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Julian Assange: "Online Totalitarianism Is Near, Entire Nations Are Intercepted" 325

dryriver writes "Russia Today's correspondents have visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange has been holed up for nearly 6 months now. In the 12 minute long interview with RT, Assange has many interesting things to say about privacy, and government data interception in particular. A small excerpt: 'The people who control the interception of the Internet and, to some degree also, physically control the big data warehouses and the international fiber-optic lines. We all think of the Internet as some kind of Platonic Realm where we can throw out ideas and communications and web pages and books and they exist somewhere out there. Actually, they exist on web servers in New York or Nairobi or Beijing, and information comes to us through satellite connections or through fiber-optic cables. So whoever physically controls this controls the realm of our ideas and communications. And whoever is able to sit on those communications channels, can intercept entire nations, and that's the new game in town, as far as state spying is concerned — intercepting entire nations, not individuals. ... So what's happened over the last 10 years is the ever-decreasing cost of intercepting each individual now to the degree where it is cheaper to intercept every individual rather that it is to pick particular people to spy upon.'"
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Julian Assange: "Online Totalitarianism Is Near, Entire Nations Are Intercepted"

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  • RT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by farlukar ( 225243 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:27PM (#42163281) Homepage Journal
    RT knows all about freedom of press, hm?
  • it spies on everyone

    but Russia Today? seriously?

    there's no sincerity here

    just Russia sniffing out that they can use this issue as a political football

    Russia's track record shows that it clearly stands far less for the principles Assange talks about than the West

    but this won't stop Russia using Assange as a club against the West

  • Silly FUD Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:34PM (#42163353)
    Here is an interesting bit from the article about what Julian thinks we should actually do and what will happen if don't do it:

    "So this is where we are at now, which is we've got to create education amongst people, so there can be a market demand, so that others can be encouraged to produce easy-to-use cryptographic technology that is capable of protecting not everyone, but a significant number of people from mass state spying. And if we are not able to protect a significant number of people from mass state spying, then the basic democratic and civilian institutions that we are used to – not in the West, I am no glorifier of the West, but in all societies – are going to crumble away. They will crumble away, and they will do so all at once. And that's an extremely dangerous phenomenon."

    I like this idea a lot, and wonder how this could occur.. But I am more interested in the answer to the question of... How much is being stuck in a building for 6 months affecting Julian psychologically?
  • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:41PM (#42163411) Journal
    2 Good reasons: first, because he is a world class attention whore, which means that when he says something, it's news and it's being listened to. Second, because it is not elementary to many. I think few people out there know of the scope and capabilities of current and upcoming surveillance technology.
  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:43PM (#42163423)
    Every news agency has a bias because they are made by people and people have biases. However, Russia Today (and Al-Jezeera) shine because the biases they have are generally not shared by the mainstream US media.

    If you want to be informed, you have to read all the news services and take them all with a grain of salt.
  • Re:RT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:59PM (#42163529)
    Probably a bit more than most corporation owned newspapers out there...
  • by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:01PM (#42163543)
    You gravely overestimate the knowledge levels of the average internet user.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:07PM (#42163575)

    I agree getting media from different sources is good, but I think grouping Russia Today and Al-Jazeera together isn't entirely fair to the latter. Russia Today is imo not the most reliable news source. I haven't done a systematic study or anything, but I've noticed a lot of stuff that is not that well sourced, over-extrapolated, etc. Al-Jazeera is in a different category: they generally are quite good. Some bias here and there, sure, but not at all sloppy. And their biggest bias is on a very narrow and easy to correct for subject: anything to do with Qatar or direct Qatari interests is treated differently. But fortunately I don't go to them primarily for news on Qatar. :) On other subjects, even the Middle East (outside Qatar), they are not even that biased, certainly nowhere near as much as what their strangely negative reputation in the U.S. would lead you to believe. I wonder to what extent they get a bad rap just because it's got an Arabic name, so sounds to many Americans like it'd be heavily biased in directions they don't like.

