Four days ago I wrote, Let’s not forget Assange. I did this because of a television interview between Eva Joly (a French-Norwegian prosecutor) and Malou von Sivers. While not unexpected, it was still surprising to hear that Joly had been refused meetings with the Minister for Justice, the Prosecutor-General, and the individual prosecutor Marianne Ny — in fact, anyone with anything to do with the legal case against Assange.
It is now clear why they would not talk to her: there simply is no legal case against Assange, just a political conspiracy. A new book by Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli (Sweden Vs Assange: Human Rights Issues) makes this very clear. (You can get an outline of de Noli here in my earlier post, Sweden — Paradise Lost, a continuing tragedy.)
Little in de Noli’s book is new, but seeing it all in one place is compelling. It starts, of course, with Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning’s Afghan leaks to WikiLeaks. The US, as we know, takes a dim view of whistleblowers, and was seriously embarrassed on the world stage by the Manning documents revealed by WikiLeaks. It wrote to its allies operating in Afghanistan requesting that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, be arrested. These allies, note, include both Sweden and Britain.
Sweden (its neutrality long discredited and, following the Snowden files, now known as The Sixth Eye) had the first opportunity — but it was always about the founder of WikiLeaks and never about the man called Julian Assange (see You cut off the head to kill the snake – the threat to Julian Assange).
When a complaint of rape was made, he was arrested. But there was no legal case against him. The case was dropped; but the political will to do the bidding of the US remained. However, since there was no legal case against him, simply re-arresting him would inevitably lead to his re-release.
Assange asked Marianne Ny, the prosecutor, if he could leave the country and was told he could do so. While traveling to the airport, which he did openly and in no haste, Ny decided to rearrest him. It appears that the only police that were not informed of this new warrant were the airport police where he was waiting to leave the country — in fact, Assange’s lawyer did not learn about the new warrant until three days after it was issued. By this time Assange was in the UK.
The standard way to get Assange back to Sweden would be through a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which Sweden could rely on Britain to honour. Had he been arrested while still in Sweden, the process would be open and visible — and he would undoubtedly have been released (because there is no legal case) almost immediately. But if he is returned to Sweden under an EAW he would be held in prison and extradited to the US without public scrutiny.
In Britain Assange (well aware by now of what was going on) appealed the extradition back to Sweden. Most British lawyers believed his case was solid, and expected him to win. But remember that Britain, like Sweden, is one of the US allies that America had requested to arrest Assange. By indulging in semantic contortions, in claiming that the UK is subject to the French language version rather than the English language version of the same EU requirement, the judge was able to uphold the EAW and order Assange to be returned to Sweden.
By now, of course, Assange had been granted asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. But the reality is, America had won. The case was never against Assange the man, but against WikiLeaks the organization. The purpose was to separate the founder from the founded to neutralize the organization.
This has been achieved. Assange is not in asylum in the embassy, he is in prison in the embassy, permanently surrounded by British police. America is happy with this, because it is an open-ended life sentence with no appeal that has successfully decapitated WikiLeaks. If Assange were to ‘appeal’, he would have to leave the embassy. He would then be arrested by the British police and returned to Sweden. There he would be imprisoned until he could be secretly extradited to the US, to face trial for espionage and imprisoned for 40+ years.
The United States, Britain and Sweden are perfectly happy with the current situation. Assange has been imprisoned for life without trial.
Jeffrey Carr tweeted about my blog on Akamai and Anonymous (Anonymous and the ‘threat’ against Akamai and Josh Corman).
Interesting to say the least.
But before saying anything else, I should stress that I am taking this tweet and the TechWeekEurope report on Josh Corman’s RSA 2012 comments at face value. I cannot personally corroborate either.
Firstly, the idea that being ‘kind’ yesterday should excuse being ‘unkind’ today seems strange. Corman’s latest reported comments are not capable of being misconstrued:
Anonymous has very few hackers, it has very few activists… It is very misleading to call the groups hacktivists. The common attribute is angst. The talented ones are either quitting or starting to do things that are more clandestine.
If accurate, the purpose of these sentiments can only be to belittle and perhaps ridicule Anonymous. The reality is, ridicule and disinformation are Authority’s most effective weapons against Anonymous. This explains why Anonymous questioned his motives.
But this is not what intrigues me most about Carr’s tweet. It is the comment, “trying to help Anonymous become a more effective org”. It is a fundamental contradiction in terms that displays a basic misunderstanding of Anonymous. In fact, I would go further. If someone really does understand Anonymous and tries to help it become a more effective organization, then that person has an ulterior motive and is actually trying to weaken Anonymous.
