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Helmut Schmidt slams 'foolish' US pursuit of Wikileaks

The Local · 21 Dec 2010, 15:26

Published: 21 Dec 2010 15:26 GMT+01:00

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“That seems like revenge and it is,” Schmidt told weekly Die Zeit’s magazine in an interview to be published Thursday.

Schmidt, who served as West German chancellor from 1974 to 1982, frequently weighs in on topical issues despite having reached the advanced age of 91.

The US government is examining whether it can prosecute Assange, an Australian national, over the release of thousands of classified US documents diplomatic cables on the internet and through major newspapers.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has said officials were pursuing a "very serious criminal investigation" into the matter.

Assange, the founder and front man of the whistleblower website Wikileaks, is currently free on bail in Britain for alleged sex offences in Sweden.

Schmidt said there was a “moral obligation for the publication” of secret documents that exposed abuses at prisons such as Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo Bay, but questioned whether secret diplomatic communications should be released.

“It must still be possible that a conversation two people have with one another remains confidential,” he said.

He said he had “understanding, but no sympathy” for the newspapers that had published the Wikileaks diplomatic cables.

Story continues below…

For the US government, the publication of the cables was “a terrible thing, which will affect diplomatic relations for a long time.”

“But the Americans will get over it,” he said.

The Local/dw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:24 December 21, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Schmidt's right about everything except the notion that "the Americans will get over it." American hubris doesn't allow them to get over embarrassments. The obscene war against Iraq is a clear example of that.
17:33 December 21, 2010 by William Thirteen
saw Helmut Schmidt speaking to Sandra Maischberger last week. Despite his age he is sharp as a tack and speaks eloquently and precisely. Makes most politicians here and in the US look like pathetic children...
17:46 December 21, 2010 by bernie1927

You are absolutely correct. What are they so afraid of? Obviously, they have a lot to hide. The politicians do act like children and most of them are corrupt to boot. A sorry lot.
18:33 December 21, 2010 by farkle242

As opposed to the ever so humble Europeans :-)
21:02 December 21, 2010 by catjones
If America can prove that Assange was complicit in stealing classified documents, it won't be America's hubris placed on trial, it will be Mr. Assange.
21:27 December 21, 2010 by Beachrider
The pursuit of Assange is not 'illegal', start with that. His release of these materials is being pursued to curb their damage to the USA State Department. It is not a matter of 'being afraid', there IS damage.

The million dollar question is: Did Assange do anything illegal, himself? If he did, then prosecution is legitimate. If he didn't, then he won't be jailed in the USA. If his newfound celebrity causes folks to recall other nefarious acts, then he has to face those issues.

He is apparently an Australian resident that illegally got access to secret materials. I don't know relevant Australian law. AUS MIGHT transfer him to the USA for potential prosecution. Every time Assange crosses an international border, the opportunity for deportation to the USA changes. Any misstep could end up with him being forcibly moved to the USA for potential prosecution.

The Private (Assange's source) WILL get Military punishment for Treason. Depending on the evidence (to a military standard), Treason CAN get capital punishment. Those are military rules and those-guys follow their rules.
21:53 December 21, 2010 by BR549
The way I see it is Assange "poked the bear with a stick". Anytime an individual publicly questions the policy (on a big scale) the actions or policy of ANY government, then he / she should have a "plan B" to deal with the consequences. Governments have not only political, but legal clout. John Lennon is a perfect example of what the lengths the US governemt will go to if anything is questioned. But my main point is ALL government, not just the US will play the same game is hit in a soft spot.
22:15 December 21, 2010 by romber58
I agree with you BR549 and as far as i understand and have read, Assange does have a Plan B.Times are a changing and we are only experiencing the beginning of how the WWW will change the world......
23:52 December 21, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Where did you get your law degree, Beachrider?
00:23 December 22, 2010 by romber58
That is a very lazy answer and question Prufrock2010
00:32 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
In your opinion, perhaps. I'm just curious about how someone can pontificate about legal issues as though it's gospel when he/she has no idea what he/she is talking about. It's a valid question. Just askin'....
00:50 December 22, 2010 by romber58
You didnt address the points in his comment is what i wanted to say Prufrock; you just asked a lazy and provocative question,like any guy looking for a fight.I am sure that you can do better.
00:57 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I'm not here to address the points in his comment or to pick a fight. Nor am I here to write a legal dissertation. His comment is replete with legal inaccuracies and I'm curious as to what authority he claims for making such blanket inaccurate statements. If he went to law school, I'd like to know. If he didn't, he should keep his "legal" opinions to himself and stop spreading misinformation.
01:10 December 22, 2010 by romber58
You still dont bring any argument against his comment....by the way you write grammatically correct english If you are not here to address the points in Beachriders comment why did you answer him?
01:19 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I didn't answer him. I asked him where he got his law degree. It would take me at least a half hour to correct the legal inaccuracies in his comment, and I'm not inclined to waste my time to do that.

