August 22nd, 2011
The Huffington Post
By: Dina Rickman
When the woman who exposed the MPs expenses scandal says she’s uncovered the next big public outrage, it’s impossible not to take notice.
Heather Brooke explains to the Huffington Post UK why data dealing is even bigger than phone hacking and the reasons she lost faith in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Somewhere in an upmarket central London restaurant over lunch the negotiations started at £100,000. Heather Brooke witnessed the document with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of every voter in Britain go on sale.
The investigative journalist and campaigner says the attempt to sell the electoral register was just one example of data dealing – the burgeoning trade in personal information that could affect any citizen with an online profile.
“I don’t think people have any idea that this goes on all the time. There are corporate private investigators, companies doing very forensic background checks on people. They buy data, they get their own data … They don’t want their industry publicised”, she says.
The phone hacking scandal exposed how the private lives of celebrities and the bereaved had been targeted by journalists. But according to Brooke, her latest investigation will show now everyone’s details are up for grabs, and not by reporters, but by companies.
“Phone hacking, that’s just touching the surface of that whole industry in personal information which is vast, huge, it’s massive,” she says.
Two years ago a wave of public outrage forced the Home Office to abandon plans to set up a so-called ‘Big Brother database’ to collect information about every website you visited, phone call you made and email you sent. In the new information era exposed by Brooke in her forthcoming book, that doesn’t matter, companies can just piece together that information about you anyway.
And she says they can use instant message conversations, pictures, the texts you receive and your Facebook status.
Brooke warns corporations and governments are a “customer” for information, and they want it for a reason: “It’s trying to predict the behaviour of different people and it’s making decisions about who it thinks are going to be trouble makers, not based on what you’ve actually done but based on what they think you’re going to do in the future.”
She doesn’t subscribe to the ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about’ philosophy: “If you believe the promise that an authoritarian state makes that if it has enough knowledge on every citizen it will keep people safe. I think that’s a false promise. It doesn’t actually happen. If that was the case then East Germany would be a really incredible place to live and in fact it wasn’t, it was really horrible, most of these places were really horrible.”
And as the amount of data about people increases – google searches, text messages, emails, chat logs, purchases – so does the value of what it says about you. The websites you like to go to, the products you like to buy, and what exactly you might get up to in your spare time. And with more data comes opportunity for democracy – or suppression.
Brooke explores this in new book, ‘The Revolution Will Be Digitisied’, part crash course in information held by the government and corporations, and part thriller, focusing on the drama surrounding WikiLeaks’ attempts to expose US diplomatic cables and the gradual implosion of the organisation.
For Brooke it comes down to the dangers when there is a concentration of power – either with WikiLeaks or in government. The investigative journalist and campaigner made it clear she was not afraid to take on vested interests during her five year campaign to expose MPs’ expenses. And she says pockets of public outrage when it emerges that iPhones keep track of everywhere you go aren’t enough.
She’s scathing about David Cameron’s response to the riots in Britain, proposing to monitor social networks like BBM and Twitter.
“I think it’s interesting the political reaction is ‘we have to start surveying all the social networks’. That’s the instant reaction. That’s what I mean about how the revolution will be digitised because it totally shakes up power structures, it does put power in the hands of people, including the proletariat, chavs, whatever you want to call them. They’re on social networks now, they can organise, they can communicate. And people that are in power, in the more elitist bastions of power, they find that really frightening. It’s challenging, it’s frightening, they don’t know what to do, their kind of instant reaction is: let’s shut it down.”
For her, governments haven’t “evolved fast enough”: “People are used to getting a lot of information quickly and they’re used to being quite empowered as consumers and they go to governments expecting a similar treatment, they want to find data and they want to influence events quickly and yet they come into this brick wall. The government wants to know everything about them but isn’t willing to share any of that information.”
