The Blast Shack
by Bruce Sterling / 22 December 2010

{{ Webstock asked Bruce Sterling, who spoke at Webstock ’09, for his take on Wikileaks. }}

The Wikileaks Cablegate scandal is the most exciting and interesting hacker scandal ever. I rather commonly write about such things, and I’m surrounded by online acquaintances who take a burning interest in every little jot and tittle of this ongoing saga. So it’s going to take me a while to explain why this highly newsworthy event fills me with such a chilly, deadening sense of Edgar Allen Poe melancholia. But it sure does. Part of this dull, icy feeling, I think, must be the agonizing slowness with which this has happened. At last — at long last — the homemade nitroglycerin in the old cypherpunks blast shack has gone off.

Those “cypherpunks,” of all people. Way back in 1992, a brainy American hacker called Timothy C. May made up a sci-fi tinged idea that he called “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto.” This exciting screed — I read it at the time, and boy was it ever cool — was all about anonymity, and encryption, and the Internet, and all about how wacky data-obsessed subversives could get up to all kinds of globalized mischief without any fear of repercussion from the blinkered authorities. If you were of a certain technoculture bent in the early 1990s, you had to love a thing like that. As Tim blithely remarked to his fellow encryption enthusiasts, “The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of societal disintegration. Many of these concerns will be valid; crypto anarchy will allow national secrets to be traded freely,” and then Tim started getting really interesting.

Later, May described an institution called “BlackNet” which might conceivably carry out these aims. Nothing much ever happened with Tim May’s imaginary BlackNet. It was the kind of out-there concept that science fiction writers like to put in novels. Because BlackNet was clever, and fun to think about, and it made impossible things seem plausible, and it was fantastic and also quite titillating. So it was the kind of farfetched but provocative issue that ought to be properly raised within a sci-fi public discourse.

Because, you know, that would allow plenty of time to contemplate the approaching trainwreck and perhaps do something practical about it. Nobody did much of anything practical. For nigh on twenty long years, nothing happened with the BlackNet notion, for good or ill. Why? Because thinking hard and eagerly about encryption involves a certain mental composition which is alien to normal public life. Crypto guys — (and the cypherpunks were all crypto guys, mostly well-educated, mathematically gifted middle-aged guys in Silicon Valley careers) — are geeks. They’re harmless geeks, they’re not radical politicians or dashing international crime figures. Cypherpunks were visionary Californians from the WIRED magazine circle. In their personal lives, they were as meek and low-key as any average code-cracking spook who works for the National Security Agency. These American spooks from Fort Meade are shy and retiring people, by their nature. In theory, the NSA could create every kind of flaming scandalous mayhem with their giant Echelon spy system — but in practice, they would much would rather sit there gently reading other people’s email.

NSA, via Google Earth, 10 March 2008

One minute’s thought would reveal that a vast, opaque electronic spy outfit like the National Security Agency is exceedingly dangerous to democracy. Really, it is. The NSA clearly violates all kinds of elementary principles of constitutional design. The NSA is the very antithesis of transparency, and accountability, and free elections, and free expression, and separation of powers — in other words, the NSA is a kind of giant, grown-up, anti-Wikileaks. And it always has been. And we’re used to that. We pay no mind. The NSA, this crypto empire, is a long-lasting fact on the ground that we’ve all informally agreed not to get too concerned about. Even foreign victims of the NSA’s machinations can’t seem to get properly worked-up about its capacities and intrigues. The NSA has been around since 1947. It’s a little younger than the A-Bomb, and we don’t fuss much about that now, either. The geeks who man the NSA don’t look much like Julian Assange, because they have college degrees, shorter haircuts, better health insurance and far fewer stamps in their passports. But the sources of their power are pretty much identical to his. They use computers and they get their mitts on info that doesn’t much wanna be free. Every rare once in a while, the secretive and discreet NSA surfaces in public life and does something reprehensible, such as defeating American federal computer-security initiatives so that they can continue to eavesdrop at will. But the NSA never becomes any big flaming Wikileaks scandal. Why? Because, unlike their wannabe colleagues at Wikileaks, the apparatchiks of the NSA are not in the scandal business. They just placidly sit at the console, reading everybody’s diplomatic cables. This is their function. The NSA is an eavesdropping outfit.

Cracking the communications of other governments is its reason for being. The NSA are not unique entities in the shadows of our planet’s political landscape. Every organized government gives that a try. It’s a geopolitical fact, although it’s not too discreet to dwell on it. You can walk to most any major embassy in any major city in the world, and you can see that it is festooned with wiry heaps of electronic spying equipment. Don’t take any pictures of the roofs of embassies, as they grace our public skylines. Guards will emerge to repress you.

Now, Tim May and his imaginary BlackNet were the sci-fi extrapolation version of the NSA. A sort of inside-out, hippiefied NSA. Crypto people were always keenly aware of the NSA, for the NSA were the people who harassed them for munitions violations and struggled to suppress their academic publications. Creating a BlackNet is like having a pet, desktop NSA. Except, that instead of being a vast, federally-supported nest of supercomputers under a hill in Maryland, it’s a creaky, homemade, zero-budget social-network site for disaffected geeks.

But who cared about that wild notion? Why would that amateurish effort ever matter to real-life people? It’s like comparing a mighty IBM mainframe to some cranky Apple computer made inside a California garage. Yes, it’s almost that hard to imagine. So Wikileaks is a manifestation of something that this has been growing all around us, for decades, with volcanic inexorability. The NSA is the world’s most public unknown secret agency. And for four years now, its twisted sister Wikileaks has been the world’s most blatant, most publicly praised, encrypted underground site. Wikileaks is “underground” in the way that the NSA is “covert”; not because it’s inherently obscure, but because it’s discreetly not spoken about. The NSA is “discreet,” so, somehow, people tolerate it. Wikileaks is “transparent,” like a cardboard blast shack full of kitchen-sink nitroglycerine in a vacant lot.

That is how we come to the dismal saga of Wikileaks and its ongoing Cablegate affair, which is a melancholy business, all in all. The scale of it is so big that every weirdo involved immediately becomes a larger-than-life figure. But they’re not innately heroic. They’re just living, mortal human beings, the kind of geeky, quirky, cyberculture loons that I run into every day. And man, are they ever going to pay. Now we must contemplate Bradley Manning, because he was the first to immolate himself. Private Manning was a young American, a hacker-in-uniform, bored silly while doing scarcely necessary scutwork on a military computer system in Iraq. Private Manning had dozens of reasons for becoming what computer-security professionals call the “internal threat.” His war made no sense on its face, because it was carried out in a headlong pursuit of imaginary engines of mass destruction.

The military occupation of Iraq was endless. Manning, a tender-hearted geek, was overlooked and put-upon by his superiors. Although he worked around the clock, he had nothing of any particular military consequence to do. It did not occur to his superiors that a bored soldier in a poorly secured computer system would download hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables. Because, well, why? They’re very boring. Soldiers never read them. The malefactor has no use for them. They’re not particularly secret. They’ve got nothing much to do with his war. He knows his way around the machinery, but Bradley Manning is not any kind of blackhat programming genius. Instead, he’s very like Jerome Kerveil, that obscure French stock trader who stole 5 billion euros without making one dime for himself.

Jerome Kerveil, just like Bradley Manning, was a bored, resentful, lower-echelon guy in a dead end, who discovered some awesome capacities in his system that his bosses never knew it had. It makes so little sense to behave like Kerveil and Manning that their threat can’t be imagined. A weird hack like that is self-defeating, and it’s sure to bring terrible repercussions to the transgressor. But then the sad and sordid days grind on and on; and that blindly potent machinery is just sitting there. Sitting there, tempting the user. Bradley Manning believes the sci-fi legendry of the underground. He thinks that he can leak a quarter of a million secret cables, protect himself with neat-o cryptography, and, magically, never be found out.

So Manning does this, and at first he gets away with it, but, still possessed by the malaise that haunts his soul, he has to brag about his misdeed, and confess himself to a hacker confidante who immediately ships him to the authorities. No hacker story is more common than this. The ingenuity poured into the machinery is meaningless. The personal connections are treacherous. Welcome to the real world. So Private Manning, cypherpunk, is immediately toast. No army can permit this kind of behavior and remain a functional army; so Manning is in solitary confinement and he is going to be court-martialled. With more political awareness, he might have made himself a public martyr to his conscience; but he lacks political awareness. He only has only his black-hat hacker awareness, which is all about committing awesome voyeuristic acts of computer intrusion and imagining you can get away with that when it really matters to people. The guy preferred his hacker identity to his sworn fidelity to the uniform of a superpower.

The shear-forces there are beyond his comprehension. The reason this upsets me is that I know so many people just like Bradley Manning. Because I used to meet and write about hackers, “crackers,” “darkside hackers,” “computer underground” types. They are a subculture, but once you get used to their many eccentricities, there is nothing particularly remote or mysterious or romantic about them. They are banal. Bradley Manning is a young, mildly brainy, unworldly American guy who probably would have been pretty much okay if he’d been left alone to skateboard, read comic books and listen to techno music. Instead, Bradley had to leak all over the third rail. Through historical circumstance, he’s become a miserable symbolic point-man for a global war on terror. He doesn’t much deserve that role. He’s got about as much to do with the political aspects of his war as Monica Lewinsky did with the lasting sexual mania that afflicts the American Republic. That is so dispiriting and ugly. As a novelist, I never think of Monica Lewinsky, that once-everyday young woman, without a sense of dread at the freakish, occult fate that overtook her. Imagine what it must be like, to wake up being her, to face the inevitability of being That Woman. Monica, too, transgressed in apparent safety and then she had the utter foolishness to brag to a lethal enemy, a trusted confidante who ran a tape machine and who brought her a mediated circus of hells. The titillation of that massive, shattering scandal has faded now. But think of the quotidian daily horror of being Monica Lewinsky, and that should take a bite from the soul. Bradley Manning now shares that exciting, oh my God, Monica Lewinsky, tortured media-freak condition. This mild little nobody has become super-famous, and in his lonely military brig, screenless and without a computer, he’s strictly confined and, no doubt, he’s horribly bored.

I don’t want to condone or condemn the acts of Bradley Manning. Because legions of people are gonna do that for me, until we’re all good and sick of it, and then some. I don’t have the heart to make this transgressor into some hockey-puck for an ideological struggle. I sit here and I gloomily contemplate his all-too-modern situation with a sense of Sartrean nausea. Commonly, the authorities don’t much like to crush apple-cheeked white-guy hackers like Bradley Manning. It’s hard to charge hackers with crimes, even when they gleefully commit them, because it’s hard to find prosecutors and judges willing to bone up on the drudgery of understanding what they did. But they’ve pretty much got to make a puree’ out of this guy, because of massive pressure from the gravely embarrassed authorities. Even though Bradley lacks the look and feel of any conventional criminal; wrong race, wrong zipcode, wrong set of motives. Bradley’s gonna become a “spy” whose “espionage” consisted of making the activities of a democratic government visible to its voting population. With the New York Times publishing the fruits of his misdeeds. Some set of American prosecutorial lawyers is confronting this crooked legal hairpin right now. I feel sorry for them.

Then there is Julian Assange, who is a pure-dye underground computer hacker. Julian doesn’t break into systems at the moment, but he’s not an “ex-hacker,” he’s the silver-plated real deal, the true avant-garde. Julian is a child of the underground hacker milieu, the digital-native as twenty-first century cypherpunk. As far as I can figure, Julian has never found any other line of work that bore any interest for him. Through dint of years of cunning effort, Assange has worked himself into a position where his “computer crimes” are mainly political. They’re probably not even crimes. They are “leaks.” Leaks are nothing special. They are tidbits from the powerful that every journalist gets on occasion, like crumbs of fishfood on the top of the media tank. Only, this time, thanks to Manning, Assange has brought in a massive truckload of media fishfood. It’s not just some titillating, scandalous, floating crumbs. There’s a quarter of a million of them. He’s become the one-man global McDonald’s of leaks. Ever the detail-freak, Assange in fact hasn’t shipped all the cables he received from Manning. Instead, he cunningly encrypted the cables and distributed them worldwide to thousands of fellow-travellers. This stunt sounds technically impressive, although it isn’t. It’s pretty easy to do, and nobody but a cypherpunk would think that it made any big difference to anybody. It’s part and parcel of Assange’s other characteristic activities, such as his inability to pack books inside a box while leaving any empty space. While others stare in awe at Assange’s many otherworldly aspects — his hairstyle, his neatness, too-precise speech, his post-national life out of a laptop bag — I can recognize him as pure triple-A outsider geek. Man, I know a thousand modern weirdos like that, and every single one of them seems to be on my Twitter stream screaming support for Assange because they can recognize him as a brother and a class ally. They are in holy awe of him because, for the first time, their mostly-imaginary and lastingly resentful underclass has landed a serious blow in a public arena. Julian Assange has hacked a superpower.

He didn’t just insult the captain of the global football team; he put spycams in the locker room. He has showed the striped-pants set without their pants. This a massively embarrassing act of technical voyeurism. It’s like Monica and her stains and kneepads, only even more so. Now, I wish I could say that I feel some human pity for Julian Assange, in the way I do for the hapless, one-shot Bradley Manning, but I can’t possibly say that. Pity is not the right response, because Assange has carefully built this role for himself. He did it with all the minute concentration of some geek assembling a Rubik’s Cube. In that regard, one’s hat should be off to him. He’s had forty years to learn what he was doing. He’s not some miserabilist semi-captive like the uniformed Bradley Manning. He’s a darkside player out to stick it to the Man. The guy has surrounded himself with the cream of the computer underground, wily old rascals like Rop Gonggrijp and the fearsome Teutonic minions of the Chaos Computer Club. Assange has had many long, and no doubt insanely detailed, policy discussions with all his closest allies, about every aspect of his means, motives and opportunities. And he did what he did with fierce resolve. Furthermore, and not as any accident, Assange has managed to alienate everyone who knew him best. All his friends think he’s nuts. I’m not too thrilled to see that happen. That’s not a great sign in a consciousness-raising, power-to-the-people, radical political-leader type. Most successful dissidents have serious people skills and are way into revolutionary camaraderie and a charismatic sense of righteousness. They’re into kissing babies, waving bloody shirts, and keeping hope alive. Not this chilly, eldritch guy. He’s a bright, good-looking man who — let’s face it — can’t get next to women without provoking clumsy havoc and a bitter and lasting resentment. That’s half the human race that’s beyond his comprehension there, and I rather surmise that, from his stern point of view, it was sure to be all their fault. Assange was in prison for a while lately, and his best friend in the prison was his Mom. That seems rather typical of him. Obviously Julian knew he was going to prison; a child would know it. He’s been putting on his Solzhenitsyn clothes and combing his forelock for that role for ages now. I’m a little surprised that he didn’t have a more organized prison-support committee, because he’s a convicted computer criminal who’s been through this wringer before. Maybe he figures he’ll reap more glory if he’s martyred all alone.

I rather doubt the authorities are any happier to have him in prison. They pretty much gotta feed him into their legal wringer somehow, but a botched Assange show-trial could do colossal damage. There’s every likelihood that the guy could get off. He could walk into an American court and come out smelling of roses. It’s the kind of show-trial judo every repressive government fears. It’s not just about him and the burning urge to punish him; it’s about the public risks to the reputation of the USA. They superpower hypocrisy here is gonna be hard to bear. The USA loves to read other people’s diplomatic cables. They dote on doing it. If Assange had happened to out the cable-library of some outlaw pariah state, say, Paraguay or North Korea, the US State Department would be heaping lilies at his feet. They’d be a little upset about his violation of the strict proprieties, but they’d also take keen satisfaction in the hilarious comeuppance of minor powers that shouldn’t be messing with computers, unlike the grandiose, high-tech USA. Unfortunately for the US State Department, they clearly shouldn’t have been messing with computers, either. In setting up their SIPRnet, they were trying to grab the advantages of rapid, silo-free, networked communication while preserving the hierarchical proprieties of official confidentiality. That’s the real issue, that’s the big modern problem; national governments and global computer networks don’t mix any more. It’s like trying to eat a very private birthday cake while also distributing it. That scheme is just not working. And that failure has a face now, and that’s Julian Assange. Assange didn’t liberate the dreadful secrets of North Korea, not because the North Koreans lack computers, but because that isn’t a cheap and easy thing that half-a-dozen zealots can do. But the principle of it, the logic of doing it, is the same. Everybody wants everybody else’s national government to leak. Every state wants to see the diplomatic cables of every other state. It will bend heaven and earth to get them. It’s just, that sacred activity is not supposed to be privatized, or, worse yet, made into the no-profit, shareable, have-at-it fodder for a network society, as if global diplomacy were so many mp3s. Now the US State Department has walked down the thorny road to hell that was first paved by the music industry. Rock and roll, baby. Now, in strict point of fact, Assange didn’t blandly pirate the massive hoard of cables from the US State Department. Instead, he was busily “redacting” and minutely obeying the proprieties of his political cover in the major surviving paper dailies. Kind of a nifty feat of social-engineering there; but he’s like a poacher who machine-gunned a herd of wise old elephants and then went to the temple to assume the robes of a kosher butcher. That is a world-class hoax. Assange is no more a “journalist” than he is a crypto mathematician. He’s a darkside hacker who is a self-appointed, self-anointed, self-educated global dissident. He’s a one-man Polish Solidarity, waiting for the population to accrete around his stirring propaganda of the deed. And they are accreting; not all of ‘em, but, well, it doesn’t take all of them.

Julian Assange doesn’t want to be in power; he has no people skills at all, and nobody’s ever gonna make him President Vaclav Havel. He’s certainly not in for the money, because he wouldn’t know what to do with the cash; he lives out of a backpack, and his daily routine is probably sixteen hours online. He’s not gonna get better Google searches by spending more on his banned MasterCard. I don’t even think Assange is all that big on ego; I know authors and architects, so I’ve seen much worse than Julian in that regard. He’s just what he is; he’s something we don’t yet have words for. He’s a different, modern type of serious troublemaker. He’s certainly not a “terrorist,” because nobody is scared and no one got injured. He’s not a “spy,” because nobody spies by revealing the doings of a government to its own civil population. He is orthogonal. He’s asymmetrical. He panics people in power and he makes them look stupid. And I feel sorry for them. But sorrier for the rest of us. Julian Assange’s extremely weird version of dissident “living in truth” doesn’t bear much relationship to the way that public life has ever been arranged. It does, however, align very closely to what we’ve done to ourselves by inventing and spreading the Internet. If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does. So Julian is heading for a modern legal netherworld, the slammer, the electronic parole cuff, whatever; you can bet there will be surveillance of some kind wherever he goes, to go along with the FREE ASSANGE stencils and xeroxed flyers that are gonna spring up in every coffee-bar, favela and university on the planet. A guy as personally hampered and sociopathic as Julian may in fact thrive in an inhuman situation like this. Unlike a lot of keyboard-hammering geeks, he’s a serious reader and a pretty good writer, with a jailhouse-lawyer facility for pointing out weaknesses in the logic of his opponents, and boy are they ever. Weak, that is. They are pathetically weak.

Diplomats have become weak in the way that musicians are weak. Musicians naturally want people to pay real money for music, but if you press them on it, they’ll sadly admit that they don’t buy any music themselves. Because, well, they’re in the business, so why should they? And the same goes for diplomats and discreet secrets. The one grand certainty about the consumers of Cablegate is that diplomats are gonna be reading those stolen cables. Not hackers: diplomats. Hackers bore easily, and they won’t be able to stand the discourse of intelligent trained professionals discussing real-life foreign affairs. American diplomats are gonna read those stolen cables, though, because they were supposed to read them anyway, even though they didn’t. Now, they’ve got to read them, with great care, because they might get blindsided otherwise by some wisecrack that they typed up years ago. And, of course, every intelligence agency and every diplomat from every non-American agency on Earth is gonna fire up computers and pore over those things. To see what American diplomacy really thought about them, or to see if they were ignored (which is worse), and to see how the grownups ran what was basically a foreign-service news agency that the rest of us were always forbidden to see. This stark fact makes them all into hackers. Yes, just like Julian. They’re all indebted to Julian for this grim thing that he did, and as they sit there hunched over their keyboards, drooling over their stolen goodies, they’re all, without exception, implicated in his doings. Assange is never gonna become a diplomat, but he’s arranged it so that diplomats henceforth are gonna be a whole lot more like Assange. They’ll behave just like him. They receive the goods just like he did, semi-surreptitiously. They may be wearing an ascot and striped pants, but they’ve got that hacker hunch in their necks and they’re staring into the glowing screen. And I don’t much like that situation. It doesn’t make me feel better. I feel sorry for them and what it does to their values, to their self-esteem. If there’s one single watchword, one central virtue, of the diplomatic life, it’s “discretion.” Not “transparency.” Diplomatic discretion. Discretion is why diplomats do not say transparent things to foreigners. When diplomats tell foreigners what they really think, war results. Diplomats are people who speak from nation to nation. They personify nations, and nations are brutal, savage, feral entities. Diplomats used to have something in the way of an international community, until the Americans decided to unilaterally abandon that in pursuit of Bradley Manning’s oil war. Now nations are so badly off that they can’t even get it together to coherently tackle heroin, hydrogen bombs, global warming and financial collapse. Not to mention the Internet. The world has lousy diplomacy now. It’s dysfunctional. The world corps diplomatique are weak, really weak, and the US diplomatic corps, which used to be the senior and best-engineered outfit there, is rattling around bottled-up in blast-proofed bunkers. It’s scary how weak and useless they are. US diplomats used to know what to do with dissidents in other nations. If they were communists they got briskly repressed, but if they had anything like a free-market outlook, then US diplomats had a whole arsenal of gentle and supportive measures; Radio Free Europe, publication in the West, awards, foreign travel, flattery, moral support; discreet things, in a word, but exceedingly useful things. Now they’re harassing Julian by turning those tools backwards. For a US diplomat, Assange is like some digitized nightmare-reversal of a kindly Cold War analog dissident. He read the dissident playbook and he downloaded it as a textfile; but, in fact, Julian doesn’t care about the USA. It’s just another obnoxious national entity. He happens to be more or less Australian, and he’s no great enemy of America. If he’d had the chance to leak Australian cables he would have leapt on that with the alacrity he did on Kenya. Of course, when Assange did it that to meager little Kenya, all the grown-ups thought that was groovy; he had to hack a superpower in order to touch the third rail. But the American diplomatic corps, and all it thinks it represents, is just collateral damage between Assange and his goal. He aspires to his transparent crypto-utopia in the way George Bush aspired to imaginary weapons of mass destruction. And the American diplomatic corps are so many Iraqis in that crusade. They’re the civilian casualties.

