Is Edward Snowden a Chinese agent? – Maura Moynihan

Maura Moynihan“The bigger story then is the scope of Chinese espionage in the US. Veteran China analyst Gordon Chang observes: ‘It seems clear that Snowden, if he did not actually work for the Chinese, at least did their bidding. The Chinese did their best to make sure that American officials did not get the opportunity to interrogate Snowden. The last thing they wanted was for the US to have the opportunity to learn the extent of China’s penetration of the NSA and the FBI in Hawaii.'” – Maura Moynihan

Edward Snowden: Patriot or traitor?The Edward Snowden affair continues to reverberate since June 9, 2012, when the 30-year-old high school dropout exposed US cyber surveillance in an interview with The Guardian from Hong Kong.

Snowden has been stuck in Moscow for many weeks, and the media has dropped the thread of his links to China, since Snowden claimed that if he were a Chinese spy he’d “be petting phoenixes in Beijing.” However, there are many elements of this story that point to a Beijing connection.

Snowden chose Hong Kong as his first port of refuge, citing its “rule of law”, a puzzling contention since the former British colony has for 16 years been controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Towards the end of Snowden’s videotaped interview with The Guardian, he praised the Chinese government, and the following day he released detailed information about US operations in Asia to the South China Morning Post. Snowden’s revelations succeeded in shifting the debate about cyber espionage onto the US, allowing China to play the victim and putting the Obama administration on the defensive. No wonder that Chinese government websites hail Snowden as a hero.

Many other disturbing questions have been raised, such as the dangers of privatising intelligence, which allowed a character like Snowden to get a security clearance and cart off top-secret information to Hong Kong in the first place. One theory is that Snowden was used as a “drop box” for agents higher up in the National Security Agency who fed him information — Snowden only worked at the security firm Booz Allen Hamilton for three months. What’s missing from media coverage in the West is that whatever the NSA is doing, the Chinese Communist Party does it bigger and better. US citizens can talk openly about NSA surveillance; in China, journalists and human rights activists can get thrown into jail for typing the words “Dalai Lama” or “Tiananmen Square Massacre” on a computer.

Chinese Communist Party Leaders 2012The bigger story then is the scope of Chinese espionage in the US. Veteran China analyst Gordon Chang observes: “It seems clear that Snowden, if he did not actually work for the Chinese, at least did their bidding. The Chinese did their best to make sure that American officials did not get the opportunity to interrogate Snowden. The last thing they wanted was for the US to have the opportunity to learn the extent of China’s penetration of the NSA and the FBI in Hawaii.”

Chinese hackersThe Chinese Communist Party has aggressively recruited US informants for decades, and has planted agents at every level of the US government and institutions of finance, technology and higher education. A cursory Internet search of Chinese espionage in the US yields enough material for the next James Bond franchise. The Chinese government deploys the “Thousand Grains of Sand Policy”, collecting human and cyber intelligence in every conceivable manner by encouraging every Chinese citizen who travels abroad in any capacity, from tourists to students, to gather information for the Motherland. A former senate aide in Washington told me, “Basically that’s how China got all of its high-tech weapons and industrial programs. And now they’ve got cyber spies hacking into our banks and intelligence and we don’t know how this is going to end.”

So why does the US Department of State give preferential treatment to Communist China over democratic India? In 2011, approximately 700,000 US visa applications were processed by US consular officials in India. China gets a lot more than that. On January 19, 2012, US ambassador to China, Gary Locke, said, “President Obama signed an executive order to significantly increase legitimate travel and tourism to the US, with the goal of increasing visa-processing capacity in China by up to 40 per cent in 2012. In 2011, we processed more than 1 million visa applications in China, an increase of 34 per cent over the previous year, and already in the first few months of fiscal year 2012, we have processed 48 per cent more visas in China compared to the same period in 2011.”

Has the US state department decided to selectively ignore the questionnaire that every visitor to the US must fill out upon arrival, which includes the Cold War relic: “Have you ever been or are you now affiliated with the Communist Party?” Clearly, this has been waived for the innumerable Chinese communist officials who are granted wide access to everything American.

Shahrukh KhanShah Rukh Khan, India’s beloved movie star, has been detained and interrogated at US airports, not once but twice, most recently in 2010 when he flew to the US on a private plane with the Ambanis, on his way to Yale to receive the prestigious Chubb Fellowship. You don’t read about Indians stealing US military or industrial secrets. You don’t read about Indian cyber thieves penetrating US companies and universities. But China still gets more visas and more access.

The majority of top-level Chinese spies who have been prosecuted by the US’ department of justice entered the US on student or work visas, but Chinese communist officials are still granted all manner of access, with smiles. Chinese mainland money has bought both US real estate and opinion; Xinhua has a huge media tower in Times Square, and it recently opened a multi-million dollar complex in Washington, DC. Chinese money is visible in every think tank in Washington, which are packed with books and programs proclaiming that the 21st century belongs to China, not America.

We still don’t know who arranged for Edward Snowden to go to Hong Kong. But we do know that if your name is Khan, and you’re from India, you are treated with suspicion, even if you are the most famous person on the planet with a huge fan base in the US. One has to ask then, what is going on inside the state department? How can they not recognise Shah Rukh Khan? And how many Edward Snowdens are at work, alongside how many Chinese agents? – The Asian Age, 28 July 2013

» Maura Moynihan is an author and Tibet expert who has worked with Tibetan refugees in India for many years.

The cycle of rape and rage in India – Patralekha Chatterjee

Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar

Patralekha Chatterjee“If alcohol and pornography in unison can drive a man to a heinous crime like raping a child and then torture her, surely both, and not just one, need to be banned. Extending the same logic, why spare the mobile phone, the gadget of choice for those addicted to pornography? Finally, there is the hot potato of “mindset change”. It is easy to ban pornography. How do we ban patriarchy?” — Patralekha Chatterjee

India is in rape crisis!It is a familiar cycle. A brutal rape is reported. Rage follows. There are protests, dharnas and demands for action. This typically triggers template responses of condemnation and deep regret from politicians and police commissioners. The sound and fury continues for a while.