It would seem that you're the one who's trying to pick a fight. Since you agree that I write grammatically correct English, please re-read my previous post and you'll have the answer to your question.
01:25 December 22, 2010 by romber58
If you understood english better you would know that in this context "why did you answer him" means why did you respond to his comment. Its ok .and i wish you well...
01:31 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Do you really want to try to match your English with mine?

For the fourth time, I responded to his comment because he was spouting B.S. and I'm calling him out on it. Understood?
01:39 December 22, 2010 by romber58
thats the point,,,you are not calling him out on it...you have said absoloutly nothing about that...you are just trying to practice your english an mir
01:48 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Goodnight, my friend. This is a waste of my time.
01:50 December 22, 2010 by romber58
He he .i bet you thought i was German...lol
02:14 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I never gave a thought to your nationality. But if you're American and over the age of 12, all I can say is shame on the American educational system.
02:53 December 22, 2010 by romber58
I bet you are over the age of 12,just,,,you write english correctly...too correct to be anything more than a german schoolboy.Interesting that you should think that i was American The dead givaway is that there is a total lack of irony or humour in your words...you must be a german...
03:45 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
What is this puerile ad hominem game you are playing.

For the record, I am German only by injection, and I received my JD from UC Berkeley many years ago. Hence I have at least a passing interest in topical legal issues and in those who propagate misinformation, such as our friend Beachrider. While I don't purport to be a constitutional scholar, I have a certain amount of expertise in various litigation issues, both criminal and civil, acquired through years of practice, from which I am now thankfully retired. Since Mr. Beachrider apparently knows nothing about more than 200 years of American First Amendment jurisprudence, the United States Code, the rules of evidence, procedural and substantive due process, the federal indictment procedure, extradition treaties and a plethora of other issues about which he expounds, I felt it appropriate to inquire as to his academic qualifications to disseminate legal misinformation as fact. There is nothing intended to be either ironic or humorous in this. It is meant to be somewhat pedantic, which is something I'm quite sure you cannot understand. That I am even discussing it with you may be the irony you're somehow missing. So good night.
03:48 December 22, 2010 by Rolf - Seattle
That's easy to say, mein freund Helmut... until he starts releasing your dark little secrets. This man is an anarchist, and is only dedicated to releasing selective "truths" (e.g. the West).

If a revelation harms his precious Left, it will never see the light of day.
09:01 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Since the documents released so far are leaked American military and State Department documents to which Wikileaks somehow gained access, and since the US has been under the control of the right wing since 1980, it is unlikely that WikiLeaks has access to documents that would be harmful to the "precious Left." But let's hope that WikiLeaks is an equal-opportunity whistleblower.
09:12 December 22, 2010 by storymann
Helmut Schmidt,,has never been a friend to the US ,this is nothing new,,In 2007 he stated that Russia was less of a world threat than the US as Russia had never invaded another country after the end of the cold war,,oops ,the Caucasus,.for most of that time they were belly up they were in no position to do much,with the advent of their oil and natural gas riches things are changing, if they ever get the mob and corruption under control they may become gain.
09:23 December 22, 2010 by catjones
Fortunately, none of us are required to pass a test in order to comment.

