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WikiLeaks and beyond

August 1, 2010 5 comments

You’d have to have been utterly uninformed if you didn’t notice the storm created by WikiLeaks over the past week in connection with the leaking of some 92,000 classified documents pertaining, among others also to the war in Afghanistan, what the United States terms as the war on terror! Almost everyone in the American administration seems to have an opinion on this, while calling for a systematic effort to comb the intelligence community in a desperate attempt to seal the leak, which is feared to have wider and longstanding implications, so much so as threatening the lives of many American people and their allies, while also seriously compromising their interests at home and beyond!

Come to think of it, founder Julian Assange and team, of WikiLeaks, have not been working really hard to obtain this so called tonnage of information, most of which are already in public domain and knowledge, far from the absolutely classified or top secret types anyone would expect. While the media lapped up the story, publicizing it to no ends and thereby creating a sensation that would perhaps be equivalent to a high-profile assassination, experts are yet to be surprised by this episode, which has now come to be recognized as a fiasco, one that has most certainly been a deliberate inside effort, well-timed to achieve a certain set objective, more so, at the connivance of the American administration and the intelligence community itself! Sharing the beliefs of many experts, several officials within the United States government are also of the opinion that the disclosure by WikiLeaks was a well planned process, aided by none other than senior functionaries within the intelligence community of America, at the insistence of, of course, the top brass of the American administration. Wayne Madsen, formerly with the US Navy and the US National Security Agency (NSA), now a popular blogger, investigative journalist, author and columnist, is known to have told a friend that the disclosure by WikiLeaks is a controlled leak process aided and used by the United States Government run entirely through intelligence networks.

Having spent a great deal of time glossing over the WikiLeaks website, in the past few days, I find that the information so mentioned or offered as part of the leak discloses nothing so significant or shocking, and is certainly not something not already known before. The packet deal consists very little apart from America’s knowledge of Pakistan’s ISI and it’s complicity with various outlawed factions in aiding state sponsored terrorism and the likes, nuances pertaining to the war on terror, notes on NATO operations, and field reports that have been systematically fed into a central repository over a period of time for collation and analysis!

It is widely believed that the source behind the WikiLeaks story is PFC Bradley Manning, a former US Army Intelligence Analyst, detained for allegedly “transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system” and “communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source.” Manning is also believed to have said that diplomatic documents, in his possession, expose “almost criminal political back dealings” and that they explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.” Stating that he hoped the release of matter within his possession would lead to “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms,” he reportedly wrote, “everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed.” While WikiLeaks has itself condemned actions initiated against Manning, it has so far refused to confirm or deny Manning as having been a source in the recently conducted disclosure, stating that it has a policy not to name it’s sources citing strict measures of confidence! In a twist following the initial refusal to confirm or deny it’s believed source, WikiLeaks founder and presently it’s editor-in-Chief, Julian Assange claimed that neither he nor his organization had any knowledge of the identity of the person who sent them the classified material, stating that the website itself was created in order to hide the source of it’s data from those who receive it.

This is however not the first time that WikiLeaks has come up with matters of disclosures that it claimed will stun the world, exposing the many cover ups being systematically undertaken by government and administrative officials. Ranging from Standard Operating Procedures of Guantanamo Bay to the membership list of the ultra-right wing British National Party, confidential reports of the United Nations, secret Congressional Research Service reports, intercepts pertaining to the 9/11 incident, reports related to dumping of toxic waste materials in Africa, Oil scandals in Peru and several other interesting material, the leaks of documents pertaining to the American war on terror in Afghanistan is among the many such instances, with the exception of it’s sensitivity considering how high this probably came from! These reports, ranging from the period of 2004 until 2009, detail incidents including friendly fire and civilian casualties, as a result of the various operations conducted within Afghanistan. Also, among the documents leaked are reports that American officials in Afghanistan strongly suspected Pakistan’s actions supporting Taliban militants while on the other hand, accepting huge amounts of American aid. Although publicly known, it is believed that these documents could fuel growing doubts within the US Congress about President Obama’s strategy on the war on terror and it’s effectiveness as American death toll continues to rise.

Interestingly, while the White House, along with senior government bodies in the United States has repeatedly termed this episode as an action constituting the breach of federal law, there has been no talk of any actions against WikiLeaks itself, while only an appeal not to publish any more sensitive material that maybe available in it’s custody! When asked if WikiLeaks could face criminal action, Pentagon officials have simply stated in what appears to be an evasive answer that “historically the leakers have been the ones targeted for criminal prosecution and not those who merely publish the information.” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. This is a whole new world that we are entering into where an organization without any editorial judgment, beholden to nobody, is soliciting classified information from people all over the world and then publishing it, I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer but people are going to have to make judgments about whether there are legal ramifications for soliciting a criminal act.”