  • by NoSleepDemon ( 1521253 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:19PM (#42163627)
    Your parents may not understand how to use that technology, but they understand its implications as they saw the world change as it became widely used. Children and teenagers growing up around this stuff though that just take it for granted? They don't have a fucking clue.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:20PM (#42163629)

    While I agree with your comment, I think the bias here is blatantly obvious -- it is a state-funded [] TV station launched in 2005.

    Russians also have been critical of RT. Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky criticized RT as "a part of the Russian industry of misinformation and manipulation".[104] Andrey Illarionov, former advisor to Vladimir Putin, has labeled the channel as “the best Russian propaganda machine targeted at the outside world.”[66]

    James Kirchick in The New Republic accused the network of "often virulent anti-Americanism, worshipful portrayal of Russian leaders."[105] Ed Lucas wrote in Al Jazeera that the core of RT was "anti-Westernism."[106] Shaun Walker wrote in The Independent that RT "has made a name for itself as a strident critic of US policy."[107] Allesandra Stanley in The New York Times wrote that RT is "like the Voice of America, only with more money and a zesty anti-American slant."[46] David Weigel writes that RT goes further than merely creating distrust of the United States government, to saying, in effect: "You can trust the Russians more than you can trust those bastards."[29]

    So let's be real about the motive. This isnt just normal "people" bias, this is state-funded propaganda. Doesn't make it wrong, and again I agree it is worth looking at, but not just with a grain of salt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:29PM (#42163697)


    A lot of laymen that I talked to about ECHELON think that I am some kind of crazy conspiracy theorist even though it is very well documented. Even in a report to the European Parliament. Source:

    And the somewhat smarter people obviously know that nothing on the internet is untraceable, though you can make it really hard, but they do not realize and/or accept that it is commonplace to intercept, datamine and record all online communications. And that it is kept till the end of days. Sadly enough datastorage is just that cheap these days.

    Now the question arises will that information harm you now, in one year, 10 years, 20 years, 50 years...

    The best response that I've heard to people saying that they have nothing to hide: Just tell them to give you all their passwords, to their Mail Account, Facebook, Dropbox, etc. If they argue that they do not trust YOU, tell them to send it in an envelope to the FBI, NSA, etc.

  • Re:use encryption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by binarstu ( 720435 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:33PM (#42163729)

    You have an excellent point, but unfortunately, even encryption provides far less protection than it used to. The original vision for the Internet was a decentralized network where individuals controlled their own information, but today's reality is that the Internet is increasingly centralized, with tremendous amounts of personal information held by a relatively small number of players. Combine this with the fact that the vast majority of people are willing to pay for services with their privacy, and you have a situation where point-to-point encryption doesn't help much, at least not as far as state-sponsored privacy invasion goes.

    For instance, Facebook is moving to require SSL for all of its users (or has already done so), but does this really do anything to allay concerns about institutionalized survellance? I would say, "no," because all of the users' personal information is still being neatly filed away in Facebook's storage facilities, same as before, and it is just as accessible to those with enough power as it ever was.

    It is interesting how in the early days, before governments knew what do with it, the Internet really was a bastion of free speech and thought. Now, it is not much of a stretch to say that it has become one of the most powerful surveillance tools ever devised.

  • Re:RT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtfa-troll ( 1340807 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:59PM (#42163915)

    RT knows all about freedom of press, hm?

    You are of course carrying out argument ad Hominem. If you can't answer the critique except by insulting the person criticising you then you have failed already. but you do require an answer:

    Whilst Russia is far down the world press freedom index [] other countries like the USA have been falling fast. It's most likely a mistake to think that wherever you come from is definitely going to stay superior without your working for it. I think Russians who have been having to fight for their freedom recently and can frankly and clearly see that they often aren't winning that fight may have plenty to tell those of us who just sit and assume that we are free.

    Lots of the freedom in the US and other liberal democracies used to be based on the idea that individuals can privately and quitely act on their beliefs and discuss them with friends without fear. Occasionally someone comes up with a new idea which convinces other people. If that new idea gets around to many people then we get a change in the whole society. In totalitarian countries some time early in that process an informer will report the idea to the government. If the government doesn't like the idea then they nip it in the bud and silently arrest all the people related to the idea in a way which causes no disruption to the society.