Then it is back to the routine till the next act of savagery knocks us. And so, it has been over the past week. In Delhi, gulmohar trees are in fiery red bloom. But red is more the colour of rage in the city today as residents once again try to come to terms with another instance of savagery. This time it is a five-year-old girl who was abducted, denied food and water for days, raped, tortured and nearly killed by a male neighbour, possibly with the help of an accomplice.

Delhi’s pain is sucking all the media attention, though it is not the only place in the country where children are being brutalised. There is a five-year-old rape victim battling for her life in a hospital in Nagpur. Another eight-year-old girl is in a Coimbatore hospital, recovering from brutal rape. Barely a day passes without an incident of a child’s rape or abuse being reported.

There is an uncomfortable message here. Last December, the nation exploded in rage following the horrific gangrape of a young woman in a moving bus in the heart of Delhi, and her eventual death. But not everyone was moved. Our messages are not reaching those who ought to be affected. Rapes continue against the backdrop of an overall increase in crimes against children in the country.

In 2011, 33,098 cases of crimes against children were reported in India as compared to 26,694 cases during 2010 — an increase of 24.0 per cent, according to the latest available figures from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Child rape is increasing at a faster rate — 7,112 cases of child rape were reported in the country during 2011 compared to 5,484 in 2010, marking a rise of nearly 30 per cent. Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of rape cases (1,262), followed by Uttar Pradesh (1,088) and Maharashtra (818). These three states together accounted for 44.5 per cent of the total child rape cases reported in the country.

How do we break this cycle of rape and rage? Evidently, we need police reforms and speedier justice. There is also a demand to ban pornography sites on the Internet. It is argued that the men who raped and tortured little children in the recent cases that have come to light did so under the influence of alcohol and pornography accessed through the mobile phone. Pornography does not need promotion but personally I am not convinced about the effectiveness of this strategy for several reasons. First bans never work.

Besides, if alcohol and pornography in unison can drive a man to a heinous crime like raping a child and then torture her, surely both, and not just one, need to be banned. Extending the same logic, why spare the mobile phone, the gadget of choice for those addicted to pornography? Finally, there is the hot potato of “mindset change”. It is easy to ban pornography. How do we ban patriarchy?

To change the situation on the ground, we need more than just protests and placards. More activists and action are needed where the crimes are happening — in the neighbourhoods and mohallas, in the lanes and bylanes, where many of the victims and the accused live cheek-by-jowl.

But how much awareness has seeped through here? How many people in our slums and resettlement colonies are aware of the new Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013? How many, even in the middle class, know that it has a provision (Section 166A) to sentence for two years police officers refusing to file a complaint of rape? In the case of the five-year-old rape survivor in Delhi, there are allegations that the police was unwilling to register a complaint of rape, and attempted to dissuade the parents from going to the media with offers of money, in the guise of helping with expenses.

As the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and others have pointed out, it is mandatory for police stations across the country to compulsorily register missing complaints of any minor, and appoint a special police officer to handle these complaints.

These special police officers are meant to be stationed at every police station in plain clothes. Most people in this country would not know what to do, or where to go, if the police does not heed to their complaints, and have to be made aware of their rights.

In the latest Delhi child rape case, had the police taken the first necessary steps and begun by searching the building where the child was last seen, it may have prevented the horrific savagery. But the parents, labourers both, did not have access to a support system which could force the local cops to do their job.

This points to the huge gap in community-level awareness and infrastructure, and it is not just about what needs to happen in the thana. There is an urgent need for preventive steps. Where will a working mother or a working father who does not have a support system at home park their child when they go out to work?

The vast majority in this country continue to be part of the informal sector which does not provide any support facilities like crèches and day care centres to working parents. Even in a city like Delhi, there is a woeful shortage of such institutions.

An organisation like Mobile Creches, for example, is doing exemplary work for migrant workers at construction sites and at resettlement colonies. But it reaches less than 10,000 children in Delhi. If this is the situation in the capital, imagine the plight of cash-strapped working families elsewhere?

The Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme For the Children of Working Mothers, sponsored by the Central government, reaches 5.83 lakh children in the entire country. Without more crèches and day care centres, children of poor working parents will continue to be at risk of abuse and rape. – Deccan Chronicle, 25 April 2013

» Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies. She can be reached at patralekha.chatterjee@ gmail.com

Delhi anti-rape protester offering money to the police (as the police had offered money to the rape victim's parents to be quiet).

Ravi Shanker KapoorPorn is not the culprit – Ravi S. Kapoor

“Apart from blaming the victim, the argument that women get raped or molested because they wear revealing outfits also tries to absolve the villain of his guilt. As if he were an automaton responding to external stimuli and lacking any sense of responsibility. Interestingly, this line of reasoning is used mostly in cases related to sexual assault and other violent crime against women. In other walks of life, nobody takes the absence of responsibility as a given.” — Ravi Shanker Kapoor

X RatedIt’s always easy to divert attention from the most pressing issue — an issue that demands serious introspection and seismic changes in the way our world is structured. So it’s natural that in response to the outrage over the gangrape of a five-year-old girl, a lawyer has filed a public interest litigation seeking to criminalise pornography.

“Absence of Internet laws encourages watching porn videos since it is not an offence. This has led to a situation where more than 20 crore porn videos/porn clippings are available in the Indian market, which have been downloaded from the Internet,” petitioner Kamlesh Vaswani, an Indore-based lawyer, said through his counsel. Mr Vaswani told a newspaper, “I believe that watching porn corrupts people, and many of the crimes that happen to women, girls and children, such as sex-trafficking, are mostly related to pornography.”

