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Wikileaks interview: 'We are changing the game'

David Wroe · 30 Jul 2010, 16:25

Published: 30 Jul 2010 16:25 GMT+02:00

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To some, they are the future of crusading, investigative journalism. To others, they have recklessly endangered lives. Either way, Wikileaks changed the rules of whistle-blowing this week with what appears to be the biggest leak in history.

Notionally led by the nomadic, white-haired Australian Julian Assange, Wikileaks has no home base, no owner and – critics say – no accountability for what it publishes.

Afghan informants and ISAF soldiers fighting the Taliban could be killed because of details revealed in the documents, they say.

Yet Wikileaks are indubitably at the vanguard of a fundamental change in the way classified information is leaked.

With this week’s release of 92,000 classified US documents on the Afghanistan war, Wikileaks broke new ground with an unprecedented collaboration with three of the world’s biggest media organizations: Germany’s Der Spiegel, Britain’s Guardian newspaper and The New York Times.

Daniel Schmitt, a 32-year-old former IT security specialist from Berlin is, along with Assange, the public face of Wikileaks.

What did you want to achieve with the release of these documents?

We were hoping for a more informed debate about the situation in Afghanistan. From the reaction we’re getting, this is exactly what is happening.

You feel it’s had the impact you wanted?

If you ask me, it’s just at the beginning. For the first few days, news (organisations) were just nervously reporting that it was out, and scratching the surface. This is shifting to a content-related debate now. Lots of politicians here in Germany are starting to comment. (Opposition parties) in the parliament have stated that the mandate to continue the Afghanistan war will depend on findings from these reports. A public debate is exactly what is happening.

You’ve faced a wave of accusations in the past five days that Wikileaks has endangered individuals, particularly Afghan informants. What’s your response?

On the human level I can perfectly understand. It’s one of the reasons we’ve withheld these 15,000 documents. It’s certainly not something we don’t care about. On the other hand, with such a volume of records, it’s a very large effort and practically impossible to make sure there’s nothing in between that we might overlook.

You admit there could be material in there that endangers people?

Every piece of information you publish has the possibility that someone might be harmed. I’m not saying this is an easy thing or that we don’t care about this. I don’t want to give the wrong impression there, but on the other hand, that is something we have to be honest about.

The far greater danger with this whole war and the whole situation in Afghanistan seems to be that decisions are being taken on an ill-informed basis. That is far more dangerous for people involved than any single document.

Have you thought at any time since Sunday that you should have been more thorough about removing information that could expose people?

No. I think 'regret' would be the wrong term. It was always clear that this was a possibility. You can never be 100 percent safe. The only way to be 100 percent safe would be not to publish it at all. And this is far too important to step back because you fear the mere possibility.

It’s been reported that you still have a huge amount of material you haven’t published yet. Is that true?

Since December we’ve received about 25 submissions per day, so even if half of that is complete bullshit … it’s still a huge amount of documents. These have to be processed and put out. That’s going to be information from all over the world, from all walks of life, from all industries.

How do you authenticate the material? How do you know if it’s real?

We work with 800 experts on verification of the material we get. First there is a technical verification, which means we forensically look at documents and see if the technical properties fit with the content – you can see if someone has photoshopped something for example.

Then we have the regular mechanisms that every journalist uses, like calling up organisations and asking about it, doing a content check, matching it with the facts. It’s a fairly robust process.

Is this the future of journalism?

We are changing the game here. Look at the sheer amount of really good leaks we’ve had in the past three years. The whole idea of automating the leaking process is changing the way that society works.

Why do whistle-blowers come to you rather than going, say, to a newspaper?

Because we publish the documents in full. Look at what a source wants – a source wants the maximum impact for their revelation. They want to change something. If they go to a newspaper, the newspaper will keep the information to themselves so they have a scoop and they won’t share the information with other newspapers to work on further. When we publish something, everyone can write a story about it.

Why did you involve three news outlets: Der Spiegel, the Guardian and the New York Times?

First, in the past when we’ve just put out publications that are complex and large in volume, and not given anyone a heads-up, and none of the media have done a good analysis because they didn’t have the calmness of being able to review it without any competitive pressure.

Second, we’ve been looking into ways of collaboration with regular media for quite a while. This is one of the first tests in such a collaborative effort on an international basis and the experience we get can help with setting up more regular collaborations with a much broader field of media.

Are you happy with the way the newspapers handled the information this time?

Yes, I think so. Julian has some issues with the New York Times. They didn’t link to us and the writing was pretty defensive. There was no cost involved (to them) and they haven’t as far as I can tell donated to us either – I can understand there’s some disappointment.

