Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Extract: A Very Short History Of The CIA

With yesterday's heavily redacted release of only about 20% of the CIA torture report, it seems timely to post this extract from my forthcoming book...


By this time, the cabal of deeply ambitious politicians who controlled George W. Bush had already seized control of the White House. Their success hinged on 25 electoral college votes from the state of Florida, where major US TV networks twice rescinded predictions of a winner based on unreliable machine-counted votes. The US Supreme Court eventually intervened to stop a second manual recount in Florida, after the first was declared unreliable. Bush was sworn in as President despite losing the nation's popular vote by over half a million ballots.

President George W. Bush (aka “Dubya” or “Bush 43”) was only the second person after John Quincy Adams to become US President after his father had also served as President. George H. W. Bush (aka “Bush 41”) had served as CIA Director (1976-77), Vice President (1981-89) and then an unpopular one-term President from 1989 to 1993.

Some claim that Dubya's grandfather Prescott Bush, a Senator from 1952 to 1963, was also penciled onto a list of possible 1960 Presidential candidates by his golfing buddy, President Eisenhower. But Prescott Bush might also have had trouble winning the popular vote, because as a director of the Union Banking Corporation he had been convicted under the Trading With The Enemy Act for hiding Nazi investments during World War Two.

Curiously, the US lawyer whose company helped Prescott Bush hide Union Bank's Nazi assets was Allen Welsh Dulles, who Eisenhower later appointed first civilian director of the CIA. Prior to WWII, however, lawyer brothers Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles (who later became US Secretary of State) handled German WWI reparation payments while operating a Berlin office for US businessmen dealing with Hitler's regime. Many of their wealthy US customers were disappointed when Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor triggered the United States' entry into war against Hitler's Third Reich.

Widespread US support for European Fascism has now been all but eradicated from the history books, but in fact the 1930s saw large Fascist rallies across the USA. In 1937, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, complained:

"A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime. . . . Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing Fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there."

A year later, President Roosevelt spelled it out even more clearly:

"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling power... Among us today, a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing."
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt , April 29, 1938.

President Roosevelt was reportedly deeply suspicious of Allen Dulles, and authorized British intelligence to wire-tap Dulles’ office. Roosevelt set up a new intelligence agency, the Office of the Coordinator of Information (which later became the CIA), and appointed Allen Dulles as head of the New York branch. Ironically, Dulles’ primary task was to investigate the very US business links he himself had established with the Nazis. According to one author, “Roosevelt was giving Dulles enough rope to hang himself.”

When British wiretaps proved that Dulles was continuing to work with his German business clients, Roosevelt seized a batch of Dulles-linked firms, including Prescott Bush's Union Banking Corp, under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Prescott Bush was convicted by the U.S. government and fined one million dollars. But Dulles himself was not charged with anything. The COI became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Allen Dulles spent the duration of WWII as the OSS station chief in Berne, Switzerland.

On April 12th, 1945, less than a month before Germany surrendered and shortly after being re-elected, President Roosevelt died. Although he was a heavy smoker and had been wheelchair bound after suffering childhood polio, Roosevelt’s sudden death has always been a favourite subject for conspiracy theorists. The official cause of death was “brain hemorrhage” but Roosevelt’s doctor always (publicly at least) insisted he was healthy and his medical records were never found.

Allen Dulles moved back to Berlin at the end of hostilities. He helped many influential former SS agents flee the country with their wealth and sometimes even their reputations intact, as the CIA recruited thousands of ex-Nazis into the US intelligence services. At the same time, the CIA was also recruiting Japanese War Criminals who had performed gruesome biological weapons experiments on live human beings, including women and children, with the secret Unit 731.

As CIA Director, Dulles went on to oversee the CIA's MKULTRA mind control experiments and Operation Mockingbird, a project to infiltrate and control mainstream media organisations. He was involved in the 1953 coup in Iran and the 1954 coup in Guatemala, along with the deadly sabotage of Cuba by Operation 40. But in 1961, after the Bay Of Pigs fiasco (details of which the CIA still refuses to disclose on the grounds that it "might confuse the public"), Allen Dulles and his closest cohorts were finally sacked. President John F. Kennedy angrily declared that he wanted to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds."

Two years later, Allen Dulles was appointed to the Warren Commission, which investigated Kennedy's assassination. And we all know how that turned out.


*

George Herbert Walker Bush (“Bush 41”), an ambitious West Texas oil man, allegedly became a CIA agent around the same time Allen Dulles was fired. He was appointed Director of the CIA by President Ford after CIA boss William Colby was dismissed in the wake of the Nixon Watergate scandal.

Colby, who later died in a mysterious boating accident, was sacked because he had been too open about CIA secrets exposed by the post-Watergate Church Commission inquiry. Bush's job was to shut down the public flow of information and restore CIA staff morale. No doubt he also had personal reasons for wanting CIA secrets kept out of the public eye: according to one Nixon staffer, when Bush heard about the Watergate "smoking gun" transcript "he broke into assholes and shit himself to death".

Speaking of death, a US citizen was assassinated in the middle of Washington DC in 1976, while Bush was CIA Director, and very few people nowadays even know about it. Ronni Moffit was killed when Chilean secret service agents blew up the car she was traveling in with her husband and her boss, Orlando Letelier, the de facto leader of the Chilean resistance after the 1973 US-backed coup that brought the dictator Augusto Pinochet to power. The State Department and the FBI were aware the Chilean agents had entered the USA on false visas, claiming they were “on CIA business”. According to John Dinges, co-author of Assassination on Embassy Row, "the CIA had inside intelligence about the assassination alliance at least two months before Letelier was killed but failed to act to stop the plans." 

Bush lasted less than a year as CIA Director. When incoming President Jimmy Carter replaced him, Bush started plotting his own run for the White House. Like Prescott Bush, the unpopular George H. W. Bush was considered “unelectable” when he ran against Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan for the 1980 GOP nomination. As Reagan warned the Republican Party faithful:

“A coalition of multinational corporate executives, big-city bankers, and hungry power brokers... want to give you George Bush... their purpose is to control the American government.”

Bush in turn ridiculed Reagan's “trickle-down economics” - based on massive tax cuts for the rich - as “voodoo economics”. Bush eventually lost the GOP nomination, but used his strong political and financial connections to pressure his way onto the winning Reagan-Bush ticket.

As Vice President under Ronald Reagan, “Bush Senior” was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, where the CIA illegally sold guns to fund guerrillas in Nicaragua (Bush escaped public censure and later pardoned all those those indicted or convicted in the affair). Curiously, when President Reagan was shot and nearly killed by John Hinkley Junior in 1981, the brother of the “lone gunman” was scheduled to have dinner with Vice President Bush's son Neil Bush on the following day. With Reagan hospitalized, Bush's spokesperson repeatedly dismissed media questions about this as a mere coincidence.

Riding the coat-tails of Reagan's popularity to become President himself in 1988, George H. W. Bush's election catch-phrase was, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” GOP voters had been duped into thinking Reagan's “trickle-down economics” was working miracles, but in fact the national deficit tripled to $220 billion between 1980 and 1990. After President Bush betrayed voters by accepting a Democrats plan to cut spending and raise taxes, his polls never recovered.

As a one-term President, George H. W. Bush also invaded Panama to overthrow former US ally Manuel Noriega, instituted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and repelled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait in what became knows as the Gulf War or the First Iraq War. Bush was heavily criticized by pro-war “hawks” at home after US troops chased demoralised Iraqi troops all the way back to Basra, leaving the highway from Kuwait strewn with slaughtered bodies and demolished vehicles, but then returned home without removing Hussein from power.


*

Sworn into power on January 20th, 2001 as the United States' 43rd President, George Walker “Dubya” Bush, was surrounded by many key figures who had previously served in his father's 41st administration. Many of them were determined to go back to Iraq and “finish the job”.

  • Vice President Dick Cheney, who served as Secretary of Defence under Bush 41 then became Chairman and CEO of the Halliburton oil company, had “reluctantly” appointed himself as George W. Bush's running mate after claiming he he could not find anyone more qualified. Cheney held onto $39 million dollars worth of Halliburton stock options, even though he had screened other VP candidates for just such conflicts of interest. He assembled a secret energy task force of senior oil executives (at a time when Peak Oil was still being dismissed as a fantasy) and allegedly pitched the coming invasion of Iraq to them as a solution to all their problems . After the invasion, Halliburton was awarded enormous no-bid contracts and the company's stock price rose from about $6 a share in 2002 to nearly $50 a share by end of 2005. Other oil companies like Kellog, Brown and Root (KBR), which had links to the Bush dynasty through Brown Brothers Harriman, also profited handsomely from taxpayer funding. Cheney quickly became most powerful VP in US history, redefining the role by assuming new powers without challenge.

