If Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has his way, he'll soon be on a non-stop flight to Ecuador. Let's assume that Assange is truthful when he says he wants to see all information freed, and that Ecuador diplomats are sincere when they say they are just big-hearted humanitarians who also love free speech.
Upon arrival, Assange will probably want to get right back to work publishing unsavory secret government information. And Ecuadorian officials will want to help him set up shop again. But what muck to rake first?
We've got some ideas.
For now, Assange remains at the center of a standoff between Ecuador and the UK. England wants Assange extradited to Sweden, where he stands accused of sexual violence.
Assange fears he could ultimately wind up in the hands of the U.S. government, which is still pretty mad about Cablegate, the Iraq War Logs and other sensitive data his organization has published over the last few years.
The standoff continues, but the work of an international free speech renegade never stops. Should Assange end up landing safely in the capital city of Quito, there will undoubtedly be more than a few government and corporate secrets just waiting to be uncovered. The world already caught a glimpse of a few thanks to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, but the surface has merely been scratched. It's hard to know where to start digging, so we compiled a list of some Ecuador-based entities that Assange might want to look into once he gets settled in.
State-Run Oil Firm Petroecuador
Petroecuador is Ecuador's state-controlled oil company. Aside from banks, there are few corporate entities more reviled and nefarious than oil companies. Petroecuador, which the Latin Business Chronicle called "one of the most mismanaged and inefficient oil companies in Latin America," is accused of environmental damage and causing harm to the country's indigenous population.
Petroecuador is said to be responsible for more than 1,000 oil spills, which it has been slow to clean up. They're also accused of improperly dumping crude oil and sometimes burning it. Both activities have a negative impact on the environment and on the health of the Amazon's indigenous peoples, who are said to have seen rising rates of cancer.
That's just the stuff that's publicly known. What other shenanigans could Petroecuador be up to? Only one way to find out: Surely, the firm has a disgruntled employee or a security loophole in its internal email system. Hop to it, Julian.
President Rafael Correa
We know the guy just granted you political asylum, which was really nice, but President Correa doesn't exactly have a shining record when it comes to freedom of the press. In fact, that record is "among the very worst in the Americas," according to the Committee to Project Journalists. It includes shutting down radio stations, suing critics and newspapers for libel and building up a powerful state media apparatus via which government critics can be even more forcefully attacked.
So what's he hiding? It's gotta be something juicy. There has to be a way you can get into his government email account. Next time you guys are hanging out, try peaking over his shoulder when he's checking his email. Better yet, offer to fix whatever weird computer problem he's having and sneakily install a keylogger on his machine. If that's too risky, there's bound to be some spare digital surveillance equipment lying around the presidential palace. You know the kind of stuff we're talking about.
As the national telecommunications company in Ecuador, Corporación Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (CNT) is bound to have some secrets. The firm oversees telephony, satellite TV, mobile connectivity and Internet access throughout the country. It's sitting on data about a lot of people and if Correa's press freedom record is any indication, he likely doesn't hesitate to take a peek at that data when it suits him.
Earlier this year, CNT partnered with Alcatel-Lucent to deploy a 3G mobile network in Ecuador. As Wikileaks is well aware, Alcatel-Lucent markets its own line of mobile surveillance technology to governments for what its brochures call "lawful interception" of mobile communications. Of course, what's legal in a country like Ecuador may be totally different than what's allowed in, say, the United States. Although it's worth noting that even U.S. authorities haven't exactly been shy about poking around in people's private mobile data.
So how much do mobile operators and ISPs in Ecuador know about the country's citizens? How freely do they share information with the government? We have no idea, but we're willing to bet there's some insight on a server somewhere, just waiting to be found.