Julian Assange, of course, plays a part in her quest to free up data. Initially, she’s attracted to him (“He’s the world’s most famous leaker, I’m a freedom of information campaigner so we’ve a lot to talk about”). But he also unsettles her, telling her without fear she can become a “megalomaniac” like him. She says in her book “I couldn’t have felt less comfortable alone in that room with him”, and most strikingly, reveals that he asked her to be his Mary Magdalene and “bathe his feet at the cross”.
Now, Brooke says she would not have been tempted by Assange even if she were not married: “He did strike me as a kind of dangerous person.”
She says it was his domination of the WikiLeaks exposes that left her disillusioned with the founder.
“The values of WikiLeaks have been completely overshadowed by Julian Assange. And he’s trying to conflate the two as one. Which is why a lot of the good people left. The people that I thought were the best people left. It is basically the Julian Assange project now.
“I guess that’s the real disappointment in the book. There was this opportunity in 2010 to really revolutionise the way information was shared, and instead of that cause going forward and being the main thing it was subverted, I felt and I observed by Julian Assange to serve his own personal interest and protect himself from personal problems.”
She says the leaks on Iraq and Afghanistan could have actually changed government policy, if it weren’t for Assange.
“I think they could have had a pretty big effect on America’s view of that war. But … because of the way Julian personalised those stories and made them about him rather than the story itself.”
Suddenly we’re back to the hacking scandal again: “That’s all Nick Davies, right? Does Nick Davies give a press conference himself about Nick Davies? No he doesn’t, he lets the story speak for itself.
“That’s what Julian needs to take on board. If you’re really serious about wanting to change society you have to pull back off the story, let the facts speak for themselves and stop trying to micromanage the way the public interprets it.”
March 4th, 2011
By: Sharon Weinberger
Lawyers today asked a federal court in Alexandria, Va., to quash the Justice Department’s attempt to obtain the records of Twitter users linked to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks.
The department is trying to obtain records associated with several Twitter users, including Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst suspected of passing classified information to WikiLeaks; Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ editor; and several people who have been associated with the organization.
Lawyers for three of those people — Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir, Dutch citizen Rop Gonggrijp and computer security expert Jacob Appelbaum — argued today that the government’s request violated the right to freedom of speech and protection from unreasonable search and seizure. They also questioned the relevance of the requested records to the government’s criminal case.
Benjamin Siracusa-Hillman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Jonsdottir, told AOL News that one of the problems with the government’s request is that all three account holders used Twitter extensively, and most of their messages had nothing to do with WikiLeaks.
In the case of Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s parliament, her Twitter account includes messages to constituents about politics. “The fact that the entire record is material is something we are challenging,” he said.
An attorney for Gonggrijp declined to comment, and Appelbaum’s attorney did not respond to an e-mailed request to comment.
Assange lashed out at the U.S. government, linking the Twitter case to attempts to quell the pro-democracy protests sweeping the Middle East.
“This is an outrageous attack by the Obama administration on the privacy and free speech rights of Twitter’s customers — many of them American citizens,” Assange said in a statement Monday. “More shocking, at this time, is that it amounts to an attack on the right to freedom of association, a freedom that the people of Tunisia and Egypt, for example, spurred on by the information released by WikiLeaks, have found so valuable.”
WikiLeaks has released thousands of classified documents on the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as secret diplomatic cables. Assange, who is in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden for questioning on sexual assault allegations, has said he fears he will be arrested by the U.S.
The Justice Department is arguing that the records requested have nothing to do with politics, only about a criminal case.
“This is not about association rights,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John S. Davis said at the hearing, according to The Washington Post. “This is not about politics. This is about the facts and evidence. It’s about the communications among people that might show association.”
The case is also quickly garnering high-level level legal attention. WikiLeaks announced Monday that Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz is now involved with the organization’s legal defense. Dershowitz’s office confirmed his involvement to AOL News, but he was not immediately available for comment.
In the meantime, it’s unclear when the judge will rule on the current motions, which include a request to unseal records related to requests the government may have made to other social media sites, such as Google or Facebook.
Siracusa-Hillman said the ACLU has had successes in the past on similar motions but decline to speculate on the outcome of today’s hearing.
