In light of the recently announced public inquiry into the murder of Daniel Morgan, I've copied below the MS portion of the chapter from my book The Fall of the House of Murdoch to aid the resource page set up by Jack of Kent. It could be a useful summation of events up to July 2012.
The Murder of Daniel Morgan: from "The Criminal Media Nexus" pp
Of all the many ‘falls’ in the fall of the House of Murdoch, Coulson’s is one of the most precipitous. Apart from editing the country’s most successful Sunday paper, his recruitment to head up communications for the Conservative Party in 2007 was celebrated in Tory ranks, with Matthew d’Ancona writing in the Sunday Telegraph : This is an unalloyed coup for the Tories, as Mr Coulson is one of the most formidable journalists of his generation, combining a sharp tabloid eye with a keen political intellect. When the New York Times refuted the ‘rogue reporter’ defence in 2010, the prominent conservative blogger Iain Dale wrote ‘Coulson’s Accusers can Go to Hell’:
“Andy Coulson is bloody good at his job. That's why the likes of The Guardian, Alastair Campbell, Prescott and Johnson are doing their best to jump on the back of the New York Times story about an ex News of the World journalist who was sacked by the paper for persistent drug and alcohol problems. You don't think he might have a grudge, do you?.... They all want Coulson's scalp. Well, sod 'em… Coulson took responsibility for the episode at the time and resigned. What do they want him to do - resign a second time from a job which has nothing to do his previous incarnation?”
Coulson had famously been given a ‘second chance’ by David Cameron after his resignation from the News of the World and as if to show this generosity was a virtuous circle, two years previously Coulson had himself given a ‘second chance’ to someone else who had fallen from grace. He hired Jonathan Rees, private investigator, on his release from prison after serving five years for conspiring to fit up an innocent woman with cocaine in a child custody case. Rees was actually heard planning that crime while the police were investigating another – the bloody murder of his business partner in South London a decade earlier.
Coulson’s direct connection to a second private investigator thereby took the criminal associations of Senior News International management well beyond privacy intrusion. As a “close ally of the Prime Minister” admitted to the Guardian, senior Tories knew some things but not others - "hacking yes, axe murder no."
The axe murder in question was that of Daniel Morgan who has – in the words the authors of Dial M for Murdoch - one of the Britain’s biggest unsolved crimes (Watson & Hickman, 2012, pp. 107-10, 167-181). Daniel’s case has undergone no less than five separate police investigations over the last quarter century at a cost of between £20-£40 million but still with no resolution for his brother, mother or children. The most recent murder trial of Rees and his associates collapsed in technicalities and the backlog of three quarters of a million pieces of paperwork as recently as March 2011. Daniel’s family now accept that the entangled and knotted history of his case may now never be solved in a way to satisfy any criminal courts, but they still want a public inquiry at least to separate some threads. Of those threads the combination of News International involvement and extensive police corruption in South London are salient enough to justify the term ‘criminal media nexus’.
Daniel Morgan’s Southern Investigations was a small but successful private security company that would often take him on travels abroad to investigate corporate fraud. As he got busier, Daniel formed a partnership with Jonathan Rees in the mid-eighties. However, tensions soon built up. According to his brother, Alastair Morgan, Daniel had always avoided jobs involving cash transits, and fell out with Rees when he undertook such a job and a large amount of cash went missing. (Morgan A. , 2012) By spring 1987, Daniel was even more concerned. The private detective told his brother how he’d discovered a network of corrupt police officers in London, led by a senior officer. A colleague of Daniel’s now claims Daniel planned to sell this story of police corruption to a newspaper, and was negotiating with the News of the World. Under Parliamentary privilege, the MP Tom Watson alleged that Daniel approached the tabloid’s crime reporter Alec Marunchak, who offered him £40,000 for the story. Marunchak has vehemently denied this.
On 10 March 1987, half an hour after he was seen drinking with Rees at the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, Morgan was found dead in the pub car park next to his BMW with a large fatal axe wound to the back of his head. His trouser pockets were ripped, and notes that he had earlier been seen writing were missing. Gone too was his watch, although Daniel’s wallet, containing a large sum of money, was still in his jacket pocket.
