Second email released from #Assange to #Cumberbatch
From: Julian Assange XXXXXXXXXXX
To: Benedict Cumberbatch XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Subject: From 1945 to 2012
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2013 04:31:50 +0000
You may be interested in comparing these two, which were written
without knowledge of each other.
INTRODUCTION: A CALL TO CRYPTOGRAPHIC ARMS
This book is not a manifesto. There is not time for that. This book is
The world is not sliding, but galloping into a new transnational
dystopia. This development has not been properly recognized outside of
national security circles. It has been hidden by secrecy, complexity
and scale. The internet, our greatest tool of emancipation, has been
transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we
have ever seen. The internet is a threat to human civilization.
These transformations have come about silently, because those who know
what is going on work in the global surveillance industry and have no
incentives to speak out. Left to its own trajectory, within a few
years, global civilization will be a postmodern surveillance dystopia,
from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals will be
impossible. In fact, we may already be there.
While many writers have considered what the internet means for global
civilization, they are wrong. They are wrong because they do not have
the sense of perspective that direct experience brings. They are wrong
because they have never met the enemy.
No description of the world survives first contact with the enemy.
We have met the enemy.
Over the last six years WikiLeaks has had conflicts with nearly every
powerful state. We know the new surveillance state from an insider's
perspective, because we have plumbed its secrets. We know it from a
combatant's perspective, because we have had to protect our people, our
finances and our sources from it. We know it from a global perspective,
because we have people, assets and information in nearly every country.
We know it from the perspective of time, because we have been fighting
this phenomenon for years and have seen it double and spread, again and
again. It is an invasive parasite, growing fat off societies that merge
with the internet. It is rolling over the planet, infecting all states
and peoples before it.
What is to be done?
Once upon a time in a place that was neither here nor there, we, the
constructors and citizens of the young internet discussed the future of
our new world.
We saw that the relationships between all people would be mediated by
our new world, and that the nature of states, which are defined by how
people exchange information, economic value, and force, would also
We saw that the merger between existing state structures and the
internet created an opening to change the nature of states.
First, recall that states are systems through which coercive force
flows. Factions within a state may compete for support, leading to
democratic surface phenomena, but the underpinnings of states are the
systematic application, and avoidance, of violence. Land ownership,
property, rents, dividends, taxation, court fines, censorship,
copyrights and trademarks are all enforced by the threatened
application of state violence.
Most of the time we are not even aware of how close to violence we are,
because we all grant concessions to avoid it. Like sailors smelling the
breeze, we rarely contemplate how our surface world is propped up from
below by darkness.
In the new space of the internet what would be the mediator of coercive
Does it even make sense to ask this question? In this otherworldly
space, this seemingly platonic realm of ideas and information flow,
could there be a notion of coercive force? A force that could modify
historical records, tap phones, separate people, transform complexity
into rubble, and erect walls, like an occupying army?
The platonic nature of the internet, is debased by its physical
origins. Its foundations are fiber optic cable lines stretching across
the ocean floors, satellites spinning above our heads, computer servers
housed in cities from New York to Nairobi. Like the
soldier who slew Archimedes with a mere sword, so too could an armed
militia take control of the peak development of Western civilization,
our platonic realm.
The new world of the internet, abstracted from the old world of brute
atoms, longed for independence. But states and their friends moved to
control our new world -- by controlling its physical underpinnings. The
state, like an army around an oil well, or a customs agent extracting
bribes at the border, would soon learn to leverage its control of
physical space to gain control over intellectual space. It would
prevent the independence we had dreamed of, and then, squatting on
fiber optic lines and around satellite ground stations, it would go on
to mass intercept the information flow of our new world -- its very
essence -- even as every human, economic, and political relationship
embraced it. The state would leech into the veins and arteries of our
new societies, gobbling up every relationship expressed or
communicated, every web page read, every message sent and every thought
searched, and then store this knowledge, billions of interceptions a
day, undreamed of power, in vast top secret warehouses, forever. It
would go on to mine and mine again this treasure, the collective
private intellectual output of humanity, with ever more sophisticated
search and pattern finding algorithms, enriching the treasure and
maximizing the power imbalance between interceptors and the world of
interceptees. And then the state would reflect what it had learned back
into the physical world, to start wars, to target drones, to manipulate
UN committees and trade deals, and to do favors for its vast connected
network of industries, insiders and cronies.
But we discovered something. Our one hope against total domination. A
hope that with courage, insight and solidarity we could use to resist.
A strange property of the physical universe that we live in.
The universe believes in encryption.
It is easier to encrypt information than it is to decrypt it.
We saw we could use this strange property to create the laws of a new
world. To abstract away our new platonic realm from its base
underpinnings of satellites, undersea cables and their controllers. To
fortify our space behind a cryptographic veil. To create new lands
barred to those who control physical reality, because to follow us into
them would require infinite resources.
And in this manner to declare independence.
* * *
Scientists in the Manhattan Project discovered that the universe
permitted the construction of a nuclear bomb. This was not an obvious
conclusion. Perhaps nuclear weapons were not within the laws of
physics. However, the universe believes in atomic bombs and nuclear
reactors. They are a phenomenon the universe blesses, like salt, sea or
Similarly, the universe, our physical universe, has that property that
makes it possible for an individual or a group of individuals to
reliably, automatically, even without knowing, encipher something, so
that all the resources and all the political will of the strongest
superpower on earth may not decipher it. And paths of encipherment
between people can mesh together to create regions free from the
coercive force of the outer state. Free from mass interception. Free
from outer state control.