    Similar attacks ideas do happen in the USA; look at some of the things that happened to the occupy movements. Look at recent scandles with undercover policemen infiltrating environmental movements in the UK. If the only thing which was different between us and the totalitarian countries - the lack of right for the government to spy on everyone - goes away, then there's no reason to think that this won't end up being abused.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @07:05PM (#42163947)

    Politicians put people's lives in danger on a daily basis for political and personal gain, are you going to say the same for them?

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @07:07PM (#42163961) Journal
    Yes recall []
    They used a splitter, not at some optical landing site on the coast where you could say it was "international' traffic - the US gov went for domestic traffic in bulk. []
    What was once for Soviet interests, corrupt Europeans, Soviet influenced journalists, academics, political and peace groups is now aimed at all in the USA with all the legal options that a "battlefront of the future" offers.
  • by GloomE ( 695185 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @07:22PM (#42164061)

    It's not just the knowledge levels, it's also the care factor.
    Concerned Citizen: The government is tracking your activities on that site!
    Internet User: How dare they?!
    Webmaster: But there's kittens!
    Internet User: OMG! So cute!

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @07:24PM (#42164069)

    just Russia sniffing out that they can use this issue as a political football

    Yeah. And Total Information Awareness, those airport scanners, equipping our police with surplus military gear (including combat-ready heavy assault tanks), and reading about government agencies like the Social Security administration purchasing hollow point bullets by the ton is totally safe and nobody should worry about it. Is saying their media is biased a bit like the pot calling the kettle black? While people died by the thousand in Myanmar every day, our national media aired celebrity news as the major headlines of the week. When the UN overwhelmingly welcomed the state of Palestine, granting it nation status, our news outlets applauded Israel launching rockets and planning new settlements in the newly-recognized state... and there was very little analysis done on the situation as a whole. When even Israel's equivalent to the President came out in the international media and said (paraphrasing) "I know we're bullies, but we're trying to be benevolent bullies!" every major international news site covered it... and every domestic news site talked about, umm... Oprah using a new Surface tablet?

    Bias is everywhere, and if you want the truth, you need to look at all the sources, not just the ones close to you, or the ones politically fashionable. I read the BBC, Al Jezerra, the state-run chinese news sites, several sites in Germany, and yes, Russia Today. I also watch CNN... and let me tell you, of all of them our own media is the most lacking on international events. Our "international" sections usually consist of stories like "Why Don't People Like Us? New Study Reveals It's Because We're Bombing Them." Or put another way -- even in our international news, we're really just looking at our own reflection and asking, "What does the world think about us?" Russia Today and many others are right to point out how self-centered our media is, and by reflection, our culture. Conversely, their constant attack of "the west" (tm)(r)(c)(patent pending) is strained at best, and patently absurd on its bad days. We do get a lot of things right... it'd do them well to occasionally acknowledge that.

  • Re:RT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 02, 2012 @07:42PM (#42164187)

    There's nothing recent about the tactics: Ask anyone old enough to remember the McCarthy era, or the hippie era, or the "war on drugs", for US attempts in living memory to control freedom of speech in the name of blocking some force that threatens "America". What's recent is the ease and scale of widespread, indiscriminate monitoring.

  • by MrSteveSD ( 801820 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @08:31PM (#42164515)

    certainly nowhere near as much as what their strangely negative reputation in the U.S. would lead you to believe

    There was a lot of propaganda against Al Jazeera but it really was just nonsense. The US and Allies had grown used to their own media's kid-gloves reporting on their military adventures and were absolutely incensed that a news outlet would question their motives and/or pay too much attention to their victims. Al Jazeera has really been a breath of fresh air in the world of news media. They cover issues that are simply ignored by other outlets and have become one of my primary news sources.

  • Re:RT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @08:32PM (#42164527) Homepage

    The monitoring in the US is particularly bad given how it's been combined with reduced right to legal process, all under the banner of fighting terrorism. That's not new either though; the parallels between Guantanamo Bay and the 1942 Japanese American internment are very obvious.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @09:00PM (#42164703)

    in other words, you don't know how good you got it.