In the aftermath of what is being seen as a sensational episode of disclosure, the US President will face a very tough task of convincing the congress to continue funding the war on terror. These disclosures, which have portrayed the on goings of the war on terror in a finer detail, often highlighting the failure of the administration in containing the many threats associated to the exercise, have come at a very crucial time. Because of undying difficulties on the ground and increasing casualty rates, a raging debate over the continued American presence in Afghanistan has begun much earlier than expected. It is believed that within the administration, more and more officials are turning skeptics and privately questioning the American policy towards the war on terror. Elsewhere within the US Congress, leaders are preparing to hold a vote on a very important bill related to financing the war on terror amidst fears that the leaks could incite opposition on the administration’s policies from even within the Democrats. Also geared to be chaired is a Senate panel aimed to hold a hearing on President Obama’s choice to head the military’s central command, Gen James Mattis, who will oversee military operations in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that the documents, released by WikiLeaks, will make it harder for President Obama as he strives to garner public and Congressional support until the end of the year, when he has scheduled a review of the war effort.

So given all of these complications already present and soon escalating, one wonders why there should have been an administrative level complicity in the disclosures made by WikiLeaks, for there seems to be no valid reason why the administration would endanger it’s own position in front of the American people and the Congress! Logically, there cannot be an answer to this unless it is a well concerted plan of the current US administration aimed to facilitate a withdrawal from Afghanistan! Maybe the government conveniently authorized this leak and aided it at the highest possible levels well aware of the furore it would create and therefore pave way for it’s exit from Afghanistan with the least possible political damage while stating the obvious that the war is intensifying in a manner that even the most efficiently coordinated efforts will pale in the face of escalating terror and continuance in such a situation will only drain American resources, lives and cost! An already edgy and driven Congress will be ‘made to understand’ the facts without ever the need for any elaborate explanations and testifying, all thanks to such a grand scale of leaks! With the international media spending such a considerable amount of time and effort in scrutinizing the war on terror in extensive detail, the task of the administration has lessened even more to a comfortable level of being able to convince the world of how unfruitful the pursuit of freedom or peace in Afghanistan can be! And for the general public, overwhelmed by the frantic pace of reporting by news channels over this so called sensationally humongous leak, I doubt if many would even understand that this mass cache of documents mean anything to the point of being able to be understood.

Therefore, how convenient and cooperative an effort by WikiLeaks and the Government of the United States!

The Presidential Nobel

October 14, 2009 2 comments

After President Obama was conferred the Nobel peace prize last week, I have received several emails asking my opinion and particularly if I thought that it was necessary for him to be given this prestigious prize. Apart from considering such questions far beyond my capacity to answer or reason, I believe that such an award being conferred on someone such as President Obama has concrete reasons of validity far beyond the wave of change that ensured his election as the American Chief Executive. And this most certainly hasn’t much of Afro-American empathy alone to go with it, I must say, not to mention the seeming soft-placating of the Nobel committee that many see as an act of quickly estimating a player even before the game is over.

For starters, Obama’s commitment to an all inclusive American social structure complimenting world demographics was well known before his election to the Presidential Office, as a community organizer and a civil rights attorney in Chicago. One would, at this point in time, want to recall his efforts, in 1992, involved in registration of a hundred and fifty thousand African-Americans in Illinois, which came to be known as Project Vote and became a highly successful campaign prompting him to be named Crain’s Chicago Business’s 1993 list of “40 under Forty” powers to be! Would one not like to attribute this to a socio-culture gap being bridged in a modern society that has still deep rooted racial instances running inside of it?

As a Senator, he voted in favour of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, an immigration reform bill introduced by then Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy, calling for incorporating guest worker programs among other things while focusing on issues such as human trafficking and border control, the economic impact of such happenings having long bickered the United States. Only here, there was an instance of showcasing of humaneness, which the President to-be endorsed through this piece of legislation that he chose to favor! Surely, that does come under the ambit of cooperation between peoples?

Following his election to the executive office, he began with a pledge to extend a hand of friendship to the Muslim world, which continues to be vehemently despised for supporting the scourge of terrorism, which has in its grip many a nation and people! Turning a hand of friendship and a possibility of working upon a broken relationship, he offered Iran what no American president has in the recent past made good. With a marked departure in the manner in which Iran and its socio-political establishment is viewed, Obama pledged to re-look the American association with Iran, an action which surely requires commendation of a very high order. North Korea has been no different in Obama’s agenda, having been given a high degree of importance aimed at repairing a long faltered association with a thrust of focus on disengaging nuclear weapons.

His administration’s commitment to ensure closure of Guantanamo Bay and the ensuing torture practices there may not have earned him applause from within and outside the American union, but wouldn’t one not seek to view this in the light of a person’s characteristic to condemn inhuman practices such as the infamous waterboarding techniques endorsed and furthered by the previous administration?