“We are hopeful, but I think we’ll leave it up to court to make its ruling,” he said.
Today, Kevin explains how specific products may help you now, but will end up hurting you in the long run. Plus, find out how a woman was able to use her mind to win the lottery!
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February 7th, 2011
By: Dana Kennedy
A surprise witness appeared at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London today and said he believes he has compelling evidence that the WikiLeaks founder is being framed on sexual assault allegations.
Goran Rudling, 59, a retired Swedish businessman and crusader for the reform of Swedish rape laws, said he does not support the anti-government-secrecy website or its editor. But he told the court he has acted as a sort of Internet detective on Assange’s behalf ever since the 39-year-old Australian was accused of sexual misconduct by two young Swedish women in August.
Rudling said he tracked down tweets he said were posted and then abruptly deleted by Anna Ardin, one of the two accusers, that would seem to run counter to her later claims that Assange pinned her down forcibly during sex and deliberately tore a condom.
“My interest in sexual offense law and reform to ensure better protection under the law for victims led me to follow the Assange case,” Rudling said in his official witness statement. He said his own mother was a rape victim.
“I should add that I am by no means a supporter of WikiLeaks or Julian Assange (I am critical of their work) and I have no liking of Mr. Assange. My only concern has been to ensure that this investigation is effective, the real offender is punished and to avoid a possible miscarriage of justice.”
Assange is being held under house arrest in Britain pending the outcome of the two-day hearing to decide whether he will be extradited to Sweden to face questioning about four allegations, one of which is defined as third-degree rape in Sweden.
His lawyers argued that Sweden could, in turn, extradite Assange to the U.S., where prosecutors have suggested they would try him under the Espionage Act — a fate that could send him to Guantanamo Bay or even death row. Lawyers for Sweden denied they would extradite him to the U.S.
Rudling told the court that Ardin sent out several tweets less than 24 hours after her allegedly violent sexual encounter with Assange. In one she asks if anyone is having a crayfish party that night that she and Assange could attend.
Not long after, Rudling said, she tweeted, “sitting outside. with the coolest and smartest people. that’s amazing.”
AOL News does not usually release the names of alleged sexual assault victims. It first identified Ardin in a story in December, after mainstream media outlets such as MSNBC and CBS News identified her. Ardin’s name, along with that of the other accuser, has been widely available on the Internet since the scandal broke in August.
Rudling said that Ardin deleted the tweets around Aug. 20, after she and the other accuser went to the police with their allegations. Rudling said he found them on “mirror” sites on the Internet that Ardin had not deleted.
“It seemed obvious that the story told to the police and these facts just didn’t go together,” Rudling said. “The tweets reveal that Ms. Ardin had a high opinion of Mr. Assange and that she very much enjoyed his company while he was staying at her home, and these were posted after the alleged sexual assault.”
January 19th, 2011
By: Theunis Bates
Not content with riling the U.S. government and military, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange warns that he has a stash of potentially damaging secret documents on the world’s most powerful media mogul: Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch.
In an interview in this week’s issue of Britain’s left-leaning New Statesman magazine — carried out by veteran war journalist and outspoken Assange supporter, John Pilger — the anti-secrecy campaigner said he had “504 U.S. embassy cables on one broadcasting organization” and “cables on Murdoch and News Corp.,” his multinational media company.
Assange didn’t specify what might be in the documents, but said they were part of an “insurance” package that would be released “if something happens to me or to WikiLeaks.”
Assange is fighting an attempt to extradite him from the U.K. to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sex crimes allegations. The WikiLeaks boss has denied the accusations, and his lawyers argue that their client could be handed over to U.S. authorities after arriving in Sweden. Once in American custody, they claim, Assange could be imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, or even sentenced to death.
The 39-year-old Australian has already attempted to deter the U.S. from taking such a step by making a digitally locked “insurance” file available to anybody who wants to download it. In the event of anything ill happening to Assange or his website, a code would be released that would open the presumably damaging files. His British lawyer, Mark Stephens, has previously referred to the batch of documents as a “thermonuclear device” for the “electronic age.”
