been blocked from being accessed by federal employees of the US, because the files are still seen as classified. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

7.45am: A second working week of WikiLeaking kicks off with yet more controversy. WikiLeaks has published a list of “critical infrastructure and key resources” across the world. The Times dubs it a “targets for terror” list.

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus also sees it as a potential hit list: “If the US sees itself as waging a ‘global war on terror’ then this represents a global directory of the key installations and facilities – many of them medical or industrial – that are seen as being of vital importance to Washington,” he writes.

He describes the cable as “probably the most controversial document yet from the Wikileaks”.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks continues to make ripples across the world. The Daily Beast tracks the personnel changes forced on the US diplomatic service by disclosures.

The Obama administration is planning a major reshuffling of diplomats, military officers and intelligence operatives at US embassies around the world out of concern that WikiLeaks has made it impossible – if not dangerous – for many of the Americans to remain in their current posts, writes Philip Shenon.

“In the short run, we’re almost out of business,” a senior US diplomat told the Reuters news agency, according to a follow-up of the Daily Beast article in the Independent.

The fate of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, continues to attract much attention. The New York Times reports that hundreds of WikiLeaks mirror sites have sprung up to prevent efforts to censor its disclosures. Similarly the Guardian reports on an online backlash to shut the site down.

Australia’s attorney general, Robert McCelland, said that Australia would provide consular assistance to Assange if he returned to Australia. But at the same time he said his country was providing ”every assistance” to US authorities in their investigation against WikiLeaks.

Here are the headlines from the Guardian’s latest trawl through the cables:

Al-Jazeera changed coverage to suit Qatari foreign policy
Cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists
Lebanon told allies of Hezbollah’s secret network
Brazil denied existence of Islamist militants
WikiLeaks cables blame Chinese government for Google hacking

You can follow all of last week’s disclosures and reaction on our live blogs on the cables. And for full coverage go to our US embassy cables page or follow our US embassy cable Twitter feed @GdnCables.

8.06am: A new edition of the weekly German magazine Der Spiegel is published today with a slew of new stories from the cables.

The magazine, one of the five media organisations – including the Guardian – to have had early sight of the cables, focuses on what they reveal about the conflict in Iraq.

The Americans allowed themselves to get entangled in the Sunni-Shia conflict while being systematically outmanoeuvered by the Iranians, according to 5,500 about the war and its aftermath.

It also looks at what the cables say about Xi Jinping, China’s probable future leader and the inner workings of the Chinese politburo.

In an interview with the magazine, Prince Turki bin Faisal of Saudi Arabia, says America’s “credibility and honesty” has been damaged by the leaks. He describes the cables as “a hodgepodge of selectivity, inaccuracy, agenda pursuit, and downright disinformation”.

8.24am: The Today programme presenter Jim Naughtie is in all sorts of trouble after substituting a crucial letter in the surname of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, and then corpsing his way through the headlines.

James NaughtieBefore the gaffe Naughtie sneered at the Guardian’s WikiLeaks coverage. In a review of the papers at 6.12am he sarcastically described today’s Guardian’s splash as “another story that will make us all fall off our chairs with astonishment”.

8.49am: Much of the media continues to portray Julian Assange as a Bond villain holding the world to ransom.

Here’s today’s Daily Mail:

Julian Assange has distributed to fellow hackers an encrypted ‘poison pill’ of damaging secrets, thought to include details on BP and Guantanamo Bay.

He believes the file is his ‘insurance’ in case he is killed, arrested or the whistleblowing website is removed permanently from the internet.

The release of the “terror targets” plays into that view.

8.59am: The broadcaster al-Jazeera has denied that it is being used as a tool of Qatari diplomacy, as one of the cables claims.

In a statement it said:

This is the US embassy’s assessment, and it is very far from the truth. Despite all the pressure Al Jazeera has been subjected to by regional and international governments, it has never changed its bold editorial policies which remain guided by the principles of a free press.”

9.21am: More evidence that the release of the cable about the key infrastructure sites is being used as stick to beat WikiLeaks.

Here’s a tweet from Times columnist David Aaronovitch.

Live blog: TwitterI don’t see how the strategic sites cable fits into J Assange’s heroic rubric of disclosure. It looks more like like vandalism. #wikileaks

9.39am: The Guardian took a weekend break from liveblogging the cables, but the Nation didn’t. They work harder in America. Here’s Greg Mitchell’s roundup of Sunday’s WikiLeaks news.

My colleague Peter Walker is working on a summary of the WikiLeak revelations from today and over the weekend. While we wait for that, the respected analyst, Juan Cole, has a roundup of the weekend’s top 10 disclosures about the Middle East.