This is a sweeping statement, based on the assumption that the cause-and-effect relationship between pornography and rape is an established and well-acknowledged fact. The truth, though, is that there is no such relationship. In Kuwait, for instance, the rate of rapes per lakh population during 2004-09 was 4.5, 4.8, 5.3, 5.6, 4.7 and 4.5, respectively. The corresponding figures for Canada were 1.8, 1.8, 1.7, 1.6, 1.5 and 1.4 (UN Sexual Violence against Children and Rape Statistics). This was despite the fact that pornography is legal in Canada and illegal in Kuwait. It is intriguing to note that in the US rape statistics during this period were 32.3, 31.8, 31.5, 30.6, 29.8 and 29. Evidently, there is no correlation between pornography and rape.

Further, the absence of causation between pornography and rape becomes obvious from the fact that every day millions of people in India read erotic literature, watch X-rated movies, but millions of rapes do not take place every day.

But when a prudish demand is made against the backdrop of public outrage, media outcry and fervent protests, causality becomes a casualty — reason loses its sanctity in public discourse, and sanctimony scales new peaks. Debate loses track. It has happened before.

In the aftermath of the horrible December 16 gangrape in the capital, most opinion-makers meandered into the esoteric realms of sociology, anthropology etc. Those on the Left bemoaned the depredations of “patriarchy”, while the tradition-loving were aghast at short skirts worn by girls and the lack of sanskars in general. Meanwhile, the elephant in the room was ignored or downplayed — the impudence of criminals.

Many claimed that when women wear skimpy, sexy dresses and step out of home after dark, men get excited and molest or rape them. Ergo, women wearing short skirts are guilty. Few pointed out that the same men behave perfectly well when in malls and five-star hotels. They know that any indiscretion would have serious consequences as there would be security personnel around. The same men, when they come out of the mall, get excited by skimpy outfits of women because they can afford to, because of the poor law and order situation.

The cause of bad criminal behaviour is never the attire of women, the cause is the absence of fear of punishment.

Quite apart from blaming the victim, the argument that women get raped or molested because they wear revealing outfits also tries to absolve the villain of his guilt. As if he were an automaton responding to external stimuli and lacking any sense of responsibility. Interestingly, this line of reasoning is used mostly in cases related to sexual assault and other violent crime against women. In other walks of life, nobody takes the absence of responsibility as a given. For instance, if a man defaults in payment of EMIs because of a reckless and improvident lifestyle, nobody defends him by saying that the chap must have fallen prey to the charms of attractive goods in showrooms and therefore should not be bothered by banks.

By concentrating on porn and its effects on society, commentators and experts may end up diluting, if not entirely extinguishing, the responsibility of the unconscionable rapists who brutalised the five-year-old girl in Delhi. Excessive focus on the demand of a squeamish lawyer will divert the nation’s attention from prosaic matters like police, administrative and judicial reforms. Real issues like police strength (130 per lakh population, against the UN norm or 222), inadequacies of forensic labs, deficient investigation and ineffective judicial system will get less notice.

Such are the perils of sanctimoniousness which, if allowed to go berserk, will completely play havoc with meaningful debate. — The Asian Age, 26 April 2013

» Ravi Shanker Kapoor is a journalist and author and has spent over 20 years in the media. While about half of this time was with The Financial Express, he has also worked for a variety of publications. He has also written three books. The first, More Equal Than Others: A Study of the Indian Left, focused on the disproportionate influence of communists in public discourse. The second, Failing the Promise: Irrelevance of the Vajpayee Government, was about the BJP-led regime’s inability to provide a viable Right wing alternative. The third book, How India’s Intellectuals Spread Lies, exposed leading luminaries and intellectuals like Jawaharlal Nehru, Kuldip Nayar, Khushwant Singh, Mani Shankar Aiyar, and Arundhati Roy as lazy thinkers who just parrot the lies of communists.

Anti-Rape India Gate Protest 2013

See also

  1. Rape: A challenge facing Indian society – Gautam Sen
  2. Is India a nation of rapists? – S. Gurumurthy
  3. Rape: Caning is the better deterrent – Lakshmi Narayan
  4. Neeraj Kumar IPS: The Commissioner of Commissions – Gen. V.K. Singh & Fifteen Others
  5. The Indian Policeman: Caught between a rock and a hard place – Ravi Shankar Ettath
  6. “Jyoti Singh Pandey will become a standard bearer for women everywhere,” says father Badri Singh Pandey

Section 66A of the IT Act has to go – Ravi V.S. Prasad

Shaheen Dabha's FB post

Ravi V.S. Prasad“In view of the various instances in which Section 66A has been misused by the police to harass citizens who were exercising their right to free speech, there is a strong case for the judiciary striking down Section 66A. The instances of Ms Banerjee jailing a professor for forwarding a cartoon, the arrest of two women for posting their opinion about Bal Thackeray’s funeral disrupting public life, and the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, are all instances which have outraged the nation and indicated to the world that India is not a democracy which values freedom of expression.” – Ravi V.S. Prasad

Freedom of ExpressionThe arrest of two women in Mumbai for posting their views on their Facebook profiles regarding Bal Thackeray’s funeral has drawn attention to the draconian provisions of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Numerous eminent lawyers are of the opinion that this section is in violation of several provisions of the Constitution, especially the right to freedom of speech and expression, and should either be amended suitably by the government or struck down by the judiciary as unconstitutional.

On November 20, the Madurai bench of the Madras high court issued notices to the Central government on a public interest litigation filed by the People’s Union For Human Rights seeking direction to repeal Section 66A on the grounds that it violates freedom of speech guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Further, an officer of the Indian Police Service filed a writ petition in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad high court praying for Section 66A to be declared as ultra vires of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression. This will be heard tomorrow (November 23).

Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which was inserted vide the Information Technology Amendment Act of December 2008, states:
“Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device:

(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or (b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device; or (c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”

Terms such as “causing annoyance”, “causing inconvenience”, “causing obstruction”, “causing ill will” etc are vague and ambiguous, and can be interpreted in multiple ways by different people.

Markandey KatjuMost insidious is sub-section (c). While sub-section (b) uses the qualifier “persistently”, the phrasing of sub-section (c) implies that the sending of even one single message or piece of information, which may be construed as being sent with the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience, shall be punishable with a jail term. An April Fool joke among friends or a quarrel among family members could be interpreted as causing annoyance or inconvenience, and punishable by a jail term if sent over the electronic medium, whereas these would hardly be punishable in the offline, physical world.

Section 66A has been used by state governments and the police to jail their opponents several times in the last few months. In addition to the arrest of the two Mumbai women, Section 66A was used by the Puducherry police to arrest a man who posted tweets about the son of finance minister P. Chidambaram amassing more wealth than Robert Vadra, and by the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal for arresting a professor who forwarded cartoons about her.

It appears that the intention of the legislature in drafting Section 66A was to prevent cyber stalking and cyber harassment of the kind that thousands of women face everyday through anonymous emails and SMSes. Indeed, two people were arrested under this section for posting obscene comments about the singer Chinmayi Sripada on Twitter.

But there is ambiguity about whether posting on a website or on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is governed by Section 66A. This is because the first sentence of Section 66A begins with “Any person who sends…”, and the term “publish” does not appear anywhere in this section. In contrast, the phrase “publishing or transmitting” is used in several other sections of the Information Technology Act.

Since Section 66A does not use the term “publishes” but only the term “sends”, it appears that the intention of the legislature in using the term “sends” instead of “publishing or transmitting” was to cover harassing email messages between a single sender and a single recipient, rather than publishing on a website or on social networking platforms. Further, since sub-section (c) of Section 66A uses the phrase “…or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages…” it appears that the legislature had a single sender and a single recipient in mind.

Kapil SibalIndeed, during his TV appearance on Monday, information technology minister Kapil Sibal insisted that the entire Section 66A applied only when there was an intent on the part of the sender to deceive or mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages. That may have been the intention of the legislature, but Section 66A uses the word “or” before this phrase. The use of “or” between phrases makes the various clauses stand alone and independent. Thus, as phrased, it appears that Section 66A can be used to punish a single email message which causes annoyance or inconvenience, even when there is no intention to deceive or mislead the recipient about its origin.

There are other inconsistencies as well. The offence, for instance, “of criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication” is punishable under the Indian Penal Code by a jail term of two years, whereas if the same message is sent by electronic means, the punishment may extend up to three years.

With regard to the use of Section 66A by politically powerful persons to harass their opponents, courts in several countries have held that governments and political parties cannot sue for defamation. In the Lingens case in 1986, the European Court of Human Rights held that “…The limits of acceptable criticism are wider as regards a politician than as regards a private individual…When choosing his career, a politician knowingly allows himself as open to close scrutiny, and must therefore tolerate more…” In Goldsmith versus Bhoyrul in 1997, the Queen’s Bench Division in the United Kingdom ruled that governments and political parties could not sue for defamation.

In view of the various instances in which Section 66A has been misused by the police to harass citizens who were exercising their right to free speech, there is a strong case for the judiciary striking down Section 66A. The instances of Ms Banerjee jailing a professor for forwarding a cartoon, the arrest of two women for posting their opinion about Bal Thackeray’s funeral disrupting public life, and the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, are all instances which have outraged the nation and indicated to the world that India is not a democracy which values freedom of expression. – Asian Age, 22 November 2012

» Ravi V.S. Prasad heads a group on C4ISRT (Command, Control, Communications and Computers; Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting) in South Asia.

Shaheen Dhaba and friend Renu

Hindu Janajagruti Samiti website blocked by government – HJS

HJS website

HJS planning legal action against Government for ban on website

On the HJS website and its Facebook page, true information about Assam and Mumbai riots was published based on news published in different newspapers. Proofs were presented on the website so as to assist Police and Government on how rioting Muslims were indulging in false propaganda and creating unrest in the country; even then, it is possible that the Congress Government could have imposed ban on the website for the politics of votes. It is clear that the website of HJS has been closed for criticizing corruption and double standards used by the Govt. under the name of secularism; but the Congress Govt. should remember that the ban imposed on HJS website is not a blot on its name; rather it is a credit to HJS for undertaking patriotic activities which force the Government to take cognisance of its wrongdoing. Registering protest against this ban, HJS is planning to take legal action and stage agitations.

  • Visit HJS Facebook page. Click here.

  • Visit HJS Blogspot page. Click here.

See also

Assange Impact: Internet censorship – Sandhya Jain

Sandhya Jain“There can be little doubt that whistle-blower par excellence, Julian Assange, and his Wikileaks revelations triggered America’s determination to have totalitarian control over the Internet. In Australia, Assange’s native country with which Washington recently deepened strategic ties, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced … that she wanted to give law enforcement agencies the power to bug phones and intercept emails … the same day she … announced a series of agreements on data sharing with US secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.” – Sandhya Jain

Big BrotherIndia’s proposal that the United Nations appoint a 50-member watchdog body to regulate the internet has elicited some sharply divergent opinions. One side maintains that the proposed Committee for Internet Related Polices (CIRP), which would oversee all Internet standards bodies and rule on all Internet-related disputes, is a draconian measure that puts India in the same bracket as regimes that restrict or oppose Internet freedom.

Critics, however, say this view is being sponsored by America and countries at the receiving end of Wikileaks’ exposés via the Internet. Within India, this view is being supported by those sections of the mainstream print and electronic media that have conformed so much to corporate or political pressures that the absence of real news coverage has had to be made up with an overdose of ‘expert’ opinions. Usually the same panel of experts pontificate on every subject under the sun, day after day. Exasperated readers/viewers vent ire and sarcasm on Facebook and Twitter.