  • While working as head of President Nixon's Office of Economic Opportunity, Donald Rumsfeld had hired both Dick Cheney and Frank Carlucci (who became Secretary of Defence under Reagan and later head of the powerful Carlyle Group). Nixon called Rumsfeld “a ruthless little bastard”. On November 4th 1975, in a massive cabinet shake-up dubbed the “Holloween Massacre”, President Ford appointed Rumsfeld his Secretary of Defence, Cheney his Chief of Staff, and Bush 41 head of the CIA. In 1983, as Ronald Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East, Rumsfeld was dispatched to meet Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, to whom the US sold chemical weapons. It was Cheney who recommended Rumsfeld become Bush 43's Secretary of Defence.

  • Promoted to 4-star US Army General by Bush 41, Colin Powell served under four Presidents and was frequently touted as a Presidential candidate himself. While not personally involved, he was a member of the US Army unit that committed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and later assisted in the attempted cover-up. Powell was Bush 41's President of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1990-91 Gulf War. Bush 43 appointed him the USA's first African American Secretary of State. Applauded as a “moderate” because he insisted that an international coalition was needed to legitimize the US invasion of Iraq, Powell disgraced himself in February 2003 by presenting forged, fake and plagiarized evidence of alleged Iraq Weapons Of Mass Destruction (WMDs) to the UN Security Council. Powell later complained that he had been given only 4 days to review the intelligence, and said Dick Cheney had joked with him: "You've got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points."

  • As a senior CIA employee who spent 26 years with “the agency”, Robert Gates was also involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Bush 41 had to nominate him twice before the Senate confirmed his appointment as CIA Director in 1991. During his rocky confirmation hearings, the New York Times reported that "Mr. Gates distorted intelligence reports so they would conform to the political beliefs of his superiors." Gates turned down Bush 43's offer to become the new Director of National Intelligence in 2005, but a year later he accepted an offer to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, a position he retained through the unsuccessful Bush “surge” in troops numbers until their 2011 “draw down” under President Obama.

  • Paul O'Neill turned down an offer to become Bush 41's Secretary Of Defence, but accepted the role of Secretary of the Treasury under Bush 43. He was fired in December 2002 after publishing a report warning of a looming US financial crisis. He later told reporter Ron Suskind that the invasion of Iraq was already being planned at the very first cabinet meeting of the new Bush administration, and the debate was not "should we attack Iraq?" but rather "how do we go about attacking Iraq?" 

In some ways, however, the old guard from the Bush 41 administration were less bellicose than the Neoconservatives (or “Neocons”) who now infested the White House. Cheney and Rumsfeld were influential members of both camps.

The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was a Neocon think-tank established in 1997, based on the premise that as the world's sole remaining superpower, the United States was now well positioned for 100 years of global dominance. Cheney and Rumsfeld were among 25 signatories to the PNAC group's initial “Statement of Principles”, along with Rumsfeld's deputy Paul Wolfowitz, Dubya's brother Jeb Bush, and Cheney's Chief Of Staff “Scooter” Libby. At least 18 PNAC members or signatories, including John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, and Paul Bremer, were appointed to key positions within President G.W. Bush's administration.

A month before the 2000 election and a decade after the end of the Cold War, while many were sensibly arguing that the US should begin scaling back its massive military spending, the Neocons released a PNAC document titled Rebuilding America's Defenses. It argued that the USA should take a more pro-active role in global "constabulary duties”, and urged massive investment in the US military so it could “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars”. It wanted the US military overhauled with modern, computerized weapons such as drones, satellites and unmanned vehicles, and insisted the USA needed to be able to dominate both space and cyberspace. But Section V lamented the expected lack of US public and political support for such radical and expensive changes, stating:

"The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor."

*

On August 6th, 2001, George W. Bush received a presidential daily briefing, in which he was warned: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” Bush listened to the briefing, then dismissed the CIA staffer who delivered it:
All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.”
Then he went fishing.

*
You can read more about the CIA in Australia here.

The book I am working on is about much more than just the extract above, and it is still very much a work in progress. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#G20Brisbane WTF?

Some of my international and interstate friends were disappointed by the lack of civil disobedience in protest actions surrounding the recent Brisbane G20 meeting. So as a Gold Coaster (an hour south) who has helped organise a few minor protests in Brisbane, I thought I would post a bit of a G20 review with some personal commentary on the Brisbane protest scene and Australian non-violent action in general.

To The Islands?

First question: given how much financial expense and social disruption they cause, why are meetings like the G20 held in large cities like Brisbane (population 2.1 million)? Why not hold them on small islands instead? Well, as one perceptive follower tweeted me: "where's the show of force in that?"


It would of course be much easier and cheaper for meetings like the G20 to be held on small islands, and QLD has loads of suitable offerings. But that would expose our leaders' PR talk-fests for the elitist exercises they are. So instead, they shut down large cities, cause maximum impact to citizens' lives and ensure global media headlines. Because they can.

This is of course just another manifestation of the cynical Politics Of Fear, which now has an iron grip on Western nations. Big global events like this generate billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded profits for the military and security forces, so no expense is spared "protecting" citizens (and our so-called "leaders") from any and all "possible" threats - that is, from over-hyped enemies that our politicians and military themselves have helped create.

Check the video below. If civilian "terrorists" threatened innocent local lives like this, they would be arrested. But this dangerously stupid helicopter landing barely caused a ripple of pre-G20 news. The elites live by different rules.




At the time, Brisbane motorways were already jamming up as locals tried to leave the city. The CBD soon became a ghost town.

The climate of fear in Brisbane had been brewing for many months, if not years, with local politicians imposing draconian new laws, and rounding up suspects (Islamic, of course) in huge police raids. The Queensland Premier's Orwellian "anti-bikie" laws were still in place, and somehow survived a High Court challenge on the eve of the G20. Meanwhile, the federal Attorney General was pushing the same rabid fear-mongering at a national level. Activists were well aware that any unwanted G20 dissent, no matter how justified and (in other times) legal, would bring the weight of these dystopian new laws down on their heads.
 
So Why Bother?

Personally, having previously spent months trying to organise large-scale Brisbane protests for Assange, Manning and WikiLeaks - and sometimes finding myself alone in the middle of the city with a mask and a sign - I thought the best reaction to the Brisbane G20 might be a full-scale activist boycott. Why play their game, by their rules, on their chosen ground, when they have such ridiculously massive resources ready to rain down upon our heads? Why not use guerrilla tactics and protest elsewhere instead? Why not expose their wasted public "security" funding by taking away media opportunities to further demonize the usual suspects?

But of course, that would be exactly what they want, right? Besides, protest groups were on their way from around the world - and who wants to rain on that parade?

So I felt guilty for not being more fired up, but I also felt jaded by my Brisbane protest experiences. I decided to just watch, see what happened, and help out where and when I could.

The Peoples Summit

A wonderful lady from Friends Of The Earth, Robin Tauberfeld, was at the heart of the counter-G20 Peoples Summit. There were many inspiring events organised around the city for days leading up to the G20. Things kicked off on Wednesday, as the coming heatwave was just beginning to build. I decided to go take a look the next day.

With my friend @muzzray, I had a quick look around a bunch of Peoples Summit venues in the West End. There were two dozen people quietly discussing "Carbon Violence" at the Uniting Church, a dozen people getting ready for a food handout evening at the Media Center, about 50 people quietly listening to a talk on "Greek Austerity And Australian Solidarity" at another venue, and another dozen quietly listening to a talk about Free Trade politics in the Pacific Islands. All good informative stuff, but all very quiet too. Certainly nothing that posed an immediate threat to the Security State.

I went back to the West End and bumped into Ciaron O'Reilly, a friend who had helped organise many protests for Assange, WikiLeaks and Manning. Ciaron has been a Brisbane activist since the horrific Joh Bjelke-Peterson days of the 1970s and 80s, when protestors were regularly and cruelly bludgeoned by cops. While the cops are less aggro nowadays, some argue that Queensland has never really recovered from the right-wing Police State that Joh built.

Ciaron told me that he had just been legally banned from entering the G20 zone. Over a dozen cops had surrounded him before some plain-clothes cops stepped forward to serve him a legal notice. Ciaron was formally declared a "Person Of Interest", but the reason was unclear. Perhaps because a year earlier he had successfully stuck an Assange/Manning protest sign in the windscreen of a car carrying US Secretary of State John Kerry in London? Or could it be that time he helped disarm a US B52 bomber? Or maybe it was just his long history of peaceful protest activism.


Anyway, I tweeted pics while Ciaron did half a dozen media interviews. Journos seemed happy to have a story to run with - in truth, there was not much other excitement for them in town. Then just as we sat down with @muzzray to have a beer, who should come past but Sam Castro from the Melbourne activist group @akawaca. I hadn't seen Sam since the epic farce of the @WikiLeaksParty, which had left many of us badly bruised, and it was heart-warming to finally see her again.

In fact, Ciaron had just been asking my opinion about the Great WikiLeaks Party Fiasco, and I was telling him that @akawaca had been unfairly scape-goated by @WikiLeaks. So when Sam showed up, Ciaron generously said he apologized to her if his own criticism had been too harsh. We all had a beer and that was that.