As a novelist, you gotta like the deep and dark irony here. As somebody attempting to live on a troubled world… I dunno. It makes one want to call up the Red Cross and volunteer to fund planetary tranquilizers. I’ve met some American diplomats; not as many as I’ve met hackers, but a few. Like hackers, diplomats are very intelligent people; unlike hackers, they are not naturally sociopathic. Instead, they have to be trained that way in the national interest. I feel sorry for their plight. I can enter into the shame and bitterness that afflicts them now. The cables that Assange leaked have, to date, generally revealed rather eloquent, linguistically gifted American functionaries with a keen sensitivity to the feelings of aliens. So it’s no wonder they were of dwindling relevance and their political masters paid no attention to their counsels. You don’t have to be a citizen of this wracked and threadbare superpower — (you might, for instance, be from New Zealand) — in order to sense the pervasive melancholy of an empire in decline. There’s a House of Usher feeling there. Too many prematurely buried bodies. For diplomats, a massive computer leak is not the kind of sunlight that chases away corrupt misbehavior; it’s more like some dreadful shift in the planetary atmosphere that causes ultraviolet light to peel their skin away. They’re not gonna die from being sunburned in public without their pants on; Bill Clinton survived that ordeal, Silvio Berlusconi just survived it (again). No scandal lasts forever; people do get bored. Generally, you can just brazen it out and wait for public to find a fresher outrage. Except. It’s the damage to the institutions that is spooky and disheartening; after the Lewinsky eruption, every American politician lives in permanent terror of a sex-outing. That’s “transparency,” too; it’s the kind of ghastly sex-transparency that Julian himself is stuck crotch-deep in. The politics of personal destruction hasn’t made the Americans into a frank and erotically cheerful people. On the contrary, the US today is like some creepy house of incest divided against itself in a civil cold war.

“Transparency” can have nasty aspects; obvious, yet denied; spoken, but spoken in whispers. Very Edgar Allen Poe. That’s our condition. It’s a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel, but it’s not a comedy that the planet’s general cultural situation is so clearly getting worse. As I sit here moping over Julian Assange, I’d love to pretend that this is just me in a personal bad mood; in the way that befuddled American pundits like to pretend that Julian is some kind of unique, demonic figure. He isn’t. If he ever was, he sure as hell isn’t now, as “Indoleaks,” “Balkanleaks” and “Brusselsleaks” spring up like so many filesharing whackamoles. Of course the Internet bedroom legions see him, admire him, and aspire to be like him — and they will. How could they not? Even though, as major political players go, Julian Assange seems remarkably deprived of sympathetic qualities. Most saintly leaders of the oppressed masses, most wannabe martyrs, are all keen to kiss-up to the public. But not our Julian; clearly, he doesn’t lack for lust and burning resentment, but that kind of gregarious, sweaty political tactility is beneath his dignity. He’s extremely intelligent, but, as a political, social and moral actor, he’s the kind of guy who gets depressed by the happiness of the stupid. I don’t say these cruel things about Julian Assange because I feel distant from him, but, on the contrary, because I feel close to him. I don’t doubt the two of us would have a lot to talk about. I know hordes of men like him; it’s just that they are programmers, mathematicians, potheads and science fiction fans instead of fiercely committed guys who aspire to topple the international order and replace it with subversive wikipedians.

Enigma machines were used by the Nazis in WWII (unsuccessfully) to ensure world domination.

The chances of that ending well are about ten thousand to one. And I don’t doubt Assange knows that. This is the kind of guy who once wrote an encryption program called “Rubberhose,” because he had it figured that the cops would beat his password out of him, and he needed some code-based way to finesse his own human frailty. Hey, neat hack there, pal. So, well, that’s the general situation with this particular scandal. I could go on about it, but I’m trying to pace myself. This knotty situation is not gonna “blow over,” because it’s been building since 1993 and maybe even 1947. “Transparency” and “discretion” are virtues, but they are virtues that clash. The international order and the global Internet are not best pals. They never were, and now that’s obvious. The data held by states is gonna get easier to steal, not harder to steal; the Chinese are all over Indian computers, the Indians are all over Pakistani computers, and the Russian cybermafia is brazenly hosting because that’s where the underground goes to the mattresses. It is a godawful mess. This is gonna get worse before it gets better, and it’s gonna get worse for a long time. Like leaks in a house where the pipes froze. Well, every once in a while, a situation that’s one-in-a-thousand is met by a guy who is one in a million. It may be that Assange is, somehow, up to this situation. Maybe he’s gonna grow in stature by the massive trouble he has caused. Saints, martyrs, dissidents and freaks are always wild-cards, but sometimes they’re the only ones who can clear the general air. Sometimes they become the catalyst for historical events that somehow had to happen. They don’t have to be nice guys; that’s not the point. Julian Assange did this; he direly wanted it to happen. He planned it in nitpicky, obsessive detail. Here it is; a planetary hack. I don’t have a lot of cheery hope to offer about his all-too-compelling gesture, but I dare to hope he’s everything he thinks he is, and much, much, more.

Bruce Sterling
email : bruces [at] well [dot] com

by Julian Assange

Rubberhose was originally conceived by crypto-programmer Julian Assange as a tool for human rights workers who needed to protect sensitive data in the field, particularly lists of activists and details of incidents of abuse. Repressive regimes in places like East Timor, Russia, Kosovo, Guatamalia, Iraq, Sudan and The Congo conduct human rights abuses regularly. Our team has met with human rights groups an heard first hand accounts of such abuses. Human rights workers carry vital data on laptops through the most dangerous situations, sometimes being stopped by military patrols who would have no hesitation in torturing a suspect until he or she revealed a passphrase to unlock the data. We want to help these sorts of campaigners, particularly the brave people in the field who risk so much to smuggle data about the abuses out to the rest of the world.

Rubberhose (our rubber-hose proof filing system) addresses most of these technical issues, but I’d like to just comment on the best strategy game-theory wise, for the person wielding the rubber-hose. In Rubberhose the number of encrypted aspects (deniable “virtual” partitions) defaults to 16 (although is theoretically unlimited). As soon as you have over 4 pass-phrases, the excuse “I can’t recall” or “there’s nothing else there” starts to sound highly plauseable. Ordinarily best strategy for the rubber-hose wielder is to keep on beating keys out of (let us say, Alice) indefinitely till there are no keys left. However, and importantly, in Rubberhose, *Alice* can never prove that she has handed over the last key. As Alice hands over more and more keys, her attackers can make observations like “the keys Alice has divulged correspond to 85% of the bits”. However at no point can her attackers prove that the remaining 15% don’t simply pertain to unallocated space, and at no point can Alice, even if she wants to, divulge keys to 100% of the bits, in order to bring the un-divulged portion down to 0%. An obvious point to make here is that fraction-of-total-data divulged is essentially meaningless, and both parties know it – the launch code aspect may only take up .01% of the total bit-space. What I find interesting, is how this constraint on Alice’s behaviour actually protects her from revealing her own keys, because each party, at the outset can make the following observations:

We will never be able to show that Alice has revealed the last of her keys. Further, even if Alice has co-operated fully and has revealed all of her keys, she will not be able to prove it. Therefor, we must assume that at every stage that Alice has kept secret information from us, and continue to beat her, even though she may have revealed the last of her keys. But the whole time we will feel uneasy about this because Alice may have co-operated fully. Alice will have realised this though, and so presumably it’s going to be very hard to get keys out of her at all.

(Having realised the above) I can never prove that I have revealed the last of my keys. In the end I’m bound for continued beating, even if I can buy brief respites by coughing up keys from time to time. Therefor, it would be foolish to divulge my most sensitive keys, because (a) I’ll be that much closer to the stage where I have nothing left to divulge at all (it’s interesting to note that this seemingly illogical, yet entirely valid argument of Alice’s can protect the most sensitive of Alice’s keys the “whole way though”, like a form mathematical induction), and (b) the taste of truly secret information will only serve to make my aggressors come to the view that there is even higher quality information yet to come, re-doubling their beating efforts to get at it, even if I have revealed all. Therefor, my best strategy would be to (a) reveal no keys at all or (b) depending on the nature of the aggressors, and the psychology of the situation, very slowly reveal my “duress” and other low-sensitivity keys. Alice certainly isn’t in for a very nice time of it (although she she’s far more likely to protect her data).

On the individual level, you would have to question whether you might want to be able to prove that, yes, infact you really have surrendered the last remaining key, at the cost of a far greater likelihood that you will. It really depends on the nature of your opponents. Are they intelligent enough understand the deniable aspect of the cryptosystem and come up with the above strategy? Determined to the aspect they are willing to invest the time and effort in wresting the last key out of you? Ruthless – do they say “Please”, hand you a Court Order, or is it more of a Room 101 affair? But there’s more to the story. Organisations and groups may have quite different strategic goals in terms of key retention vs torture relief to the individuals that comprise them, even if their views are otherwise co-aligned. A simple democratic union of two or more people will exhibit this behaviour. When a member of a group, who uses conventional cryptography to protect group secrets is rubber-hosed, they have two choices (1) defecting (by divulging keys) in order to save themselves, at the cost of selling the other individuals in the group down the river or (2) staying loyal, protecting the group and in the process subjugating themselves to continued torture. With Rubberhose-style deniable cryptography, the benefits to a group member from choosing tactic 1 (defection). are subdued, because they will never be able to convince their interrogators that they have defected. Rational individuals that are `otherwise loyal'” to the group, will realise the minimal gains to be made in chosing defection and choose tactic 2 (loyalty), instead. Presumably most people in the group do not want to be forced to give up their ability to choose defection. On the other hand, no one in the group wants anyone (other than themselves) in the group to be given the option of defecting against the group (and thus the person making the observation). Provided no individual is certain* they are to be rubber-hosed, every individual will support the adoption of a group-wide Rubberhose-style cryptographically deniable crypto-system. This property is communitive, while the individual’s desire to be able to choose defection is not. The former every group member wants for every other group member, but not themselves. The latter each group member wants only for themself.

* “certain” is a little misleading. Each individual has a threshold which is not only proportional to the the perceived likely hood of being rubberhosed over ones dislike of it, but also includes the number of indviduals in the group, the damage caused by a typical defection to the other members of the group etc.

Cheers, Julian

From: (Timothy C. May)
Subject: The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 92

Cypherpunks of the World,
Several of you at the “physical Cypherpunks” gathering yesterday in Silicon Valley requested that more of the material passed out in meetings be available electronically to the entire readership of the Cypherpunks list, spooks, eavesdroppers, and all. Here’s the “Crypto Anarchist Manifesto” I read at the September 1992 founding meeting. It dates back to mid-1988 and was distributed to some like-minded techno-anarchists at the “Crypto ’88” conference and then again at the “Hackers Conference” that year. I later gave talks at Hackers on this in 1989 and 1990. There are a few things I’d change, but for historical reasons I’ll just leave it as is. Some of the terms may be unfamiliar to you…I hope the Crypto Glossary I just distributed will help. (This should explain all those cryptic terms in my .signature!) –Tim May


The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto
by Timothy C. May

A specter is haunting the modern world, the specter of crypto anarchy. Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other in a totally anonymous manner. Two persons may exchange messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the other. Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive re- routing of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect assurance against any tampering. Reputations will be of central importance, far more important in dealings than even the credit ratings of today. These developments will alter completely the nature of government regulation, the ability to tax and control economic interactions, the ability to keep information secret, and will even alter the nature of trust and reputation.

The technology for this revolution–and it surely will be both a social and economic revolution–has existed in theory for the past decade. The methods are based upon public-key encryption, zero-knowledge interactive proof systems, and various software protocols for interaction, authentication, and verification. The focus has until now been on academic conferences in Europe and the U.S., conferences monitored closely by the National Security Agency. But only recently have computer networks and personal computers attained sufficient speed to make the ideas practically realizable. And the next ten years will bring enough additional speed to make the ideas economically feasible and essentially unstoppable. High-speed networks, ISDN, tamper-proof boxes, smart cards, satellites, Ku-band transmitters, multi-MIPS personal computers, and encryption chips now under development will be some of the enabling technologies.

The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of societal disintegration. Many of these concerns will be valid; crypto anarchy will allow national secrets to be trade freely and will allow illicit and stolen materials to be traded. An anonymous computerized market will even make possible abhorrent markets for assassinations and extortion. Various criminal and foreign elements will be active users of CryptoNet. But this will not halt the spread of crypto anarchy.

Just as the technology of printing altered and reduced the power of medieval guilds and the social power structure, so too will cryptologic methods fundamentally alter the nature of corporations and of government interference in economic transactions. Combined with emerging information markets, crypto anarchy will create a liquid market for any and all material which can be put into words and pictures. And just as a seemingly minor invention like barbed wire made possible the fencing-off of vast ranches and farms, thus altering forever the concepts of land and property rights in the frontier West, so too will the seemingly minor discovery out of an arcane branch of mathematics come to be the wire clippers which dismantle the barbed wire around intellectual property. Arise, you have nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!


Timothy C. May | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money, | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409 | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^756839 | PGP Public Key: by arrangement.


“What is BlackNet?”
” — an experiment in information markets, using anonymous message pools for exchange of instructions and items. Tim May’s experiment in guerilla ontology.
— an experimental scheme devised by T. May to underscore the nature of anonymous information markets. “Any and all” secrets can be offered for sale via anonymous mailers and message pools. The experiment was leaked via remailer to the Cypherpunks list (not by May) and thence to several dozen Usenet groups by Detweiler. The authorities are said to be investigating it.”

What Bruce Sterling Actually Said About Web 2.0 at Webstock 09
by Bruce Sterling  / March 1, 2009

{By the garbled reportage, I’d be guessing some of those kiwis were having trouble with my accent. Here are the verbatim remarks.}

So, thanks for having me cross half the planet to be here. So, just before I left Italy, I was reading an art book. About 1902, because we futurists do that. And it had this comment in it by Walter Pater that reminded me of your problems. Walter Pater was a critic and an artist of Art Nouveau. There was a burst of Art Nouveau in Turin in 1902 — because what Arts and Crafts always needed was some rich industrialists. Rich factory owners were the guys who bought those elaborate handmade homes and the romantic paintings of the Lady of Shalott. Fantastic anti-industrial structures were financed by heavy industry.

I know that sounds ironic or even sarcastic, but it isn’t. Creative energies are liberated by oxymorons, by breakdowns in definitions. The Muse comes out when you look sidelong, over your shoulder. So Walter Pater was a critic, like me, so of course he’s complaining. The Italians in 1902 don’t understand the original doctrines of the PreRaphaelites and Ruskin and William Morris! That’s his beef. The Italians just think that Art Nouveau has a lot of curvy lines in it, and it’s got something to do with nude women and vegetables! They’re just seizing on the superficial appearances! In Italy they call that stuff “Flower Style.”

And that’s your problem, too, here in New Zealand. Far from the action here at the antipodes, you people, you just don’t get it about the original principles of Web 2.0! Too often, you’ve got no architecture of participation, sometimes you don’t have an open API! Out here at the end of the earth, you think it’s all about drop shadows and the gradients and a tag cloud, and a startup name with a Capital R in the middle of it!

And that’s absolutely the way of the world… nothing any critic can do about it. People do make mistakes, they interpret things wrongly — but more to the point, they DELIBERATELY make mistakes in creative work. Creative people don’t want to “do it right.” They want to share the excitement you had when you yourself didn’t know how to do it right. Creative people are unconsciously attracted by the parts that make no sense. And Web 2.0 was full of those.

I want you to know that I respect Web 2.0. I sincerely think it was a great success. Art Nouveau was not a success — it had basic concepts that were seriously wrongheaded. Whereas Web 2.0 had useful, sound ideas that were creatively vague. It also had things in it that pretended to be ideas, but were not ideas at all: they were attitudes. In web critical thinking, this effort, Web 2.0, was where it was at. Web 2.0 has lost its novelty value now, but it’s not dead. It’s been realized: it has spread worldwide.

It’s Web 1.0 that is dead. Web 1.0 was comprehensively crushed by Web 2.0, Web 2.0 fell flaming on top of web 1.0 and smashed it to rubble.

Web 2.0 is Wikipedia, while web 1.0 is Britannica Online. “What? Is Britannica online? Why?”

Web 2.0 is FlickR, while web 1.0 is Ofoto. “Ofoto? I’ve never even heard of Ofoto.”

Web 2.0 is search engines and Web 1.0 is portals. “Yeah man, I really need a New Zealand portal! I don’t think I can handle that information superhighway without a local portal!”

What do we talk about when we say “Web 2.0?” Luckily, we have a canonical definition! Straight from the originator! Mr Tim O’Reilly! Publisher, theorist, organizer, California tech guru: “Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an ‘architecture of participation,’ and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.”

I got all interested when I heard friends discussing web 2.0, so I swiftly went and read that definition. After reading it a few times, I understood it, too. But — okay, is that even a sentence? A sentence is a verbal construction meant to express a complete thought. This congelation that Tim O’Reilly constructed, that is not a complete thought. It’s a network in permanent beta. We might try to diagram that sentence. Luckily Tim did that for us already. Here it is.

The nifty-keen thing here is that Web 2.0 is a web. It’s a web of bubbles and squares. A glorious thing — but that is not a verbal argument. That’s like a Chinese restaurant menu. You can take one bubble from sector A, and two from sector B, and three from sector C, and you are Web 2.0. Feed yourself and your family! Take away all the bubbles, and put some people there instead. Web 2.0 becomes a Tim O’Reilly conference. This guy is doing x, and that guy is doing y, and that woman is the maven of doing z. Do these people want to talk to each other? Do they have anything to say and share? You bet they do. Through in some catering and scenery, and it’s very Webstock.

Web 2.0 theory is a web. It’s not philosophy, it’s not ideology like a political platform, it’s not even a set of esthetic tenets like an art movement. The diagram for Web 2.0 is a little model network. You can mash up all the bubbles to the other bubbles. They carry out subroutines on one another. You can flowchart it if you want. There’s a native genius here. I truly admire it. This chart is five years old now, which is 35 years old in Internet years, but intellectually speaking, it’s still new in the world. It’s alarming how hard it is to say anything constructive about this from any previous cultural framework.

The things that are particularly stimulating and exciting about Web 2.0 are the bits that are just flat-out contradictions in terms. Those are my personal favorites, the utter violations of previous common sense: the frank oxymorons. Like “the web as platform.” That’s the key Web 2.0 insight: “the web as a platform.” Okay, “webs” are not “platforms.” I know you’re used to that idea after five years, but consider taking the word “web” out, and using the newer sexy term, “cloud.” “The cloud as platform.” That is insanely great. Right? You can’t build a “platform” on a “cloud!” That is a wildly mixed metaphor! A cloud is insubstantial, while a platform is a solid foundation! The platform falls through the cloud and is smashed to earth like a plummeting stock price!

Imagine that this was financial thinking — instead of web design thinking. We take a bunch of loans, we mash them together and turn them into a security. Now securities are secure, right? They are triple-A solid! So now we can build more loans on top of those securities. Ingenious! This means the price of credit trends to zero, so the user base expands radically, so everybody can have credit! Nobody could have tried that before, because that sounds like a magic Ponzi scheme. But luckily, we have computers in banking now. That means Moore’s law is gonna save us! Instead of it being really obvious who owes what to whom, we can have a fluid, formless ownership structure that’s always in permanent beta. As long as we keep moving forward, adding attractive new features, the situation is booming!

Now, I wouldn’t want to claim that Web 2.0 is as frail as the financial system — the financial system that supported it and made it possible! But Web 2.0 is directly built on top of finance. Web 2.0 is supposed to be business. This isn’t a public utility or a public service, like the old model of an Information Superhighway established for the public good. The Information Superhighway is long dead — it was killed by Web 1.0. And web 2.0 kills web 1.0.

Actually, you don’t simply kill those earlier paradigms. What you do is turn them into components, then make the components into platforms, then place more fresh components on top. That is native web logic. The World Wide Web sits on top of a turtle, and then below that is an older turtle, and that sits on the older turtle. You don’t have to feel fretful about that situation — because it’s turtles all the way down.

Now, we don’t have to think about it in that particular way. The word “turtles” makes it sound absurd and scary, like a myth or a confidence trick. We can try another, very different metaphor — as Tim O’Reilly once offered us. “Like many important concepts, Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core. You can visualize Web 2.0 as a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core.”

Okay, now we’ve got this kind of asteroid rubble of small pieces loosely joined. As a science fiction writer, I truly love that metaphor. That’s the web. Web pieces are held by laws of gravity, and supposedly the sun isn’t gonna do anything much. Right? The sun is four and half billion years old, it’s very old and stable. Although the web sure isn’t. Let’s look at a few of these Web 2.0 principles and practices.

“Tagging not taxonomy.” Okay, I love folksonomy, but I don’t think it’s gone very far. There have been books written about how ambient searchability through folksonomy destroys the need for any solid taxonomy. Not really. The reality is that we don’t have a choice, because we have no conceivable taxonomy that can catalog the avalanche of stuff on the Web. We have no army of human clerks remotely able to tackle that work. We don’t even have permanent reference sites where we can put data so that we can taxonomize it.

“An attitude, not a technology.” Okay, attitudes are great, but they’re never permanent. Even technologies aren’t permanent, and an attitude about technology is a vogue. It’s a style. It’s certainly not a business. Nobody goes out and sells a kilo of attitude. What is attitude doing in there? Everything, of course. In Web 2.0 the attitude was everything.

Then there’s AJAX. Okay, I freakin’ love AJAX. Jesse James Garrett is a benefactor of mankind. I thank God for this man and his willingness to look sympathetically at users and the hell they experience. People use AJAX instead of evil static web pages, and people literally weep with joy. But what is AJAX, exactly? It’s not an acronym. It doesn’t really stand for “Asynchronous Java and XTML.” XTML itself is an acronym — you can’t make an acronym out of an acronym! You peel that label off and AJAX is revealed as a whole web of stuff.

AJAX is standards-based presentation using XHTML and CSS. AJAX is also dynamic display and interaction using the Document Object Model. AJAX is also data interchange and manipulation using XML and XSLT; AJASX is also asynchronous data retrieval using XML-http request. With JavaScript binding everything. Okay, that was AJAX, and every newbie idiot knows that Web 2.0 is made of AJAX. “AJAX with JavaScript binding everything.” JavaScript binding everything — like the law of gravity, like there’s a sun somewhere. Okay, that sounds reassuring, but suppose something goes wrong with the sun. Sun were the guys who built JavaScript, if you recall. That sounds kind of alarming… because Sun’s JavaScript, the binder of AJAX, is the core of the Web 2.0 rich user experience.

