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Nederlog

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Crisis: 'Broken Internet', WikiLeaks, Trump's Crimes, Julian Assange


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It
2. Human Rights Lawyer: Sweden Dropping Investigation of
     WikiLeaks' Assange is "Long Overdue Decision"

3.
Did Trump Commit High Crimes and Misdemeanors?
4.
The Long Ordeal of Julian Assange
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisis log with four items and four dotted links: item 1 is a rather strange article on a billionaire who sees trouble with the internet, except that he manages to totally not see what I and many others see; item 2 is about an interview with a lawyer of Assange; item 3 is about the question whether Trump did commit high crimes and misdemeanors, and gives some good legal backgrounds; and item 4 is about a good article by John Pilger about Julian Assange.

And this is the usual about the updating problem that I am now plagued with for more than 1 1/2 years, though now only at one of my two sites:
May 21: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today. The Dutch site was (of course) not on time today, probably because it is not Sunday, for that is the only time my site has a half-decent chance of being properly updated : It's still stuck on Sunday last (May 14).

They did it well from 1996 till 2015, updating within minutes at most and without any problem, as indeed is the work of ISPs. Now this takes a full week, on average.

I think they totally stopped doing this to limit the readings of my site. I think (but I don't know anything whatsoever about "xs4all") they now update once a week, which means that they are - for me - over 10,000 times worse than they were between 1996 and 2015.

These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them like the plague.)

And what changed is that you have to refresh (and refresh and refresh and refresh) to get the latest, which is again NOT as it was before, from 1996 till 2015, and which for me this only serves to make it extremely difficult for naive users to get the latest from my site - that for them may seem to have stuck somewhere in 2016 or 2015.

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It

The first article today is by David Streitfeld on The New York Times:
This starts as follows (and this is from The New York Times):
Evan Williams is the guy who opened up Pandora’s box. Until he came along, people had few places to go with their overflowing emotions and wild opinions, other than writing a letter to the newspaper or haranguing the neighbors.

Mr. Williams — a Twitter founder, a co-creator of Blogger — set everyone free, providing tools to address the world. In the history of communications technology, it was a development with echoes of Gutenberg.

And so here we are in 2017. How’s it going, Mr. Williams?

“I think the internet is broken,” he says. He has believed this for a few years, actually. But things are getting worse. “And it’s a lot more obvious to a lot of people that it’s broken.”

In the first place, here is a Wikipedia link to Evan Williams. From this it emerges he initiated the extremely moronifying Twitter and also Google's Blogger. He also is a billionaire in dollars.

What would a guy like that have to say? The above is mostly baloney, but he says he thinks (one must be careful to infer that he thinks what he says) that "the intenet is broken".

I agree, but I think it was intentionally broken from the start, and specifically by not encrypting anything, which realized the possibilities for spying on everyone that were already foreseen in 1968 (see here).

Here is more on what Williams may have in mind:

People are using Facebook to showcase suicides, beatings and murder, in real time. Twitter is a hive of trolling and abuse that it seems unable to stop. Fake news, whether created for ideology or profit, runs rampant. Four out of 10 adult internet users said in a Pew survey that they had been harassed online. And that was before the presidential campaign heated up last year.

“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Mr. Williams says. “I was wrong about that.”

Speaking just for myself: I hate Facebook. I hate and despise Twitter. I completely fail to comprehend why Williams does not terminate Twitter if he thinks - correctly also, it seems - thay it "is a hive of trolling and abuse that it seems unable to stop". But then he still makes money from it, "so why stop it?" (as he will probably be thinking).

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this:

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur first drew notice during the dot-com boom, for developing software that allowed users to easily set up a website for broadcasting their thoughts: blogging. By the time Google bought the company in 2003, more than a million people were using it.

Then came Twitter, which wasn’t his idea but was his company. He remains the largest individual shareholder and a board member.

After fame and fortune come regrets. Mr. Williams is trying to fix some things.

The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.
No, not at all: The troubles with the internet are (1) it has delivered the full and complete privacy of at least 4 billion persons into the hands of - probably very many - secret spies that work for governments, which (2) makes it possible to completely control absolutely everybody by the very few who govern, and (3) it also has extended the capacities to spy on absolutely everything anyone does to commercial firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

And I think Mr. Wiliiams is either bullshitting or a fool.