The critics charge that the mainstream media has been effectively challenged by the social media on issues it has ignored, underplayed, or overplayed. One powerful example is the resignation of a high-profile politician from the chairmanship of a parliamentary standing committee after the ‘internet rangers’ went after him for an alleged misdemeanour. On another occasion, the media was subjected to ‘virtual bashing’ for its criticism of the SIT report on the Gujarat riots.

A more mature view states that India’s proposal, first articulated at the General Assembly in 2011, will democratize control of the Internet by releasing it from unilateral American control. Currently, the critical root zone server and Internet names and addresses system is managed by a body under contract with the US Department of Commerce, and functions completely under American laws. This single point control has become a matter of concern for many nations, especially in the wake of American plans for an Internet kill switch legislation, which will have a worldwide impact. Hence India favours a body with equal representation of all nations as a safeguard against monopoly power.

Julian AssangeThere can be little doubt that whistle-blower par excellence, Julian Assange, and his Wikileaks revelations triggered America’s determination to have totalitarian control over the Internet. In Australia, Assange’s native country with which Washington recently deepened strategic ties, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced on 4 May 2012 that she wanted to give law enforcement agencies the power to bug phones and intercept emails for up to six months; the same day she and junior minister Jason Clare announced a series of agreements on data sharing with US secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.

Unless resisted, Australians will soon have to put up with such privacy intrusions and erosion of liberties. Ms Roxon also wants to give government the power to impose a heavy hand on telecommunications providers. Under such laws, warns Greg Barns, a barrister and National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, it would be ridiculously easy for the authorities to interrogate every device used by Julian Assange (mobile phone, laptop, iPad), and capture any leaks which the government did not want revealed. There would be no court scrutiny for six months.

Roxon & NapolitanoMore unnerving is the fact that the Attorney General wants telecommunications companies to keep data for two years, so that if the law enforcement agencies want, they can trawl through every email, text message and phone number of a person who catches their eye for any reason whatever. Eyebrows have been raised over a joint statement by Ms Roxon and Ms Napolitano on countering transnational crime, terrorism and violent extremism “which commits Australia and the US to share law-enforcement data to combat crime and expand information sharing to counter violent extremism”. Citizens question if the Australian government should give Washington data on its own citizens without putting judicial safeguards in place. They wonder if “violent extremism” covers the activities of environmental groups and people’s movements like Occupy Wall Street.

Australia has also committed to “working more closely with the US on information and intelligence sharing, in particular, targeting and risk assessments to combat transnational organised crime, including terrorism”. Greg Barns points out that the Australian Prime Minister believes that Wikileaks is covered by the term “transnational organised crime”.

Wikileaks LogoIn an interview to New International in April 2012, Assange expressed concern over the burgeoning power and expansion of national intelligence agencies which are now monitoring almost every border and every internet traffic flow. Governments around the world are buying equipment worth $10 million annually in order to record every single telephone call, email and SMS going in and out of a country.

This is not random scrutiny, but a permanent record. In this way, whenever a government wants to check someone out, it has a complete archive of his/her life; the intercepts will show who the subject’s friends are, their communications and so on. It’s the totalitarian surveillance of George Orwell’s 1984. In fact, governments can do bulk surveillance from anywhere. Försvarets Radioanstalt, Sweden’s spy agency, intercepts 80 per cent of Russian internet traffic and sells it to America.

For individuals and small groups, hope comes from groups known as crypto-anarchists, who are trying to develop programmes to encrypt communications and make them anonymous. Meanwhile, one way for the individual or group to resist the totalitarian state – whether a democracy or a dictatorship – is by promptly disseminating information received and sharing insights. Such a worldwide bush telegraph will erode the ability of governments to manufacture consent among the people by controlling the mainstream media, as the Internet will not allow free opinions to be muffled. In this way, the spread of knowledge will produce its own impact.

Ironically, though India favours multilateral control of the Internet, all is not honky-dory here. Communications Minister Kapil Sibal tried to introduce some controls after material defamatory to the Congress president was pasted on Facebook. When service providers told him that pre-censorship was impossible, he suggested they “self-regulate”. In fact, India has frequently made internet companies remove content or block a webpage, often without good reason. Facebook removes content desired by the government, without informing users. Google often removes content at government demand, but recently refused to remove a blog and YouTube videos critical of some chief ministers and senior officials of different states. Clearly, the urge to curb political dissent is universal. – Vijayvaani, New Delhi, 22 May 2012

» The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com

“I was the fall guy,” says Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

Jamie Kelsey-FryThe Wikileaks founder talks to Jamie Kelsey-Fry about state surveillance, media scrutiny and the Cablegate affair.

Is the digital activist world robust enough to survive legislation attacks by the world’s superpowers?

The legislative attacks are not the big problem, either for the Internet or for the communications revolution – which has given us such ability to understand the world by learning through the experiences of other people. Rather, the problem is the huge expansion by state intelligence agencies, which are now monitoring nearly every border and nearly every Internet traffic flow.

For example, companies around the world are selling equipment to states for $10 million per year, to record every single telephone call, email and SMS going in and out of a country. Billions of hours of telephone calls – and not to just look at them and then perhaps discard them, but to record that information permanently.

Julian AssangeAnd that’s part of the marketing literature to state intelligence organisations: there’s no longer a need to select who you intercept – you intercept everyone and you permanently record the whole thing, and then if sometime in the future you become interested in someone, you have the whole archive of all their communications and you understand who they are and who their friends are. You don’t even need intelligence agents to do this – there are algorithms that fan out and look at the network of people and how they’re connected together. It’s a kind of coming totalitarian surveillance state.