The views and opinions expressed on this site are those of the members and membership requires an email address, not a law degree or a degree in English grammar.

If you feel the bar (!) is set too low for your standards, I suggest you create a site of your own and attract your peers.
09:36 December 22, 2010 by tallady
Ain't that the truth !
10:29 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
@ catjones

Assuming for a moment that your comment was directed to me, I hasten to remind you that I also have a right to comment. If you don't agree with my comments you have every right to challenge them, rebut them or ignore them altogether. Or are you suggesting that I just dumb it down for the benefit of trolls like romber58?

Returning to the topic, I am generally in agreement with Helmut Schmidt's assessment of the WikiLeaks controversy.
10:49 December 22, 2010 by tallady
Prufrock,,after all the pontificating Romber 58 has a point ,you never challenged beachrider or rebutted him/her and you did not ignore it either,, as you just stated above ."where did you get your law degree" was your response to the rant, Romber only pointed out that was a lazy answer,, indeed, why was it lazy? he stated that he did not know much about Australian law.
11:37 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I didn't challenge Beachrider on his admitted lack of knowledge about Australian law. I don't know anything about Australian law, either. I challenged him on his lack of knowledge about American law, hence my rhetorical question. I get annoyed when people who don't know what they're talking about misstate the law and present opinion as "fact."

Just to indulge you, I went through some of Beachrider's more egregious misrepresentations and explained why they are wrong. It took me about 30 minutes to do so. When I tried to post it I was informed that it was over the word limit and the whole thing disappeared. I'm not about to rewrite the whole thing. Suffice to say, virtually every sentence in his comment is either legally erroneous or factually unsupportable.
12:25 December 22, 2010 by Aschaffenburgboy
It just never gets old in this community. People are always eager to sport their English capabilities and compare their pedigree as if somehow they will gain kudos and magic points in the jelly bean chart.

Anyone that tries too hard to express their views in a higher level than 6th grade, is not necessarily a smart individual, more like someone looking for attention that they cannot get outside their virtual life.

This comment is not directed to anyone in particular, I agree and disagree with all sides on things that you have or have not written, and on issues that you may have tried to expressed, but did not quite made the point. I also do not support my own comments, but do agree with them, though I not necessarily stand by them and would not testify in court to say that I wrote what I just did.

For any comment, please contact my nonexistent PR agent via twitter.
12:41 December 22, 2010 by tallady
Prufrock,,,thanks for the come back,I would be remiss if I said I have not enjoyed many of your comments and your wit..

Have a nice Christmas even if you have to spend it in Frankfurt....
12:59 December 22, 2010 by Aschaffenburgboy
Wow... I am impressed, no one jumped at the chance to grammatically correct my post. The Xmas spirit is setting in I guess. Happy holidays to all.
13:11 December 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones, tallady. Thanks for the kind words. Fortunately I'll be spending Christmas through the New Year in Paris rather than Frankfurt -- a reprieve of sorts. And for my New Year's resolution I will attempt to post only in misspelled monosyllables with no discernible punctuation in order to comport with the standard of excellence that this forum has come to appreciate.

I'll also resist the temptation to remind Aschaffenburgboy not to split infinitives.
15:07 December 22, 2010 by ukpunk1
I will be spending Christmas in Bayern, Oberpfalz.
15:19 December 22, 2010 by Beachrider
The posters have been very busy overnight...

Someone is possibly challenging my statement that 'pursuit of Assange is not illegal', but doesn't want to say it. He/she just wants to abuse me without discussing any facts. The bluff was called, and he/she heaped on more abuse. What is up with that?