I mention this episode only because maybe it illustrates how and why the limited number of activists around Australia do not work together more efficiently. In a big country where interstate meet-ups are rare (never mind timezones like London) a major fiasco like the WikiLeaks Party can have long-ranging repercussions. Smaller local groups seem to work more effectively: think global, act local, right?

But back to the G20... Of course there were plenty of other G20 protests going on around town, independent of the Peoples Summit.

Every group seemed to have organized police permits in advance and was staying inside their designated police zones. This sort of thing comes naturally in a Nanny State country where you cannot do anything without government permission: Australians today need to complete government-approved courses just to work in a bar, a kindergarten or a football club. So the police overkill around the Brisbane G20 was not particularly abnormal. The same day Ciaron was banned, a 21-year-old Queenslander was charged for using Facebook to threaten US President Barack Obama. Nobody blinked.

Friday kicked off with a march against Aboriginal deaths in police custody. It was a peaceful march which got good media coverage. Protestors noted the excessive presence of cops, who lined both sides of the march all the way.

This was the day of the main protest march but I was still tossing up whether to go. It was damned hot and I knew from experience exactly what to expect. But if I didn't go, I would feel guilty. You gotta walk the talk, right? I went to the train station and crossed the road in the scorching heat, then decided to go home and spend the day tweeting about the G20 instead. Not only would it be cooler, but I seriously thought it would be a more effective use of my time. Each as best we can, right?



The brave protestors were doing their best in the scorching conditions, of course, but the Queensland Police were running the show exactly as planned. The route stayed well away from official activities, journalists were barely within shouting distance of protestors, and visiting dignitaries barely even saw them.
That tweet above says it all: protestors in the USA have more freedom of speech than those of us in a US Client State like Australia. While the G20 protestors messages may have reached other audiences loud and clear, Obama and his Washington press pack hacks apparently never even saw them.

In situations like this, the only remedy is civil disobedience. Enter Ciaron O'Reilly again... 
Ciaron, who had not cut his hair since 1988 - the last time he was in Brisbane's Boggo Road jail - knew he would be arrested but went ahead and crossed the police lines anyway. As they put him into the van he shouted: "Free Julian Assange! Free Chelsea Manning! Free Edward Snowden!"

It was a message that was heard loud and clear across the Internet and on Australian TV news bulletins that night. But Ciaron spent the next 2 nights locked up, until the G20 leaders left town. He's now out on bail, awaiting hearing on December 4th.

The @akawaca group of "Climate Angels", featuring Guardian journalist @vanbadham, were also keen to test police boundaries. After a refreshing dip in Brisbane's fake riverside beach, they held a sit-down protest outside the South Bank venue where dignitaries were meeting. 
The Climate Angels refused to move until Prime Minister Tony Abbott came out and listened to them. Instead they got a short visit from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who was happy to promote their anti-government climate stance. The Angels held their position, gaining considerable online and media attention, until Abbott quietly sneaked out another exit.

The police then generously offered the Climate Angels a ride, either to a pub or back to their hotels. Van Badham later praised this as a sign that the bad old days of Bjelke Peterson were gone for good, and local media celebrated it as a "typically Aussie resolution to a standoff".

But I couldn't help wondering if Ciaron O'Reilly, sleeping two nights in a police cell, would agree. Fascism with a friendly face is still Fascism. In the end, Ciaron was the only activist taken to a purpose-built Brisbane G20 courthouse, designed to hold up to 500 arrested protestors. Nobody else challenged the power of the State as directly.

Economic Cost & Benefits

The major story surrounding the Brisbane G20 was the long-awaited US-China agreement to limit carbon pollution. But this deal was actually finalised at the end of the APEC meeting in Beijing a week earlier.
In Australia, many applauded Obama's diplomatic humiliation of our Climate Denialist Prime Minister, who had previously insisted that Climate Change would be off the G20 agenda. Abbott further embarrassed himself with an opening speech to world leaders where he complained about his difficulties passing petty domestic legislation, including university fee deregulation and obligatory $7 fees for GP visits. When the G20 was over, his polls showed no improvement: instead, he is now facing leadership speculation rumours.

#G20Brisbane is generally estimated to have cost taxpayers "over $400 million", although firm estimates are difficult to obtain. The security spending alone was "well over $100m", including some high-tech resources that the QLD police will keep permanently (CCTVs, control room, riot gear etc). Cops were paid to come from interstate and even New Zealand. Multiple government agencies spent months planning and preparing, so I would not be surprised if the real figure is well over $1 billion (this at a time when both QLD state and Canberra federal govts are playing the "austerity" card to slash spending on social programs, ABC news, etc).

There was also a huge economic cost to many local businesses, as locals panicked by media reports and political fear-mongering decided to just leave town en masse. Which tells you a lot about Brisbane's 2.1 million inhabitants: either they don't realise that working class citizens around the globe are being screwed by the G20 elites, or they don't care enough to protest. As I had already learned from experience.

The Indian Prime Minister unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Brisbane, and a few days later the Queensland government announced that it would use taxpayer money to help fund an Indian company's massive new coal mine - Adani's Carmichael mine will be among the biggest in the world - after international banks had refused to support it.

Meanwhile the USA, Japan and Canada announced billions of dollars support for a Green Climate Fund, which Abbott had ridiculed.
27 people were excluded from G20 security zones and 14 were arrested during the summit and in the lead up. Most face minor charges such as failing to state their name and address. Queensland Police boasted that this meeting "set a new template" for G20 meetings around the world. We shall see.

Bottom line



Brisbane is a politically apathetic city, where high living standards help ensure wide-scale indifference to issues of social justice. This is sadly typical of Australia today and is not likely to change unless the "Lucky Country" takes a massive economic nose-dive.

G20 observers may have been fooled by "Brisvegas" promoting itself as a global capital, but in fact it is just an over-sized country town where Rupert Murdoch owns nearly all the newspapers and endemic political/business corruption is quietly accepted with a shrug.

With all due respect to everyone who came and made their voices heard - particularly Ciaron and the @akawaca team - if bums on seats & feets on streets are the currency of change, then the G20 illustrates that Australian "Leftists / progressives" (I hate labels) have a long way to go. Particularly in hot, sleepy Queensland.

Monday, March 10, 2014

My WikiLeaks Party Inquiry

My WikiLeaks Party Inquiry
by Gary Lord (@Jaraparilla)
A full independent review of what really happened to The Wikileaks Party.



I am not a politician.” - Julian Assange.




Mandate

This inquiry is mandated by the need to be transparent and accountable to all disaffected WikiLeaks supporters around the globe, including current and former WikiLeaks Party members, who have a right to know what really happened to the WikiLeaks Party at the Australian 2013 federal election.

This inquiry is mandated by the WikiLeaks Party's own failure to deliver a meaningful promised inquiry into their calamitous “errors” in the September 2013 election, their continued damage of the WikiLeaks “brand”, and their failure to uphold their own stated values of transparency, accountability and justice.

This inquiry is mandated by the dire state of our planet and the urgent need for genuine change to our political, business and social structures. Anyone associated with WikiLeaks should be setting an example, not playing cynical power games.

Terms of Reference

Unlike the six embarrassing pages of garbage (including mis-titled cover page and irrelevant email addendum) spewed up by WLP after five months, this inquiry is not limited by deliberately arbitrary Terms of Reference limitations. Instead it provides a comprehensive, independent, public review of the WikiLeaks Party (“WLP”), including:
  • the creation of the party and the lead-up to the 2013 Federal Election, where the allocation of preferences proved a critical point of failure,
  • post-election responses and further activity of WikiLeaks Party members,
  • the current state of the party,
  • outlook for the future of the Wikileaks Party.

Objectives

  • To hold the WikiLeaks Party to its own professed standards of transparency and accountability, as stated in its Constitution.
  • To examine communications between WLP decision-makers leading up to and following the 2013 Australian federal election.
  • To expose the truth behind unpopular WLP preferencing decisions in NSW and WA, including the unsubstantiated claim of an “administrative error” in NSW.
  • To examine how WLP staff have behaved before, during and since the election, and how this has affected the reputations of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
  • To recommend future changes.

Scope

This inquiry adopts as broad a scope as is required to get to the truth about the WikiLeaks Party. There are no timeframe constraints or other limitations.

The scope of this inquiry is only limited by WLP's continued failure to explain its own actions, and the author’s inability to get straight answers from anyone still associated with WLP, including several who seem to have left the party but remain silent on their involvement.

The author has made repeated unsuccessful approaches for information to WikiLeaks Party directly, and the following people in particular:
  • John Shipton
  • Cassie Findlay
  • Greg Barns
  • Kellie Tranter
  • Gail Malone
  • Omar Todd

Methodology

This review is presented in the format of a formal audit for no particular reason other than to make a mockery of the WikiLeaks Party's own decision to adopt such pseudo-professional voodoo to whitewash their actions.

