Seth Rich was shot and killed early Sunday in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Photo from Democratic National Committee

Trump White House was involved with retracted article linking slain DNC staffer to WikiLeaks, lawsuit alleges

The Trump White House was involved with concocting a Fox News article that linked the death of a Jewish Democratic National Committee aide with WikiLeaks, according to a lawsuit filed by a private investigator who repeatedly discussed the case on Fox News.

The private investigator, Rod Wheeler, alleges in his suit, filed Tuesday, that Fox News and and Trump supporter Ed Butowsky, with the blessing of the White House, pressed ahead with the unfounded rumors about Rich’s death in order to shift public attention away from an FBI probe into the Trump administration’s ties to the Russian government.

Rich, a 27-year-old Nebraska native, was shot dead while walking home before dawn on July 10, 2016. Police have speculated that he was the victim of a robbery gone awry. Rich’s body was found about a block from his Washington, D.C., home with his wallet, watch and cellphone still in his possession.

Conspiracy theories about his death gained traction on right-wing news sites. In May, Fox published stories based on unfounded allegations that Rich was targeted because he was leaking information to WikiLeaks that would damage the DNC. The news channel removed the articles a week after publication, claiming the initial story “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.”

According to Wheeler’s suit, Butowsky, a Dallas wealth manager with ties to White House adviser Steve Bannon, met with Sean Spicer, then a White House spokesman, to inform him about the article involving Rich. The lawsuit also alleges that Butowsky, who appeared on Fox News as a Republican surrogate, bragged that President Donald Trump had looked at drafts of the article prior to its publication.

Butowsky told NPR his comments had been a joke. Spicer said he was not aware of Trump being involved with the story, according to NPR.

Wheeler also alleges that a Fox News reporter made up quotes attributed to him as part of its reporting on the Rich case.

The president of Fox News, Jay Wallace, told NPR that there was no “concrete evidence” that the network’s reporter, Malia Zimmerman, attributed false quotes to Wheeler.

In August, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 award for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s killer. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an interview on Netherlands TV suggested that Rich may have been a source for the leaks clearinghouse, reigniting conspiracy theories.

Rich’s parents have criticized conservative news outlets for airing the conspiracy theories, callingthem”baseless” and “unspeakably cruel.”

Family of slain Jewish DNC staffer appeals for an end to conspiracy theories

The family of a Jewish Democratic National Committee staffer killed last month asked for an end to “unproven and harmful theories” about their son’s death.

The family of Seth Rich came out with a statement on Thursday, two days after WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 award for information leading to the conviction of his killer. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an interview on Netherlands TV suggested that Rich, 27, may have been a source for the leaks clearinghouse, reigniting conspiracy theories.

“The family welcomes any and all information that could lead to the identification of the individuals responsible, and certainly welcomes contributions that could lead to new avenues of investigation,” said the statement from Brad Bauman, a Rich family spokesman, provided Wednesday to Business Insider.

“That said, some are attempting to politicize this horrible tragedy, and in their attempts to do so are actually causing more harm than good and impeding on the ability for law enforcement to properly do their job.

“For the sake of finding Seth’s killer, and for the sake of giving the family the space they need at this terrible time, they are asking for the public to refrain from pushing unproven and harmful theories about Seth’s murder,” the statement said.

WikiLeaks has been harshly critical of Hillary Clinton’s presidential run and last month posted hacked DNC emails that led to the resignation of top party staffers. Its reward and Assange’s suggestions appeared linked to conspiracy theories circulating on the internet, unbacked by evidence, that Rich was set to expose misdoings by Clinton and/or the Democratic Party to the FBI.

One of the chief purveyors of the theories is Roger Stone, a provocateur who until last year was an adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Stone said in a speech Monday that he was in touch with Assange about releasing documents that could damage the Clinton campaign.

Police have said that Rich, a Nebraska native who was killed in Washington, D.C., while walking home before dawn on July 10, was possibly the victim of a robbery gone awry.

WikiLeaks removes anti-Semitic tweets

WikiLeaks removed tweets that described some of its Jewish critics as “establishment climbers.”

The account, believed to be run by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, was responding to tweets linking its massive release of Democratic Party leaks with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to back Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, and there is evidence that the recent hacking into the Democratic National Committee was carried out by Russians.

“Tribalist symbol for establishment climbers?” said a Wikileaks tweet on Saturday. “Most of our critics have 3 (((brackets around their names))) & have black-rimmed glasses. Bizarre.”

The triple parentheses, originally used by anti-Semitic social media users to designate Jews, has been appropriated by Jewish social media users.

In another tweet, Wikileaks wondered whether the symbol “has been re-re-purposed to now be a tribalist designator for establishment climbers.”

Wikileaks came under fire on social media for the tweets and the account removed them while continuing to defend them.

A subsequent tweet by the account suggested that whoever is running it sought to single out “neo-liberals” who were appropriating an anti-racist symbol. “Neo-liberals” is used as a pejorative on the far left for liberals who embrace foreign interventionism.

Under pressure after email leaks, Wasserman Schultz to quit as party head

Under fire for emails showing rancor between the Democratic National Committee and the Bernie Sanders campaign, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is stepping down as party chairwoman, but will join Hillary Clinton’s campaign in a senior role.

Wasserman Schultz announced Sunday afternoon that she would step down at the end of the week, when the Democratic convention concludes in Philadelphia.

Republican nominee Donald Trump and backers of Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nod until several weeks ago, cast her resignation as a result of hacked DNC emails that showed tensions between Wasserman Schultz and the Sanders campaign.

Pro-Sanders delegates in Philadelphia were reported to have cheered with the release of the news, and Trump, in a tweet, said she was “overrated.”