One of the first detectives assigned to the murder case, DS Sid Fillery stationed at Catford police station, turned out to have been moonlighting for Southern Investigations. In April, he, Jonathan Rees and two other police officers were arrested on suspicion of murder, along with Rees’ brothers-in-law Glenn and Garry Vian. All were then released without charge. By the time the inquest into Daniel Morgan's death took place the following year, Fillery had retired from the police, and replaced Daniel as Rees’ partner in Southern Investigations. The coroner heard claims that police officers were involved in the murder, and had tampered with evidence and interfered with witnesses: Hampshire police then launched their own investigation. In 1988 they arrested Jonathan Rees and charged him with the murder, but charges were dropped again soon because of a lack of evidence.
Meanwhile, Rees was pursuing a lucrative career working for Fleet Street, and soon was claiming the News of the World alone paying him more than £150,000 a year. All this emerged through the surveillance of Southern Investigation in a third secret police inquiry into the unsolved murder. But the third inquiry was interrupted when Rees was overhead planning to plant cocaine on a mother in a custody battle. Rees was arrested and in December 2000 sentenced for seven years imprisonment for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
While Rees was in prison, a fourth inquiry was launched in 2002-2003, led by David Cook. As his wife, Jacqui Hames, a former police officer, explained to the Leveson Inquiry, News International – who had unbeknownst to the police employed Rees extensively before his emprisonment - took an acute and disturbing interest in the case. Hames broke down as she told Lord Justice Leveson how her family was followed and their phones were hacked in a News of the World operation she claimed was led by Alex Marunchak. Coincidentally, Marunchak, with a Ukrainian background was also revealed in 2011 to have had a side line as translator for Scotland Yard for 21 years.
Marunchak’s boss, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of News of the World, was confronted about this surveillance both by Scotland Yard’s chief press officer, Dick Fedorcio, and Cook himself. On both occasions Brooks said the surveillance was only initiated because she believed Cook and Hames were having an affair. This was an “absolutely pathetic” justification according to Hames who went on to explain: "We had by then been married for four years, had been together for 11 years and had two children!" Hames contends that the real reason was to scupper the police inquiries: "I believe that the real reason for the NoW placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation."
After his release from prison in 2005, Rees began to work almost exclusively for News of the World where his main point of contact is reported to have been Alex Marunchak. The relationship was alleged to have been so close that Marunchak registered his company at the same address.
By the time Andy Coulson’s connections to Rees emerged, the former editor was Director of Communications for the Conservative Party, and the private investigator could not be named because of a new murder trial that had begun in 2008 and would continue for another three years. When Andy Coulson entered Number Ten Downing Street in May 2010, the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, made a personal call to a Cameron senior staff member to warn him of Coulson’s connection to Rees. It took until March 2011, when the case collapsed through failed disclosure and doubts about two supergrasses, for the truth to be made public. Nick Davies, who described Fillery and Rees as building an "empire of corruption" after getting away with Daniel Morgan's murder, wrote with Vikram Dodd in the Guardian:
“Rees, now aged 56, worked regularly for the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror as well as for the News of the World. His numerous targets included members of the royal family whose bank accounts he penetrated; political figures including Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell; rock stars such as Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and George Michael; the Olympic athlete Linford Christie and former England footballer Gary Lineker; TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan; and people associated with tabloid story topics, including the daughter of the former miners leader Arthur Scargill and the family of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.
Jonathan Rees paid a network of corrupt police officers who sold him confidential records. He boasted of other corrupt contacts in banks and government organisations; hired specialists to "blag" confidential data from targets' current accounts, phone records and car registration; allegedly used "Trojan horse" emails to extract information from computers; and – according to two sources – commissioned burglaries to obtain material for journalists...”
Looking back on Jonathan Rees’ proven criminal acts and allegations they dwarf in depth of criminality (if not in scale) any of the activities of Glen Mulcaire: yet, for reasons of their own, Operation Weeting team has excluded a large quantity of Rees’ material from their investigation. Just as the rogue reporter defence was never credible, the known facts about Rees prove that Mulcaire was not the sole private investigator hired by News International, let alone other Fleet Street papers. But the press’ reliance of covert and illicit sources of material has made them masters of selective disclosure – happy to reveal other people’s secrets, adamant about keeping their own. News International was certainly the market leader in this kind of criminal activity, but certainly – as both Steve Whittamore and Jonathan Rees demonstrate – not alone.
