New Campaign by First Look Media Will Help Ensure Chelsea Manning Has Funds for Legal Appeals

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How Chelsea Manning sees herself

First Look Media and the Freedom of the Press Foundation have launched a matching fund campaign to support United States military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, as she appeals her conviction and challenges how the military prosecuted her.

The media organization’s Press Freedom Litigation Fund will match $50,000 in donations. Journalist Glenn Greenwald will match $10,000 in donations. The Freedom of the Press Foundation will manage the fundraising campaign. [As of 11 am ET on July 16, over $28,000 had already been matched.]

All funds raised will ensure that Manning will be able to mount a strong appeal, which is expected to be filed before the year is over. It will also reduce the stress and anxiety Manning experiences as she worries about whether she can afford an appeal.

“Being in prison while trying to figure out how I will pay for my legal appeal has been a great source of stress and anxiety,” Manning stated. “I’m so honored that a new campaign is supporting me in my effort to vindicate my legal rights, and I am truly grateful to anyone who is helping.”

Nancy Hollander, lead counsel for Manning, shared, “My law partner, Vince Ward, Chelsea’s detailed appellate counsel, Cpt David Hammond, and I are working our way through the longest written record in military history and take on this fight willingly.”

“Chelsea has the right to have someone stand between her and the awesome power of her own government when all that power is directed at her. Vince and my work for Chelsea is sustained by thousands of her supporters, who stand with her to challenge our justice system to honor the rights of all people who put themselves at grave personal risk to protect and defend others,” Hollander added.

Hollander noted that it was nearly two years since Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the “heroic act of truth-telling to protect innocent civilians.”

As extensively covered by this journalist here at Firedoglake, the sentencing verdict was issued on August 21, 2013. Manning received far greater punishment than individuals in the military, who have committed war crimes by killing innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan. She also received greater punishment than soldiers or officers responsible for torture.

From the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack, which showed soldiers gunning down innocent civilians and two Reuters journalists, to military incident reports in Afghanistan, which revealed the operations of an assassination squad known as Task Force 373, to military incident reports in Iraq, which included details of an order instructing US and UK forces to look the other way if Iraqi forces engaged in torture, Manning had classic whistleblower intentions when she chose to provide this information to WikiLeaks.

Yet, the US military prosecuted Manning as if she was a spy who “aided the enemy,” specifically al Qaeda terrorists. She was convicted of several violations of the Espionage Act. (more…)

Emails from Hacking Team Show Surveillance Firm’s Nervousness Toward WikiLeaks

Screen shot of spyware manufacturer’s logo from Twitter

The president of Italian spyware manufacturer, Hacking Team, joked about WikiLeaks publishing a leak about the firm’s technology on June 8.

“Imagine this: a leak on WikiLeaks showing YOU explaining the evilest technology on earth! :-),” CEO David Vincenzetti wrote in an email. “You would be demonized by our dearest friends the activists, and normal people would point their fingers at you.”

Vincenzetti was referring to an “end user,” who wanted the firm’s training to be recorded. He rejected the request fearing video would become “freely available on the Internet.”

“Leaks happen, happen to everyone including the NSA,” Vincenzetti declared. “It happened to me once when I was working as sales man for our technology. I was in Asia. One of the attendees pulled out a camera and started video recording my presentation. I immediately stopped and said: no way. He put the camera in his pocket again.”

Now, for the past few days, over 400 gigabytes of emails from Hacking Team dumped on the internet by hackers have been available. More than a million emails are in a searchable database at WikiLeaks for activists, “normal people,” and journalists to browse and uncover details related to business relationships Hacking Team had with law enforcement agencies in countries with repressive regimes.

WikiLeaks previously published a few documents from Hacking Team when it released “The Spy Files,” which exposed aspects of the global surveillance industry. A presentation, video, and brochure about “remote control systems” or RCS, which Hacking Team sells to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to use against users, were posted on the media organization’s website.

According to Privacy International’s briefing to the Italian government [PDF], RCS is an invasive surveillance technology that can “covertly collect, modify, and/or extract data from a device through the installation of malicious software on the device. The malware is inserted on the computer as a trojan, or a malicious code disguised in inconspicuous files or attachments, and is executed on the device.”

Hacking Team’s technology makes it possible to bypass encryption in “common communications services software” and to log Skype calls, emails, instant messages, web browsing data, deleted files and even shots that are taken with a computer’s webcam.