There is very little that any individual can do to protect themselves from bulk surveillance now

For example, the FRA [Försvarets Radioanstalt], which is the big spy agency in Sweden, intercepts 80 per cent of Russian Internet traffic and they sell it on to the national security agency in the US. And every major interchange point for telecommunications data has a similar set-up. To a degree it’s not new; for example, all microwave telephone traffic between England and Ireland was intercepted during the time of the Troubles with the IRA. Eventually, microwaves stopped being used, because undersea cables were better, and so a different sort of surveillance technology has probably been deployed. We don’t have the evidence for that yet, but we have evidence in many other domains of this bulk interception occurring.

Försvarets RadioanstaltWhat can we do about it?

The answer is: very little. There is actually very little that any individual can do to protect themselves from bulk surveillance now. We take the inner core of our personal life and we put it on the Internet – in our ‘real time’ chats with each other, in our emails with each other, in Facebook profiles – we pull in our entire friendship network and family and business networks and we make all that information available to be intercepted by those who have control either of those corporations or of the border points through which communications traffic flows.

There are certain cryptographic technologies that one can use to try to get some anonymity or privacy, but they’re pretty complex and unless you’re a technical person you can basically give up hope.

The only people who really have the motivation to install anonymisation software like Tor are either people who are working for intelligence agencies themselves, or those working for organisations like Wikileaks. Everyone else should be doing it, but the burden – the logistical burden, the time burden – of doing it is so high it can’t be done.

So, are we all doomed? No. On the one hand, we have this extraordinary development in surveillance technology of the last 10 years, and the decreasing cost of deployment. There are some groups, crypto-anarchists, developing programmes to encrypt communications and to make communications anonymous. Wikileaks is part of that community of people that have tried to protect individuals and small groups from state surveillance – not just by the US but in many countries.

WikileaksWikileaks is a first in terms of digital technology undermining state control. How else might digital innovation take back power from the few and return it to the many?

It’s all about the crypto-anarchist project. I wouldn’t describe myself as an anarchist, but we can liberate the individual against the coercive power of the state using cryptography, using mathematics. And there is education – and I don’t mean formal education, I mean all of us educating one another. We are denying the manufacturing of consent by routing around the mainstream media. When one of us observes something somewhere in the world, or one of us has an insight, we can communicate that to people internationally. And that is unprecedented. Not since the Gutenberg printing press has there been such a force for education. And when we understand the world that we have to deal with, we are able to deal with the world – the world of concrete, physical reality, on which political systems sit. So I see this as the great leap forward for freedom. Even though most communication is surveilled, it is happening very quickly, in many cases so quickly that even though states can see our online communications, they can’t necessarily stop it. By the time that they see that some spread of knowledge has produced a particular action, a demonstration, a belief in the legitimacy or the illegitimacy of certain groups or organisations, it is too late to actually stop the action that occurs out of that understanding.

If we look at where most revolutions take place, they take place in squares, and when people come together into a square they are being their own media, they demonstrate to each other with their own eyes that they have the numbers and that other people agree with them, that they’re in the majority. And finally we have an ability to do this outside the square. We can see a consensus position based upon facts about the world, as a result of individuals and groups communicating with each other on the Internet.

Every little NGO, every little radical group and every individual is able to project forth their view of the world, their understanding of the world – and their political position in relation to other groups. If we go back just 20 years, that was very hard for people to do.

Internet LogoYoung people now live in an age where they can swap ideas at high speed. What effects do you see this having?

The chance to debate is now opened to everyone who can communicate on the Internet. Which is not everyone, but it’s a sizeable chunk of people. More importantly, the people now actually have some power. People who have absolutely no power cannot do anything politically, they cannot have an effect.

We can look at the House of Commons, or Congress, and look at the debates that occur there, and say: ‘That’s the seat for political debate.’ But now, the seat for political debate is also on the Internet.

When one of us observes something somewhere in the world, we can communicate that to people internationally. And that is unprecedented

I recall seeing this phenomenon three or four years ago when I saw a completely technical discussion on the Internet suddenly turn to a political matter. A taboo was broken at that point: the taboo that technical discussions couldn’t step over into the political and that the proper place for political discussions wasn’t on the Internet, but in the mainstream press. Only once something appeared in the mainstream press did it truly have political importance.

But those ground rules were broken and those technical individuals started to lose their political apathy. I believe that people are apathetic because they are powerless, not powerless because they are apathetic. So this new way of communicating was actually giving them power, and they then started to consider political matters.

They’re being educated, as a result of the Internet, about how the world really works in terms of economic flows and political flows and hypocrisy, and they are also being given a power to express their opinions to a potentially very large audience, billions of people.

People outside the media and political sectors never used to have this, but now we all have it, and that’s such an empowering understanding.

So people are losing their political apathy, not just because they’re being educated and radicalised by examples like Wikileaks’ battle with the Pentagon or the Arab Spring, but because they actually have a power that they didn’t have before. And they’re starting to understand that.

Lady JusticeDoes Wikileaks aim for some kind of global balance of the countries whose secrets they release? Or is there a policy of focusing on some countries and states in particular?

Wikileaks is entirely source-driven – sources come to us with their material, and we publish. And we promise to publish everything that is given to us, provided it meets our editorial criteria: that the material is of diplomatic, political, ethical or historic significance, has not been published before, and there is some kind of force preventing its publication: a physical or legal threat, or it has been censored recently – it might have been published but then it was unpublished.

Provided it meets these criteria, we will publish it for sure, no matter what country it comes from. When we are in a situation where we have a lot of submissions and we have limited capacity, which we do, then of course we must make a judgment decision about what needs to be published first. That judgement decision is based on what will have the most impact towards justice.

Justice is the basic sense of fairness; human beings have these instincts. It varies a little bit from culture to culture, but we all basically have the same understanding that when someone is physically brutalised and they haven’t done anything, that’s unfair. We all have this instinctual feeling for justice. Wikileaks is an organisation to bring about justice, and the particular method that we have been using is working well –looking for information that has been concealed from the public.