What kind of future collaborations are you looking at?

Pretty soon we’re going to introduce the distributed submissions system. Newspapers in the future can have a Wikileaks button on their websites, ideally under every story. People who are reading your stories and might have documents to contribute, or feel that you are a good newspaper and want to give you their documents, can submit them via this button and we know that you have sourced it and you get the embargoed access for two weeks.

Then you can analyse and we will publish in co-operation with you. This will take away the burden for us of deciding whom to work with. We are neutral. We don’t actually want to pick the New York Times or the Guardian or anyone else. We want people to work on an equal basis with us. We’d like to pass this decision onto the source, who might have a preference.

Do you ever feel that information is dangerous? Not just the identities of individuals but a whole set of facts, for example?

There are all sorts of hypothetical examples but we have internally agreed to wait until they come up. But I totally agree: there is no doubt for us that there is a lot of information that is not supposed to be public.

Story continues below…

Tell us a bit about yourself. Stories written about you say you and Julian don’t pay yourselves salaries from the Wikileaks donations. How do you live?

I had a job in IT security until January 2009 which I then quit to focus on this project. Right now I’m living from the savings I have and that’s what everyone else is doing.

That can’t go on forever.

No, we need to start paying ourselves a salary. Right now, we still manage to avoid spending time on that subject, somehow. As long as it does not hurt too much not having a salary, we can focus on other stuff, but at some point, this discussion certainly has to be had.

Do you move around or live permanently somewhere?

I live permanently in Berlin.

Do you have any trouble with authorities?

No and I don’t expect any either. Germany has fairly good laws and I still believe in the rule of law.

Julian moves around a lot, it is said.

Yes, I moved around a lot with him. But that’s not my way … I need a more permanent basis, starting with the fact that I need to cook from time to time. Julian is more nomadic. He prefers not to eat at all.

You’re clearly smart people. You could be making a lot of money if you started your own business. Why did you choose to do this instead?

Everyone with a skill or a talent has the responsibility to act responsibly within his community. When this project came into being it was pretty clear this could really change things and it could help make the world a little bit more just.

David Wroe (david.wroe@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:40 July 30, 2010 by Gretl
Debating involvement in a war against Islamic extremists who wish to unite the Muslim world in fighting a western "crusade" is one thing, exposing classified information without context, without vetting, without redacting names is criminal.

I hope the PVT who was removed from theatre and charged with leaking the documents is executed for treason. All MI soldiers know the consequences of their actions in wartime, it is time to set the bar. Stop the leaks, and Wikileaks stop. We cannot prosecute Germans and Australians for leaking classified information. If only more journalist had ethical integrity.
20:11 July 30, 2010 by eveningstar
"a shadowy organisation", "mysterious group of hackers" who are you talking about? Not Wikileaks obviously because they are a legitimate organisation who promote transparency in government (& they are NOT hackers).

The only way to have an informed, intelligent debate about war (or anything) is to have all the facts available. Those who suggest ignorance is saving lives are grossly misguided.
21:45 July 30, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Gretl wants to (literally) kill the messenger. A bit draconian, in my view, in light of the atrocities associated with this war. Under Gretl's rubric, Daniel Ellsberg would have been subject to the penalties of treason as well for exposing the lies about Vietnam. I see him as an American hero at a dark time when America really needed one. We could use a few more Ellsbergs today.

If one is demanding "context, vetting and redacting names" for every story published, the last place to look is on the internet, which is a veritable galaxy of facts, lies, factoids, propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, defamation and some rare kernels of truth, almost all of it completely devoid of context. Wikileaks is actually doing what the Fox Noise Propaganda Network falsely proclaims as its motto: "We report, you decide." Good for Wikileaks and those who toil on its behalf. Fact -based journalism might indeed make a comeback.
22:02 July 30, 2010 by ReaderX
Funny how the soldier that accessed, stole and gave away data is being turned by some of you into some sort of journalist or hero. The guys' a criminal and deserves to be punished for his crimes. His job was not to "toil" on "behalf" of wikileaks.

Yeah as the old saying goes all fun and games...

But this time when one's relative or friend who serves or is killed due to such negligence then it won't be so fun anymore.
23:53 July 30, 2010 by sorochin
When information embarassing to the government is leaked we always hear the old song and dance that this in endangering soldiers, when what it's really endangering is the credibility of our dear leaders. While we're punishing criminals, are we going to punish Bush, Cheney and the other criminals who started these illegal actions with their lies?
00:16 July 31, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Reader X --

I never suggested that the soldier or soldiers who provided the documents to Wikileaks was "toiling" on behalf of Wikileaks. He or they were acting out of conscience. Wikileaks is merely a conduit for fact-based information. If the information in publishes happens to embarrass the American and NATO warlords, then so be it. Ultimately it should be up to the people to decide whether a war should be prosecuted on their behalf, not the military. The soldier or soldiers should be applauded for helping to make public the dirty little secrets the governments have known all along and have concealed from their citizens.