In September 2013, WikiLeaks published data that showed where Hacking Team surveillance salesman had traveled. It was part of a counterintelligence effort put together by WikiLeaks.

“This is BLATANT privacy violation! HOW did they collect such information?” Vincenzetti reacted in an email on September 5, 2013.

Alberto Ornaghi of Hacking Team replied, “If you are a TELCO operator with access to SS7 signaling it’s easy to know where a phone is,” and, “We could provide our key traveller [sic] a different phone number (when they are abroad) and see a call-forwarding from the old number (always in italy).”

One employee thought the information on Hacking Team operations was from a whistleblower in a telecom provider the firm used. The employee suggested switching to a new provider.

When documents were posted to WikiLeaks in December 2011 that called attention to Hacking Team, Marco Bettini, who would later have his travel on behalf of the firm exposed by WikiLeaks, worried about someone leaking information obtained at the Intelligence Support Systems (ISS) conference in Kuala Lumpur. Bettini believed posted documents came from an ISS event and exhibitors, which were in attendance. (more…)

WikiLeaks Publishes List of Phone Numbers from Merkel’s Office Which NSA Targeted

WikiLeaks - NSA Germany
WikiLeaks created this graphic for its release on NSA spying on German chancellor’s administration

There is absolutely no question: the National Security Agency spied on the phone calls of not only German Chancellor Angela Merkel but also officials in her office. The spying was ordered as early as 2002, when Gerhard Schröder was still Chancellor, according to new information published by WikiLeaks.

Officials in the German chancellor’s office were spied upon for political espionage.

Intercept summaries show the NSA spied on Merkel in February 2009, as she questioned how the US Federal Reserve was reacting to the global financial crisis. It was just over a month until the G20 Summit in London.

A conversation between Merkel and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Prince Shaykh Muhammad bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan was intercepted. It involved the Iranian people’s views toward the United States.

In 2011, the NSA spied on Merkel’s discussion with two advisers about the European Stability Facility (EFSF), which was a solution developed by the European Union to provide assistance to countries in the eurozone struggling with debt.

According to WikiLeaks, one of the numbers on the list is the Vodafone cell phone number for Merkel that she was using in 2013.

On June 12, German prosecutors closed an investigation into the NSA’s spying on Merkel’s cellphone, which was spurred by disclosures made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Prosecutors claimed the documents from Snowden did not contain “evidence of surveillance of the cellphone used by the chancellor” that would be “solid enough for the court.”

“There is now proof enough of NSA surveillance on German soil,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange declared. “It is time to reopen the investigation and for the NSA to stop engaging in its illegal activities against Germany.” (more…)

WikiLeaks Performs Valuable Service By Liberating Key Documents from Lesser-Known But Still Major Trade Deal

WikiLeaks TISA graphic

In the past two days, WikiLeaks has released drafts from a lesser-known trade agreement being negotiated between 52 nations called the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). The publication comes just before the next round of negotiations, which will begin on July 6.

The “Core Text” of TISA, as well as chapters from negotiations on “Electronic Commerce,” “Telecommunications Services,” “Financial Services,” and “Maritime Transport Services,” were published.

WikiLeaks describes the “Core Text” of the agreement that they released from the “largest ‘trade deal’ in history” a “modern journalistic holy grail.” The media organization is not exaggerating.

Edward Alden, who used to be a reporter for the newsletter Inside US Trade, wrote in a post for the Council on Foreign Relations that WikiLeaks’ sources are “impressive.” Alden recalled how he worked in the “pre-digital age” to “encourage leaks of trade negotiating positions. “But, with the exception of the Clinton administration’s proposal for the NAFTA labor and environmental side agreements in 1993, we rarely got our hands on the texts themselves.”

In a time when corporations are being aided by governments, which are negotiating sweeping trade deals like TISA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with complete secrecy, WikiLeaks has ensured that governments do not finish negotiations without the public having some idea about this conspiracy unfolded behind closed doors.

Deputy US Trade Representative Michael Punke previously described TISA as an agreement that “would encompass all service sectors and modes of supply and impose a high standard for liberalization.” By liberalization, Punke means deregulation.