    We have the fewest number of holidays of any industrialized country on the planet. Our incarceration rate is higher than any country and is increasing year over year faster than any other as well. Life expectancy started falling about five years ago and continues to drop yearly, in contrast with most industrialized countries. If you shave off the top 5% of wage earners, our average income ranks dead last amongst the top 20 economies of the world. Our educational system is falling apart as student debt loads skyrocket, making higher education all but unobtainable for the majority, or locking them into debt they cannot possibly discharge without severe financial hardship. The leading cause of death amongst 16-25 year olds is suicide, and we are the only industrialized country that has that honor. Our top ten causes of death are mostly preventable causes due to obesity and smoking. Our civil rights track record continues to erode year over year -- whereas gay marriage isn't even a talking point in most of Europe, having been legalized long ago, it's a contentious point here in this country. Muslims are spit on by everyday people, arrested, profiled, and harassed by law enforcement, kept under surveillance by the government, and their plight ignored by the "free" media, who because of their silence has made our bill of rights a bill of privileges -- they may exist on paper, but not in real life anymore. We withdrew from the Geneva diplomatic conventions and we routinely take unilateral military action against other sovereign powers, abduct their citizens, deprive them of not just basic human freedoms but their dignity as well. We torture prisoners of war and our government, corporations, and other wealthy interests lie to our face about what's actually going on, and have been caught so many times they have no credibility internationally and only have credibility domestically because extensive media manipulation ensures few people know the truth.

    And I'm not afraid of being targetted for "speaking out against the West", because I'm behind ten proxies. Good luck, assholes. But if I signed my real name to this, I'd be on a terror watchlist by the end of the week and you and I both know it. So don't talk to me about "intellectual honesty" while you turn a blind eye to the sufferings of over a hundred million americans living paycheck to paycheck, wage slaves kept calm with second-rate internet, cheap entertainment, and a television that tells them everything is fine here and it's just the rest of the world that's going to shit. I know they'd all rise up in a moment if there was someone in particular to take this all out on, but this country has become an expert in making people rich by being only a little bit evil. There aren't any Big Bads anymore, just a lot of Sorta Bads, and that's the only reason there isn't a pitch fork in the collective ass of the rich.

    But please, tell me how great it is here. I have material comfort, perhaps, but spiritually I'm dying, as is everyone else here. We're thirsting for freedom, yearning for choices in a country that has fewer and fewer to offer each generation. Tell me it's a lie. Go on. Say it, if you've got the guts to keep defending the very people shoving your face in the mud and saying "We're all happy here! Happy, happy, happy!"

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @10:34PM (#42165197) Journal

    Why are we giving a world class attention whore attention for something that's elementary?

    Because it's not "elementary" enough. Not nearly.

    No matter what you think of Assange, he's not an idiot, and he's absolutely correct in this case.

    Except...if you see the danger as a phenomenon of nations and governments, you miss the fact that the alpha and omega of the control of information is corporate. It does no good to be vigilant against government encroachments and not notice the engorged throbbing anal probe that we willingly accept from private industry. Because one thing you can say about every government, everywhere, regardless of political system: they're all corporate takeover targets. And your life, your information, your labor, your wealth - your very mind - are nothing more than inventory. For the ownership class, it's eat or be eaten, and we are the consumables.

  • Re:use encryption (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:50AM (#42166079) Homepage Journal

    But we have a lot of historical information to make educated guesses.

    The best estimates I know of put the NSA about five years (down from ten) ahead of the public cryptology experts (universities, etc.). Now check back five years, to 2007. What we know today, the NSA probably knew back then. A few interesting attacks (BEAST, CRIME) are on the list, but something world-shattering like a break for AES, are not.

    While the various government TLAs should not be underestimated, they aren't mythical unicorns, either.

  • Re:RT (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:35AM (#42166503) Journal

    RT is an official propaganda vessel of the Russian government. However, quite often, the most efficient propaganda is inconvenient truth. The trick is to pay attention to propaganda from all sides, that way you get to see the entire heap of dirty laundry, no matter where it comes from.

    In this particular case, regardless of what your feelings about RT are, it provided a useful service by letting you hear a guy who doesn't have many other channels to communicate his message at the moment, and whose message might actually be important. So what's the problem?

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama