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WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Says U.S. Can 'Blackmail' Latin America by Intercepting Telecommunications [VIDEO]

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First Posted: Oct 14, 2013 02:55 PM EDT
Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange Poster
A student of the University of Sao Paulo (USP) holds a poster bearing pictures of U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (L-R) in front of military police during a protest against Sao Paulo State Governor Geraldo Alckmin, in Sao Paulo October 9, 2013. The banner reads "Freedom to Snowden" (top) and "Democracy in the streets and social networks". (Photo : REUTERS/Nacho Doce)

If you are a high-profile person and you log onto your computer, conduct your work and surf the Internet to freely access an open marketplace of ideas, you may think that you are alone in your search -- think again, especially if you're in Latin America.

According to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Latin America's reliance on U.S.-based telecommunications is detrimental to the freedom of its people.

The U.S. government is well-placed to blackmail "nearly every significant person in Latin America" because most of the region's electronic communications are routed through the United States, Assange said Friday, Fox News Latino reports.

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In an interview with Russia's RT television, Assange pointed out that the U.S. controls "ninety-eight percent of Latin American telecommunications to the rest of the world - that means SMS, phone, email etc. - passes through the U.S."

Assange alleges that "U.S. intelligence agencies 'can easily intercept these communications ... and therefore gain understanding of how Latin America is behaving, where it is moving, its economic transfers, the activities of its leaders and major players.'"

"That permits the U.S. to predict in some ways the behavior of Latin American leaders and interests, and it also permits them to blackmail. Nearly every significant person in Latin America is blackmailable by the U.S.," he added.

The Australian journalist and transparency activist also claims that "Washington's quest to dominate the Internet and the international economy poses a threat to national sovereignty."

In June 2012, 42-year-old Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he was granted diplomatic asylum. The British government wants to extradite him to Sweden under a European Arrest Warrant for questioning in relation to a sexual assault investigation, in which he denies the accusations. Assange also fears that once in Swedish custody, he will be handed over to the United States, where U.S. prosecutors will indict him for espionage. British police officers have been stationed outside the embassy since Assange entered the building and have been ordered to arrest him if he attempts to leave.

Former U.S. National Security Agency Contractor Edward Snowden fueled the fire by providing documents that reveal that Washington spied on the current presidents of Brazil and Mexico and on Brazilian state oil company Petrobras, Fox News added.

How is Latin America handling the situation of the alleged "spying" from the U.S.?

In September, Latin American nations spearheaded a joint effort to explore "the creation of a communications system to curtail U.S. spying in the region," according to Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, Reuters reports.

Patino implemented the idea of establishing a "common platform" to "minimize risks of being spied on" and added the project was a result of the disclosures by Snowden on U.S. spying worldwide.

The new project is under consideration by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which groups the 12 governments of the continent. UNASUR is based in Quito, Ecuador's capital, Reuters adds.

"We have decided to begin to work on new Internet communication systems of our countries, of our societies, to avoid continuing being the object and prey of illegal spying that U.S. spying entities have developed against us," Patino said in an interview with Reuters at Ecuador's mission to the United Nations in New York City.

In other Assange news, British actor Benedict Cumberbatch responds to a letter from Assange asking him not to do an upcoming movie, "The Fifth Estate," a Dreamworks film about the emergence of the anti-secrecy website, WikiLeaks.

Cumberbatch, who plays Assange in the film, says the letter (sent to him in January) in which Assange declined an invitation to meet in person and urged him to rethink his involvement in the film, affected his portrayal of him in the upcoming film.

"The Fifth Estate" opened on Friday, Oct. 11 in the U.K. and in will hit theaters in the U.S. on Friday, Oct. 18.

Check out the trailer for "The Fifth Estate," below:


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