London: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
launched the website`s new project on Friday, the publication of
hundreds of files it claims show a global industry that gives
governments tools to spy on their citizens.
The files reveal the activities of about 160 companies in
25 countries which develop technologies to allow the tracking
and monitoring of individuals by their mobile phones, email
accounts and Internet browsing histories.
"Today we release over 287 files documenting the reality
of the international mass surveillance industry -- an industry
which now sells equipment to dictators and democracies alike
in order to intercept entire populations," Assange told
reporters in London.
He said that in the last ten years it had grown from a
covert industry which primarily supplied government
intelligence agencies such as the NSA in the United States and
Britain`s GCHQ, to a huge transnational business.
Assange has been in Britain for the past year fighting
extradition to Sweden for questioning on allegations of rape
and sexual assault, living under tight bail conditions. His
case is due to come up again on Monday.
The documents on the website,
http://wikileaks.org/the-spyfiles.html, include manuals for
surveillance products sold to repressive Arab regimes.
They have come to light in part from offices ransacked
during uprisings in countries such as Egypt and Libya earlier
this year, as well as investigative work by WikiLeaks and its
media and campaigning partners.
"These systems that are revealed in these documents show
exactly the kind of systems that the Stasi (East Germany`s
secret police) wished they could have built," said Jacob
Appelbaum, a former WikiLeaks spokesman and computer expert at
the University of Washington.
"These systems have been sold by Western companies to
places for example like Syria, and Libya and Tunisia and
Egypt. These systems are used to hunt people down and to
Experts who worked on the release warned that at present
the industry was completely unregulated and urged governments
worldwide to introduce new laws governing the export of such
"Western governments cannot stand idly by while this
technology is still being sold," said Eric King, from the
Privacy International campaign group.
It is the first time WikiLeaks has released documents
since it announced on October 24 that it had been forced to
suspend publishing classified files due to a funding blockade
that saw its revenues plunge by 95 percent.