Statements from Wasserman Schultz, from Clinton and from President Barack Obama did not indicate she was forced into leaving earlier than she planned, although an insider said she had hoped to stick it out through the November election.

Wasserman Schultz, in a statement, said she wanted to focus on her congressional seat in South Florida, where she is facing a robust primary challenge by a Sanders backer, law professor Tim Canova. “My first priority has always been serving the people of the 23rd district of Florida and I look forward to continuing to do that as their member of Congress for years to come,” she said.

Wasserman Schultz stepping down from the top job would remove a potential source of friction just as the convention is set to start. Sanders is set to speak Monday night with a call to his supporters to back Clinton and defeat Donald Trump.

There could yet be tension; earlier Sunday, CNN had reported that Wasserman Schultz would disappear from the convention; in her statement, Wasserman Schultz said she would retain a convention leadership role and speak. Additionally, Clinton, in a statement, said Wasserman Schultz would join her campaign as a senior surrogate, and would chair the campaign’s efforts to get Democrats elected down-ticket.

However, Jeff Weaver, the Sanders campaign chairman whom Wasserman Schultz had called an “ass” in one of the emails, told MSNBC that the resignation was a smart move, signaling that Sanders supporters were set to end the tensions.

Wasserman Schultz, first elected to Congress in 2004 and party chairwoman since 2011, has made her Jewish identity central to her political career. In her first term, she drafted and led passage of the 2006 law creating Jewish American Heritage Month, has led legislation to provide assistance to Holocaust survivors, and was considered must-co-opt by both sides in last year’s debate over the Iran nuclear deal precisely because of her prominence in the Jewish community. (Breaking into tears during a TV interview, she backed the plan.) In past years, Wasserman Schultz has proved an effective surrogate for presidential candidates both to the Jewish community and on women’s issues. A mother of three, she is a breast cancer survivor.

Sanders has called for her to step down for months, and did so again Sunday in the wake of the email leaks. He believed that she rigged the primary process against him, in part by how she set the original debate schedule, with just five debates, many of them broadcast on nights with poor viewership. The reasoning then was that Clinton was a poor debater.

Clinton, however, performed well in the debates, and soon more were added to the schedule. Additionally, Wasserman Schultz slotted five Sanders loyalists on the platform drafting committee, a key Sanders demand.

Nonetheless, Sanders, who also blamed Wasserman Schultz for favoring closed primaries – much of his support came from non-Democrats – continued to call for her to step down. The Democratic establishment ignored the calls until Friday, when Wikileaks released thousands of DNC emails believed to have been hacked by Russians.

The emails clearly show that the DNC staff favored Clinton, recording several proposals to undermine Sanders, although there is evidence that some of these were rejected, and no evidence that others were carried through. One of the abortive proposals included a suggestion by the DNC finance chief, Brad Marshall, that surrogates depict Sanders as an atheist who strayed from his Jewish roots. Sanders is not an atheist and still embraces his Jewish heritage. Marshall apologized over the weekend.

Obama, who named her to the post in 2011, lavished praise on her on Sunday.

“Her fundraising and organizing skills were matched only by her passion, her commitment and her warmth,” he said. “And no one works harder for her constituents in Congress than Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Michelle and I are grateful for her efforts, we know she will continue to serve our country as a member of Congress from Florida and she will always be our dear friend.”

Italy summons US envoy over wiretaps, including Netanyahu-Berlusconi conversation

The Italian government summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain about reports that the United States eavesdropped on a conversation between Israeli and Italian leaders, among others.

John Phillips was called in to “clarify” the latest WikiLeaks revelation, the country’s foreign ministry said Tuesday, the French news agency AFP reported.

The latest batch of U.S. government cables released by Wikileaks, an organization dedicated to government transparency, reveals eavesdropping in 2010 and 2011 on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as on then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. WikiLeaks released the cables to German and Italian newspapers.

One conversation was between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Berlusconi following the fallout between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over an Israeli announcement of building in eastern Jerusalem made during a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden.

In the conversation of March 13, 2010, Berlusconi promises Netanyahu to help mend ties after the Israeli asks for his assistance, the Times of Israel reported.

WikiLeaks dump shows Sony concerned by its cameras used in Gaza bombings

Sony Pictures Entertainment executives were concerned about a news report that showed one of its cameras being used to guide Israeli rockets bombing Gaza.
Correspondence about the situation from last August was part of the release by WikiLeaks last week of more than 173,000 emails and more than 30,000 company documents.
The story was first reported by the Electronic Intifada.
The correspondence among Michael Lynton, the company’s CEO; Stevan Bernard, its head of corporate security; and David Diamond, executive assistant to the company chairman, included a link to an Iranian Press TV report in which the reporter held up a part of a bomb fired by Israel on Gaza during last summer’s conflict and said it contained a camera marked Sony.
Sony has told Japanese media that it does not design, manufacture or sell any products intended for use in weapons, according to Electronic Intifada.
The document dump also includes correspondence showing actress Natalie Portman hosting an event last year for J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group.

WikiLeaks soldier Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison

Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of the biggest breach of classified data in the nation's history by providing files to WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday.

Judge Colonel Denise Lind, who last month found Manning guilty of 20 charges including espionage and theft, could have sentenced him to as many as 90 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for 60 years.

Manning, 25, will be dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military and forfeit some pay, Lind said. His rank will be reduced to private from private first class.

Manning would be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence, which will be reduced by the time he has already served in prison plus 112 days.

Wearing his dress uniform, the slightly built Manning stood at attention as the sentence was read, seeming to show no emotion. As he was escorted out of the courtroom, supporters shouted “Bradley, we are with you.”

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, called the sentence “unprecedented” in its magnitude.

“It's more than 17 times the next longest sentence ever served” for providing secret material to the media, Goitein said. “It is in line with sentences for paid espionage for the enemy.”