JavaScript is the duct tape of the Web. Why? Because you can do anything with it. It’s not the steel girders of the web, it’s not the laws of physics of the web. Javascript is beloved of web hackers because it’s an ultimate kludge material that can stick anything to anything. It’s a cloud, a web, a highway, a platform and a floor wax. Guys with attitude use JavaScript.

There’s something truly glorious about this. Glorious, and clearly hazardous, bottom-up and make-do. I’m not gonna say that I will eat my own hat if the Internet doesn’t collapse by 1995. Guys say that — Metcalfe said it — he had to eat the damn hat. That doomsayer, man, he deserved it. He invented Ethernet, so what did he ever know about networking.

What I have to wonder is: how much of Javascript’s great power is based on an attitude that Javascript is up to the job? Duct-taping the turtles all the way down. I certainly don’t want to give up Javascript — but is Sun the center of the web 2.0 solar system? Sun’s not lookin’ real great right now, is it? That is our solid platform, our foundation? Can you have Javascript without a sun? Duct-tape in the dark?

eBay reputations and Amazon reviews. “User as contributor.” Are “user” and “contributor” the right words for the people interacting with Amazon? Let’s suppose there’s a change of attitude within Amazon; they’re going broke, they’re desperate, the stock price has cratered, and they really have to turn the screws on their users and contributors. Then what happens? This is a social attitude kinda held together with Javascript and duct tape, isn’t it? I mean, Amazon used to sell books. Right? You might want to talk to some publishers and booksellers about the nature of their own relationship with Amazon. They don’t use nice terms like “user and contributor.” They use terms like “collapse, crash, driven out of business.”

The publishing business is centuries old and bookstores have been around for millennia. Is Amazon gonna last that long? Are they a great force for our stability? Are we betting the farm on the Web 2.0 attitude of these guys?

Blogs — “participation not publishing.” Okay, I love my blog. Mostly because there’s never been any damn participation in it. My blog has outlived 94 percent of all blogs every created. I’ve got an ancient turtle of a blog. I may also have one of the last blogs surviving in the future, because the rest were held together with duct tape and attitude. Try going around looking for a weblog now that is literally a log of some guy’s websurfing activities. Most things we call “blogs” are not “weblogs” any more. Even MY ancient writer-style blog isn’t quite a weblog. My blog isn’t participatory, but it’s got embedded videos, FlickR photos, links to MP3s.

You can go read my blog from four years ago. Five years ago. Still sitting there in the server. Absolutely consumed with link-rot. I’m blogged to stuff that has vanished into the ether, it’s gone into 404land. It had “granular addressibility,” just like Tim recommends here, but those granules were blown away on the burning solar wind.

Not that I’m the Metcalfe prophet of doom here — there were more granules. Sure. I got supergranules. I get granules direct from Tim O’Reilly’s tweets now, I get 140-character granules. And man, those are some topnotch tweets. Tim O’Reilly is my favorite Twitter contact. He is truly the guru. I don’t know anybody who can touch him. I also know that the Fail Whale is the best friend of everybody on Twitter. He’s not a frail little fail minnow, either. The Fail Whale is a big burly beast, he’s right up there with the dinosaurs.

Let me throw in a few more Web 2.0 oxymorons here because, as a novelist, these really excite me. “Web platform,” of course — that one really ranks with ‘wireless cable,’ there’s something sublime about it…

“Business revolution.” Web 2.0 was often described as a “business revolution.” Web 1.0 was also a business revolution — and it went down in flames with the Internet Bubble. That was when all the dotcom investors retreated to the rock-solid guaranteed stability of real-estate. Remember that?

Before the 1990s, nobody had any “business revolutions.” People in trade are supposed to be very into long-term contracts, a stable regulatory environment, risk management, and predictable returns to stockholders. Revolutions don’t advance those things. Revolutions annihilate those things. Is that “businesslike”? By whose standards?

“Dynamic content.” Okay, content is a stable substance that is put inside a container. It’s stored in there: that’s why you put it inside. If it is dynamically flowing through the container, that’s not a container. That is a pipe. I really like dynamic flowing pipes, but since they’re not containers, you can’t freakin’ label them!

“Collective intelligence.” Okay, there is definitely something important and powerful and significant and revolutionary here. Google’s got “collective intelligence.” I don’t think there’s a revolutionary in the world who doesn’t use Google. Everybody who bitches about Google uses Google.

I use Google all the time. I don’t believe Google is evil. I’m quite the fan of Sergey and Larry: they are like the coolest Stanford dropouts ever. I just wonder what kind of rattletrap duct-taped mayhem is disguised under a smooth oxymoron like “collective intelligence.” You got to call it something — and “collective intelligence” is surely a lot better than retreating to crazed superstition and calling it “the sacred daemon spirits of Mountain View who know everything.”

But if collective intelligence is an actual thing — as opposed to an off-the-wall metaphor — where is the there there? Google’s servers aren’t intelligent. Google’s algorithms aren’t intelligent. You can learn fantastic things off Wikipedia in a few moments, but Wikipedia is not a conscious, thinking structure. Wikipedia is not a science fiction hive mind. Furthermore, the people whose granular bits of input are aggregated by Google are not a “collective.” They’re not a community. They never talk to each other. They’ve got basically zero influence on what Google chooses to do with their mouseclicks. What’s “collective” about that?

Talking about “collective intelligence” is like talking about “the invisible hand of the market.” Markets don’t have any real invisible hands. That is a metaphor. And “collective intelligence” doesn’t have any human will or any consciousness. “Collective intelligence” isn’t intelligently trying to make our lives better, it’s not an abstract force for good.

“Collective credit-card fraud intelligence” — that is collective intelligence, too. “Collective security-vulnerabilities intelligence” — that’s powerful, it’s incredibly fast, it’s not built by any one guy in particular, and it causes billions of dollars of commercial damage and endless hours of harassment and fear to computer users.

I really think it’s the original sin of geekdom, a kind of geek thought-crime, to think that just because you yourself can think algorithmically, and impose some of that on a machine, that this is “intelligence.” That is not intelligence. That is rules-based machine behavior. It’s code being executed. It’s a powerful thing, it’s a beautiful thing, but to call that “intelligence” is dehumanizing. You should stop that. It does not make you look high-tech, advanced, and cool. It makes you look delusionary.

There’s something sad and pathetic about it, like a lonely old woman whose only friends are her cats. “I had to leave my 14 million dollars to Fluffy because he loves me more than all those poor kids down at the hospital.” This stuff we call “collective intelligence” has tremendous potential, but it’s not our friend — any more than the invisible hand of the narcotics market is our friend.

Markets look like your friend when they’re spreading prosperity your way. If they get some bug in their ear from their innate Black Swan instability, man, markets will starve you! The Invisible Hand of the market will jerk you around like a cat of nine tails. So I’d definitely like some better term for “collective intelligence,” something a little less streamlined and metaphysical. Maybe something like “primeval meme ooze” or “semi-autonomous data propagation.” Even some Kevin Kelly style “neobiological out of control emergent architectures.” Because those weird new structures are here, they’re growing fast, we depend on them for mission-critical acts, and we’re not gonna get rid of them any more than we can get rid of termite mounds.

So, you know, whatever next? Web 2.0, five years old, and sounding pretty corny now. I loved Web 2.0 — I don’t want to be harsh or dismissive about it. Unlike some critics, I never thought it was “nonsense” or “just jargon.” There were critics who dismissed Tim’s solar system of ideas and attitudes there. I read those critics carefully, I thought hard about what they said. I really thought that they were philistines, and wrong-headed people. They were like guys who dismissed Cubism or Surrealism because “that isn’t really painting.”

Web 2.0 people were a nifty crowd. I used to meet, interview computer people… the older mainframe crowd, Bell Labs engineers and such. They were smarter than Web 2.0 people because they were a super-selected technical elite. They were also boring bureaucrats and functionaries. All the sense of fun, the brio had been boiled out of them, and their users were hapless ignoramus creatures whom they despised.

The classic Bell subset telephone, you know, black plastic shell, sturdy rotary dial… For God’s sake don’t touch the components! That was their emblem. They were creatures of their era, they had the values of their era, that time is gone and we have the real 21st century on our hands. I am at peace with that. I’m not nostalgic. “Even nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.”

Web 2.0 guys: they’ve got their laptops with whimsical stickers, the tattoos, the startup T-shirts, the brainy-glasses — you can tell them from the general population at a glance. They’re a true creative subculture, not a counterculture exactly — but in their number, their relationship to the population, quite like the Arts and Crafts people from a hundred years ago.

Arts and Crafts people, they had a lot of bad ideas — much worse ideas than Tim O’Reilly’s ideas. It wouldn’t bother me any if Tim O’Reilly was Governor of California — he couldn’t be any weirder than that guy they’ve got already. Arts and Crafts people gave it their best shot, they were in earnest — but everything they thought they knew about reality was blown to pieces by the First World War.

After that misfortune, there were still plenty of creative people surviving. Futurists, Surrealists, Dadaists — and man, they all despised Arts and Crafts. Everything about Art Nouveau that was sexy and sensual and liberating and flower-like, man, that stank in their nostrils. They thought that Art Nouveau people were like moronic children.

So — what does tomorrow’s web look like? Well, the official version would be ubiquity. I’ve been seeing ubiquity theory for years now. I’m a notorious fan of this stuff. A zealot, even. I’m a snake-waving street-preacher about it. Finally the heavy operators are waking from their dogmatic slumbers; in the past eighteen months, 24 months, we’ve seen ubiquity initiatives from Nokia, Cisco, General Electric, IBM… Microsoft even, Jesus, Microsoft, the place where innovative ideas go to die.

But it’s too early for that to be the next stage of the web. We got nice cellphones, which are ubiquity in practice, we got GPS, geolocativity, but too much of the hardware just isn’t there yet. The batteries aren’t there, the bandwidth is not there, RFID does not work well at all, and there aren’t any ubiquity pure-play companies.

So I think what comes next is a web with big holes blown in it. A spiderweb in a storm. The turtles get knocked out from under it, the platform sinks through the cloud. A lot of the inherent contradictions of the web get revealed, the contradictions in the oxymorons smash into each other. The web has to stop being a meringue frosting on the top of business, this make-do melange of mashups and abstraction layers.

Web 2.0 goes away. Its work is done. The thing I always loved best about Web 2.0 was its implicit expiration date. It really took guts to say that: well, we’ve got a bunch of cool initiatives here, and we know they’re not gonna last very long. It’s not Utopia, it’s not a New World Order, it’s just a brave attempt to sweep up the ashes of the burst Internet Bubble and build something big and fast with the small burnt-up bits that were loosely joined.

That showed more maturity than Web 1.0. It was visionary, it was inspiring, but there were fewer moon rockets flying out of its head. “Gosh, we’re really sorry that we accidentally ruined the NASDAQ.” We’re Internet business people, but maybe we should spend less of our time stock-kiting. The Web’s a communications medium — how ’bout working on the computer interface, so that people can really communicate? That effort was time well spent. Really.

A lot of issues that Web 1.0 was sweating blood about, they went away for good. The “digital divide,” for instance. Man, I hated that. All the planet’s poor kids had to have desktop machines. With fiber optic. Sure! You go to Bombay, Shanghai, Lagos even, you’re like “hey kid, how about this OLPC so you can level the playing field with the South Bronx and East Los Angeles?” And he’s like “Do I have to? I’ve already got three Nokias.” The teacher is slapping the cellphone out of his hand because he’s acing the tests by sneaking in SMS traffic.

“Half the planet has never made a phone call.” Boy, that’s a shame — especially when pirates in Somalia are making satellite calls off stolen supertankers. The poorest people in the world love cellphones. They’re spreading so fast they make PCs look like turtles. Digital culture, I knew it well. It died — young, fast and pretty. It’s all about network culture now.

We’ve got a web built on top of a collapsed economy. THAT’s the black hole at the center of the solar system now. There’s gonna be a Transition Web. Your economic system collapses: Eastern Europe, Russia, the Transition Economy, that bracing experience is for everybody now. Except it’s not Communism transitioning toward capitalism. It’s the whole world into transition toward something we don’t even have proper words for.

The Web has always had an awkward relationship with business. Web 2.0 was a business model. The Transition Web is a culture model. If it’s gonna work, it’s got to replace things that we used to pay for with things that we just plain use. In Web 2.0, if you were monetizable, it meant you got bought out by the majors. “We stole back our revolution and we sold ourselves to Yahoo.” Okay, that was embarrassing, but at least it meant you could scale up and go on. In the Transition Web, if you’re monetizable, it means that you get attacked. You gotta squeeze a penny out of every pixel because the owners are broke. But if you do that to your users, they will vaporize, because they’re broke too, just like you; of course they’re gonna migrate to stuff that’s free.

After a while you have to wonder if it’s worth it — the money model, I mean. Is finance worth the cost of being involved with the finance? The web smashed stocks. Global banking blew up all over the planet all at once… Not a single country anywhere with a viable economic policy under globalization. Is there a message here? Are there some non-financial structures that are less predatory and unstable than this radically out-of-kilter invisible hand? The invisible hand is gonna strangle us! Everybody’s got a hand out — how about offering people some visible hands?

Not every Internet address was a dotcom. In fact, dotcoms showed up pretty late in the day, and they were not exactly welcome. There were dot-orgs, dot edus, dot nets, dot govs, and dot localities. Once upon a time there were lots of social enterprises that lived outside the market; social movements, political parties, mutual aid societies, philanthropies. Churches, criminal organizations — you’re bound to see plenty of both of those in a transition… Labor unions… not little ones, but big ones like Solidarity in Poland; dissident organizations, not hobby activists, big dissent, like Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia.

Armies, national guards. Rescue operations. Global non-governmental organizations. Davos Forums, Bilderberg guys. Retired people. The old people can’t hold down jobs in the market. Man, there’s a lot of ‘em. Billions. What are our old people supposed to do with themselves? Websurf, I’m thinking. They’re wise, they’re knowledgeable, they’re generous by nature; the 21st century is destined to be an old people’s century. Even the Chinese, Mexicans, Brazilians will be old. Can’t the web make some use of them, all that wisdom and talent, outside the market?

Market failures have blown holes in civil society. The Greenhouse Effect is a market failure. The American health system is a market failure — and most other people’s health systems don’t make much commercial sense. Education is a loss leader and the university thing is a mess. Income disparities are insane. The banker aristocracy is in hysterical depression. Housing is in wreckage; the market has given us white-collar homeless and a million empty buildings. The energy market is completely freakish. If you have no fossil fuels, you shiver in the dark. If you do have them, your economy is completely unstable, your government is corrupted and people kill you for oil. The human trafficking situation is crazy. In globalization people just evaporate over borders. They emigrate illegally and grab whatever cash they can find. If you don’t export you go broke from trade imbalances. If you do export, you go broke because your trading partners can’t pay you…

Kinda hard to face up to all this, especially when it’s laid out in this very bald fashion. But you know, I’m not scared by any of this. I regret the suffering, I know it’s big trouble — but it promises massive change and a massive change was inevitable. The way we ran the world was wrong.

I’ve never seen so much panic around me, but panic is the last thing on my mind. My mood is eager impatience. I want to see our best, most creative, best-intentioned people in world society directly attacking our worst problems. I’m bored with the deceit. I’m tired of obscurantism and cover-ups. I’m disgusted with cynical spin and the culture war for profit. I’m up to here with phony baloney market fundamentalism. I despise a prostituted society where we put a dollar sign in front of our eyes so we could run straight into the ditch.

The cure for panic is action. Coherent action is great; for a scatterbrained web society, that may be a bit much to ask. Well, any action is better than whining. We can do better. I’m not gonna tell you what to do. I’m an artist, I’m not running for office and I don’t want any of your money. Just talk among yourselves. Grow up to the size of your challenges. Bang out some code, build some platforms you don’t have to duct-tape any more, make more opportunities than you can grab for your little selves, and let’s get after living real lives. The future is unwritten. Thank you very much.


NOTE: “Participating in a botnet with the intention of shutting down a Web site violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” said Jennifer Granick, a lawyer at Zwillinger Genetski who specializes in Internet law and hacking cases. “The thing people need to understand is that even if you have a political motive, it doesn’t change the fact that the activity is unlawful.” Also, LOIC protesters’ IP addresses are not masked, so attacks can be traced back to the computers launching them.

WikiLeaks supporters disrupt Visa and MasterCard sites in ‘Operation Payback’
by Esther Addley and Josh Halliday / 9 December 2010

It is, according to one breathless blogger, “the first great cyber war”, or as those behind it put it more prosaically: “The major shitstorm has begun.” The technological and commercial skirmishes over WikiLeaks escalated into a full-blown online assault yesterday when, in a serious breach of internet security, a concerted online attack by activist supporters of WikiLeaks succeeded in disrupting MasterCard and Visa. The acts were explicitly in “revenge” for the credit card companies’ recent decisions to freeze all payments to the site, blaming illegal activity. Though it initially would acknowledge no more than “heavy traffic on its external corporate website”, MasterCard was forced to admit last night that it had experienced “a service disruption to the MasterCard directory server”, which banking sources said meant disruption throughout its global business. Later, Visa’s website was also inaccessible. A spokeswoman for Visa said the site was “experiencing heavier than normal traffic” and repeated attempts to load the site was met without success. MasterCard said its systems had not been compromised by the “concentrated effort” to flood its corporate website with “traffic and slow access”. “We are working to restore normal service levels,” it said in a statement. “There is no impact on our cardholders’ ability to use their cards for secure transactions globally.”

In an attack referred to as Operation Payback, a group of online activists calling themselves Anonymous said they had orchestrated a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on the site, and issued threats against other businesses which have restricted WikiLeaks’ dealings. Also targeted in a dramatic day of internet activity was the website of the Swedish prosecution authority, which is currently seeking to extradite the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, on sex assault charges, and that of the Stockholm lawyer who represents them. The sites of the US senator Joe Lieberman and the former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, both vocal critics of Assange, were also attacked and disrupted, according to observers. Palin last night told ABC news that her site had been hacked. “No wonder others are keeping silent about Assange’s antics,” Palin emailed ABC. “This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts.”

An online statement from activists said: “We will fire at anything or anyone that tries to censor WikiLeaks, including multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal … Twitter, you’re next for censoring #WikiLeaks discussion. The major shitstorm has begun.” Twitter has denied censoring the hashtag, saying confusion had arisen over its “trending” facility. A Twitter account linked to the activists was later suspended after it claimed to have leaked credit card details online. Though DDoS attacks are not uncommon by groups of motivated activists, the scale and intensity of the online assault, and the powerful commercial and political critics of WikiLeaks ranged in opposition to the hackers, make this a high-stakes enterprise that could lead to uncharted territory in the internet age. A spokesman for the group, a 22-year-old from London who called himself Coldblood, told the Guardian it was acting for the “chaotic good” in defence of internet freedom of speech. It has been distributing software tools to allow anyone with a computer and an internet connection to join in the attacks. The group has already succeeded this week in bringing down the site of the Swiss bank PostFinance, which was successfully attacked on Monday after it shut down one of WikiLeaks’ key bank accounts, accusing Assange of lying. A PostFinance spokesman, Alex Josty, told Associated Press the website had buckled under a barrage of traffic. “It was very, very difficult, then things improved overnight, but it’s still not entirely back to normal.”

Other possible targets include Amazon, which removed WikiLeaks’ content from its EC2 cloud on 1 December, and, which suspended dealings with the site two days later. PayPal has also been the subject of a number of DDoS attacks – which often involve flooding the target site with requests so that it cannot cope with legitimate communication – since it suspended all payments to WikiLeaks last week. A PayPal spokesman told the Guardian that while a site called had been successfully silenced for a few hours, attempts to crash its online payment facilities had been unsuccessful. The site suggested today its decision to freeze payments had been taken after it became aware of the US state department’s letter saying WikiLeaks’s activities were deemed illegal in the US. Tonight PayPal said that it was releasing the money held in the WikiLeaks account, although it said the account remains restricted to new payments. A statement from PayPal’s general counsel, John Muller, sought to “set the record straight”. He said that the company was required to comply with laws around the world and that the WikiLeaks account was reviewed after “the US department of state publicised a letter to WikiLeaks on November 27, stating that WikiLeaks may be in possession of documents that were provided in violation of US law. PayPal was not contacted by any government organisation in the US or abroad. We restricted the account based on our Acceptable Use Policy review. Ultimately, our difficult decision was based on a belief that the WikiLeaks website was encouraging sources to release classified material, which is likely a violation of law by the source. “While the account will remain restricted, PayPal will release all remaining funds in the account to the foundation that was raising funds for WikiLeaks. We understand that PayPal’s decision has become part of a broader story involving political, legal and free speech debates surrounding WikiLeaks’ activities. None of these concerns factored into our decision. Our only consideration was whether or not the account associated with WikiLeaks violated our Acceptable Use Policy and regulations required of us as a global payment company. Our actions in this matter are consistent with any account found to be in violation of our policies.” PayPal did not explain how WikiLeaks violated this policy in their statement and requests for further information went unanswered.

There have been accusations that WikiLeaks is being targeted for political reasons, a criticism repeated yesterday after it emerged that Visa had forced a small IT firm which facilitates transfers made by credit cards including Visa and MasterCard, and has processed payments to WikiLeaks, to suspend all of its transactions – even those involving other payees. Visa had already cut off all donations being made through the firm to WikiLeaks. DataCell, based in Iceland, said it would take “immediate legal action” and warned that the powerful “duopoly” of Visa and MasterCard could spell “the end of the credit card business worldwide”. Andreas Fink, its chief executive, said: “Putting all payments on hold for seven days or more is one thing, but rejecting all further attempts to donate is making the donations impossible. “This does clearly create massive financial losses to WikiLeaks, which seems to be the only purpose of this suspension. This is not about the brand of Visa, this is about politics and Visa should not be involved in this … It is obvious that Visa is under political pressure to close us down.”