The author has examined all available public data, including:
  • Written statements of resignation from ex National Council members Leslie Cannold, Dr Dan Mathews, Luke Pearson, Sam Castro and Kaz Cochrane, plus volunteers like David Haidon and Sean Bedlam,
  • Analysis from interested activists such as independent WikiLeaks-related news source @MarthaGroup (now @Hazelpress),
  • Website content, media interviews and WLP press releases,
  • Twitter and Facebook commentary.
  • SMS responses from Sam Castro to questions others refused to answer.
Where the author has relied on verbal information or personal experience, this is clearly stated. See the About The Author section below for background.

See the Sources section below for links to original documents.

Assumptions

Given the reticence of WLP staff to publicly justify their actions, answer simple questions, or respond to valid criticism, the author has been forced to make assumptions about their reasons for maintaining silence. Of course people have a right to remain silent, but when they scape-goat others without explaining their own actions, and where circumstantial evidence is compelling, assumptions unfortunately become inevitable. Readers are of course welcome to draw their own conclusions.

Review & Approval

This independent inquiry will be reviewed and approved (or not) by the general public. Corrections to factual errors will happily be made if any mistakes are identified and proven.
This inquiry is intended as a positive contribution to further public discussion and decision-making. Anyone disagreeing with any of the facts presented in this review is welcome to leave a public comment below (preferably) or contact the author:
  • Gary Lord
  • garylord@gmail.com
  • @Jaraparilla

About the Author

  • The Australian author of this review is a long-time vocal WikiLeaks supporter who since 2010 has helped organise many local and national demonstrations in support of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange's right to freedom. His tweets and blog articles have been frequently re-tweeted by @wikileaks. He authored the OzWikiWatch site (ozwikiwatch.blogspot.com), which maintained a check on Australian government support (or lack thereof) leading up to the 2013 election. He has spoken frequently in public in support of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
  • The author is a former member of the Wikileaks Party who was originally selected to join the Wikileaks Party National Council (“NC”). Further background including reasons for not staying on the National Council can be found on the author's blog here (http://jaraparilla.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/wheres-that-wikileaks-party-inquiry.html ).
  • The author has had limited personal contact with the following past or present WikiLeaks Party staff: John Shipton, Matt Watt, Kaz Cochrane and Sam Castro. He has been in contact with Julian Assange rarely and by email only. He has never met any other National Council members, although he has communicated with most at some time via Twitter or email.
  • The author was previously listed online as the Queensland spokesperson for the Melbourne-based WACA group (originally WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance), headed by Kaz Cochrane and Sam Castro. This was arranged because (a) media seeking comments on Assange, WikiLeaks and WLP were unwilling to talk to anyone without a title of some sort and (b) nobody from WACA in NSW or Victoria wanted to post their number publicly, as they were busy with WLP. In effect, the role mostly involved screening calls and alerting Sam and Kaz to any media opportunities. Following the election the author asked to be removed as spokesperson because he has never had involvement in day to day WACA affairs.
  • The author had discussions with John Shipton and Julian Assange regarding (a) running as the 2013 Queensland candidate for WLP, or (b) finding another suitable QLD candidate. The author was not eligible under AEC rules and no other QLD candidate was selected.
  • The author became QLD co-ordinator for election day voting booths (aiming to help provide WLP supporters with How To Vote flyers at booths in Northern NSW), an unofficial position he quit before the election.
  • The author was also a member of the WikiLeaks Party Social Media group, a collection of trusted online activists whom the WLP brought together to help spread a co-ordinated message leading up to the election. The head of the group was current WLP NC member Omar Todd.
  • Since the election, the author has maintained a campaign to demand WLP deliver their promised inquiry into the NSW preferential voting “admin error” http://jaraparilla.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/wheres-that-wikileaks-party-inquiry.html . The author sadly remains a vocal online critic of recent WLP activity and is now campaigning for the WLP to be terminated before more damage is done (see #EndWLparty hashtag). This review sets out the logic and events behind such criticism. Readers are asked to avoid ad hominem attacks and judge for themselves based on the facts presented herein (or in some cases, the facts deliberately with-held from the public by WLP).
  • The author remains committed the WikiLeaks ideals of transparency and accountability. He has no vested interest in either supporting or damaging WLP, and is providing this report for his own personal desire to see real transparency and accountability in action.


Historical Background

This section examines the facts surrounding key events. If you disagree with these facts, leave a comment or contact the author. For conclusions based on these facts, see the Findings section.

Party Foundations


The WikiLeaks Party was incorporated as a political party in Australia in 2013, while founder Julian Assange remained unjustly trapped in Ecuador's London embassy, where he was granted political asylum in August 2012.

Mr Assange's biological father John Shipton performed much of the initial work required to set up the party. Former Liberal Party candidate staffer and disgruntled ex-Greens member Greg Barns was appointed Campaign Manager for the 2013 federal election, which was held on 7th September.

A Constitution was created and posted on the website: https://www.wikileaksparty.org.au
On July 25, seven WikiLeaks Party candidates for the Australian Senate were announced in three states:
  • Victoria:
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange,
  • Author and Monash University gender studies lecturer Leslie Cannold (who would take Assange's seat if he were to win but not be able to return home),
  • RMIT law lecturer Binoy Kampmark.

  • New South Wales:
  • Human rights lawyer Kellie Tranter,
  • Former diplomat Alison Broinowski.

  • Western Australia:
  • Refugee activist Gerry Georgatos,
  • President of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance Suresh Rajan.
Some of the above candidates were also on the original National Council, which included:
  • Friends of the Earth activists Sam Castro & Kaz Cochrane,
  • Sea Shepherd campaigner Omar Todd,
  • Aboriginal activist Luke Pearson,
  • Mathematician Dr Dan Mathews, who helped Julian Assange create WikiLeaks,
  • Gail Malone.
Matt Watt (aka @Karwalski, owner of the WikiLeaks Ute) handled much of the technical/web issues and remains the Party Secretary.

The Schism


A schism within the party developed early on, with John Shipton and Greg Barns taking an authoritarian approach to decision-making, while a faction on the National Council demanded more democratic processes based on respect for the WLP Constitution. This faction was largely represented by Sam Castro, a strong personality with years of experience in activism, but appears to have included all the NC members who eventually resigned - Leslie Cannold, Kaz Cochrane, Dan Mathews and Luke Pearson – plus other staff.

In my own pre-election conversations with Sam Castro, she clearly saw the WikiLeaks Party as a vehicle with the potential to grow beyond Julian Assange's influence. This was not necessarily a bad thing, especially while Julian remained under detention. We discussed the possibility of WikiLeaks Parties springing up around the world with a basic message of transparent, open government. There was no reason such ambition could not co-exist with the primary goal of getting Julian Assange safely home and into the Senate. But I suspect others within the Party may have viewed Castro's ambitions less favourably.

Meanwhile John Shipton appeared to have ambitions of his own, despite originally informing NC members that he was going to quit “before the election” and “once the party is set up”. Media appearances increasingly focussing on himself rather than his son or the party's platform and candidates http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/like-father-like-son/story-e6frg8h6-1226663757794 . Perhaps he was granting interviews to the wrong people, or perhaps he was just enjoying the limelight a bit too much. Either way, discontent continued to simmer as the election approached . And Shipton continued to hold onto several key roles in the party, despite being challenged to at least drop all but one of his positions.

Dan Mathews (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/22/wikileaks-julian-assange): “The WikiLeaks party has arguably suffered serious problems from the outset, being pulled in radically different directions from its base and membership, on the one hand, and the figurehead and associates on the other... Barns spoke repeatedly of his conversations with Julian, but it seemed to me that much less communication apparently occurred between Julian and the National Council. As such, in my view, a divide started to appear between an insider group, including Julian, Shipton and Barns, and the rest of the national council... Strong commitment at the center of the party to deals seen as unscrupulous and unprincipled by supporters was a train wreck waiting to happen."

The Preferences Debacle


NOTE: Under Australian law, all political parties must allocate “preferences” for other parties to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC): these preferences are allocated in numerical order after all voters' primary choices have been counted. The aim of this system is to ensure that if a voter's first preference does not get elected (e.g. a minor candidate) they can still have a say in the final outcome. Voters are allowed to personally number all candidates on the lengthy Senate voting paper, but in practice most just choose one party and allow that party's submitted list of preferences to decide how their own preferences are allocated.

The original need for a WLP inquiry arose as a direct result of public anger at how WLP allocated preferences in the states of New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA). In Victoria, where Julian Assange was running as a candidate, the WLP preferences were generally well received.

The NSW preferencing debacle had a prelude: a few weeks before the election, WLP NC member Cassie Findlay was handing out flyers at Marrickville Markets in Sydney when Greens councillor Max Phillips asked her about WLP preferences. He tweeted that he was told WLP would be putting “rightwing micros like Shooters & Hanson” ahead of the Greens (https://twitter.com/maxphillips/status/366402575991455745 ). This claim was dismissed by WLP supporters (including myself) who could not believe that anyone in a position to know would be stupid enough to tell random members of the public about WLP preferences before they were announced.

