Important: Security alert for activists
Sun, 12 Dec 1999 22:34:54 -0500
[: hacktivism :]
I found something interesting in an article in today's Washington Post.
The article is an analysis of what happened in Seattle. Buried within
the article is some information which should serve to remind all
activists involved in direct action to be EXTREMELY CAREFUL about how
you communicate with each other. The authorities are monitoring our
websites and possibly our e-mails. They may be incompetent in how they
use that information, but they are out there nonetheless.
While watching the network newscasts following Seattle, I caught a
mention that Washington, DC officials have been and are "monitoring"
D.C. activist groups. The extent of this is unknown (I suspect it has
been very slight, because they don't take us seriously), but it should
serve as a caution.
Here's a few snippets, followed by a few comments, followed by the
>>But Sgt. Miller said several police officers openly voiced suspicion that those "peaceful" protests could be a distraction. Before the protest, he said that a number of officers had discussed the warnings on several World Wide Web sites linked to self-proclaimed anarchists who also planned to disrupt Seattle that Tuesday would be a kind of D-Day of demonstrations. "The phrase people here kept seeing among those groups on the Internet was, 'Save it for Tuesday.' "
>>The Seattle police and the mayor's office had conferred beforehand with the FBI and the Secret Service, discussing what were called tabletop scenarios--various contingencies that might arise, and responses to them.
>>But when the discussion got to possible rioting, according to Thomas J. Pickard, deputy director of the FBI, "they said things like, 'It'll never get to that stage.' "
Chuck0: The fact that the authorities are monitoring activist websites
should come as no surprise to anybody. In fact, while looking at the
logs of my website in the weeks before N30 I got the suspicion that the
cops were trolling for information. The fact that they discounted this
information shows how little respect they have had for activists.
This also begs the question: To what extent does posting our organizing
plans on the Internet help the cops? How do we strike a balance between
informing other activist and possible supporters, and trying not to give
away too much information to the authorities. I suspect that we need to
rely more heavily on non-Internet ways of spreading the word. Some of
you know what I'm talking about.
Lastly, I'm really curious about the information in the paragraphs
above. Was there any website or email list which said, "Save it for
Tuesday"? We know that it couldn't have been the Eugene anarchists,
because they shun the Internet. In fact, the best way to reach them is
still be snail mail. I suspect then that anybody who was "saving it for
Tuesday" was somebody involved in the street blockades. If you were that
person, I suggest you install PGP on your computer if you plan to
communicate these things via the Internet in the future.
A Seattle Primer: How Not to Hold WTO Talks
By Robert G. Kaiser and John Burgess
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 12, 1999; Page A40
Late on the final afternoon of the World Trade Organization talks in
Seattle, with hope for an agreement slipping away, chief American trade
negotiator Charlene Barshefsky asked her Canadian counterpart, Pierre
Pettigrew, to take the chair so she could call the White House. As he
agreed to run the meeting, Pettigrew recalled later, a colleague said:
"Well, you may be like the orchestra conductor on board the Titanic."
Just eight days before, Barshefsky had made a bold prediction: The
Seattle talks would succeed in launching a new round of negotiations to
further open global commerce, despite signs of disagreement in the
preparatory rounds. "You see, everyone knows that failure is not an
But hours after that Titanic quip, an exhausted Barshefsky had to
announce that failure in Seattle was a reality. A tumultuous week of
protests and tear gas on the streets and all-night negotiations and
recriminations at the conference had produced nothing.
The outcome in Seattle was quickly dubbed a fiasco, a debacle, a
disaster for free trade--or a stunning victory by the activists who had
come to Seattle to frustrate the negotiations. A week later American and
foreign officials involved in the negotiations who were interviewed for
this article agreed on two explanations for the failure: inadequate
planning, and irresolvable political conflict.
The conflicts showed up in Seattle as a kind of systemic overload. As
Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser,
put it, the meeting was a case of "too many plugs and too few
outlets"--an overload that the WTO just couldn't handle.