Operation Payback, which refers to itself “an anonymous, decentralised movement that fights against censorship and copywrong”, argues that the actions taken by Visa, MasterCard and others “are long strides closer to a world where we cannot say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas. We cannot let this happen. This is why our intention is to find out who is responsible for this failed attempt at censorship. This is why we intend to utilise our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy.” The MasterCard action was confirmed on Twitter at 9.39am by user @Anon_Operation, who later tweeted: “We are glad to tell you that is down and it’s confirmed! #ddos #WikiLeaks Operation: Payback (is a bitch!) #PAYBACK”. The group, Coldblood said, is about 1,000-strong. While most of its members are teenagers who are “trying to make an impact on what happens with the limited knowledge they have”, others include parents and IT professionals, he said. Anonymous was born out of the influential internet messageboard 4chan in 2003, a forum popular with hackers and gamers. The group’s name is a tribute to 4chan’s early days, when any posting to its forums where no name was given was ascribed to “Anonymous”. But the ephemeral group, which picks up causes “whenever it feels like it”, has now “gone beyond 4chan into something bigger”, its spokesman said. There is no real command structure; membership of the group has been described as being “like a flock of birds” – the only way you can identify members is by what they are doing together. Essentially, once enough people on the 4chan message boards decide some cause is worth pursuing in large enough numbers, it becomes an “Anonymous” cause. “We’re against corporations and government interfering on the internet,” Coldblood said. “We believe it should be open and free for everyone. Governments shouldn’t try to censor because they don’t agree with it. Anonymous is supporting WikiLeaks not because we agree or disagree with the data that is being sent out, but we disagree with any from of censorship on the internet.” Last night WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said: “Anonymous … is not affiliated with WikiLeaks. There has been no contact between any WikiLeaks staffer and anyone at Anonymous. We neither condemn nor applaud these attacks. We believe they are a reflection of public opinion on the actions of the targets.”

Hacker toolkits attracting volunteers to defend WikiLeaks
by Vanja Svajcer / December 9, 2010

The attacks are coordinated through the AnonOps webpages, IRC server infrastructure as well as several Twitter accounts. The operation of the voluntary botnet is very simple but it seems to be quite effective. Yesterday, Twitter decided to shut down some of the Twitter accounts inviting users to join the attacks. However, the attack on the main VISA website after the attacks on Mastercard, PayPal and Swiss Bank Post Finance was successfully launched. Following these initial attacks, which seriously influenced the operation of the sites under attack, another attack on Mastercard Securecode card verification program was launched. This attack seriously affected payment service providers and the financial damage for Mastercard still needs to be determined.

Immediately after the AnonOps attacks on the payment processing companies started, a retaliation DDoS attack on AnonOps hosting infrastructure has been launched. Their main site is unresponsive at the time of writing this post. It looks like there is an outright war going on. However, contrary to many discussions following the discovery of Stuxnet, the sides in the conflict are not sovereign states but groups of internet users spread around the globe proving that warfare on internet brings out a whole new dimension to the term. Participation in DDoS attacks is illegal in many countries and users accepting the invite by AnonOps are under a serious risk of litigation. Many people believe that privacy on the internet can be somewhat protected, but beware, the source IP addresses of attackers, which will inevitably end up in the target’s website log files, can easily be matched with user’s accounts if ISPs decide to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies.

The workflow of an AnonOps attack is quite simple:
– Visit the AnonOps website to find out about the next target
– Decide you are willing to participate
– Download the required DDoS tool – LOIC
– Configure LOIC in Hive Mind mode to connect to an IRC server
– The attack starts simultaneously, when the nodes in the voluntary botnet receive the command from the IRC server

Since the principle of the operation is already well known I wanted to take a look at the main weapon used to conduct DDoS attacks – LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon). LOIC is an open source tool, written in C# and the project is hosted on the major open source online repositories – Github and Sourceforge. The main purpose of the tool, allegedly, is to conduct stress tests of the web applications, so that the developers can see how a web application behaves under a heavier load. Of course, a stress application, which could be classified as a legitimate tool, can also be used in a DDoS attack. LOIC main component is a HTTP flooder module which is configured through the main application window. The user can specify several parameters such as host name, IP address and port as well as the URL which will be targeted. The URL can also be pseudo-randomly generated. This feature can be used to evade the attack detection by the target’s intrusion prevention systems. The Hive Mind option is responsible for connecting to the IRC server used for attack coordination. Using the Hive Mind mode, AnonOps can launch attacks on any site, not just the one you voluntarily agreed to target. The connection uses a standard HTTP GET request with a configurable timeout and a delay between the attempted connections. Most of the web servers will have a configurable limit on the number of connections they accept and when that limit is reached the server will stop serving all following request which has the same effect as the server being offline. The IRC communication protocol is implemented using the free C# IRC library SmartIRC4Net. There is a Java version of the tool – JavaLoic, which uses a Twitter account as the command and control channel. However, the Java version is much easier to detect using intrusion prevention systems as the attack uses fragmented HTTP requests forming a static string “hihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihihi”. Sophos products have been detecting LOIC as a potentially unwanted application since 14 February 2008.

OPERATION PAYBACK is currently under a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, making the site unavailable from some locations.

The attack is being orchestrated by Operation Payback and forms part of an ongoing campaign by Anonymous. They announced the attack’s success a short while ago on their Twitter stream:

Operation Payback is announcing targets via its website, Twitter stream and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels. To muster the necessary volume of traffic to take sites offline, they are inviting people to take part in a ‘voluntary’ botnet by installing a tool called LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon – a fictional weapon of mass destruction popularised by computer games such as Command & Conquer). The LOIC tool connects to an IRC server and joins an invite-only ‘hive’ channel, where it can be updated with the current attack target. This allows Operation Payback to automatically reconfigure the entire botnet to switch to a different target at any time.

Yesterday, Operation Payback successfully brought down the website after the Swiss bank decided to close Julian Assange’s bank account. Later in the day, they also launched an attack against the Swedish prosecutor’s website, The attack was successful for several hours, but now appears to have stopped. The Director of Prosecution, Ms. Marianne Ny, stated yesterday that Swedish prosecutors are completely independent in their decision making, and that there had been no political pressure. The same group also successfully took down the official PayPal blog last week, after WikiLeaks’ PayPal account was suspended. As more companies distance themselves from WikiLeaks, we would not be surprised to see additional attacks taking place over the coming days. Concurrent attacks against the online payment services of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal would have a significant impact on online retailers, particularly in the run up to Christmas. Although denial of service attacks are illegal in most countries, Operation Payback clearly has a sufficient supply of volunteers who are willing to take an active role in the attacks we have seen so far. They are a force to be reckoned with. A real-time performance graph for can be viewed here.”


“Because none of us are as cruel as all of us.” – Anonymous

One of the many side stories in the ongoing WikiLeaks media circus is that ofAnonymous. Trying to explain Anonymous to the general public is like trying to explain the actions of a schizophrenic sociopathic genius to the average Joe, and expecting him to empathize. Anonymous, and 4chan by extension, have been in the national and world news several times, but most recently due to their support of Julian Assange in the form of orchestrating DDoS attacks on PayPalVISA and MasterCard, who have all refused to process donations for his organization, WikiLeaks.

This article isn’t trying to make a moral judgment of their actions, but simply tries to explain what Anonymous is. Anonymous can’t be called an organization, because it isn’t organized. One could almost refer to it as a ‘disorganization’, if such a noun existed, due to its decentralized nature and lack of leadership. It’s more like a school of piranha which travel along with no leader or particular direction, until something attracts the school and they attack in unison. The first fish to see the target might momentarily lead the pack, but once the rest of the school becomes aware of the target, that leader becomes just another fish in the school. The concept of Anonymous is extremely difficult to explain, due to most people having a clear understanding of the usual structure of an organization. Companies have a CEO. Armies have generals. Countries have presidents or prime ministers or kings. In any case, there is always someone in charge; someone at the top with whom a face can be associated, and likewise credited or blamed.

Anonymous has no leader. It doesn’t even have sub-leaders. It has no face. It is an army comprised completely of foot soldiers, but each soldier knows the mission through a general pervasive awareness. It is also quite usual for not all of Anonymous to agree, and some members simply choose to not participate in whatever ongoing project the group is engaged in. There have even been times where Anonymous is split and attack both sides of an issue, and each other in the process. In his novel Prey, Michael Crichton wrote about the concept of decentralized groups, using nanobots as an example, and how they can be used to solve problems, or wreak havoc. It’s an entertaining and informative way to learn about decentralized systems. If you’re interested in understanding the concept, it’s a good place to start.

As for the motives of Anonymous, it is ostensibly for the laughs. Their targets range from Scientology to Iran to Habbo Hotel. They are just as likely to use their abilities to attack a children’s website as they are to help track down a pedophile. While it is tempting to attribute good intentions to the group, as most of their exploits are often on the side, or at least towards the side of what the majority considers ‘right’, if they had an alignment, it would be chaotic neutral. They usually don’t care if the end results are good or bad, they just care that there are results.

Their main Internet social site is the /b/ channel of 4chan. It is an imageboard where the posting of anything is permissible, aside from child pornography. However, that third rail of the site is regularly stepped on. If you go there, be prepared to see things you don’t want to see. Anonymous have been referred to as the “first Internet-based superconsciousness”, which is an apt description. Think of them as a brain, and the participating members as firing synapses. No one synapse controls the thought process, but when enough of a certain type fire in a particular pattern, the brain forms a thought, which is then acted on.

Anonymous have squarely come down on the side of WikiLeaks in their current dustup. While they can be a powerful ally or dreadful enemy, they generally lose interest when another topic which piques their interest comes along. It is hard to like or dislike them, since in a given year they are equally likely to do something which either outrages you, or makes you want to cheer them on. I view them as one would a coin toss; equally likely to elate or disappoint, and truly not caring about the outcome.

A very short list of some of Anonymous’ work:
– Hacking Sarah Palin’s Yahoo! account
– Trolling Fox News
– Disagreeing with Gene Simmons of KISS

Pro-WikiLeaks Attacks Sputter After Counterattacks, Dissent Over Tactics
by Ryan Singe / December 10, 2010

The attacks by pro-WikiLeaks supporters against companies that cut off services to the secret-spilling website have fallen into disrepair Friday, as the attackers attempt to decide the future of the so-called “Operation Payback.” Much of the organization and communication among the group, which calls itself Anonymous, was taking place on chat rooms hosted on On Thursday, one room hosted more than 2,000 participants, while on Friday most of the rooms seem to have been shut down due to counterattacks. The few protestors able to connect — less than 100 on Friday – appear to be devoting their energies to combat a counter-protester who keeps blasting the message: “WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS ILLEGAL. STOP NOW AS YOU SUCK AT IT. WIKILEAKS SUCKS AS WELL.”

Adding to the confusion, the site is reporting that their DNS provider ENOM has cut services to the domain hosting the chat channels, and that the operation is suffering from its own popularity and outside attacks. Still the group is struggling on, and in a chatroom that was still operable, one member requested that protesters register their vote for the next target, using an embeddable Google form to collect the info.

The group made headlines around the world Wednesday when the ragtag band of computer activists successfully overwhelmed both and, the homepages of the two giant payment processors. The attack cut off the ability to make donations to WikiLeaks using those companies’ cards. The companies said they made the decision after deciding that WikiLeaks’ publication of secret U.S. diplomatic cables provided to it by a whistleblower violated their terms of service, though the site has not been charged with a crime. The companies’ payment systems were not affected by the flood of traffic. Anonymous then shifted their focus to PayPal — which had also shut off the ability to donate to WikiLeaks — where they briefly disrupted the popular online payment firm by targeting the company’s payment system directly.

The attacks aren’t hacks in the real sense of the word, since they don’t penetrate the companies’ computer systems and leave no lasting damage. They simply overwhelm servers with web requests, in an attempt to make a site inaccessible to real users. The attacks on and were, in effect, an internet-age version of taking over a college campus building as a protest — potentially illegal, but leaving no lasting damage. That distinction was lost on many, and even the august New York Times used the word “cyberwar” in its lead sentence in its report on the attacks Thursday.

Parts of Anonymous seemed to realize that it was losing in the propaganda war, which was exacerbated by media reports that the group would be attacking, which cut off WikiLeaks from Amazon’s robust web-hosting service.  In a press release, someone purporting to speak for the group tried to explain that the purpose of the attacks were to raise awareness, not mess with Christmas shopping: “[T]he point of Operation: Payback was never to target critical infrastructure of any of the companies or organizations affected. Rather than doing that, we focused on their corporate websites, which is to say, their online public face’. It is a symbolic action — as blogger and academic Evgeny Morozov put it, a legitimate expression of dissent.”

As for the reported attacks on, the press release said the group refrained because they didn’t want to be seen as disrupting Christmas. (An attack would not likely have a chance against Amazon, whose infrastructure is so good that it rents it out to other companies.) “Simply put, attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones, would be in bad taste. The continuing attacks on PayPal are already tested and preferable: while not damaging their ability to process payments, they are successful in slowing their network down just enough for people to notice and thus, we achieve our goal of raising awareness.”

While these are smart public relations sentiments, the Anonymous attacks on PayPal that started on Wednesday night and continue (albeit in much smaller volume) on Friday morning, went after PayPal’s payment infrastrucure (technically, its payment API, which merchants use to communicate with, not the website. Anonymous members made it clear in one heavily used chat room Thursday that they were gunning to shut PayPal down, not simply “slow down” the service.

Another communique, perhaps unofficial, re-published by BoingBoing Thursday night, announced that Anonymous would be halting the denial of service attacks and instead turning their attention to the leaked cables. The idea was for Anonymous to spend its time looking for little reported revelations in the cables, create videos and stories about them, and bombard sites, including YouTube, with links to them. The FBI has said they are looking into the attacks, and already Dutch police have arrested a 16 year-old boy in connection with the attacks. Two people involved in Anonymous’s previous attacks on Scientology were convicted on jailed on charges of violating federal computer crime statutes. Those who join in the attacks using their own computers and IP addresses that can be traced back to them are making themselves very vulnerable to similar prosecutions. Few who are part of Anonymous are actual “hackers,” and instead join in the attacks by running specialized software provided by more technically adept members. Instruction for which sites to target and when are passed around dedicated online chat channels and websites, creating a sort of online insurgency.

Anonymous’ DDoS tool has an unusual twist, according to 3Crowd CEO and DDOS expert Barrett Lyon, incorporating features that allow members to connect to the botnet voluntarily, rather than mobilizing hijacked zombie machines. It is called LOIC, which stands for “Low Orbit Ion Cannon,” and evolved from an open source website load-testing utility. A new feature called Hivemind was added, which connects LOIC to anonops for instructions, and allows members to add their machines to an attack at will. In a further development, Anonymous members have also created a JavaScript version of the tool, dubbed JS LOIC, which only requires someone to connect to a webpage and press a button to turn their computer into a dedicated attacking machine. However neither that site nor the downloaded software masks a user’s IP address, and the downloadable software has generated complaints from its users that it sucks up all their available bandwidth when it’s in attack mode.

Elizabeth Cook’s artist impression of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, where he was denied bail after appearing on an extradition warrant.

How Secure Is Julian Assange’s Insurance File?
by Dan Nosowitz / 12.07.2010

Once your leader has been compared to a Bond villain, you might as well go all the way, right? A few months back, Wikileaks released a giant file that’s been referred to as the “thermonuclear” option, should the organization’s existence be threatened: A huge compendium of some of the most damaging secrets Wikileaks has collected, protected with an intense brand of secure encryption–for use as insurance. With Assange now in police custody on sex crimes charges, the “poison pill” is on everyone’s mind. The pill in question is a 1.4GB file, circulated by BitTorrent. It’s been downloaded tens of thousands of times, no mean feat for what, at the moment, is a giant file with absolutely no use whatsoever. It’s waiting on the hard drives of curious Torrenters, Wikileaks supporters, and (you can bet) government agents worldwide, awaiting the password that’ll open the file to all. Although no one is sure of its contents, the file is speculated to contain the full, un-redacted documents collected by the organization to date (including, some are guessing, new documents on Guantanamo Bay or regarding the financial crisis). It has yet to be cracked, at least not publicly, though there is a hefty amount of activity from those trying, at least a little, to break into it before Assange releases the key.

What makes this so pressing is Assange’s recent arrest in London, on, to say the least, somewhat controversial sex crimes charges in Sweden. There’s been speculation that this could be the lead-up to more severe prosecution–certain American politicians have called for prosecuting Assange for “treason,” apparently not realizing or caring that Assange is an Australian national–and could in turn lead to his releasing of the password for these documents. The file is titled “insurance.aes256,” implying that it’s protected with an AES 256-bit key, one of the strongest in the world. The thing is, there’s no actual way to figure out the type of encryption used. Though there’s no particular reason for Assange to lie about the security he used, it’s something to keep in mind. Let’s assume for the moment that it is indeed an AES-256 encryption, which begs the question: What is AES?

Advanced Encryption Standard
Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES, is a cipher standard which came into wide use in 2001. AES is a block cipher rather than a stream cipher, meaning “blocks” of data are converted into encrypted gibberish, 128 bits at a time. It’s perhaps the most-used block cipher in the world, used by, for example, the Wi-Fi protection known as WPA2. But it came to prominence in 2001 as a result of winning a contest held by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to find a new standard encryption. That led to its adoption by the NSA. That’s right, Assange’s “poison pill” is secured by the U.S. government’s own standard. Though AES is an open and public cipher, it’s the first to be approved by the NSA for “Top Secret” information, the term used for the most dangerous classified information. It is, in short, a tremendously badass form of protection. An AES encryption doesn’t work like, say, a login. The keys are just strings of binary (in the case of AES-256, 256 binary symbols) rather than words or characters, and entering the wrong key won’t simply disallow access — it’ll produce elaborately encoded gibberish. There are three variants of AES, which differ in the size of their keys (128, 192, or 256 bits), though they all use the same 128-bit block size. The size of the key has other implications within the algorithm itself (and slightly increases the encoding time), but mostly, it increases the amount of time needed to break it with what’s called a “brute force attack” (more on that in a bit). The three variants also carry different numbers of “rounds” protecting their keys. Each round is sort of like a layer of further obscurity, making the original data all the more disguised. AES-128 has ten rounds, AES-192 has twelve, and AES-256 has fourteen. Those rounds make it effectively impossible to compare the ciphered data with its key and divine any sort of pattern, since the data has been so thoroughly mangled by, in this case, 14 rounds of highly sophisticated manipulation that it’s unrecognizable. The rounds make an already secure algorithm that much more secure.

Possible Attacks
There are a few different ways of cracking a code like this. Many rely on some other information besides the code given. Side-channel attacks, for example, require an observation of the actual decoding: This might include data like the timing of deciphering, the power it takes to run the computer doing the deciphering, or even the noise a computer makes while deciphering. There are measures you can take to spoof this kind of thing, but even if Assange hasn’t, side-channel attacks won’t work in this case. Another kind of attack, the one that’s come closest, is the related-key attack. This method requires multiple keys, somehow related, working on the same cipher. Cryptographers have actually had some very limited success with related-key attacks, managing to greatly reduce the amount of possible correct passwords–but there are huge caveats to that. Related-key attacks require an advanced knowledge of the cipher and key that cryptographers never really have in the real world, like, say, a ciphered text and a deciphered text. Most modern key generation tools, like TrueCrypt and WPA2, have built-in protections against related-key attacks. And, worst of all, that success, which broke a 256-bit code, required a handicap: an altered encryption with less rounds. A related-key attack won’t work on Assange’s jacket-full-of-dynamite.

The time it takes to crack a code is thought of in terms of how many possible correct passwords there could be. If you’re looking at a 256-bit password with no knowledge of anything, trying to just enter every conceivable combination of 0s and 1s, you’d have a “time” of 2^256. Nobody measures the time it would take to crack one of these codes in hours, months, years, or centuries–it’s too big for all of that, so they just use combinations. Trying to crack all of those combinations manually is called, aptly, a brute force attack, and in a 256-bit instance like this one, it’d take, roughly, a bajillion years to succeed (that being the scientific estimation). Even with all the supercomputers in the world working in concert, with a flawless algorithm for trying the different combinations, it would take hundreds of thousands of years. Your average dude with an Alienware? Forget about it. In the case of the successfully cracked 256-bit code above, the cryptographers only managed to narrow it down to 2^70 possibilities–and they only got through the 11th round. Besides, 2^70 combinations is, in real world terms, not really much closer to cracked than 2^256. It’s still dramatically unfeasible.

The best possible method of cracking the code might be the simplest: Beat it out of him. This is, I swear to God, a real technique, called rubber-hose cryptanalysis. Assange is already in custody–the most efficient way to get his password is, by far, torture. It’s also authentic in that it’s the only type of cracking you’d actually see in a Bond movie. Sure as hell better than waiting several million years for a brute-force attack, right?

Dutch police arrest 16-year-old WikiLeaks avenger
by Dan Goodin / 9th December 2010

Dutch police said they have arrested a 16-year-old boy for participating in web attacks against MasterCard and Visa as part of a grassroots push to support WikiLeaks. A press release issued on Thursday (Google translation here) said the unnamed boy confessed to the distributed denial-of-service attacks after his computer gear was seized. He was arrested in The Hague, and is scheduled to be arraigned before a judge in Rotterdam on Friday. It is the first known report of an arrest in the ongoing attacks, which started earlier this week. The arrest came shortly after, a Netherlands-hosted website used to coordinate attacks against companies perceived as harming WikiLeaks, was taken offline. A Panda Security researcher said the website was itself the victim of DDoS attacks, but the investigation by the Dutch High Tech Crime Team has also involved “digital data carriers,” according to the release. It didn’t specify the crimes the boy was charged with or say exactly what his involvement in the attacks was. According to researchers, the Low Orbit Ion Cannon tool, which thousands of WikiLeaks sympathizers are using to unleash the DDoS attacks, takes no steps to conceal their IP addresses. It wouldn’t be surprising if attackers who used the application from internet connections at their home or work also receive a call from local law enforcement agencies.

Why WikiLeaks hackers are a glitch, not a cyberwar
by Douglas Rushkoff / December 10, 2010

Like a momentary glitch on a flat-panel display, the attacks by hackers calling themselves “Anonymous” came and went. Visa, PayPal, MasterCard and Amazon report no significant damage, and business goes on as usual. The corporations acting to cut off WikiLeaks remain safe. Although many are unsettled by the thought of a site such as WikiLeaks revealing state secrets or a group of anonymous hackers breaking the security of the banking system, events of the past week reveal that such threats are vastly overstated. If anything, the current debacle demonstrates just how tightly controlled the net remains in its current form, as well as just what would have to be done to create the sort of peer-to-peer network capable of upending corporate and government power over mass communication and society itself. While in the short term, WikiLeaks managed to create a public platform for a massive number of classified cables, the site itself was rather handily snuffed out by the people actually in charge of the internet. That’s because however decentralized the net might feel when we are posting to our blogs, it was actually designed around highly centralized indexes called domain name servers. Every time we instruct our browsers to find a web page, they ping one of these authorized master lists in order to know where to go. Removing WikiLeaks or any other site, group, top-level domain or entire nation is as easy as deleting it from that list.