NOTE: Max Phillips was only able to identify Ms. Findlay as his source after preferences were announced.

When preferences were finally announced, it was even worse than Max Phillips' tweet suggested. From WLP's own published Inquiry:

Over a period of several weeks prior to the 2013 Federal Election, the WLP National Council members attended internal meetings and conversed via email, telephone conferencing and other electronic media to preference a record number of Senate candidates.
A WLP press release stated (inter alia) that we “aren’t aligned with anyone”.....and will “support and oppose the policies of other parties and groups according to our stated principles”.
The WLP publicly released its group voting ticket on 17 August 2013, in which preferences for the Australia First and the Shooters and Fishers Parties were placed above the Greens in NSW, contrary to exchanges of emails between WLP National Council members leading-up to the deadline with the AEC.
In WA, the Greens were placed below the National Party.

The far right white supremacist Australia First party are generally considered Fascists (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_First_Party ). WLP's election fate was ultimately sealed by this singular decision to allocate preferences to Australia First above the Greens, who are Australia's third most powerful party and the only major party to consistently speak up for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks (see OzWikiWatch http://ozwikiwatch.blogspot.com ).

When news of the WLP preferences broke, there was an immediate uproar on social media. The Greens and their supporters were horrified that WLP had placed them behind Fascists and anti-environmentalists in NSW, and behind the Nationals in WA (who are part of a Coalition with the Liberal Party, which ultimately won the election). Even loyal WLP supporters like myself were confused and angry.

In WA, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam had been by far the single most supportive WikiLeaks/Assange supporter in parliament. He had even travelled at personal cost to the UK and Sweden to meet Julian Assange and plead his case with authorities. When WLP preferences were announced, Senator Ludlum said he considered the National Party to be the biggest threat to his own chances of retaining a Senate seat.

The announcement of preferences was a major blow to WLP's public support nationwide, particularly as much of the WLP support base were people who would normally vote for the Greens. By contrast, the Greens had preferenced WLP highly in every state where they had a candidate.

Although Julian Assange had previously expressed support for right-wing Libertarianism and US Republican Ron Paul, WLP supporters had no reason to believe the party would take an anti-Greens right-wing stance, particularly given the principles outlined in its Constitution and stated policies.

The resignation statement from Dan Mathews, who had (sensibly, in retrospect) advocated doing no preference deals at all, explained what had been happening behind the scenes:

“At a national council meeting on 12 August, there was spirited argument between Greg Barns and several members of the national council regarding a deal with Family First. As part of its decision at that meeting, the national council requested Barns to provide certain information.

“Although Assange had not attended the meeting, after receiving the council’s resolution by email he quickly wrote a long email entitled “NC micromanagement of preferences”, in which he expressed his displeasure with the council in making such requests, and proposed an alternative structure for preference decisions. Negotiations would be done by lead candidates, with no restraints on them, and Assange having a right of veto. He proposed giving the national council a role in rubber-stamping the results of this process.

“Thus, one member of the national council was proposing to grant themselves a right of veto and to reduce it to a rubber stamp. Given the eagerness of some to pursue deals even with the far right, I and several others on the national council were keen to retain the national council’s role in these important decisions.

“I told the council that the party could have been set up autocratically, but it was not set up that way. It was set up with a reasonably democratic structure, with a governing council with membership and representation from various sectors supportive of, and related to, WikiLeaks. If it could be overridden by the lead candidate when he disagreed, it would be a sham. This received the support of several others on the council, and it thus appeared that the council would not be reduced to a sham.”

But the National Council was indeed reduced to a sham, along with the rest of the party. As Dan Mathews further explained:

“The council could not practically decide the precise ordering of all parties, and some discretion was left to the candidates and/or campaign teams to establish the details. Nonetheless clear instructions were formalised by Barns in an email sent at 8:16 pm Friday night, which said the following.
I would have preferred to have had Shooters and FF in the mix but the final deals are:
Victoria – Greens put WLP at number 2 and WLP has Greens first of majors and drops Shooters and FF/Christian groups below majors.
NSW – Greens preference WLP at 3, with Pirates at 2, and WLP puts Greens above FF, Shooters and Christian Right.
WA – Greens preference WLP at 2 and WLP puts Greens first of major parties and above Christian right and Shooters.
The Shooters and some parties on the right will probably put WLP below the majors as a result of these deals.
“Nothing further was heard until Sunday, when I woke up to find that the Wikileaks party ticket in NSW had the Shooters & Fishers — and the Nazi Australia First party! — above the Greens. In WA, the Nationals were above the Greens.

“I was dumbstruck.”

The online furore over WLP preferences quickly grew more widespread, angry and vocal https://twitter.com/KellieTranter/status/368988921402626048 . It was already being reported in national media before WLP belatedly issued a statement blaming the NSW preferencing on unspecified “administrative errors”. The Wikileaks Party statement:

The WikiLeaks Party isn't aligned with any other political group. We'd rather not allocate preferences at all but allocating preferences is compulsory if your name is to go above the line.

In allocating preferences between 53 other parties or groups in NSW some administrative errors occurred, as has been the case with some other parties. The overall decision as to preferences was a democratically made decision of the full National Council of the party. 
According to the National Council decision The Shooters & Fishers and the Australia First Party should have been below Greens, Labor, Liberal. As we said, we aren't aligned with anyone and the only policies we promote are our own. We will support and oppose the policies of other parties or groups according to our stated principles.”

There were suggestions that the two women who had submitted the NSW preferences – Cassie Findlay and Gail Malone – had confused the Australia First party with the similarly-named Family First party. It was a lame excuse – particularly for anyone familiar with previous National Council discussions - and it was not enough to placate social media, where intense debate continued for weeks.

WLP's WA candidate Gerry Georgatos – himself a disaffected former Greens member, just like Greg Barns [ed: Barns was a former Liberal Party candidate] – finally admitted on radio that “it was NOT an administrative error” in NSW but refused to elaborate further.

NSW candidate Alison Broinowski : “I am prepared to go along with the explanation of it as an error.’’ http://www.dailyliberal.com.au/story/1723226/wikileaks-candidate-says-there-was-no-skulduggery-in-party-schism/?cs=3275
 
WA candidate Gerry Georgatos: “It was not an administrative error, it was a poor judgement call. I’m not [going to come out] here and bullshit the audience. “ http://techgeek.com.au/2013/08/26/wikileaks-party-senate-candidate-nsw-preferences-poor-judgement-call-admin-error/
 
Gerry Georgatos nevertheless insisted that the state candidates had the final say on WLP preferencing (as per Assange's email), and it had been his own personal decision to preference the Nationals ahead of the Greens' Scott Ludlam in WA. He was adamant that the Nationals could not be considered a “major party” in WA and had no chance of winning a seat.

Georgatos (a campaigner for indigenous rights) argued that the Nationals Party candidate was an indigenous Australian who had no real chance of winning, but deserved a “token of support”.

John Shipton (http://www.altmedia.net.au/wikileaks-calls-for-electoral-reform/82216 ) : “David Wirrpanda is a very notable WA Indigenous person, so we were happy to give him some publicity.”

Senator Ludlam ridiculed the claim that the WA Nationals had no chance of beating him, and events later proved him right: Ludlam ended up being voted out by a very narrow margin and had to appeal for a recount, which was eventually dismissed due to missing votes. He now faces a fresh election.

As it turned out, given the process of allocating preference votes, WLP preferences were not critical to the result in either NSW or WA, although margins were extraordinarily slim at various stages of the count. Nevertheless, Georgatos' claim that the National Party candidate never had a chance was wrong.

Allocating WA preferences to a right-wing Coalition member was at best a foolish gamble, a PR nightmare, and a betrayal of WikiLeaks Party principles (as stated in the Constitution).

NOTE 1: WACA later claimed that an un-named National Council member had caved in to pressure from Greg Barns and “a candidate” to change the NSW preferences. Sam Castro also told me that Gerry Georgatos had emailed Greg Barns asking if it was OK to preference the National Party in WA, but Barns had failed to pass on his concerns to the National Council. So why did Georgatos bother to email Barns, if he really thought he had the final say? Or is that what Barns told him? We don't know because neither has been willing to explain the truth.

NOTE 2: NSW Senate candidate Kelly Tranter posted and then deleted a Twitter post saying that the Greens were punished because they did a deal with the ALP, a party sending asylum seekers “to gulags”. Later, explaining that post, she stated that The Greens “spent weeks talking about the cruelty of the ALP and then do a deal with them”. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/18/wikileaks_party_scrambles_to_explain_election_decisions/

NOTE 3: There has been much speculation that a deal was made with infamous “preferences whisperer” Glenn Druery (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Druery ), who specialises in “helping” minor parties orchestrate preference voting for mutual benefit. Although there was obviously much discussion, I have seen no proof of any such deal. In fact, Sam Castro says that at one stage she heard Druery tell Greg Barns that he had “ruined everything”. Alison Brionowski also denied there was a deal with Druery.