9.58am: While US students have been told that reading the cables could harm their careers, students in Indian are being told the opposite. Trainee diplomats at India’s Foreign Services Institute (FSI) have been urged to emulate the prose style displayed by the diplomats in the cables.

“The Ministry of External Affairs is asking its youngsters to read them [the cables] and get a hang of the brevity with which thoughts and facts have been expressed,” the Indian Express reports.

I’d recommend cables written by former US ambassador in Moscow William Burns, especially this one about a drunken wedding in Dagestan.

The cable is described as an “insightful, literate, and wry field report” by Reuel Marc Gerecht in the New Republic. He also likes the cables by Tatiana Gfoeller, the ambassador to Kyrgystan who reported on Prince Andrew’s rudeness.

10.23am: This is useful – a search engine for all the hundreds of cables already published by WikiLeaks. You can use it to see what everyone else is searching for too.

10.36am: Vancouver police have been asked by a lawyer to investigate whether a former aide to the Canadian prime minister broke the law when he called for the assassination of Julian Assange.

Last week Tom Flanagan called for the contract killing of the WikiLeaks founder in a live TV discussion. He later said he regretted the remarks.

Gail Davidson, a co-founder of the group Lawyers Against the War, has made a formal complaint to the police in Canada, according to the Vancover Sun.

In his online chat with Guardian readers last Friday Assange said those who called for his killing should be charged with incitement to murder.

11.09am: The Yemeni government faces some awkward questions later this week about why it lied about US attacks against al-Qaida.

“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh told David Petraeus in a now infamous cable in January this year.

Yemen’s parliament will question the deputy prime minister over the cables, MPs told Reuters.

Rashad al-Alimi, Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defence Affairs, has been asked to attend parliament on Wednesday to discuss the content of the secret U.S. documents, several MPs confirmed.

A government official told Reuters Alimi would go to parliament to answer parliamentarians’ questions, but said the information in the leaked documents were inaccurate.

“Of course this (information in the cables) is not true. Everyone in the world is complaining about the inaccuracies of these documents,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

11.30am: The company behind @Tweetbackup, the only Twitter account followed by WikiLeaks, has become the latest Tech provider to consider cutting off support to the whistleblowing stie.

“We just became aware of the Wikileaks account on Friday,” vice-president of marketing at Backupify told Networkworld. “We’re currently evaluating the situation.”

12.12pm: Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former UK foreign secretary and chair of the intelligence and security committee, has spoken out against the release of the cable listing those key infrastructure sites and resources.

Speaking to BBC News, he said:

Malcolm Rifkind MPThis is a gift to any terrorist organisation trying to work out what are the ways in which it can damage the United States. It is grossly improper and irresponsible of Mr Assange and his WikiLeaks organisation to allow that information into the public domain.

For things that reveal Nothing New™, the WikiLeaks documents sure are generating a lot of news headlines around the worldless than a minute ago via webGlenn Greenwald

12.58pm: Salon’s Glenn Greenwald continues to be one of the biggest cheerleaders for WikiLeaks and the disclosure of the these documents.

1.37pm: The United States needs to work “put in a lot of hard work” to re-establish confidence with the international community, according to Afghanistan’s foreign minister.

Speaking at news conference Zalmai Rassoul said: “Confidence should come back at all levels, it’s going to be a difficult job, but it’s necessary.”

1.43pm: David Leigh, the Guardian’s investigations’ editor who has done much of the reporting on the cables, responds to the Times story about “terror sites”. He says the Guardian chose not to publish the story.

Live blog: TwitterStrange to see the Times publishing a sensitive #Wikileaks cable which the #Guardian declined to do. Murdoch is helping terrorists?

1.51pm: The foreign secretary William Hague said WikiLeaks’ publication of those vital global sites was “reprehensible,” according to the BBC.

Was the Times also reprehensible for highlighting it? Was it being irresponsible by trying to highlight the irresponsibility of WikiLeaks? And were the Guardian right not to publish it? This is tricky stuff and way beyond my pay grade. Please help me out in the comments section.

While you ponder all that here’s that summary of what’s we’ve learned today, with links to summary’s of the revelations for each of the previous seven days.

2.21pm: Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has repeated his suggestion that those responsible for the leaks should be executed.

Last week he called for the death penalty for the whistleblower. At a Bet El Dinner for the Jewish community in New York last night he said whoever leaked the material should be “prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law”. His comments were greeted with applause.