The durability of WikiLeaks’ disclosures rests less in the willingness of many rogue websites to attempt to host them in WikiLeaks’ stead than in the sanctity of traditional news outlets such as The New York Times and Guardian of London, which were also sent the complete package of classified documents and can’t be turned off with the online equivalent of a light switch. Likewise, the server space on which our websites appear is owned by corporations that have the power — if not the true right — to cut anyone off for any reason they choose. It’s private property, after all. Similarly, our means of funding WikiLeaks is limited to companies such as Visa and PayPal, which immediately granted government requests to freeze payments and donations to WikiLeaks. It’s the same way a rogue nation’s assets can be frozen by the banks holding them.

Hackers, angered at this affront to the supposed openness of the internet, then went on the attack. They used their own computers — as well as servers they had been able to commandeer — to wage “denial of service” attacks on the websites of the offending companies. Most of those companies, already armed with defensive capabilities designed to fend off intrusions from the likes of the Russian mob or the Red Army, survived unscathed. Only MasterCard was noticeably, if only temporarily, disrupted. Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter quickly disabled accounts traced to those using the services to organize their minions.
And all this tamping down occurred on today’s purportedly “net neutral” internet, which offers no real advantage to one corporate-owned server over any other. We can only imagine the effect of these events on those who will decide on whether to maintain net neutrality or give in to the corporations that argue the internet’s distributive capabilities should be reserved for those who can pay for such distribution, by the byte. No, the real lesson of the WikiLeaks affair and subsequent cyberattacks is not how unwieldy the net has become, but rather how its current architecture renders it so susceptible to control from above.

It was in one of the leaked cables that China’s State Council Information office delivered its confident assessment that thanks to “increased controls and surveillance, like real-name registration … The Web is fundamentally controllable.” The internet’s failings as a truly decentralized network, however, merely point the way toward what a decentralized network might actually look like. Instead of being administrated by central servers, it would operate through computers that pinged one another, instead of corporate-owned server farms, and deliver web pages from anywhere, even our own computers. The FCC and other governing bodies may attempt to defang the threat of the original internet by ending net neutrality. But if they did, such a new network — a second, “people’s internet” — would almost certainly rise in its place. In the meantime, the internet we know, love and occasionally fear today is more of a beta version of modeling platform than a revolutionary force. And like any new model, it changes the way we think of the way things work right now. What the internet lacks today indicates the possibilities for what can only be understood as a new operating system: a 21st century, decentralized way of conducting political, commercial and human affairs.

This new operating system, even in its current form, is slowly becoming incompatible with the great, highly centralized institutions of the 20th century, such as central banking and nation states, which still depend on top-down control and artificial monopolies on power to maintain their authority over business and governance. The ease with which PayPal or Visa can cut off the intended recipient of our funds, for example, points the way to peer-to-peer transactions and even currencies that allow for the creation and transmission of value outside the traditional banking system. The ease with which a senator’s phone call can shut down a web site leads network architects to evaluate new methods of information distribution that don’t depend on corporate or government domain management for their effectiveness.
Until then, at the very least, the institutions still wielding power over the way our networks work and don’t work have to exercise their power under a new constraint: They must do so in the light of day.

Going underground at the Wikileaks nerve centre
by Stephen Evans / 10 December 2010

To enter the old nuclear bunker in Stockholm where the Wikileaks secrets are stored is like passing into another surreal world, half way between planet Earth and cyberspace. The entrance on the street is non-descript. It is just a door in a face of rock. Steam billows from pipes alongside into the bitterly cold Swedish air. If you press the bell and get invited in, glass doors open and you walk into a James Bond world of soft lighting. There is the high security of doors which only open when the door behind you has closed, and which need special passes for every few steps of the journey into the inner cavern. But there is also falling water in fountains and pot plants, because people work here, watching monitors from a control room. One of the carpets has the surface of the moon on it to give an added surreal effect.

And then there are the computer servers in a cave, with bare rock walls underneath the wooden houses of Stockholm. In the inner cavern are rows and rows of computer storage cases. And on one of them are the files of Wikileaks, only a fraction of which have so far been made public to the immense embarrassment of politicians who once said something indiscreet to an American diplomat, never dreaming the words would bite back in public. The data centre is owned by a company called Bahnhof, and its founder, Jon Karlung, gave the BBC a tour. Mr Karlung took over the remnant from the Cold War in 2007 and had to dynamite out a further 4,000 cubic metres of rock to make it big enough. It is ultra-secure and needs submarine turbines – just inside the entrance – to generate enough power to maintain a moderate temperature even in the vicious Swedish winter.

But the threat to data is not from physical theft – not from robbers with guns – though they would have a hard job – but from cyber attack. Mr Karlung said they monitored the traffic into and out of the centre. But he said he would be naive to think that people would not try so they had given Wikileaks a separate channel in – its own pipe for data as it were. Does he fear the wrath of the United States because his facility stores such embarrassing information? “Our role must be to keep this service up. We are in Sweden and this service is legal in Sweden and therefore we must stand up for our client,” he said. “We must do everything in our power to keep the service up. I believe in the freedom of speech”. He said his data centre was like the postal service. You do not blame the postman for the content of the letter – nor do you open the letter if you are a postal delivery person. So it is with servers, he thinks: “We should be able to help Wikileaks operate their servers as long as they are not violating any laws. “That principle is the most important thing to stand for”.

“At the moment, for example, we are sitting on 5GB from Bank of America, one of the executive’s hard drives…”

An Interview With WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange
by Andy Greenberg / Nov. 29 2010

Admire him or revile him, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange is the prophet of a coming age of involuntary transparency, the leader of an organization devoted to divulging the world’s secrets using technology unimagined a generation ago. Over the last year his information insurgency has dumped 76,000 secret Afghan war documents and another trove of 392,000 files from the Iraq war into the public domain–the largest classified military security breaches in history. Sunday, WikiLeaks made the first of 250,000 classified U.S. State Department cables public, offering an unprecedented view of how America’s top diplomats view enemies and friends alike. But, as Assange explained to me earlier this month, the Pentagon and State Department leaks are just the start.

Forbes: To start, is it true you’re sitting on trove of unpublished documents?
Julian Assange: Sure. That’s usually the case. As we’ve gotten more successful, there’s a gap between the speed of our publishing pipeline and the speed of our receiving submissions pipeline. Our pipeline of leaks has been increasing exponentially as our profile rises, and our ability to publish is increasing linearly.

Q. You mean as your personal profile rises?
A. Yeah, the rising profile of the organization and my rising profile also. And there’s a network effect for anything to do with trust. Once something starts going around and being considered trustworthy in a particular arena, and you meet someone and they say “I heard this is trustworthy,” then all of a sudden it reconfirms your suspicion that the thing is trustworthy. So that’s why brand is so important, just as it is with anything you have to trust.

Q. And this gap between your publishing resources and your submissions is why the site’s submission function has been down since October?
A. We have too much.

Q. Before you turned off submissions, how many leaks were you getting a day?
A. As I said, it was increasing exponentially. When we get lots of press, we can get a spike of hundreds or thousands. The quality is sometimes not as high. If the front page of the Pirate Bay links to us, as they have done on occasion, we can get a lot of submissions, but the quality is not as high.

Q. How much of this trove of documents that you’re sitting on is related to the private sector?
A. About fifty percent.

Q. You’ve been focused on the U.S. military mostly in the last year. Does that mean you have private sector-focused leaks in the works?
A. Yes. If you think about it, we have a publishing pipeline that’s increasing linearly, and an exponential number of leaks, so we’re in a position where we have to prioritize our resources so that the biggest impact stuff gets released first.

Q. So do you have very high impact corporate stuff to release then?
A. Yes, but maybe not as high impact… I mean, it could take down a bank or two.

Q. That sounds like high impact.
A. But not as big an impact as the history of a whole war. But it depends on how you measure these things.

Q. When will WikiLeaks return to its older model of more frequent leaks of smaller amounts of material?
A. If you look at the average number of documents we’re releasing, we’re vastly exceeding what we did last year. These are huge datasets. So it’s actually very efficient for us to do that. If you look at the number of packages, the number of packages has decreased. But if you look at the average number of documents, that’s tremendously increased.

Q. So will you return to the model of higher number of targets and sources?
A. Yes. Though I do actually think… [pauses] These big package releases. There should be a cute name for them.

Q. Megaleaks?
A. Megaleaks. That’s good. These megaleaks… They’re an important phenomenon, and they’re only going to increase. When there’s a tremendous dataset, covering a whole period of history or affecting a whole group of people, that’s worth specializing on and doing a unique production for each one, which is what we’ve done. We’re totally source dependent. We get what we get. As our profile rises in a certain area, we get more in a particular area. People say, why don’t you release more leaks from the Taliban. So I say hey, help us, tell more Taliban dissidents about us.

Q. These megaleaks, as you call them, we haven’t seen any of those from the private sector.
A. No, not at the same scale as for the military.

Q. Will we?
A. Yes. We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it.

Q. Is it a U.S. bank?
A. Yes, it’s a U.S. bank.

Q. One that still exists?
A. Yes, a big U.S. bank.

Q. The biggest U.S. bank?
A. No comment.

Q. When will it happen?
A. Early next year. I won’t say more.

Q. What do you want to be the result of this release?
A. [Pauses] I’m not sure. It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume. Usually when you get leaks at this level, it’s about one particular case or one particular violation. For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails. Why were these so valuable? When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed. It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations. This will be like that. Yes, there will be some flagrant violations, unethical practices that will be revealed, but it will also be all the supporting decision-making structures and the internal executive ethos that cames out, and that’s tremendously valuable. Like the Iraq War Logs, yes there were mass casualty incidents that were very newsworthy, but the great value is seeing the full spectrum of the war. You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.

Q. How many dollars were at stake in this?
A. We’re still investigating. All I can say is it’s clear there were unethical practices, but it’s too early to suggest there’s criminality. We have to be careful about applying criminal labels to people until we’re very sure.

Q. Can you tell me anything about what kind of unethical behavior we’re talking about?
A. No.

Q. You once said to one of my colleagues that WikiLeaks has material on BP. What have you got?
A. We’ve got lots now, but we haven’t determined how much is original. There’s been a lot of press on the BP issue, and lawyers, and people are pulling out a lot of stuff. So I suspect the material we have on BP may not be that original. We’ll have to see whether our stuff is especially unique.

Q. The Russian press has reported that you plan to target Russian companies and politicians. I’ve heard from other WikiLeaks sources that this was blown out of proportion.
A. It was blown out of proportion when the FSB reportedly said not to worry, that they could take us down. But yes, we have material on many business and governments, including in Russia. It’s not right to say there’s going to be a particular focus on Russia.

Q. Let’s just walk through other industries. What about pharmaceutical companies?
A. Yes. To be clear, we have so much unprocessed stuff, I’m not even sure about all of it. These are just things I’ve briefly looked at or that one of our people have told me about.

Q. How much stuff do you have? How many gigs or terabytes?
A. I’m not sure. I haven’t had time to calculate.

Q. Continuing then: The tech industry?
A. We have some material on spying by a major government on the tech industry. Industrial espionage.

Q. U.S.? China?
A. The U.S. is one of the victims.

Q. What about the energy industry?
A. Yes.

Q. Aside from BP?
A. Yes.

Q. On environmental issues?
A. A whole range of issues.

Q. Can you give me some examples?
A. One example: It began with something we released last year, quite an interesting case that wasn’t really picked up by anyone. There’s a Texas Canadian oil company whose name escapes me. And they had these wells in Albania that had been blowing. Quite serious. We got this report from a consultant engineer into what was happening, saying vans were turning up in the middle of the night doing something to them. They were being sabotaged. The Albanian government was involved with another company; There were two rival producers and one was government-owned and the other was privately owned. So when we got this report; It didn’t have a header. It didn’t say the name of the firm, or even who the wells belonged to.

Q. So it wasn’t picked up because it was missing key data.
A. At the time, yeah. So I said, what the hell do we do with this thing? It’s impossible to verify if we don’t even know who it came from. It could have been one company trying to frame the other one. So we did something very unusual, and published it and said “We’ve got this thing, looks like it could have been written by a rival company aiming to defame the other, but we can’t verify it. We want more information.” Whether it’s a fake document or real one, something was going on. Either one company is trying to frame the other, which is interesting, or it’s true, which is also very interesting. That’s where the matter sat until we got a letter of inquiry from an engineering consulting company asking how to get rid of it. We demanded that they first prove that they were the owner.

Q. It sounds like when Apple confirmed that the lost iPhone 4 was real, by demanding that Gizmodo return it.
A. Yes, like Apple and the iPhone. They sent us a screen capture with the missing header and other information.

Q. What were they thinking?
A. I don’t know.

Q. So the full publication is coming up?
A. Yes.

Q. Do you have more on finance?
A. We have a lot of finance related things. Of the commercial sectors we’ve covered, finance is the most significant. Before the banks went bust in Dubai, we put out a number of leaks showing they were unhealthy. They threatened to send us to prison in Dubai, which is a little serious, if we went there.

Q. Just to review, what would you say are the biggest five private sector leaks in WikiLeaks’ history?
A. It depends on the importance of the material vs. the impact. Kaupthing was one of the most important, because of the chain of effects it set off, the scrutiny in Iceland and the rest of Scandinvia. The Bank Julius Baer case was also important. The Kaupthing leak was a very good leak. The loanbook described in very frank terms the credit worthiness of all these big companies and billionaires and borrowers, not just internal to the bank, but a broad spectrum all over the world, an assessment of a whole bunch of businesses around the world. It was quite an interesting leak. It didn’t just expose Kaupthing, it exposed many companies. The bank Julius Baer exposed high net worth individuals hiding assets in the Cayman Islands, and we went on to do a series that exposed bank Julius Baer’s own internal tax structure. It’s interesting that Swiss banks also hide their assets from the Swiss by using offshore bank structuring. We had some quite good stuff in there. It set off a chain of regulatory investigations, possibly resulting in some changes. It triggered a lot of interesting scrutiny.

Q. Regulation: Is that what you’re after?
A. I’m not a big fan of regulation: anyone who likes freedom of the press can’t be. But there are some abuses that should be regulated, and this is one. With regard to these corporate leaks, I should say: There’s an overlap between corporate and government leaks. When we released the Kroll report on three to four billion smuggled out by the former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi and his cronies, where did the money go? There’s no megacorruption–as they call it in Africa, it’s a bit sensational but you’re talking about billions–without support from Western banks and companies. That money went into London properties, Swiss banks, property in New York, companies that had been set up to move this money. We had another interesting one from the pharmaceutical industry: It was quite self-referential. The lobbyists had been getting leaks from the WHO. They were getting their own internal intelligence report affecting investment regulation. We were leaked a copy. It was a meta-leak. That was quite influential, though it was a relatively small leak–it was published in Nature and other pharma journals.

Q. What do you think WikiLeaks mean for business? How do businesses need to adjust to a world where WikiLeaks exists?
A. WikiLeaks means it’s easier to run a good business and harder to run a bad business, and all CEOs should be encouraged by this. I think about the case in China where milk powder companies started cutting the protein in milk powder with plastics. That happened at a number of separate manufacturers. Let’s say you want to run a good company. It’s nice to have an ethical workplace. Your employees are much less likely to screw you over if they’re not screwing other people over. Then one company starts cutting their milk powder with melamine, and becomes more profitable. You can follow suit, or slowly go bankrupt and the one that’s cutting its milk powder will take you over. That’s the worst of all possible outcomes. The other possibility is that the first one to cut its milk powder is exposed. Then you don’t have to cut your milk powder. There’s a threat of regulation that produces self-regulation. It just means that it’s easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more effected negatively by leaks than honest businesses. That’s the whole idea. In the struggle between open and honest companies and dishonest and closed companies, we’re creating a tremendous reputational tax on the unethical companies. No one wants to have their own things leaked. It pains us when we have internal leaks. But across any given industry, it is both good for the whole industry to have those leaks and it’s especially good for the good players.

Q. But aside from the market as a whole, how should companies change their behavior understanding that leaks will increase?
A. Do things to encourage leaks from dishonest competitors. Be as open and honest as possible. Treat your employees well. I think it’s extremely positive. You end up with a situation where honest companies producing quality products are more competitive than dishonest companies producing bad products. And companies that treat their employees well do better than those that treat them badly.

Q. Would you call yourself a free market proponent?
A. Absolutely. I have mixed attitudes towards capitalism, but I love markets. Having lived and worked in many countries, I can see the tremendous vibrancy in, say, the Malaysian telecom sector compared to U.S. sector. In the U.S. everything is vertically integrated and sewn up, so you don’t have a free market. In Malaysia, you have a broad spectrum of players, and you can see the benefits for all as a result.

Q. How do your leaks fit into that?
A. To put it simply, in order for there to be a market, there has to be information. A perfect market requires perfect information. There’s the famous lemon example in the used car market. It’s hard for buyers to tell lemons from good cars, and sellers can’t get a good price, even when they have a good car. By making it easier to see where the problems are inside of companies, we identify the lemons. That means there’s a better market for good companies. For a market to be free, people have to know who they’re dealing with.

Q. You’ve developed a reputation as anti-establishment and anti-institution.
A. Not at all. Creating a well-run establishment is a difficult thing to do, and I’ve been in countries where institutions are in a state of collapse, so I understand the difficulty of running a company. Institutions don’t come from nowhere. It’s not correct to put me in any one philosophical or economic camp, because I’ve learned from many. But one is American libertarianism, market libertarianism. So as far as markets are concerned I’m a libertarian, but I have enough expertise in politics and history to understand that a free market ends up as monopoly unless you force them to be free. WikiLeaks is designed to make capitalism more free and ethical.

Q. But in the meantime, there could be a lot of pain from these scandals, obviously.
A. Pain for the guilty.

Q. Do you derive pleasure from these scandals that you expose and the companies you shame?
A. It’s tremendously satisfying work to see reforms being engaged in and stimulating those reforms. To see opportunists and abusers brought to account.

Q. You were a traditional computer hacker. How did you find this new model of getting information out of companies?
A. It’s a bit annoying, actually. Because I cowrote a book about [being a hacker], there are documentaries about that, people talk about that a lot. They can cut and paste. But that was 20 years ago. It’s very annoying to see modern day articles calling me a computer hacker. I’m not ashamed of it, I’m quite proud of it. But I understand the reason they suggest I’m a computer hacker now. There’s a very specific reason. I started one of the first ISPs in Australia, known as Suburbia, in 1993. Since that time, I’ve been a publisher, and at various moments a journalist. There’s a deliberate attempt to redefine what we’re doing not as publishing, which is protected in many countries, or the journalist activities, which is protected in other ways, as something which doesn’t have a protection, like computer hacking, and to therefore split us off from the rest of the press and from these legal protections. It’s done quite deliberately by some of our opponents. It’s also done because of fear, from publishers like The New York Times that they’ll be regulated and investigated if they include our activities in publishing and journalism.

Q. I’m not arguing you’re a hacker now. But if we say that both what you were doing then and now are both about gaining access to information, when did you change your strategy from going in and getting it to simply asking for it?
A. That hacker mindset was very valuable to me. But the insiders know where the bodies are. It’s much more efficient to have insiders. They know the problems, they understand how to expose them.

Q. How did you start to approach your leak strategy?
A. When we started Suburbia in 1993, I knew that bringing information to the people was very important. We facilitated many groups: We were the electronic printer if you like for many companies and individuals who were using us to publish information. They were bringing us information, and some of them were activist groups, lawyers. And some bringing forth information about companies, like Telstra, the Australian telecommunications giant. We published information on them. That’s something I was doing in the 1990s. We were the free speech ISP in Australia. An Australian Anti-church of Scientology website was hounded out of Victoria University by legal threats from California, and hounded out of a lot of places. Eventually they came to us. People were fleeing from ISPs that would fold under legal threats, even from a cult in the U.S. That’s something I saw early on, without realizing it: potentiating people to reveal their information, creating a conduit. Without having any other robust publisher in the market, people came to us.

Q. I wanted to ask you about [Peiter Zatko, a legendary hacker and security researcher who also goes by] “Mudge.”
A. Yeah, I know Mudge. He’s a very sharp guy.

Q. Mudge is now leading a project at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to find a technology that can stop leaks, which seems pretty relative to your organization. Can you tell me about your past relationship with Mudge?
A. Well, I…no comment.

Q. Were you part of the same scene of hackers? When you were a computer hacker, you must have known him well.
A. We were in the same milieu. I spoke with everyone in that milieu.

Q. What do you think of his current work to prevent digital leaks inside of organizations, a project called Cyber Insider Threat or Cinder?
A. I know nothing about it.

Q. But what do you of the potential of any technology designed to prevent leaks?
A. Marginal.

Q. What do you mean?
A. New formats and new ways of communicating are constantly cropping up. Stopping leaks is a new form of censorship. And in the same manner that very significant resources spent on China’s firewall, the result is that anyone who’s motivated can work around it. Not just the small fraction of users, but anyone who really wants to can work around it. Censorship circumvention tools [like the program Tor] also focus on leaks. They facilitate leaking. Airgapped networks are different. Where there’s literally no connection between the network and the internet. You may need a human being to carry something. But they don’t have to intentionally carry it. It could be a virus on a USB stick, as the Stuxnet worm showed, though it went in the other direction. You could pass the information out via someone who doesn’t know they’re a mule.

Q. Back to Mudge and Cinder: Do you think, knowing his intelligence personally, that he can solve the problem of leaks?
A. No, but that doesn’t mean that the difficulty can’t be increased. But I think it’s a very difficult case, and the reason I suggest it’s an impossible case to solve completely is that most people do not leak. And the various threats and penalties already mean they have to be highly motivated to deal with those threats and penalties. These are highly motivated people. Censoring might work for the average person, but not for highly motivated people. And our people are highly motivated. Mudge is a clever guy, and he’s also highly ethical. I suspect he would have concerns about creating a system to conceal genuine abuses.