In 2010, Manning turned over more than 700,000 classified files, battlefield videos and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, the pro transparency website, in a case that has commanded international attention.

Defense attorneys had not made a specific sentencing request but pleaded with Lind not to “rob him of his youth.”

Manning was working as a low-level intelligence analyst in Baghdad when he handed over the documents, catapulting WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, into the international spotlight.

The classified material that shocked many around the world included a 2007 gunsight video of a U.S. Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Baghdad. Among the dozen fatalities were two Reuters news staff. WikiLeaks dubbed the footage “Collateral Murder.”


The case highlighted the difficulty in keeping secrets in the Internet age. It raised strong passions on the part of the U.S. government, which said Manning had put American lives at risk, and anti-secrecy advocates, who maintained Manning was justified in releasing the information.

During a pretrial hearing, Lind had determined that the eventual sentence would be reduced by 112 days because of harsh treatment after his arrest in 2010. He likely will be imprisoned at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

A U.S. rights group has said Manning should be a candidate for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Human rights group Amnesty International called on U.S. President Barack Obama to commute Manning's sentence.

“Instead of fighting tooth and nail to lock him up for the equivalent of several life sentences, the U.S. government should turn its attention to investigating and delivering justice for the serious human rights abuses committed by its officials in the name of countering terror,” said Widney Brown, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty International.

Manning's trial at Fort Meade, Maryland, home of the ultra-secret National Security Agency, wound down as U.S. officials sought the return of Edward Snowden. The former NSA contractor, who disclosed details of secret U.S. programs that included monitoring the telephone and Internet traffic of Americans, has been given temporary asylum in Russia.

The Guardian said on Tuesday that British authorities had forced the newspaper to destroy materials leaked by Snowden.

Additional reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Scott Malone and Jeffrey Benkoe

Pearl lecture features New Yorker editor Remnick

“I learned a lot from WikiLeaks,” David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker magazine, told a full auditorium at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management when he spoke on Jan. 30 at the 10th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the Pearl Foundation, in partnership with Hillel at UCLA and UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.  “One thing I learned,” he said, “is that our diplomats are not bad.”

The comment came during the Q-and-A session following a talk on “Free Expression,” a topic dear to the Pearl family’s hearts in the wake of the murder by terrorists of their esteemed Wall Street Journal reporter son, Daniel. Remnick, country by country, described challenges facing journalists today, including intimidation that leads to self-censorship, imprisonment, torture and, in some cases, death. Pointing to the United States, he described the Bush-Cheney administration as having been “the most anti-press, anti-fact since the Nixon administration.” And he called Fox News a “new arm of propaganda.” President Barack Obama, about whom Remnick has authored a book, has a relationship with the press that Remnick called “less fraught.”

The obligation for a free press, in Remnick’s words, is “to exert pressure on power.” Praising The New York Times for its quality coverage, Remnick disparaged the continuing downturn in the Washington Post, Miami Herald and Philadelphia Enquirer,  and called out Sam Zell, who brought into bankruptcy the Tribune Co., including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, in particular, for his neglect.

He called the current Republican candidates in the presidential race “comical, clownish, not serious,” adding, “There are serious conservatives, but this [race] is not serious at all. … To use a political term,” he joked, “it’s a shandah.”

Baghdad priest: City’s Jews must leave after names in WikiLeaks

The handful of Jews remaining in Baghdad must leave because their names appeared in a WikiLeaks cable, an Anglican priest in the Iraqi capital said.

The priest said he is working with the U.S. Embassy to get the Jews to emigrate, the McClatchy news service reported. The embassy told the news service that it would work to protect the named individuals and that the United States would help to relocate them.

“Protecting individuals whose safety is at risk because of the release of the purported cables remains a priority,” the embassy said in a statement. “We are working actively to ensure that they remain safe.”

An official from a Jewish organization familiar with the situation told JTA that he doubts that the release of the Wikileaks cables has changed the security situation for Baghdad’s Jews. Over the last decade or so, various Jewish organizations and governments have offered Iraq’s Jews opportunities to leave, but they repeatedly have turned the offers down, the official said.

The last remaining synagogue in Iraq has closed due to the dwindling numbers of Jews.

The names were made public after the publication of a password that opened the encrypted versions of the cables available on the WikiLeaks website.

WikiLeaks: Iran providing Hamas with smuggle-ready rockets, says IDF

Iran is manufacturing special missiles for Hamas that can be smuggled through tunnels into the Gaza Strip, according to the report of a conversation between Israel Defense Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Harel and U.S. ambassador to Israel James Cunningham.

A cable on the discussion, which also involved senior officials of the U.S. State Department and Defense Department who came to Israel in February 2009, was sent from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on February 19 and is part of the WikiLeaks documents Haaretz is exclusively reporting.

Harel, who has meanwhile retired from the IDF, spoke at the meeting about Katyusha, Grad and Fajr rockets. The Katyusha was originally manufactured in the former Soviet Union, and was developed before World War II. It comes in diameters of 107 millimeters and 122 millimeters, with a range of up to 40 kilometers.


Israel/Wikileaks: ‘Hezbollah expected to launch 100 missiles a day at Tel Aviv’

Israeli officials expect Hezbollah to fire about 500 missiles a day at Israel, including 100 that will reach Tel Aviv, in the next war.

A batch of U.S. diplomatic leaks shared with Israeli newspapers through WikiLeaks were published Friday. Summaries of conversations in 2009 between U.S. officials and Israeli intelligence officials show that Israel expects the next war with Hezbollah to last two months.

Israel has long complained that U.N. pledges in the wake of the 2006 Lebanon war to stem the flow of missiles into Lebanon have proved not only worthless, but that Hezbollah is stronger than it was before that war.

