Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WikiLeaks Press Release: European Commission enabling blockade of WikiLeaks by U.S. hard-right Lieberman/King

European Commission enabling blockade of WikiLeaks by U.S. hard-right Lieberman/King, contrary to European Parliament’s wishes

Tuesday 27th November, 1300 GMT

European Commission documents released today by WikiLeaks show that hard-right U.S. politicians were directly behind the extrajudicial banking blockade against WikiLeaks. In the heavily redacted documents, MasterCard Europe admits that Senator Joseph Lieberman and Congressman Peter T. King both "had conversations" with MasterCard in the United States. Lieberman, the then-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, boasted of instigating Amazon's cutting of service to WikiLeaks - an action condemned by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers on 7 December 2011.

Senator Lieberman tried to introduce the SHIELD Act into the Senate and advocated for prosecuting the New York Times for espionage in connection with WikiLeaks' releases. Rep. Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, tried to formally designate WikiLeaks as a foreign terrorist organization, have its staff listed as 'enemy combatants', and have WikiLeaks put on a U.S. Treasury blacklist. On 13 January 2011 the U.S. Treasury announced it would not do so because there was no evidence that WikiLeaks should be on such a list. While Lieberman and King were unsuccessful in these methods of legally cutting WikiLeaks from its popular donor base, they were successful in doing so extra-legally via VISA and MasterCard, which together hold a monopoly of 97 per cent of the market of EU card payments.

VISA Europe is registered in London and is owned by a consortium of European banks. MasterCard Europe is registered in Belgium and has similar ownership, but the Commission papers show that European control of VISA Europe and MasterCard Europe is a fiction. The papers reveal that the instructions to blockade WikiLeaks' operations in Europe came directly from VISA and MasterCard in the United States. Ownership would normally imply control, but VISA and MasterCard Europe are essentially controlled by confidential contracts with their U.S. counterparts, a hidden organizational structure that the Commission calls an "association of undertakings".

On Tuesday, 19 November 2012, the European Parliament took an important step towards safeguarding the economic sovereignty of all Europeans. In Article 32 of its resolution, the European Parliament expressed the will that the Commission should prevent the arbitrary refusal of payments by credit card companies, which economically strangles businesses and organizations, notably ours. The resolution is an important step to putting an end to the Lieberman/King blockade, which has wiped out 95 per cent of WikiLeaks' revenues. The Lieberman/King blockade has been directly condemned by, among others, the UN Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Speech and the New York Times Editorial Board. The blockade is a direct infringement of the Article 19 right to receive and impart information, and threatens all donor-funded organizations and the freedom of the press.

It comes as a surprise, then, that the European Commission is taking the contrary view in its preliminary decision, of not opening a formal investigation into VISA, MasterCard and AmEx's violations against DataCell, the company that collected donations to the WikiLeaks project until the imposition of the blockade in 2010. The Commission's 16-page preliminary decision has been announced after 15 months of deliberations. The 'normal' waiting time is four months. Yesterday, DataCell and WikiLeaks submitted detailed counter-arguments to the Commission's preliminary decision.

Through the leaked documents we learn that VISA and MasterCard have used a false statement by the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to mislead the European Commission. The Prime Minister's statement, which she later claimed was made in her "private capacity", was that the WikiLeaks publication of diplomatic cables was "illegal". This was declared to be false by a subsequent investigation by the Australian Federal Police, which declared that WikiLeaks had not broken any Australian law. Earlier this year, the Australian Senate passed a resolution demanding the retraction of the Prime Minister's false statement.

The leaked documents reveal MasterCard's political stance to our exposure of the crimes and horrors of military campaigns: "It is evident that any affiliation with an organisation causing damage to the national interests of several nations involved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq... will be extremely damaging for the public perception of MasterCard".

Julian Assange said:
> There is no sovereignty without economic sovereignty. It is concerning that hard-right elements in the United States have been able to pressure VISA and MasterCard, who together hold monopoly over the European market, into introducing a blockade that the U.S. Treasury has rightly rejected. These unaccountable elements are directly interfering in the political and economic freedoms of EU consumers and are setting a precedent for political censorship of the world's media.

