Tag Archives: United States Department of State

WikiLeaks: The Diversion of A Decade?

There’s a lot serious stuff going on in the world at the moment. But somehow the center of attention is a young man who has managed to piss of some politicians and generals by publishing documents that proves what most people already know – or at least suspected. The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now subject to the most intense manhunt by international authorities since Osama bin-Laden for having sex without a condom. The fact that a stack of reports have been issued, warning about further deterioration of the global economy, currency wars, political instability and exploding social unrest, seems to be mostly overlooked. Am I the only one to  think it’s a little peculiar?

“The WikiLeaks saga is trying its best to offer distraction, but the crisis in the euro zone remains impossible to ignore.”

Robin Bew


It’s been a strange, almost surreal, weekend. Personally I’ve been fighting off a couple of attempts to hack into my computer system, and never in the 15 years I’ve been online have I ran into so many error messages when trying to load pages on the internet. What makes it even more strange is that the WikiLeaks frenzy is happening at the same time as EU and NATO is conducting its first ever cyber war exercise, the US launch a massive operation to seize close to hundred file-sharing web sites and thousands of hackers all over the world gathered at an event organized by Google, Microsoft, NASA and the World Bank.

And all this have been planned long time ahead. The latest release of documents from WikiLeaks was also notified months in advance.

So was the scheduled release of several economic forecasts for 2011 last week. However, these have more or less been drowned in the avalanche of more or less (un)important Wiki-stories filling up both mainstream and alternative medias.

So, I think it’s time to get the focus back where it belongs; on the developments of our global economy, as the Eurogroup meet for another crisis meeting this Monday and Bloomberg reports that the euro’s worst is yet to come.

“The WikiLeaks saga is trying its best to offer distraction, but the crisis in the euro zone remains impossible to ignore. With fears of contagion increasing, our ViewsWire service examines scenarios under which countries might exit the single currency,” chief economist Robin Bew at The Economist Intelligence Unit writes in an email to subscribers. Adding: “We think the euro will ultimately survive, but significant political and economic hurdles will have to be overcome, with Portugal now likely to follow Ireland and Greece in requesting emergency EU/IMF funding.”

Last week EIU released a bunch of reports, based on separate analysis on each topic.

You have to look very hard to find something positive to hold on to. In fact, I can’t remember having read anything like this from The Economist in a very long time.

This is the headlines:

The EIU label the three first predictions with “High Probability,”  the next three as “Moderate Probability” and the two last are seen as “Low Probability”.

As I’ve been pointing out since the financial crisis became visible to most people, we are in fact dealing with a three-part crisis; the financial, the environmental and the social.

There three problems are connected, they interact with each other, feeds on each other, making each other stronger – and it’s impossible to solve one without solving the others.

Robin Bew writes:

“The UN climate summit under way in Cancún, Mexico is highly unlikely to produce a global accord on emissions cuts, though modest gains, such as on forest protection, remain possible.”

Well, the possibility of rescuing a few trees is not gonna make much difference.

As for the social (poverty) crisis, Economist Intelligence Unit concludes:

“The risk is that instability becomes systemic, with political crises in certain countries affecting others through contagion or through the actions of populist new regimes seeking to assert themselves. Potential widespread disruption poses a considerable downside risk to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global economic forecasts.”

That’s right. Sovereign debt problems isn’t the only thing that is contagious.

The Economist Intelligence Unit‘s baseline global forecast assumes some increase in social and political unrest, but with serious fallout largely avoided. If economic circumstances were to worsen again, however, there is a danger though that incidents of unrest turn into far more intense and long-lasting events: armed rebellions, military coups, civil conflicts and perhaps even wars between states. In such circumstances, a repetition of the pressures that transformed global politics in the 1930s, though a far-removed worst-case scenario, could not be dismissed.”

In other words: If the economy gets worse, we may face a World War II scenario.