The terrorist group, which is now a leading party in Lebanon’s government, “is preparing for a long conflict with Israel in which it hopes to launch a massive number of rockets at Israel per day,” an Israeli officer is quoted as saying. “In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Tel Aviv was left untouched − Hezbollah will try to change the equation during the next round and disrupt everyday life in Tel Aviv.”

In other WikiLeaks revelations, released through Ha’aretz and Yedioth Achronoth, Israeli officials in 2009 accused Turkey of helping Iran evade sanctions and describe Mohammed Tantawi, the Egyptian defense minister, as unreliable in the joint Egyptian-Israeli effort to stem arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip.

Tantawi now chairs the military council leading Egypt in the wake of the revolution earlier this year.

Our Annual Purim Spoof Cover 2011: Charlie Sheen, Wisconsin, Wikileaks, Dior, Egypt


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Spielberg purchases screen rights to WikiLeaks

Director Steven Spielberg has purchased the screen rights to the WikiLeaks story.

Spielberg bought the rights to “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy,” written by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

DreamWorks will produce the movie, according to the Guardian, and also purchased the rights to a book by Assange’s former colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg titled “Inside WikiLeaks.”

The movie is being conceived of as an investigative thriller, according to the Guardian.

WikiLeaks’ Assange accuses journalists of Jewish conspiracy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused British journalists of a “Jewish conspiracy” against him.

The accusation came in remarks published in the British magazine Private Eye, which was reporting on a phone call Assange made on Feb. 16 to the magazine’s editor complaining about British coverage of WikiLeaks, The New York Times reported.

Private Eye had published an article on Assange associate in Russia, Israel Shamir, saying that he had denied the Holocaust. Assange called the article “an obvious attempt to deprive him and his organization of Jewish support and donations,” according to the Jewish Chronicle.

He also said the magazine was “part of a conspiracy” led by “Jewish” writers and specifically cited The Guardian newspaper, naming Editor Alan Rusbridger, a non-Jew, and investigations editor David Leigh.

Assange responded to the Private Eye article on Twitter, saying that editor Ian Hislop, who wrote the article, “distorted, invented or misremembered” what he said, calling his use of the term Jewish conspiracy “false in spirit and in word.”

“We treasure our strong Jewish support and staff, just as we treasure the support from pan-Arab democracy activists and others who share our hope for a just world,” Assange tweeted.

Dershowitz joins WikiLeaks team as adviser

Alan Dershowitz has joined an effort to keep U.S. authorities from reviewing Twitter accounts related to the WikiLeaks case.

The U.S. Justice Department in December subpoenaed the social network site to obtain communications between the documents leaks site and its followers.

WikiLeaks, which solicits inside information from governments and corporations, last year obtained a massive cache of internal U.S. State Department exchanges. A number of the exchanges have led to strained diplomatic relations.

Dershowitz, one of the premier U.S. constitutional lawyers and a passionate defender of Israel, said his role would be restricted to the Twitter matter.

“I’m currently in this case because I believe that to protect the First Amendment,we need to protect new electronic media vigorously,” he told Politico this week after a news release from WikiLeaks announced his hiring.

Dershowitz told CNN that he was acting as an adviser to the team of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but not as his lawyer.

Hearings on the matter began this week in a court in Alexandria, Va.

WikiLeaks: Israel prefers Egypt’s Suleiman

Israel has long preferred current Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman as successor to President Hosni Mubarak, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

A senior adviser from Israel’s Ministry of Defense told U.S. diplomats in Tel Aviv in August 2008 that Suleiman was viewed as the most likely interim president if Mubarak died or was incapacitated.

U.S. diplomat Luis Moreno wrote in the cable that “there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of” Suleiman, according to the cable released Monday night by WikiLeaks and published by the Daily Telegraph on its website.

In 2008, Mubarak’s son Gamal was seen as his father’s likely successor. At the same time, Suleiman, who was head of the foreign intelligence service, was Israel’s main contact in the Egyptian government.

The cable also notes that a hot line set up between Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Suleiman-led Egyptian General Intelligence Service was in “daily use.”
The leaked cable reveals that Suleiman, angry by Israeli criticism of Egypt’s ineffectiveness in stopping arms smuggling to Gaza, suggested that Israel send troops to Egypt’s Philadelphi Corridor and stop it themselves.

The cables also quote Suleiman as saying that Hamas should be isolated and that Gaza could “go hungry but not starve.”

Suleiman is currently leading talks with opposition parties, and has the backing of the United States, to lead the transition to democracy in the wake of two weeks of demonstrations.

WikiLeaks: U.S. advised to fight Iranian nukes with ‘covert sabotage’

The United States was advised by a German think tank to use “covert sabotage” to disrupt Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons, a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable reveals.

The cable from the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy, sent in January 2010, said that Volker Perthes, director of Germany’s government-funded Institute for Security and International Affairs, advised U.S. officials to use methods such as computer hacking and unexplained accidents. Such actions, the cable said, “would be more effective than a military strike, whose effects in the region could be devastating.”

Leaked by WikiLeaks, the cable was published Tuesday in the British newspaper The Guardian. The name of the institute was blacked out in the cable.

The release of the cable comes just days after a New York Times expose said that the United States and Israel were responsible for the Stuxnet computer worm that reportedly set back Iran’s nuclear program by several months to several years. The virus, which was designed to destroy nuclear centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear reactor in Iran, reportedly was tested at Israel’s Dimona nuclear complex.

Perthes also advocated for a ban on conventional weapons sales to Iran, the cable said.

WikiLeaks: Israeli Gaza border officials took bribes

Israeli officials at a crossing into Gaza took bribes in order to let goods into the coastal strip, a cable made public by WikiLeaks said.