Q. But his goal of preventing leaks doesn’t differentiate among different types of content. It would stop whistleblowers just as much as it stops exfiltration of data by foreign hackers.
A. I’m sure he’ll tell you China spies on the U.S., Russia, France. There are genuine concerns about those powers exfiltrating data. And it’s possibly ethical to combat that process. But spying is also stabilizing to relationships. Your fears about where a country is or is not are always worse than the reality. If you only have a black box, you can put all your fears into it, particularly opportunists in government or private industry who want to address a problem that may not exist. If you know what a government is doing, that can reduce tensions.

Q. There have been reports that Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German who used to work with WikiLeaks, has left to create his own WikiLeaks-type organization. The Wall Street Journal described him as a “competitor” to WikiLeaks. Do you see him as competition?
A. The supply of leaks is very large. It’s helpful for us to have more people in this industry. It’s protective to us.

Q. What do you think of the idea of WikiLeaks copycats and spinoffs?
A. There have been a few over time, and they’ve been very dangerous. It’s not something that’s easy to do right. That’s the problem. Recently we saw a Chinese WikiLeaks. We encouraged them to come to us to work with us. It would be nice to have more Chinese speakers working with us in a dedicated way. But what they’d set up had no meaningful security. They have no reputation you can trust. It’s very easy and very dangerous to do it wrong.

Q. Do you think that the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative [a series of bills to make Iceland the most free-speech and whistleblower-protective country in the world] would make it easier to do this right if it passes?
A. Not at the highest level. We deal with organizations that do not obey the rule of law. So laws don’t matter. Intelligence agencies keep things secret because they often violate the rule of law or of good behavior.

Q. What about corporate leaks?
A. For corporate leaks, yes, free speech laws could make things easier. Not for military contractors, because they’re in bed with intelligence agencies. If a spy agency’s involved, IMMI won’t help you. Except it may increase the diplomatic cost a little, if they’re caught. That’s why our primary defense isn’t law, but technology.

Q. Are there any other leaking organizations that you do endorse?
A. No, there are none.

Q. Do you hope that IMMI will foster a new generation of WikiLeaks-type organizations?
A. More than WikiLeaks: general publishing. We’re the canary in the coalmine. We’re at the vanguard. But the attacks against publishers in general are severe.

Q. If you had a wishlist of what industries or governments, what are you looking for from leakers?
A. All governments, all industries. We accept all material of diplomatic, historical or ethical significance that hasn’t been released before and is under active suppression. There’s a question about which industries have the greatest potential for reform. Those may be the ones we haven’t heard about yet. So what’s the big thing around the corner? The real answer is I don’t know. No one in the public knows. But someone on the inside does know.

Q. But there are also industries that just have more secrecy, so you must know there are things you want that you haven’t gotten.
A. That’s right. Within the intelligence industry is one example. They have a higher level of secrecy. And that’s also true of the banking industry. Other industries that are extremely well paid, say Goldman Sachs, might have higher incentives not to lose their jobs. So it’s only the obvious things that we want: Things concerning intelligence and war, and mass financial fraud. Because they affect so many people so severely.

Q. And they’re harder leaks to get.
A. Intelligence particularly, because the penalties are so severe. Although very few people have been caught, it’s worth noting. The penalties may be severe, but nearly everyone gets away with it. To keep people in control, you only need to make them scared. The CIA is not scared as an institution of people leaking. It’s scared that people will know that people are leaking and getting away with it. If that happens, the management loses control.

Q. And WikiLeaks has the opposite strategy?
A. That’s right. It’s summed up by the phrase “courage is contagious.” If you demonstrate that individuals can leak something and go on to live a good life, it’s tremendously incentivizing to people.


“Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world—successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.”

WikiLeaks whistleblower site in temporary shutdown / 1 February 2010

WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website that allows people to publish uncensored information anonymously, has suspended operations owing to financial problems. Its running costs including staff payments are $600,000 (£377,000), but so far this year it has raised just $130,000 (£81,000). WikiLeaks has established a reputation for publishing information that traditional media cannot. The website claims to be non-profit and relies on donations. A statement on its front page says it is funded by “human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public”.

Original documents
WikiLeaks does not accept money from governments or corporations. A list of names and addresses of people said to belong to the British National Party (BNP) was posted on the site in October 2009. WikiLeaks also published e-mail exchanges involving US politician Sarah Palin after her account was hacked. The site claims to have information about corrupt banks, the UN and the Iraq war that it is unable to publish while funds remain low.

While it has won awards for its work from the Economist and Amnesty International, WikiLeaks has also fought more than 100 legal challenges. “WikiLeaks has established a good name for itself and broken some good stories,” Julian Petley, chair of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, told BBC News. “One of the reasons why WikiLeaks is so useful is that it’s able to put original documents up – unfiltered by comment and editorial.” Investigative journalist Paul Lashmar said he had been “startled” by the effectiveness of WikiLeaks in publishing suppressed information.

However he thought that the funding issue would not be easily resolved. “(Web) users aren’t interested in how the people behind sites make their money,” he said. “The problem for the self-funding model is that sites like WikiLeaks will not find it easy to attract funding through advertising. “At some point people who care about free speech will realise that free speech has to be funded, otherwise it’s not free.”

Dig deep for Wikileaks
BY Emily Butselaar / 29 January 2010

Wikileaks, the whistleblowers’ home, has been temporarily shut down while its management tries to raise funds. Its tremendous success has meant the site has often struggled under the volume of users. It has faced down governments, investment banks and the famously litigious Church of Scientology but paying its operating costs (circa $600,000) has proved its undoing. As of today instead of reading government secrets and details of corporate malfeasance all visitors to the site will see is an appeal for cash. Anyone who cares about freedom of expression should dig deep.

Wikileaks, with its simple “keep the bastards honest” ethos, aims to discourage unethical behaviour by airing governments’ and corporations’ dirty laundry in public, putting their secrets out there in the public realm. The site won Index on Censorship’s 2008 freedom of expression award because it’s an invaluable resource for anonymous whistleblowers and investigative journalists.

Among Wikileaks’ recent triumphs are its publication of top-secret internet censorship lists. The blacklists from Australia, Thailand, Denmark and Norway demonstrate exactly how censorship systems are abused to suppress free expression. The Thai list featured sites criticising the country’s royal family and the Australian blacklist turned out to include a school canteen consultancy. Despite its child porn mandate, less than half of the Australian blacklist were linked to paedophilia. Also on the list were satanic and fetish sites, anti-abortion websites, and sites belonging to a kennel operator and a dentist. Publication highlighted the lack of transparency in the process and gave impetus to the “No Clean Feed” campaign which opposes the Australian government’s internet filter proposals.

But Wikileaks is not just a tool for journalists, it allows ordinary Kenyans to read a confidential report detailing the billions their former president allegedly siphoned from the country’s coffers. Its repository includes controversial military documents including the US rules of engagement in Iraq and an operating manual issued to army officers in Guantánamo Bay. It has put corporations on notice that the costs of unethical behaviour are immeasurable in PR terms because it amplifies the Streisand effect, the social media phenomenon that punishes those who use the courts to suppress or censor information, by ensuring it has a much wider reach.

Some have dismissed the site as a snooper’s charter. Many were outraged by its publication of Sarah Palin’s hacked emails which included private email addresses and Palin’s family photographs. These critics tended to overlook that the emails also provided clear evidence that Palin was using private email accounts for state business.

Wikipedia democratises news and information, allowing the public to access secret information that once would have been limited to the chateratti. Had the Trafigura case occurred five years earlier, most journalists would have been able to access the secret report at the heart of the case, but Wikileaks enables everyone to read it. The superinjunction taken out by Trafigura was so comprehensive that of 293 articles about the suppressed report, only 11 dared to link to it or told the public where they could access it. If Wikileaks didn’t exist, it is possible that Trafigura’s management may have clung to their injunction.

For fear of compromising its integrity Wikileaks doesn’t accept funding from corporations or governments. Instead, it relies on the public. If you want to read the exposés of the future, it’s time to chip in.


“ Wikileaks has probably produced more scoops in its short life than the Washington Post has in the past 30 years ” — The National, November 19. 2009

“To concentrate on raising the funds necessary to keep us alive into 2010, we have reluctantly suspended all other operations, but will be back soon. We have received hundreds of thousands of pages from corrupt banks, the US detainee system, the Iraq war, China, the UN and many others that we do not currently have the resources to release. You can change that and by doing so, change the world. Even $10 will pay to put one of these reports into another ten thousand hands and $1000, a million. We have raised just over $130,000 for this year but can not meaningfully continue operations until costs are covered. These amount to just under $200,000 PA. If staff are paid, our yearly budget is $600,000.

The Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world—successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.

If you are interested in contributing to our mission using another payment method or with a shares, property, bonds, a grant, matched contribution, bequest, interest free loan, or have any other questions, please write to

Wikileaks is currently overloaded by readers. This is a regular difficulty that can only be resolved by deploying additional resources. If you support our mission, you can help us by integrating new hardware into our project infrastructure or developing software for the project. Become patron of a WikiLeaks server or other parts of our technology, adding more pillars to the stability and balance of the WikiLeaks platform. Servers come trouble-free and legally fortified, software is uniquely challenging. If you can provide rackspace, power and an uplink, or a dedicated server or storage space, for at least 12 months, or software development work for WikiLeaks, please write to

Individuals or organizations wishing to donate lawyer time write to We provide unique legal challenges in an ongoing fight for global justice and freedom of speech. If you support our mission, join our legal team to help defend those values.

WikiLeaks would like to thank the following 18 steadfast supporters (unordered):
Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP)
The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE)
The Associated Press – world wide news agency, based in New York
Citizen Media Law Project – Harvard university
The E.W Scripps Company – newspapers, TV, cable TV etc.
Gannett Co. Inc – largest publisher of newspapers in US, including USA Today
The Hearst Corporation – conglomerate which publishes the San Francisco Chronicle
The Los Angeles Times
National Newspaper Association (NNA)
Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA)
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
Public Citizen – founded by Ralph Nader together with the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Jordan McCorkle, the University of Texas

“ … serves as an uncensorable and untraceable depository for the truth, able to publish documents that the courts may prevent newspapers and broadcasters from being able to touch. ” — In praise of… Wikileaks – The Guardian, October 20, 2009

The Economy of Wikileaks / January 4, 2010

Wikileaks is a global platform for Whistleblowers, in which internal documents can be published. The idea is that arcane knowledge becomes common knowledge and the world a better place. The project could play in the same league as success stories like Wikipedia or Indymedia. After a highly acclaimed lecture at the 26th Congress of the Chaos Computer Club in Berlin, I had the opportunity to interview Julian Assange, the most prominent Wikileaks-character on how to finance such a website. The question seems to be pressing.

Q. At the moment [update Jan 21: and still today] has an unusual appearance. The website is locked down in order to generate money. How did you decide in favor of this tough step?
A. In part, this is a desire for us to to enforce self-discipline. It is for us a way to ensure that everyone who is involved stops normal work and actually spends time raising revenue. That’s hard for us, because we promise our sources that we will do something about their situation.

Q. So, you strike?
A. Yes, it’s similar to what unions do when they go on strike. They remind people that their labour has value by withdrawing supply entirely. We give free and important information to the world every day. But when the supply is infinite in the sense that everyone is able to download what we publish, the perceived value starts to reduce down to zero. So by withdrawing supply and making our supply to zero, people start to once again perceive the value of what we are doing.

Q. Do you urgently need money?
A. We have lots of very significant upcoming releases, significant in terms of bandwidth, but even more significant in terms of amount of labour they will require to process and in terms of legal attacks we will get. So we need to be in a stronger position before we can publish the material.

Q. In mainstream media as well as in non-commercial media there are two important questions. What does it cost? And how is it financed? Would you please first describe the cost side …
A. By far the biggest cost is people. That’s also a cost that scales with operations. The more material we go through, the more the management and labour costs are. People need to write summaries of the material and see whether it’s true or not. In the moment everyone is paying himself, but that can’t last forever.

Q. How big is the core team of WikiLeaks?
A. There are probably five people that do it 24 hours a day. And then there are 800 people who do it occasionally throughout the year. And in between there is a spectrum.

Q. How do you and the other four guys who work full time without salaries finance living costs?
A. I have made money in the Internet. So I have enough money to do that, but also not forever. And the other four guys, in the moment they are also able to self-finance.

Q. Was Wikileaks your idea as many assumed?
A. I don’t call myself a founder.

Q. Nobody really knows about the founders, says Wikipedia …
A. Yes. This is simply because some of the people in the initial founding group are refugees, refugees from China and other places. And they still have family back in their home countries.

Q. So at the moment the labour costs are still hypothetical, but the big costs that you really have to pay bills for are servers, office, etc.?
A. On the bandwidth side, the backing is costly as well when we get big spikes. Then there are registrations, bureaucracy, dealing with bank accounts and this sort of stuff. Because we are not in one location, it doesn’t make sense for us to have headquarters. People have their own offices across the world.

Q. What about cost for lawsuits?
A. We don’t have to pay for our lawyer’s time. Hundred of thousands or millions dollars’ worth of lawyer time are being donated. But we still have to pay things like photocopying and court filing. And so far we have never lost a case, there were no penalties or compensations to pay.

Q. So all in all, can you give figures about how much money Wikileaks needs in one year?
A. Propably 200 000, that’s with everyone paying themselves. But there are people who can’t afford to continue being involved fulltime unless they are paid. For that I would say maybe it’s 600 000 a year.

Q. Now let’s talk about revenues, your only visible revenue stream is donations …
A. Private donations. We refuse government and corporate donations. In the moment most of the money comes from the journalists, the lawyers or the technologists who are personally involved. Only about ten percent are from online donations. But that might increase.

Q. At the bottom of the site is a list of your “steadfast supporters”, media organisations and companies like AP, Los Angeles Times or The National Newspaper Association. What do they do for you?
A. They give their lawyers, not cash.

Q. Why do the they help you? Probably not out of selflessness.
A. Two things: They see us as an organisation that makes it easier for them to do what they do. But they also see us as the thin end of the wedge. We tackle the hardest publishing cases. And if we are defeated, maybe they will be next in line. In other words: If goes down as a result of a legal action, the same precedence can be used to take down the next day or the German Spiegelonline.

Q. My explanation was that maybe they do it because they know that what you do is actually their job, but they don’t have the money to do it.
A. Maybe. The cost per word in investigative journalism is high. We make it a little bit cheaper for them. If you can bring these costs per word down you can get more words of investigative journalism and publish even in a company that wants to maximize profit, because we do some of the expensive sourcing. And there is another really big cost, namely the threat of legal action. We take the most legally difficult part, which is not the story, but usually the backing documents. As a result there is less chance of legal action against the publisher. So we help them to bring their costs per word in investigative journalism down.

Q. You need to motivate two groups of people, in order to make the site run, the whistleblowers and the journalists. What are the motivations for whistleblowers?
A. Usually they are incenced morally by something. Very rarely actually they want revenge or just to embarrass some organisation. So that’s their incentive, to satisfy this feeling. Actually we would have no problem giving sources cash. We don’t do that, but for me there is no reason why only the lawyers and the journalists should be compensated for their effort. Somebody is taking the risk to do something and this will end up benefiting the public.

Q. But then the legal problem would become much bigger.
A. Yes, but we’re not concerned about that. We could do these transfer payments to a jurisdiction like Belgium which says, that the authorities are not to use any means to determine the connection between the journalist and their source. And this would include the banking system.

Q. On the other hand, you experiment with incentives for journalists. This sounds weird at first. Why do you have to give them additional incentives so they use material you offer them for free?
A. It’s not that easy. Information has value, generally in proportion to the supply of this information being restricted. Once everyone has the information, another copy of the information has no value.

Q. But nearly every journalist in the U.S. has daily access to the material of a news agency like AP.
A. The material of AP is ready to go straight into the newspaper. Our material requires additional investment. So when we release an important leak, it requires an important, intelligent journalist who is politically well connected. Those journalists have significant opportunity costs. Okay, they want to spend their time on 200 pages. In order for that to be profitable they need to make sure that they will come out with an exclusive at the end. But if it is perceived to be something of interest, it is probable that also other people will be working on it at that moment. And when they publish is unpredictable. That produces the counter-intuitive outcome that the more evidence there is of some scandal and the more important the scandal, the less likely it is that the press will write about it. If there is no exclusivity.

Q. In Germany you made an exclusivity deal with two media companies, with Stern and Heise. Are you satisfied with these kind of deals?
A. We have done this in other countries before. Generally we have been satisfied. The problem is that it takes too much time to manage. To make a contract, and to determine who should have the exclusivity. Someone can say, oh, we will do a good story. We are going to maximize the political impact. And then they won’t do it. How do we measure this?

Q. You want to make sure that if you give them the exclusivity that they really do what they promise to do …
A. Yes. One thing that can’t be faked is how much money they pay. If you have an auction and a media organisation pays the most, then they are predicting, that they will benefit the most from publishing the story. That is, they will have the maximum number of readers. So this is a very good way to measure who should have the exclusivity. We tried to do it as an experiment in Venezuela .

Q. Why Venezuela?
A. Because of the character of the document. We had 7 000 e-mails from Freddy Balzan, he was Hugo Chavez’s former speech writer and also the former ambassador to Argentinia. We knew that this document would have this problem, that it was big and political important, therefore probably no one would write anything about it for the reason I just said.

Q. What happened?
A. This auction proved to be a logistical nightmare. Media organisations wanted access to the material before they went to auction. Consequently we would get them to sign non-disclosure agreements, chop up the material and release just every second page or every second sentence.That proved to distracting to all the normal work we were doing, so that we said, forget it, we can’t do that. We just released the material as normal. And that’s precisely what happened: no one wrote anything at all about those 7 000 Emails. Even though 15 stories had appeared about the fact that we were holding the auction.

Q. The experiment failed.
A. The experiment didn’t fail; the experiment taught us about what the burdens were. We would actually need a team of five or six people whose job was just to arrange these auctions.

Q. You plan to continue the auction idea in the future …
A. We plan to continue it, but we know it will take more resources. But if we pursue that we will not do that for single documents. We will instead offer a subscription. This would be much simpler. We would only have the overhead of doing the auction stuff every three months or six months, and not for every document.

Q. So the exclusivity of the story will run out after three months?
A. No, there will be exclusivity in terms of different time windows in access to the material. As an example: there will be an auction for North America. And you will be ranked in the auction. The media organisation which bids most in the auction would get access to it first, the one who bids second will get access to it second and so on. Media organisations would have a subscription to Wikileaks.

Q. They would have timely privileged access to all Wikileaks documents that are relevant for North America …
A. Yes. Let’s imagine there are only two companies in the auction. And one pays double what the other one pays. And let’s say the source says they want the document to be published in one month’s time. So there is a one month window where the journalists have time to investigate and write about the material. The organisation that pays the most for it gets it immediately, so therefore they would be able to do a more comprehensive story. Then the organisation that pays half as much gets it half the time later, they get the documents two weeks later. And then after one month they both publish.

Q. That sounds promising. Wouldn’t then the financial problem be solved?
A. It depends on how many resources the auction itself takes. And media themselves don’t have so much money at all. But all in all I think we only would have to have a few bid cases per year, that would be enough to finance it.


YOU Submit a document for us to publish and, inorder to maximize its impact, distribute amongst our network of investigative journalists, human rights workers, lawyers and other partners.

WE will publish and keep published the document you submitted, provided it meets the submission criteria. Your data is stored decentralized, encrypted and as a preserved historic record, accessible in full by the public. The information you submit will be cleaned by us to not be technically traceable to your PDF printing program, your word installation, scanner, printer. We also anonymize any information on you at a very early stage of the WikiLeaks network, and our services neither know who you are nor do they keep any information about your visit. We will never cooperate with anyone trying to identify you as our source. In fact we are legally bound not to do so, and any investigation into you as our source is a crime in various countries and will be prosecuted.

Wikileaks plans to make the Web a leakier place
BY Dan Nystedt / October 9, 2009, the online clearinghouse for leaked documents, is working on a plan to make the Web leakier by enabling newspapers, human rights organizations, criminal investigators and others to embed an “upload a disclosure to me via Wikileaks” form onto their Web sites. The upload system will give potential whistleblowers around the world the ability to leak sensitive documents to an organization or journalist they trust over a secure connection, while giving the receiver legal protection they might not otherwise enjoy. “We will take the burden of protecting the source and the legal risks associated with publishing the document,” said Julien Assange, an advisory board member at Wikileaks, in an interview at the Hack In The Box security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Once Wikileaks confirms the uploaded material is real, it will be handed over to the Web site that encouraged the submission for a period of time. This embargo period gives the journalist or rights group time to write a news story or report based on the material.

The embargo period is a key part of the plan, Assange said. When Wikileaks releases material without writing its own story or finding people who will, it gains little attention. “It’s counterintuitive,” he said. “You’d think the bigger and more important the document is, the more likely it will be reported on but that’s absolutely not true. It’s about supply and demand. Zero supply equals high demand, it has value. As soon as we release the material, the supply goes to infinity, so the perceived value goes to zero.” The final act will be for Wikileaks to publish the material on its Web site after the story has been written and the embargo period lapsed. “We want to get as much substantive information as possible into the historical record, keep it accessible and provide incentives for people to turn it into something that will achieve political reform,” said Assange.

Wikileaks is also working on ways to make the material it receives easier to search through. The problem Wikileaks often runs into is how to present the material it’s been given and how to make it easier to sift through for vital information, said Assange. “At the moment, for example, we are sitting on 5GB from Bank of America, one of the executive’s hard drives,” he said. “Now how do we present that? It’s a difficult problem. We could just dump it all into one giant Zip file, but we know for a fact that has limited impact. To have impact, it needs to be easy for people to dive in and search it and get something out of it.” In three years on the Web, Wikileaks has published over 1.2 million sensitive documents.