2. Human Rights Lawyer: Sweden Dropping Investigation of WikiLeaks' Assange is "Long Overdue Decision"

The second article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

Swedish prosecutors have dropped an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has denied the allegations, which he calls a pretext for his ultimate extradition to the U.S. to face prosecution under the Espionage Act. Since 2012, Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. It’s not clear whether Assange will emerge any time soon. "This is a small victory, but in this long road to free Julian Assange and all the people working for WikiLeaks," says our guest Renata Avila, a Courage Foundation trustee and human rights lawyer. "But it will finally help us lawyers to focus on the main issue, which is the persecution, the political persecution, and imminent prosecution of Julian Assange in the United States."

I paid yesterday some attention to the dropping of Sweden's investigations into Julian Assange. And I agree with the above. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks tweeted Friday, quote, "UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK," end-quote. Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the U.S. has prepared a warrant for Assange, calling his arrest a "priority."

For more, we’re joined by Democracy Now! video stream—Renata Avila is with us, a Courage Foundation trustee and human rights lawyer. She’s been advising WikiLeaks and Julian Assange under the direction of Baltasar Garzón, the former Spanish judge who has indicted Augusto Pinochet, Osama bin Laden, Bush administration officials and many others on human rights grounds.

Incidentally, I think it is unjust that the British government "refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange". There is some more below on this.

First there is this:

RENATA AVILA: I cannot hide my smile, to be honest. It is such a week to celebrate. It is a week to celebrate. This is a small victory, but in this long road to free Julian Assange and all the people working for WikiLeaks. But it will finally help us lawyers to focus on the main issue, which is the persecution, the political persecution, and imminent prosecution of Julian Assange in the United States. And so, we are ready now for the battle to defend his right to publish. It was a long overdue decision from Swedish courts. Even the United Nations told them to do so more than one year ago and declare his detention arbitrary. But now, finally, for the second time, we can say that he is innocent in the Swedish system. He has never been charged of a crime. And we hope that this will help people to focus on the issue that matters in this case, which is our right to know and his right to publish.

Note first that in fact Assange "has never been charged of a crime" (by Sweden). And second, she is right that this will at least "help people to focus on the issue that matters in this case, which is our right to know and his right to publish".

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: Renata, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has called on Donald Trump to drop the U.S. government’s investigation into Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. He joined more than a hundred other activists, journalists, government workers in signing an open letter from the Courage Foundation to President Trump that calls prosecuting WikiLeaks, quote, "a threat to all free journalism." The letter asks the Department of Justice to drop plans to charge Assange and other WikiLeaks staff members, and reads, quote, "If the DOJ is able to convict a publisher for its journalistic work, all free journalism can be criminalised." So, if you can respond to this, Renata, and also what happens now? Has the Ecuadorean government responded? And what about the British government? If Julian Assange steps foot outside—he is not wanted by Sweden—will the British government arrest him?

RENATA AVILA: I will answer the last question first. The U.K. is refusing to respect its international obligations. And they said that—Met Police issued a statement saying that they will arrest him. They will arrest him for a minor infraction on jumping bail. But it is a misunderstanding, because he didn’t jump bail. He had—he didn’t stay a night in the house under house arrest, because he needed to exercise his right to asylum.

I think Avila is right, but here the connection with Germany stopped working. This is a recommended article.

3. Did Trump Commit High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

The third article is by Marjorie Cohn on The Huffington Post:
This starts as follows:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has responded to the crescendo of outrage by appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’’ and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation’’ as well as any other matters within the scope of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulation on special counsel appointments.
I have written about the appointment of Robert Mueller III two days ago. See here.

The present article is interesting (for me, at least) because it looks at the American laws and the hitherto existing evidence. First, there is this:

Evidence of a Cover-up by Trump

As evidence of President Donald Trump’s malfeasance emerges, the old adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime may once again prove true.

There is circumstantial evidence of improper contact between members of the Trump administration and Russian operatives during the presidential campaign. At this point, however, we have seen no concrete proof of criminal conduct.

But evidence of a cover-up continues to mount. Trump has admitted the Russia investigation motivated him to fire FBI director James Comey. Trump asked Comey to end the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Trump made veiled threats to Comey about possible tapes of their conversations. Trump demanded that Comey pledge loyalty to him, but Comey refused.
Incidentally, note that this - "the cover-up is worse than the crime" - was also true of Nixon, who was forced out of office, in the end.

