Saturday 3 June 2017

Freedom of Speech, Rest in Peace (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

Snowden did a public service by showing how exposed the global population is to those state agencies with overwhelming mastery over the worldwide web. 
Sensible governments stay away from interference with the internet, save with those exceptional bits and pieces that expose those involved (or are about to be) in matters such as child molestation and terrorism. There certainly are intemperate comments, including sometimes at this columnist, but this is no reason to seek to enforce a blackout. Of course, it may be argued that those who post abusive messages should reveal their true identities. While internet addresses give clues as to the source of specific missives, those proficient in hacking are aware that mimicking an address is adolescent play. An individual trained in techniques of manipulating the internet could post a message from Manila and show its internet protocol address as being from Mumbai. Edward Snowden did a public service by showing how exposed the global population is to those state agencies with overwhelming mastery over the worldwide web. Barack Obama lectured several countries on the need for transparency and the toleration of dissent, but when it came to similar deeds targeting his own administration, the then US President imposed the severest of penalties. The military technician who transferred data to WikiLeaks on US Air Force strikes on innocent civilians was sent to an underground prison and released only after an incarceration lasting several years. Bloggers in Egypt, who followed her line on Arab politics, were hailed as heroes by Hillary Clinton, but those who dared to fall foul of the Secretary’s wishes soon saw themselves being hit by criminal charges. It is particularly nauseating that a country such as Sweden, which preens itself on being “liberal”, slapped criminal charges on Julian Assange and forced him to take shelter in a South American embassy in London. The UK establishment, itself always ready to lecture on the importance of freedom of speech and the need to expose wrongdoing, has since behaved towards Assange with all the sensitivity of North Korea. Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden exemplify in their deeds the devotion to freedom and justice that figure so frequently in the speeches of diplomats and officials from the countries persecuting all three, including “liberal” Sweden and “freedom loving” countries such as the US and the UK.
Senior officials within the Washington Beltway, have sought to cast Julian Assange and his website as a KGB (sorry, FSB) tool. Although there were those who argued for India to offer asylum to Assange and Snowden, it was clear that this was an impossibility, given the cowardice of the Lutyens Zone so far as Uncle Sam or other major powers are concerned. Besides, as can be seen from the way retired officials strategically planted in Right to Information tribunals have smothered the outing of information on several aspects of governmental functioning, the bureaucracy in India believes that the only information needing to be shared with the public is the day, month and year, or in extreme circumstances, the time of day. Neither was it a surprise that Bradley Manning was placed in a US prison and had his (or now her) life ruined. The “crime” was to act in a manner contrary to the Foundation Axiom of NATO, which is that the alliance is incapable of wrongdoing, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths caused by its interventions in just the 21st century notwithstanding. If US Air Force pilots killed individuals, who were obvious non-combatants in Iraq, the way their predecessors had gunned down helpless villagers in Vietnam, the fault lay in those who got killed, for they should not have left their homes while US aircraft were hovering nearby in strike mode. In the meantime, the contrived noise over Russia that has arisen across both sides of the Atlantic, obscures such other events as who in the US system ensured that almost the entire list of important CIA moles in China was exposed to the Chinese Communist Party, who made short work of them. In the case of India, an outed CIA spy is usually allowed to migrate to the US and enjoy the benefits of his service to the agency. The Chinese have a different approach. Those that are caught are given such a treatment, that what was administered to Bradley Manning would have resembled a school picnic. It does not take much IQ to figure out which approach best ensures that a country rids itself of the risk of its own officials becoming agents of foreign countries.
The outing and punishment of CIA agents in China took place during the precise interval when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State and her confidant Leon Panetta was Director of the CIA. The latter would have had access to the true names of key US agents in China, and would have shared it with the then Secretary of State, being a 99.99% Clinton loyalist. Did that list end up in Secretary Clinton’s emails emanating out of the Clinton Foundation, mails that could easily have been hacked and which contained secret information? Few would accuse Hillary Clinton of knowingly revealing lists of spies to Beijing or to any other alien capital, but as yet the FBI has shown little enthusiasm in finding out exactly what hyper-sensitive emails could potentially have been exposed through being sent by the Beltway Czarina on a private server, including from Huma Abedin to Anthony Wiener. Did they include the lists containing the names of US spies? Rather than blame machine failure for the leak, it would have been logical for the FBI to have exhaustively examined how the names of the CIA’s key agents within the secretive Chinese establishment got revealed to Beijing. Equally, it would have been logical for the US media to zero in on this breach of security. However, given the obsession with bringing down President Donald Trump a la Richard Nixon, the spy list story has disappeared from media in the US. And of course, within the lynch mob surrounding Trump, few have questioned how and why establishments such as Washington, London and Stockholm that claim to respect freedoms and the right to information have taken such vicious action against those few who tested that vow in practice.

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