Journalists would be protected for doing exactly the same thing. In this era of the internet, where news agencies have become cheerleaders for their governments' military adventures instead of objective reporters, it is up to people of conscience to fill the void. So-called "legitimate" news agencies such as CNN actively recruit citizen "reporters," then censor and filter whatever they provide to suit their political and corporate agendas. Wikileaks is performing a vital service that used to be performed by the news agencies, which only proves that you don't need a press card issued by the government to be a reporter.

Finally, I agree wholeheartedly with sorochin. Who's going to punish the real villains of this story? No one.
01:04 July 31, 2010 by Meringer
Gee, I wonder how WWII would have went if some organization like this one was around to publish D-Day plans or to publish a list of underground resistance members? I don't see the difference in these irresponsible traitors. If they have evidence of crimes or wrongdoings, then by all means, bring them to the proper authorites or the World Court, but to publish everything without discrimination is criminal.
02:55 July 31, 2010 by Prufrock2010
The United States is not a signatory to the World Court precisely because it refuses to have its personnel subject to war crimes prosecutions. These documents have been heavily redacted to protect sources. The military movements and missions were of no surprise to any of the governments involved.

I do think it's worthwhile to disclose that documented facts have now emerged that the Pakistani Intelligence Service has been taking billions of dollars from the US while at the same time harboring al Qaeda operatives and orchestrating Talibani attacks on US and NATO forces, as well as assassination attempts against Puppet Karzai.. Rather than be vilified, those who provided and published those documents should be given medals and Pulizer Priizes.

We all live in a world of unfettered information. Can we handle the information we receive? This should be an interesting test case for all of us, not just arbitrary government secrecy. We are more than 9 years into an unwinnable and ever-escalating war that is bankrupting the West and the US in particular, with no end in sight. My hat's off to those with the courage to do something about it before it is really too late.
08:07 July 31, 2010 by Cynical175
At least Wikileaks had the B..lls to standup for what is right. We are continued being lied too and manipulated by our governments. It is a nice change to see our representatives squirming for a change. The spin doctors are sure making overtime on this.

But I don¦#39;t understand the US governments spin. On one hand the say this is old information that is no longer relevant. Than they change their tune and now, if you listen to them, this will wipe out the US forces in Afghanistan. Wonder how they really can reconcile the 2 different views.

Who I really feel sorry for is the blind loyalty that the soldiers have. They are been send to wars that are nothing more than a fabrication to support i.e. the military industry, some politicians ego or gaining control over parts of this world.

Bring the soldiers home now. And if they have to die fighting let it be in their own country defending their own country.

No more US support for their adventures. The last 3 wars they did fight were creations of their imaginations. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have no hope EVER to win in Afghanistan and Iraq is not a certain thing either. Let¦#39;s forget the little ones such as Panama, Granada etc.

It is because of people at Wikileaks that we get a glimmer of what our governments are doing. Keep it up Wikileaks. Great job, looking forward to see the 15000
10:07 July 31, 2010 by johnny108
This man is a hypocrite, and a liar.

If he does believe in the rule of law, he would honor the various countries' (INCLUDING Germany!!) LAWS about espionage-

rather than publish secret information, he would work WITH Intelligence agencies, and assist them in identifying the "leak" AKA the "source" of the information he is so happy to publish right now. He is a coward with no moral code!
10:53 July 31, 2010 by whatzup
If just one Afghan or serviceman is killed as a result of these leaks then Daniel Schmitt and his arrogant cohorts should be thrown in the slammer. These Ellsberg wanabes need a long time in enforced seclusion to meditate about the consequences of providing aid to the enemy. Idiots.
12:35 July 31, 2010 by ReaderX
Well prufrock2010 It appears you have forgotten what you stated in post number 3.

"21:45 July 30, 2010 by Prufrock2010 Good for Wikileaks and those who toil on its behalf. Fact -based journalism might indeed make a comeback.? Then you post that you are not claiming such. Might want to get your stories together since the are not collaborating.

This is not journalism, journalism is taking a subject and researching the facts and presenting them. Not stealing information about anything and giving it away with no after thought. There is a difference regardless of your view on the war. There is no ethics in stealing information.