Next, there is this on when an offense is impeachable:

What are High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist No. 65 that offenses are impeachable if they “proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Again incidentally, I would say that there are, by now, plenty of reasons to suspect Trump of "the abuse or violation of some public trust", althogh I also know that this suspicion is very much colored by U.S. party politics.

This seems correct:

There is strong evidence that Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors to support an impeachment investigation. Mueller will undoubtedly uncover a great deal more. The new special counsel should send the results of his investigation to the House of Representatives, where impeachment proceedings take place.

Then there is this:

Obstruction of Justice

The articles of impeachment in the cases of both Nixon and Clinton contained allegations of obstruction of justice.

The federal obstruction of justice statute punishes anyone who “corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede . . . the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress.”

A conviction of obstruction of justice requires “acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another.”
(...)
If Trump did fire Comey because the latter’s investigation was getting too close to incriminating Trump, it would be a cover-up, and strong evidence of obstruction of justice.
Yes indeed, although (incidentally again) it seems as if Trump seems to be mostly not conscious of the sharp divide between the judiciary and the executive powers of government (in a real democracy).

This is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

Witness Tampering

The federal witness tampering statute punishes anyone who “knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to influence, delay or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding”

A person also engages in witness tampering if he “otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so” or “intentionally harasses another person and thereby hinders, delays, prevents, or dissuades any person from attending or testifying in an official proceeding.”

Comey reported that Trump asked him for his loyalty. Although the FBI requires its officials to pledge fealty to the Constitution, not to any individual leader, Trump sought to elicit a personal loyalty oath from the FBI director. This may be evidence of intimidation to prevent Comey from testifying against Trump.

Yes indeed. There is more in this article and it is recomnended.

4. The Long Ordeal of Julian Assange

The fourth article today is by John Pilger on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

Julian Assange has been vindicated because the Swedish case against him was corrupt. The prosecutor, Marianne Ny, obstructed justice and should be prosecuted. Her obsession with Assange not only embarrassed her colleagues and the judiciary but exposed the Swedish state’s collusion with the United States in its crimes of war and “rendition.”

Had Assange not sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he would have been on his way to the kind of American torture pit Chelsea Manning had to endure.

This prospect was obscured by the grim farce played out in Sweden. “It’s a laughing stock,” said James Catlin, one of Assange’s Australian lawyers. “It is as if they make it up as they go along.”

It may have seemed that way, but there was always serious purpose. In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally.

The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “center of gravity.” This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution.” Silencing and criminalizing such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.

In case you do not know: John Pilger is an Australian journalist who lives in Great Britain since a long time, and who supported and supports Julian Assange, also since a long time.

Here are two of the main reasons why Pilger supports Assange:

Perhaps this was understandable. WikiLeaks has exposed the way America dominates much of human affairs, including its epic crimes, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale, often homicidal killing of civilians and the contempt for sovereignty and international law.

These disclosures are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S, Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistle blowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal.”
Quite so, although one should not put too much trust in Obama. Here is more on the First Amendment:
The First Amendment protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers, whether it is the editor of the New York Times or the editor of WikiLeaks. The very notion of free speech is described as America’s “ founding virtue” or, as Thomas Jefferson called it, “our currency.”
I quite agree with this. But the US government changed the allegations against Assange (who has only been publishing documents that the U.S. government wants to keep secret):

Faced with this hurdle, the U.S. Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage,” “conspiracy to commit espionage,” “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy.” The favored Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Assange’s ability to defend himself in such a Kafkaesque world has been severely limited by the U.S. declaring his case a state secret. In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security.” This is a kangaroo court.

That is to say: The U.S. government accuses Assange of "espionage", I take it because this "has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty", which is not based on facts, while next it also has blocked "the release of all information" about Assange simply because of this false accusation.

Here is some more on Assange's illegitimate treatment by the Swedes:

Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as “abnormal” and demanded she be replaced.

Assange asked the Swedish authorities for a guarantee that he would not be  “rendered” to the U.S. if he was extradited to Sweden. This was refused. In December 2010, The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the U.S.

And here is part of Pilger's sum-up:

For almost seven years, this epic miscarriage of justice has been drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. There are few precedents. Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks have been aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the U.S. threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, and to the principle of free speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious. I would call it anti-journalism.

I agree, although I would say the U.S. threat was (also) a threat of democracy, individual freedom, and freedom of speech.

There is more in the original, and this is a recommended article.

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