Robert Redford, the Newsmedia and the WikiLeaks’ Cablegate

2009 portrait of the actorI fell in love with Robert Redford in The Sting when he was young and I was younger. Redford is one of the cinema’s greatest undervalued comedians; his timing is flawless as showcased in early work like “Barefoot In The Park” or later “Legal Eagles”. He even brought humour to his portrayal of “the Sundance Kid,” for whom his film festival is named.

But Redford has put in some brilliant performances in political films over the years.

He turned in a brilliant performance in a cautionary tale called “The Candidate,” which demonstrates clearly how degraded democracies can become.

But there are two movies I was reminded of when I read about today’s WikiLeaks story.

At the end of the movie “Three Days of the Condor,” the inadvertent hero Redford plays achieves freedom the only possible way:

by releasing the classified information to the media.

Because we know that even though he is a whistle blower, once the world knows he will be safe.
And we know the news media will ensure that the story gets out.

We know that.

WikiLeaks "hourglass leaking earth" logo
Robert Redford also played Bob Woodward in “All The President’s Men,” the film version of the true story of the “Watergate” scandal that brought down the Nixon administration.

There are countless stories of the bravery of reporters who risked, and in many cases lost– their lives in pursuit of a story that was important to them and the public. And it still happens.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that the world has changed a lot in the last few decades. In many cases, the News Media is not doing the job we believe it is. Citizens around the globe have NOT been told about the dangers of ACTA or the importance of Net Neutrality to free speech and democracy.

Part of it is, I am sure, that technological advances, in particular the Internet, has caused great upheavals in the Media business. As ownership has been increasingly centralized, downsizing, “dumbing down” and decimation of staff has left many newsrooms in very reduced and weakened states. The agendas of the corporate masters more often determines what is reported and how.

So we are very fortunate to have WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks was gifted with a heap of really important information. In order to ensure dissemination, they passed them around to five major news outlets located in 5 different countries. Each were aware the others had the story, so they ALL had no CHOICE but to publish, with or without corporate or government approval.

In this way, WikiLeaks guaranteed that the story broke and spread.

UK: The Guardian US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomacy crisis

SPAIN: El Pais The greater infiltration of history reveals the secrets of American foreign policy (Google translation to English)

USA: New York Times: Cables Obtained by WikiLeaks Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels

FRANCE: LeMonde WikiLeaks: Behind the Scenes of American diplomacy (Google translation to English)

der Spiegel: Greatest Data Leak in US Military History

Now that it is out, there is no stopping it.

Al Jazeera: Secret US embassy cables revealed

Perth Now: Australia on WikiLeaks ‘cablegate’

boingboing: Wikileaks secret US Embassy cable site live

Mobile Tribune: 1128-“When the Head is Rotten, It Affects the Whole Body” WikiLeaks Cable Quote from Saudi King Abdullah

ANTIWAR.com: State Dept: FDP Makes Germany a ‘Difficult Partner’ in Terror War -Cable Says FDP Too Interested in Personal Privacy to Be Responsible Partner

This will go on for months. Maybe years.

@glynmoody

US ambassador to the UK complains about the loss of *privacy* of those writing the cables – http://bit.ly/eHlQWC #wikileaks

Guardian: US diplomats spied on UN leadership

There is a huge amount of information, and it will take time to digest, but at least it has gotten out. That’s a good thing.

Der Spiegel also has an interactive map.

@DougSaunders

Have you noticed that you can hit the “play” button on the Spiegel map and it shows the cable-bubbles appearing year after year?

— Doug Saunders, European Bureau Chief, The Globe and Mail

The map shows Canadian cables for:

  • Vancouver 44
  • Calgary 14
  • Ottawa 1948
  • Montreal 82
  • Quebec 52
  • Halifax 136

Of course, no Canadian news outlet was selected as a recipient of any of these WikiLeaks cables.

@kady

I mean, at least if there was a Canadian media partner, there would be someone to bully/entreat over upcoming Cdn coverage. #wl

–Kady O’Malley, CBC reporter

Canadian Coverage

red maple leaf graphic

CBC: WikiLeaks reveals undiplomatic U.S. critiques

Canada’s government funded public broadcaster, the CBC, uses an American “Licensing” scheme which doesn’t allow even purely non-profit fair dealing reuse of their publications by Canadian citizens. So why would WikiLeaks even CONSIDER releasing this story to CBC?

