After Cablegate, Botzarisgate?

Editorial 30 June 2011

By Mehdi

Tunisian refugees are housed at 36 rue Botzaris in the 19th arrondissement. They are under surveillance and possible persecution by Claude Guéant, Interior Minister.

With so much noise in today's news, it is difficult to discern causality. This well serves large organizations which make it nearly impossible for regular guy Joe to digest enormous quantities of news and try to make something of it. Consequently, false links are established, and real ones are either distorted or muted. Not seen on TV = doesn't exist.

A few days ago, Viviane Reding, The EU Commissioner for Justice, Citizenship and Fundamental Rights, announced laws intended requiring companies to rapidly inform customers in case of security breach on servers, potentially exposing private data.

But why that law, and why now?

The Sony server was hacked April 20; however, Sony divulged this a week later. A week is more than enough for hackers to use the kind of data stolen plain text passwords and credit card numbers among other things), if they wanted to.

Happily, that was not the intention of LulzSec, which wanted nothing but to humiliate Sony and harm its reputation (after Sony persecuted and harassed hacker GeoHot for the wrong reasons), showing its incompetence and negligence in the handling of private data of its customers. By the way, American customers of Sony have already filed a suit against it for this negligence.

Consequently after all this fuss, a law will be passed to improve private data of customers... thank you who?

Thank you, LulzSec

Their intervention has, in just a matter of weeks, resulted in a huge push for consumer protection. It shows once again, how strong a leverage the Internet and information technologies constitute (notwithstanding the legality of LulzSec's acts). How many demonstrators would have been needed to get the same effect? Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands? Of course, this doesn't mean the street becomes irrelevant for protests.
The LulzSec effect isn't over yet: An Australian ISP had gotten the idea to start a voluntary censorship on his own customers (its motivation remains unclear, but it might be some new kind of undocumented pathology). In better times, this would have meant the immediate commercial suicide of the company; but in our days, and despite the large choice and competition, customers aren't that demanding.

Now, this same ISP, Telstra, has turned its back on its weird idea, and had no difficulty to admit that this decision was fueled by fear of repercussions coming from rogue hackers surfing the Internet.

The right to protest

In a democracy, we think we have the right to protest on the streets against governments or corporations that we believe harming people or values and principles. We can block the entrance of a government building, of a private organization, of a harbor...

Why wouldn't we have the right to protest on the Internet – the territory as opposed to the tool; unfortunately too many don't distinguish between these?

Highjacking Europe

Let's talk about Viviane Reding again. Do you remember why Julian Assange is still under house arrest for more than 200 days? Because a court decided to extradite him to Sweden, a decision that he appealed. But that's not all. No, Sweden doesn't want him extradited because he raped two women: It simply wants him for a "hearing" (as if we were still in the Middle Ages where you can't hear a person unless he/she is nearby). The two plaintiffs aren't pressing charges for rape, but for unlawful sexual act ( here for details on the specific and worrying context of Sweden on these matters). This is different from rape. At first the Swedish justice decided there was no case after the two plaintiffs wanted to sue Assange. A few weeks later, the case was strangely reopened by another prosecutor.

Assange being in the UK at that time, Sweden used a powerful but extreme EU tool for extraditing him: the European Arrest Warrant. The EAW is normally designed for international criminals, not for leaders of transparency organizations who haven't been charged with anything. Yet British justice initially accepted the request under the EAW.

At the same time, the UK allows internationally wanted criminals enjoy its shelter and freedom of movement.

After he appealed, Assange was freed on bail under house arrest, required to show up at the closest police station daily at a fixed hour. A security tag was put around his ankle. This has been going on for more than 200 days. If this scenario is not designed to humiliate and psychologically undermine Assange, it is not what it appears.

In addition to the inconsistencies of the Swedes (reopening of the case without any new charges or the decision to hold the Swedish trial behind closed doors - this is the ultimate insult to Assange and to pro-transparency activists) and on the British side (arresting Assange, and treating him like a most-wanted criminal). All of which legitimately worry Assange a lot. It is the disproportional and yet accepted misuse and abuse of the European Arrest Warrant that is the most worrying. Can one reasonably use a nuclear bomb to fight a fly? The rule of proportionality of actions compared to the purpose draws a clear line between legitimate actions and inquisitional initiatives. It is for a first for the EU, which has fallen so low as to let one of its tools be used to harass and persecute the leader of a pro-transparency nonprofit organization that has shed light like never before on the lies and illegal practices of rogue governments. Europe should protect and defend transparency as one of its core values. The recent scandal of MEPs' bribery case should have teached EU officials a lesson on the importance of transparency.

That the Swedish elite is under the direct influence of the U.S. government and agencies is no secret. But Europe?

A MEP, Gerard Batten, has questioned Viviane Reding on Assange's case. Her non-answer, that you can watch here, tells a lot, and justifies in my opinion to ask her immediate resignation, as it constitutes a mistake as serious as former French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Michèle Alliot-Marie, which was about to outsource French policing savoir-faire to her friend former president Ben Ali when his people was only asking for democracy.

Every second Assange spends locked in England is a hit given to the fundamental values of Europe.

His appeal trial is scheduled July 12 and 13; meanwhile let's act. Spread this information, and attract attention on this flagrant highjacking of Europe. You can also tell Viviane Reding what you think of this case directly on her Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

The Evil Spirits of MAM and Zineabidine Are Still Here

Of the strange presence of former French Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, her friendship with the former dictator Zinelabidine Ben Ali, and her hatred of the Tunisian People: Even though she has been kicked out of the government (and should have ideally ended in front of a judge), her spirit is still here. It has inhabitated Claude Guéant, current Interior Minister (and occasionally Minister of Immigration). Guéant has taken the opportunity of the presence of several hundred Tunisians who flew their country in chaos to try to find refuge in Paris, to persecute them here, directly on the French soil. He consequently saves a flight trip compared to MAM's solution of sending a team of "experts" to show Ben Ali's police how to discipline his people who were just asking for democracy and basic freedoms. Isn't Guéant's solution more elegant than MAM's?

Guéant follows Tunisian refugees including inside venues belonging to the Tunisian embassy in Paris, something he must feel proud of. He must have already added that to his CV (even though he hasn't been kicked out of the government yet). The venue I am talking about is at 36 rue Botzaris, in the 19th arrondissement. (You can follow the hashtag #Botzaris36 on Twitter.) It used to belong to MAM friend's political party the RCD. Two weeks ago the Tunisian embassy announced it annexed the venue. However, Guéant is still going after Tunisians finding shelter in the empty place. One can also legitimately ask: where is the Tunisian provisional government? What is it doing to protect its citizens, and ask French authorities for explanations on what MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit has rightfully compared to the hateful persecution of Jews during WWII?

Provisional government does not mean irresponsible government.

The Tunisian refugees are not illegal aliens: they have a valid permit provided by the Italian authorities, valid across Europe as the Schengen agreement says.

Or is France going to spit on this fundamental agreement for Europe just to be able to prosecute these refugees? Sarkozy has certainly a short memory, as he forgot that his own daddy flew his native country in war to find refuge in France.

Furthermore, rumor says the first refugees who broke into #Botzaris36 found documents belonging to the RCD, including compromising information on French political figures having enjoyed Ben Ali regime's favours.

The presidential election is in less than a year. It is time to shake it up.

It is time for a Botzarisgate.

Actually it may have already started.

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