In this way, people can oppose their will to that of a fully mobilized
superpower and win. Encryption is an embodiment of the laws of physics,
and it does not listen to the bluster of states, even transnational
It isn't obvious that the world had to work this way. But somehow the
universe smiles on encryption.
* * *
Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action. While
nuclear weapons states can exert unlimited violence over even millions
of individuals, strong cryptography means that a state, even by
exercising unlimited violence, cannot violate the intent of individuals
to keep secrets from them.
Strong cryptography can resist an unlimited application of violence. No
amount of coercive force will ever solve a math problem.
But could we take this strange fact about the world and build it up to
be a basic emancipatory building block for the independence of mankind
in the platonic realm of the internet? And as societies merged with the
internet could that liberty then be reflected back into physical
reality to redefine the state?
Recall that states are the systems which determine where and how
coercive force is consistently applied.
The question of how much coercive force can seep into the platonic
realm of the internet from the physical world is answered by
cryptography and the cypherpunks' ideals.
As states merge with the internet and the future of our civilization
becomes the future of the internet, we must redefine force relations.
If we do not, the universality of the internet will merge global
humanity into one giant grid of mass surveillance and mass control.
It is time to take up the arms of our new world, to fight for ourselves
and for those we love.
Our task is to secure self-determination where we can, to hold back the
coming dystopia where we cannot, and if all else fails, to accelerate
-- Julian Assange, London, October 2012
You and the Atom Bomb
Some months ago, when the bomb was still only a rumour, there was a
widespread belief that splitting the atom was merely a problem for the
physicists, and that when they had solved it a new and devastating
weapon would be within reach of almost everybody. (At any moment, so
the rumour went, some lonely lunatic in a laboratory might blow
civilisation to smithereens, as easily as touching off a firework.)
Had that been true, the whole trend of history would have been abruptly
altered. The distinction between great states and small states would
have been wiped out, and the power of the State over the individual
would have been greatly weakened. However, it appears from President
Truman's remarks, and various comments that have been made on them,
that the bomb is fantastically expensive and that its manufacture
demands an enormous industrial effort, such as only three or four
countries in the world are capable of making. This point is of cardinal
importance, because it may mean that the discovery of the atomic bomb,
so far from reversing history, will simply intensify the trends which
have been apparent for a dozen years past.
It is a commonplace that the history of civilisation is largely the
history of weapons. In particular, the connection between the discovery
of gunpowder and the overthrow of feudalism by the bourgeoisie has been
pointed out over and over again. And though I have no doubt exceptions
can be brought forward, I think the following rule would be found
generally true: that ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or
difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the
dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance.
Thus, for example, thanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently
tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades
are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong
stronger, while a simple weapon--so long as there is no answer to it--
gives claws to the weak.
The great age of democracy and of national self-determination was the
age of the musket and the rifle. After the invention of the flintlock,
and before the invention of the percussion cap, the musket was a fairly
efficient weapon, and at the same time so simple that it could be
produced almost anywhere. Its combination of qualities made possible the
success of the American and French revolutions, and made a popular
insurrection a more serious business than it could be in our own day.
After the musket came the breech-loading rifle. This was a comparatively
complex thing, but it could still be produced in scores of countries,
and it was cheap, easily smuggled and economical of ammunition. Even
the most backward nation could always get hold of rifles from one
source or another, so that Boers, Bulgars, Abyssinians, Moroccans--even
Tibetans-- could put up a fight for their independence, sometimes with
success. But thereafter every development in military technique has
favoured the State as against the individual, and the industrialised
country as against the backward one. There are fewer and fewer foci of
power. Already, in 1939, there were only five states capable of waging
war on the grand scale, and now there are only three--ultimately,
perhaps, only two. This trend has been obvious for years, and was
pointed out by a few observers even before 1914. The one thing that
might reverse it is the discovery of a weapon--or, to put it more
broadly, of a method of fighting--not dependent on huge concentrations
of industrial plant.
From various symptoms one can infer that the Russians do not yet possess
the secret of making the atomic bomb; on the other hand, the consensus
of opinion seems to be that they will possess it within a few years. So
we have before us the prospect of two or three monstrous super-states,
each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out
in a few seconds, dividing the world between them. It has been rather
hastily assumed that this means bigger and bloodier wars, and perhaps
an actual end to the machine civilisation. But suppose--and really this
the likeliest development--that the surviving great nations make a tacit
agreement never to use the atomic bomb against one another? Suppose they
only use it, or the threat of it, against people who are unable to
retaliate? In that case we are back where we were before, the only
difference being that power is concentrated in still fewer hands and
that the outlook for subject peoples and oppressed classes is still more
More and more obviously the surface of the earth is
being parceled off into three great empires, each self-contained and cut
off from contact with the outer world, and each ruled, under one
disguise or another, by a self-elected oligarchy. The haggling as to
where the frontiers are to be drawn is still going on, and will
continue for some years, and the third of the three super-states--East
Asia, dominated by China--is still potential rather than actual. But
the general drift is unmistakable, and every scientific discovery of
recent years has accelerated it.
Nevertheless, looking at the world as a whole, the
drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the
reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but
for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity. James
Burnham's theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet
considered its ideological implications--that is, the kind of
world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would
probably prevail in a state which was at once UNCONQUERABLE and in a
permanent state of 'cold war' with its neighbors.
Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily
manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged
us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the
end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state.
If, as seems to be the case, it is a rare and costly object as difficult
to produce as a battleship, it is likelier to put an end to large-scale
wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a 'peace that is no peace'.
George Orwell, 19 October 1945