Clearly, just like in “Three Days of the Condor,” WikiLeaks wants to spread the story as far and wide and as fast as possible. So that it can’t be stopped.

Globe & Mail: Released WikiLeaks documents shed light on diplomatic dispatches

The Globe likes to call itself “Canada’s National Newspaper,” but like that other television broadcaster, the Globe is owned by Bell Canada Enterprises. I assume that this corporate connection would be the reason why the Globe has been first so quiet and about the  fact  Canadian Internet rates are shortly to go through the roof due to Usage Based Billing.  It is only recently that it’s been possible to find UBB on their website at all.  Now  that they are, the bias is thick enough to cut with a knife.

As a blogger I prefer not to link to Globe articles because in the past they’ve broken links by placing articled behind a paywall.

So I can’t imagine the Globe standing up to government pressure to suppress the WikiLeaks story.

Having a Canadian Government in the process of pushing through Bill C-32 in the face of Universal opposition to appease the American Government, it’s easy to imagine our government buckling at the first sign of American disapproval.

So WikiLeaks released the Cables to 5 dispersed news outlets as a strategy to ensure that the story will break.  Because that is the reason for the very existance of WikiLeaks: to get the story out.  Even if it means the end of WikiLeaks.

Which is, of course, why WikiLeaks is so incredibly dangerous to governments who want to act without oversight or scrutiny.  And why Wikileaks is the destination of choice for whistleblowers with politically sensitive leaks go.  Because WikiLeaks is in it to get the story out.  Period.

Last Hurrah?

Even so, WikiLeaks has been down every time I’ve attempted to visit their site today.

I saw an unsubstantiated report that they were suffering a DDoS attack. And it isn’t hard to imagine where such an attack may have originated.

Of course, their servers may simply have gone down under the onslaught of un-official media outlets (like me).

Of course there have been tales of military personnel wishing for the demise of WikiLeaks. If they didn’t like WikiLeaks before this…

This story is out. It can’t be put back in the bottle. And that’s good.

If WikiLeaks is targeted, or taken down, what I worry about is the next story.

we are ALL in this together

Fortunately, I’m not alone in my concerns.

When Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative gets referendum approval, they are aiming to be good to go by 2012.

ICELAND TO BECOME INTERNATIONAL TRANSPARENCY HAVEN

“I am proud to advise the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative’s proposal to create a global safe haven for investigative journalism. I believe this proposal is a strong way of encouraging integrity and responsive government around the world, including in Iceland. In my work investigating corruption I have seen how important it is to have have robust mechanisms to get information out to the public. Iceland, with its fresh perspectives and courageous, independent people seems to be the perfect place to initiate such an effort towards global transparency and justice.”
—Eva Joly MEP – Icelandic Modern Media Initiative

That will be good for us all. Lets keep our fingers crossed that WikiLeaks can last that long.

Just In: WikiLeaks is Live!

Now you can peruse the Secret US Embassy Cables yourself.

Get ’em while they’re hot.

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Image Credits:
Robert Redford photo by Public Citizen published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Thanks @nomalab, @satipera and Glyn Moody and Jérémie Zimmermann

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Second Reading for Bill C-32

Canadian DMCA

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail assures us that,

Although all three opposition parties have criticized aspects of the bill, they are expected to pass it in principle so that it can move to the legislative committee that would discuss amendments.   At this stage, however, amendments could only address existing language; new issues could not be added.”

–Globe and Mail: Ottawa pushes ahead with copyright bill amid opposition

The most incredible thing is that NOBODY supports Bill C-32. Passing legislation “in principle” that is strongly opposed in all quarters seems foolish indeed.

Bill C-32 will NOT “update” Canada’s copyright law, it will actually work to regress it, by legislating control of the recording, movie and publishing industries back into total domination by corporations.

The “creative community” is not best served by any copyright collectives and unions that advocate legislation which returns artists to the indentured servitude of the last century.

