Privacy for the Weak, Transparency for the Powerful

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2010, WikiLeaks publishes the logs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Collateral Murder video, and, to top it off, 300,000 US diplomatic cables exposing, among others things, war crimes in a world of global geopolitical hypocrisy…

2019, after spending 7 years in the Ecuadorian embassy as a political refugee, journalist Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is arrested by the British police and faces extradition to the United States of America, where await him a cruel judicial system and a secret procedure in a court that seems to have reached its conclusions before hearing the arguments, and a risk of many years in prison, in the best case scenario.

Between these two points in time, WikiLeaks embodied a vision, one that La Quadrature has supported since its inception in 2008: that the privacy of individuals and groups, the transparency of institutions and access to information are fundamental rights that must be respected and enforced, while private companies and states owe transparency to the people. States, through their state files, administrative and judicial procedures, but also private companies, must be accountable to citizens for the data they have, the spying tools they deploy and their influence on the world.

WikiLeaks, its sources and supporters have paid a high price for being among the first to show on such a scale the consequences on our lives of the “War on Terror”, led by the public powers and private companies of the military-industrial complex, which many of the digital for-profit corporations such as Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon (which hosts the CIA cloud) or Microsoft (through its many contracts with various branches of the American army or the French Ministry of Armies (fr)) joined without much hesitation. The only response these governments have offered has been to engage in coordinated judicial harassment.

Under the guise of the “Raison d’État”, the Swedish and British judicial systems were manipulated to delay proceedings and catch Julian Assange1As revealed by Stefania Maurizi, an Italian journalist, in a FOIA request against the British judicial system, showing the exchanges between Swedish and British judicial systems and the unexplained deletion of correspondence with American authorities. The sexual assault cases in Sweden having been closed after an the Swedish prosecutor interviewed Assange in 2016 . The USA, via Visa & Paypal, blocked WikiLeaks funding. Intelligence services in many countries tried, sometimes successfully, to demobilize people who publicly or technically supported WikiLeaks’ ideas. France and the European Union, using the pretext of defending whistleblowers, have ensured that it is impossible to reliably and safely denounce the abuses of both large groups and administrations (fr). Chelsea Manning, a former American military accused of the 2010 leaks that led to the disclosure of numerous US army abuses, particularly during the Iraq war, was sentenced to 35 years in prison by a military court, and since being pardoned, is once again in a high security prison – and was for a time in solitary confinement – after refusing to testify against WikiLeaks in secret before a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury decided to persecute her once again even though the damages caused by her previous imprisonment are largely documented2In the Washington Post or le Figaro (fr). Ola Bini, a free software developer and security expert, was arrested in Ecuador under false accusations of conspiracy against the Ecuadorian government3See the support website for Ola Bini, inviting members of the free software & computer and information security communities to call for his liberation. There is no doubt that these imprisonments are nothing but political.

La Quadrature du Net defends the intimacy of one and all before the gigantic powers of states and private companies. We have collaborated with WikiLeaks for years, making use for instance of the leaks on ACTA, the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement we started fighting in 2010. We continue to defend the right to communicate in a way that respects intimacy and privacy, a right that is being undermined by Internet surveillance by Western intelligence agencies – as revealed by Edward Snowden – and surveillance and computer attack tools – as revealed by WikiLeaks4See the Vault7 & SpyFiles releases.

WikiLeaks has made the idea of massive leaks of confidential documents from power structures possible. This method has since spread largely: the Panama Papers, Offshore Leaks, LuxLeaks, were made possible by the founding idea first embodied by the WikiLeaks project: facilitate the shedding of light where some would like to ensure – and enjoy – darkness. Reminding journalism of the need to question the actions of the most powerful, we support the cause embodied by WikiLeaks and denounce the illegitimate persecution of its supporters.

La Quadrature du Net supports all whistleblowers currently locked up or prosecuted (Jeremy Hammond, Reality Winner, Laurie Love, etc.) and denounces the slow execution and torture practices used, as was the case with Chelsea Manning (fr). We want the Internet to remain an instrument for emancipation and a means of regaining power over States or major private actors. A tool to facilitate the exchange of information and the protection of sources. It is clear as day that many States are willing to do anything to silence those who seek to use the Internet this way.

Privacy for the weak, transparency for the powerful.

Julian Assange must not be extradited.
Chelsea Manning & Ola Bini must be freed.

References   [ + ]

1. As revealed by Stefania Maurizi, an Italian journalist, in a FOIA request against the British judicial system, showing the exchanges between Swedish and British judicial systems and the unexplained deletion of correspondence with American authorities. The sexual assault cases in Sweden having been closed after an the Swedish prosecutor interviewed Assange in 2016
2. In the Washington Post or le Figaro (fr)
3. See the support website for Ola Bini, inviting members of the free software & computer and information security communities to call for his liberation
4. See the Vault7 & SpyFiles releases