Assange: The Internet Could Create a “Totalitarian Spying Regime”

The Guardian / By Patrick Kingsley


Assange said the web could allow greater government transparency, but also gave authorities their best ever opportunity to monitor and catch dissidents.

The internet is the “greatest spying machine the world has ever seen” and is not a technology that necessarily favours the freedom of speech, the WikiLeaks co-founder, Julian Assange, has claimed in a rare public appearance.

Assange acknowledged that the web could allow greater government transparency and better co-operation between activists, but said it gave authorities their best ever opportunity to monitor and catch dissidents.

“While the internet has in some ways an ability to let us know to an unprecedented level what government is doing, and to let us co-operate with each other to hold repressive governments and repressive corporations to account, it is also the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen,” he told students at Cambridge University. Hundreds queued for hours to attend.

He continued: “It [the web] is not a technology that favours freedom of speech. It is not a technology that favours human rights. It is not a technology that favours civil life. Rather it is a technology that can be used to set up a totalitarian spying regime, the likes of which we have never seen. Or, on the other hand, taken by us, taken by activists, and taken by all those who want a different trajectory for the technological world, it can be something we all hope for.”

Assange also suggested that Facebook and Twitter played less of a role in the unrest in the Middle East than has previously been argued by social media commentators and politicians.

He said: “Yes [Twitter and Facebook] did play a part, although not nearly as large a part as al-Jazeera. But the guide produced by Egyptian revolutionaries … says on the first page, ‘Do not use Facebook and Twitter’, and says on the last page, ‘Do not use Facebook and Twitter’.

“There is a reason for that. There was actually a Facebook revolt in Cairo three or four years ago. It was very small … after it, Facebook was used to round-up all the principal participants. They were then beaten, interrogated and incarcerated.”

Assange said that cables released by WikiLeaks played a key role in both fomenting unrest in the Middle East and forcing the US government not to back former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Assange said diplomatic cables concerning US attitudes to the former Tunisian regime had given strength to revolutionary forces across the region.

“The Tunisian cables showed clearly that if it came down to it, the US, if it came down to a fight between the military on the one hand, and Ben Ali’s political regime on the other, the US would probably support the military.”

He continued: “That is something that must have also caused neighbouring countries to Tunisia some thought: that is that if they militarily intervened, they may not be on the same side as the United States.”

Assange, who is appealing against his extradition to Sweden on alleged sex charges, said the WikiLeaks releases had also forced the US to drop their tacit support of Mubarak.

“As a result of releasing cables about Suleiman [the vice-president of Egypt under Mubarak], the US and Israel’s preferred option for regime takeover in Egypt, as a result of releasing cables about Mubarak’s approval of Suleiman’s torture methods, it was not possible for Joseph Biden to [repeat his earlier claim that Mubarak was not a dictator]. It was not possible for Hillary Clinton to publicly come out and support Mubarak’s regime.”

Responding to a question about Bradley Manning, the US soldier incarcerated for allegedly leaking classified information, Assange said: “We have no idea whether he is one of our sources. All our technology is geared up to make sure we have no idea.”

He expressed sympathy for Manning. “He is in a terrible situation. And if he is not connected to us, [then] he is there as an innocent … and if he is in some manner connected to our publications, then of course we have some responsibility. That said, there is no allegation that he was arrested as the result of anything to do with us. The allegation is that he was arrested as a result of him speaking to Wired magazine in the United States.”

Assange also criticised the New York Times, which he claimed had suppressed stories about secret American military activity in Afghanistan.


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7 thoughts on “Assange: The Internet Could Create a “Totalitarian Spying Regime”

  1. About 15 years ago I had an interest in conspiracy theories about the spying world. I had various friends in politics, university and military who also had some interesting twists on theories. By 2003ish I was seriously interested and within a year I had an arsnel of internet based devices that I could call upon, and a bit of imagination about how various theories could be tested. Yes, people I spoke to called me paranoid and said I must be close to a breakdown, but then I had the digital evidence of everything. We have been living in a totalitarian spying regime for many years already. While governments spout rhetoric about spying agencies needing warrents to do this or that, well either they have a stack of pre-signed warrents or they flout the law at a whim in any and every country. There is no such thing as privacy, civil rights or humanitrian laws in practice. As spying agencies became more sophisticated with their technology I found more sophisticated ways to stealthly spy on the spys, not for any real political reason, I was just interested in what they could do, and the question ‘why?’ really bothered me. When I found all i needed to know, about how we lost our freedom and privacy I disseminated all of the information I gained, then lost interest because what we have lost we will never regain. The world I believed in will never be the same.