For the family of Daniel Morgan, however, a quarter of a century has passed with no resolution, and none in sight. Alastair Morgan is still campaigning for some kind of justice for his brother, and seeks a full judicial inquiry, hopefully to reach some kind of conclusion while his mother is still alive. He still remembers his last meeting with Daniel
From the grim used-car lots and pub car-parks of South London, the taint of complicity in the bond forged between the police and News International during the Wapping conflict would continue into the blue skies of satellite broadcasting and the new frontiers of cybercrime. ....
English version of the article that first appeared in the Polish Magazine Krytyka Polityczna
Though it claims to be one of the world’s fasting growing religions, and now holds over $1 billion in liquid assets, last year wasn’t great for the Church of Scientology. The news that its most famous public adherent and advocate, Tom Cruise, was divorcing fellow actor Katie Holmes brought with it a rash of renewed criticisms of the futuristic religion, including a tweet from the media mogul Rupert Murdoch that it was “creepy - maybe evil’. This year started out even worse with the publication of a major expose into the practices of the religion. Lawrence Wright, who won the Pulitzer prize in 2007 for his analysis of Al Qaeda, The Looming Towers, has just released his next big opus: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The book isn’t available in the UK thanks to our draconian libel laws, but Wright’s damaging allegations about bullying, mismanagement and intimidation have been widely reviewed and publicised. Rarely, in its 60 year history, has Scientology’s reputation in its American heartland and homeland been at such a low.
Nonetheless, a greater threat to the new age church may not lie in US free speech but in European legislation. A month ago, after five years of investigation, Belgian prosecutors announced they were charging the church as a ‘criminal organisation’ on the basis it practiced extortion, "pseudo-medicine" and the keeping of records that contravene privacy laws. Though there are only a five hundred Scientologists in Belgium, Brussels houses the church’s European HQ, and the legal case could be crippling to the group in Europe.
After years of development, co-writer Marcos D'Cruze and myself are delighted to announce the launch of Mrs Gucci - a fact based musical about fashion, passion and death. Go to the development site to find out more.
WHEN Peter Jukes let it be known last year that he was writing a book called The Fall of the House of Murdoch, a senior Sun editor emailed him to say: "Is this a joke?"
But with Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson both now facing charges over phone-hacking, and Rupert Murdoch slowly stepping back from his British newspaper holdings, it looks like a prescient title.
The old adage – "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel" – no longer fits. Much ink has been expended on the Australia media baron, from Michael Wolff's acidic biography to Tom Watson's plodding account of the phone-hacking scandal. The Fall of the House of Murdoch is refreshing as it examines the ideas that have driven the modern western world to its current crisis.
Referencing widely, from Adam Smith and George Orwell to the author's mentor, historian Tony Judt, Jukes argues that Murdoch managed to elide two seemingly uncontroversial ideas, those of freedom of the markets and freedom of the press, to toxic effect.
The early signs of his freedom-loving spirit were there in 1969. Just after buying the News of the World, Murdoch printed the diaries of Christine Keeler, the call girl at the centre of the Profumo scandal. It marked out Murdoch as an outsider, happy to push the boundaries, in this case to embarrass the Establishment. With the British elite on the wane by the Eighties, he found another closed shop to take on the print unions – and so became a standard bearer for the neo-liberal agenda of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and, as his international holdings grew, a poster-boy for Tony Blair's globalisation project.
In an ambitious argument, it is suggested that Murdoch's brand of news even mirrored the expansion of the financial sector. Stories about politicians and celebrities were akin to derivative markets in which futures could be ramped or dumped for one's own ends, as John Major s government and stars such as Charlotte Church found to their cost, and David Cameron perhaps to his benefit. (What's a little phone-hacking and horse-riding to achieve these goals compared with Libor manipulation?)
Capitalism was indulged up until the 2007-8 financial crisis. Murdoch-style journalism took a bit longer to break because, as Jukes puts it neatly, "News International is not only too big to fail but also, with its government connections, too big to jail".
Many an economic liberal still admires Murdoch's business style, but this is part of the ideological mist. While he presents himself as a free marketeer, Murdoch's newspaper and television interests in Britain and Australia have verged on monopolies. And despite his republican stance, Murdoch runs News Corporation as a dynasty, with three children, Lachlan, James and Elisabeth, all at one time groomed as potential successors.