That information bomb is primarily intended to scare off U.S. authorities who have been angered by WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of secret diplomatic and military papers, but Assange might also be using it to settle some personal grudges. Murdoch’s Fox News is one of his fiercest critics, and WikiLeaks noted in a press release earlier this week that one of the station’s commentators — Bob Beckel — had called for people to “illegally shoot the son of a bitch [Assange].” Assange said that public figures who make such inflammatory statements “should be charged with incitement to murder.”
Click here for the full report from AOL News
January 18th, 2011
By: Jim Sciutto and Jessica Hopper
Former Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer handed over two computer discs detailing thousands of offshore bank accounts to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange today, claiming that they contain evidence of massive potential tax evasion and other potentially illegal activity by banks.
Standing next to Assange, Elmer said that he had tried to hand the data over to tax authorities and members of the media.
“WikiLeaks is my only hope to get society to know what’s going on,” Elmer said.
The discs are full of details about the Swiss bank accounts belonging to more than 2,000 American, European and Asian individuals and multinational companies, Elmer has said. Among them, are some 40 politicians, as well as business leaders, celebrities, organized crime leaders and three major financial institutions. One of those banks is Bank Julius Baer, the former employer of Elmer.
Elmer previously leaked documents to WikiLeaks in 2008. Those files contained information about his former employer’s offshore operations in the Cayman Islands and prompted a U.S. judge to temporarily shut down WikiLeaks.
“I want to let society know how this system works,” Elmer said. “It’s damaging society.”
Also present at the event at London’s Frontline Club was John Christensen from the Tax Justice Network who estimated that $20 trillion is held offshore with the intention to evade taxes.
“Secrecy encourages criminal activity. And bankers…promote secrecy,” Christensen said.
Elmer said he would not immediately release the names of any individuals or institutions, in part to ensure the names on the accounts are real, and not aliases for individuals or companies involved. “The investigation is for government authorities to sort out,” Elmer said.
Elmer repeatedly emphasized that he, not Assange, takes full responsibility for the information.
“This is not my news conference. This is Mr. Elmer’s news conference,” Assange said.
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I Am Julian Assange
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December 13th, 2010
The Huffington Post
By: James Moore
I am Julian Assange.
I want information so that I can hold my government accountable. If my country acts improperly and in my name, I want the proof. I want to know if there actually is no evidence proving weapons of mass destruction. I want to know if America is working with Israel to overthrow Iran’s leadership. I want data that has not been spun by reporters that work for publishers and broadcasters with political and business goals that conflict with the facts. I want to know.
I am Julian Assange because I know unfettered information is valuable to democracy and a peaceful world. I can make the best decisions with the most knowledge. I can vote for the best candidates. I can support the smartest policies to help my country and the world. I am not naïve; I know that not every operation can be transparent but I have a right to know its outcome and how it has affected my country and me.
I do not believe Julian Assange has done anything wrong. The cables that have been published have all been printed in newspapers and redacted to protect individuals at risk. I do not want my country to prosecute a man whose actions are changing the way we get information and how we make critical decisions. I now know that my president and my country’s military have not been honest about the war in Afghanistan. I know that my country has killed civilians and that we have refused to acknowledge our mistakes. I have learned that our allies are secretly consorting with our enemies.
I am also Pfc. Bradley Manning. I know that if I saw the disturbing information come across my desk that I would have confronted the conflict between my oath of service to my country and the immorality of its behavior. I do not believe I would have been able to ignore American helicopters gunning down journalists carrying cameras. I believe I would have acted on my conscience and found a way to reveal the facts. There was a reporter at the My Lai massacre in Vietnam but there was only a gun camera on the US helicopter in Iraq. And the Internet. And Bradley Manning.
I believe that governments are out of control and citizens have a decreasing belief that they can influence decisions. WikiLeaks and the Internet are empowering individuals and groups with information. Julian Assange and Bradley Manning are the first two faces and voices in a crowd that will soon be too big to control. Their arrests and charges and even prosecution will only spawn a broader resistance against war and deception and corruption. The Internet is now the reporter. This is the way the world is. I do not want to hear that there will always be wars and spying and death. I want information to prevent them and to build peace.