Quite aggressively TISA seeks to establishes rules that would tie the hands of TISA governments, preventing them from being able to craft their own regulations to protect people from exploitation by businesses or corporations. And, the very rules, which have been adopted since the 2008 economic crisis, to protect against future financial meltdowns would likely come under attack as a result of this trade deal.

Ben Beachy of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch put together an analysis [PDF] of the “Financial Services” chapter and found sweeping rules for “market access,” which “would expose governments to legal challenges before extrajudicial tribunals for banning risky financial services or products, such as the complex derivatives that fueled the financial crisis. The same rule threatens proposals to limit the size of banks so that they do not become ‘too big to fail.'”

Yet another rule opening up the world to financial risk would challenge policies, which prevent banks from being able to “hold consumers’ deposits from engaging in hedge-fund-style trading of high-risk securities.” It would be prohibited to restrict “financial inflows—used to prevent rapid currency appreciation, asset bubbles and other macroeconomic problems—and financial outflows, used to prevent suddent capital flight in times of crisis.”

“Despite increasing concerns about data privacy, sparked by revelations of the US National Security Agency’s dragnet spying, TISA would require that financial firms be permitted to transfer consumers’ personal financial data overseas, where it could be exposed to unwanted surveillance,” Beachy warns.

In some instances, TISA countries may have to roll back regulations if they were inhibiting the business of a foreign firm. (more…)

Legal Organization Representing WikiLeaks Submits Report for UN Official’s Review of Whistleblower Protections

CCR Logo
Center for Constitutional Rights Logo

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a legal organization based in New York which represents WikiLeaks and its editor-in chief Julian Assange, has submitted a report to help United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye complete his review on the global issue of whistleblowers and the protection of sources.

Kaye serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The review addresses how human rights law should protect journalists from having to disclose their sources and how whistleblowers are or are not protected, especially after exposing human rights violations, corruption or other abuses.

Part of the review includes a kind of survey of all governments in the world asking them how journalists are protected from being compelled to reveal sources and how whistleblowers are afforded protections. It also asked for non-governmental organizations to share their views and studies.

CCR is uniquely positioned to provide insights, given that it represents a media organization which has endured an ongoing and unprecedented investigation by the United States government into the publication of documents provided by US military whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

The legal organization asserts in its submission [PDF], “States have an obligation to protect whistleblowers, a vulnerable group that faces systematic stigmatization as a result of exercising fundamental rights to access and obtain information.”

State governments also “have a positive obligation to promote freedom of expression through cyber laws, and must not use technical violations to punish whistleblowers,” CCR argues.

“There is a serious risk that cyber laws will displace secrecy laws as a tool to prosecute whistleblowers on basis of their activities accessing and obtaining information. In the United States, the cases of Chelsea Manning, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and WikiLeaks reveal the application of “unauthorized access” computer laws to punish whistleblowers and publishers.”

The legal organization adds, “Today significant amounts of access to information, particularly by whistleblowers, is enabled by computers. Whistleblowers must not be punished for using a computer to blow the whistle. Cyber laws sanctioning whistleblowers or sources who already have access to computers, purely based on their intent to blow the whistle, raise serious problems for freedom of expression.”

The US government has prosecuted whistleblowers for violating the Espionage Act and disseminating information. In these cases, the intent of the whistleblower does not matter to prosecutors and judges. What matters is that a secrecy agreement was breached.

CCR kept close watch as the court-martial of Manning unfolded, even bringing a lawsuit on behalf of media organizations and journalists (including this one) to force the US military to be more transparent and make court-martial records available to the press. It struggled against secrecy, but one military court denied a request for relief, a military appeals court claimed to lack jurisdiction, and a federal court refused to hear the case. Finally, the military decided to start publishing documents to an online “reading room” that the press and public could access.

As an example of how whistleblowers are vulnerable to abuse, CCR recalls how UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez decided “Manning was subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment while detained in pretrial custody.”

Manning wrote about her time in pretrial detention in Kuwait:

“At the very lowest point, I contemplated castrating myself, and even – in what seemed a pointless and tragicomic exercise, given the physical impossibility of having nothing stable to hang from – contemplated suicide with a tattered blanket, which I tried to choke myself with,” she recounted for The Guardian. (more…)

WikiLeaks Reveals List of German Officials Spied Upon by NSA, Confirms Merkel Had Calls Intercepted

WikiLeaks designed this graphic for its release of documents showing US spying on German officials
WikiLeaks designed this graphic for its release of documents showing US spying on German officials

WikiLeaks has revealed more details of political and economic espionage against German government officials by the National Security Agency.