Now, take a look at the top three scenarios again…

First: Sovereign debt

“There are considerable concerns about the sustainability of public debt positions in a number of countries. Heavily indebted sovereigns – including developed economies, notably in the euro zone – could struggle to raise private financing even at higher interest rates, and some could default.”

“The US and the UK also face drastically increased fiscal deficits. They could moderate their debt burdens through inflation and devaluation but this risks undermining their bond markets, and the resultant spike in bond yields could force an acceleration of fiscal tightening, with highly negative implications for economic recovery.”

“Emerging-market defaults would create some ructions more widely, but as developed-country sovereign bonds have traditionally been considered risk-free, developed-country defaults in particular would wreak havoc on investor psychology. Banks would face write-downs on their government debt portfolios, and financial-sector guarantees by governments that default would be exposed as worthless.”

(Forecast: High probability, high impact, risk level 16)

Second: New Asset Bubble

“A flood of cheap money from stimulus measures, in particular carry trades drawing on record-low interest rates in the US, prompted a strong rally in a range of assets in the second half of 2009 and in 2010, particularly emerging-market stocks and bonds, but also in risky asset classes such as equities, high-yield bonds and commodities more broadly.”

“New bubbles could continue to grow for a considerable period of time, potentially several years, during which they will help to boost growth in the economies concerned. But they would burst suddenly, and still-fragile risk appetite could be a factor in this – a decline in risk tolerance could see investors pull their money out of emerging-market assets. Indeed, the rally in asset markets has been subject to periodic reversals in 2010 as concerns about the outlook for the global economy have re-emerged.”

“New asset bubbles may be vulnerable to painful corrections as central banks in emerging markets tighten monetary policy, fiscal stimulus is withdrawn, and the weak foundations of recovery become apparent. The resultant dislocations, including a shock to banks and a renewed rise in risk aversion, would reinforce and deepen a new economic slowdown.”

(Forecast: High probability, high impact, risk level 16)

Third: Currency Manipulation

“Tensions are rising over attempts by some countries to weaken their currencies, and the US and China remain at odds over the value of the renminbi. A global “currency war” would raise the danger of protectionist responses.”

“Tensions over exchange-rates have risen in recent months. The US Congress has been holding hearings on China’s exchange-rate policy, with a view to potential legislation to punish China for what the US regards as a mercantilist strategy of keeping the renminbi artificially low. A growing cohort of other countries are also worried about the strength of their currencies, including Brazil, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea. Market interventions by policymakers in some countries to weaken their currencies prompted Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, to warn of an “international currency war”.”

“Given the closely integrated nature of the global economy, governments will find it difficult to close off many aspects of trade, even if they want to. But trade disputes are likely to increase as populist policies clash with countries’ international obligations.”

(Forecast: High probability, high impact, risk level 16)

All eight summaries are uploaded on Scribd.

By the way – here’s the latest WikiLeaks stories:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested in UK (BBC)

Feds block workers from WikiLeaks (CNET.com)

MasterCard pulls plug on WikiLeaks payments (CNET.com)

Swiss Bank Closes WikiLeaks Founder’s Bank Accounts (RadioFreeEurope)

WikiLeaks‘ Swedish servers come under attack again (The Herald Tribue)

Barack Omama Is More Dangerous Than WikiLeaks (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research)

WikiLeaks Releases List of “Vital” US Facilities (Slate.com)

Google refuses to disclose whether they’d allow users to repost Wikileaks‘ State Department cables (The Atlantic)

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Wiki-Founder Compare Upcoming Bank Leak To Enron

In an interview with Forbes, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says that his whistleblower site will release tens of thousands of documents from a major US financial firm in early 2011. Assange will not say exactly what date, what bank, or what documents, but he compare the coming release to the emails that emerged in the Enron trial – a comprehensive look at a corporation’s bad behavior.

“You could call it the ecosystem of corruption.”

Julian Assange

Julian Assange Talks To Forbes' Andy Greenberg

“It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” the Whistleblower in Chief. Julian Assange, says.“You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision-making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest.”

So, the big buzz on Wall Street at the moment is; who is that bank?