Dan Mathews: “On 6 August, at a national council meeting, Barns proposed a deal with a group of small parties, organised by Glenn Druery. It is of course his job to talk to other parties and I have no doubt he has worked hard and honestly to do his job throughout. This group, including several far right parties, proposed to deliver 7%-9% of the vote to us if we preferenced them all highly. The national council rejected it."

The Walkout


Following the massive public furore over WLP preferences, National Council members met to discuss what went wrong and how it could be fixed. Details of these discussions were published in their lengthy statements of resignation, which have never been seriously challenged (see the Sources section at the end). Dan Mathew's statement, quoted extensively in this inquiry document, is particularly illuminating.

It is worth noting that the resignation statements were relatively subdued and generally did not name names, politely giving the party an opportunity to remedy errors and continue operations without specifically damaging anyone's reputation. It was only in the to-and-fro arguments that followed, where WLP insiders continued to deny responsibility and blame those who quit, that specific people were named.

Sean Bedlam soon revealed that John Shipton was the person who had tried to approach him and establish a new power-base to challenge the National Council. Others (Kaz Cochrane and Victorian volunteer co-ordinator David Haidon, from memory) confirmed that Shipton had also approached him them. As Leslie Cannold stated (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/julian-assanges-wikileaks-party-running-mate-leslie-cannold-quits-20130821-2sb99.html#ixzz2t73DpSHX ):

‘‘As long as I believed there was a chance that democracy, transparency and accountability could prevail in the party I was willing to stay on and fight for it. But where a party member makes a bid to subvert the party's own processes, asking others to join in a secret, alternative power centre that subverts the properly constituted one, nothing makes sense anymore.

‘‘This is an unacceptable mode of operation for any organisation but even more so for an organisation explicitly committed to democracy, transparency and accountability.’’

Wednesday 21st August, 2013 – three days after preferences were announced - was the day people started resigning. A week earlier I had been offering John Shipton a bed in my house as he travelled up to Queensland. Now, as news of Leslie Cannold's resignation spread across the Internet, I was on Twitter demanding public answers and refusing to take his frantic calls. I sent an angry SMS to Greg Barns:

“This is just bullshit Greg. The people who did the wrong thing with preferences and dragged us to the right should be the ones resigning.”

No reply. But I did get an SMS reply from John Shipton to my public tweets:

John Shipton: “As for the NC being subverted who the fuck told you that? Some fucking lowlife who wanted more shit spread around and could not wait 2 weeks til the election is over... Self righteous vain people. All over.a two bit error that makes no difference to any result.”

I told John to stop texting me privately and get his WLP version of events out to the general public instead. I said the preference deal was a massive stuff up and I was sick of doing damage control on Twitter when nobody in the party was prepared to even defend their own version of events.

John Shipton: “Rubbish and more rubbish . We ensured Ludlam a win in WA . The Nats never get more than 3.5 . Stop believing negative bullshit about us. Politics is all about damage intros and perception. . You hate us yet we work all day and night... Jesus wept.”

My reply:
“John it is not about me: get on Twitter and take a look. I have stood by Julian through thick and thin. And I do not hate anyone involved with WLP. But this massive fuckup was totally avoidable.”
John:
“What the fuck are you gonna say upon finding that Cannold was a plant”

This was an outrageous suggestion, especially because Julian Assange had personally selected Leslie Cannold as his running mate; if he could not take up his Senate seat, she would take it for him. Of course, in the paranoid-inducing global Infosec world of WikiLeaks, such treachery sometimes has to be contemplated, but there never was and never has been any evidence to support such a wild claim. It smacked of crazy desperation.

Me:
“If that is true then tell it to Australia. A smart media manager can turn all tomorrow's bad headlines to WLP's advantage. But to own the narrative you have to get your version of the truth out there. WLP is not doing that. That is what I am saying.” 

It was at this stage that Sam and Kaz and Dan and Sean and David and Luke announced their resignations...

Another SMS from John:

“Really and truly treacherous . No calls to me or Greg or anybody”

NOTE: In fact they had given up on Barns and Shipton and had been trying unsuccessfully to contact Julian Assange in London.

Me:
“Sam and Kaz have been getting arrested for your son. They are wonderful committed people.”

John:
“Loved both those women: but one day, when all is calm we can talk about what unfolded before my eyes and heart.”

Well, John, we are all still waiting to hear your version of events. All we ever got from WLP was a joke of an inquiry, five months late. WLP has never properly explained “what unfolded”.

NOTE: I never heard from John Shipton again. His twitter account @JohnShipton remains silent.

Of course the resignations provided an opportunity for the mainstream media to inform the general public what was going on – and curiously, many readers replied that they didn't even know the WikiLeaks Party existed. In fact, the party later claimed that NSW membership had actually increased after the resignations.

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity: this shows that the party could still have gone on to win votes if they had been able to get their version of events out to the public. But their version of events was something the WLP leadership was desperate to keep private.

The Fallout


Following the resignations, Julian Assange issued a statement and made several Australian media appearances in an effort to limit the damage.

Julian Assange: “I made a decision two months ago to spend a lot of my time on dealing with the Edward Snowden asylum situation and trying to save the life of a young man (Bradley Manning). Now, the result is over-delegation, so I admit and I accept full responsibility for over-delegating functions to the Australian party while I tried to take care of those situations.”

Assange's efforts back-fired because he could not properly explain the WLP “administrative error” and because he simultaneously maintained that as party leader, he could do whatever he liked, regardless of the party's Constitution or the National Council.

By this time Crikey had published leaked WLP emails showing Assange's efforts to over-ride National Council decisions on preferences: http://media.crikey.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/From21.pdf This increased the pressure on Assange to either defend the final preferencing decisions or explain the “error”. He managed to do neither successfully.

Assange's 30 August appearance on The Drum ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbJJx5f1kAY ) was a final PR disaster, epitomised by his bizarre statement: ‘‘I am not a politician, though I am running for election.”

This lengthy prime-time TV appearance was just a week out from the September 7th election. The last best chance to repair the damage had just been blown.

Election Results


WikiLeaks Party won just 0.66 per cent of the national vote. No candidates were elected.

Australian political parties that win over 1.4% of the national vote are eligible for government funding that can amount to millions of dollars. This would have been invaluable to the ongoing work of WikiLeaks. No such public funding was earned.

Post-election Activity


This section details further activity by WLP since the election.

Blogging


After the election, remaining WLP staff went largely silent on social media, refusing to discuss what happened. But the party continued to post bizarre articles on their website, including a “Happy Birthday” hagiography of former Australian PM Paul Keating (who supported Indonesian dictator Suharto) and climate denialist pseudo-scientific nonsense that contradicts the party's own Constitutional support for the environment (John Shipton has told former NC members that man-made climate change was a hoax).

Syria Trip


In late December 2013, en route to visit Julian Assange in London, John Shipton lead a Wikileaks Party delegation to Damascus, where they met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is widely condemned as a War Criminal. The visit appears to have been orchestrated by delegation member Daoud Jamal, who joined the WLP NC after the election. Gail Malone was also on the trip.

Syrian TV news portrayed the WLP visit as an official Australian “solidarity delegation”. There was no specific mention of WikiLeaks or the WikiLeaks Party. The Assad regime tweeted a picture showing the President addressing the seated, smiling WLP members, who later admitted they were only allowed to ask Assad two questions. It is clear they were used as a PR tool by President Assad's regime at the height of the Syrian civil war.

The trip brought international condemnation http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2531903/Julian-Assanges-father-leads-Wikileaks-delegation-visit-Syria-meet-Assad-vow-open-Damascus-office.html and WikiLeaks was quick to distance itself from yet another PR disaster:

@WikiLeaks: ''Peace brokering a good idea, but [it was] obvious [the] meeting would be spun without care. Did not know or approve.''

Shipton later stated that he could not tell his son about the trip because their communications were being monitored. This was a ridiculous excuse – is nobody in WLP able to use encryption tools?

''
[Assad] invited us to call in and have a cup of tea, and it was difficult to snub him,'' Mr Shipton said from London. ''We just went along, said hello, didn't say anything much actually.” http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/wikileaks-party-defends-its-cup-of-tea-with-bashar-alassad-20131231-304ne.html#ixzz2vKdiuazY

Media reports typically failed to distinguish between WikiLeaks and the WikiLeaks Party, inflicting further reputational damage on the former. To make matters worse, John Shipton threatened to sue the Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister after they condemned the trip as “stupid and reckless” http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/assanges-father-to-start-legal-action-against-tony-abbott-julie-bishop-20140102-3080z.html :

"Because of the defamatory statements made against myself by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, we have asked barrister Clive A. Evatt to begin defamation proceedings seeking $5 million in damages in each case.”