The diplomatic cable from June 2006 said that “US businesses allege that corruption by Israeli officials at Karni crossing is impeding their access to the Gaza market.”

It was published Thursday in the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten, which says it has all 250,000 U.S. cables leaked to WikiLeaks.

The cable, compiled from sources in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem Consulate, said that goods from American companies worth $1.9 million waited at the Karni crossing for more than three months before being permitted into Gaza, Ynet reported.

The companies, including Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, Phillip Morris, Hewlett Packard and Motorola, had to pay fees up to 75 times more than normally required, according to the cable.

WikiLeaks: Israel kept Gaza economy ‘on brink’

Israel told the United States in 2008 that it planned to keep Gaza’s economy “on the brink of collapse,” according to a diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

The cable, one of three on the topic from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Washington, said that “As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.”

Israel said it would keep Gaza’s economy “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis,” according to a Nov. 3, 2008 cable.

Beginning last May, Israel relaxed the blockade on Gaza, though aid organizations say it is not enough.

The cables were made public Wednesday in the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten, which says it has all 250,000 U.S. cables leaked to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks: Iran can reach Israel in 12 minutes

Iran has missiles that can reach Israel in 12 minutes, according to cables released by WikiLeaks.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told a U.S. Congressional delegation in November 2009 that the Islamic Republic has over 300 missiles that can reach the Jewish state in up to 12 minutes, according to the cables released on Sunday.

He also reportedly told the lawmakers, led by Ike Skelton (D-Mo.),that he was preparing Israel’s military for a major war against Hamas, saying that “I’m preparing the Israeli army for a major war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite.”

Ashkenazi told the delegation that the threat from Hamas and Hezbollah is more acute than the Iranian threat, due to their proximity to Israel. Iran funds both Hamas and Hezbollah. He predicted that the next big war for Israel would be either in Gaza or Lebanon.

He also said that Hezbollah has over 40,000 rockets capable of reaching all of Israel, and that Hamas could hit Tel Aviv.

Some Arab conspiracy theorists seeing WikiLeaks-Israel link

Unless you’re a reader of Islamist websites, you’d probably be surprised to learn that the WikiLeaks trove of U.S. diplomatic cables is an Israeli conspiracy.

Wonder why there was so much material about Arab regimes petitioning the United States to contain Iran’s nuclear program? How about why there was conspicuously little in the trove of data that was embarrassing to Israel?

It’s because WikiLeaks founder and director Julian Assange struck a deal with Israel and the “Israel lobby” to withhold documents that might embarrass the Jewish state—at least that’s what Al Manar, the Hezbollah-run media outlet, and Al Haqiqa, which is affiliated with a Syrian opposition group, are writing. The conspiracy theories are percolating as well on far-left and far-right websites.

“Why [did] the hundreds of thousands of American classified documents leaked … not contain anything that may embarrass the Israeli government?” asked a Dec. 8 story on Indymedia UK, an independent online news organization. “The answer appears to be a secret deal struck between Wikileaks … [and] Israeli officials, which ensured that all such documents were ‘removed’ before the rest were made public.”

Israeli officials haven’t even bothered to respond to the allegations.

“We don’t comment on such ludicrous claims” was how Yoni Peled, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, put it. But the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement last week detailing some of the rumors and denouncing them as conspiracy theories cooked up by Israel’s enemies.

Comparing it to persistent rumors that Israel was behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman called the theories “yet another manifestation of the Big Lie against Jews and Israel.”

The “WikiLeaks affair has given new life to the old conspiracy theories of underhanded Jewish and Israeli involvement in an event with significant repercussions for the U.S. and many nations around the world,” Foxman said.

Ben Cohen, associate communications director for the American Jewish Committee and an expert on anti-Semitism, said the conspiracy theorists haven’t gotten far, even in the Arab world.

“I’ve seen them, but not in any mainstream outlets,” Cohen told JTA. “Nor do I get the sense they have picked up huge traction.”

The story, however, also has surfaced in the United States, at the Arab Times and the Arab Voice, Arab-American community papers in Texas and New Jersey.

Cohen says it’s unlikely that Assange would strike any deal with Israel. WikiLeaks’ representative in Russia is a well-known Holocaust denier who spews anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli diatribes from his home in Sweden, often under aliases. His real name is Israel Shamir, a convert to Orthodox Christianity who claims to have been born Jewish.

“The idea that WikiLeaks is in league with the Israelis is hugely undermined by their relationship with Shamir,” Cohen said.

Sharif Nashashibi, chairman of Arab Media Watch, a London-based nonprofit that monitors the British media for its coverage of the Arab and Muslim world, says the articles he’s seen are all reprinting the same Indymedia story.

“This claim certainly isn’t prevalent in the Arab and Muslims worlds, and that’s most likely because it has no solid basis,” Nashashibi wrote JTA in an e-mail. He noted that Israel indeed has been mentioned in the cables leaked by WikiLeaks, contrary to what the conspiracy theorists claimed.

“Without any credible supporting evidence, this claim is merely a baseless conspiracy theory that doesn’t warrant serious attention from any concerned parties, including the ADL,” Nashashibi wrote.

Foxman says the reports do merit concern, irrespective of their veracity or number.

“These things feed on themselves and circulate and recirculate,” Foxman said, citing the persistence of the 9/11 conspiracy theory even a decade later and despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. “It’s not rational; it has political expediency. That’s what fuels it.”

Anti-Israel backlash from WikiLeaks release

WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified diplomatic cables has caused a backlash of anti-Israel conspiracy theories, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Anti-Israel conspiracy theorists are claiming that Israel and the Israel lobby played a secret role in the documents’ release, the ADL said in a statement Wednesday. The claims originated on Arab and Islamic websites, according to the organization.