The planning failure was most often blamed on the Clinton
administration. "There was a colossal failure to reduce the number of
decisions the ministers had to make to a manageable number" before
Seattle, said Calman Cohen, director of a business coalition called the
Emergency Committee for American Trade. He and others said the gathering
of trade ministers should have been postponed until the number of
outstanding issues could be reduced.
Secretary of Commerce William Daley seemed to agree, saying in an
interview last week that he was pessimistic from the beginning. "The
fact that nothing was pre-cooked . . . was quite a signal," he said,
referring to the absence of agreements among the key players, especially
at a pre-Seattle negotiation in Geneva that had broken down in failure.
Barshefsky, fresh from the Nov. 15 triumph of talks on China's entry
into the WTO, had dismissed the breakdown in Geneva: "I'm not in the
least bit concerned."
Colleagues say that confidence is typical of Barshefsky, who has a
reputation as a first-class trade lawyer and hard-nosed negotiator, but
not as an accomplished politician. And according to numerous
participants, politics played a critical role in Seattle.
Many foreign delegates cited American politics, particularly Clinton's
decision to embrace the addition of labor and environmental standards to
world trade rules. "I think President Clinton was playing to his
domestic constituency," said Costa Rica's foreign trade minister, Samuel
But other nations had political concerns of their own. The European
Union and Japan, for example, had to be seen as protecting their farmers
from U.S. demands to eliminate agricultural subsidies. In fact, EU trade
commissioner Pascal Lamy disappeared for six hours during the crucial
last day's discussions, only to return and signal that there could be no
deal on agriculture, according to Barshefsky.
A look back at the debacle in Seattle and the events leading to it shows
how many strands of history, economics, politics and public opinion
converged to create an impasse that caused such embarrassment for
Seattle and the Clinton administration.
The mood was still hopeful when trade ministers from 20 nations gathered
in late October in Lausanne, Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva,
to plan for Seattle. Gathered in a wood-paneled room of the luxurious
Beau-Rivage Palace hotel, they used words such as "flexibility" to
describe their approach. But at the end of the meeting, in the words of
Sergio Marchi, Canada's ambassador to the WTO, "the flexibility . . .
never really arrived."
Some American officials, particularly in the Commerce Department, had
shied away from the idea of launching a big new round of trade
liberalization negotiations, but the European Union insisted that this
The Europeans wanted big negotiations on many issues in hopes of being
able to trade concessions on agriculture (the European Union's policy of
propping up farmers and agricultural exports is an anathema to free
traders) for benefits they could trumpet to sell an overall deal to
member governments. The Europeans eventually persuaded the United States
to go along.
Though Barshefsky insisted in an interview that numerous understandings
had been reached among the participating countries over the past year
and a half, other delegations saw it differently. Hidehiro Konno, a
senior Japanese trade official, recalled, for instance, "There was no
consensus even on the concept of a new round." Yet WTO rules require
that all agreements be reached by consensus.
The easy trade issues have already been resolved. Tariffs are already
low, world trade is booming, once-closed markets are open. The remaining
barriers are often subtle and deeply rooted in local politics.
The Japanese and Europeans, for example, elaborately protect their
farmers, in part by denying access to foreign agricultural products.
(The United States also gives extensive support to farmers, but rarely
with trade restrictions.) The United States protects vulnerable
industries, particularly textiles, with politically popular laws
designed to prevent foreigners from undercutting American producers in
the U.S. market.
After Lausanne the unresolved issues moved back to WTO headquarters in
Geneva, where lower-level experts tried to make progress. They failed,
and though Barshefsky dismissed this breakdown as insignificant, Lamy,
the European trade commissioner, was concerned: "I fear the atmosphere
might be such that we will not get to the starting blocks. . . . We
might not leave Seattle with a new round."