The famous whistle-blower site just blew its own whistle, leaking the e-mail addresses of dozens of its financial supporters.
By Robert X. Cringely / February 23, 2009

Live by the leak, die by the leak. Apparently that’s the motto at, the whistle-blowing site that provides one-stop shopping for stuff other folks really don’t want you to see. Wikileaks made headlines last year when it published documents accusing Swiss bank Julius Baer of money laundering and other activities not-entirely-on-the-up-and-up. The bank sued, inspiring some laughably lame attempts to shut the site down and generating even more bad PR. About a month later the site published various “secret documents” for the Church of Scientology. The site has also been instrumental in documenting torture at Abu Ghraib, human rights protests in Tibet, and civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

But Wikileaks is now dangling by its own petard, after someone in its fundraising arm sent out an e-mail shilling for donations but put the addresses of its 58 recipients on the “To:” field instead of “Bcc:”. Someone quickly submitted the e-mail to the Wikileaks foundation as a “leaked” document, presumably to test just how devoted Wikileaks is to its own mission. Egg meet face. To its credit (and probably to some donors’ horror) the site posted the document in full, including all 58 email addresses. Many of them feature aliases like “eekameeka” and “phantom 7266,” while other less fortunate folks included what appear to be their real names and work email addresses. But even a pseudonymous address can yield a lot of information about someone if they use it to sign onto multiple sites across the Web.

Nothing wrong with giving money to a site that exists to promote freedom of the press. But now one question becomes whether organizations that got pwned by Wikileaks will start harassing the site’s donors, if only to shut off the money spigot. The bigger question is, how can you trust Wikileaks to protect whistle-blowers’ identities when it can’t protect its own donors? Wikileaks claims it’s better at protecting the sources of its information, even if it’s not so hot at protecting the sources of its funding. In a comment posted on Wired’s Threat Level blog, organization spokesdude Jay Lim says:

“…while definitely not good form, the mistake was a missed shortcut made by one of our admin people and is not related to the efforts or systems involved in source protection.”
If I’m someone who could lose my job because I posted secret information to Wikileaks, I would find this statement cold comfort.

Really, Wikileaks was hosed regardless of what it decided to do; if your whole schtick is exposing the unvarnished unredacted truth, you can’t suddenly start making exceptions for yourself. But this dumb mistake is likely to cost it contributions, both monetary and otherwise.

Will Wikileaks Drown in Its Own Red Ink?
Robert Cringely / Feb 4, 2010

We have interrupted our nonstop coverage of Apple iPad mania to bring you this important word about the freedom of information — more specifically, I’ve written about Wikileaks several times over the last few years, in part because it’s a classic example of why the Internet is such an extraordinary telecommunications tool. Wikileaks is usually described as a “whistleblower” site, but it’s really more of a safe haven for secrets that need to be exposed — kind of like a Swiss bank, only in reverse, so it’s kind of fitting that a Swiss bank is one of its most famous targets. But instead of shielding people who are trying to hide their assets, it exposes them. Thanks to the nature of the Net, confidential sources can make those secrets public without putting their own necks on the chopping block. (Admittedly, these sources sometimes break the law or their legal agreements by doing so. And Wikileaks sometimes exposes information — like personal email addresses — of people who’ve done nothing wrong. It’s far from perfect.)

Through its work, Wikileaks has exposed money-laundering banks, brainwashing cults, repressive governments, corporate scofflaws, butter-fingered politicos, and all other manner of bad actors. Not surprisingly, the org has been sued by its deep-pocketed targets, harassed by the authorities, and attacked by DDoSers. Now it faces the biggest obstacle of all: money — or, rather, a lack thereof.

Today Wikileaks announced it has been forced to suspend its operations due to a lack of funds. That sound you hear is champagne glasses clinking in the boardrooms at Bank Julius Baer, at the Scientology HQ in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the government halls of Beijing, and in other elite locations around the globe.  I can understand why the wiki’s donor pool dried up. About a year ago, Wikileaks sprung a leak itself and accidentally emailed a list of its financial patrons, some of whom probably would have preferred to remain anonymous. That email was then submitted to Wikileaks, which dutifully posted it like any other document it receives from anonymous sources.  Now it’s seeking donations from the public to stay afloat, as well as technical resources (like servers and storage space) and legal expertise. Its supporters have started a Facebook group (numbering about 1,200 members at press time), and other journos besides yours truly are spreading the good word.

Why support Wikileaks?
Because investigative journalism is on a respirator, and the prognosis isn’t good. For one thing, this kind of reporting is expensive. You need publications that can afford to pay a professional reporter, or a team of them, to dig into a story for months or even years without any promise that they’ll end up with something worth publishing. Those stories might involve the use of a private detective, and they will almost always require the services of a team of attorneys to vet the copy carefully and defend the story later in court, if required. None of that stuff comes cheap.

Still, investigative reporting was how major news dailies and dozens of glossy mags made their bones back in the day. Now the number of publications that can continue to fund this kind of reporting have been whittled down to a handful, and most of those are teetering on the brink. These days it’s all about how fast you can publish a story online — even when it bears little resemblance to reality as defined by most people — and how much Google loves you as a result. There aren’t a lot of rewards for reporting and reflection there. Sure, the blogosphere can occasionally step in and break a story, just like a blind pig occasionally stumbles across an acorn. But only for the most brain-dead simple stuff — like the wrong font used in a typewritten letter. Most investigative breakthroughs involve detailed painstaking work, deep understanding of a topic, and the ability to earn the trust of a wide range of confidential sources who are willing to put their jobs and possibly their lives at risk just by talking to you.

Those things are not generally available to obsessive-compulsive pajama-wearing typists who may or may not be using their real names. And they certainly won’t be without resources like Wikileaks, which levels the information playing field for everyone, professional and amateur journos alike. So it’s your choice. You can spend $10 on a couple of lattes and a kruller, or you can spend it on keeping information flowing just a little more freely around the world. I know which one I’d pick. If Wikileaks goes down, will something new rise to take its place?

Wikileaks Meets Its Minimum Cash Goal
BY Kim Zetter / February 4, 2010

The whistleblowing site Wikileaks has apparently raised the money it needs to continue operating for the time being, according to a message the organization sent out Wednesday night on Twitter. “Achieved min. funraising [sic] goal. ($200k/600k); we’re back fighting for another year, even if we have to eat rice to do it,” read the tweet, without specifying whether it had raised the full $600,000 or just $200,000.

The site announced last December that it was ceasing day-to-day operations to focus on raising money. It said contributors could still send documents and tips through its anonymous submission tool. Last week, it was ceasing operations indefinitely because it had raised only $130,000 of the $200,000 it needed to maintain base operations annually. The site says it requires $600,000 to operate if it pays its staff of technologists and curators who sift through submissions to provide context for documents and other information valuable to its users. The announcement page, beginning with: “We protect the world — but will you protect us?” has not changed, except to add that Wikileaks “will be back soon.”

“We have received hundreds of thousands of pages from corrupt banks, the U.S. detainee system, the Iraq war, China, the UN and many others that we do not currently have the resources to release,” the pages reads. “You can change that and by doing so, change the world. Even $10 will pay to put one of these reports into another 10,000 hands and $1,000, a million.”

The site takes donations through PayPal, Moneybookers and TipiT, as well as checks and bank transfers. Its online TipiT tipjar indicates it has raised $31,000 using that method. Donors to its tipjar leave such messages as: “Keep scooping us — we’re very grateful for your persistence.” “Keep up the good work, shining light in dark places.” “You may be the most important resource on the net in the long term.”

The site was formally launched in 2007 as an online clearinghouse for anonymous submissions of documents, images and other data. It has received awards from Amnesty International and has been praised by media groups and others for giving whistleblowers and political dissidents a forum to expose corruption and suppression and foster transparency.

It’s run by the Sunshine Press, said to be supported by anonymous human rights activists, investigative journalists, technologists and members of the general public around the world. The site has scooped mainstream media outlets a number of times in obtaining documents and information on controversial topics that have then become the source of mainstream media stories.

In 2007, the site published a 238-page U.S. military manual detailing operations of the Defense Department’s Guantánamo Bay detention facility. It also posted a manual for operating the CIA’s rendition flights, which involved undocumented detainees who were kidnapped in various locations and flown to countries outside the United States for interrogation and torture.

Wikileaks was among the first to publish data from Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo e-mail account after a Tennessee judge tried to shutter Wikileaks by ordering its U.S. host to take it offline after a Cayman Islands bank complained that the site was publishing proprietary documents. The judge reversed his decision a week later following criticism of numerous groups that said the judge’s decision constituted prior restraint, a violation of the First Amendment.


REPORT : U.S. CRIME LABS SUCK,0,954369.story
Report questions science, reliability of crime lab evidence: The National Academy of Sciences says many courtroom claims about fingerprints, bite marks and other evidence lack scientific verification. It finds forensics inconsistent and in disarray nationwide.
BY Jason Felch and Maura Dolan / February 19, 2009

Sweeping claims made in courtrooms about fingerprints, ballistics, bite marks and other forensic evidence often have little or no basis in science, according to a landmark report released Wednesday by the nation’s leading science body. The National Academy of Sciences report called for a wholesale overhaul of the crime lab system, which has become increasingly crucial to American jurisprudence.

Many experts said the report could have a broad impact on crime labs and the courts, ushering in changes at least as significant as those generated by the advent of DNA evidence two decades ago. But the substantial reforms would require years of planning and major federal funding. In the meantime, the findings are expected to unleash a flood of new legal challenges by defense attorneys. “This is a major turning point in the history of forensic science in America,” said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted. He said the findings would immediately lead to court challenges. “If this report does not result in real change, when will it ever happen?” Scheck asked.

The Los Angeles County Public Defender’s office plans to use the National Academy report to file challenges on the admissibility of fingerprint evidence and is reviewing cases in which fingerprints played a primary role in convictions, officials said. Separately, the Los Angeles Police Department has been reviewing 1,000 fingerprint cases after discovering that two people were wrongfully accused because of faulty fingerprint analyses.

The academy, the preeminent science advisor to the federal government, found a system in disarray: labs that are underfunded and beholden to law enforcement and that lack independent oversight and consistent standards. The report concludes that the deficiencies pose “a continuing and serious threat to the quality and credibility of forensic science practice,” imperiling efforts to protect society from criminals and shield innocent people from convictions.

With the notable exception of DNA evidence, the report says that many forensic methods have never been shown to consistently and reliably connect crime scene evidence to specific people or sources. “The simple reality is that the interpretation of forensic evidence is not always based on scientific studies to determine its validity,” the report says. For example, frequent claims that fingerprint analysis had a zero error rate are “not scientifically plausible,” the report said. The scientific basis for bite mark evidence is called “insufficient to conclude that bite mark comparisons can result in a conclusive match.”

Recent cases of CSI gone awry have underscored the report’s urgency. In the cases of the 232 people exonerated by DNA evidence, more than half involved faulty or invalidated forensic science, according to the Innocence Project. Margaret Berger, a professor at Brooklyn Law School and a member of the panel, explained: “We’re not saying all these disciplines are useless. We’re saying there is a lot of work that needs to be done.” Said U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Harry Edwards, co-chairman of the panel: “There are a lot of people who are concerned, and they should be concerned. Forensic science is the handmaiden of the legal system. . . . If you claim to be science, you ought to put yourself to the test.”

Although the panel’s recommendations are not binding, they are expected to be influential. Among the recommendations:
* Create a new federal agency, the National Institute of Forensic Science, to fund scientific research and disseminate basic standards.
* Make crime labs independent of law enforcement. Most crime labs are run by police agencies, which can lead to bias, a growing body of research shows.
* Require that expert witnesses and forensic analysts be certified by the new agency, and that labs be accredited.
* Fund research into the scientific basis for claims routinely made in court, as well as studies of the accuracy and reliability of forensic techniques.

Those recommendations have been cautiously embraced by leading associations of forensic scientists, which in 2005 helped convince Congress that the study was necessary. “You can’t continue to do business in 2009 the way you did in 1915,” said Joseph Polski of the International Assn. for Identification, whose members include examiners of fingerprints, documents, footwear and tire tracks. “We knew there would be things in there we’d like and things we didn’t like.”

Many forensic scientists were hesitant to criticize the report for fear of seeming resistant to testing and scrutiny. But there were some delicate complaints. “It’s not the science of forensic science that is in need of repair, I think; it’s how the results are interpreted in the courtroom,” said Dean Gialamis, head of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, who was quick to add that his group welcomed the recommendations.

The report was hailed by many defense attorneys, scientists and law professors, who for years have been raising scientific and legal challenges. “The courts were highly skeptical of experts and resistant to hearing their arguments,” said Simon A. Cole, a professor of criminology at UC Irvine who has often testified for defense teams about the limitations of fingerprint evidence. “I feel like I’m Alice coming out of the rabbit hole and back into a world of sanity and reason.”

The report had harsh words for the FBI Laboratory and the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Justice Department, which have shown little enthusiasm for exploring the shortcomings of forensic science. “Neither agency has recognized, let alone articulated, a need for change,” the report states, adding that they could be subject to pro-prosecution biases.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. signaled in comments to reporters shortly before the report was released that he would take its concerns seriously: “I think we need to devote a lot of attention and a lot of resources to that problem.” Prosectors on the front lines, however, were more skeptical. “I know the defense is probably starting bonfires, but this should not in any way shake up anyone’s confidence in forensics,” said Paula Wulff, manager and senior attorney of the DNA Forensic Program of the National District Attorneys Assn. She called the recommendations a “Cadillac of aspirations,” and expressed doubt that they would be followed given the poor state of the economy. All sides, however, agreed that the report signals an aggressive reentry of scientists into issues that for decades have fallen to lawyers, judges and juries to resolve.


“Over the years we have published information on a range of techniques to develop fingerprints on exhibits retrieved from scenes of crime. This information helps police detect more fingerprints more successfully. We produce the Manual of Fingerprint Development Techniques which is endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers and is used by every police force in the UK, and around the world. Copies of the Manual of Fingerprint Development Techniques and its companion guide for scenes of crime, the Fingerprint Development Handbook, are supplied free to UK police forces. We charge other users £150 for the Manual and £10 for the Handbook (minimum order £50).”

Current Forensics Gets Poor Fingerprints Off Recycled Plastic
BY Colin Barras  /   06 April 2009

Recycling may be good for the planet, but it is causing problems for CSI teams. Chemists that set protocols for developing fingerprints at the UK government’s Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) are having to rethink their techniques to make them workable on the recycled plastics that are now flooding the market.

Despite the advent of DNA forensic technology, traditional fingerprinting remains an important crime-busting tool. Since the 1970s, the Fingerprint and Footwear Forensics programme, based near St Albans, has studied how to best develop fingerprints on a range of porous and non-porous surfaces, and has written a comprehensive manual used by police forces worldwide. It advises which chemical approaches will best reveal the prints on a particular surface. New technologies such as laser scanning of fingerprints, or methods to retrieve them from bullet casings are constantly being added. But now these techniques must be adapted to the rise of recycling.

Mongrel plastics
“We noticed there were changes in the plastic products on the market around two to three years ago,” says Vaughn Sears, a project manager in the Fingerprint and Footwear programme. He suspects the changes are due to the increasingly popular recycling initiatives: “Recycled plastics are used in virtually anything that’s made from polymers these days.” The recycled products may look similar, but the physical and chemical properties differ so widely from the plastics they replace that the techniques honed over recent decades to lift fingerprints off plastics are no longer effective, he says.

Traditionally plastics were made from just one or two chemical building blocks, arranged in a predictable structure. But even plastics with just a trace of recycled feedstock become much more complex. Although consumers are encouraged to separate their plastics for recycling, the resulting plastics are inevitably more of a mongrel product than the pedigree plastics they replace. “These new products are made from an unspecified mix of polymers, which makes them much more difficult to work with,” says Sears.

Neglected science
Sears and Valerie Bowman, Fingerprints and Footwear programme manager at the HOSDB, are midway through a work programme designed to update their methods to work with the new materials. They hope to present their recommendations to police forces within six months, and restore the upper hand to fingerprint forensics departments.

John Bond, a fingerprint researcher with the Northamptonshire Police and a fellow at the University of Leicester, both in the UK, recognises the problems Sears and Bowman highlight, but thinks help could be at hand to prevent similar occurrences in future. For many years, research in this area has been a bit neglected. But TV-led increased public interest in forensics – what Bond calls the “CSI effect” – could lead to new, more powerful technologies. “I believe this renewed interest from universities will produce a new generation of fingerprint enhancement techniques to match what [the CSI scriptwriters] already think can be done,” he says.

Fingerprint Test Will Tell What A Person Has Touched
BY Kenneth Chang  /  August 7, 2008

With a new analytical technique, a fingerprint can now reveal much more than the identity of a person. It can now also identify what the person has been touching: drugs, explosives or poisons, for example. Writing in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, R. Graham Cooks, a professor of chemistry at Purdue University, and his colleagues describe how a laboratory technique, mass spectrometry, could find a wider application in crime investigations. The equipment to perform such tests is already commercially available, although prohibitively expensive for all but the largest crime laboratories. Smaller, cheaper, portable versions of such analyzers are probably only a couple of years away.

In Dr. Cooks’s method, a tiny spray of liquid that has been electrically charged, either water or water and alcohol, is sprayed on a tiny bit of the fingerprint. The droplets dissolve compounds in the fingerprints and splash them off the surface into the analyzer. The liquid is heated and evaporates, and the electrical charge is transferred to the fingerprint molecules, which are then identified by a device called a mass spectrometer. The process is repeated over the entire fingerprint, producing a two-dimensional image. The researchers call the technique desorption electrospray ionization, or Desi, for short.

In the experiments described in the Science paper, solutions containing tiny amounts of various chemicals including cocaine and the explosive RDX were applied to the fingertips of volunteers. The volunteers touched surfaces like glass, paper and plastic. The researchers then analyzed the fingerprints. Because the spatial resolution is on the order of the width of a human hair, the Desi technique did not just detect the presence of, for instance, cocaine, but literally showed a pattern of cocaine in the shape of the fingerprint, leaving no doubt who had left the cocaine behind. “That’s an advantage that this technique would have,” said Bruce Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at the University of Florida who runs a forensics laboratory that helps medical examiners and law enforcement. Dr. Goldberger was not involved in the research.

The chemical signature could also help crime investigators tease out one fingerprint out of the smudges of many overlapping prints if the person had been exposed to a specific chemical, said Demian R. Ifa, a postdoctoral researcher and the lead author of the Science paper. Prosolia Inc., a small company in Indianapolis, has licensed the Desi technology from Purdue and is already selling such analyzers as add-ons to large laboratory mass spectrometers, which cost several hundred thousand dollars each. Prosolia has so far sold about 70 analyzers, said Peter T. Kissinger, the company’s chairman and chief executive. The most sophisticated $60,000 version that would be needed for fingerprint analysis went on sale this year.

However, fingerprints are not the main focus for Prosolia or Dr. Cooks. “This is really just an offshoot of a project that is really aimed at trying to develop a methodology ultimately to be used in surgery,” Dr. Cooks said. If a Desi analyzer can be miniaturized and automated into a surgical tool, a surgeon could, for example, quickly test body tissues for the presence of molecules associated with cancer. “That’s the long-term aim of this work,” Dr. Cooks said. In unpublished research, the researchers have successfully tested the method on bladder tumors in dogs. Prosolia is collaborating with Griffin Analytical Technologies, a subsidiary of ICx Technologies, on a Desi analyzer that works with a portable mass spectrometer. That product is probably a year or two away from the market, Dr. Kissinger said.

As it becomes cheaper and more widely available, the Desi technology has potential ethical implications, Dr. Cooks said. Instead of drug tests, a company could surreptitiously check for illegal drug use by its employees by analyzing computer keyboards after the workers have gone home, for instance.


BY Joanna Blythman / 19 November 2006

“As little as 10 years ago, you took a risk when you bought a pineapple. The fruits that made it to the UK – a variety of pineapple known as the Smooth Cayenne – were scarily spiky, green on the outside and, more often than not, off-puttingly sour and fibrous within. Then in 1996, the Del Monte ‘Gold’ pineapple hit our shelves, the first of a new type of low-acid pineapple bred in Hawaii.

Seeing the profit potential for its winning pineapple, Del Monte tried to keep the market to itself. But the new hybrid pineapple had been developed at the Pineapple Research Institute in Hawaii in the 1970s and other fruit companies with research interests in this institute were adamant that the golden pineapple was not exclusive to Del Monte. Dole, a major player on the global fruit scene, brought out the Gold MD-2. The smaller Maui Pineapple Company launched a similar fruit, which it dubbed Hawaiian Gold.”

Toxicity and allergenicity of non-GM pineapple (occupational exposure) / Section 2.1.1 Bromelain
1. Pineapples can be toxic to workers who cut up pineapples.  Pineapples contain a protease called bromelain in pineapple sap.  Fingerprints can almost completely be removed by the combined pressure and keratolytic effect of bromelain by the removal of the stratum corneum.  In addition, moniliasis of the finger webs has occasionally been observed in pineapple cutters (Polunin, 1951).


pineapple field

“By 1891, researchers identified the proteolytic enzyme bromelain, which they found in the fleshy part of the fruit. This enzyme was discovered to break down protein, and as such, is still used to day as a natural meat tenderizer and digestive aid. By 1957, bromelain was widely recognized and research also began into such areas as muscle and tissue inflammation, burn recovery, infection, and even sinus problems. The most recognized use for bromelain is as a digestive aid. This enzyme is commonly used in cases in which an individual’s own digestive enzymes are deficient, frequently resulting from pancreatic disorders. Some laboratory studies suggest that bromelain may also be useful for reducing bad intestinal bacteria.

Bromelain is so effective at digesting protein that workers who frequently cut the fruit often lose their fingerprints to the active properties of the enzyme. As well as this fruit’s amazing digestive qualities, it is also an excellent source of vitamins A and vitamin C, a benefit the Spaniards took advantage of on their many extended trips out to sea. The fibrous nature of pineapple however, is also known to relieve constipation, as well ancient cultures frequently used pineapples to cure jaundice and kill intestinal parasites. Ripe pineapple juice is well known as a remedy to induce menstruation and relieve painful periods. Bromelain’s photolytic properties also make this enzyme a natural blood thinner. The digestive substance in the enzyme breaks down the blood clotting protein called fibrin, which inhibits circulation and prevents tissues from effectively draining.

European studies have consistently shown that bromelain is also an excellent treatment for those recovering from sports injuries and in tissue repair necessary after surgery. Evidence suggests that some supplemental enzymes in particular can be absorbed directly into the circulatory system in their active form where they then exhibit anti-inflammatory and pain relieving actions. Bromelain has proven especially effective when applied directly to the skin to remove dead tissue resulting from severe burns that have reached all skin layers. These third-degree burns as they are known, are extremely susceptible to infection and swelling. The digestive properties of the bromelain cleanse the areas and remove the excess dead tissue and as well, its anti-inflammatory properties may help to reduce the pain caused by swelling. Countries such as Japan and Taiwan and in the state of Hawaii where pineapples are abundant, widely recognize bromelain as a remedy to cleanse wounds. Another interesting use for bromelain may be as a cough suppressant and nasal decongestant.