“Once again, as we saw with the 9/11 attacks and the financial meltdown, we are seeing yet another manifestation of the Big Lie against Jews and Israel,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, in a statement. “The WikiLeaks affair has given new life to the old conspiracy theories of underhanded Jewish and Israeli involvement in an event with significant repercussions for the U.S. and many nations around the world. The news is being exploited by conspiracy theorists, some world leaders, and various websites across the ideological spectrum to spread false and malicious conspiracy theories against Israel.”

One claim alleges that WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, struck a deal with Israel to withhold any cables that were embarrassing to Israel. Another charges that Assange actually works for Israel as a spy and that Israel’s intelligence agencies orchestrated WikiLeaks as a public relations campaign, according to the ADL.

Hüseyin Celik, a deputy leader of AKP, Turkey’s ruling party, hinted in comments during a Dec. 1 press conference that Israel could be responsible for WikiLeaks. “Israel is very pleased [with the WikiLeaks controversy],” he said. “Israel has been making statements for days, even before the release of these documents.”

Similar claims have surfaced on anti-Zionist sites and on Al Manar, a Lebanon-based news service run by the terrorist group Hezbollah.

WikiLeaks: U.S. did not help Dubai assassination investigation

The United States has reportedly declined a request by the United Arab Emirates to help investigate the assassination of a Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel room.

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was assassinated in the hotel room in January. Some 33 people are accused by Dubai police of being part of the assassination, which has been blamed on Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. The alleged assassins reportedly used forged passports from Britain, Ireland, Australia, France and Germany to enter and leave Dubai. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in Mabhouh’s death.

In two diplomatic cables released Tuesday by WikiLeaks, UAE officials asked the U.S. ambassador to the country for details on credit cards issued by American banks to the Mossad operatives suspected of involvement in the assassination. Three credit card numbers are included in the cables, according to reports.

The cables also asked that the United States call on the federal bank to collect information on laundered money and suspicious transactions made with the credit cards, which they believe were used by the alleged assassins.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said recently that more documents related to the Mabhouh assassination would be released.

Rice cable confirms Israel destroyed Syrian reactor

A confidential memo from Condoleezza Rice to State Department representatives around the world confirmed that Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor, a cable leaked to WikiLeaks says.

The cable, which has not yet been published, was reported by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot before its official publication on the website.

The document sent was sent on April 25, 2008, by Rice, then secretary of state. It read, in part, “On September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor Syria was clandestinely constructing, we judge with North Korean assistance.”

The cable includes detailed information about the attack and is the first official confirmation of the attack, Yediot reported.

“I want to inform you that the purpose of that Israeli mission was to destroy a clandestine nuclear reactor that Syria was constructing in its eastern desert near a place we call al-Kibar,” Rice wrote. “The Israeli mission was successful – the reactor was damaged beyond repair. Syria has completed efforts to clean up the site and destroy evidence of what was really there, constructing a new building on the old site.”

The document confirms that Israel and the United States collaborated on intelligence for the mission. “The US intelligence community conducted an intensive, months-long effort to confirm and corroborate the information Israel provided us on the reactor and to gather more details from our own sources and methods,” Rice wrote.

Israel has never confirmed nor denied its involvement in the strike. Syria denies that the site was a nuclear reactor, calling it instead a military installation.

WikiLeaks to release more Israel cables

WikiLeaks will release sensitive leaked diplomatic cables regarding Israel in the coming months, its founder said.

Julian Assange told Al-Jazeera Wednesday that his website will release top secret letters dealing with the 2006 Second Lebanon war, the assassination of a high-level Palestinian official in Dubai suspected to have been carried out by the Mossad, and other Israel-related cables.

Assange claims to have about 3,700 files related to Israel, most from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.

He reportedly told Al-Jazeera that few documents involving Israel have so far been published because the newspapers to which he gave exclusive rights to publish the cables were unwilling to publish sensitive information about Israel.

He said he was certain that Israeli intelligence is currently monitoring WikiLeaks closely and denied that there was a deal between Israel and WikiLeaks to keep information on Israel private.

Wikileaks cable: Netanyahu’s patience with Abbas has ‘run out’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s patience with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has “run out,” a WikiLeaks cable leaked on Monday revealed.

In a “secret” December 2009 cable dispatched to Washington from the embassy in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu’s senior policy aide Ron Dermer is also quoted as telling two U.S. senators that Israel has no partner to peace.

Dermer, who is considered once of Netanyahu’s closest confidantes in the Prime Minister’s Bureau, met with Michael Kuiken, of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Perry Cammack, of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in Jerusalem on December 14, 2009. The moments of that meeting were included in a cable sent by Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Marc Sievers.


WikiLeaks: U.S. accuses Syria of arming Hezbollah

The United States accused Syria of arming Hezbollah with advanced ballistic missiles, a new document released by WikiLeaks showed.

The document was released by the site Tuesday, the same day that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned himself in to London police and was arrested under a European Arrest Warrant over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden. Assange was denied bail by a British court .

“We are concerned about Syria’s provision of increasingly sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah,” U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reportedly wrote in a February 2010 secret diplomatic cable.

“We are aware, however, of current Syrian efforts to supply Hezbollah with ballistic missiles. I must stress that this activity is of deep concern to my government, and we strongly caution you against such a serious escalation.”

The United States believed that the transferred missiles included Scud-D missiles, which are capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

“I must stress that … we strongly caution [Syria] against such a serious escalation,” Clinton wrote.

Clinton explained that “the Syrian leadership views military support to Hezbollah as integral to Syria’s security and as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with Israel over the return of the Golan Heights, as well as a possible stick to bring the Israelis back to the table.”

Clinton called on Arab and Western nations to discuss the weapons transfers with Syria in order to bring them to a halt.