    • In reply to your statements about spy agencies and other law enforcement agencies having stacks of warrants already signed to use is crap.
      After 911 there were laws put into effect that give these agencies power to search without a warrant under the homeland security act if a threat is immanent and they can show that there is a threat to public safety.
      I didn’t know spy’s had to serve warrants in other countries when they were doing work for there Governments.
      If you did use these internet based devices to spy on these agencies like you said (I highly doubt you did) cause your not in jail and you are not that smart to cover your tracks then you broke a number of laws your self.
      I reply to your second statement.
      That technology has been out for 15+ years and is old new’s.
      And you were speaking to IT support you just want to think that the FBI and CIA cares what you are doing.
      They don’t.

      • Hi Slim Silver, you have made some rather sweeping statements here, including challenging my credibility.

        Firstly I am not American so I don’t come under American laws, and if I did then I’m sure I’d be in prison or murdered. Howeve, fingering the American Administration has never occurred to me, until now, thanks for planting that thought in my head. And I know they wont fuck wth me.

        Secondly I am not computer savvy, I am just curious. I always used a public computer because I couldn’t afford my own. I must have violated laws all over the Middle East and Europe and ‘Down Under’ back then, what a hoot. So book me.

        Thirdly, When I phoned IT at 0730 I spoke to somebody who told me that communications from government departments in that country should not go through a Middle Eastern country. btw I had tipped off the National Security for that country the night before. When I followed my query up later in the day they told me that my query had not been logged and nobody in the IT department was at work at 0730. National Security knows me very well in that country, I have tipped them off before on my travels when I have come across anything that would endanger the citizens of my country.

      • Slimsilver, I also failed to mention that I am always on the lookout for crimes against humanity, war crimes and so on and I would report these through the appropriate channel, not the leadership that is complicit in covering up the crimes, but to my own government or the whole world. Even if I had signed a secrecy document, worked for national security, worked for military or the government I would, and I have, made these public. Dissent is patriotic, true patriotism. So your government hangs out to dry those who perform their patriotic duties, thank god not every government is the same as yours. Viva Persia. Viva Paelistina. Viva Afghanistan. Viva Free Speech. Viva Julian Assange. Viva WikiLeaks.

        • Dear Shona
          Good for you so you are an internet hero to some middle east country good work.
          I never said i was from the US and i am not i do however live in North America close to the US border.
          I do not have to challenge your credibility to make you look like a fake you do that very well your self by the outlandish statements you make about governments spying on the world and people calling there IT tech what are they going to learn that joe blow is having problems with his system.
          Please do finger the US administration but use some good security measures and stay out of countries that have good relations with the US administration cause they will as you put it F**k with you and put your butt in jail for a long time.LOL
          So you are a war crimes investigator too wow you are a busy person and a patriot as well good for you and i would have believed it to if you would have stopped it at ((thank god not every government is the same as yours)) but you had to carry on with the whole VIVA thing and played your hand as a fraud and clown that is looking for praise like assange does.
          Keep up your hard work as a crime fighter for humanity.

  2. Plus, the internet is used in a variety of ways. For example they have voice recognition machines that can trace that phone number instantly. They can divert calls that we make to a particular number, to their own number without us knowing. So next time you phone the bank; the airline; the IT support crew at your workplace (now that was just a filthy trick, I really believed I was speaking to IT support). Just think for a moment about the information you are about to exchange.

  3. Slimsilver,
    I think there is plenty of evidence of governments spying on the world in different ways, it’s one of my favourite topics of conversation and one of my favourite hobbies. I’m not an internet hero to the world or a war crimes investigator, or a journalist. I’m just an ordinary person with a love of mystery and a passion for Truth.

    I do live in countries that have good security relationships with the USA but I don’t need any security measures because i’m not paranoid, and I don’t care. I trust myself, I keep the faith, I know my power and accept my fate.

    I will keep fingering the United States for you, and any other country that has a form of authoritarian dictatorship but I am not visible or audible, you will never see where I have been and you will never know me.

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