The Fall of the House of Murdoch was written in haste to catch the tail-end of the Leveson Inquiry and, as a result, is a little unpolished. Yet it is an impressive treatise on how media, money and power in the past 30 years became so locked into mutually supporting agendas that they failed to interrogate each other. If that's not enough, it is worth reading just for Jukes's account of Rebekah Brooks's flirtation with him at a party in 2006
It's hard to believe, but at 4pm BST today it will be exactly a year since Nick Davies and Amelia Hill published online a leak from Operation Weeting, the newly recreated (third) investigation into phone hacking, and revealed that the News of the World had hacked the phone of a missing 13 year old schoolgirl, who was found dead six months later, murdered by Levi Bellfield.
That headline changed the political scene here in the UK. Within days the News of the World had closed, and New Corp were forced to withdraw their takeover bid for Britain's most lucrative broadcaster, BSkyB. Within two weeks James and Rupert Murdoch were summoned to appear before a Parliamentary select committee, and David Cameron was forced to set up the Leveson Inquiry.
Over the next year, the hacking scandal expanding to a corruption and bribery scandal at the News of the World's sister paper, the best selling Sun. Over 50 people have now been arrested. An internal News Corp inquiry, the MSC - set up under pressure from the FBI, SEC and DOJ - has now handed over thousands of emails suggesting bribery of public officials. The scandal expanded to include allegations of TV piracy at News Corp's pay-TV encryption services in Australia, the UK, Italy and the US.
But more than anything, for the UK, the Leveson Inquiry has shone a light into the dark corners of the political media class, and revealed such extensive back door lobbying between the Murdochs and the last five prime ministers, that it was almost like discovering a state within a state. And of course, with Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and James Murdoch meeting virtually every day with David Cameron, George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt, the convergence over the last few years has been almost seamless. As a senior News International journalist expressed it to me:
The Court of Cameron and the Court of Murdoch have become almost totally enmeshed.
This last year has been an amazing journey for our country, and for me personally, as I became inextricably caught up in the coverage of the affair. My book, which explores those 14 days in July which ended a media dynasty - and the 50 years leading up to it - is in the final stages and due for publication at the end of the month.
Below I might share some of the book, particularly the reality of the Milly Dowler story, but mainly this diary is to share YOUR memories, to hear your thoughts about this momentous year
The Net Closes In
Just as it seems some kind of legal injunction managed to stop the broadcast of last night's much anticipated BBC Panorama documentary on Murdoch's spying activities on other rivals, the police leap into action with the biggest number of arrests since the Hackgate scandal begun. Six people were arrested this morning in early morning raids on the very serious charge of perverting the course of justice, a common law offence which can carry a life imprisonment sentence.
Rebekah Brooks was due to answer bail this week for her previous (prearranged) arrest for phone hacking and suborning police officers. This time the raid was much more brutal. It's speculation at the moment, but the fact her husband, the race horse owner Charlie Brooks, was arrested too, suggests it might have something to do with this strange incident of the binned laptop last July, on the night of the Lulzsec hack of The Sun. But apparently one has to be careful speculating here, because of British Contempt of Court Act 1981. I draw no inferences and will remove any quotations. But I wonder if linking to the many easily accessible reports about this is also a breach. Seeking more advice. In the meantime, paras 35-36 of this legal submission from the phone hacking victims who have settled are also very interesting in terms of a potential coverup.
This is very significant, not just because of the gravity of the charges, but because it now puts the hackgate scandal right into the highest circles of power. Charlie Brooks is one of David Cameron's oldest and closest friends, and their riding trips together on an old police horse leant out from the Met, source of the Horsegate hilarity - one of the funniest ever newspaper live threads on the subject at the Telegraph website.
By cruel irony, Charlie Brooks' horseracing column, celebrating the opening of the Cheltenham races, was published this morning. The title and subhead is some somewhat unfortunate.
Cheltenham Festival 2012: this meeting is a war of attrition on many fronts The happiest moment of my year is about three hours before the first race at Cheltenham on Tuesday;
Rebekah Brooks was until July, Chief Executive of News International. Also arrested is Mark Hanna, head of security at News International. Both were answerable to News International's Chairman, James Murdoch.
The Dynasty Falling
But by far the biggest news would be the arrest of James Murdoch. Over the weekend I heard that a senior Fleet Street editor thought this was on the cards. There is also the intriguing fact that one of the six arrested this morning was 39 year old man in Hampshire. Several people online noticed James was 39. My valiant co-reporter Ceebs managed to track down several James Murdochs in Hampshire. According to Reuters:
One of the descriptions of those arrested - police declined to name them - also fitted the description of James Murdoch, but two sources said he was currently in the United States.