Perhaps the challenge is to my statement that Assange's informer (an enlisted person in the US Military) is clearly prosecutable on Treason. I just cannot tell. There is no doubt that a well-formed Treason charge in a military court can land the death penalty. Depending on the information available, this person could be dead soon.

Where are the legal errors? If you are just trying to bait me, good luck with that.
23:08 December 22, 2010 by Beachrider
Ok, let's answer your stuff:

- The pursuit of him is not illegal. You never rebutted that point. Instead, you are answer a myriad of potential charges and their outcomes. Pursuit is NOT prosecution, he might be brought here to answer questions that affect his 'source'. What we do if we get him here DOES have to be handled carefully. And HOW he got here affects that.

- Did he damage the State Department. Again, you never refuted the base point. You just advised that it doesn't matter because it cannot be undone. You subsequently revert to discussing the nature of some potential charges. If you don't believe that it matters that the State Department is damaged, you could just say so. Instead, you bully the question just like you attempted to bully earlier doubters of your position in this chain. Stop the bullying, I am not impressed.

Loved the prior-restraint discussion. It harks back to my youth, as well. It doesn't mean that we can do-nothing once the stuff starts coming out.

- The Million dollar question. Again, you never even argue with the point. You just try to drag in other injustices so you can complain about them. I think that you actually agree with the base statement.

I said, 'if the prosecution isn't legitimate' he won't be jailed. Your response to that was that lots of folks are in jail that don't think their prosecution was legitimate. What are we supposed to do, release everyone who questions their prosecution? The legitimacy is determined by the USA legal system. It isn't perfect, but many legal scholars around the world use it as a baseline for discussing all legal systems.

- Newfound celebrity. I was thinking about non-USA issues (like the Sweden issue), but there have been some other rumors, I just don't know enough about them to render judgement on them. He has suffered a severe loss of privacy and stirred up emotions. If he ever kicked a dog, someone will now 'recall' it. You still don't address the base point, perhaps you just don't think that it is important.

(I am unaware of the precise context for Ellsberg's prosecution, but he ultimately shed light on 'greater Treason' and his defense used this at trial. I don't know how that applies here, though).

AUS might transfer him. You are talking about extradition, not deportation. I picked my word carefully. I don't know his citizenship status, but AUS could deport a not-citizen and find him non-desirable. Your examples were all failed extraditions.

PFC Manning hasn't shown a single act of Treason in all of his revelations. He was an overseas soldier at arms at the time of his arrest. I don't know if he will be put-to-death or not. Treason is a truly rare charge. I don't want him to die, but I expect military punishment to be stern and possibly severe.

... I hope that is a suitable response to your lengthy and information-packed posting...
00:23 December 23, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Okay, we're beating a dead horse here. I don't think you quite grasp the points I was making, but I appreciate your civility.

First, the US can't bring him there involuntarily without the due process that I outlined.

Second, "damage to the State Dept." is not in an of itself actionable, and the First Amendment provides a lot of latitude for damage to be done by the press. Further, you don't address my discussion about invidious discrimination which is particularly on point, nor do you address the New York Times ruling. I don't know what you mean by "bullying." It's not my intention to bully anyone.

The prior restraint discussion means exactly that -- you can't do anything once

the stuff starts coming out. That would be called "censorship." As it relates to the press in the US, censorship is unconstitutional, therefore illegal.

As for the "million dollar question," I raised jurisdictional issues that are relevant. Nor did I say that a lot of folks are in jail who "don't think" that their prosecution was legitimate. I said that thousands of people are in prison who did nothing illegal. I further said that many have been imprisoned illegally without due process, without habeas corpus and without trial -- for years! The point being that innocence does not necessarily mean escaping punishment under that system.

I addressed your point about "celebrity." I referred you to the federal rules of evidence, and do so again. His other alleged "bad acts" are irrelevant to any charges that might be brought by the US and are inadmissible.

Ellsberg was indicted for stealing and possessing secret documents. The charges against him and his co-defendant were dismissed by the judge because of prosecutorial misconduct. Assange has not been alleged to have stolen any documents, a charge that Ellsberg admitted to. In that respect their cases are inapposite.