The media organization published a list of 69 telephone numbers in the German government that were “high-priority” targets for the NSA. The targets include people who were officials when President Bill Clinton was still in office and confirm the NSA intercepted communications Chancellor Angela Merkel had with German government officials.

On June 12, German prosecutors closed an investigation into the NSA’s spying on Merkel’s cellphone, which was spurred by disclosures made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Prosecutors claimed the documents from Snowden did not contain “evidence of surveillance of the cellphone used by the chancellor” that would be “solid enough for the court.”

On October 11, 2011, a document classified two levels above “Top Secret” indicates the United States closely monitored Merkel’s conversation with her personal assistant about how to address the Greek financial crisis:

Merkel - Personal Assistant Intercept

 

The intercepted communication was shared with the “Five Eyes” alliance—Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Another summary of an intercepted communication came from the British spy agency, GCHQ, and was shared with the NSA. It described how the German government planned to negotiate a European Union bailout plan for Greece. German Chancellery Director-General for EU Affairs Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut argued that it would take an increased level of involvement from the private sector to resolve the crisis.

The “high-priority” list of German targets published shows the US government’s focus on information related to economic affairs. Oskar Lafontaine, who was German Finance Minister from 1998 to 1999, had his communications targeted.

Other officials spied upon include: Werner Müller, German Federal Minister for Economics 1998–2002, Barbara Hendricks, former Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry of Finance and current Federal Minister for the Environment and Ida-Maria Aschenbrenner, Head of Office of Minister of Finance Theo Waigel from 1989 to 1998.

The NSA targeted ministers, staff members and groups working on G7 and World Trade Organization meetings. The phone number of the European Central Bank was listed.

“Today’s publication further demonstrates that the United States’ economic espionage campaign extends to Germany and to key European institutions and issues such as the EU Central Bank and the crisis in Greece,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange declared.

“Our publication today also shows how the UK is assisting the US to spy on issues central to Europe. Would France and Germany have proceeded with the BRICS bailout plan for Greece if this intelligence was not collected and passed to the United States – who must have been horrified at the geopolitical implications?”

The revelations related to US spying on German officials come after two releases highlighting US spying on French officials. (more…)

WikiLeaks Publishes NSA Documents Detailing Economic Espionage by ‘Five Eyes’ Alliance Against France

WikiLeaks French Economic Espionage Documents
Graphic created by WikiLeaks for release of documents showing French economic espionage

WikiLeaks published documents from the National Security Agency showing details of economic espionage against France by the “Five Eyes’ alliance, which consists of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

One document is an “information need” spying order that was first created in 2002. It shows that the alliance sought information on economic relations with the United States, French business practices, relations with least developed countries and transitional states, foreign contracts, French trade, French views, views on G8/G20 developments/issues, budgetary constraints/contributions to NATO, and “questionable trade activities.”

The information gathered was supposed to support the CIA, Commerce Department, Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, State Department, US Trade Representative and Homeland Security Department. Any information collected was designated “releasable” to any of the “Five Eyes” countries.

Another document from 2012 shows particular interest in uncovering information on any “French contract proposals” or “negotiations for international sales or investments in major projects or systems of significant interest to the foreign host country,” especially those involving more than $200 million in sales and/or services.

Of particular interest was information on telecommunications networks or technology, electric power, natural gas or oil facilities and infrastructure, including nuclear power and renewable energy, transportation infrastructure, environmental technology, and health care infrastructure, services, and technology.

In one intercepted communication from about 2008, European Union Trade Section head Hiddo Houben and French Minister-Counselor for Economic and Financial Affairs Jean-Francois Boittin criticized US trade policy toward the World Trade Organization (WTO). Boittin was astonished at the “level of ‘narcissism’ and wasteful contemplation currently on display in Washington.”

Houben was especially critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative and how the US seemed to want to negotiate with every nation bordering China, “asking for commitments that exceed those countries’ administrative capacities so as to ‘confront’ Beijing.” If this took 10 years, Houben maintained China would grow disinterested in the process because the world would have changed so much. The US would have to return to the WTO, and it would prove that Washington had “no real negotiating agenda” for nations like China or Brazil.

