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News :: Globalization
Wikileaks Releases 70,000 Files - The Saudi Cables
20 Jun 2015
‘Erratic and secretive dictatorship’: WikiLeaks releases thousands of ‘top secret’ Saudi govt docs
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WikiLeaks has begun publishing around half a million ‘Saudi Cables’ documents, which include communiques from the Saudi Foreign Ministry, as well as ‘top secret’ reports from the kingdom’s intelligence agency and Ministry of Interior. On Friday, the whistleblowing website released the first tranche of around 70,000 documents.

According to the group’s statement, the ‘Saudi cables’ provide an insight into the kingdom’s interior and foreign policies explaining “how it has managed its alliances and consolidated its position as a regional Middle East superpower, including through bribing and co-opting key individuals and institutions.” The leaked documents also illustrate a “highly centralized bureaucratic structure” where even the simplest issues are addressed by the most senior officials, it said.

Commenting on the release, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder said the documents “lift the lid on an increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship that has not only celebrated its 100th beheading this year, but which has also become a menace to its neighbors and itself." The documents have been published as scanned images of Arabic text which have been made searchable through the WikiLeaks search engine.

The ultraconservative kingdom has also been widely criticized by the international community for its disreputable human rights record. On Monday Saudi Arabia performed its 100th public execution of the year. The figure surpasses the 87 recorded by AFP in 2014, however is below the highest figure of 192, recorded by the human rights group Amnesty International in 1995.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest oil producer and largest exporter, is a major player in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that controls oil production and prices on the global market.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a hereditary dictatorship bordering the Persian Gulf. Despite the Kingdom’s infamous human rights record, Saudi Arabia remains a top-tier ally of the United States and the United Kingdom in the Middle East, largely owing to its globally unrivalled oil reserves,” Wikileaks said. “The Kingdom frequently tops the list of oil-producing countries, which has given the Kingdom disproportionate influence in international affairs. Each year it pushes billions of petro-dollars into the pockets of UK banks and US arms companies.”

The US has supported the Saudi-led airstrikes against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, providing intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, advisory and logistical support to the military intervention. The WikiLeaks publication comes after a group calling itself the Yemeni Cyber Army allegedly hacked over 3,000 computers and servers belonging to Saudi Foreign, Interior and Defense Ministries in May. The hackers released only a small “sample” portion of the documents on file-sharing sites which soon fell under censorship.

The hacker group came to be known for the first time after it attacked the pro-Saudi news website, AlHayat in April protesting against what it called the Saudi “invasion” of Yemen. Since March, the Sunni-ruled Kingdom has led airstrikes against the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, after they took control of its capital, Sanaa, ousting Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who then fled to Saudi Arabia. According to UN estimates, more than 2,600 people have been killed since the coalition began military operations in March.

WikiLeaks says its full trove contains thousands of times the number of documents released by the Yemeni Cyber Army.
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Re:The Saudi Cables
22 Jun 2015
Binoy Kampmark -

It is fitting that a state such as Saudi Arabia, deeply influential and ultimately destabilising, should be the subject of the latest WikiLeaks exploits. The transparency site is currently in the process of releasing upwards of 500,000 cables, the first batch of which were released on Friday. At this writing, some 61,000 are available.

The usual questions have been asked. How were the documents obtained to begin with? A floated suggestion is that they were gathered from a cyber attack on the Saudi Foreign Ministry initiated by the Yemen Cyber Army. (Yemen has a genuine gripe here, being the subject of Saudi military attack and blockade.) “As a matter of policy,” claimed WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson to the Associated Press, “we’re not going to discuss the source of the material.”

The cables so far provide ample material on a range of media management tactics at work. Saudi interests are protected by their heavy influencing of representations about the Kingdom’s policies. Who, noted WikiLeaks, noticed that on Monday, the Kingdom was celebrating the beheading of its 100th prisoner this year? “Even international media was relatively mute about this milestone compared to what it might have been if it had concerned a different country. How does a story like this go unnoticed?” (WikiLeaks, Jun 19).[1]

The reasons lie in a range of approaches dealing with monitoring and co-opting outlets in Arab media, cultivating other sources of influence. Techniques of “neutralisation” and “containment” are employed, limiting the range and scope of coverage and encouraging outlets to either cover events in certain ways or refrain from them altogether. “Containment” involves a more direct approach, one of conciliation towards Riyadh and hostility to perceived anti-Saudi interests.