For a party supposedly committed to Freedom of Speech, this was yet another ridiculous move. It was also pathetic. Shipton was clearly trying to save face with a legal threat that had no chance of succeeding. Did he not realise that he was now the CEO of a political party, and as such could not demand the privacy to which a normal citizen is entitled?

Shipton also promised to open a Wikileaks Party office in Damascus, and said WLP would raise $40,000 funds for Syrian people's health. Again, the media were more than happy to use “WikiLeaks” instead of WLP in their headlines: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/wikileaks-reheats-syrian-assad-campaign/story-e6frg6so-1226821976235
 
Strong WikiLeaks supporter Antony Loewenstein wrote an article condemning the WLP Syria trip http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/14/wikileaks-partys-syria-visit-is-a-damaging-and-misguided-pr-coup Sadly but predictably, this article lead to WLP insiders condemning Loewenstein.

Graeme Dunstan, an old friend of Shipton's, told an email forum that the WLP Syria trip was just like Jane Fonda in Vietnam. But Fonda got to make a dozen radio speeches to the Vietnamese people over several weeks, while WLP were only allowed to ask two questions to Assad. Just before she left Vietnam, Fonda was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese tank, and this “Hanoi Jane” image became an enduring PR nightmare she always regretted. WLP got the PR disaster photo and nothing else.

WLP claimed they also met with Syrian opposition but were never able to substantiate this claim. WLP NC member Daoud Jamal - whose Twitter avatar when he joined the NC was a man with a machine gun in front of a Palestine flag - has blogged explicit support for President Assad, and has been assaulted at Sydney demonstrations by anti-Assad protestors.

Pro-Russian Propaganda


WLP followed up their Syrian PR disaster with a series of interviews with Voice Of Russia journalist John Robles, where selected quotes were hand-picked for pro-Russian propaganda.

Shipton: The Russian diplomatic skills are a triumph, and with the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, the BRICs last year in Far East and this year Syria and the Ukraine. There is diplomatic triumph second to none, and in our view the Russian President and Foreign Ministry people wish to bring peace to allow development. http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_02_05/The-US-and-its-allies-a-horror-show-that-must-stop-John-Shipton-9806/

"Shipton praised President Vladimir Putin and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and called them forces for peace." http://t.co/vFlms2Rm3v
 
"The envy of Russia & Slavic civilization by the West seems to be boundless." http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_02_09/Western-envy-of-Russia-and-Slavs-boundless-John-Shipton-9691/
 
Even former Campaign Manager Greg Barns (who admits he is not even a member of WLP) did a PR interview with the same Voice of Russia journo:

 
“Certainly, I had nothing to do with the trip, but I didn’t see any endorsement of Assad by those who were on the trip … I wasn’t on the trip, I had no involvement.” 

The WLP Review/Inquiry


The hastily announced WLP “independent inquiry” was never intended to be either independent or serious. As Leslie Cannold said on the day she resigned ( http://waca.net.au/resignations-from-the-wikileaks-party-statements/ ) :

“An additional call was made to a campaign staffer. In direct contrast to the public statement The Wikileaks Party put out this morning in which we promised the public that we would have an immediate independent review of the preference outcomes, this person said that the review would be delayed until after the election and that it wouldn’t be done independently. The caller would run it. This is the final straw.” 

As we now know, that “caller” was John Shipton. And again it is worth noting that Cannold did not name Shipton as the “caller” at the time, presumably because she knew Julian Assange would be damaged by association with his father's lack of ethics. 

The WLP inquiry was eventually sent out to members by email on 4th February 2014, five months after the election. The author was a WLP member who made it clear he did not have enough information to draw any meaningful conclusions.

Here's how Crikey's Bernard Keane, another strong WikiLeaks supporter, described it: http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/02/07/the-highly-emotional-and-volatile-world-of-the-wikileaks-party/
 
It was conducted by Stuart Bell of Bell Campbell Auditing, a WikiLeaks Party member approached by John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, to conduct the audit. The review is six pages long, including the cover page and an attachment. In it, Bell complains that his conduct of the review was “limited” by his “inability or access to all relevant information and WLP personnel, especially where there has been a severe fall-out over the 2013 preferencing issues in NSW and WA”.

Bell had not been able to interview anyone except for Shipton, but says he took written submissions or phone calls from other key figures like Greg Barns. Bell also laments “limited or no access to WLP official transcripts, minutes of National Council meetings and official emails/correspondence”, which forced him to accept the word of those he interviewed. However, Bell rejected the “administrative error” claim by the party:
It cannot be shown that it was an ‘administrative error’, based on the electronic and verbal hyper-activity by the National Council members … It was a combination of human errors caused by a highly emotional and volatile atmosphere, where a number of key WLP members were instrumental in causing confusion, not from malicious intent but due to a lack of defined responsibilities.”
Bell goes on to recommend that the party make its preference allocation decisions earlier and that someone formally be given the job of overseeing the allocation process.

The WLP inquiry (PDF: http://media.crikey.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/WikiLeaks-Party-Independent-Review.pdf ) was reviewed by the auditor in November 2013, after it had already been approved by NC member Kellie Tranter on 26 October 2013. Of course it is not normal for documents to be further reviewed after they have already been approved, and there is no explanation for with-holding the document a further three months. I asked WLP and Kellie Tranter for comment but got no reply.

Abuse Of WikiLeaks Supporters


Prior to the formation of the WikiLeaks Party, WikiLeaks supporters in Australia were a vocal, united and active group across all states. Public demonstrations in support of Julian Assange's right to freedom were held regularly, along with online activities. Since the election, this unity and support has all but vanished, and WLP has done nothing to replace it.

The problem began when WLP insiders criticized those who resigned (as described above). These personal attacks – accusing people of being treacherous or even secret government agents – have never been substantiated, and there has never been any apology for them.

The problem was exacerbated when @wikileaks began to criticize @akaWACA on Twitter, and Sam Castro in particular. Julian accused WACA of using the WikiLeaks brand to build a power platform and demanded they change name (this has belatedly been done).

Then @wikileaks posted a link to an embarrassing old video of Sean Bedlam (which Bedlam said he had tried unsuccessfully to get removed from a disreputable website). What is the point of such vindictive character assassination? Isn't this the same ad hominem muck-raking UK media has done to destroy Assange's character? Admittedly, Bedlam has posted angry tweets rudely describing his contempt for Julian Assange. But surely a proper WLP inquiry, justifying the unsubstantiated allegations of “treachery”, would have been a better way to respond to such criticism?

On the day the WLP Inquiry was released, Sam Castro claimed https://twitter.com/jaraparilla/status/431997851858526208 someone had deleted all her emails prior to August 13th 2013 (including emails regarding the pivotal August 12th WLP meeting) in multiple accounts. She supplied no proof of this but said other WikiLeaks supporters had suffered the same problem. I asked @wikileaks and @wikileaksparty to deny any involvement in this but got no response.

WA Revote


WLP has recently announced that it will run the same candidates when WA goes back to the polls.

“National Council has nominated our 2013 WA candidates Gerry Georgatos & Suresh Rajan."

Lessons learned? I think not. A recent email to members asked:

"What do we stand for? ... Where the truth is suppressed or distorted, corruption and injustice are allowed to flourish." 

Hmmn. Members were also asked to have their say on how preferences should be allocated this time around. A few hundred replied. The Greens, ironically, were their #1 choice.

Findings


The findings in this section are based on the available evidence as presented above. 
 

The NSW “Administrative Error”


UPDATE: See also this Storify of discussion on 12th March 2014 - it seems the decision to call it an "admin error" may have been made by Kellie Tranter, over objections from Sam Castro and Kaz Cochrane, who nevertheless accepted the National Council vote to go with that explanation but then "went on strike" and called for meetings to resolve the issue: http://storify.com/jaraparilla/wlp-discussion-12-march-2014?awesm=sfy.co_pQwN&utm_campaign=&utm_source=direct-sfy.co&utm_medium=sfy.co-twitter&utm_content=storify-pingback

WLP insiders have consistently blamed those who resigned for their poor election results. This is not true. The damage was done by the preferences, which totally shocked and alienated countless supporters. The debacle was then exacerbated by the flimsy excuse of an unsubstantiated “administrative error” and – finally - the ludicrously cynical promise of an “independent inquiry” after the election.

Circumstantial evidence, combined with WA candidate Gerry Georgatos's public admission, make it clear that the decision to preference Fascists and anti-environmentalists in NSW was no “administrative error”. At best, one might imagine that the preferencing of Shooters & Fishers was deliberate sabotage of the National Council vote while the preferencing of the Fascist “Australia First” party was an accidental confusion with the “Family First” party [ed: or Australian Voice - see emailed comment from Dan Mathews in Comments below]. But WLP have not even tried to substantiate this possibility.
  • Statements from those who resigned indicate that remaining members of WLP, including John Shipton and Greg Barns [ed: Barns did not have a vote], previously voted to submit NSW preferences with the Shooters and rightwing parties preferenced.

