Tag Archives: Wikileaks

What is Going on in Bulgaria, Really?

Taped conversations, published by a Bulgarian newspaper, allegedly expose a cover-up of smuggling schemes by the Bulgarian Minister of the Interior, Tzvetan Tzvetanov. The full transcripts of the tapes reveal pressure on part of Tsvetanov on Customs Agency Director Vanyo Tanov, who complains that Tsvetanov and the Ministry of the Interior are pressing him and his staff not to check on potential abuses by certain large companies, and to focus instead on others. The only company mentioned by name which has allegedly benefited from this protection is Lukoil Bulgaria (a daughter company of the Russian Lukoil conglomerate). The CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria is allegedly a close friend of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. According to the leaked US embassy cable on organized crime in Bulgaria, Lukoil’s Bulgarian operations are suspected of strong ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime.

A caveat must be made: nobody has confirmed the authenticity of the tapes. The content is not conclusive and is subject to interpretation.

In any case this is worrying. Until now the Customs Agency Director has not denied the contents of the conversations.

In the light of these revelations the reservations of France and Germany over Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area appear more justified. The Prime Minister must take really decisive steps to dispel any suspicion of wrongdoing.

 

 

The Wikileaks Cablegate – a Legal Backgrounder

Apart from the understandable hype surrounding the Wikileaks Cablegate, there are many legal questions that need clarification. I have tried here to summarize available sources and comments on the different aspects of the Cablegate.

1. Wikileaks Cablegate as a violation of espionage laws

Australian and US law enforcement agencies are reportedly studying the possibility of criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, including charges under the Espionage Act, for publishing classified US diplomatic cables. The US Espionage Act was adopted in 1917. There are some opinions that the Espionage Act is generally viewed as outdated in light of more modern case law on the First Amendment, also shown in the federal government loss in the Pentagon Papers case. Others say that if the US really believes that the Espionage Act is a constitutional law that ought to be enforced then they’d better be prepared to go after the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El Pais, all of which published the classified cables after being granted early access and were part of a clear conspiracy with Wikileaks to break the Espionage Act.

U.S. Congressman Peter King has also vowed for the US to declare Wikileaks a terrorist organization, which would presumably allow the US to use anti-terrorist legislation, possibly Title VIII of the Patriot Act. There, however, provisions allow prosecuting the person who gained unauthorized access and caused subsequent damage to a protected computer, which could only be applied to the person who stole the cables in the first place.

In conclusion, it is possible for the US government to use the Espionage Act, but it will face many hurdles due to its potential unconstitutionality.

2. Julian Assange’s Rape Conviction

INTERPOL has made public the Red Notice, or international wanted persons alert, for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the request of Swedish authorities who want to question him in connection with a number of sexual offences. However, INTERPOL cannot demand that any member country arrests the subject of a Red Notice.

Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens has previously said that the allegations were made after Assange had consensual sex with two women who turned on him after becoming aware of each other’s relationships. Sweden’s Supreme Court was reviewing Assange’s appeal of the order to detain him. Court official Kerstin Norman, who is handling the case, said a decision is expected late Wednesday or Thursday.

There is reportedly also a European arrest warrant for Assange by the Swedish authorities, but it was incorrectly filled out.

3. Amazon Hosting for Wikileaks

Amazon Web Services has stopped hosting Wikileaks. This was done for unspecified reasons, but as Larry Dignan points out, Amazon states clearly in its terms of service that it can host you as well as terminate an agreement at will.

4. Death Threats to Julian Assange

Certain individuals in the US have publicly called for the murder of Julian Assange. In US case law advocacy of violence can only be prohibited when there is clear incitement of an imminent violent act. I am not an expert in US law, but it appears to me that these threats constitute a violation. However, it is not clear whether someone in the US or Australia would want to prosecute those threats. In Bulgaria or in the European Union in general these threats would be prosecuted.

5. Conclusion

Three developments should be observed:

  • if and how the US decides to prosecute Wikileaks and/or the newspapers that leaked the cables, and
  • how the criminal case against Julian Assange is processed by the Swedish prosecution and courts, and
  • whether some legal action is taken against individuals that incite the killing of Mr. Assange.

 

 

“Afghanistan is not Sweden”???

I’ve been following with slight misapprehension the nervous reactions of some US bloggers and commentators on the Wikileaks scandal that involved the publication of thousands of US military confidential documents on the Internet.

One particular post, however, needs further comment. It comes from the Passport blog of the Foreign Policy magazine and was written by Blake Hounshell. It is titled “Afghanistan is not Sweden”. There, Mr. Hounshell criticizes “naïve” reactions of bloggers that have expressed concern with the quite high levels of tolerance to civilian casualties in the US military.

Huh? “Afghanistan is not Sweden”? Wow, never thought about it this way!

The very title of this post is derogatory for Afghan people. We all VERY WELL know that Afghanistan is NOT Sweden; we learned that at school. But it is no more legitimate to kill civilian Afghans than to kill civilian Swedes. If Mr. Hounshell thinks otherwise, he should seek other venues to express his agenda.

As a permanent reader of the Foreign Policy magazine and blogs I feel personally offended by this post. To claim that the leak of documents is illegal and threatens current operations is one thing; to claim that people around the world are of different inherent quality is another. The right to life is the most fundamental human right (the US practice of execution notwithstanding). I decline to accept any justification for the loss of human life on the basis of nationality and geographic location.