Julian Assange blasts NSA for “unfettered” surveillance powers in SXSW speech

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has given a speech to attendees at SXSW in which he had a major pop at the NSA for its overreaching surveillance powers.

Assange wasn’t actually in Texas, of course, but was interviewed yesterday via Skype from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up (with diplomatic asylum) for nearly two years now. It was no surprise to hear him say that the NSA had grown way too big for its surveillance boots.

According to the Guardian, Assange said: “The NSA has grown to be a rogue agency. It has grown to be unfettered … the ability to surveil everyone on the planet is almost there, and arguably will be there within a few years. And that’s led to a huge transfer of power from the people who are surveilled upon, to those who control the surveillance complex.”

He said that it was up to the people at large to push back against the NSA, and other surveillance outfits across the globe. “We have to do something about it. All of us have to do something about it,” he said. “How can individuals do something about it? Well, we’ve got no choice.”

Exactly what that “something” is, of course, is another matter…

He further mused on the NSA extending its surveillance tentacles without anyone noticing: “How is it that the Internet that everyone looked upon as perhaps the greatest tool of human emancipation there had ever been, had been co-opted and was now involved in the most aggressive form of state surveillance ever seen?”

Assange said that four years back, the Internet was “politically apathetic,” but that WikiLeaks and Snowden’s revelations – along with the likes of the Arab Spring and Occupy movement – had changed all that.

However, he also spoke about how the NSA and the powers-that-be in general weren’t going to take this lying down. Assange noted that this week, a senior US military figure was pushing for a bill to go to Congress to prevent the publication of any material pertaining to the NSA (under the cover of “cyber-terrorism” legislation).

Assange said: “There is a really serious attempt to try and stop these revelations and others, and introduce a new international regime of censorship.”

He also revealed that new leaks are set to be spilled by WikiLeaks, but he didn’t give any specifics as to exactly what material that might be, and whether that will come in the near future or further out.

Assange’s address will be followed up at SXSW tomorrow by Edward Snowden, again via a video link, of course. We’ll have full coverage of that, so stay tuned tomorrow…