No Wonder U.S. Was So Desperate To Capture Julian Assange

Julian_Assange

Have you been following the latest news on Wikileaks? Some very interesting information has been coming out in the past two days. I’m beginning to understand why the Obama administration–along with some foreign governments were so anxious to arrest Julian Assange and shut down Wikileaks. Thanks to Bradley Manning and Assange, news organizations are revealing plenty about what our government was been up to in the 1970s.

Yesterday, the Guardian published a shocking expose of the U.S. torture and death squad operations in Iraq. The article reveals direct connections between the Pentagon and Iraqi “torture centers.” In addition, Guardian researchers showed how Iraq policy grew out of America’s “dirty wars” in Vietnam and Latin America with a veteran of those past outrages, retired Army Colonel James Steele, leading the way.

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.

Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.

After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.

Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.

Where did all this information come from? You guessed it.

The Guardian/BBC Arabic investigation was sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by the police commandos across Iraq. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years after he pleaded guilty to leaking the documents.

The Guardian also made available to a 51-minute documentary focused on “the mystery man of Iraq,” James Steele. It’s also posted on YouTube, so I’ve embedded it here. You can also watch it on the Guardian website. I watched it yesterday, and plan to watch it again.

If you can’t watch the whole thing right now, here’s a good summary and evaluation of the documentary by William Boardman at Op-Ed News.

As if that weren’t enough, today Wikileaks released “1.7m US diplomatic and intelligence reports covering every country in the world” in a searchable database called “Plus D.” The Daily Mail reports:

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks today published more than 1.7million U.S. records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world. The data released today includes more than 1.7million U.S. diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976 – covering a traffic of cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.
WikiLeaks described the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD) as the world’s largest searchable collection of U.S. confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.

Much of the work was carried out by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 41, during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been staying since last summer….

The Ecuadorian Government has granted Mr Assange political asylum and has repeatedly offered Swedish prosecutors the chance to interview him at the embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.
Mr Assange said the information showed the ‘vast range and scope’ of U.S. diplomatic and intelligence activity around the world.

These cables weren’t even leaked! They came from the National Archives, but Wikileaks organized the material so that it could be used by news organization and individuals. According to News.com.au, Plus D is ‘What Google should be like’, says Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Some examples of tidbits from the database that have been published today:

Salon — Kissinger: The illegal we do immediately; unconstitutional takes longer

HuffPo — WikiLeaks: Vatican Dismissed Pinochet Massacre Reports As ‘Communist Propaganda’

The Australian News — WikiLeaks reveals US Thatcher memo

The Atlantic — WikiLeaks ‘Kissinger Cables’ Reveal How Much Russians Loved Joni Mitchell

You can search the database yourself here.


Friday Reads: It’s Carnival Time

Good  Morning

You probably think you’re at the wrong blog!!  I’ve had a few folks say the gray print and the gray background were hard to read and dreary.  So, I spiffed up the front page a bit.

So, is this easier to read?

Welcome to the Carnival Season!

New Orleans has said so long to the holidays and used the Twelfth Night observance to kick off the Carnival season, which will be extra long this year.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, accompanied by New Orleans clarinetist Pete Fountain, on Thursday served up slices of king cake at historic Gallier Hall, where the mayor greets parading royalty on Mardi Gras Day.Between Thursday and when Carnival celebrations wrap up March 8, about 100 parades will roll through area streets or float down waterways.

The Phunny Phorty Phellows rolled Thursday Night.  They’re the first official parade of Mardi Gras.  They  rent one of the St. Charles Avenue street cars then ride and drink their way up and down St Charles Avenue to usher in the season!  They’re a really old krewe that was resurrected in the 1980s.  It’s one of the most fun and least commercial of the krewes and parades.  You can see some pictures of them from last year if you follow the link.

Well, they’re off and dragging their knuckles through the Halls of Congress!  Yes, Republicans are bringing greedy back.  It’s so bad that the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce are  joining up to fight them off. Yes, you read that right.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO — two powerful players that are often at each other’s throats — are considering teaming up for a campaign against the House GOP’s planned cuts to infrastructure spending, spokespeople for both groups tell me.

The two groups rarely agree on anything, and frequently target each other in the harshest of terms, but one thing they agree on is that they don’t want the House GOP to make good on its threat to subject highway and mass-transit programs to budget cuts. GOP leaders announced earlier this week that such cuts could not be taken off the table in the quest to slice up to $100 billion in spending.

The prospect of deep infrastructure cuts may now lead to the unlikely sight of the Chamber and the huge labor federation, both of which boast powerful and well-funded political operations, teaming up to campaign against the House GOP’s plans. The Chamber — a staunch ally of House Republicans that spent millions in the 2010 elections — has already been pushing back against cuts to highway spending because it could lead to more job losses in the construction industry.

MSNBC reports that protests are growing over the treatment of whistle blower Bradley Manning.

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