WikiLeaks will continue to fight the blockade, despite its limited resources, because it is fighting for its survival. Already there have been victories. In June 2012 WikiLeaks won its first court victory in Iceland against the Lieberman-King blockade. Last month WikiLeaks opened a new battle front by filing, together with its partner DataCell, a case against Teller A/S (VISA Denmark).

NOTE

The movement in Parliament and in the rest of Europe is to support WikiLeaks' publishing rights. The German foundation Wau Holland Stiftung (WHS), which collected donations for WikiLeaks via PayPal had their donations account arbitrarily shut down. The tax-exempt status of the Foundation was challenged as well, as a result of political interference which was exposed this month in Der Spiegel ("Taxing Transparency"). Yesterday, WHS announced that, after almost two years of negotiations with German tax authorities, its tax exemption (charitable status) has been reinstated. Citizens of all EU Member States will now be able to donate to WikiLeaks' operations through WHS and deduct the donation from their income tax.

*Additional information*:
UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression:http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/expression/showarticle.asp?artID=829&lID=1
Council of Europe - Declaration on online service providers:https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1883671&Site=CM
The Guardian Comment is Free (23 November 2012) by Glenn Greewald:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/23/anonymous-trial-wikileaks-internet-freedom
Video: U.S. demands to assassinate Assange - http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZuQW0US2sJw

*Quote from Visa and MasterCard Submissions to the European Commission*

Visa's response to the European Central Bank:

> As you will no doubt be aware, in some jurisdictions, various stakeholders have questioned whether WikiLeaks is, in respect of some of the material it publishes, committing criminal acts. Our Operating Regulations prohibit the use of the Visa system for illegal purposes either in the jurisdiction of the merchant (in this case Iceland) or the jurisdiction of the cardholder (which could be anywhere in the world). It is possible that activities that are permitted in one jurisdiction may be illegal in others. Accordingly, the application of the relevant position under the Operating Regulations does not necessarily depend solely on Icelandic law.

> This position is appropriate and proportionate in light of the alleged unlawful conduct of WikiLeaks, which, among other sensitive material, in 2010 published and refuses to return large amounts of material stolen from classified US military databases. Further, according to recent press coverage, it appears that the leaking of sensitive information is continuing.

MasterCard's arguments to the European Commission:

> MasterCard does not hold a collective dominant position with Visa... It is also worth mentioning here that MasterCard does not constitute an 'essential facility', and therefore is under no obligation to provide its services to any particular undertakings.

> It is evident that any affiliation with an organisation causing damage to the national interests of several nations involved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and possibly putting lives needlessly at risk, will be damaging for the public perception of MasterCard and consequently damage MasterCard's goodwill or its [trade]Marks.

> By way of example, in 2004 MasterCard requested the Dutch acquirer, then 'Interpay Nederlands B.V.' (now 'Paysquare') to suspend the provision of acquiring services to merchants operating websites offering access to pornographic material including showing sexual acts with animals ('bestiality content').

> ...before taking its decision, MasterCard Incorporated did not have any contacts with public authorities, and therefore did not act upon request from any public authorities.

> MasterCard Incorporated had several conversations with the FBI, US Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the possibility of such DDoS attacks.

> MasterCard Incorporated had conversations with certain Congressional staff (i.e. Chairman Lieberman and Chairman King's [Senate and House Homeland Security Chairs] staff)."


*European Parliament - on Card, Internet and mobile payments*

  Towards an integrated European market for card, internet and mobile payments - 20 November 2012

The European Parliament voted that the Commission introduce legislation to determine when credit card companies can deny payments:

> 32. Considers it likely that there will be a growing number of European companies whose activities are effectively dependent on being able to accept payments by card; considers it to be in the public interest to define objective rules describing the circumstances and procedures under which card payment schemes may unilaterally refuse acceptance;

In his intervention, Swedish MEP Christian Engstrom explained:

> Another example is when Visa, Mastercard and Paypal blocked payments to WikiLeaks. There was no legal basis and [it] should be seen as the three companies helped the US government to silence an inconvenient voice. It is not acceptable that private corporations have the power of [controlling] free speech.



