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Assange: A few Silicon Valley companies impose a 'digital colonization'

Interview at Spiegel

Key points:

With a banking blockade, WikiLeaks had been cut off from more than 90 percent of its finances. The blockade happened in a completely extrajudicial manner. We took legal measures against the blockade and we have been victorious in the courts, so people can send us donations again.”

I have been publishing about the NSA for almost 20 years now, so I was aware of the NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance. We required a next-generation submission system in order to protect our sources. [...] a few months back we launched a next-generation submission system and also integrated it with our publications.”

WikiLeaks is still a taboo object for some parts of the government. Firewalls were set up. Every federal government employee and every contractor received an e-mail stating that if they read something from WikiLeaks including through the New York Times website, they have to remove this from their computer immediately and self-report. They had to cleanse and confess. That's a new McCarthy hysteria.

... we do know is that most of our readers come from India, closely followed by the United States.”

All that US intelligence information is very valuable for the German foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst. Please imagine for a moment the German government complains about being spied on and the Americans just say: Okay, we will give you more stuff, which they have stolen from France. When the French complain, they get more stuff, which was stolen from Germany. The NSA spends a lot of resources obtaining information, but throwing a few crumbs to France and Germany when they start whining about being victims costs nothing, digital copies cost nothing.”
If you knew as a German politician that American intelligence agencies have been collecting intensively on 125 top-level politicians and officials over decades, you would recall some of the conversations you had in all these years and you would then understand that the United States has all those conversations, and that it could take down the Merkel cabinet any time it feels like it, by simply leaking portions of those conversations to journalists.”

They wouldn't leak transcripts of tapped phone calls as that would draw focus to the spying itself. The way intelligence services launder intercepts is to extract the facts expressed during conversations; for example to say to their contacts in the media, 'I think you should look into this connection between this politician and that person, what they did on that particular day.'”

... there are examples of prominent Muslims in different countries about whom it was leaked that they had been browsing porn. Blackmail or representational destruction from intercepts is part of the repertoire used. [...] The British GCHQ has its own department for such methods called JTRIG. They include blackmail, fabricating videos, fabricating SMS texts in bulk, even creating fake businesses with the same names as real businesses the United Kingdom wants to marginalize in some region of the world, and encouraging people to order from the fake business and selling them inferior products, so that the business gets a bad reputation. That sounds like a lunatic conspiracy theory, but it is concretely documented in the GCHQ material allegedly provided by Edward Snowden.”

The US government is pursuing five different types of charges against me. I don't know how many charges altogether, but five types of charges: espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, computer fraud and abuse, theft of secrets and general conspiracy. Even if there were only one charge of each type, which there wouldn't be, that would be 45 years, and the Espionage Act has life imprisonment and death penalty provisions as well. So it would be absurd for me to worry about the consequences of our next publication. Saudi officials came out after we started publishing the Saudi cables and said that spreading and publishing government information carries a penalty of 20 years in prison. Only 20 years! So if it's a choice between being extradited to Saudi Arabia or the US, then I should go to Saudi Arabia, a land famous for its judicial moderation.”

The persecution was used to create desolidarization. Partly it had the opposite effect but partly in the Western countries it made the rhetorical attacks on us easier. But the climate has shifted positively. It never affected the majority of the Spanish-, French- or Italian-speaking worlds and obviously not the Russian-speaking world. Even in the United States we have support from the majority of people under 35 now.

The transition of the German public opinion is interesting. A study in 2010 found that 88 percent of Germans appreciate the US government; after the disclosure about the NSA, the rate dropped to 43 percent. That is a healthy shift in the German view of the United States, which has been starry-eyed. Japan suffered the same problem. At the same time, German public support for WikiLeaks is significant and even quite mainstream.”

The US is in the business of managing an extended empire. The ability to prevent Merkel from constructing a BRICS bailout fund for the euro zone by intercepting the idea at an early stage is an example. [...] ... the United States government was very interested in the idea that Germany would propose a greater role for China in the International Monetary Fund, for example. An executive decision can be taken: Kill that idea of Merkel's before it learns to crawl, because the US sees China helping Europe as a threat to its dominance.

If you ask 'Does Google collect more information than the National Security Agency?' the answer is 'no,' because NSA also collects information from Google. The same applies to Facebook and other Silicon Valley-based companies. They still collect a lot of information and they are using a new economic model which academics call 'surveillance capitalism.' General information about individuals is worth little, but when you group together a billion individuals, it becomes strategic like an oil or gas pipeline. [...] Organizations like Google, whose business model is 'voluntary' mass surveillance, appear to be giving it away for free. Free e-mail, free search, etc. Therefore it seems that they're not a corporation, because corporations don't do things for free. It falsely seems like they are part of civil society. [...] They are also exporting a specific mindset of culture. You can use the old term of 'cultural imperialism' or call it the 'Disneylandization' of the Internet. Maybe 'digital colonization' is the best terminology.

These corporations establish new societal rules about what activities are permitted and what information can be transmitted. Right down to how much nipple you can show. Down to really basic matters, which are normally a function of public debate and parliaments making laws. Once something becomes sufficiently controversial, it's banned by these organizations. Or, even if it is not so controversial, but it affects the interests that they're close to, then it's banned or partially banned or just not promoted.”

The long-term effect is a tendency towards conformity, because controversy is eliminated. An American mindset is being fostered and spread to the rest of the world because they find this mindset to be uncontroversial among themselves. That is literally a type of digital colonialism; non-US cultures are being colonized by a mindset of what is tolerable to the staff and investors of a few Silicon Valley companies. The cultural standard of what is a taboo and what is not becomes a US standard, where US exceptionalism is uncontroversial.”

Over the last two years, we already have become specialists for the three extremely important trade agreements, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TP). WikiLeaks has become the place to go to leak parts of these agreements that are now under negotiation. These agreements are a package that the US is using to reposition itself in the world against China by constructing a new grand enclosure. We are seeing something that would result in a tighter economic and legal integration with the United States, which draws Western Europe's center of gravity away from Eurasia and towards the United States, when the greatest chance for long-term peace in Eurasia is its economic intergration.

Full interview:

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