I am saddened that Australia’s government is once more acting as a lapdog for American interests and is not demanding sovereign rights for one of its citizens. I am also distressed that the president of my country who ran for office promising a transparent government is trying to find a way to prosecute a foreign national, and is preventing Pfc Manning from speaking with his family. WikiLeaks has shown there is an America in civics textbooks and an America that functions differently in the real world. Adequate information might move us closer to the ideal. I no longer trust my president. I do not trust my congress. I place my trust in facts and I do not get them from most of the media. But I still want to know.
I am Julian Assange. And if you care about the truth, you are, too.
December 8th, 2010
By: Robert Booth and Haroon Siddique
Shortly before 6.30pm on Sunday night, the first cracks appeared in the dam. The largest ever leak of US government classified documents streamed out online, revealing never publicly seen details about Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Russia.
Throughout the week the stream became a torrent of information about how US diplomats and foreign governments see the world. According to these classified cables, Saudi Arabia wanted Washington to bomb Iran, the UK harbours “deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”, and Russia is considered a “virtual mafia state” with its president, Vladimir Putin, accused of amassing “illicit proceeds” from his time in office.
But perhaps most embarrassing for Hillary Clinton who, as US secretary of state, is ultimately responsible for the content of most of the cables released so far, was a cable that revealed Washington is running a spying campaign targeted at the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the rest of the UN leadership, as well as the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.
Clinton has spent much of the week trying to justify the operation – which was looking for top UN officials’ passwords and credit card numbers , even DNA samples – to the press and in person to the UN secretary general.
As startling as the exposés were – the Saudi king urging America “to cut off the head of the snake”, to launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear programme – it was as much the sense of a curtain lifting to reveal the world leaders not as wizards but as all too human, and that the private positions of those in power were often diametrically opposed to what they said in public, that made the cables so gripping – and perhaps so dangerous.
Clinton’s immediate reaction was to strongly condemn the leak and say that “every country, including the US, must be able to have honest, private dialogue with other countries … When someone breaches that trust, we are the worse off for it.”
Former presidential candidate, the Republican Mike Huckabee called for the execution of Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old US army intelligence analyst who is in custody at a military base in Virginia, facing trial for downloading the files while on duty in Iraq.
Fellow Republican Sarah Palin called Julian Assange, the fugitive founder of the WikiLeaks website, “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” because she said previous leaks had included the identities of “more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban”.
Yesterday Assange described Manning as “an unparalleled hero”.
Several leaders who fared badly from the revelations were unconvinced the leaks were genuine. It was revealed that Russia was using mafia members to carry out operations like arms trafficking and that bribery functions as a parallel tax system for the personal enrichment of the police, officials and the KGB’s successor, the FSB. Even before the revelations, Vladimir Putin said: “Some experts believe that somebody is deceiving WikiLeaks, that its reputation is being undermined in order for it to be used for political purposes. Such an opinion is being expressed here.”
A day later, it emerged that US diplomats had reported suspicions that the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, could be “profiting personally and handsomely” from secret deals with Putin.
President Ahmadinejad of Iran also denied that the Gulf Arab states are antagonistic towards his regime and said: “We don’t think this information was leaked. We think it was organised to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals.”
Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan was so rattled that he even threatened to sue over allegations of corruption.
Rampant corruption in Afghanistan was revealed, including an incident last year when the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash.
In the UK, there were calls for Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, to resign after it emerged he had been briefing the US ambassador to London, Louis Susman, about the “lack of experience” of David Cameron and George Osborne, and that they “had a tendency to think about issues only in terms of politics and how they might affect Tory electorability [sic]“.
At least one major revelation gave some hopes for a more peaceful future, not least the suggestion that China is ready to accept Korean unification and is distancing itself from North Korea, which it describes as behaving like a “spoiled child”.