Cables show shared Israeli, Arab concerns about Iran

A peek behind the scenes offered by the WikiLeaks cables published this week offer hints into U.S. and regional priorities. The two issues cropping up most often in the Middle East are Iran and Israeli-Arab peace. The cables also offer choice insights into how Americans interact with the locals.

Iran and peace

In private discussions, leaders from Egypt and Dubai both talk about their enmity for Hamas, and they and the Saudi king also warn of the dangers of Iran.

In a classified message from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in January 2008, Omar Suleiman, director of Egyptian General Intelligence, tells Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) that Iran “is supporting Jihad and spoiling peace, and has supported extremists in Egypt previously.” Iranian support of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood makes them “our enemy,” Suleiman says.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January 2009, the U.S. ambassador in Cairo wrote that after talking to Egyptian Foreign Minister Abdoul Gheit, he is positive that Egyptian President Mubarak sees Iran as Egypt’s “greatest long-term threat, both as it develops a nuclear capability and as it seeks to export its ‘Shia Revolution.’ ” As far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mubarak is “proud of (Egypt’s) role as intermediary, well aware that they are perhaps the only player that can talk with the Israelis, all Palestinian factions, and (The U.S.). Mubarak hates Hamas, and considers them the same as Egypt’s own Muslim Brotherhood, which he sees as his own most dangerous political threat.”

The Arab leaders in the Persian Gulf share similar sentiments on Iran. A letter sent to Rice from the Dubai consul general in January 2007 states that in a meeting with Nicholas Burns, a State Department undersecretary, the emirate’s leader, Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, “agreed that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, but warned of the dire regional consequences of military action.” In addition, Dubai agreed to cooperate in financial restrictions against Iran, but only if it is done quietly. The Dubai leader also said he hoped for a peace deal because it “would make Hamas everyone’s enemy.”

The Saudi king took his hatred toward Iran a step further, telling John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser in Washington in March 2009 that he had just finished a telephone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and scolded him that that Iran should “stop interfering in Arab affairs.”

“A solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict would be a great achievement, the King said, but Iran would find other ways to cause trouble,” the cable reported. ” ‘Iran’s goal is to cause problems,’ he continued, ‘There is no doubt something unstable about them.’ “

The moving Iran deadline

In a March 2005 cable, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer describes Israel’s fear of Iran’s nuclear weapons program as reaching the “point of no return” when Iran is able to enrich uranium without assistance—a development believed to have been achieved by 2007.

The cables show that Israeli officials saw the diplomatic efforts vis-a-vis Iran as relevant and crucial. However, they expressed their disappointment with the European Union, which according to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was “too soft,” Kurtzer reported. As to the military option, unlike the strike against Iraq in 1981, hitting Iran would be a much more difficult task, and furthermore would “elicit a strong response from Arab states and the Palestinians, effectively freezing the peace process.”

In a May 2009 meeting between an American congressional delegation and Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, Barak stressed that “no option should be removed from the table when confronting Iran and North Korea.”

Barak also described the Iranians as “chess, not backgammon players,” who will “attempt to avoid any hook to hang accusations on, and look to Pakistan and N. Korea as models to emulate in terms of acquiring nuclear weapons while defying the international community.” Barak also estimated a window between six and 18 months from when the meeting was held in which “stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable.” After that, he said, “any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage.

He also expressed concern that should Iran develop nuclear capabilities, “other rogue states and/or terrorist groups would not be far behind.” Israeli officials now say the “no return” deadline is sometime in 2012.

Regional concerns

In a meeting between Mossad chief Meir Dagan and then-Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) on March 13, 2005 in Tel Aviv, Dagan expressed concerns about the fallout from the end of the Iraq War.

“Foreign fighters originating from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Syria and Yemen have arrived back in their home countries” after fighting together in Iraq, the Israeli top spy said.

Dagan said that Israel has “no assets in Iraq other than a friendly relationship with the Kurds.” However, he said that Israel has interest in the possible impact the jihadis might have in their home countries, especially in ones where the local governments might not be able to fully respond to the challenge brought by the militants.

In a meeting two years later, in July 2007, with Frances Townsend, President Bush’s top terrorism adviser, Dagan raised alarms about Pakistan’s stability.

‘‘Dagan characterized a Pakistan ruled by radical Islamists with a nuclear arsenal at their disposal as his biggest nightmare,” the cable said. “Al-Qaeda and other ‘Global Jihad’ groups could not be relied upon to behave rationally once in possession of nuclear weapons, said Dagan, as they do not care about the well being of states or their image in the media. ‘We have to keep (President Pervez) Musharaf in power,’ said Dagan.” Musharraf, facing allegations of corruption, resigned in 2008.

A wild wedding

A classified document from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow titled “A Caucasus Wedding” describes the life and culture of Dagestan, a republic in the north Caucasus. The detailed description, replete with references to drunken revelry and the corpulence of the locals, also refers to the members of the Jewish community, their numbers and habits.

A special reference was made to the chief rabbi of Stavropol-Kray, described as “a man who looked like Shamil Basayev,” a Chechen Islamist terrorist, “on his day off—flip-flops, T-shirt, baseball cap, beard—but turned out to be the chief rabbi of Stavropol-Kray. He told us he has 12,000 co-religionists in the province, 8,000 of them in its capital, Pyatigorsk. 70 percent are, like him, Persian-speaking Mountain Jews; the rest are a mixture of Europeans, Georgians and Bukharans.”

Elsewhere, it describes the regional compunction for ethnic identification, and how it seemed to be catching among the diplomats.