The Japanese said last week that they thought the early signals were
ominous. "It was very odd," said Konno. "The first moment we started to
think of the possibility of disaster was very early, when we found out
that there was no quad meeting planned by the United States." The
"quad"--the United States, Japan, the European Union and Canada--had a
history of plotting strategy in advance for big trade meetings, Konno
said. Konno expressed surprise that a quad meeting wasn't held just
before the talks were scheduled to begin. U.S. officials said other
nations had scheduling conflicts.
Another complication was the leadership of the WTO. Michael Moore of New
Zealand had been installed as director general in September; his key
aides didn't take their places until later in the fall. Moore's
selection followed months of haggling that largely paralyzed the
organization, according to many officials. The United States played a
heavy-handed role in Moore's selection that angered some other
A more telling warning of what was in store in Seattle was probably the
200 passages enclosed in brackets in the draft 32-page text the WTO
staff had prepared for the meeting in Lausanne. The brackets indicated
language that had not been agreed to.
The first interested parties to reach Seattle were not delegates to the
WTO, but the organizers of the protests that became the visible symbol
of Seattle. Michael Dolan, coordinator of many of the protesters, set up
shop early this year in an office on Fourth Street.
Dolan's operation grew out of a movement born seven years earlier, in
Munich at the July 1992 meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized
nations. There, a group of international activists including Dolan's
boss, Lori Wallach, a trade lawyer, launched an effort to bring
"sunshine" to the secretive process of negotiating international trade
agreements. Wallach and Dolan work for Public Citizen, a self-described
consumer lobby founded by Ralph Nader.
In an interview Wallach described a patient effort to build activist
organizations in 40 countries, all motivated by the desire to show
public opinion and governments that the global economic order was
eroding nations' sovereignty and their citizens' freedoms. The idea was
to encourage citizens to hold their trade negotiators accountable in a
To do so, the groups looked for "Achilles' heels," Wallach said,
sensitive issues that would create controversy and thus reduce the
chances for agreement in new trade talks. For example, the European
Union, she said, had such a weak spot on the issue of genetically
modified foodstuffs, products that the Americans wanted the WTO to
bless, but that European public opinion fervently opposed.
Wallach, Dolan and their allies promised to bring tens of thousands of
protesters to Seattle. That prospect had prompted the city to make plans
for what would happen outside the WTO, preparations that proved
Seattle's political leaders, led by Mayor Paul Schell, had decided to
welcome the protesters and encourage vigorous debate on world trade.
(Clinton welcomed them also.) The city wasn't opposed to the protesters'
plans to disrupt the city by, for example, chaining themselves together
According to Sgt. J.D. Miller, a 15-year veteran of the Seattle police
force, many members of the force knew they weren't ready. "We knew we
would be in trouble" during the WTO meeting, he said in an interview
last week. "There was very little doubt, because the intelligence about
who was coming, and what they had the potential to do, was well known.
But Sgt. Miller said several police officers openly voiced suspicion
that those "peaceful" protests could be a distraction. Before the
protest, he said that a number of officers had discussed the warnings on
several World Wide Web sites linked to self-proclaimed anarchists who
also planned to disrupt Seattle that Tuesday would be a kind of D-Day of
demonstrations. "The phrase people here kept seeing among those groups
on the Internet was, 'Save it for Tuesday.' "
The Seattle police and the mayor's office had conferred beforehand with
the FBI and the Secret Service, discussing what were called tabletop
scenarios--various contingencies that might arise, and responses to
But when the discussion got to possible rioting, according to Thomas J.
Pickard, deputy director of the FBI, "they said things like, 'It'll
never get to that stage.' "
Delegates who stepped out of their hotels Tuesday morning, the first day
of the conference, with freshly issued ID badges around their necks,
soon found out otherwise. By 8:30 a.m., throngs of chanting
demonstrators had taken control of the streets of downtown Seattle. With
arms linked, they formed tight human chains to block all entrances to
the convention center where the meeting would take place.
Downtown's usual din of traffic was banished, replaced by the beating of
protesters' drums and a lone trombone's wail, by chants and '60s rock
tunes at peak volumes. Riot police marched in tight phalanxes, slapping
their nightsticks against the sides of their boots. The sound was like
massed jackboots on pavement.