“1¢ per download → Artist 68¢ per download → Record Company

“Is it any wonder musicians are choosing to go Independent? ”

Artists and Record Companies

The Internet makes it possible for artists to distribute their own creative works without having to sign away their souls (and copyright) to distributors (aka record companies) who continue to exploit them unfairly.

Flora records The Hummingbirds album

The copying levy actually works against the truly Independent recording artists (who comprised 30% of the Canadian Recording Industry at last count) who do not in fact share in the proceeds, but rather have to pay the levy themselves on the CDs they sell containing their own original material.

Last year the Canadian Government hosted a Canadian Copyright Consultation which resulted in an unprecedented amount of response from Canadians. The overwhelming majority of this direct citizen input emphatically opposed any kind of “Canadian DMCA.” Yet Bill C-32 completely ignored what Canadians want, instead this so-called “Copyright Modernization Act,” enshrines “digital locks” against the best interests of both citizens and creators.

In a democracy, laws should be made to reflect society’s mores, not dictate them.

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Additional articles I’ve written about Bill C-32:

Authoratative Resources:

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Twitter and the Minister of Industry

red maple leaf graphic

On Friday the Globe and Mail Newspaper broke a story about an independent network of rural Canadians citizens who have formed The Peace River Internet Society, essentially setting themselves up as their own ISP, providing themselves and their community local high speed service since none of the corporate ISPs are willing to. The profits are plowed back into the operation to pay for the really hard to reach customers.

It has applied to use a higher-quality piece of wireless spectrum, one that will allow it to offer faster connections that won’t be affected by interference from run-of-the-mill wireless devices like garage door openers, as its current service does.

Globe and Mail: Red tape snarls rural Internet firm

The all Canadian group of all Canadian residents was turned down after jumping through a variety of Ministry of Industry hoops for not being Canadian.

I have two questions.

#1. Who makes up the rules?
How could these criteria possibly exist in the first place?

#2. How could a decision like this possibly be made?
Why couldn’t the people who dealt with this application see the absurdity of this decision?

Tony Clement tweets: I have ordered a review RT @emmonsnorkum help these guys ... pls! RT @ralphmercer _ Red tape snarls rural Internet firm

Once the Globe broke the story, and people began “Tweeting” about it on Twitter, Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry himself Tweeted:

On one hand, that’s great. Citizen accessibility. The Minister of Industry has ordered a review. That’s dandy… except now there are another couple of questions.

#3.  Is Tony Clement talking about a review of this particular case?

If so, the same bad system will still be in place the next time it happens.  In that case, will the Globe run a similar story the next time it happens?

Or is he looking planning to review the whole shooting match?

#4. Why do Canadians have to get their plight featured in a major newspaper story and then disseminated on the internet before the government listens?

Minister of Industry Tony Clement
The man with power to define "Canadian"

Shouldn’t there be some accessible review process?

The Globe story makes an additional point of pointing a finger at WindMobile, the Egyptian financed cell phone service provider for not being Canadian enough.
Identica logo

Yet the Canadian Government Minister of Industry, the man with the power to define an ISP as Canadian is “tweeting” his intentions on the proprietary American Twitter service.  Shouldn’t the Canadian Minister of Industry be supporting the Canadian Digital Economy?

Sadly, Tony Clement doesn’t even HAVE an account on the equivalent (but open source) Canadian Identi.ca

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digEcon scandals

[I’m breaking some of my digEcon issues down into a three part series across my blogs. The first part is published in the wind where I usually look at copyright issues as a content consumer and a writer. This second part here in Oh! Canada and the final part in StopUBB. When all three are complete I’ll add link arrows.]

Canadian Flag

One thing we all seem to love about the Internet is the opportunities we have to “Like” things. A simple mouse click bestows or withdraws our approval on comments or news stories on the Internet. It gives us the power to be heard.

Voting in the Digital Economy Consultation

classic thumbs up hand

The Canadian Government recognized our liking for “Liking” and gave us the means to do so on the Digital Economy Consultation website. The top three ideas appeared on the home page, right under Industry Minister Tony Clement’s video opening. Every time I logged in to the DigEcon site the same three ideas were on the front page. If you wanted to participate in the consultation you had to be registered and logged in to vote for an idea.

