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Burmese Government Goes After U.N. Computers

burma.jpgThe Times Online is reporting that Burma’s ruling military dictatorship is trying to seize United Nations computers, which contain information about opposition activists. The hard drives reportedly contain information that could help the junta identify and detain opposition leaders and bloggers who have been reporting on the brutal repression by government forces in Burma.

Many of the images and video of the tens of thousands of monks parading through Rangoon and the subsequent beatings and round-ups have come from e-mails and blog posts by brave Burmese citizens, many of whom have been forced into hiding as a result.

The Times writes:

Some of the demonstrators have reportedly been arrested after being identified in footage of the rallies. The junta is going after the UN, in the belief that its officials allowed images to be transmitted through their own internet links — channelled via satellite phones and therefore less vulnerable to interference by the authorities.

“It’s part of this systematic, repressive response to the demonstrations,” said a Western diplomat in Rangoon. “We’ve seen them focus on people who directly participated in the demonstrations by picking them up through the videos Then they’ve arrested people with cameras containing images of the demos. And now they’re trying to track down the means that were used to send them out.”

But the images and video clips have made their way to mainstream media sites and into stories that have drawn condemnation from governments across the globe. Last weekend demonstrations were held in Sydney, London, Washington and around the world with protesters denouncing the Burmese regime.

So far the military has not actually raided the U.N. headquarters. Military officials reportedly showed up at U.N. headquarters requesting the hard drives and other data, which U.N. officials refused to hand over. The dictatorship then filed a formal request asking for information about the U.N.’s satellite set up in Rangoon.

It’s unclear exactly what data is on the U.N. hard drives, but one likes to think they would be using some sort of encryption and hopefully an anonymizing service for the internet connections. Unfortunately, if the U.N.’s grasp of tech is anything like that of the U.S. government, it probably has the data stored in cleartext.

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