Huckabee is trying to have it both ways. He went on to say that Israel should draw comfort from what the cables revealed about the the Arab world’s hostility to Iran.

2.36pm: James Ball an investigative journalist working with WikLleaks, asks why hasn’t The Guardian been hit by tech companies in the same way as WikiLeaks.

In a defiant post for the Index of Censorship, he writes:

Duplicate copies of Wikileaks are now loaded hundreds of different servers worldwide. Even PayPal’s closure of Wikileaks’ account has so far proved little more than an annoyance.

But even these could all vanish tomorrow, thanks to an even more traditional fallback: old media. The New York Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais are all running Wikileaks material.

All shared the same editorial judgement as Wikileaks having seen the material: they judged it in the public interest and chose to run it. At this point, these sites are running the same cables as Wikileaks. They have contributed to the redactions.

The Guardian website, at the time of writing, actually contains more US material than Wikileaks’ own. None have faced the political or technical backlash of the main Wikileaks site, yet all would have to be taken offline to bury the Embassy Cables story.

2.44pm: Wow, we certainly didn’t know this:

General Than ShweThe leader of Burma’s military junta was considering buying Manchester United for $1bn, according to the latest cable seen by the Guardian.

Than Shwe, commander in chief of the armed forces and a fan of United, was urged to mount a takeover bid by his grandson, according to a cable from the US embassy in Rangoon. It details how the regime was thought to be using football to distract its population from ongoing political and economic problems.

Would the general have got through the Premier League’s fit and proper persons test?

My boss tweets:

“Would’ve been better than the Glazers”, grumbled one Man U fan not far from the Guardian newsdesk.


3.00pm: Interpol have issued this online wanted poster for Julian Paul Assange.

Here’s the notice. It confirms that Assange is wanted by the Sweedish authorities in connection with allegations about “sex crimes”.

He denies the charges.

Yesterday, Assange’s lawyers they were being watched by the police.

Jennifer Robinson and Mark Stephens of the law firm Finers Stephens Innocent told the Guardian they had been watched by people parked outside their houses for the past week.

“I’ve noticed people consistently sitting outside my house in the same cars with newspapers,” said Robinson. “I probably noticed certain things a week ago, but mostly it’s been the last three or four days.”

Stephens said he, too, had had his home watched. Asked who he thought was monitoring him, he said: “The security services.”

3.15pm: Here’s that William Hague outrage in full.

Speaking to BBC radio he said:

There is great concern of course about disclosing a list of targets that could be of use to terrorists or saboteurs.

I think it is absolutely reprehensible the publication is carried out without regard to wider concerns of security, the security of millions of people

Live blog: substitutionTime to call it a day again. Come in Richard Adams.

Richard Adams

3.32pm: Thank you Matthew, and good morning from a chilly Washington DC, where many State Department officials are returning to work with jetlag after their hurried trips abroad to “explain” the contents of the US embassy cables to their foreign counterparts.

3.47pm: Triumphs in journalism, part 874 (Washington Post edition): as we blogged here last week, on Thursday the Washington Post’s Al Kamen buried a story in his column that the Federal government was forbidding employees to access the WikiLeaked US embassy cables since they were still classified. By Sunday the Post finally got around to reporting the same fact in a news story.

Are standards slipping at the Post? Well, today’s front page manages two cliches and a mixed metaphor in the space of one six-word headline (seen here in the top left corner): “Customs pushed envelope to hit goal”.

Columbia University library Columbia University. Well, the nice-looking bit. Photograph: Corbis

4.06pm: Last week there was consternation after a section of Columbia University sent an email to its students warning them against accessing or tweeting the leaked US embassy cables because of the future repercussions for their career in the US government. Now the dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs sends a clarification to the “SIPA community”:

Last Tuesday, SIPA’s Office of Career Services received a call from a former student currently employed by the US Department of State who pointed out that the US government documents released during the past few months through WikiLeaks are still considered classified. The caller suggested that students who will be applying for federal jobs that require background checks avoid posting links to these documents or making comments about them on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter.

OCS emailed this cautionary suggestion to students, as it has done many times with other
information that could be helpful in seeking employment after graduation. We know that many students today share a great deal about their lives online and that employers may use that information when evaluating their candidacy. Subsequent news stories have indicated that the Department of State has issued guidelines for its own employees, but has not issued any guidelines for prospective employees.

Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution. Thus, SIPA’s position is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences. The WikiLeaks documents are accessible to SIPA students (and everyone else) from a wide variety of respected sources, as are multiple means of discussion and debate both in and outside of the classroom.