Anonymous is not an organization. Its strength is that it is not an organization. In fact I suggest that its survival depends upon it never becoming an organization. Organizations have structures. Structures have hierarchies. Hierarchies have heads – and heads can be beheaded.
Think of LulzSec. It was taken apart because it had at least a nominal head in Sabu. By first taking Sabu, the FBI was able to destroy LulzSec. It also explains why the US is expending so much effort on getting Assange – by attacking the structure of Wikileaks it will ultimately destroy Wikileaks. So long as Assange is a primary focal point for Wikileaks, Wikileaks has a weakness. But by having no structure, Anonymous becomes a Hydra.
I don’t know whether any such thinking exists within the Anonymous movement. I suspect the ‘official’ line is that it is governed by its own ‘collective consciousness’. On one level this is a weakness because it allows different factions to act out their own predilections in the name of Anonymous. The collective (not the organization) cannot denounce these acts because it would deny the principle of collective consciousness. As a result, winning the hearts and minds of the unaligned public becomes difficult and highly susceptible to ridicule and accusations of terrorism.
But it does have one huge strength. The mere fact that Anonymous exists is a testament to increasing worldwide discontent with the political and social status quo. As this discontent, illustrated by the Occupy Movement, continues to grow, so Anonymous will continue to strengthen. Becoming ‘organized’ will provide a weakness that the authorities will exploit. So it must continue with its disorganized and decentralised lack of structure. It will make the battle longer; but it is the only way it can win. Organizing itself will destroy itself.
Life is a game of cricket – sometimes you face bouncers, and sometimes beamers; but usually it’s spin and swing. The internet is full of spin and swing, with business, government, law enforcement and hackers all trying to spin the news to their own advantage in order to swing public opinion behind their own position. It’s called disinformation, and everyone’s at it. But like cricket, you only need one ball to spin or swing, and you cannot trust anything ever again.
So with that introductory warning that I really haven’t got a clue, we can ask, what’s going on with WikiLeaks? This is one possibility. It’s all down to TrapWire and the information about TrapWire coming out of the latest WikiLeaks Stratfor emails.
TrapWire seems to be an international surveillance system centred in and run by the US. It makes Cameron’s Communications Bill look pedestrian. That’s not strictly accurate, since the Communications Bill watches people’s cyber movements, while TrapWire watches real world movements; that is, pedestrians (and cars and anything else that moves). It connects the nation’s CCTV surveillance cameras. As an aside, we can be pretty confident that when (not if) the US gets its Cybersecurity Act, that data will be connected to the TrapWire data. What’s more worrying for Brits is that when (not if) Cameron gets his Communications Bill into an Act, that data will also be connected to TrapWire.
This latter is just conjecture, but look at the parallels in UKUSA and do the math. Also consider this from one of the WikiLeaks emails (dated 22 September 2010):
This week, 500 surveillance cameras were activated on the NYC subway system to focus on pre-operational terrorist surveillance. The surveillance technology is also operational on high value targets (HVTs) in DC, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and London and is called TrapWire (www.abraxasapps.com).
So TrapWire was already operational in the UK almost a year ago.
Well, of course I checked on the Abraxas site (a company apparently populated by a high density of ex-CIA staff), but got nowhere.
It’s not just me.
There’s no buzz on the internet (yet at least) that Abraxas has been tangoed down by Anonymous (in retaliation for Antileaks taking out WikiLeaks). So – pure conjecture – they’ve taken it down themselves.
Thank goodness for Google cache (if you’re quick, it might still be there…)
It wouldn’t be surprising if Abraxas has disconnected itself. This TrapWire thing is big, and the Stratfor emails show it’s being used much wider than published. It’s bad enough that the UK government wants to spy on its own citizens (using our taxes to pay for it, of course), but that it has already opened the door to facilitate US government spying on the British people is quite simply obscene. Or, to be British, unacceptable. I can’t begin to think what the American people will make of it.
So, to go back to the original question, what’s going on with WikiLeaks? The obvious conclusion is that it has been taken down (well, effectively blocked) by a continuing DDoS that has been claimed by Antileaks specifically to suppress the emerging information about TrapWire (WikiLeaks is still down as I write this). This is just conjecture on my part; but, well, the dots connect. Under the guise of anti-terrorism western governments will stop at nothing in their determination to have absolute control over us.
By way of introduction I will start by pointing to two stories I did for Infosecurity Magazine. The first is Bieber Hackers and the Anonymous image problem (7 June 2012), in which I argue that Anonymous will lose the battle for hearts and minds because the general public cannot distinguish between the unprincipled hangers-on (like UGNazi) and the politically motivated Anonymous-proper.