Assange is an Australian citizen. Therefore Australia cannot deport him to the United States or anywhere else. The only process by which he could be brought under US jurisdiction is the one which I described, beginning with due process and ending in extradition. You did not choose your words carefully enough.

Finally, if Manning has been charged with treason I am unaware of it.

I see you love to argue, which is good. I know lawyers who will argue with a stop sign. However, short of giving you a full-blown brief, I'm quite finished with this subject. I appreciate your input and your thoughtfulness. Let's see where the chips fall. Let's see who has the balls to play chicken with the First Amendment and who wins.
14:20 December 23, 2010 by ngwanem
excellent Prufrock2010!!!
14:50 December 23, 2010 by Beachrider
We can be done with this issue, just understand that your responses contain context that you inserted.

- Are there ways to pursue a foreign citizen to question him about an illegal activity? YES. Can he be extradited without cause-of-action? NO.

- Is doing things that adversely affect a foreign government illegal? NO. Might that government attempt to use regulatory pressure to stop you? YES, but it has to be 'clean'.

- I never attached the Celebrity-issue to USA prosecution, you assumed that it was implied. You just kept talking-past that point.

- Assange citizenship. Although he was clearly born in AUS, he also has clearly applied for citizenship elsewhere (e.g. Sweden, this Fall). There were rumors that he was working on a few things that would end up with him switching his citizenship.

- Million dollar question. Did he do something illegal or not? Neither of us knows, you certainly listed a number of things that he is probably NOT going to be charged with.

Merry Christmas. It a beautiful life...
18:49 December 23, 2010 by countgregor
The USA takes extreme precautions shaking down individuals at airports, yet are so sloppy in protecting such "valuable secret information". Lets face it folks--The USA was so lax in protecting information they can hardly claim they are victims of a scary single individual. The more intense the US Government gets in wanting to prosecute this guy for "something" the more attention it draws to information to be released. It is no wonder that the world thinks so little of the USA lately, because it always seems to be at war with everyone, including itself. There is no doubt the information leaked will be embarrassing, but the USA will survive this event and may decide to be more protective of it's information.
19:48 December 23, 2010 by Prufrock2010
@ Beachrider

Okay, we still have points of disagreement. Let's see how it all plays out.

I wish you a merry Christmas, and to you and everyone here a healthy, productive, prosperous and happy new year.

I just learned that I'm going to become a grandfather of a boy for the first time and I'm stoked! Some things are more important than arguing about law or politics.

20:10 December 23, 2010 by onemark
Prufrock2010 is right: Uncle Sam is less interested in justice amd more interested in revenge -see 9/11.

And revenge is never a good motive; in fact it is rather childish.

But unfortunately, that's pretty standard for the US.
21:39 December 23, 2010 by DrGideonPolya
Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is quite correct and must be applauded for condemning as ¦quot;foolish¦quot; the United States¦#39; pursuit of Wikileaks founder, Australian hero Julian Assange.

It is notable that the war criminal Obama Administration ignores the reality that Mainstream media (e.g. the New York Times) are also reporting these "secret cables".

The horrible is that the US has become the successor to the German Nazis, Whereas the Nazi Holocaust killed 30 million Slavs, Jews and Gypsies, post-1950 avoidable deaths from violence or deprivation in countries occupied by the US in the post-1945 era (excluding German y and Japan) now total about 90 million. Deaths in the US War on Terror now total 8 million (see "Muslim Holocaust, Muslim Genocide": https://sites.google.com/site/muslimholocaustmuslimgenocide/ ).

Google "Hey, hey, USA" and you will find that 1,000 kids (mostly Muslim) die avoidably everyday in the war criminal American Empire.

Outstanding investor, billionaire, philanthropist, Holocaust hero and Holocaust survivor George Soros has called for the "de-Nazification" of America.

Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. We are all obliged to inform others about gross abuses of humanity. The Wikileaks revelations, so far, can be described in general as secret diplomatic gossip but they are on the right track and the more we know about the New American Democratic Nazism the better.
00:51 December 24, 2010 by Beachrider
Soooo much tightly wound cynicism wrapped in Fox News codewords. Some of you just need to give it a rest for the Holidays.

America is the new Nazis? You can't even know what that means. And to say it to a German public, is just insensitive.
01:55 December 24, 2010 by Prufrock2010
@ Beachrider

Gideon has a tendency to go over the top a little bit, but he does make some valid (if hyperbolic) points. Sometimes we have to cut him a little slack.

A final postscript to our previous discussion: You said that I listed a number of things that Assange is probably not going to be charged with. For the record -- and we'll see as more leaks are published and what they contain -- he could be charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. sec. 793(e). I don't think Eric Holder has the balls to do it, but in today's political climate you never know.

As I previously said, as of January 1, 2011 I will be limiting my comments to misspelled monosyllables in order to comply with community standards.

08:49 December 24, 2010 by mos101392
This qoute says it all,

¦quot;It must still be possible that a conversation two people have with one another remains confidential,¦quot;

Who in here writes down conversations you have that you want it to remain confidential? If you want it to remain confidintial, don't have it copied or written down every where.

The US Military dropped the ball...not Wikileaks. If you want to prosecute him, then you must prosecute every American news organization.

Pvt Manning is no hero, he took an oath and betrayed the trust that was givin him...regardless of the situation! If he had a change of heart, he should have told his supervisor or left his job.

These are thoughts from an retired American soldier that was also privey to same info PVT Manning was privey to but am not a hypocrite. I don't always agree with everything I see but took an oath and it is morally wrong to continue collecting a pay check and sneeek behind my employers back and commit treason. In the US military we are trained to speak up if we witness a wrong...ie nazis at the Nuremberg trials were not allowed to say they were" just following orders"....there must be accountability all around. Was this the intention of PVT Manning...did he complain to his chain-of-command? Did he go to JAG?
10:05 December 24, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Interesting question. Maybe the military's coverup of the helicopter attack that killed two Reuters journalists and several innocent civilians in Baghdad put him over the edge. As I recall, that was among the first things leaked. Maybe he did go to his superiors with his complaints. Maybe even to JAG. Maybe we'll find out if they ever give him a trial instead of keeping him in solitary confinement indefinitely under grossly inhumane conditions. But even if he had gone up the chain of command, I don't think it's that easy for an American PFC to quit in the middle of a war and stop "collecting a paycheck," as you say.

Here's another thought. Maybe he's not the only one providing information to WikiLeaks.
12:33 December 24, 2010 by Johnny Cash
Comment: Of course Assange has a right to expose information we should know about and all the Americans on this forum ,who are whining about the release, need to look at their corporate controlled governments activies around the world and come to the conclussion they are supporting a Facist regime who are intent in taking away their rights and what is left of their freedoms. A few weeks ago I read a report put out by the global warming agency that the cold weather here in Europe was due the COOLING! of the gulf stream. I thought bad PR, or do they really think we are that stupid.Of course I didn't see anything about what had caused the cooling. Then today someone brought this piece to my attention. Go to youtube and type into their search engine '" Conspiracy Theory with Gov. Jesse Ventura Gulf Coast OIL SPILL" and hit the link that comes up on the page. It is a report all Europeans and Americans should see. NOW the cooling of the gulf stream starts to look credible.The revelation about the gulf stream comes near the end of the documentary but the rest of it is very revealing and worth informing yourself on. This is truely shocking and is only one more example of how the peoples of the world are under attack from an out of control corporate government.
00:53 December 26, 2010 by Prufrock2010
@ Sin

C'est vrai. I've just finished reading a memoir by Markus Wolf which sheds considerable light on the Guillaume affair from the Stasi perspective. If only we'd had the internet and WikiLeaks around in those days. Oh, well....
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