Should the US Department of State issue any guidelines relating to the WikiLeaks documents for prospective employees, SIPA will make them available immediately.

Sincerely, John H Coatsworth, Dean

Fact: Columbia University was originally named King’s College when it was founded in 1754 by George II.

4.31am: Time magazine is running its annual poll of readers for its Person of the Year award – and Julian Assange is currently number one in the ratings, with more than 200,000 votes. He’s even leading Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – and every year Turks for some reason try and game this poll – which is saying something.

Oh, Glenn Beck’s fifth and Sarah Palin is in 10th place. Link bait, anyone?

4.34pm: Switzerland’s PostFinance bank announces it has closed an account belonging to Julian Assange, saying: “The decision comes after it was revealed that Assange provided false information regarding his place of residence when opening the account.” Here’s the statement:

PostFinance has ended its business relationship with Wikileaks founder Julian Paul Assange. The Australian citizen provided false information regarding his place of residence during the account opening process. Assange entered Geneva as his domicile. Upon inspection, this information was found to be incorrect. Assange cannot provide proof of residence in Switzerland and thus does not meet the criteria for a customer relationship with PostFinance. For this reason, PostFinance is entitled to close his account. If there is any indication that the information provided by an account holder may not comply with the detailed valid provisions, PostFinance investigates the circumstances in detail and draws the appropriate conclusions.

4.52pm: In response to the PostFinance bank’s announcement, WikiLeaks sends out its own press release:

The Swiss Bank Post Finance today issues a press release stating that it had frozen Julian Assange’s defense fund and personal assets (€31,000) after reviewing him as a “high profile” individual.

The technicality used to seize the defense fund was that Mr Assange, as a homeless refugee attempting to gain residency in Switzerland, had used his lawyer’s address in Geneva for the bank’s correspondence.

Late last week, the internet payment giant PayPal, froze €60,000 of donations to the German charity the Wau Holland Foundation, which were targeted to promote the sharing of knowledge via WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks and Julian have lost €100,000 in assets this week.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Cablegate exposure is how it is throwing into relief the power dynamics between supposedly independent states like Switzerland, Sweden and Australia.

WikiLeaks also has public bank accounts in Iceland (preferred) and Germany.

Please help cover our expenditures while we fight to get our assets back.

5.05pm: Latest from the US embassy cables – the Guardian’s Damian Carrington reports that the US used diplomatic moves to block an Iranian scientist from a post on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, because sharing the position with an American scientist would look bad:

The US privately lobbied IPCC chair Dr Rajendra Pachauri, as well as the UK, EU, Argentina and Mali representatives, and had put its embassies to work from Brazil to Uzbekistan. It wanted to prevent the election of Dr Mostafa Jafari as one of two co-chairmen of a key working group.

The other co-chair was to be an American scientist, Prof Christopher Field. The US state department noted that sharing the IPCC position with an Iranian would be “problematic” and “potentially at odds with overall US policy towards Iran”.

5.20pm: Here we go: the US attorney-general says he has unspecified “significant” actions in the works against WikiLeaks regarding a criminal investigation, although he won’t say what they are exactly they may be:

Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that he has authorized “significant” actions related to the criminal investigation of WikiLeaks as the website faces increasing pressure worldwide for publishing sensitive US diplomatic cables.

“National security of the United States has been put at risk,” Holder said. “The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way. We are doing everything that we can.”

Holder, speaking at a news conference on financial fraud, declined to answer questions about the possibility of the US government shutting WikiLeaks down, saying he does not want to talk about capabilities and techniques at the government’s disposal.

The great difficulty for the US authorities is that WikiLeaks and Assange haven’t actually broken any US laws, according to most legal observers. Which makes the whole prosecution thing a bit tricky.

5.41pm: So Eric Holder has a Secret Plan to fight WikiLeaks?

More detail from Holder’s press conference at the Department of Justice just now, with some useful quotes via Reuters:

US Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday the Obama administration was considering using laws in addition to the US Espionage Act to possibly prosecute the release of sensitive government information by WikiLeaks.

“That is certainly something that might play a role, but there are other statutes, other tools at our disposal,” Holder told reporters.

The Espionage Act dates back to 1917 and was focused on making it illegal to obtain national defense information for the purpose of harming the United States. Holder described the law as “pretty old” and lawmakers are considering updating it in the wake of the leak….

Holder also said that he authorised a number of unspecified actions as part of the criminal probe the Justice Department is conducting into the WikiLeaks matter.

“I authorised just last week a number of things to be done so that we can get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable,” Holder said. He repeatedly refused to elaborate whether that would include search warrants.