The second story was last week: WikiLeaks starts to publish Syrian emails (6 July 2012). This story introduces the Syria Files, the start of WikiLeaks’ publication of 2.4 million Syrian emails; and I mention that I had been told by Anonymous that the documents had come from their OpSyria campaign.
Between these two articles, Anonymous published its own paper called ‘Operation Rebuild the Hive’. It recognizes some of the image problems:
Anonymous has shown its weak point, EACH OTHER. We have let the world see we can be easily deterred from our main goals by simply turning on each other. Not only have long time friends become enemies, but also we have steered possible New Blood from wanting to join. Do not forget where we come from, Do Not forget why we fight, Do not forget the people who we have helped along the lines. We as a collective must Regroup, Rethink our strategies, and REBUILD not only each other, but ourselves.
Operation Rebuild the Hive
How? Well, much is what you would expect. By supporting newcomers and keeping them safe; by loving one another; by discussing new operations and agreeing them before executing them. But there is another theme that runs through the proposals: Anonymous should be Anonymous – full stop. Everyone should change their Twitter display names to Anonymous “so we can all be one, and not just an individual.” Operations and defacements should “Display the name Anonymous, so that we as a hive can stand out and not just a crew.” And, “we move as ONE. Do not let yours or someone else’s ego get in the way of who and what we are.”
If this approach were adopted, then a major structural problem within Anonymous would be eliminated. If UGNazi, or any other crew, wants to call itself UGNazi – or any other name – it is by definition NOT Anonymous.
But then, later in the day of my second article, Anonymous publicly claimed responsibility for the Syria Files. Its announcement starts with a bit of a put down to my little article in Infosecurity: “there seems to be one very obvious question that no one is asking. Where exactly did WikiLeaks get all these E-Mails? This press release is written and addressed to the media and the world to answer this important un-asked question.” Um, er, actually, I did ask…
However, my bruised ego aside, it continues
On February 5, 2012 at approx. 4:00 PM ET USA an Anonymous Op Syria team consisting of elements drawn from Anonymous Syria, AntiSec (now known as the reformed LulzSec) and the Peoples Liberation Front succeeded in creating a massive breach of multiple domains and dozens of servers inside Syria. This team had been working day and night in shifts for weeks to accomplish this feat. So large was the data available to be taken, and so great was the danger of detection (especially for the members of Anonymous Syria, many of whom are “in country”) that the downloading of this data took several additional weeks.
Anonymous Operation Syria – Press Release
This shows that the lesson hinted at in the Rebuild document has not gone home. Anonymous still talks about AntiSec and LulzSec and Anonymous Syria. The problem is that anybody can claim to be AntiSec or LulzSec or Anonymous Isle of Wight. Surely one small start in protecting the Anonymous image would be the elimination of all crews. If some bieber hacking group calling itself Cr3wP01s0n then claims the kudos and protection of acting in the name of Anonymous in taking down some village charity shop, the world would know, this is not Anonymous.
Anonymous still has much to do before it wins the battle for hearts and minds. And it is a battle it must win if it is to succeed. Anonymous must be seen to be what it really is: a force for the people; not a just bunch of script kiddies out for the lulz.
There was a time when I would automatically turn to the BBC for solid, unbiased, simple news. Now, like many others, I am turning elsewhere.
A case in point. Today the BBC reports on Julian Assange’s refusal to absent himself from the Ecuadorean embassy and present himself to the Metropolitan Police. The fourth paragraph, and remember that it is the first four paragraphs that also appear on Ceefax, says:
He wants to avoid being sent to Sweden to face rape and assault accusations.
Julian Assange ‘declines’ police order and Ceefax
These first four paragraphs are the ones read by most people, and seen probably by millions more on Ceefax. And that fourth paragraph misrepresents the truth so extensively it is effectively a lie. Assange repeatedly sought to have those charges properly investigated; but without the threat or possibility of subsequent, unrelated, extradition to the US.
The BBC gets closer, a little, to the truth, further on in the article:
Mr Assange fears that if he is sent to Sweden he could be sent on to the United States to face charges over Wikileaks and that there, he could face the death penalty.
There are two problems with this. Firstly, most people will have read the fourth paragraph, but not got as far as this tenth paragraph. Secondly, it is still carefully worded, so that ‘he could face the death penalty’. Most civilised people will dismiss this as paranoia: they will find it impossible to believe that the Land of the Free would execute someone for publishing genuine documents on a website. It’s simply beyond belief, therefore it can’t happen, therefore Assange is having a laugh. Therefore we don’t need to bother or even sympathise. And that is what this BBC report is designed to say; that is, what the authorities want us to hear.
