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Assange’s intuition

WikiLeaks was temporarily suspended after the US imposed a financial blockade on it in December 2010.

|| Amritanshu Nerurkar
Is Assange, who does not compromise on the principles behind WikiLeaks, aware of the limitations?

Julian Assange is a strange chemist. He values ​​human dignity and privacy as much as he believes in the principles of freedom of expression, openness, and free exchange of information. It is true that Assange had to take a big risk in using WikiLeaks as a ‘whistleblower platform’ to protect his values; But at the same time, personally, he has to pay a very high price for his courage.

WikiLeaks was suspended for a while after the US imposed a financial blockade on it in December 2010. The United States has issued an international arrest warrant for Assange, accusing him of embezzling confidential information under the Espionage Act. Earlier, Sweden had issued a similar warrant against Assange, accusing him of sexual misconduct. Assange had the idea that a conspiracy was being hatched against him by American countries. To save himself from a possible extradition to the United States, he began exploring the possibility of becoming dependent on various countries.

In August 2012, just days before his possible extradition to Sweden, Ecuador, a small country in South America, granted him asylum and Assange stayed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. There is a lot of controversy as to why the then president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, agreed to Assange’s request without begging for criticism from around the world (especially from the United States). Various analysts had suggested that the influence of communist ideology on Koreans was due to this or that Korea intended to create a nationwide image of a leader who would stand firm in defending the values ​​of truth and freedom of expression in the run-up to next year’s elections.

Whatever the Korean intentions, Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador for about seven years, during which time he stayed in a small room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In Ecuador in 2017, Korea was replaced by Lenin Moreno, a leader of his own party but with a different ideology, and Ecuador’s interest in Assange began to wane. Ecuador also accused Assange of “misconduct” as part of a strategy to improve relations with the United States. Assange was denied asylum on charges of spying while living in the embassy and Assange was expelled from the embassy in April 2019. Assange was soon released from prison in Belmars, England, where he is still being held. Although the United States has not yet succeeded in extraditing him, the sword is still hanging over his head.

At such a time, the question arises as to what exactly is the motive behind Assange when he presents confidential and sensitive documents of various governments or private companies to the world on an open platform like WikiLeaks? What will be his mentality behind doing these daring deeds even though he has full idea that we will have to pay a huge price for these deeds? To confront these questions, we first need to understand Assange’s past.

Assange’s mentality before founding WikiLeaks can be understood from the book ‘Underground’ written by Sullivan Dreyfus. The joke is that Assange himself is mentioned in the book’s rankings as a ‘research aid’. Assange has been interested in computer and networking technology since childhood. Assange, like many other computer technicians, started out as a hacker. The hacker named ‘Mendax’ described in this book must have been Assange.

In the early 1990’s, Internet technology, though in its infancy, was advancing rapidly and computer technologists were convinced that the Internet could be the best platform for uninterrupted and unrestricted exchange of information. Assange also recognized the power of the Internet. He wondered if it could be used against dictatorial and conspiratorial regimes. Assange’s cash here was not with political or military conspiracies, but with the government’s policy of keeping its own citizens in the dark and doing everything in secret. Assange was of the clear view that the hacker community should be actively involved in tearing down the veil, which is covered by the government on the basis of information technology and the Internet, which he also referred to as ‘hacktivism’.

Assange was later greatly influenced by the ‘Cypherpunk’ movement. Cypherpunk philosophy was opposed to the ‘central’ center of power from the very beginning. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. With the help of whistleblowers, Assange reached the point at the beginning of the 21st century that, through WikiLeaks, such authoritarian regimes could be somewhat compromised.

WikiLeaks was also indirectly influenced by the hacker movement ‘Anonymous’, which originated in 2003 and is internationally decentralized. The original purpose of the Anonymous movement was to launch a digital movement to protest against the so-called tyrannical regimes that existed in various countries. To that end, hackers associated with the movement were engaged in cyber attacks on government systems in the country concerned to shut them down. Only in the name of the movement did the attack take place anonymously, and no one claimed responsibility for the attack. Although Assange’s mentality was very similar to that of the Anonymous movement, in one case she parted ways with it. Assange may have believed in free and fair dealings, but he did not approve of such anonymous protests. So since the founding of WikiLeaks, Assange has kept the identity of those who provided confidential information secret, but never hid his role as editor.

In such a scenario, can the allegations of espionage and breach of privacy by the US be justified? From a legal point of view, these allegations are factual. It is a crime to make confidential, sensitive government documents public without any official permission. But Assange cannot be blamed for being a privacy breach. On the contrary, he has, from time to time, rewarded privacy on a personal level. His fight has always been against governments that deprive citizens of their basic right to privacy.

The 2010 financial blockade did not stop WikiLeaks for long. The organization resumed its work by raising funds through cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which continues to this day. In Assange’s recent writings, however, he is clearly aware of the limitations of platforms such as WikiLeaks. Government-level surveillance of citizens will continue. If the Internet is not to be made a medium of such mass surveillance, then there is no alternative but to adopt measures like encryption, he said. In any case, no one can deny WikiLeaks’ contribution to exposing malpractice at the governmental or corporate level to the world.

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(From next week, ‘Vidyavadhan’ will be released on Monday.)

The author is an expert in the fields of information and technology, open source, security and privacy, as well as digital transformation.

 

 

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