Your view is just that a view. I will not criticize you for it. However I am criticizing your belief that this guy (that stole information and gave it to someone else) is some sort of journalist. He is a criminal and most businesses would punish an employee who stole corporate secrets and gave them to the competition. It's the same thing.

Taking the Formula for Coca-Cola and giving it to Pepsi is theft. It is not journalism in the age of information.

While I can agree that the wars that are going on are not the brightest spot in the history of the U.S. It is not a service members job, duty, or responsibility to criticize it's nations involvement in wars. FYI in the US all service members volunteer and they know full well the possibility exists that they may be called to fight a war before they join. No one made them do so. They took an oath to obey the constitution and the orders of the officers appointed over them. And for anyone to join the service post 9/11 means that they accept that the nation is at war. Personally I believe if they joined then that means they not only understand that there is a war but accept the fact that what the military does, is right and just. Otherwise they would have not joined. It's the same as stating "Hey I don't like alcohol" while standing in a bar with a beer in hand. Doesn't make sense.

A rule is a rule. The problem with rules in any society is when a group feels as though those rules do not apply to them, or should be changed to suit them, and another group feels the same. Both feel as though they are right but which one is right?
14:14 July 31, 2010 by Prufrock2010
There is no inconsistency in what I wrote. Those who "toil" for Wikileaks are not the whistleblowers who provide Wikileaks with information. Wikileaks is a conduit, not a source, and it has every right to publish fact-based information that concerns the public interest, just as any news organization has.

Were it not for men and women of conscience, many atrocities like Abu Ghraib and the slaughter of innocent families might never have been revealed. A soldier may enlist for many reasons, but he or she doesn't check his conscience at the door of the enlistment office. The whistleblower in this case made public information that the US and NATO governments were fully aware of and kept secret in order to deceive their respective populations. This is hardly analogous to industrial espionage, stealing Coke's formula to sell to Pepsi. It is a matter of grave public concern, and the public has an absolute right to know what its military, its intelligence apparatus and its political leadership is doing in its name with its tax money. In the US and the NATO countries, the military is under the control of civilian authority. The military will always demand to operate under a veil of secrecy, but civilian authority does not have that luxury. It is accountable to the people, and the only way it can be held accountable is for the people to have access to the facts.

The US Congress just appropriated another $57 billion to prosecute this obscene nation-building exercise disguised as a war, and as a taxpayer I am entitled to know what I'm getting for my money. Or in this case, not getting.
22:32 July 31, 2010 by bernie1927
My feeling is that the release of the information should have been undertaken but, critically dangerous facts should have been left out (censored).

The real criminals are the people who were so lax about their security that they allowed someone to copy 90,000 pages. Can you imagine how long that must have taken?

The way I heard it, a lousy private was supposedly listening to some music and was copying that. This outfit must consist of a bunch of morons, and they all deserve a courts martial.
00:23 August 1, 2010 by Prufrock2010
To counter one of our more outspoken right wing contributors here, I submit that if one innocent Afghan life or the life of one American or NATO soldier is saved because the Wikileaks documents force a change in war policy, then those who provided the documents and those who published them should be applauded for accomplishing something good and noble.

To those who advocate censorship, I urge you to examine recent history and current events. Do you align yourselves with Iran, China, North Korea, the former Soviet Union, the former DDR, Burma et al. on issues of censorship, or do you align yourselves with freedom of information and transparency? I know where I stand. Do you?
00:30 August 1, 2010 by ProudPrimate
Reader X said: "But this time when one's relative or friend who serves or is killed due to such negligence then it won't be so fun anymore. "

While a million-plus Iraqis were killed and a whole civilization destroyed, all on the basis of blatant fraud by all you Pentagoners, that was great fun though, wasn't it? As Gen. James Mattis, USMC, famously said:

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling."

Don't be talking to me about "collateral damage" when your own fetid philosophy outdoes mine a million to one, punk!
01:43 August 1, 2010 by wenddiver
More proof that anyone who loves Western civilization and despises Shari law has to abandon the goofy left. Printing military Secrets in time of war? In what Society was that ever legal? Bet they don't exist today. They are totally disconnected from reality and wish to harm our families and nations to get a moment in the spot light. Truelly pitiful. Common thieves and traitors.
02:14 August 1, 2010 by Prufrock2010
The new meme among American right wing republicans tuning up for the 2010 midterm elections is a full-blown attack on Sharia law, which does not and cannot exist in the US. But it's polling as a good wedge issue for people like Newt Gingrich, the discredited former Leader of the House, to stir up the right wing base with race-baiting and religious hatred. But Sharia law is a straw man, a code for Muslim bashing which is a subset of populist xenophobia sweeping the States. It plays well with the teaparty crowd.

