blog If you’ve been following the global debate over government transparency and surveillance — and you could hardly have missed it, for our money — then you will be aware that two of the most high-profile figures in that debate are WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Both are somewhat limited in their movements at the moment — Assange having been locked up inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012, while Snowden is at a secret location in Russia being protected from the US, which would doubtless like to extradite him. Limited in their movements both may be, but it appears that the Greens want to ask the pair live questions in the Senate about their knowledge of government spying on Australian citizens. The ABC reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):
“Greens senator Scott Ludlam is trying to have Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, and WikiLeaks founder Assange called before a parliamentary committee to give evidence into what they might know about mass surveillance of Australian citizens … It is thought that any successful attempts to have both men give evidence to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee would occur via video link.”
Your writer is in two minds about the usefulness of calling this pair before the Senate. On the one hand, it would represent the kind of spectacle which might finally get the Australian public as a whole interested in the fraught Senate committee processes, which continually throws up incredible revelations about how the Federal Government really works, and just how pervasive its electronic surveillance plans for Australian residents are. These sessions would doubtless be the most-watched Senate committee hearings of all time.
In addition, it would make the Senate surveillance inquiry much more balanced to hear from skeptics and whistleblowers about their views of global surveillance practices, rather than purely from those who are on the government or private sector security side of the fence.
On the other hand, one has to ask whether Ludlam’s move here would unnecessarily pervert the Senate committee process. There is an underlying question here about whether the pair actually have any new information relevant to Australia’s electronic surveillance practices which hasn’t already been shared with the public. In short, what new can we learn from Assange and Snowden that we don’t already know?
Image credit: Screenshot of the film Prism by Praxis Films, believed to be OK to use under fair use