Monday, December 19, 2011

China 'sucking out' CBI e-mails: Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in a special address at HT's Leadership Summit, painted a grim flip side of the information age: governments worldwide, he said, were curbing bedrock freedoms, such as personal liberty, privacy and free speech, by misusing technology.

"Bulk surveillance of entire nations is on," Assange said, suggesting big-brother spying in an era of open information.

The Chinese were "sucking out" e-mails of India's Central Bureau of Investigation.
 A German firm was tempting governments to buy its military surveillance tools with an unusual open offer -- the equipment could also be used to spy on political rivals. Governments were terrorising government employees to promote secrecy.

Assange cited a grave danger to open societies from state agencies and private firms, who are working around laws to block information and penalize campaigners of free speech.

In his address from London via video, Assange appeared with the logos of Visa and PayPal upside down in protest against an international squeeze on WikiLeaks funding.

India, however, came in for praise. He said India was relatively safe from threats posed by new age spying. He praised the Right to Information Act, the landmark legislation that makes it mandatory for the government to share information.

Assange, a household name worldwide, was listened to with rapt attention in his first direct address to a large audience in India.

To his admirers, Julian Assange is a teen hacker who grew up to be an underground crusader for the truth. To his critics, he is a seeker of flash fame, who puts out sensitive governmental information into the public domain. Under threats, he is known to constantly move location, shifting WikiLeaks operations alongside.

He started WikiLeaks in 2006 with a group of web-savvy friends and ended up creating a free web-based whistle-blowing letterbox for anonymous leakers.

WikiLeaks has been leaking material from several countries, but it caused uproar in India when it released an alleged US embassy cable that talked of a trunk of cash meant to be used as a bribe for MPs ahead of the vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

It first hit the global headlines in April 2010, when it released video taken from a US helicopter shooting civilians in Iraq in 2007.

"Interception of entire nations by Western firms works against transparency for public for secretive groups. We should strive for laws for open society," he said.

Assange said Islamic terror is being used as a cover for unlawful interceptions and anti-terror moves being misused for economic intelligence by giant companies.

Displaying a brilliant sense of history, Assange warned of new imperial-style threats in the Information Age. He saw the world moving towards a "transnational elite" which is a threat to civilisational values.

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