Marcy Wheeler

The Looming Mystery Behind the Panama Papers: How Did the Largest Document Leak In History Even Happen?

“Hello. This is John Doe. Interested in data?” That line — apparently written in English and using an American cultural reference — is much of what we know about the source, possibly a hacker, behind the Panama Papers, a massive trove of documents on which four hundred journalists have been collaborating for up to a year, detailing how a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca has helped some of the world’s most powerful people set up shell companies capable of concealing vast amounts of wealth. The source reached out to Bastian Obermayer, a reporter for Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, over a year ago, explaining, “I want to make these crimes public.”

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How Donald Trump Is Causing the 5 Stages of Republican Grief

It’s been more than a month since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for presidency. And rather than quickly self-combust, as many expected, the Donald has actually enjoyed a cresting wave of support, taking him straight to the top of the GOP field. Not even a string of high-profile flaps seem to have any impact on the man’s surging popularity.

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Everything You Thought You Knew About the Death of Osama Bin Laden Is Wrong

Everything you know about Osama bin Laden’s killing is wrong.

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Tech Giants Pull Massive Bait-and-Switch on Your Privacy

President Obama just announced war (of sorts) in the Middle East — but he’s not going to wait for Congressional authorization to go to war. But that’s not the only area where the president is threatening to make Congress an afterthought.

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Patriot Act’s Absurd New Spawn: Just When You Thought it Couldn’t Get Any Worse

Congress may be preparing to reinforce two horrible FISA Court decisions and an abusive government search with no debate in the coming weeks: a decision to give national security orders unlimited breadth, one making it legal for the government to investigate Americans for activities protected under the First Amendment, and the FBI’s “back door” searches of Americans’ communication content collected under the FISA Amendment Act Section 702 authority.

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Has Obama Presented a New Plan to Fight Terror or More of the Same?

Four years ago, President Obama gave a seminal counterterrorism speech in front of the Constitution arguing we “uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe.” Today, amid controversies over his Administration’s killing of American citizens in drone strikes, efforts to break hunger strikes by Guantanamo Bay detainees who have long been cleared for transfer, and seizures of the call records of national security journalists, Obama tried to reclaim those cherished values in his fight against terror.

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Why Is a Report on Bush's Torture Program Being Kept Classified by Obama?

Much of what you’ve been told (or seen in movies) about George W. Bush’s supposedly effective torture program is false and overhyped. At least, that’s one of the conclusions of the 6,000-page review of the program the Senate Intelligence Committee completed last year.

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The Prosecution of Aaron Swartz Paints Obama's Justice Department as Needlessly Cruel and Capricious

On Friday, January 11, 2013, 26-year-old visionary technologist and social activist Aaron Swartz hanged himself in New York City. A passionate advocate for making access to online information as widespread as possible, Swartz was grappling with the fallout from his efforts to do just that.

Two years before Swartz ended his life, he was arrested by police from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the City of Cambridge, Mass., police for breaking and entering into an MIT storage closet. In the closet, Swartz had stashed an Acer laptop  he had programmed to download in bulk millions of scholarly articles from JSTOR, a non-profit database that provides access to the articles for academic libraries. At the time, articles on JSTOR were locked behind a paywall for non-academics who wished to access them through their own computers. Swartz aimed to make them available, free of charge, to anyone who wanted to read them.

At the time of his arrest, an investigation of Swartz’s MIT/JSTOR action was already underway, and two days earlier, the Secret Service’s online crime division assumed control of the probe. The Secret Service routinely conducts complex computer crime investigations; its involvement signaled the treatment of this as a major crime, not a caper. Six months later, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz charged Swartz with a four-count indictment.  

To those who knew Swartz’ ethic, that indictment already seemed like overkill, essentially labeling an effort to share information as wire and computer fraud. But then last year, Ortiz multiplied each of the main charges, turning the same underlying actions into a 13-count indictment that threatened Swartz with a 35-year sentence.

Swartz had long struggled with depression that may have contributed to his suicide. But his family and associates have also blamed the government’s conduct in prosecuting Swartz. A statement issued by the family the day after Swartz’s suicide charges that “the U.S. Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.”

And therein lies the almost incomprehensible legal background to this tragedy. Both before and after his arrest, Swartz had dedicated much of his life to using the internet to making information freely accessible. His goal here -- the government claims he intended to publish the journals online, but made no claim he wanted to profit off of them -- would have put academic research, much of it funded by federal grants, in the hands of the people who paid for it.

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Mitt Romney's Pro-torture Gang of Puppet-Masters

Since I noted in August 2011 that Mitt had named two torture architects to his legal advisory committee (Tim Flanigan and Steve Bradbury), I have had zero doubt that Mitt would embrace torture if he were President. So Charlie Savage’s story–reporting on a September 2011 memo confirming that fact–wasn’t surprising in the least to me. Here’s the key recommendation from the memo:

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Mitt Romney Is the Poster Child for Why There's No Economic Recovery -- Why Are Democrats So Bad at Saying That?

The Romney campaign has started asking the snitch, Ronald Reagan’s question, “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?” And partly because Obama’s advisors don’t have a ready answer, and partly because Democrats are misconstruing who’s being asked the question, it’s actually a tremendous risk for Democrats.

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The 13 Bush Officials Who Made Torture Possible

Originally published on Monday, May 18, 2009 by

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