But when you're facing a sniper's bullet, a missile attack, a suicide bomber or an IED on foreign soil that you've invaded -- when you don't know the language, the history or the culture -- and you're thrust into the position of kill or be killed by total strangers for objective that your government has blatantly lied to you about -- it has nothing to do with left or right politics. It's all about survival, getting home intact and hoping your comrades do too. And if one day you learn that you've been fed a lot of bullsh*t about why your life is on the line, and that the "ally" is really the enemy, and you have access to information that could possible put an end to this monstrosity for the good of all, maybe the right thing to do is to reveal what you know. I wish Wikileaks had existed during Vietnam and both Iraq wars. We would all be a lot safer today. One day we will leave Afghanistan, in defeat, just was we left Vietnam. Afghanistan will revert to its traditional ways of governing and fighting among themselves, inevitably, and we will have accomplished nothing but causing unnecessary deaths of huge proportion and bankrupting our economies.

You'd think that even the right wing war mongers would have figured this out by now.
03:10 August 1, 2010 by wenddiver
Admit it, the people who elect the Far Right you despise Prufoc are people like these, who by stabbing the forces of Freedom in the back in time of war will allienate decent Americansand Europeans from the Left for another twenty years, just like the Post Vietnam years. Again Theives, Traitors and Cowards of the Goofy Wing of the Left. Nobody in the Middle or Right will defend these jackals who work to enslave the people of Afganistan to the Taliban for the next Century.
04:12 August 1, 2010 by ProudPrimate
wenddiver wrote: " Admit it, the people who elect the Far Right you despise Prufoc are people like these, who . . ." &c.

Your misspelling of the name Prufrock makes it clear you never read T. S. Eliot's most famous poem. Your misspelling of "theives" and "allienate" says reading was never a big issue with you. And your logic (??), a slavish recitation of the bullet-head Pentagoners' philosophy makes it certain you never read James Douglass's recent classic, "JFK and the Unspeakable", destined to be generally recognized as the foremost authority, which it already has largely been.

In it is told how JFK and Khrushchev, himself a reformer, both gave their lives, Kennedy to a bullet and Khrushchev to life in house arrest, for having the guts to make peace in secret, behind the backs and against the wishes of both their military establishments. The head of the Strategic Air Command, Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, is quoted (from tapes still available) as saying, (as listed in the Chronology):

October 19, 1962: As President Kennedy resolves to blockade further Soviet missile shipments rather than bomb and invade Cuba, he meets with his Joint Chiefs of Staff. They push for an immediate attack on the missile sites. General Curtis LeMay teIls him, "This [blockade and political action] is almost as bad as the appeasement [of Hitler] at Munich."

Those missiles were armed with nuclear weapons, and were ready to fire. Both militaries wanted war. Kennedy and Khruschev knew it would be the end of Western Civilization. But who cares? LeMay's successor at SAC was asked, "What do you consider victory?" His answer: "If at the end, there's two of us and one of them, we win."

Militarism is a mental disease.
04:43 August 1, 2010 by redslider
Imagine that - a group that draws back the curtains, pulls up the blinds, opens the windows and lets the sun shine on places it has never been before is called "shadowy?" let's watch our word choices, boyz.
06:39 August 1, 2010 by wenddiver
Overly Proud Monkey- Lots of talk about other nonsence, still waiting for an intelligent defence of thieves, cowards and traitors.

I think there is no defence; I have never had anybody introduce himself as a thief, a traitor or a coward to me. Oh well Goofy Clueless left go ahead and destroy the current administration. I am sure you will be happier without the burdens of office once you lose the war and as the serving administration you will get the credit for the enslavement of a whole people.

By the way, your not very quick on the up-take are you?? Previously, I spelled it Profuc (sounded it out dim). It's called yanking his chain in this country my dear dull boy.
08:12 August 1, 2010 by Prufrock2010
It takes a helluva lot more than your sophomoric insults to yank my chain, skippy. I haven't seen one coherent argument coming from you on any subject all year. All I've seen is right-wing trolling of the cretinous variety usually found on CNN and Fox Noise websites where your brand of snarky illiteracy is celebrated.