Transparency in functioning has also been an area of paramount importance in the current administration. By reducing the amount of secrecy associated with presidential records and effecting changes in procedures and policies to promote disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, Obama has demonstrated his administration’s pledge to dispel ambiguity in the manner in which the current White House operates.

His commitment to reduce production of nuclear weapons and thereafter systematically, through meaningful partnerships, ensure their eradication may appear fictional to many geo-political observers, however, such a commitment could surely help the world rid itself of dangerous precincts in the times to come, would you not agree?

Talking about results, one must understand and take cognizance of the fact that an offer made needs a reciprocal for it to come into being. Such is the case presently when one reviews the American association with the world at large. It is certainly possible that the current administration’s policies and procedures give way for a new beginning as is envisaged by Obama himself. It takes an epoch in the measure of time if one must insist on seeing actions being translated into results, and that by no means is the only qualifier for being recognized for the efforts that have been so diligently made!

And since the Nobel peace prize was accorded to him “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” I would concur that it has been done so, in recognition of the serious efforts that have been made by a man who has committed himself and his administration to realize a vision, which he believes can redefine the manner in which his country interacts with the world – by a measure of change!

Pakistan's nuclear agenda – The compelling problem!

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

News about Pakistan’s modification of the Harpoon missiles aimed to possibly launch on Indian targets comes as a somber reminder of a dreaded neighbour whose intentions can many a times be very misleading, contrary to what is thought of. History has rightly indicated how bitterly Indian overtures for dialogue and peace have been met with counter productive misadventures, Kargil being among the many such gaffes on the part of Pakistan.

Breaking the news, New York Times carried a feature that detailed how Pakistan had illegally modified Harpoon anti-ship missiles, that it had acquired from the United States, in order to now give it the ability to strike land targets in India. While American intelligence agencies got wind of this through information acquired from a test conducted by Pakistan on April 23rd, this year, Pakistan itself claims that such is not the case. It states that no modifications have been done to the Harpoon and that the previous tests, claimed by US agencies pertain to an altogether different missile developed indigenously by Pakistan.

Americans on the other hand claim that Pakistan stands in violation of the Arms Control Export Act, under which encumbrance the Harpoon sale had been effected. It will not immediately be known if the missile in question is the Harpoon itself or a home grown technology or if it has been bought over from China. But the general concern is that such a technology now presents Pakistan with a new ability, one that will enable it to launch strikes on Indian targets which were hitherto out of reach or considered to be so!

Interestingly, this allegation comes at a time when President Obama’s administration sought congressional approval of a staggering $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next couple of years, which it says is a measure to arm an ally in its concerted efforts in the war against terror!

The sooner the Americans come to terms with the fact, one that they already know about, that Pakistan has been siphoning off money and arms supplied to it to aide illicit operations, the war on terror stands won on many grounds!

Barely, hours after this report, an American scientist, Hans M Kristensen, belong to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), reported that Pakistan has increased its number of ready-to-use nuclear warheads to a staggering 90 in number! His article on the FAS page that Pakistan has stored nuclear warheads in fully assembled condition indicates that they can be called for use at a short notice. On the contrary, India, which has a respectable no first strike policy ensures that war heads are not mounted on missiles and stores either of them separately.

The growing concern pertaining to Pakistan’s increasing nuclear arsenal was expressed by the Chief of Indian Army, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, who in his statement mentioned that this was clearly beyond the level of deterrence that a country needed.

Meanwhile, FAS sources claim that Pakistan has been developing two new cruise missiles, which include the ground-launched Babur and the air-launched Ra’ad, both of which have nuclear delivery capability. Added to the tweaked Harpoons, Pakistan now has a variety of delivery measures with which it could exact a nuclear attack, something which is a serious threat to the Indian nation, over and above that which already exists! That they intend to increase their nuclear weapons capability is without doubt, considering the emerging plutonium reactors plants and the additional chemical separation facility.

A senior nuclear policy expert, Bharat Karnad states that Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions are no secret. According to him “they have had it for several years. The reason why they are doing is that they want to be ready to detain any threat at any point. They also apprehend danger to nuclear weapons by outside countries which they don’t want to name but by implication they have the United States, Israel and India that is who they fear will attack them.”

Quite co-incidentally, the disgraced pioneer of Pakistan’s nuclear program, A. Q. Khan, who until a while ago faced serious restrictions imposed by the law, has now been rewarded, or shall we say compensated, with significantly reduced sanctions! I’m wondering if this is the establishment’s way of asking him to once again participate in the revival of Pakistan’s nuclear agenda. If so, Pakistan is seriously embarking upon a long and well planned construction of a nuclear delivery system, which in the time to come will be a force to reckon with and perhaps an overt threat to the peace and stability in the region!