  • Weeks before NC member Cassie Findlay personally submitted the preferences (along with Gail Malone) to the AEC, she was already publicly telling people this would happen.

  • Neither Cassie nor Gail nor Greg nor John is prepared to publicly state what really happened.

  • Greg Barns continued to argue post-election that WLP candidates could have won with the right-wing preferences he desired.
While there is no “smoking gun” it is quite clear that the National Council decision on NSW preferences was deliberately subverted. This lack of respect for formal procedures was further evidenced by John Shipton's attempt to build a new power base by covertly approaching Sean Bedlam and Kaz Cochrane Victorian volunteer co-ordinator David Haidon when Leslie Cannold resigned.

The decision to call this an “administrative error” can most generously be explained by blind panic. The fast and furious public backlash on social media seemed to genuinely shock the WLP power-brokers. Having made a mistake, they exacerbated it by lying, thus sealing not only the downfall of their own party, but also denying Julian Assange a fair and reasonable chance to get elected and come home as an Australian Senator.

WA Preferences


WA candidate Gerry Georgatos was clearly under the impression that he had the power to submit preferences as he pleased, whatever the NC may have instructed. Either he was given the nod by someone more senior (most likely Greg Barns, or via Greg Barns) or else he made his own arrogant decision. In either case, he does not appear to have been admonished – quite the opposite. Georgatos' decision to subvert NC procedures confirms Julian Assange's admission that he did not exercise proper oversight of the party.

And either way, whatever Georgatos or Matt Watt may say, it was clearly a foolish decision. It contributed to the broader national anti-WLP backlash, it definitely and significantly endangered Scott Ludlam's chance of a Senate seat, and (perhaps most importantly) it must surely have left a damaging impression on Senator Ludlam and other senior Greens, who may well choose not to spend so much time supporting Assange and WikiLeaks in the future.
Assuming Senator Ludlam still has a future in parliament. The WA re-vote is scheduled for April 5th 2014.

Allocating WA preferences to a right-wing Coalition member was at best a foolish gamble, a PR nightmare, and a betrayal of WikiLeaks Party principles (as stated in the Constitution).

Blaming The Greens


There was a pre-election deal between WLP and the Greens, who accepted that WLP would preference minor parties (but no major parties) ahead of them. Gerry Georgatos' insistence that preferencing the Nationals in WA did not breach this deal was clearly ridiculous: they are a key part of the Liberal-National Coalition that has held power in Australia for most of the past 20 years.

With the deal broken, the Greens did not hesitate to attack WLP for supporting Fascists and anti-environmentalists. This may have lead some within WLP to call the Greens hypocrites and even ultimately blame them for the ensuing debacle. But the Greens were well within their rights to attack WLP, who (on the basis of their listed preferences) should have been prepared for such criticism from all sides.

The fact that both Greg Barns and Gerry Georgatos was a were disaffected former Greens member [ed: it was Jamal Daoud not Barns who was also a disaffected ex-Green. Jamal later joined the NC but quit acrimoniusly blaming Shipton. Georgatos set up a breakaway group called The Real Greens] obviously did not help in this situation. Indeed, it seems to anti-Greens sentiment within the party may be a key reason why the Greens were preferenced so lowly in the first place. Kellie Tranter and Omar Todd also posted tweets that blamed for the Greens for WLP's own failures.

Personal prejudices appear to have negatively affected party decision-making.

Blaming Julian


It is impossible not to hold Julian Assange personally responsible for much of what went wrong with the WikiLeaksParty. It is also impossible to be sure exactly how much decision-making he was personally involved with.

What is abundantly clear, however, is that since the election he has closed ranks with his father John Shipton (despite continuing and embarrassing errors of judgement), supported unsubstantiated attacks on his own supporters, and approved the cover-up of events surrounding preferences and resignations. This is foolish and disappointing behaviour.

It would be nice to blame this on the paranoia induced by relentless pursuit by extremely powerful forces, Julian's continued captivity in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and his consequent inability to meet supporters face-to-face. And nobody should be influenced by the media's relentless smear attacks on Julian's character. But nobody is perfect, and ultimately the WikiLeaks Party failures have exposed an authoritarian element of the WikiLeaks founder.

The author of the WLP Inquiry concluded:

“In the author’s opinion, it was a combination of human errors caused by a highly emotional and volatile atmosphere, where a number of key WLP members were instrumental in causing confusion, not from malicious intent but due to a lack of defined responsibilities.”

In fact, it seems the responsibilities of the National Council were adequately defined in the Constitution, but the leadership chose to ignore and ultimately try to subvert the Constitution.
As founder and self-declared President of the WikiLeaks Party, Julian Assange must take full responsibility for its mistakes.

Mitigating Factors


It is worth pausing to reflect on other considerations which made success for the WikiLeaks Party a serious challenge. These include:
  • The Australian media (with notable exceptions including Fairfax's Phillip Dorling and ABC Four Corner's) and major political parties are generally hostile to WikiLeaks.

  • Volunteer staff were working on a casual or part-time basis.

  • Communication was hampered by international and interstate time differences, lack of real world one-to-one contact between key personnel, and the constant need to consider government surveillance.

  • The party never got close to its declared funding goal and had limited financial resources.
NOTE: Due to lack of solid evidence, this document has generally not examined party financial issues.

Summary Of Findings


The WikiLeaks Party has been an utter and complete failure for all but a small handful of remaining members. It has betrayed its own stated principles, ignored its own Constitution, turned against its own National Council leaders with unsubstantiated attacks, disillusioned its own members, and alienated WikiLeaks supporters worldwide.

The WikiLeaks Party has unnecessarily divided the previously strong community of WikiLeaks supporters and virtually destroyed active, vocal support for Julian Assange in Australia.

The WikiLeaks Party has inflicted global reputation damage by association with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Much of this has resulted from foolish and avoidable behaviour, which politicians and an antagonistic media have happily used to attack their prime targets.

Post-election WikiLeaks Party activity has been embarrassing and counter-productive. The party no longer seems to know what it stands for, and its reasons for continued existence need to be urgently reconsidered.

*

The Australian Preferential Voting system is inherently dangerous for any minor party (by design, it would seem). Many people, including the Greens, are now calling for it to be abolished. WLP should have dealt with this danger by either:
  • Adopting NC member Dan Mathews' recommendation not to be a part of any sleazy deals, or

  • Publicly advising members that WLP would be taking a totally cynical, Realpolitik approach to an inherently unfair system, whereby the end (getting Julian Assange elected) justified the means (giving preferences to Fascists etc).
Similarly, the WLP was created with an admirable Constitution, but the leadership appears to have seen the National Council as at best a rubber stamp, and at worst an obstacle for authoritarian decision-making. Assange, Barns and Shipton in particular should have either:
  • Set up the party with a more authoritarian structure, or

  • Respected their own Constitution.
*

In George Orwell's Animal Farm, “some pigs are more important than others”. This appears to have been the attitude of Julian Assange, John Shipton, and Greg Barns, who felt they had a right to impose their will on the National Council, whatever was written in their own Constitution. With no other evidence provided by them, such a warped perspective is the only way to understand their allegations of “sabotage” and “treachery”. Anyone who refused to do what they were told was clearly a traitor intent on destroying all their hard work.

Recommendations


Julian Assange, John Shipton, and Greg Barns have had ample opportunity to explain the allegations of sabotage and treachery from the staff who resigned. They have failed to do so and should apologize for making the allegations. Any money still owed to ex-staff should be paid.

Fundamentally, Julian Assange needs to reconsider his relationship with those who support him around the world. Rightly or wrongly, many strong supporters have complained for years of being “used” and not fairly acknowledged for their efforts (e.g. “stealing” tweets). A more humane and respectful approach should be embraced.

NOTE: I have previously suggested that Assange may have Aspergers and I again urge him to consider this possibility when trying to understand why these interpersonal conflicts continue to pursue his otherwise laudable efforts.

Many WikiLeaks supporters worldwide are deeply disillusioned with the political process, and even question the value of voting, particularly in the corrupted two-party democracies that dominate the Anglosphere. Some, who would rather fight for change from outside the political process, saw the WLP as a rare opportunity to make politics work from “inside the tent”. This effort has failed and the WikiLeaks Party no longer provides any clear avenue for further advancement. For example, consider how the Pirate Party is pressuring governments worldwide with copyright campaigns and good work on Infosec, then ask what additional help WLP provides?

The WikiLeaks Party is currently trying to organize for the WA Senate re-vote in four weeks time. They are fielding the same rejected candidates, with even less funding, even less supporters (going by social media) and no apparent sense of purpose or direction. It would best for all involved if members properly acknowledged the party's mistakes and threw their support behind Greens Senator Scott Ludlam instead.

Having betrayed its own principles of transparency and accountability, the discredited WikiLeaks Party no longer serves any useful purpose and should be shut down.

Sources