Classic thumbs down image

I’m not entirely sure how these ideas got there although I think they originated in the online discussion forums.

digEcon Voting Scandal?

One idea did really well, one which sought to Reinstate our Census Long Form aka Questionnaire 2B based on the understanding that in a digital world information is vitally important, especially for Government’s long term digital economy planning. A great many visitors to the digEcon site agreed with this idea and it quickly rose through the ranks.

Apparently the Government didn’t like this.

So the Government relocated it.

‘Reinstate our Census Long Form’ was pulled and tucked in an out of the way corner. Even after being pulled, at the end of the day it still held second place, having received +389 votes.

I learned about this from

But “officially” it didn’t count. As far as the Government was concerned, only the three ideas on the home page were the “winners”.

To Compete You Must Compute with +463 votes
A discourse on the importance of Supercomputers, it also appears to be an advertisement for Compute Canada

The idea to provide Open Access to Canada’s Public Sector Information and Data called for the creation of “a data.gc.ca for Canada’s public sector information” garnered +338 votes.

Finally in third position a proposal for improved access to publicly-funded data
with +197 votes.

The Census idea was removed July 9th, a day after Compete/Compute arrived onsite.

The Census idea was unfairly treated, but in all fairness you could still vote for it– if you could find it.

The Government claims the subject matter was outside the guideline, which clearly was not the case. Even if it had been true, it should have been taken down much sooner. It sat on the front page for a very long time to get that many votes.

The sad thing is that it has been well proven that this type of “voting” system can be easily “gamed”. The fact that it was done so heavy handedly is bad. I have to wonder about the appropriateness of Compute Canada’s vote getting campaign. Clearly the only concern is getting votes. I would hope that the Canadian government isn’t planning policy based on such flimsy data.

From the Compute Canada Website:

screenshot from the Compute Canada web page above a photo of Industry Minister Tony Clement, text  which reads Consultation on Canada's Digital Economy  Please vote for the Compute Canada submission "To Compete You Must Compute" at http://de-en.gc.ca/home/ . Instructions are:  1. Click the "Log in" link along the left hand side just under "Home" 2. Click register to get an account. The standard email confirmation process then occurs. 3. After you have an account, log in. 4. Click Idea Forum along left hand side of home page. 5. Click "Digital Infrastructure" in main window 6. Search for "To Compete You Must Compute" 7. Read and Vote. Or just vote a thumbs up.
Compute Canada's website campaign

Does Canada really want our future decided on the basis of an advertising campaign?

As amazing and important as supercomputers may be, in the real world there are very few Canadian Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) that would actually need supercomputer access. Certainly there are a few specialized cases where it would be ideal, but I suspect that most SMEs don’t use the PCs and equipment that they have now to the fullest. Everything changes so quickly, just keeping up is both cost and labor intensive.   It would be a lot of fun to play around with a Supercomputer, but as a writer all I actually need to write novels is my ancient laptop.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

digEcon Canadian Content Scandal?

I didn’t have time to be active in the forums, but something about the Digital Economy Consultation website disturbed me a little at the time. The more I’ve thought about it the more irritated I’ve become. The blue Twitter bird mascot

White lowercase letter F on a blue field is the FaceBook logo

The site gave you the option to share your submission, and probably your forum ideas as well via email, Twitter or FaceBook.

And of course there were problems with the Twitter partnership, most likely because of Twitter’s extremely proprietary nature. Although it is the kind of thing that frequently happens with proprietary software and digital locks…

Digital Economy forum entry about software conflict between Twitter and the Canadian Government websites causing users to be blocked from sharing
digitaleconomy.gc.ca

So often ordinary users aren’t aware that the technical difficulties they are experiencing are DRM side effects.

red maple leaf graphic

What bothered me is that the Government of Canada has chosen to include both Twitter and FaceBook here on an official Canadian Government website. This is effectively an advertisement and a government endorsement of these two American corporations.

I am well aware that Canadians use these services, as I myself do.

That’s not my problem. I am wondering where the Canadian Content was. Hmmmmm… isn’t that one of the things that our current Heritage Minister James Moore is in charge of watching over?