Most protesters left property alone. But a cadre of young people, many
dressed in black and wearing ski masks or bandanas to hide their faces,
had clearly come prepared to commit mayhem. They hurled trash cans
through windows and spray-painted militant slogans on marble
storefronts. A Starbucks coffee shop fell victim to their vandalism, as
did a jewelry store, a park gate and a McDonald's restaurant.
Though more than 20,000 union members marched peacefully in Seattle that
day, the world would see and remember the sporadic violence and the
clouds of tear gas. By the end of the day, the mayor had declared an
emergency, asked the governor to call up the National Guard, and imposed
a curfew on downtown.
For Clinton, the Seattle meeting was potentially a big moment. Some had
spoken of naming a new round of trade talks the "Clinton Round," and the
United States had actively sought to host the Seattle meeting. The
president addressed the gathering on Wednesday.
But the speech was overshadowed by an interview he gave to the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer en route to Seattle. In it Clinton said he
"ultimately" would support sanctions against countries that violate
labor standards, which he wanted the WTO to add to its rules.
The interview became a sensation. "Nobody believed their eyes" when they
read Clinton's comments, said Anabel Gonzalez, Costa Rica's vice
minister of foreign trade. Many developing countries seized on the
comments as evidence that the United States planned to impose new
protectionist measures in the guise of labor standards that were
actually designed to keep the poorer countries poor.
In the early hours of Friday, the Europeans and Americans briefly seemed
to find common ground on the thorny agriculture subsidy issue. At 4:30
that morning, recalled Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic
Council and a Seattle negotiator, "you really . . . had goose bumps.
This is going to come together! This is going to happen! This is great!"
Lamy was negotiating for the Europeans at that hour. He had to report
back to the trade ministers of the EU countries on the progress that had
given Sperling goose bumps.
The EU commissioner disappeared for more than six hours, an absence that
shocked the Americans, but also helped convince them that they would not
succeed in Seattle. They concluded that Lamy had been overridden by the
ministers, and the deal would not be reached.
"By 2 or 3 p.m. [Friday] I could see it wasn't going to happen,"
Barshefsky recounted. "People's positions were hardening. Lamy had left
a functionary in his place, who just made Geneva-type speeches. I
thought: We need to cut it off before countries say 'I will never do A,
B, C . . .' We don't want anyone saying 'never.' "
Moore, the new director-general of the WTO, was not convinced. At first
he wanted to push ahead and try to get a final agreement. But after
consulting with several envoys from key countries, he decided Barshefsky
At 10:30 p.m. Barshefsky formally announced that the conference would
end without a result. "Governments," she said, "were just not willing to
take the leap."
The United States had gone into the Seattle meetings without a thorough
game plan, hoping, in Sperling's words, "that under the pressure and
headlights of a global trade talk, that countries would make the
necessary concessions to come to an agreement." This time, it didn't
Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, summarized the reasons he
saw for the breakdown: The major trading blocs didn't want to compromise
on the big issues; the trade ministers don't know how to deal with labor
and environmental issues, although, he insisted, they will eventually
have to be incorporated into the global system; the protests on the
street altered the mood of the meeting and reduced the time available
Like other Americans and foreign delegates, he doubted the
demonstrations forced the outcome. Wallach of Public Citizen saw it
differently. In her view the new public involvement did make the
difference, because public opinion in many countries had stiffened the
resolve of their delegates to Seattle not to make compromises for the
sake of an easy consensus.
Berger and other officials said they welcomed the participation of the
interest groups that have become engaged in trade issues.
"Democratization is a good word for it," Berger said. But it would mean
further complication of trade negotiations in the future, he agreed.
