Thursday, December 2, 2010

`The FSB Said Not To Worry - They Could Take Us Down` - Julian Assange - And the Pakistanis?

A very interesting interview of Julian Assange by a Forbes magazine apparatchik. I call him an apparatchik because this Andy Greenberg fellow is brighter than he let on, springing a question to Assange about one of Julian's old hacker acquaintances from two decades back who now works with DARPA (the guys who created the internet) on an "anti-leaking" software. Very shrewd people at Forbes.

The quote in the title is a phrase Julian repeats that someone attributed to Russian intelligence. It set of a train of speculation in my mind.

Julian Assange is a metrosexual elf Nazi?

I`ve always wondered what would happen if Assange directly took on some really hard targets like Russian intelligence, Israeli intelligence or the ISI. I`m not saying the current leaks, which are leaks of what the US and others say of Pakistani intelligence, but if someone from within Pakistani intelligence started to decide to spill the beans. Would they be killed? Possibly not if they got away with it. What would Pakistani intelligence do about tracking Assange's group? What would Russian intelligence do? Would they do what they did with Litvenenko to him? I'm guessing that if a Wikileak directly threatened the power of the Putin clique itself, then maybe they might try to dispatch someone to hurt Assange or his group. I don't know if they could keep the information under wraps. And as for Pakistani intelligence, well, they may harm Assange if they were directly affected by it, but I doubt they could take down his entire group.

Currently official Pakistan is more embarrassed at it's relationship with the United States, and the lousy one between its institutions than it is about its own people being the source of all that has been said. There seem to be two levels of reaction to the majority of these cables within Pakistan, a titillated laughter by those who cover these things as people from Hamid Mir, to Nusrat Javed say that it's good to see all those rumours we heard back then confirmed. And a stony silence of embarrassment from those at the top. As Najam Sethi said on his show, now the major heads of Pakistan will be gripped by silence when asked a question about the raltion between the major institutions of the country. People like Nawaz Sharif, President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani, And COAS Ashfaq Kayani will feel like clamming up. The gossip of their relationships has been blown wide open, not so much revealing to the world anything new, but confirming what everyone said. Between being called "The Real Housewives of Margalla Hills", to saying that "for once the Isloo rumour mill has a paper trail", the sad, sad quality of Pakistani television, where gossip is screened to the entire country, has been globalised, to gossip being blasted around the world as news.

The Pakistani who went above and beyond regular criticism of wikileaks as mere gossip, may have been Arif Rafiq of Pakistan Policy blog, who said:

I think Pakistanis would be more interested in reports with a higher classification that reveal what technologies and which human assets (civilian and military) provide the U.S. with sensitive information on Pakistan.

Strangely Julian Assange addresses this concern in his interview. Quoth Assange on western intelligence:

But there are also industries that just have more secrecy, so you must know there are things you want that you haven’t gotten.

That’s right. Within the intelligence industry is one example. They have a higher level of secrecy. And that’s also true of the banking industry.

Other industries that are extremely well paid, say Goldman Sachs, might have higher incentives not to lose their jobs.

So it’s only the obvious things that we want: Things concerning intelligence and war, and mass financial fraud. Because they affect so many people so severely.

And they’re harder leaks to get.

Intelligence particularly, because the penalties are so severe. Although very few people have been caught, it’s worth noting. The penalties may be severe, but nearly everyone gets away with it.

To keep people in control, you only need to make them scared. The CIA is not scared as an institution of people leaking. It’s scared that people will know that people are leaking and getting away with it. If that happens, the management loses control.

And WikiLeaks has the opposite strategy?

That’s right. It’s summed up by the phrase “courage is contagious.” If you demonstrate that individuals can leak something and go on to live a good life, it’s tremendously incentivizing to people.

Courage may be contagious in the west, Assange bhai, but when you've got multiple Islamist gangs scattered around Pakistan to carry out your bidding, you can potentially get a lot of inconvenient people removed from your way. But bahaduri is something Pakistanis will have to demonstrate again and again if they want their country improved.

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