“After a couple of hours Dalgat’s convoy returned with Aida, horns honking,” the report says, referring to the groom, Dalgat Makhachev, the son of a lawmaker and oil magnate, Gadzhi Makhachev. “Dalgat and Aida got out of the Rolls and were serenaded into the hall, and into the Makhachev family, by a boys’ chorus lining both sides of the red carpet, dressed in costumes aping medieval Dagestani armor with little shields and swords. The couple’s entry was the signal for the emcee to roll into high gear, and after a few toasts the Piter ‘gypsies’ began their performance. (The next day one of Gadzhi’s houseguests sneered, ‘Some gypsies! The bandleader was certainly Jewish, and the rest of them were blonde.’ There was some truth to this, but at least the two dancing girls appeared to be Roma.)”

Leaked document: Netanyahu backed land swaps

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United States in early 2009 that he supported land swaps in a peace agreement with the Palestinians, a leaked document shows.

Netanyahu also said in the meeting with a delegation of U.S. officials in Israel two weeks after Israel’s last national election that Israel does not want to control Gaza and the West Bank, according to a WikiLeaks cable released Monday.

The document, sent Feb. 26, 2009 from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, reported that Netanyahu presented his “economic peace” doctrine, which he said would prop up the Palestinian Authority in its fight against radical Islam.

In response to the document, the Prime Minister’s Office issued an official response saying that Netanyahu intended to show that he was willing to make territorial compromises in the framework of a peace treaty. 

“This is the public policy of Netanyahu, this is policy today and it was his policy during his February 2009 meeting,” the statement said. “Any other interpretation isn’t correct and doesn’t represent the prime minister’s stance.”

The WikiLeaks website, which publishes classified documents from anonymous sources and leaks, released about 250,000 secret diplomatic cables Sunday.

WikiLeaks reveals secrets, backroom dealmaking—and cluelessness

A careful reading of the WikiLeaks trove of State Department cables—which is laying bare some 250,000 secret dispatches detailing private conversations, assessments and dealmaking of U.S. diplomats—reveals a notable if perhaps surprising pattern: how often they get things wrong.

Again and again the cables show diplomats, lawmakers and heads of state predicting outcomes that never come true.

A year ago, top Israeli defense officials in a meeting with their U.S. counterparts set 2010 as the absolute, must-be-met deadline to squeeze Iran on its nuclear program. Now Israeli officials say date is 2012. In a 2005 assessment, the same Israeli cadre told U.S. interlocutors that the point of no return would be Iran’s ability to enrich uranium without assistance. Iran has had that capacity for years.

In January 2008, Egypt’s intelligence chief said Hamas was isolated and would not stand in the way of a peace agreement. Hamas’ continuing control of Gaza, even after the war that broke out 11 months after the Egyptian assessment, still undercuts Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In 2007, U.S. diplomats called Tzipi Livni an up-and-comer. Though now the leader of the Israeli opposition as head of the Kadima Party, Livni twice failed in bids to become Israel’s prime minister. The same State Dept. cable from 2007 said the Israeli military and government don’t get along—“never the twain shall meet!” But they do get along, mostly, and meet often; the lack of cooperation in 2007 was the result of the short-lived term of Amir Peretz as Israeli defense minister.

The disparities between predictions and reality reflect the on-the-fly nature of the discussions detailed in the newly revealed cables.

Ed Abington, a former U.S. consul in Jerusalem who has consulted for the Palestinian Authority, said the authors of such cables work under pressure to come up with “added value” in analysis, and fill in the vacuum with chatter that might not have any basis in reality.

“You’re looking for what you can add that makes it relevant to policy makers in Washington and elsewhere—analysis, insight,” Abington told JTA. “A lot of the reporting, in hindsight, is irrelevant.”

David Makovsky, a senior analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said facts on the ground also change rapidly—a factor that helps explain how dire Israeli predictions about Iran’s imminent weapons program have dissipated, at least for now. Part of that may be attributable to western efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Makovsky cited to the recent success of the Stuxnet computer worm, which apparently disrupted Iranian centrifuges necessary to enrich uranium to bomb-making capacity.

Much of the material in the leaked cables offers frank U.S. assessments of everything from the temperament of foreign leaders to the shipment of arms between foes of the United States. In late 2009, U.S. officials told their Russian counterparts that they believed North Korea had shipped Iran missiles capable of hitting capitals in western Europe. The Russians were skeptical, but agreed that there was evidence of increased cooperation between the two rogue nations and that it posed new dangers.

The cables also track increasing concern among the United States, Israel and western nations that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is leading Turkey along a path to Islamism—and beyond the point of no return of accommodation with the West. In Cairo, U.S. diplomats prep secretaries of state in both the Bush and Obama administrations for meetings with Egyptian leaders and tell them to defer to Egyptian self-regard as the indispensable Arab state, while acknowledging that this perception is long past its due date.

Tracking the cables that straddle the Israeli and U.S. administrations also demonstrates that on some matters policies have changed little, if at all. Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary charged with enforcing Iran sanctions, in December of 2008 reassures Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan that Obama is as determined as Bush was to isolate Iran through sanctions. Within a few weeks, Obama would confirm it by reappointing Levey to the job, ensuring consistency.

The leaks also show Iranian and Syrian duplicity. A 2008 memo, apparently from an Iranian source, details how Iran used the cover of the Iranian Red Crescent to smuggle officers into Lebanon in 2006 to assist in Hezbollah’s war against Israel. Syria apparently provided sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah within weeks of pledging to U.S. officials that it would not do so.

Some of those named in the leaks worried that their publication could inhibit frank dialogue. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), was outraged that her private exchange with Netanyahu on Iran and Palestinian issues in a 2009 meeting was now public knowledge. “If Congress has no ability to have candid conversations with foreign leaders, we won’t have some of the critical information we need to make the judgments we need to make about countries like Iran,” she told The Daily Beast.