Cornered But Not Cowering, Assange Rails Against Government Surveillance
Enforced exile hasn’t slowed Julian Assange’s efforts stop international government surveillance. This week the WikiLeaks founder slammed government spying while appearing on BBC Radio 4’s flagship current affairs program and at a computer convention, where he encouraged resistance to government intrusion to protect freedom.
Assange’s public activism flies in the face of changes in a UK censorship bill that would require every household with Internet access to use government filters that block pornography.
But the fight over censorship and control of the information is nuanced, and politicians are taking sides. California Gov. Jerry Brown successfully passed a bill that will expand whistleblower protections in the state.
“This very much changes the game in California. It will mean more lawsuits, more investigations and higher-risk profiles” for firms with operations in the state, said Kenneth Sulzer, who specializes in California labor and employment law and is a partner at Proskauer.
The changes expand whistleblower protections in California starting Jan. 1. All employers will be prohibited from preventing employees from reporting internal issues they suspect are illegal. The law will also ban employers from engaging in countermeasures that may incriminate the employee. Civil liberty organizations have welcomed the law, and some say it may encourage people to become more active.
Today, embarrassed BBC executives are examining how Assange used the religious “Thought for the Day” program for a stark anti-government message.
On the program, Assange said: “Knowledge is power … So it follows that the powerful, if they want to keep their power, will try to know as much about us as they can, and they will try to make sure that we know as little about them as is possible.”
Assange talked about the importance of protecting whistleblowers, saying that without their courage to reveal truths, governments will continue to erode civil liberties.
“Documents disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that governments dare to aspire, through their intelligence agencies, to a god-like knowledge about each and every one of us.
“Today remember that it is good to seek to empower the powerless through knowledge, and to drag the machinations of the powerful into the daylight. We must be unapologetic about that most basic of humanities, the desire to know.”
The BBC has been severely criticized for the political message of the broadcast, with some complaints describing the broadcast as “left-wing tosh.”
But this is just one of a series of public addresses Assange has made this week.
On Monday, Assange addressed a major gathering of computer experts at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany. He called on them to join forces in resisting government intrusions on the Internet and to protect freedom and privacy.
Speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange warned members that war on privacy and freedom involves everyone. He looked to this conference as a place where leaders can be found– who are adept at “playing the system” to ensure there is privacy for all.
He also referred to the words of former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden.
“But to give you an interesting quote from Hayden … ‘We need to recruit from Snowden’s generation,’ says Hayden. ‘We need to recruit from this group because they have the skills that we require. So the challenge is how to recruit this talent while also protecting ourselves from the small fraction of the population that has this romantic attachment to absolute transparency at all costs.’ And that’s us, right?”
“So what we need to do is spread that message and go into all those organizations — in fact, deal with them. I’m not saying don’t join the CIA. No, go and join the CIA. Go in there. Go into the ballpark and get the ball and bring it out—with the understanding, with the paranoia, that all those organizations will be infiltrated by this generation.”
In making these highly publicized addresses, Assange is certainly not cowering from the powers that be. But it may put him at further risk of arrest. Despite the political asylum granted by Ecuador, Assange still faces possible extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.
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