Dispatches on North Korea showed that South Korea’s vice-foreign minister was told by two senior Chinese officials that they believed Korea should be reunified under Seoul’s control and that this view was gaining ground in Beijing.
Throughout the week, the US authorities increased the pressure on WikiLeaks. On Tuesday they announced an investigation into whether it had breached espionage laws, and on Wednesday they successfully pressured Amazon to stop hosting the site.
Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate’s committee on homeland security, called on “any other company or organisation that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them”.
Yesterday, the WikiLeaks website went offline for the third time this week.
December 8th, 2010
By: Stephen A. Webster
MasterCard Worldwide confirmed on Wednesday morning that the “MasterCard Directory Server” had gone down and that cardholders were experiencing service interruptions. The revelation was made as a massive denial of service attack was staged against MasterCard, ostensibly for refusing further payments to secrets outlet WikiLeaks.
“Please be advised that MasterCard SecureCode Support has detected a service disruption to the MasterCard Directory Server,” MasterCard said. “The Directory Server service has been failed over to a secondary site however customers may still be experiencing intermittent connectivity issues. More information on the estimated time of recovery will be shared in due course.”
Yesterday, MasterCard Worldwide became the latest financial institution to face the wrath of online hackers acting to avenge secrets outlet WikiLeaks over the credit card provider’s declaration that the site was engaged in “illegal” activities.
Not 36 hours after MasterCard froze payments to WikiLeaks, their website was down as hackers with the group “Anonymous” launched a new wave of cyberattacks. The company said its customers could still use their credit cards for purchases, but the PayPoint retail network told a BBC reporter that MasterCard’s “SecureCode” service had been taken down, interrupting service all over.
The hackers also claimed responsibility for taking down the website for Swiss bank PostFinance, after it froze an account with over €31,000 set aside for site founder Julian Assange’s legal defense.
Assange was arrested in London yesterday on an Interpol warrant out of Sweden, where he’s wanted for questioning in an investigation of sexual assault.
“Anonymous” has dubbed their cyber warfare campaign “Operation Payback,” threatening to “fire” on any entity that attempts to censor WikiLeaks.
Service to mastercard.com was unavailable at time of this writing. The website for the Swedish prosecutor’s office was also offline, as was a site for the lawyer representing Assange’s accusers.
Secure Computing Magazine called what’s happening “an all-out cyber war,” noting that massive botnets were attacking each other by mid-Wednesday morning as even the ‘Anonymous’ group had come under fire from another group of hackers that sought to defend US interests. That group, which was successful in taking WikiLeaks offline in late November, was also thought to be behind attacks on the ‘Anonymous’ website, anonops.net, which was still online at time of this writing.
A “botnet” is Internet slang for a massive shadow network of computers that have been unknowingly hijacked by malicious software. They are typically used for nefarious purposes, such as distributed denial of service attacks.
Credit card processor Visa also suspended payments to WikiLeaks on Tuesday morning, but its website was functional at time of this story’s publication. It too was expected to come under denial of service attacks.
“Operation Payback” also promised to attack PayPal, the online payment service that last week cut off WikiLeaks and froze over $60,000 in electronic donations, but their site was still online Wednesday morning. Topics trending on Twitter suggested an attack may also target the micro-blogging site.
Others to suffer downtime this week include PayPal’s blog, EveryDNS — the domain name service provider that pulled WikiLeaks off it’s .org address — and Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) .gov website. Lieberman’s staff was responsible for prompting Amazon.com to take WikiLeaks off its US-based cloud servers.
Researchers with Panda Security have been tracking the wave of attacks, blow-for-blow.
In recent days, the online to-do over WikiLeaks has been called the world’s “first serious infowar” and a “war for control of the Internet.”
“What is this all about? And what does it have to do with censorship and Operation Payback?” ‘Anonymous’ asks on their website.
“While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same reasons. We want transparency and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas.
“We can not let this happen. This is why our intention is to find out who is responsible for this failed attempt at censorship. This is why we intend to utilize our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy.”