WikiLeaks memos show Saudis using media to manipulate students and ‘enlighten’ consumers

A stash of 61,000 leaked Saudi diplomatic documents, which were disclosed by WikiLeaks, reveals “secret Saudi Arabian influence in Arabic media and Islamic religious groups” and covert monitoring of Saudi students in Australia.

They appear to include directives from the government to its embassy in Canberra. Those refer to payments to be made to big Arabic newspapers and other media organizations, seemingly via checks valued at anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000.

In a statement released Sunday, WikiLeaks said, “Most world governments engage in PR campaigns to fend off criticism and build relations in influential places. Saudi Arabia controls its image by monitoring media and buying loyalties from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between.”

A quick perusal by Poynter also came upon an internal summary of a 2008 Saudi cabinet meeting in which it made the following recommendation:

“Supporting objective media campaigns to enlighten consumers in the field of unreasonable consumption patterns; continually reminding consumers not to be affected by certain brand names of commodities and to look for alternatives; and directing the Ministry of Culture and Information to coordinate these campaigns.”

If only Michelle Obama had that sort of marketing oomph behind her anti-childhood obesity campaign. Read more


In its May issue, Vanity Fair will have a 20,000-word story about former NSA contracter and leaker Edward Snowden. The piece includes Snowden’s thoughts on what he admires about WikiLeaks:

They run toward the risks everyone else runs away from. No other publisher in the world is prepared to commit to protecting sources—even other journalists’ sources—the way WikiLeaks is.

Vanity Fair

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Tuesday July 30, 2013. The conviction of Pfc. Bradley Manning shows that journalists must fight to keep their sources safe, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Tuesday, urging other media organizations to follow his group's lead in advocating aggressively on leakers' behalf. (AP Photo/ Sunshine Press Productions)

Assange at SXSW: “exodus of national security reporters”

National security reporters from the U.S. are a “new type of refugee,” according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who addressed South by Southwest attendees via video conference Saturday.

“Glenn Greenwald, originally from New York, where is he now?” he asked. (Answer: Brazil.) “Laura Poitras … where is she now?” (Answer: Germany.) Assange himself has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012.

His point: Feeling increasingly threatened by their own governments since last year’s NSA leaks keeps some journalists from reporting on government surveillance issues — especially those on the receiving end of classified documents — in the first place, and it forces some of those who do into “effective exile.” Read more

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may not face U.S. charges of leaking secret documents, The Washington Post reported. (AP Photo/ Sunshine Press Productions, File)

Assange probably won’t face charges in the U.S.

The Washington Post

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange will most likely not face charges for leaking NSA documents, Sari Horwitz reports in The Washington Post, “because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists, according to U.S. officials.”

The Obama administration has charged government employees and contractors who leak classified information — such as former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning — with violations of the Espionage Act. But officials said that although Assange published classified documents, he did not leak them, something they said significantly affects their legal analysis.

Officials have a “New York Times problem,” Horwitz writes, understanding if they press charges against Assange, they’d have to do the same against U.S. Read more


NYT doesn’t remember call from Bradley Manning

New York | The Huffington Post | National Journal | Guardian
In his plea Thursday, U.S. PFC Bradley Manning said he’d tried to leak diplomatic cables to three news outlets, but he couldn’t get through to any of them.

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WikiLeaks says it created fake Bill Keller column

Gizmodo | The Guardian | VentureBeat | All Things D
Imagine this sentence getting past a New York Times copy editor: “The ACLU has shown through its government FOIA requests of WikiLeaks published cables, pretending secrets are secret after they are public isn’t easy.” Yet a piece about WikiLeaks purportedly by former Times executive editor Bill Keller clanging with such clunkers fooled “pretty much everybody,” as a Gizmodo headline put it.

WikiLeaks tweeted Sunday that it had perpetrated the hoax piece. The fake was successful in part, Ed Pilkington writes in the Guardian, because “Visually, it was immaculate – replicating perfectly the typographic style of his column down to the author’s photograph, tool kit and Times adverts.” Read more


Legal threat shows DocumentCloud’s ‘tricky position’ when hosting sensitive documents

Nieman Journalism Lab
DocumentCloud has removed 14,400 leaked emails related to a company with ties to News Corp. after the company, NDS, objected because they contain trade secrets and confidential information. The Australian Financial Review used the emails to report on an alleged piracy scheme regarding pay TV. Nieman Lab’s Justin Ellis writes:

What’s interesting about this story is it demonstrates the tricky position DocumentCloud can find itself in when acting as an intermediate layer for sensitive information. Just as Amazon opened itself up to legal pressure when it hosted WikiLeaks on its cloud service, DocumentCloud could face potential legal risk for the documents it hosts.

Investigative Reporters and Editors, which operates DocumentCloud hostgator reviews, asked Financial Review’s owner to indemnify it against any legal liability, but the company refused. Read more


WikiLeaks presses on, with fewer friends in media

“Even though the media companies now supporting WikiLeaks are smaller than previous allies, the evidently cash-strapped organization is still able to do its work … It’s unclear if with its latest release, WikiLeaks can return to relevance. But they still have access to interesting data that journalists are hungry to understand, so that’s a start.”

Adam Clark Estes, Atlantic Wire

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