In this as in other international forums, the overwhelming power of the
United States seems to be a complicating factor. American officials
point out how the huge trade deficit generated by America's open
economy, which imports far more goods than it exports goods and
services, has helped stabilize Asia and the world after the 1997 Asian
economic crisis. But critical foreign countries, particularly less
developed ones, freely accuse the United States of plotting new forms of
Given all the complexities, Berger said in his White House office
Thursday evening, sipping a huge glass of Diet Coke, "there probably was
not as much attention focused on whether to go forward with this round
as there should have been."
Berger acknowledged that Seattle was a serious setback. He said he
didn't know how bad the damage would prove to be.
Barshefsky saw a silver lining: Breakdowns in earlier trade
negotiations, like those with China in April, have been followed "with
stronger agreements," she said.
Berger and Sperling defended the administration's efforts to broaden the
trade agenda to cover concerns about the environment and labor
standards, and rejected the criticisms--commonly made by governments
from Tokyo to Brasilia--that U.S. domestic politics provoked those
efforts and helped scuttle Seattle.
"You take on something big that has a risk element--that makes the
achievement all the more significant," Sperling said, acknowledging that
this time the achievement didn't materialize.
"If you don't fail sometimes," Berger said, "your sights aren't high
Staff writers Doug Struck in Tokyo; Stephen Buckley in Rio de Janeiro;
Serge Kovaleski in San Jose, Costa Rica; Anne Swardson in Paris; Pamela
Constable in New Delhi; Steven Pearlstein in Toronto; Lorraine Adams;
Charles Babington; Rene Sanchez; and special correspondent Khiota
Thierren in Seattle contributed to this report.
Here are the key issues that helped deadlock talks between trade
ministers at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.
* The United States pushed Europe to commit to an eventual "elimination"
of subsidies for farm exports.
* Europe resisted. Europe and Japan also wanted the WTO to acknowledge
that "non-trade" factors -- such as protection of the environment and
rural communities -- would be considered in setting farm policy.
* Japan and many other countries wanted extensive negotiations about
rules against "dumping," the selling of foreign goods at illegally low
prices. They contend that the rules as set by the 1986-94 "Uruguay
Round" allow the United States and other countries to keep out
legitimately priced goods.
* The United States said it would not agree to any talk on dumping, but
would probably have settled for discussions on dumping limited to
clarification of Uruguay Round rules.
* The United States sought the formation of a WTO "working group" on
genetically altered goods, hoping to establish rules that would protect
the trading of these goods.
* Europe resisted, arguing that the safety of the products has not been
* The United States wanted to extend a moratorium on tariffs on
electronic transmissions across borders and further reduce them on
* General agreement was reached to extend a moratorium. But to the U.S.
team's disappointment, negotiators could not agree on launching a
further round of talks aimed at expanding an existing agreement that
lowers tariffs on high-tech goods.
INVESTMENT & COMPETITION
* Europe wanted negotiations on harmonizing countries' rules on these
* Wary of reopening an old fight, the United States opposed it, saying
there was no support. Activist groups say having global rules could
infringe on sovereignty by blocking such practices as setting aside
contracts for minority-owned firms.
* The United States and other countries wanted the WTO to make its
processes more open to the public.
* Compromise language would have allowed quicker publication of
confidential documents, but not opened up the proceedings of WTO panels
that judge trade disputes.
* United States wanted to create a WTO "working group" to open the
question of establishing labor standards for international trade.
* Developing countries, feeling they could not meet the standards,
strongly opposed it as likely to create protectionist barriers against
their goods. Compromise talk focused on creating some kind of study
group outside the WTO framework.
* Developing countries sought more time to implement trade law changes
required by the 1986-94 Uruguay Round.
* The industrial world in general fought this request, but was likely to
offer extensions to the poorest countries and technical assistance to
1999 The Washington Post Company
Dr. Laura is scared of this sig file
"All the anarchy you'll ever need, organized neatly
and with reassuring authority."
-- 1998 Rough Guide to the Internet
FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL AND LEONARD PELTIER!
[: hacktivism :]
[: for unsubscribe instructions or list info consult the list FAQ :]
[: http://hacktivism.tao.ca/ :]