The thieves, cowards and traitors are the Bush neo-cons who started this war and the war in Iraq. There, I just introduced them to you. Now put that in your crack pipe and smoke it.
11:45 August 1, 2010 by whatzup
Don't get too worked up over Prufrock Wenddiver, he's just some troll who thinks anyone right of the very looney left is a rabid warmonger. Let him wish all he wants for a plague of wikileaks. We'll see how much he likes it when someone leaks HIS confidental personal info. By the way I wouldn't bother with "overly proud" when referring to Prufrock. The adjectives arrogant and clueless will do nicely.
13:29 August 1, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
I would like any liberal to tell me why they are, liberal. Really, I just want to understand. I mean no insult, just show me what is positive about this thinking.
14:27 August 1, 2010 by michael4096
For once, there is a really simple answer - stop lying! Then the leaker won't feel any compulsion to leak.

Who knows, maybe the taliban would then believe it when they are told that the foreigners will go home once the country is stable and democratic and just wait for their turn at the poll booth. AhI I forgot, that's not what we want.

@Johannes - Why liberalism? 4000 years of history.
14:45 August 1, 2010 by Canadianhaggis
Time to get out of Afghanistan. It is now becoming another Viet Nam .Let the Americans fight the war they created,since they want to save the world.,they do more harm than good. The Russians were there for 10 years and did no better.
14:58 August 1, 2010 by whatzup
The taliban will "wait for their turn at the poll booth". Right. We've all seen how much respect the Taliban have for the democratic process. Most Afghans would like to see the end of them but they insist on "stabilizing" the country. Their way. With roadside bombs and murder and without any respect for the Afghans themselves.
15:29 August 1, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
@michael4096, Thanks for the reply, but what am i to understand from your answer? That you have no answer... But I must give you credit. You did reply. Although I am not persuaded that there is anything worth learning about the Liberal ideology...

I am conservative that wants to see all these men at home with family. Regardless of nationality. This isn't about right or left. It's about right and wrong.
18:19 August 1, 2010 by ProudPrimate
wendy diver:

(any relation to Jenny Diver or Sukey Tawdry? Polly Peachum?)

"still waiting for an intelligent defence of [those heroic selfless people you blindly perceive as] thieves, cowards and traitors."

The problem is, you don't know them when you see them. Or you pretend not to know. But I think the former, really. Your portrayal of a two-digit IQ is too good to be a spoof - the only convincing thing about your posts, in fact,.
19:19 August 1, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Johnneskönig --

Define "liberal" and maybe you'll get an answer. I've never referred to myself as a "liberal," so I'd be interested in your definition..
19:31 August 1, 2010 by ProudPrimate
Johannes König wrote:

"I would like any liberal to tell me why they are, liberal. Really, I just want to understand. I mean no insult, just show me what is positive about this thinking."

Well, here's the statement of the first President of the United States, Geo. Washington:

¦quot;As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.¦quot;

Please note that the context makes plain his meaning of the word: Liberality holds that the common body of society has an obligation to defend all its members (throughout the world, I might add) from injustice.

That is roughly my definition as well. A corollary of that would be the implication that society is an arrangement whereby the many make common cause to protect "the least of these" our brethren from the few who would exploit, plunder, and make merchandise of them.

In short, we the common people are strong by virture of numbers against the tyranny of the powerful.
19:58 August 1, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Primate --

In point of fact, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution (collectively "the Bill of Rights") were ratified specifically to prevent the tyranny of the minority by the majority. The framers of the Constitution, themselves victims of tyranny, understood all too well what can, and inevitably does, happen to the rule of law when the rights of the minority exist only at the pleasure of the majority. Without the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution never would have been ratified.

I still don't know what "liberal" means in today's political lexicon. Ronald Reagan's greatest achievement, other than destroying labor unions and the American economy, was to transform the word "liberal" into a pejorative. This kind of labeling works well for the reactionaries who formulate their political thought based on bumper-sticker slogans, but it is devoid of substance. The irony, of course, is that Reagan himself would today be considered "too liberal" to win a Republican primary election in the US.

So, while I share your appreciation for the words of George Washington, I'm still hoping that the person who asked the question can provide a definition of "liberal" in the current political context. We can go from there.
20:15 August 1, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
Prufrock2010, did I say you're a liberal? I asked for the definition.


"the common body of society has an obligation to defend all its members (throughout the world, I might add) from injustice."

Would that include the lives of those potentially endangered by the actions of Wiki-leaks?
20:17 August 1, 2010 by michael4096
@johannes - what have we learned over 4000 years? That the constant is change. And, in the long run, change has worked out well for mankind.

My definitions: conservatism resists change, liberalism is, well, more liberal.

The way I look at it is this: change will happen sooner or later regardless of conservatives or liberals. However, change as a continuous process is an awful lot less painful than building up like tectonic plates and resulting in an earthquake. Britain changed from aristocracy- to people-led painfully but relatively gently; Thanks to the lack of liberalism, france didn't, and their change was really bloody.