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I won’t speculate, but I’m really looking forward to see what Assange & Co comes up with next time.

WikiLeaks have recently published hundreds of thousands of government documents: 76,000 classified documents from the war in Afghanistan, another 392,000 from Iraq, and on Sunday, the first piece of an ongoing exposure of millions of diplomatic messages sent between the US State Department and its embassies.

Assange says the site has received more documents than its able to publish. About half those unpublished submissions are related to the private sector.

He confirmed that WikiLeaks has damaging, unpublished material from the pharmaceutical industry, financial firms, and energy companies.

The Forbes interview with Julian Assange is quite an interesting read.

Here’s a little part of it:

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JA: We’re totally source dependent. We get what we get. As our profile rises in a certain area, we get more in a particular area. People say, why don’t you release more leaks from the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us.

F: These megaleaks, as you call them, we haven’t seen any of those from the private sector.

JA: No, not at the same scale as for the military.

F: Will we?

JA: Yes. We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it.

F: Is it a US bank?

JA: Yes, it’s a US bank.

F: One that still exists?

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JA: Yes, a big US bank.

F: The biggest US bank?

JA: No comment.

F: When will it happen?

JA: Early next year. I won’t say more.

F: What do you want to be the result of this release?

JA: [Pauses] I’m not sure.

It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.

Usually when you get leaks at this level, it’s about one particular case or one particular violation. For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails. Why were these so valuable? When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed. It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations.

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This will be like that. Yes, there will be some flagrant violations, unethical practices that will be revealed, but it will also be all the supporting decision-making structures and the internal executive ethos that cames out, and that’s tremendously valuable. Like the Iraq War Logs, yes there were mass casualty incidents that were very newsworthy, but the great value is seeing the full spectrum of the war.

You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision-making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.

F: How many dollars were at stake in this?

JA: We’re still investigating. All I can say is it’s clear there were unethical practices, but it’s too early to suggest there’s criminality. We have to be careful about applying criminal labels to people until we’re very sure.

F: Can you tell me anything about what kind of unethical behavior we’re talking about?

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JA: No.

F: You once said to one of my colleagues that WikiLeaks has material on BP. What have you got?

JA: We’ve got lots now, but we haven’t determined how much is original. There’s been a lot of press on the BP issue, and lawyers, and people are pulling out a lot of stuff. So I suspect the material we have on BP may not be that original. We’ll have to see whether our stuff is especially unique.

F: The Russian press has reported that you plan to target Russian companies and politicians. I’ve heard from other WikiLeaks sources that this was blown out of proportion.

JA: It was blown out of proportion when the FSB reportedly said not to worry, that they could take us down. But yes, we have material on many business and governments, including in Russia. It’s not right to say there’s going to be a particular focus on Russia.

F: Let’s just walk through other industries. What about pharmaceutical companies?

JA: Yes. To be clear, we have so much unprocessed stuff, I’m not even sure about all of it. These are just things I’ve briefly looked at or that one of our people have told me about.

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F: How much stuff do you have? How many gigs or terabytes?

JA: I’m not sure. I haven’t had time to calculate.

F: Continuing then: The tech industry?

JA: We have some material on spying by a major government on the tech industry. Industrial espionage.

F: US? China?

JA: The US is one of the victims.

F: What about the energy industry?

JA: Yes.

F: Aside from BP?

JA: Yes.

F: On environmental issues?

JA: A whole range of issues.

F: Can you give me some examples?

JA: One example: It began with something we released last year, quite an interesting case that wasn’t really picked up by anyone. There’s a Texas Canadian oil company whose name escapes me. And they had these wells in Albania that had been blowing. Quite serious. We got this report from a consultant engineer into what was happening, saying vans were turning up in the middle of the night doing something to them. They were being sabotaged. The Albanian government was involved with another company; There were two rival producers and one was government-owned and the other was privately owned.

So when we got this report; It didn’t have a header. It didn’t say the name of the firm, or even who the wells belonged to.