I believe that people are apathetic because they are powerless, not powerless because they are apathetic

Now of course, we’re not fools; sometimes there are perfectly good reasons for withholding information from the public. For example, with an investigation into the Mafia, it’s obvious what the legitimacy is in the police themselves engaging in protective measures to keep information not just from the public, but from the Mafia. Similarly, Wikileaks is engaged in all sorts of protective measures to keep the identities of our sources secret. Half the organisation work is put into protection of our sources and our ability to publish in the face of threats.

But this is not the same thing as saying that simply because sometimes there are legitimate reasons for concealing information, everyone in the world is obligated to do that. For example, take our battle with the [US] State Department. In some instances, the State Department has a role or an obligation to keep private the information it has collected. Our role, as a vanguard publisher pushing for freedom of speech and to educate people and to reveal injustices, is to get hold of information like that and to publish it.

These are different roles, and just as it is not correct for us to deploy coercive force on the State Department, for example using a bulldozer to smash through their building and take their secret vaults of information (although I must say that sounds rather attractive!) so it is not the correct role of the US State Department to go around the world threatening coercive force on Wikileaks, its people, its supporters, or banks. There is an economic blockade against Wikileaks – an extra-judicial economic blockade. There was no administrative process, no legal process. The only administrative process was the one conducted by the US Treasury Secretary at the beginning of 2011, and they found that there was no legal reason why we should be subject to an economic blockade, and yet it continues.

One can’t simply say that just because sometimes there are good reasons that information should be concealed, that everyone must be forced to shut up about it at the barrel of a gun.

Bign NewsWhat did it feel like when you, rather than Wikileaks’ revelations, became ‘the media story’?

A very interesting phenomenon. We played it in different ways as time went by. In the beginning, for our own protection, I made myself just a member of the advisory board, so the internal structure of Wikileaks could not be seen. But as Wikileaks grew in influence and popularity, a market developed for information about the organisation in the mainstream press market.

That I was the founder of the organisation simply came out as a result of various people being contacted by the mainstream press; my friends unfortunately gave me credit, which I didn’t want them to do. I’d rather they had said: ‘I don’t know who’s the founder.’

So then, in 2009, the ad hominem attacks started. It was necessary to defend against them, and the way you defend against ad hominem attacks occurring in a vacuum of information is to supply more information. If someone attacks your personality, you have to reveal good sides of your personality; if someone attacks your finances, you have to reveal some of your finances, and so on.

Then, in 2010, I was in hiding, moving around the world knowing that US intelligence knew that I had 260,000 US diplomatic cables in my back pocket. Our organisation was in a ‘publish or perish’ situation, because our big leaks of 2010 hadn’t been published yet. That was our big challenge: to publish our information, and then to survive the publication. And for the organisation to survive, there had to be a fall guy, and the fall guy needed to be protected. So the fall guy was me.

I was the most visible person already, so I was going to be the person that the political fire came in on. And because of that, I needed to be even more publicly visible, so that if I was locked up, if I suddenly disappeared, people would miss me. We worked on elevating my profile in order to gain the protection that public visibility would give.

Julian AssangeFor Wikileaks to survive, there had to be a fall guy – and the fall guy was me

Our technical guys didn’t have that protection at all, and they were in a very dangerous position – they didn’t have any of the protection of having a public profile. So we kept them underground through secret communications methods and were very careful to make sure their identities never came out, so they could not be silently ‘disappeared’.

So we had all the ad hominem attacks because I had a public profile, but on the other hand, the public profile has prevented me, so far, from being shipped off to the US. We will see what happens over the next few weeks, but so far, it has protected me. I mean, there were calls for my assassination and I haven’t been assassinated, I haven’t been kidnapped, I haven’t been extradited to the United States, although there are moves afoot to try to do that.

As to the media attention on my personal plight, we have some statistics that are quite interesting: there are 39 million web pages, according to Google, that mention the name Julian Assange. There are hundreds of millions that mention the word Wikileaks. Within the United Kingdom, there’s a five to one ratio of web pages on Wikileaks vs Julian Assange. For the Associated Press, the ratio is four to one. So AP is slightly more personalised than web pages in the UK – it concentrates slightly more on the personal. For the New York Times, it’s 2.5 to one in favour of Wikileaks. But for the Guardian, which we have had an active, ongoing legal dispute with since November 2010 as a result of their breaking all three points in our Cablegate contract, the ratio is three to two in favour of me.

Because we have a legal, an ethical, confrontation with them, the Guardian has decided to go into the personal in a way that Associated Press hasn’t. And this is despite the fact that the Guardian was a Cablegate partner and was given all the Cablegate material. That says something about the mainstream press and the media climate in London. – New Internationalist, Oxford, UK, 1 April 2012

Manmohan Singh paying the price for being Sonia Gandhi’s prime minister – M.D. Nalapat

Prof. M.D. Nalapat“Whatever happens to the ongoing battle against the corruption that has become second nature to India’s politicians, it is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and not the architect of the times Sonia Gandhi, who is paying the price for all the rot. The Prime Minister is heading towards the dustbin of history, and all because he lacks the nerve or the ability to fashion a government in his image, rather than in that of his political boss.” – Prof. M.D. Nalapat

Sonia's Cabinet ResuffleIt is no secret in India that all the ministers in the “Manmohan Singh” Cabinet report to Sonia Gandhi rather than to the mild-mannered and renowned economist who is known for his decency and modesty. Especially in the case of the Congress Party ministers, decisions get taken only after a nod or a hint from “Dus Number” (10 Janpath, the official residence of the Congress President (“CP”). In each ministry, careers get made or broken, depending on how close they are to the actual source of power in Delhi. In India as in Iran, while the legal Head of Government reigns, he does not rule. In the case of Iran as well, many key ministers (including for Defense, Foreign Affairs and Security) report not to President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad but to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. While the China example may also be said to be similar, in that the world’s newest superpower has a governance structure in which the ruling party’s General Secretary ranks above the Prime Minister, the pragmatic Chinese Communist Party has squared this circle by ensuring that the General Secretary is also Head of State. In India, the Congress Party President effectively ranks above the Prime Minister