Saturday, November 10, 2012

In Honor of our Vets


Atheists In Foxholes (United States)

Atheists in foxholes, some say they are myths,
Creations of the mind who just don't exist.

Yet, they answered the call to defend, with great pride.
With reason their watchword, they bled and they died.

They took Saratoga from the British crown,
Secured America's freedom at the Battle of Yorktown.

From Sumter to Appomattox, fields flowed with their blood.
When the cannons grew silent, the flag proudly stood.

From the Marne to the Argonne, in trenches and tanks,
They defeated the Germans -- the whole world gave thanks.

They were bombed at Pearl Harbor, fought on to Berlin.
Many freethinking women served along with the men.

Still war keeps erupting -- Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo.
Where is the peace that eludes people so?

It is broken by tyrants who bear crosses and creeds,
That overshadow reason with hate and cruel deeds.

So atheists prevail until your work is complete.
Mothers mourn, children cry, and bigots plan your defeat.

By air, land, and sea, you answer freedom's call.
Without god or faith, you seek liberty for all.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Bigotry, Bullying, Suicide and the Tragedy of Youth

I’m going to tell you a story about a beautiful young man whom I will call Z.

Z is his first initial. In order to protect the privacy of his family I will not be using his full name.

Z realized at a very young age that he was sexually attracted to males … that he was gay. It wasn’t something he felt he should be ashamed of but he wasn’t open about it.

Unfortunately, despite our alleged enlightenment in the 21st century, bigotry reared it’s ugly head and Z paid a horrific price for his sexual orientation.

When Z was 15, in 2007, one day after school he was grabbed, dragged into his school washroom by a group of 4 older and bigger male students, and brutally assaulted for no other reason than he was gay.

The assault was so brutal that he lost hearing in one ear, his teeth were broken, and he almost lost one eye. The baseball bat and the bag of oranges that they used resulted in a broken pelvis and so much damage to the genitalia they had to be removed. Z lost consciousness during the assault.

He knew the boys who assaulted him and he knew why they assaulted him but he covered for them anyway. He told the police and doctors that the attack was his fault and he didn’t know the people who had done it.

To add insult to injury, his step-fathers discovery that he was gay led to him being thrown out of the house, 6 months later, at the tender age of 15.

He stayed with a gay friend and his family and completed his year of high school with them. All the while missing his family and brothers and friends and feeling very alone and abandoned.

His counsellor put him on Valium to help but he became addicted and started drinking to supplement the Valium. When the Doctors refused to prescribe more he went to other drugs and pills to ease his pain and addiction. When he tried to withdraw from the drugs the nightmares and horrors of what he had experienced flooded back so he started drinking regularly.

And then, finally, with the resilience of youth, managed to deal with that addiction as well.

In 2011, he reconnected with his mother and brothers again. Something which brought him a great deal of joy and happiness.

It took Z quite a while and a great deal of patient counselling to accept what had happened to him and he appeared to have accepted it.

In 2011, a friend who provided online suicide counselling to gay teenagers in crisis worked with him, encouraged him to go on Facebook and start connecting with friends.

Z seemed happy. He seemed to be accepting his life and working towards something better.

In Z’s own words:

I could fully redo the pelvis and set an artificial penis, but it's too expensive and of course, Michael refused to pay and my mom has no money, so I save money and maybe one day , I could have the operation ... who knows?
For the moment there are only big hugs between my partners and I, no need to explain I guess, but as long as I can see tenderness and affection into the eyes of Max, I am pleased ...
Above all, Tim, let me say a BIG, BIG thank you for staying there, having lost on sleep to back me up; being so friendly, sweet, kind and comprehensible ... Namaste Tim

And then one day, Z suddenly, quietly and efficiently took his life.

Today is the anniversary of Z’s death and Z’s friend, Tim, would like everyone to remember the serious damage that bullying, bigotry and hatred cause.

Especially to the young.

Much love to Z’s family and friends. May he continue to be the inspiration to all of you that I know he was.

For further information about Z's story you may contact:  zachsstory@gmail.com.