The change today is not shaking off an aristocracy but shaking off 'religion'. The world will change! Will your great grand children learn at school about the how one set of christian conservatives against one set of muslim conservatives battled it out on some 21st century somme just like the the 'aristos' did last century? Look back over 4000 years. Change happens - accept it as a liberal or fight it like a conservative!

You want people back home regardless of nationality? Do you really feel that forcing division by saying I'm right and you're wrong is the way to achieve that? (Without even discussing who is right and wrong and why.)
20:23 August 1, 2010 by Prufrock2010
JohnnesKönig --

This is your exact quote: "I would like any liberal to tell me why they are, liberal. Really, I just want to understand. I mean no insult, just show me what is positive about this thinking."

You didn't ask for the definition. You threw out the term as though it is self-defining. I'm the one who asked for the definition. I'm still asking.
20:31 August 1, 2010 by ProudPrimate
Herr König:

"Would that include the lives of those potentially endangered by the actions of Wiki-leaks?"

In a perfect world, there would be absolutely zero lives endangered by the actions of others. In this imperfect world, I should think it reasonable to weigh, by way of example, the million-plus innocent lives destroyed by fraud in Iraq, who could have been saved if the lies of Bush and Blair had been exposed earlier by a whistleblower such as Daniel Ellsberg or whoever turns out to be the actual source of the release under discussion -- weighed, I say, against the perhaps dozens of those who may be killed in retribution as collaborators, even acknowledging that their choices may have been just as difficult as any other.

But even if they number in the hundreds, I would opt to save the million rather than the hundred. Wouldn't you?

The military and the media have forfeited their credibility long ago. They are in the pocket of the banksters and those with world domination's gleam in their eye.
21:17 August 1, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
So michael4096, would it be more accurate to say your a "progressive"? Regardless, I feel you have answered adequately my question. Thanks

Prufrock2010, I am sure you understood what I was asking. I feel I asked my question clearly that I just want to know why those, be it liberal left, progressive, what ever term you want to call it. Even anti-conservative. I am just trying to understand... Any harm in that?

ProudPrimate, I think you have made my point...

Thanks to all that have responded to my question. I have a little more clarity now. An I am certain that my conservative values are not misplaced...

Ich wünsche Ihnen allen einen schönen Feierabend!
22:30 August 1, 2010 by ProudPrimate
"ProudPrimate, I think you have made my point..."

No, you don't think that. That's just a throwaway line. If you thought that you would gleefully demonstrate how it did so.

You merely hope that by saying it you can escape without having to formulate an answer to mine. Some fraction of your readership, you suppose, will give you the point without your having to address mine, as difficult as that would be should you attempt it.

The military mind has long known how to manipulate the less intelligent - through fear. As Göring famously told Gustave Gilbert, official psychologist to the Nuremberg Tribunal,

"das Volk kann mit oder ohne Stimmrecht immer dazu gebracht werden, den Befehlen der Führer zu folgen.

Das ist ganz einfach. Man braucht nichts zu tun, als dem Volk zu sagen, es würde angegriffen, und den Pazifisten ihren Mangel an Patriotismus vorzuwerfen und zu behaupten, sie brächten das Land in Gefahr. Diese Methode funktioniert in jedem Land."

I like better the sudden burst of English that Joschka Fischer spoke to Donald Rumsfeld at the UN:

"You have to make the case, and to make the case in a democracy, you have to be convinced yourself, and excuse me, I am not convinced."
23:05 August 1, 2010 by michael4096
@Johannes - I would be interested in understanding why feel the way you do.

And, you didn't answer my question.
00:07 August 2, 2010 by Prufrock2010
JohnnesKönig --

No, there's no harm in asking, but words -- particularly politically charged buzzwords -- have meaning. They are seldom synonymous or interchangeable. Therefore, when you ask a loaded question about the value of "liberal" thought, you have to be more specific as to your definition of the word "liberal," otherwise you've asked a rhetorical question that is sophistic at best. You have asked for a philosophical treatise, which space does not permit and I am not about to provide. Tell us what "liberal" means to you and I will attempt to answer your question succinctly.

As to your reference to "potential harm," I can only tell you from many years of experience that the law does not recognize "potential" damages without a threshold showing of actual damages. To prove damages you must first prove causation. No actual damages automatically negates causation. The law does not deal with hypotheticals in assigning liability.