Read the whole interview with Julian Assange – and more about WikiLeaks – at Forbes.com.

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WikiLeaks Under Massive Cyber Attack

WikiLeaks.org says its website is targeted by a massive computer attack. The attack started just hours before the  expected release of classified US documents. In spite of the attack, the files have been released, revealing among other things that the US government ordered surveillance of UN. leaders.
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“The US  military must electronically assault WikiLeaks and any telecommunications company offering its services to this organization.”
Former US State Department Adviser

CNN reports that a hacker named “the Jester,” who claims to have been involved with US Special Forces, is claiming responsibility for the attack on the Wikileaks site “for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ and  foreign relations.”
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At 7:30 PM the Cablegate.Wikileaks.org web site is up, though the group says “the embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months.”
In another poke at the US government, WikiLeaks is using Seattle-based Tableau Software, a visualization company that grew out of a Defense Department project, to host some of the files.
The New York Times, which claims it did not get the files directly from WikiLeaks but honored the embargo, has posted an interesting exchange between Assange and the US embassy in London. The Obama administration never asked the NYT not to publish.
And here’s one intriguing document highlighted by British newspaper, The Guardian: At least as of mid-2009,Israel believed it had until December 2010 to attack Iran’s suspected nuclear facilities!
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Details US surveillance
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According to the documents, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year ordered clandestine surveillance of United Nations leadership, including obtaining “security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys, and types of VPN versions used” and biometric information.

The July 2009 directive issued under Clinton’s name, which also asks for details about “information systems, networks, and technologies used by top officials and their support staffs,” sheds a  rare light on the shady world of government espionage.

That classified dispatch is part of a massive document dump, about 250,000 diplomatic cables, that began appearing on the Internet this morning.

WikiLeaks provided the files in advance to news organizations including Germany’s Der Spiegel and Spain’s El Pais and has said it would wait before releasing the cables on its own website.

Chinese Leaders Behind Google Attacks

Another disclosure from the files is that China’s Politburo ordered the electronic intrusions into Google’s computer network that became public in January, prompting the company to rethink its Chinese operations, according to what a Chinese contact told the US embassy.

China has denied the charges.

That intrusion was reportedly conducted by a combination of government hackers and private security experts, who reportedly also targeted US government computers, those of the Dalai Lama, and other American companies.

Some of the companies that previously been named as victims include Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman, and Dow Chemical, and Adobe Systems has confirmed a “sophisticated, coordinated attack” against its corporate network.

Leaked From The US

It seems like the economy is not the only thing leaking in the US.

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The files appear to have originated from the US Defense Department‘s SIPRNET, which is used for exchanging information up to the secret level and is jointly administered by the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

SPIRNET itself stands for Secret IP Router Network.

In July, Pfc. Bradley Manning was charged with obtaining “more than 150,000 diplomatic cables” in violation of the law and is suspected of being WikiLeaks’ source.

First Cyber Attack By US Government ?

The Washington Times and a former Bush administration official suggest that WikiLeaks.org is the first public target for an US government cyber attack.

In addition, a Republican senator have  proposed a law targeting WikiLeaks, and conservative commentators have called for WikiLeaks front man Julian Assange to be arrested.

Sweden has issued an international arrest warrant for Julian Assange – for the second time – after he was upheld by an appeals court on sexual assault charges.

Assange was later released due to lack of evidence, but now it seems like “the evidence” suddenly has turned up again…

The White House have issued the following statement:

“These cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only US foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world. To be clear–such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.”

Australia is investigating whether today’s release violated its laws. (Assange has an Australian passport.)

Labeled As Terrorists
Conservative commentators argues that Wikileaks.org should be shut down by any means necessary.

One Washington newspaper argued that WikiLeaks’ offshore Web site should be attacked and rendered “inoperable” by the US government.

An US State Department adviser, who served under President George W. Bush, writes in a column that the US  military must “electronically assault WikiLeaks and any telecommunications company offering its services to this organization.”

And some have already labeled WikiLeaks as a terrorist organisation.

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