“I personally authorised a number of things last week and that’s an indication of the seriousness with which we take this matter and the highest level of involvement at the Department of Justice,” he said.

6.09pm: Did you know that in the US there’s a Progressive Librarians Guild? Neither did I, but there is and it has a statement out in the wake of the Library of Congress blocking access to WikiLeaks’s website:

The Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) condemns in the strongest possible terms the blocking of WikiLeaks by the Library of Congress and rejects on all grounds their arguments in defense of this move.

The action is a violation of American librarianship’s historic commitments to the public’s right to know, to freedom of the press, and to the very essence of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. It is also in violation of the American Library Association’s most fundamental commitments to intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights.

6.21pm: The Guardian reports on the Swiss action to close Julian Assange’s bank account (in which we also learn that Assange’s middle name is Paul) and some of the latest details:

It was also reported this afternoon that Scotland Yard had received the paperwork required to arrest Assange over allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.

But the [London] Metropolitan police declined to comment on the claim, attributed by Press Association to unnamed sources.

The BBC is more certain, writing:

Britain has received a European arrest warrant from Sweden for the Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange. The warrant is being processed by the Serious Organised Crime Agency and will be sent to the Metropolitan Police as he is thought to be in the London area.

6.40pm: Another entry for the “WikiLeaks needs to grow up” club: info-guru Clay Shirkey has just published an “on the one hand, on the other hand” analysis of the WikiLeaks cables – and concludes by just wringing his hands:

Over the long haul, we will need new checks and balances for newly increased transparency – Wikileaks shouldn’t be able to operate as a law unto itself anymore than the US should be able to. In the short haul, though, Wikileaks is our Amsterdam. Whatever restrictions we eventually end up enacting, we need to keep Wikileaks alive today, while we work through the process democracies always go through to react to change.

6.53pm: It’s delightful that the Swiss have suddenly become so fastidious about stopping non-residents from opening Swiss bank accounts. The AP reports:

PostFinance spokesman Alex Josty told The Associated Press the account was closed Monday afternoon and there would be “no criminal consequences” for misleading authorities. “That’s his money, he will get his money back,” Josty said. “We just close the account and that’s it.”

Live blog: Twitter

7pm: Hot off the Twitter-press, Heather Brooke has posted an alarming tweet on her@newsbrooke account: “Rumour is that arrest is imminent and that Julian Assange is going to turn himself in”.

Similar rumours went around on Friday so take with a pinch of salt.

7.20pm: US news organisations including the Associated Press have begun dropping the “whistleblower” adjective in describing WikiLeaks, as Michael Calderone reports at The Cutline blog:

The Associated Press, for one, used “whistleblower” as late as last Thursday in describing WikiLeaks but has since opted against it.

“We’ve had ‘whistleblower’ in some copy but have decided not to use it any longer,” AP spokesman Paul Colford told The Cutline. “Our description now reflects the site’s own name: a website that specialises in displaying leaked information.”

Colford didn’t say whether or not the AP considers “whistleblower” to be inaccurate, but simply said that “we think we have a better, clearer description, and that’s what we’re using.”

Meanwhile NBC News spokeswoman Lauren Kapp also told The Cutline that the network was retiring “whistleblower” in its WikiLeaks reports, even though it called WikiLeaks a “whistleblower” on last Monday’s “Nightly News with Brian Williams.” Reuters, which used “whistleblower” following the State Dept. leak, no longer uses it, either. “Our style guidelines ask that reporters not describe WikiLeaks as a whistleblower,” Reuters spokeswoman Erin Kurtz said.

As Calderone notes, the term “whistleblower” is likely to be viewed positively, as an individual speaking out against wrongdoing.

7.41pm: Peter Alexander of NBC News tweets:

Assange’s lawyer tells @NBCNews time & place being negotiated for mtg w #Assange. Unclear if he’ll be arrested.

7.49pm: It looks as if Julian Assange is going to hand himself in – Heather Brooke tweets:

UK police have extradition request from Sweden. Assange’s lawyer making arrangements to meet with police for interview

8.05pm: Julian Assange’s lawyer said tonight that he and his client were in the process of arranging to meet British police for a question and answer session.

“Julian Assange has not been charged with anything,” Mark Stephens told BBC television. “We are in the process of making arrangements to meet with the police by consent in order to facilitate the taking of that question and answer that’s needed.”

Stephens could not give details about when that might be arranged.

8.10pm: As the possibility of Julian Assange turning himself in looms, we’re going to close this live blog and hand things over to my colleagues in London – so for all the latest WikiLeaks news click here.