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Julian Assange won’t need the ‘poison pill’

December 9, 2010

The much hyped WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange is cooling his heels in a UK prison. Charges against him are those of rape of two women in Sweden. But that is not all, the US state department is furious at the leaks and has had to go around apologizing to the various leaders and administrations around the world. US is contemplating slapping Assange with espionage. Clearly, this freak of a man has got under the skin of the US administration. Some may find what Assange has done as funny but those personalities who are a part of the leaks are not finding this amusing at all. The best part is that even after Assange’s arrest the leaks have not stopped.

Julian Assange of the WikiLeaks

It now appears that he has an encrypted 256 bit code file that is impossible to unravel. Experts say that a 56 bit code is serious enough insurance against anyone trying to break open the file, a 256 bit code is impossible to open. The media has termed this secret coded file as the ‘poison pill’ that  is an insurance for Julian Assange. Mr. Assange is saying that the leaks will continue regardless. And if he is harmed this secret fie will automatically open and its contents will be on the site.

While this may be Assange’s insurance against anyone trying to harm him, the fact is that this computer freak is also saying something else which most people are not listening to. Julian Assange is saying that none of the leaks have harmed anyone. Yes, the leaks may have been embarrassing but there has been no security threat of any kind. Clearly, all the files and their contents have been thoroughly vetted as was being said sometime back by WikiLeaks. This is true. While world leaders have got to know their pet names by American embassies and some personal details have also emerged, there is nothing in these files that compromises American security or for that matter any other nation’s security.

Julian Assange seems to be a man who believes in freedom of speech and knowledge and is making a point which most of us seem to be missing. Assange seems to be saying that governments need to be more transparent and they have a tendency to shut themselves up in a cloak of secrecy. Even mundane facts which if in public domains would hurt no one are filed and kept aside as confidential or secret. Such secret files are in millions in the US and I am sure the same is true of governments around the world including India and Europe.

Julian Assange is an Australian and suddenly the Australian government has woken to the fact. They are giving Assange consular access and perhaps even legal aid. Details of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s observations regarding China and his exchanges with the Americans make for interesting reading. Aussies are suddenly rallying behind Assange and news is that there is going to be a huge rally in one of the Australian cities as a show of support for the beleaguered hacker turned activist.

It seems Julian Assange knows exactly what he is doing. He has not ruffled the feathers of people who really matter. The leaks have been selective and intelligent. For example WikiLeaks show how Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries are concerned about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. This sheds the myth that it is Tel Aviv that is solely concerned about the Iranian nuclear program. Similarly, while there have been concerns about China’s forays into Africa there is no damning revelation that would harm American or Australian relations with Beijing.

Julian Assange seems to be the kind of man who believes in freedom of information. In that his views are not singular, there are others who believe that people have a right to know what the government is doing at any particular point in time. He has a point there. If there is information freely available then there will be less corruption and things will be more in black and white. I can say for sure that were certain information in public domain then a lot of these scams that have taken place in India like the telecommunications scam, the building scam and many other such cases of graft would have been prevented. In today’s world information is the key and governments have the responsibility to the people of this world to make sure that information is readily available to the citizens of these countries.

However I also see the point of those in administration who are appalled at such leaks. It is true that there are times when everything that is going on in the offices cannot be shared with the public. Sometimes secrecy is required. Nations have a time frame after which files are made public. Some have a time period of 20 years others 25 years and some others 50 years. Yet, it is also true that a lot of inconsequential details are filed away as secret or confidential when there is no need for confidentiality. I guess Mr. Assange is making a larger point that such secrecy is unnecessary and by and large most files must be in public domain. In India there has been introduced a Right to Information Act under which anyone can ask for details regarding any governmental decision. This has given some transparency to the administration.

It seems there are people behind Julian Assange who agree with his viewpoint. I will venture further and say that Julian Assange does not seem to be alone and that there are some powerful lobbies that are at the back of this man. It is amazing that a computer geek who is a hacker turned activist could access such a huge amount of data from government files. This is no ordinary leak. This is a deluge and it is impossible that any one person or even a small group of persons could have managed this. There seems to be a political agenda as much as it is trying to make a point of transparency in government dealings. The Obama administration is increasingly looking helpless and stupid. There is a crisis of confidence in the government as of now and my fear is that Obama may find his approval ratings dip further because of the way his administration has handled WikiLeaks. The urgency with which the US administration has reacted to WikiLeaks shows that they are not taking this as a casual prank anymore. The bad news for Washington is that the Leaks continue. The other fact is that political agenda as it appears is not at loggerheads with US interests. It seems to be just a nudge or perhaps a shove to move in a particular direction. Notice that though Assange has said he has some 250,000 files only a thousand or so have been published so far. There is a message in there too.

WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, I presume mean no harm to the US. These are a bunch of guys out to make a point that there needs to be greater transparency of governmental dealing besides furthering the cause of some people who have backed this effort with a caveat that their own interests must mirror in these leaks.

The US administration will do well to talk to this man and those backing him. As it is public uproar against the arrest is increasing with every passing day. Before the pitch of these protesters gets shrill the US government would do well to listen to what Julian Assange has to say. Assange has the poison pill, but I am not sure he needs it at all. He has insured himself in more ways than one. I may point out that Jemima Khan has given the twenty thousand pound surety on behalf of Julian Assange and was present during his court hearing. It would be wise for DC to just listen for once. This is not blackmail, this is plain reasoning. And I am sure the hawks in DC are reasonable men.

Addendum: After the Australian government, former Brazilian president Lula de Silva has expressed support for Julian Assange.

Sources in Russian President Dmitry Medvedev‘s office have suggested that Wikileaksfounder Julian Assange, who is currently incarcerated in solitary confinement on rape charges, should win the Nobel peace prize, The Guardianreported on Thursday.

I am still not sure whether this was a swipe by the Russians at the way Americans have raked up the issue of Chinese dissident being given the prize.  Be as it may, support for Julian Assange is increasing by the day and coming from unexpected quarters.
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