Mere hours after the Ecuadorian embassy in London restricted the internet access of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living there after he was granted asylum in June 2012, the Dead Man’s Switch was activated. In layman’s language, it is a switch which is turned on in an eventuality where the principal operator is incapacitated – dead, missing or detained. And once the switch is turned on, it performs what the original operator intended to. In the world of computers, a dead man’s switch is the decryption key which is used to release files.
Wikileaks has now released a massive directory of secret files to the public on their website. But the release was unlike previous releases, which were always announced to the press.
The 88GB files contain specific details on a whole gamut of hitherto suppressed or unknown information from around the world including the political struggle of Tibetan people, the Italian child sex scandal, US army and FBI activities, Indian Army doctrine from 2004, Scientology, etcetera.
This is why Internet is abuzz with rumours that 45-year-old Julian Assange could be dead or detained. That the Ecuadorian embassy restricted his web use following pressure from the US government on Sunday gave strength to fears for Assange’s safety.
Before this release, Wikileaks had posted three cryptic tweets called ‘pre-commitment’.
They were marked in order – John Kerry, Ecuador and UK FCO. (UK FCO stands for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Government of UK.)
Adding to the fears was this tweet posted by Wikileaks before the release of the files:
And this tweet by Roger Stone pointed fingers at US Secretary of State John Kerry:
Now who turned on the Dead Man’s Switch? The explanation is in how decryption keys work.
Decryption keys are an automated message generated if the user of a specific key is unable to prove his availability. The dead man’s switch is a failsafe that is triggered if a person fails to log-in at a specific place at a specific time. If Assange failed to log-in, the system sends out the information stored for such an eventuality to the addressees – in this case, codes to the encrypted files via Twitter. In an interview given to Australian journalist John Pilger in August, Assange had himself spoken about the creation of ‘Wikileaks Insurance’ – a system that would release secret files if anything happens to him. The interview came in the backdrop of Wikileaks going after Hillary Clinton. The US has increased pressed on the gas to get Assange ever since Wikileaks started releasing the ‘Podesta Files’. The files – hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta – reveal secrets about the former Secretary of State which could have ended her presidential prospects. The internet gag on him came after Wikileaks released transcripts of Clinton’s secret talks with Goldman Sachs. Clinton is known to harbour a particular kind of hate for Assange.
In 2010, as a Secretary of State, she inquired if Assange could be killed in a drone strike.
Though Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy, attempts to get him have been made that seriously put his life in danger.
In August this year, a man tried to break into the Ecuadorian embassy. The embassy immediately called the London police, but the latter allegedly took two hours to respond.
Videos showed this man scaling the Ecuadorian embassy without the embassy officials having any idea of it. The balcony where the Ecuadorian flag is hoisted is where Assange appears to address the media. YouTube
Following the incident Ecuador was forced to read the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) to UK telling London that the security of an embassy is the prime responsibility of the host country. In its statement Ecuador pointed out that the UK government had tried everything to prevent Assange from leaving the embassy using “enormous resources”. An arrest warrant against Assange from December 2010 remains in force, which seeks his extradition to Sweden on charges of rape. Assange and his lawyers argue that the charges are frivolous and designed by the US government to get the man who spilled the beans on the dark activities of some of the most powerful governments of the world.