In another summary of an intercepted communication that is believed to be from 2008, it is clear there was spying against French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte.  The diplomat considered confronting the US over corruption related to the United Nations’ oil-for-food program in Iraq after a report from the Iraq Survey Group.

“The ambassador termed the report scandalous, since it named no US companies and he claimed that many French companies with contracts under the OFF program were actually subsidiaries of US firms that also profited from the business dealings. He therefore planned, with foreign ministry backing, to present a list of these US companies to both the US Congress and the media,” according to the summary.

On July 31, 2012, a communication from Finance, Economy and Trade Minister Pierre Moscovici was intercepted. Moscovici indicated, “The French economic situation is worse than anyone can imagine and drastic measures will have to be taken in the next 2 years.”

The documents are the latest documents from WikiLeaks that have been released as part of a project, “Espionnage Élysée.”

“The United States has been conducting economic espionage against France for more than a decade,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange declared. “Not only has it spied on the French Finance Minister, it has ordered the interception of every French company contract or negotiation valued at more than $200 million.” (more…)

WikiLeaks Reveals Records of NSA Spying on French Presidents for Information on Political & Economic Affairs

French President Francois Hollande

Top secret intelligence reports and technical documents from the National Security Agency showing the the agency has spied upon the communications of France’s past three presidents were published on June 23.

Julian Assange, the media organization’s founder, described the “Espionnage Élysée” as evidence that France’s elected government has been “subject to hostile surveillance” by a “hostile ally.” French people have a “right to know” this information.

The documents indicate high-ranking officials targeted the communications of Jacques Chirac, who was president from 1995 to 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy, who was 2007-2012, and Francois Hollande, who has been president since 2012. French cabinet ministers and diplomats in those successive governments have been targeted as well.

A “selectors list” published by WikiLeaks shows how the US government justified spying on the officials. For example, the French president’s cell was targeted for intelligence on “political affairs.” France’s Minister of Agriculture was targeted for intelligence on “economic developments.” The country’s Ministry of Finance, Economy and Budget was targeted for intelligence on “international finance developments” between multiple countries. And a presidential aircraft was targeted for intelligence on “political affairs” in the entire European Union.

WikiLeaks also published “intelligence summaries of conversations” between French government officials, which offer a glimpse of the kind of political and economic intelligence the US government is interested in tracking.

In May 2012, the NSA spied on secret meetings Hollande had in Paris to discuss the “eurozone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit.” The NSA believed Hollande did not want word of meetings to get out because he feared it would “deepen the crisis.” French officials met with German Social Democratic Party, part of the German opposition, and Hollande did not want German Chancellor Angela Merkel to find out and cause “diplomatic problems.” (*Note: It is possible the NSA was spying on talks between Merkel and Hollande in Berlin prior to these secret meetings.)

Intercept summary
Intercept summary published by WikiLeaks

One summary of intercepted communications between a French ambassador in Washington, Pierre Vimont, and a diplomatic advisor to Sarkozy, Jean-David Levitte, from March 24, 2010, shows French government officials were upset that the US wanted to “continue spying on France.” France and the US were trying to work out a “bilateral intelligence cooperation agreement” but US officials had backed away, not wanting to agree to not spy on French officials.

Other summaries WikiLeaks published involve Chirac’s discussion of United Nations appointments, Sarkozy’s potential plans for Israel and Palestinians, and how France planned to show “leadership” during the financial crisis in 2008.

The summary reads, “The President blamed many of the current economic problems on mistakes made by the US government, but believes that Washington is now heeding some of his advice. In his view, this is the first time that the US has not taken the lead in managing a global crisis and France will now take the helm.”

A backlash in France was immediate, with France summoning the US ambassador to France Jane Hartley to respond to the revelations. Hollande described the spying as “unacceptable” and held two emergency meetings with top security officials and lawmakers (many who had just voted for legislation that gives the French government new spying powers). And Hollande sent France’s “top intelligence coordinator” to ensure that the US government is keeping a promise made on surveillance after documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were published in 2013 and 2014.
(more…)

The Saudi Cables: Revelations from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan & Egypt

wlogo-smWikiLeaks announced it would publish half a million cables and other documents from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry last week. It released nearly 70,000 files, which the organization’s publisher Julian Assange said would “lift the lid on an increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship.”