The BBC report is actually about the statement by Susan Benn, a committee member on the Assange defense fund. Rather than read the sanitized BBC report, please read the full transcript here: Press Statement: By Julian Assange Defense Fund Outside the Ecuadorian Embassy. It includes this:
It should be made clear what would happen if Julian was extradited to the USA. The United Nations special rapporteur for torture, Juan Mendez has formally found that the United States has subjected Julian Assange’s alleged source in this matter, the young soldier Bradley Manning, to conditions amounting to torture. The UN found that the United States subjected Bradley Manning to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. Mr. Manning has been charged by the US government with the capital offense of “aiding the enemy” in relation to his alleged interaction with Mr. Assange. Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for two years and was placed into solitary confinement for 9 months in his cell for 23 hours a day, stripped naked and woken every 5 minutes. His lawyer and support team say these harsh measures were to coerce him into implicating Julian Assange.
This is the reality of what British justice is offering Julian Assange. And remember this: it took a British judge exercising unacceptable semantic contortions – by saying that UK law is dependent upon the French language translation of an EU requirement – in order to make the extradition from the UK to Sweden appear to be legal.
This is unacceptable. The UK should be protecting Julian Assange and the principle of free speech – not offering him up to an out-of-control United States courtesy of an increasingly worrying Swedish puppet. It makes me ashamed to be British. And ashamed to help pay for the BBC.
My news stories today:
Flaming Hack: What does ‘Flame’ mean for the rest of us?
We’ve all heard about Flame, the ‘mother of all cyberweapons’, the attack tool that takes cyberwarfare to a new level. But what does it actually mean for the rest of us?
30 May 2012
Neelie Kroes Promises champagne connection – for the wealthy
Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, has promised a champagne connection for those who can afford it.
30 May 2012
Assange’s appeal fails: extradition lawful – everything left to play for
By a majority of 5 to 2 (Lord Mance and Lady Hale dissented) the UK supreme court has this morning ruled that Julian Assange’s extradition to Sweden is lawful, “and his appeal against extradition is accordingly dismissed.” Assange was not present in court.
30 May 2012
My recent news stories…
You don’t need to be hacked if you give away your credentials
GFI Software highlights the problems of users’ carelessness with their credentials: who needs hacking skills when log-on details are just handed over?
22 May 2012
A new solution for authenticating BYOD
New start-up SaaSID today launches a product at CloudForce London that seeks to solve a pressing and growing problem: the authentication of personal devices to the cloud.
22 May 2012
New HMRC refund phishing scam detected
Every year our tax details are evaluated by HMRC. Every year, a lucky few get tax refunds; and every year, at that time, the scammers come out to take advantage.
22 May 2012
UK government is likely to miss its own cloud targets
G-Cloud is the government strategy to reduce IT expenditure by increasing use of the cloud. It calls for 50% of new spending to be used on cloud services by 2015 – but a new report from VMWare suggests such targets will likely be missed by the public sector.
21 May 2012
New Absinthe 2.0 Apple jailbreak expected this week
The tethered jailbreak for iOS 5.1, Redsn0w, still works on iOS 5.1.1. This week, probably on 25 May, a new untethered jailbreak is likely to be announced at the Hack-in-the-Box conference.
21 May 2012
TeliaSonera sells black boxes to dictators
While the UK awaits details on how the proposed Communications Bill will force service providers to monitor internet and phone metadata, Sweden’s TeliaSonera shows how it could be done by selling black boxes to authoritarian states.
21 May 2012
Understanding the legal problems with DPA
We have known for many years that the EU is not happy with the UK’s implementation of the Data Protection Directive – what we haven’t known is why. This may now change thanks to the persistence of Amberhawk Training Ltd.
18 May 2012
Who attacked WikiLeaks and The Pirate Bay?
This week both the The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks have been ‘taken down’ by sustained DDoS attacks: TPB for over 24 hours, and Wikileaks for 72. What isn’t known is who is behind the attacks.
18 May 2012
BYOD threatens job security at HP
BYOD isn’t simply a security issue – it’s a job issue. Sales of multi-function smartphones and tablets are reducing demand for traditional PCs; and this is hitting Hewlett Packard.
18 May 2012
25 civil servants reprimanded weekly for data breach
Government databases are full of highly prized and highly sensitive personal information. The upcoming Communications Bill will generate one of the very largest databases. The government says it will not include personal information.
17 May 2012
Vulnerability found in Mobile Spy spyware app
Mobile Spy is covert spyware designed to allow parents to monitor their children’s smartphones, employers to catch time-wasters, and partners to detect cheating spouses. But vulnerabilities mean the covertly spied-upon can become the covert spy.
17 May 2012
Governments make a grab for the internet
Although the internet is officially governed by a bottom-up multi-stakeholder non-governmental model, many governments around the world believe it leaves the US with too much control; and they want things to change.
17 May 2012