An example of the neutralisation policy is evident in a cable taking note of the Saudi Kingdom’s concerns about attitudes in Morocco, where the paper in question, Today’s News of Morocco, notes how “a number of the Emirates of the Arabian Gulf do not look favourably on the experience of [that country’s] openness to the Arab Spring”.[2]

Another cable notes various items of payment to a range of publications in Indonesia, with amounts ranging from $US3,000 to $10,000. There is talk about renewing the involvement of the Ministry of Culture and Information via massive subscriptions to newspapers such as Kompas and the Jakarta Post.[3]

The technique of purchasing subscriptions effectively makes the publication in question an annex, with Riyadh becoming a de facto investor expecting appropriate returns by way of favourable coverage. As WikiLeaks notes, one document outlines subscriptions requiring renewal by January 1, 2010, covering publications in Damascus, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Amman, Kuwait and Nouakchott. “The Kingdom effectively buys reverse ‘shares’ in the media outlets, where cash ‘dividends’ flow the opposite way, from the shareholder to the media outlet. In return Saudi Arabia gets political ‘dividends’ – an obliging press.”[4]

When an obliging press cannot be obtained, other, more forward techniques are adopted. A Royal Decree of January 20, 2010 inspired the Saudi foreign minister to remove the Iranian Arabic service, Al-Alam, from Arabsat, the main Riyadh communications satellite operator. On failing to do so, efforts were made to limit the reach of the signal.

In the broader policy realm, there are documents covering Sunni suspicions of Shiite ambitions – the long held, intemperate rivalry between Riyadh and Teheran gets coverage, notably on the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitious. Mistrust is bountiful. A 2012 note from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Teheran speaks of “flirting American messages” carried to Iran via an anonymous Turkish mediator (AP, Jun 19).[5]

Lurking in the documents is the overwhelming sense of anxiety at anything that might challenge the kingdom’s near totalitarian primacy. The regime churning events of the Arab Spring receive an unsurprising degree of concern, with a loss of authoritarian control, however briefly, in such states as Egypt. Public opinion, for instance, is treated as something that should be driven by a regime, rather than formed by the public. Strategies of funding were thereby hatched to combat such revolutionary tendencies in both Egypt and Tunisia.

For those trawling through the archives as they are, notes abound about regional power plays and a state terrified about prospects of reform from below. A Kingdom notorious for its secrecy is revealed in its range of operations, clandestine, extensive and expansive. The researcher and activist will no doubt be thrilled by this particular trove, even if its entire value will have to be appropriately assessed in due course.

Fittingly, the arrival of these documents comes a time when Julian Assange still remains in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. This period of detention, while legally perverse, has proven productive, and whatever might be said about the man, the material being provided continues to illuminate and startle. The transparency movement, in other words, continues to flutter.
22 Jun 2015
Click on image for a larger version

So The Spy Services Are The Real Internet Trolls

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept provides new material from the Snowden stash.

The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) includes a "Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group" which "provides most of GCHQ’s cyber effects and online HUMINT capability. It currently lies at the leading edge of cyber influence practice and expertise." In 2011 the JTRIG had 120 people on its staff.

Here are some of its methods, used in support of British policies like for regime change in Syria and Zimbabwe:

All of JTRIG’s operations are conducted using cyber technology. Staff described a range of methods/techniques that have been used to-date for conducting effects operations. These included:

Uploading YouTube videos containing “persuasive” communications (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt)
Setting up Facebook groups, forums, blogs and Twitter accounts that encourage and monitor discussion on a topic (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt)
Establishing online aliases/personalities who support the communications or messages in YouTube videos, Facebook groups, forums, blogs etc
Establishing online aliases/personalities who support other aliases
Sending spoof e-mails and text messages from a fake person or mimicking a real person (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deceive, deter, delay or disrupt)
Providing spoof online resources such as magazines and books that provide inaccurate information (to disrupt, delay, deceive, discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter or denigrate/degrade)
Providing online access to uncensored material (to disrupt)
Sending instant messages to specific individuals giving them instructions for accessing uncensored websites
Setting up spoof trade sites (or sellers) that may take a customer’s money and/or send customers degraded or spoof products (to deny, disrupt, degrade/denigrate, delay, deceive, discredit, dissuade or deter)
Interrupting (i.e., filtering, deleting, creating or modifying) communications between real customers and traders (to deny, disrupt, delay, deceive, dissuade or deter)
Taking over control of online websites (to deny, disrupt, discredit or delay)
Denial of telephone and computer service (to deny, delay or disrupt)
Hosting targets’ online communications/websites for collecting SIGINT (to disrupt, delay, deter or deny)
Contacting host websites asking them to remove material (to deny, disrupt, delay, dissuade or deter)

It is unlikely that the British GHCQ is the only secret service using these tactics. Other government as well as private interests can be assumed to use similar means.

To "deny, disrupt, degrade/denigrate, delay, deceive, discredit, dissuade or deter" is exactly what Internet trolls are doing in the comment sections of blogs and news sites. Usually though on a smaller scale than the GHCQ and alike. The more these services grow and their methods proliferate the less possible will it become to have reasonable online discussions.