The files, in Arabic, have mostly received a minimal amount attention in the United States press. However, multiple independent journalists around the world have been translating the documents to uncover revelations.

Ali Hadi Al-Musawi, who blogs at 1001 Iraqi Thoughts, sifted through the files for important documents on Saudi Arabia’s influence in Iraq.

“A quick scan of the available documents that relate to Iraq reveal three consistent approaches adopted by the Kingdom in an effort to extend its influence in the country,” Al-Musawi wrote. “Financial and political support for Sunni Arab tribes, politicians, and Kurdish actors that are willing to undermine the central government in Baghdad; close communication with Baath Party officers, financial support, and political asylum for families of high-ranking former officials; and regional diplomatic efforts aimed at undermining the sovereign legitimacy of the Iraqi state.”

Significantly, Al-Musawi called attention to a “three-stage plan” proposed by Saudi Arabia to “co-opt” Sunni Arab tribes and Iraqi politicians.

“The stated goal is to undermine the government of Prime Minister al-Maliki and nurture assets that are sympathetic to Saudi Arabia’s policies in Iraq,” Al-Musawi reported. “The cable recommends close coordination between the Kingdom’s foreign ministry and intelligence agency, and suggests inviting co-opted Iraqis on a regular basis to the Kingdom in order to ‘strengthen relations and exchange views and information.'”

A group of anonymous individuals in Yemen are examining the documents for revelations about Saudi Arabia and their country. The group uncovered a cable that shows the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs order the “transfer of $100,000″ to the Saudi mission to the United Nations for a “campaign” to win a seat on the Human Rights Council.

One memo marked “highly confidential and urgent” from Minister of Foreign Affairs Saud al-Faisal and addressed to the Crown Prince suggests the war being waged in Yemen may have something to do with an oil pipeline to the Yemen coast. It referred to a special Saudi commission’s effort to find a naval port for the Kingdom in the Arabian sea through Oman or Yemen. The commission was “made up of senior level members from the Ministries of Interior, defense, foreign affairs, finance, oil and mineral resources, transportation, economy and planning, as well as the presidency of the General Intelligence.” (more…)

MENA Mashup: The Saudi Cables

Wikileaks has released the first tranche of The Saudi Cables which contain “more than half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications from various Saudi Embassies around the world.”

Quite literally it’s nothing but ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’…!

For example…

Buying Silence: How the Saudi Foreign Ministry controls Arab media

On Monday, Saudi Arabia celebrated the beheading of its 100th prisoner this year. The story was nowhere to be seen on Arab media despite the story’s circulation on wire services. Even international media was relatively mute about this milestone compared to what it might have been if it had concerned a different country. How does a story like this go unnoticed?

Today’s release of the WikiLeaks “Saudi Cables” from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs show how it’s done.

The oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its ruling family take a systematic approach to maintaining the country’s positive image on the international stage. Most world governments engage in PR campaigns to fend off criticism and build relations in influential places. Saudi Arabia controls its image by monitoring media and buying loyalties from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between.

Documents reveal the extensive efforts to monitor and co-opt Arab media, making sure to correct any deviations in regional coverage of Saudi Arabia and Saudi-related matters. Saudi Arabia’s strategy for co-opting Arab media takes two forms, corresponding to the “carrot and stick” approach, referred to in the documents as “neutralisation” and “containment”. The approach is customised depending on the market and the media in question. {…}

The documents show concerns within the Saudi administration over the social upheavals of 2011, which became known in the international media as the “Arab Spring”. The cables note with concern that after the fall of Mubarak, coverage of the upheavals in Egyptian media was “being driven by public opinion instead of driving public opinion”. The Ministry resolved “to give financial support to influential media institutions in Tunisia”, the birthplace of the “Arab Spring”.

The cables reveal that the government employs a different approach for its own domestic media. There, a wave of the Royal hand is all that is required to adjust the output of state-controlled media. A complaint from former Lebanese Prime Minister and Saudi citizen Saad Hariri concerning articles critical of him in the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers prompted a directive to “stop these type of articles” from the Foreign Ministry.

This is a general overview of the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s strategy in dealing with the media. WikiLeaks’ Saudi Cables contain numerous other examples that form an indictment of both the Kingdom and the state of the media globally.

Unable to read Arabic myself, I’d been anxiously awaiting some input and I’ve since found this excellent resource in Global Voices(more…)