News Corp declined to comment on the arrests.
But even if he's not arrested yet, as the Chair of News International, he is now powerfully in the frame.
This is not only a personal catastrophe for James, but for the Rupert himself. The whole strategy of News Corp (James still sits on the board there and at BSkyB) was to sacrifice anyone (proteges like Brooks, old retainers like Les Hinton who had served Murdoch for 50 years) to protect the family. But though he wasn't chair of News International when Mulcaire's hacking was at its height, he was during the huge cover up at News International, which implied attempts to delete huge swathes of email evidence, not to mention legal threats, and even surveillance and intimidation of lawyers, police officers and members of Parliament.
James is a victim here of his legacy. By all accounts, he was a more enlightened chairman at BSkyB than his father, and - though inevitably arrogant and entitled - still a better manager. The truth is, he would probably never be in this position, for good and ill, without the family name.
Live by inheritance. Die by inheritance. In every gift there is a curse.
The hackgate scandal has, like the Dreyfus scandal in France 100 years ago, shone a torch beam into the collusions and corruptions of British society, as an overweening media monopoly inserted itself in public life, and suborned the Met police, cowed journalists, and crept its way into the heart of government. The arrest of senior News International, apart from symbolising the Fall of the House of Murdoch, finally proves that some people aren't beyond the law, and encourages everyone who has been intimidated and silenced by Murdoch's money and influence can now speak out, without fearing press intimidation and police collusion.
Whether crimes have been committed or not, is for a judge and jury to answer once charges have been brought. But some very powerful people are now subjected to the full scrutiny of the law. For this alone, it's a great moment for British society, and I hope gives Americans who object to the perverting nexus of money, media power and politics, to hope for more justice there.
8:07 AM PT: The Labour Shadow Minister for Culture and Media has now asked the Leveson inquiry to investigate the full relationship between Rebekah and Charlie Brooks, and the Prime Minister David Cameron
It is important that the police are continuing to pursue the investigation into phone hacking.
Rebekah and Charlie Brooks are, on the prime minister's own account, close friends of his.
The Leveson Inquiry – when looking into the relations between the press and politicians – will need to investigate the full extent of the relations between the prime minister and senior News International executives at the time when hacking was rife and at the time his government was considering News Corp's bid for BSkyB.
Original posted on Daily Kos
For anyone following the #hackgate FOTHOM diaries, you'll know that that the slow motion crash of Murdoch's UK Empire is still developing. But it wasn't until Rush Limbaugh's recent implosion that I began to think this isn't just about News Corp, even though it is the world's 3rd biggest media group and run as a one-man-band. It was in Meteor Blade's Nopology diary early this week, that this thought came to me:
I think there's a connection... (40+ / 0-)
between the slow rejection in the UK of the tabloid style of reasoning (basically trollery and personal insult) and the sudden turning on Rush L.
The British Tabloids and the American Shock Jocks basically thrived on the backlash against the civil liberties victories of the 60s: legislation against racial discrimination, homophobia, the rise of women in the work place and reproductive rights. For 40 years they thrived on right wing white male resentment. They had nothing to offer but trollery because they sought to to interfere with communication about race, gender and sexuality, but without an alternative agenda or real ideology, except that of opposition, reduction ad absurdum (looney left fictions about banning nursery rhymes etc) and the shock value of mockery.
This was never anything but a reactionary tribute to all the victories of the 60s. The candidacy of Sarah Palin was the ne plus ultra of this political style. Rebarbative, provocative, posited on antagonism alone, it never could offer much more than a macho guffaw and muttering of unfocused dissent.
Forty years on, the people who find this stuff amusing are diminishing. Shock Jocks have run out of positions. They can only flame out or die down.
The other connection is the rise of social media and blogs like DKos. They can organise dissent. Avaaz and 38degrees focused on the advertisers during the News of the World scandal, and when the public summoned enough outrage through twitter and email, the advertisers withdrew from the paper. That's what killed News of the World.
Thanks to new media, we really aren't passive consumers anymore, but can communicate directly with those to attempt to appease us. I guess this is what has happened to Limbaugh.
Well, great minds and all that, but there's much more on this in a great new article by Media Matters: The Self-Destruction Of Limbaugh, Murdoch and Beck
What's fascinating about their startling falls from grace is that each one represented a clear case of self-destruction. Limbaugh hand Murdoch and Beck weren't cut down by their political foes or by partisan dirty tricks. They were cut down by their own moral and ethical failings.
Meaning, Limbaugh's opponents didn't make him call Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute, and liberal didn't force him to spend days smearing the women in the most humiliating ways possible, painting her as a greedy nymphomaniac whose parents ought to be deeply ashamed. Nobody egged him on into doing that. In fact, after the initial "slut" and "prostitute" insults, liberals demanded Limbaugh stop using that kind of ugly language. If anything, Limbaugh's foes tried to save him from himself. (By contrast, many of his partisan fans immediately cheered his Fluke attacks.)
The same is true with Beck and Murdoch. Who on the left would have even dreamt up a plot to somehow to get Beck call the president a racist, or to later ramble for weeks about how pro-democracy demonstrators in Egypt represented a spear tip to a looming American left-backed Caliphate uprising in the Middle East. Who even thinks like that, other than Beck?
As for Murdoch, he's cultivated a culture of corruption that's so firmly entrenched that one of his newspaper executives allegedly tried to secure a vote in parliament from a conservative politician in exchange for offering favorable coverage in a Murdoch newspaper. Again, who does that? Who works for a newspaper and doubles as a vote whip for a political party?
All of this behavior is reprehensible and of course falls completely outside the purview of journalism, as even loosely defined to include cable and AM talk shows. For the conservative media, there are no checks in place anymore. Instead, all the introspection has been eliminated and replaced by robotic, partisan defense regardless of the circumstances.
The only part where I disagree is that - while all three are guilty of hubris and over-reach - that was alwaystrue in their careers. As I've discovered while writing my book (see my sig) Murdoch has been involved in the dark arts of intelligencing and intrigue since the 60s - his father since World War I. I bet Beck has always spouted gibberish. And Limbaugh has said offensive things ever since I was unfortunate enough to hear of his existence.
What has changed to my mind is the interactive nature of new media: the fact we can all publish on blogs, can drill down through data, and redistribute information peer to peer. This is making the shock jocks and tabloid merchants look old, slow moving and dinosaur like. Their lies can be countered. Our outrage can finally be heard. It's no longer a monologue of the mainstream media, but a dialogue across many platforms.
(On that score, my diary earlier today about A Chancellor, a Dominatrix, Cocaine and a Spoiler is getting quite a bit of traction on the #Leveson strand. Expect to hear more).
Read the original diary and comments on Daily Kos
I know I'm not going to be popular burning this particular bridge, but as news comes out about Assange both claiming intellectual copyright on wikileaks, and enabling the persecution (or worse) of dissidents in one of the few remaining Stalinist states in Europe, let me say: Julian, J'Accuse.
This is nothing to do with potential rape charges, or the appeal he still has with the British Supreme court about his extradition. It has nothing to do with the wikileaks data dump of Pentagon and Embassy files, which doesn't seem to have the horrendous effect predicted. It also has nothing to do with the court martial of Bradley Manning, nor indeed the treatment (cruel to my mind) he seems to have received while held by the DOD. It has to do with his insouciance about the people exposed through his actions, and even more to do with whom he exposes them too.
Personal disclosure first. My judgement about Assange is highly coloured by a friend of mine, the sterling UK based American investigative journalist Heather Brooke, who exposed the MPs expenses scandal here, and is one of our great promoters of transparency and open government. She worked with Assange on the Guardian's (selected) wikileaks release. If she now thinks he has gone beyond the pale - I trust her, and he has.
Heather linked recently to a New Statesman article which exposed how wikileaks dealt directly with the autocratic Belarus Government in Minsk, one of Europe's few surviving dictatorships:
In December 2010, Israel Shamir, a WikiLeaks associate and an intimate friend of Julian Assange -- so close, in fact, that he outed the Swedish women who claim to be victims of rape and sexual assault by Assange -- allegedly travelled to Belarus with a cache of unredacted American diplomatic cables concerning the country. He reportedly met Lukashenko's chief of staff, Vladimir Makei, handed over the documents to the government, and stayed in the country to "observe" the presidential elections.
When Lukashenko pronounced himself the winner on 19 December 2010 with nearly 80 per cent of the vote, Belarusians reacted by staging a mass protest. Lukashenko dispatched the state militia. As their truncheons bloodied the squares and streets of the capital, Minsk, Shamir wrote a story in the American left-wing journal Counterpunch extolling Lukashenko ("The president of Belarus ... walks freely among his people"), deriding the dictator's opponents ("The pro-western 'Gucci' crowd", Shamir called them), and crediting WikiLeaks with exposing America's "agents" in Belarus ("WikiLeaks has now revealed how... undeclared cash flows from the U.S. coffers to the Belarus 'opposition' ").
The following month, Soviet Belarus, a state-run newspaper, began serializing what it claimed to be extracts from the cables gifted to Lukashenko by WikiLeaks. Among the figures "exposed" as recipients of foreign cash were Andrei Sannikov, a defeated opposition presidential candidate presently serving a five-year prison sentence; Oleg Bebenin, Sannikov's press secretary, who was found dead in suspicious circumstances months before the elections; and Vladimir Neklyayev, the writer and former president of Belarus PEN, who also ran against Lukashenko and is now under house arrest.
Did Assange at this point repudiate Shamir or speak up against Lukashenko? No. Instead he upbraided Ian Hislop for publishing an article in the Private Eye that exposed Shamir as a Holocaust denier and white supremacist. There was, he claimed, a "conspiracy" against him by "Jewish" journalists at the Guardian. Addicted to obedience from others and submerged in a swamp of conspiracy theories, Assange's reflexive reaction to the first hint of disagreement by his erstwhile friends was to hold malign Jews responsible.
His subsequent attempts to distance himself from Shamir were undermined when James Ball, a former WikiLeaks staffer, revealed that not only did Assange authorise Shamir's access to the cables -- how else could he have got hold of the documents from this impenetrably secretive organisation consecrated to transparency? -- he also stopped others from criticising Shamir even after news of his Belarusian expedition became public.
Another personal disclosure. I'm a regular visitor to Poland, and have connections to several dissident Belarus groups (through relatives) who have been persecuted, imprisoned and repressed by Lukashenko in the last 15 years. That more could be outed and endangered by Shamir and Assange puts the organisation of wikileaks beyond the pale.
I believe in transparency and openness. But I also know that knowledge is power. Perhaps Assange provides a service to well connected internet savvy people in some countries when they want to take on their autocrats, but naivete is no excuse for simultaneously revealing the secrets of persecuted minorities.
And if you're still in doubt about the character and motivations of Assange, perhaps read the Guardian book WIKILEAKS: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy. There you'll see he not only betrays Nick Davies, the wonderful investigative journalist who - against all the odds of police and political pressure and corporate coverup - exposed the Hackgate scandal and brought down Murdoch's News International - he also told David Leigh about Afghani informants being in danger:
Assange initially rejected pleas to redact documents to protect sources. At an early meeting with international reporters in a restaurant he told them: " 'Well, they're informants,' he said. 'So, if they get killed, they've got it coming to them. They deserve it.' There was, for a moment, silence around the table."
The bridge was smouldering then. It's burnt now
Originally posted on Daily Kos
It was a long time coming, but inevitable six months ago. James Murdoch has stepped down as chair of News International, signalling the Fall of the House of Murdoch as the dynastic succession to Rupert's News Corp empire is finished. The official statement - which is probably worth no more than a host of News Corp press statements which have either turned out to be highly misleading in the past (some outright lies indeed)
News Corporation today announced that, following his relocation to the company's headquarters in New York, James Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer, has relinquished his position as executive chairman of News International, its UK publishing unit. Tom Mockridge, chief executive officer of News International, will continue in his post and will report to News Corporation president and COO Chase Carey. "We are all grateful for James' leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions to the group's strategy in paid digital content and its efforts to improve and enhance governance programs," said Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive officer, News Corporation. "He has demonstrated leadership and continues to create great value at Star TV, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, and BSkyB. Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations." "I deeply appreciate the dedication of my many talented colleagues at News International who work tirelessly to inform the public and am confident about the tremendous momentum we have achieved under the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge," said James Murdoch. "With the successful launch of the Sun on Sunday and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future. As deputy chief operating Officer, I look forward to expanding my commitment to News Corporation's international television businesses and other key initiatives across the company."
More as I get it. OK, this is all on the hoof. Yes James resigned from other subsidiary boards several months ago as I detailed in another diary. But this is the biggie: NI was bidding for BSkyB which he also chairs - expect a resignation there too. More news in - still involved in BSkyB - but again this is slow withdrawal. Expect more retreats soon http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/feb/29/james-murdoch-resigns-news-international-chairman
Wednesday's move sees him give up responsibility for News Corp's crisis-hit British newspaper operation as he completes his relocation to New York. The man once seen as his father Rupert Murdoch's automatic heir at the top of News Corp retains existing responsibility for "global television", overseeing busineses including the company's 39% stake in BSkyB, Sky-branded pay-TV companies in Europe and Star in Asia – and only gains the opportunity to become involved with the company's US Fox television operation as he settles in across the Atlantic. James Murdoch's managerial move away from News International explains why he was not in London to help oversee the launch of the Sun's Sunday edition, which has been personally supervised by his father. Friends say he has been eager to leave the UK and drop responsibility for the Wapping newspapers for several months as the phone hacking scandal enveloped the London outpost of the organisation.
And there are rumours of a major arrest in the pipeline.. just sayin' IMPORTANT ASIDE: I've been in touch with Alastair Morgan, whose brother Daniel was brutally murdered in South London in 1988, by suspects with close connection to the NoW hacking team. These same individuals were sponsored by NoW to harass and survey the police detectives re-examining the case in 2002. Ceebs had a diary yesterday about it, Murdoch and Murder. Tom Watson is going to make an important statement at 4pm BST (11 am EST) about Daniel Morgan's murder. I expect, under Parliamentary privilege, he might make some explosive revelations.
I've often written about the bad side of journalism, and especially that of the Murdoch owned press, but just breaking is some shocking news of the noble sacrifices many journalists make in their attempts to report reality. A civil war which is rapidly becoming one of the bloodiest conflicts has claimed the life of the great Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin. She was killed along with a photographer Remi Ochlik when the building she was staying in was shelled by Syrian government forces. The people who tried to escape were then targeted by rockets. Two other journalist were severely injured in the attack. American born Colvin was the only journalist from a British paper in Syria, and has been described as the Martha Gellhorn of her generation. Witty, acerbic and fearless, only yesterday she filed reports for the BBC and CNN on the carnage in Homs.
“I watched a little baby die today,” she said. “Absolutely horrific. “There is just shells, rockets and tank fire pouring into civilian areas of this city and it is just unrelenting.” In a report published in the Sunday Times over the weekend, Colvin spoke of the citizens of Homs "waiting for a massacre". "The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror. Almost every family seems to have suffered the death or injury of a loved one," she wrote.
Last year, at a special ceremony in London at St Bride's Church for the 49 British journalists and media workers killed in war reporting over the last decade, Marie, who lost an eye due to shrap covering the Sri Lankan conflict, explained why she took the risks she did.
"Covering a war means going to places torn by chaos, destruction, and death... and trying to bear witness. It means trying to find the truth in a sandstorm of propaganda when armies, tribes or terrorists clash. And yes, it means taking risks, not just for yourself but often for the people who work closely with you. Despite all the videos you see from the Ministry of Defence or the Pentagon, and all the sanitised language describing smart bombs and pinpoint strikes... the scene on the ground has remained remarkably the same for hundreds of years. Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers children. Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice. We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado?"
Of course, the death of one journalist is nothing compared to the thousands of innocent civilians who have been slaughtered by the Syrian regime. Think of a citizen journalist like 26 year old Rami Ahmad Alsayed, killed in the streets of BabrAmr with three of his friends. He maintained a live video stream to provide graphic details of the kind of indiscriminate military terror Assad's forces had unleashed on Homs. Below is moving tribute by his brother of over Rami's body, detailing his wounds. WARNING: upsetting images.
Marie Colvin, who described the situation in Homs as one of the bloodiest and most dangerous she'd ever seen, lost her life reporting how others were losing theirs. Her death brings home to us how lethal the situation is for most Syrians.
"Someone has to go there and see what is happening. You can't get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you. The real difficulty is having enough faith in humanity to believe that enough people be they government, military or the man on the street, will care when your file reaches the printed page, the website or the TV screen. We do have that faith because we believe we do make a difference."
Let's hope that her death, like her life, keeps on making a difference, and this shocking news will shake the international community out of its indifference to the sufferings of Syria.