However, what is interesting in the Indian case is that although most decisions get taken by those reacting to signals from Dus Number, the odium for most such decisions comes upon Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister (who in the opinion of this columnist deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for the determined way in which he has sought to cool tempers across the various borders of India) was in the past admired by international decision makers and by opinion leaders, especially in the US and the EU. No longer. These days, he is an object of either ridicule or pity, with his helplessness in enforcing his agenda painfully patent. Most tellingly, given the fact that he is a distinguished economist in the poverty-centric mould of Nobel Prizeman Amartya Sen, it is under Singh’s post-2004 watch that the Indian economy is in danger of slipping back into the very crisis that Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao and (then Finance Minister) Singh himself had rescued it from in 1991. That had been achieved through a substantial number of de-regulatory measures, and cuts in import duties followed by removal of restrictions on private industry. Since 2004,reform has been frozen, largely because Sonia Gandhi favours the “Strong Government” model of Indira Gandhi rather than the “Strong Economy” favoured by the earlier boss of Manmohan Singh, Narasimha Rao.

Manmohan Singh: Sonia Gandhi's Prime Minister.The Indian rupee in particular has been falling sharply over the past two months, with very harmful consequences for the economy. One reason why such a slide spells disaster is that several Indian companies have taken loans denominated in dollars or in euros. The fall in the value of the rupee means that they have to pay out a much greater share of local production than before in order to service the debt. Their losses may amount to as much as $40 billion dollars in 2012, if the value of the rupee continues to fall. As India imports much more than it exports, a falling rupee does great damage, although economics textbooks claim that such a phenomenon may be helpful to the economy. It needs to be remembered that just five years ago, the rupee was equal to – for example – the New Taiwan Dollar. Today, the New Taiwan Dollar is almost double the value of the rupee. This is a measure of the mismanagement of the Indian economy by the present government, which ironically is headed by a prominent economist. Back in the 1970s, in South America too, technocrats were put in charge, only to make a bad situation worse because of their ignorance of ground realities and their reliance on foreign textbooks and experts rather than on field experience. Today, a similar fate has fallen upon India, where – as in South America then – foreign expertise is prized far above the domestic variety. The numerous councils of government have become nests for foreign-trained and foreign-working “experts” to nest in for short periods, while they lobby for a new assignment in the US or in other advanced economies. Naturally, in India they lobby for policies that benefit advanced economies, often at the expense of India’s interests. This dependence on foreign brains – including a multiplying number of NGOs – was last seen during Jawaharlal Nehru’s early period in power, when Louis MountbattenNicholas Kaldor and Verrier Elwin called the shots.

One of the worst effects of the falling rupee has been on fuel prices, which have gone up by 40% in 2011. As S S Nair points out, these hikes mainly affect two-wheeler riders and small car users and not the rich. He adds that these hikes lead to increased inflation, particularly food inflation, because fuels form an essential factor for production of all goods and services. Such a rise in prices of essential commodities result in increased suffering to millions of disadvantaged people. Because of higher costs of production and transportation, development is retarded resulting in loss of revenue. Exports have declined, being less competitive. Transport, especially civil aviation, is suffering huge losses due to high fuel prices. Taxes on petro-products are another reason why fuel prices are so high in India. As has been pointed out, central and state governments have been taxing fuels (about 50% in some states) and making huge profits at the expense of people from sale of petroleum products. Government in general has been earning about Rs. 1,50,000 crores from the sale of petroleum products, from the helpless common man. As Nair points out, the domestic price of petro-fuel on account of international price should only about Rs. 30 only as against about Rs. 75+ in India. The fuel price in India is double that in China and many times higher than in USA, although India is much poorer than either country. Adding to the pain of consumers is the fact that Internet speeds in “Internet Superpower” India is very slow. Coverage in India is far below that of the other billion-plus country, China. Bandwidth is low, and the refusal of the United Progressive Alliance to rectify this state of affairs has meant that several tens of millions of people are denied the benefits of going online.

Internet CensorshipAnd even those who somehow leap past the obstacles to Internet usage set up by the government face such pitfalls as an Internet law that is more draconian than even regulations in Stalinist USSR. Armed with these powers, the government has been bullying Internet service providers to drop content, especially matter that is critical of Sonia Gandhi. The objective is to ensure that the internet is as sanitized of anti-Sonia content as is the Indian media, the owners of which are wary of falling foul of the government by publication of matter on the all-powerful Congress president or her (never reported) close relatives family. Of course, India is not alone in such an unwelcome trend. South Korea’s President Lee has jailed an internet critic for a year, while other governments too have launched crackdowns on the use of cyberspace to fight for democratic freedoms and clean administration. Fortunately, civil society in India has finally awoken from a deep slumber, and these days is challenging state structures that have trodden on their rights for decades, ever since Indira Gandhi threw law into the dustbin by a series of enactments that expropriated vast swathes of property and handed these to the control of a government run by her. Small surprise that corruption in India began to gallop precisely during that period.

Whatever happens to the ongoing battle against the corruption that has become second nature to India’s politicians, it is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and not the architect of the times Sonia Gandhi, who is paying the price for all the rot. The Prime Minister is heading towards the dustbin of history, and all because he lacks the nerve or the ability to fashion a government in his image, rather than in that of his political boss. – Pakistan Observer, Islamabad, Dec. 2011

Prof. Nalapat is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Karnataka State, India.