In particular, I’m wondering why the Canadian Government chose not to give equal time to Identi.ca?

an Identi.ca page
My Identi.ca account

Why wasn’t Identi.ca included along with Twitter and FaceBook? Identi.ca is a Canadian Micro-blogging service. Like Twitter, only better in a lot of ways. I do almost ALL my “Tweeting” as “Dents” on Identi.ca

Like a lot of people, I have Identi.ca and Twitter connected for the best of both worlds.

using Twitter online
My Twitter account

Identi.ca runs on open source Status.Net software. Which isn’t at all surprising since both are part of the same Canadian company from Montréal. People and corporations all over the world are creating their own Status.Net sites. A corporation can easily run Status.Net software  on their own LAN.  It can be contained as an internal system or interconnect with other systems (without  FaceBook type privacy issues) because it isn’t proprietary software. I know individuals who run their own Status.net domain they then connect to Identi.ca

Status.net logo

I am not saying we can’t use American services like Twitter or Facebook. I’m writing this blog post on a blog on the American WordPress site.

But Status.Net is a Canadian digital economy success story.

I would have thought it elementary that the prime directive of the Canadian Government’s Digital Economy strategy would be
promotion of the Canadian businesses who are out there building Canada’s Digital Economy.

At the very least I would expected our Government to give equal time to Canadian Digital Enterprises.



Back to digEcon backstory (Bill C-32)Back Navigational Arrow

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Image Credits

“Thumbs Up” by David Benbennick, Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0 License
Image Credit “Thumbs Down” by Joe Goldberg under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generc

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They’re Baaaack… Canada and the Constitution

Harper in Parliament
Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s premature prorogation is over. What did it accomplish? Lots of stress free face time at the Olympics? The public has forgotten all about prorogation, government waste, complicity in war crimes… Have we? I know I haven’t.

Amir Attaran, a Law Professor at the University of Ottawa emphatically states “The first thing is that the government should hand over the documents.”

portait of Attaran
University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran. Photo: Tony Fouhse

Attaran says that “National Security’ is not a legally allowable reason to deny Parliament to access the requested documents.

Parliament is guaranteed access to uncensored documents under the Canadian Constitution.

The government’s ploy to call in a retired judge to make a ruling is a ploy, because being retired he has no authority. In fact, since the Government is paying the judge, he is an employee.

This has ceased to being about Afghan Detainees and whether they are tortured. What is at stake here is extremely high constitutional principle, about whether we are a democracy in which Parliament is supreme, or whether we are inching towards something that is slightly dangerously tyrannical. In which a sitting government can say “parliament, Tough Luck, your priviledges, your constitutional powers don’t matter.”

— Attaran http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDJ1TCXyRY8&feature=youtube_gdata

A question of war crimes

The power to call for persons, papers and records is absolute

It is very clear. The government must comply with the law.

The Rights to Institute Inquiries, to Require the Attendance of Witnesses and to Order the Production of Documents

The power to send for persons, papers and records has been delegated by the House of Commons to its committees in the Standing Orders. It is well established that Parliament has the right to order any and all documents to be laid before it which it believes are necessary for its information. … The power to call for persons, papers and records is absolute, but it is seldom exercised without consideration of the public interest. The House of Commons recognizes that it should not require the production of documents in all cases; considerations of public policy, including national security, foreign relations, and so forth, enter into the decision as to when it is appropriate to order the production of such documents.[327]

House of Commons Procedure and Practice – Second Edition, 2009

[note: the emphasis is mine.]

The Globe and Mail reports: Canadian spies interrogated Afghan prisoners, insiders reveal

Some people think that this is necessary because Canada is at war. Canadian lives are being saved. Does Canada have a reason to be at war besides the fact that President Bush told us to go to war? None that I’ve ever heard.

Canada is supposed to be a sovereign nation, and we should not BE at war without the clear backing of the populace.

Canadian Flag

Canadian soldiers are dying why?

Because they were stupid enough to join our military?

Not so long ago the Canadian military was respected around the world for peacekeeping. Not any more. Now, because of Canadian participation in an unjust war Canadian complicity in torture may be at issue. Is this how you want Canada to behave? I don’t.

Terrible and unconscionable as that is, what is worse is the fact that our government is placing itself above the law in not making the necessary documents available to parliament.

This is a clear and present danger to Canadian democracy.