Posted by b on June 22, 2015 at 10:56 AM
Re: Wikileaks Releases 70,000 Files - The Saudi Cables
25 Jun 2015
Click on image for a larger version

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Sticks and stones - How WikiLeaks could help precipitate the fall of the Saudi empire

Whistleblower group WikiLeaks has released a flurry of official documents lifting the lid on Saudi Arabia’s covert diplomatic apparatus. Not just another scandal, these revelations could bring Saudi Arabia to its knees.

While WikiLeaks has seldom shied away from controversy it might just have outdone itself this June as it exposed Saudi Arabia's grand media scheme to the public, shining a light onto state officials' unscrupulous dealings as they worked and plotted to silence the truth and manipulate realities to suit their goals.

And though many among the public will not be surprised at learning that one of the world’s most violent and repressive governments has actively worked to control the world's media narrative by applying political and financial pressure upon international news organizations and foreign governments to both forward its agenda and shield its institutions from any political or judicial fallouts; the sheer depth and breadth of this grand deception will certainly send a few heads spinning.

Aided by Al Akhbar, a prominent Lebanese-based newspaper which has remained stubbornly independent despite aggravated pressures, WikiLeaks released last Friday 60,000 classified documents out of a reported half a million leaked diplomatic cables from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Speaking on the content disclosed by WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for the group said “We are seeing how the oil money is being used to increase (the) influence of Saudi Arabia which is substantial of course - this is an ally of the US and the UK. And since this spring it has been waging war in neighboring Yemen.”

While most allies of the kingdom, Britain and the US at the head of the line, have attempted to play down the revelations, arguing the veracity of the leaked documents while redirecting the public's attention onto other, less sensitive matters, it is pretty evident the kingdom is fast losing its cool.

For a country which almost solely relies on control to exist, losing only just a nugget of power can be daunting; especially when the very fabric of the state stands to be obliterated by the very truths which are now being unveiled.

A totalitarian monarchy which has survived the test of time through its alliance to the very powerful and reactionary Wahhabi clergy (an ascetic and violent Islamic school of thought), Saudi Arabia's political stability has relied on its royals' ability and willingness to terrorize their people, by means of violent repression and oppression, while silencing all international criticism through a tight network of bribery and political coercion.

Strong with billions of petrodollars and vast natural resources, the House of Saud has played the capitalist game, exploiting greed and Western neo-colonial ambitions to whitewash its crimes, quite literally re-writing history by feeding the public its version of reality - and safe from a few, the people were none the wiser.

So what of those cables?

In all truth it is unlikely any of the leaked cables will lead to Saudi officials' demotions or even lawsuits. Do not expect any political grandstanding either on the part of well-thinking Western or even Middle Eastern politicians. If anything, most will avoid discussing the matter altogether, waiting for the next scandal to break and an all too fickle public to move on.

But if WikiLeaks’ newest stunt will not carry any immediate, or at least any visible blow to the kingdom - that is not to say that this shining of the truth will not reverberate far and wide across the Saudi network.

Now that the cat is quite literally out of the bag it will be much more difficult for the kingdom to manipulate from behind closed doors - plotting requires a certain degree of secrecy and with that gone the public might not be as easily choreographed. With Riyadh's ties to terror well out in the open, many of its former allies might soon decide to put some "distance" between themselves and Al Saud's radical legacy.

"Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT [the same group that carried out the Mumbai attacks in 2008] and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan," reads one of the leaked American memos.

In a world where perceptions are almost more important than realities, Saudi Arabia finds itself at a disadvantage.

Accustomed to being courted by the world's most powerful, Saudi Arabia is facing an attack it neither foresaw nor made provision for. Certain of its alliances and the influence its coffers gave its leaders, the kingdom did not anticipate its enemies would crack open its box of secrets and air its diplomatic machinery.

Saudi officials are actually feeling the squeeze. On Sunday, two days after the initial publication of the diplomatic cables foreign ministry spokesperson, Osama Naqli warned the country not to "allow enemies of the state to achieve their intentions in regards to exchanging or publishing any documents," and said "many of them had been fabricated in a very obvious manner."

This "patriotic call" for all Saudis to rally around the monarchy clearly proves that the intended arrow found its target. Ironically, in this case the truth could set the enemies of the Saudi monarchy free, not so much those perpetuating the lies.

This new warfare the anti-Saud camp just set in motion could prove a powerful incentive and a catalyst for all those in and out the kingdom who have been waiting for the tide to turn. There is a key psychological difference between suspecting a truth and knowing a truth.

Confronted with the ugliness of Saudi Arabia's scheming, many parties will feel compelled to act - and this is what the kingdom fears most of all. Already faced with a growing secessionist movement - the Ahrar al-Najran Movement - in its south-western region, the kingdom simply cannot afford to see more flock to this nascent revolutionary wave.

At such a time when Riyadh feels most vulnerable both at home and in the region on account of its war with Yemen, Al Saud royals now gave their enemies enough ammunition so they could obliterate their political standing and traction on the international scene.

What will happen to this theocracy when it calls on its friends for help only to turn around and found that none answered?