From the abstract to the concrete, in the case of Wikileaks, no actual damages have been established with regard to anyone or anything, ergo no causation.. Actual damages have been established, however, with respect to the lives and treasure lost because of the lies and obfuscations of the governments involved; i.e., people have needlessly died and the treasury has been substantially depleted as a direct and proximate result of the conduct of the governments and the information they have concealed.. So from a legal standpoint your "potential damages" argument is without merit.

I offer this information with all due respect.
00:26 August 2, 2010 by sorochin
Hmmmm, respect for the laws against espionage. I always find this interesting, as countires with such laws also practice espionage.

A bit earlier someone wonders what if WWII had had Wikileaks. I remember reading there were a group of German officers who were sent out feelers to the Allies to essentially commit treason and betray their country to stop Hitler. Had they been instrumental, wouldn't they have been considered heroes today, like the July 20 coup plotters? Or the White Rose and other German resistance groups?
18:53 August 2, 2010 by ProudPrimate
Here's a take on the wiki war logs I'll bet you haven't noticed yet:

Larry Chin writing at GlobalResearch.CA has a piece called "The Political Spinning of the WikiLeaks Release: Anti-war Whistleblowing or War Propaganda?" A quote from it:

"Today¦#39;s acquiescent, ignorant and grossly manipulated mass populace---one that fully embraces and supports the manufactured 'war on terrorism'---wholeheartedly supports any and all means to 'prevent another 9/11'. A decade of Bush-Cheney criminality and mass murder failed to trigger any interest from a general US population that has been shocked into servitude, and further brain-addled by ubiquitous corporate right-wing media. Another day, another massacre.

Leak as imperial war propaganda

Where the WikiLeaks papers gain significance is in the detail revealed about the operations of Pakistan¦#39;s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) and, more specifically, the manner in which leading government figures and the media have interpreted these items."

"According to Michel Chossudovsky:

«The ISI actively collaborates with the CIA. It continues to perform the role of a ¦#39;go-between' in numerous intelligence operations on behalf of the CIA. The ISI directly supports and finances a number of terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda.»

If the ISI is responsible for terrorism, the funding and aiding of 'Islamic militants', and the killing of US forces, logic dictates that its big brethren---the CIA and officials in Washington---are also guilty and involved."

Later he quotes former ISI chief Hamid Gul:

"Hamid Gul, former ISI chief and major regional player, accuses the US of orchestrating the expose to shift attention away from the US government¦#39;s 'own failings', in order to 'force Pakistan's hand on policy in Afghanistan'.

According to Gul 'they [the Americans] want to bash Pakistan, at this time to come up with this leak. I refuse to believe it is not on purpose.'

The Obama administration, eager for a pretext to escalate the Central Asia/Middle East (resource) war into Pakistan and Iran, has certainly found ammunition with the WikiLeak expose.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the 'leak' occurred just prior to a new $33 billion/30,000 troop surge for Afghanistan was signed in the US Congress, and ahead of a possible military attack on Iran, which former CIA Director Michael Hayden says is 'inexorable'."

Beyond any doubt, Anglo-American hegemony of the entire world and all its resources has been the foundation stone of police for centuries, certainly at least since Sir Halford MacKinder's speech to the Geographical Society in 1908, wherein he introduced his Heartland theory:

"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World."

Why should we assume that anything has changed in the minds of that class since those days?
19:14 August 2, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Here's some interesting reading for those who are serious about this topic, from the New York Times July 31, 2010 and today's International Herald Tribune:

05:28 August 3, 2010 by ProudPrimate
Not usually a big fan of Tom Friedman, but, wow! that's an article that comes dangerously close to the truth. And the conclusion is spot on - we need to give the heirs of old John D Rockefeller their walking papers. They have ruled this world for too long.

Anybody familiar with the National City Lines? The venture capital project launched by Standard Oil, GM and Firestone that bought up the electric trolley lines in major American cities, ripped up the tracks, and replaced them with smoky rubber-tired buses?

The bit about 9/11 being Pakistani/Saudi isn't far off either: Gen. Mahmood Ahmed wiring Mohammed Atta $100,000 in the months prior to 9/11 (by the hand of Saeed Sheikh), and the three Saudi princes named by Abu Zubaydah to CIA agents he took for Saudi agents (as they hoped he would), princes whose private phone numbers he knew by heart, that all died suddenly within a month of each other, followed six months later by the head of the Paki air force, whom Zubaydah also named, in a mysterious plane crash on a clear day - he, the head of pilot training.

One of the princes, the first to die, happened to be famous as the owner of double crown winner War Emblem.

"Call this number - he'll tell you what to do", Zubaydah told the ostensible Saudi Intel men.
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