According to experts, in most cases, bromelain should only be taken for between 8 and10 days. There are two recognized drug reactions with bromelain. This enzyme is said to enhance antibiotics. One study shows that amoxicillin blood levels are increased when combined with bromelain. Additional studies show that the antibiotic tetracycline is better absorbed when used in conjunction with bromelain, however researchers say that further investigation is still necessary since studies in this area are conflicting. If you are taking the herbs gingko, ginger, vitamin C or garlic or medications such as aspirin or warfarin, a common blood thinner, bromelain could potentially increase the risk of bleeding. It is therefore best to avoid this enzyme. In any case, if you are taking any type of prescription medication, it is always best to speak with a health professional prior to adding any herbs or supplements since interactions are often common.

pineapple harvest



“All of us started working in the pineapple canneries when we were 12 or 13 years old. There were no child labor laws then. I packed and trimmed pineapple and picked eyes out of the so-called jam. I worked in the cafeteria, which was supposedly the gem of jobs, because you made 27 1/2 cents an hour as against 18 cents an hour packing pineapple. In season we worked 12 hours a day. That was how we supported the family and got back to school during the fall.

Education was extremely important to me. I felt it was a window to the world, and that being able to read, write, and speak English–my first language was Chinese–offered special opportunities. I became the editor of the school paper in intermediate school and decided to concentrate my efforts on learning the English language well. I went to the University of Hawaii during the period of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. The cause of the anti-fascist side affected many of us. We felt we had a part because we boycotted Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. I also joined an activist group called the Inter-Professional Association in those pre-World War II years before the ILWU came to Hawaii in strength.

In 1938, Jack Hall, who eventually became Hawaii’s most famous ILWU organizer and the union’s Regional Director, was arrested during the Inter-Island Steamship Navigation Co. strike by the Inland Boatmen’s Union. I remember when somebody came to our Inter-Professional Association meeting and announced, “Jack Hall has been beaten!” That IBU strike culminated in the August 1, 1938 “Hilo Massacre,” when police gunfire wounded 50 pickets. The ILWU’s success in organizing thousands in 1944 came about because exploitation was perceived by the two major ethnic groups, Filipinos and Japanese, and because the ILWU was able to use the leaders in the ethnic work camps to sign up people without the bosses knowing about it. We knew the ILWU was a union that was devoted to non-discrimination, and that there was no need for us to repeat the mistakes of earlier organizers, who in past decades created associations of only Japanese, Filipinos, or whatever group it might be. So we set up one union made up of all ethnic groups under the ILWU.

Another crisis started in 1947 when Ichiro Izuka published a red-baiting pamphlet that was inherently a move to separate out various ILWU groupings so they would become independent unions. This move failed, but we felt a great need to close ranks. When the Izuka pamphlet came out, we still had a number of locals devoted to sugar and to industrial groupings such as pineapple and miscellaneous trades. We decided that for the strength of the union and its members it was better to have one consolidated local. Then we could send out the same message to all units that we would have solidarity in political action so people would have an opportunity to come together and discuss what it was that concerned them in their various industrial groupings. That’s how we eventually became Local 142 in a consolidation process that began in 1947 and concluded in 1951. We ended up with one big local of longshore, sugar, and pineapple, plus, later, the supermarkets, hospitals, and hotels.

In 1954, I was hired as ILWU Local 142 Social Worker. The union had moved into the area of negotiated medical plans, pension plans, later on dental plans, and a whole slew of social legislation that required the interpretative work of a social worker. Because I had done volunteer work during the 1946 tidal wave and the ’46 sugar and ’49 longshore strikes, the local’s leaders realized that a social worker could perform valuable services, including things elected officials could not do.”


~1000-2000  B.C. – Fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business transactions in ancient Babylon.

3rd Century B.C. – Thumbprints begin to be used on clay seals in China to “sign” documents.

610-907 A.D. – During the T’ang Dynasty, a time when imperial China was one of the most powerful and wealthy regions of the world, fingerprints are reportedly used on official documents.

1st Century A.D. – A petroglyph located on a cliff face in Nova Scotia depicts a hand with exaggerated ridges and finger whorls, presumably left by the Mi’kmaq people.

14th Century A.D. – Many official government documents in Persia have fingerprint impressions. One government physician makes the observation that no two fingerprints were an exact match.

1686 – At the University of Bologna in Italy, a professor of anatomy named Marcello Malpighi notes the common characteristics of spirals, loops and ridges in fingerprints, using the newly invented microscope for his studies. In time, a 1.88mm thick layer of skin, the “Malpighi layer,” was named after him. Although Malpighi was likely the first to document types of fingerprints, the value of fingerprints as identification tools was never mentioned in his writings.

1823 – A thesis is published by Johannes Evengelista Purkinje, professor of anatomy with the University of Breslau, Prussia. The thesis details a full nine different fingerprint patterns. Still, like Malpighi, no mention is made of fingerprints as an individual identification method.

1858 – The Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, Sir William Herschel, first used fingerprints to “sign” contracts with native Indians. In July of 1858, a local businessman named Rajyadhar Konai put his hand print on the back of a contract at Herschel’s request. Herschel was not motivated by the need to prove personal identity; rather, his motivation was to simply “frighten (Konai) out of all thought of repudiating his signature.” As the locals felt more bound to a contract through this personal contact than if it was just signed, as did the ancient Babylonians and Chinese, Herschel adopted the practice permanently. Later, only the prints of the right index and middle fingers were required on contracts. In time, after viewing a number of fingerprints, Herschel noticed that no two prints were exactly alike, and he observed that even in widespread use, the fingerprints could be used for personal identification purposes.

1880 – Dr. Henry Faulds, a British surgeon and Superintendent of Tsukiji Hospital in Tokyo, published an article in the Scientific Journal, “Nautre” (nature). He discussed fingerprints as a means of personal identification, and the use of printers ink as a method for obtaining such fingerprints. Faulds had begun his study of what he called “skin-furrows” during the 1870s after looking at fingerprints on pieces of old clay pottery. He is also credited with the first fingerprint identification: a greasy print left by a laboratory worker on a bottle of alcohol. Soon, Faulds began to recognize that the distinctive patterns on fingers held great promise as a means of individual identification, and developed a classification system for recording these inked impressions. Also in 1880, Faulds sent a description of his fingerprint classification system to Sir Charles Darwin. Darwin, aging and in poor health, declined to assist Dr. Faulds in the further study of fingerprints, but forwarded the information on to his cousin, British scientist Sir Francis Galton.

1882 – Gilbert Thompson, employed by the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, uses his own fingerprints on a document to guard against forgery. This event is the first known use of fingerprints for identification in America.

1883 – “Life on the Mississippi,” a novel by Mark Twain, tells the story of a murderer who is identified by the use of fingerprints. His later book “Pudd’n Head Wilson” includes a courtroom drama involving fingerprint identification.

1888 – Sir Francis Galton’s began his study of fingerprints during the 1880s, primarily to develop a tool for determining genetic history and hereditary traits. Through careful study of the work of Faulds, which he learned of through his cousin Sir Charles Darwin, as well as his examination of fingerprints collected by Sir William Herschel, Galton became the first to provide scientific evidence that no two fingerprints are exactly the same, and that prints remain the same throughout a person’s lifetime. He calculated that the odds of finding two identical fingerprints were 1 in 64 billion.

1892 – Galton’s book “Fingerprints” is published, the first of its kind. In the book, Galton detailed the first classification system for fingerprints; he identified three types (loop, whorl, and arch) of characteristics for fingerprints (also known as minutia). These characteristics are to an extent still in use today, often referred to as Galton’s Details.

1892 – Juan Vucetich, an Argentine police official, had recently begun keeping the first fingerprint files based on Galton’s Details. History was made that year when Vucetich made the first criminal fingerprint identification. A woman named Rojas had murdered her two sons, then cut her own throat to deflect blame from herself. Rojas left a bloody print on a doorpost. After investigators matched the crime scene print to that of the accused, Rojas confessed. Vucetich eventually developed his own system of classification, and published a book entitled Dactiloscopía Comparada (“Comparative Fingerprinting”) in 1904, detailing the Vucetich system, still the most used system in Latin America.

1896 – British official Sir Edward Richard Henry had been living in Bengal, and was looking to use a system similar to that of Herschel’s to eliminate problems within his jurisdiction. After visiting Sir Francis Galton in England, Henry returned to Bengal and instituted a fingerprinting program for all prisoners. By July of 1896, Henry wrote in a report that the classification limitations had not yet been addressed. A short time later, Henry developed a system of his own, which included 1,024 primary classifications. Within a year, the Governor General signed a resolution directing that fingerprinting was to be the official method of identifying criminals in British India.

1901 – Back in England and Wales, the success of the “Henry Fingerprint Classification System” in India was creating a stir, and a committee was formed to review Scotland Yard’s identification methods. Henry was then transferred to England, where he began training investigators to use the Henry Classification System after founding Scotland Yard’s Central Fingerprint Bureau. Within a few years, the Henry Classification System was in use around the world, and fingerprints had been established as the uniform system of identification for the future. The Henry Classification System is still in use today in English speaking countries around the globe.

1902 – Alphonse Bertillon, director of the Bureau of Identification of the Paris Police, is responsible for the first criminal identification of a fingerprint without a known suspect. A print taken from the scene of a homicide was compared against the criminal fingerprints already on file, and a match was made, marking another milestone in law enforcement technology. Meanwhile, the New York Civil Service Commission, spearheaded by Dr. Henry P. DeForrest, institutes testing of the first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States.

1903 – Fingerprinting technology comes into widespread use in the United States, as the New York Police Department, the New York State Prison system and the Federal Bureau of Prisons begin working with the new science.

1904 – The St. Louis Police Department and the Leavenworth State Penitentiary in Kansas start utilizing fingerprinting, assisted by a Sergeant from Scotland Yard who had been guarding the British Display at the St. Louis Exposition.

1905 – The U.S. Army gets on the fingerprinting bandwagon, and within three years was joined by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. In the ensuing 25 years, as more law enforcement agencies joined in using fingerprints as personal identification methods, these agencies began sending copies of the fingerprint cards to the recently established National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

1911 – The first central storage location for fingerprints in North America is established in Ottawa by Edward Foster of the Dominion Police Force. The repository is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and while it originally held only 2000 sets of fingerprints, today the number is over 2 million.

1924 – The U.S. Congress acts to establish the Identification Division of the F.B.I. The National Bureau and Leavenworth are consolidated to form the basis of the F.B.I. fingerprint repository. By 1946, the F.B.I. had processed 100 million fingerprint cards; that number doubles by 1971.

1990s – AFIS, or Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems, begin widespread use around the country. This computerized system of storing and cross-referencing criminal fingerprint records would eventually become capable of searching millions of fingerprint files in minutes, revolutionizing law enforcement efforts.

1996 – As Americans become more concerned with the growing missing and abducted children problem, and law enforcement groups urge the fingerprinting of children for investigative purposes in the event of a child becoming missing, Chris Migliaro founds Fingerprint America in Albany, NY. The company provides a simple, at-home fingerprinting and identification kit for parents, maintaining the family’s privacy while protecting and educating children about the dangers of abduction. By 2001, the company distributes over 5 million Child ID Fingerprinting Kits around the world.

1999 – The FBI phases out the use of paper fingerprint cards with their new Integrated AFIS (IAFIS) site at Clarksburg, West Virginia. IAFIS will starts with individual computerized fingerprint records for approximately 33 million criminals, while the outdated paper cards for the civil files are kept at a facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.

[Galton’s book includes a number of tables and illustrations, including this proof of the way a child’s fingerprints remain the same over time. Later in the Introduction Galton indicates how his original interest in fingerprints was linked to an idea that they might serve to establish definitive racial differences.]

“In November, 1892, after he had already decided to feature the story of changelings but while the details of that plot were still evolving, MT acquired a copy of Finger Prints, by Francis Galton. Galton (1822-1911) was a British scientist and a cousin of Charles Darwin whose main interest was in heredity. He coined the term “eugenics.” At several points in Finger Prints he discusses his subject in the context of race and class, although he acknowledges that the data will not support his “great expectations” — that fingerprints would display racial differences. After reading Galton’s book, MT enthusiastically decided to feature fingerprints in the story. In Chapter Two MT’s narrator says Roxy’s race is “a fiction of law and custom.” When Wilson uses fingerprint evidence in the courtroom to prove Tom and Chambers’ “true” identities, however, he is in a sense using them to establish race.


“There is no prejudice to be overcome in procuring these most trustworthy sign-manuals, no vanity to be pacified, no untruths to be guarded against.” (Pp. 1-2)

[It’s not clear what Galton means by “prejudice” in the above. In fact throughout his book a strong connection is maintained between fingerprints and race. The first use of fingerprints for identification was by the British raj in India. In the paragraph below Galton connects his subject explicitly up with the subjects of imperialism. He is saying that fingerprints are especially useful in the colonies, where “they” all look alike and are all liars!]

In the tenth chapter we come to a practical result of the inquiry, namely, its possible use as a means of differentiating a man from his fellows. In civil as well as in criminal cases, the need of some such system is shown to be greatly felt in many of our dependencies; where the features of the natives are distinguished with difficulty; where there is but little variety of surnames; where there are strong motives for prevarication, especially connected with land-tenure and pensions, and a proverbial prevalence of unveracity. (P. 14)

In the twelth chapter we come to a branch of the subject of which I had great expectations, that have been falsified, namely, their use in indicating Race and Temperament. I thought that any hereditary peculiarities would almost of necessity vary in different races, and that so fundamental and enduring a feature as the finger markings must in some way be correlated with temperament.

The races I have chiefly examined are English, most of whom are of the upper and middle classes; the others chiefly from London board schools; Welsh, from the purest Welsh-speaking districts of South Wales; Jews from the large London schools, and Negroes from the territories of the Royal Niger Company. I have also a collection of Basque prints taken at Cambo, some twenty miles inland from Biarritz, which, although small, is large enough to warrant a provisional conclusion. As a first and only an approximately correct description, the English, Welsh, Jews, Negroes, and Basques, may all be spoken of as identitical in the character of their finger prints; the same familiar patterns appearing in all of them which much the same degrees of frequency, the differences between groups of different races being not larger than those that occasionally occur between groups of the same race. The Jews have, however, a decidedly larger proportion of Whorled patterns than other races, and I should have been tempted to make an assertion about a peculiarity in the Negroes, had not one of their groups differed greatly from the rest. The task of examination has been laborious thus far, but it would be much more so to arrive with correctness at a second and closer approximation to the truth. It is doubtful at present whether it is worthwhile to pursue the subject, except in the case of the Hill tribes of India and a few other peculiarly diverse races, for the chance of discovering some characteristic and perhaps a more monkey-like pattern. (Pp. 17-18)

[In Chapter XII, “Races and Classes,” Galton develops in a bit more detail his expectations about the relationship between those categories and the innate identity encoded in fingerprints. Like most 19th century discussions on the subject, Galton’s confuses nationality with race, and assumes his own racist predispositions are “reasonable.” To his credit, though, he accepts the fact that there is no empirical basis for racial discrimination based on fingerprints.]

It requires considerable patience and caution to arrive at trustworthy conclusions, but it may emphatically be said that there is no peculiar pattern which characterises persons of any of the above races [i.e. English, pure Welsh, Hebrew, Negro and Basque]. There is no particular pattern that is special to any one of them, which when met with enables us to assert, or even to suspect, the nationality of the person on whom it appeared. The only differences so far observed are statistical, and cannot be determined except through patience and caution, and by discussing large groups.

I was misled at first by some accidental observations, and as it seemed reasonable to expect to find racial differences in finger marks, the inquiries were continued in varied ways until hard fact had made hope no longer justifiable. (Pg. 192-93)

[As if determined to discriminate between races even in the face of the evidence, Galton did “find” the following “evidence.” He does not give any illustration to support this finding, however.]

The number of instances is of course too small for statistical deductions, but they served to make it clear that no very marked characteristic distinguished the races. The impressions from Negroes betray the general clumsiness of their fingers, but their patterns are not, so far as I can find, different from those of others, they are not simpler as judged either by their contours or by the number of origins, embranchments, islands, and enclosures contained in them. Still, whether it be from pure fancy on my part, or from the way in which they were printed, or from some real peculiarity, the general aspect of the Negro print strikes me as characteristic. The width of the ridges seems more uniform, their intervals more regular, and their courses more parallel than with us. In short, they give an idea of greater simplicity, due to causes that I have not yet succeeded in submitting to the test of measurement. (Pg. 195-96)

[Galton goes on briefly to admit that, although he compared “art-students” and “science-students” with “the worst idiots in the London district,” he has found “no notable difference” in fingerprints on any “class” basis.]

BY Simon Cole / May 13, 2001

uture historians of science and law may well date the beginning of the end of fingerprinting to the opening night of the third season of “The Sopranos.” Coked to the gills, Christopher Moltisanti, Tony Soprano’s nephew, brings Livia Soprano’s wake to an absurd anticlimax as he muses on the claim that no two fingerprints are exactly alike. For scientists to know this, Christopher reasons, they would have to get everyone in the world together in one room to check. And not just everyone in the world, but everyone who ever lived. Since this would be impossible — even using computers — he concludes, “They got nothin.”‘
He’s right, as it turns out. The claim that no fingerprint has ever appeared twice was first popularized more than a hundred years ago, and by dint of analogy (with other natural objects like snowflakes), lack of contradiction and relentless repetition, this bit of folk wisdom became deeply enshrined. By extension, it lent the technique of forensic fingerprint analysis an aura of infallibility. More than just a useful tool, it came to be regarded as a perfect system of identification, and examiners’ testimony at criminal trials came to be practically unassailable.

Until now, that is. In 1998, in Delaware County, Pa., Richard Jackson was sentenced to life in prison for murder based largely on a fingerprint match to which three experts had testified. The defense argued, unsuccessfully, that it was a bad match. But after Jackson spent more than two years in prison the prosecution conceded the error, and he was freed. In Scotland a murder case was upended when detectives found a fingerprint at the scene of the crime that belonged to a police officer — who claimed she’d never been there in the first place. To verify her claim, she brought in two fingerprint analysts who attested that not only had her fingerprint been misidentified, but so had the print, found on a tin at the home of the accused, originally attributed to the victim.

As these cases suggest, the relevant question isn’t whether fingerprints could ever be exactly alike — it’s whether they are ever similar enough to fool a fingerprint examiner. And the answer, it’s increasingly, unnervingly clear, is a resounding yes. A recent proficiency test found that as many as one out of five fingerprint examiners misidentified fingerprint samples. In the last three years, defendants in at least 11 criminal cases have filed motions arguing that fingerprinting does not meet even the basic requirements for scientific and technical evidence. The first such challenge — filed on behalf of Byron Mitchell, who was being tried for robbery — involved five full days of testimony on the credibility of the technique by leading fingerprint examiners and academic critics, including myself. There’s no way to say how these cases, some of which are still on appeal, will be decided, but it is clear that puncturing the myth of fingerprinting’s infallibility and scientific validity poses a grave threat to its century-long reign.

But ultimately, the most dangerous threat to fingerprinting may be cultural, not legal. Much of the public’s faith in fingerprinting has derived not from law but from culture: from the ubiquitous use of the fingerprint as a metaphor (think of chemical and electronic fingerprints); as an icon (think of advertisements, mystery novels and the Court TV logo) of truth, science and most of all, individual identity. Our fingerprints were unique, and, therefore, so were we. As it happens, a new metaphor has arisen just in time to fill the breach. These days we are increasingly apt to believe that our individuality is vouched for by the unique arrangement of genetic material in our cells. And DNA can now do nearly everything that fingerprinting does. Forensic scientists can recover identifiable DNA samples from ever-smaller traces of biological material, even the stray cells left by the smudge of a finger. Forensic DNA profiling, which has notably shed the early nickname of “DNA fingerprinting,” is a perfect match for high-tech millennial sensibilities. Old-style fingerprinting, with its reliance on human observation and its correspondence to a romantic notion of our place in the universe looks . . . well, just so last century.

If this is indeed the beginning of the end of fingerprinting, history will be repeating itself. A century ago, fingerprinting was the upstart rival of the world’s dominant method of criminal identification: the Bertillon system, which used 11 bodily measurements, facial features, birthmarks, scars and tattoos to pinpoint individual identities. The transition to fingerprinting was treated as proof that the world was growing more rational, more discerning. But there may well come a time when our own genetically enhanced descendants find our belief in the power of fingerprinting as quaint as we find the Bertillon system.

What are we to make of the end of fingerprinting? Not simply that we are growing steadily less gullible and more scientific. Rather, that the consensus that coalesces around scientific ideas is more easily built than we might like to think, that legal and public trust can be won over with a culturally resonant image. Over the course of history, even those propositions that seem most indisputable become fragile; our belief in them, fickle. In this increasingly scientific era, it’s a fact worth remembering before we imbue the next foolproof system with the same aura of infallibility that we once ascribed to fingerprints.

{ Simon Cole is the author of “Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification” (Harvard University Press). }




Did Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program Really Focus on American
BY Scott Horton  /  January 22, 2009

For the last several weeks, Michael Hayden, the former CIA director
who previously led the NSA, has been sweating bullets. In recent press
meetings he was a bundle of worries, regularly expressing worries
about “prosecutions.” Fear of the consequences of criminal acts has
been a steady theme for Hayden. In her book The Dark Side, Jane Mayer
reports that in 2004 Deputy Attorney General James Comey was “taken
aback” by Hayden’s comments when he was let in on the details of the
program that Hayden ran at NSA. “I’m glad you’re joining me, because I
won’t have to be lonely, sitting all by myself at the witness table,
in the administration of John Kerry.”

Last night on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” we learned
that Hayden is concerned about more than just allegations that
detainees in CIA custody were tortured. Former NSA analyst Russell
Tice, a source for the New York Times disclosure of details of the
program, appears to offer further details on the program. He reports
that under Hayden the NSA was looking at “everyone’s” communications—
telephone conversations, emails, faxes, IMs—and that in addition to
suspect terrorists, the NSA was carefully culling data from Internet
and phone lines to track the communications of U.S. journalists. This
was done under the pretense of pulling out a control group that was
not suspect. But Tice reports that when he started asking questions
about why journalists were sorted out for special scrutiny, he found
that he himself came under close scrutiny and was removed from
involvement in the program. He found that he had come under intense
FBI surveillance and his communications in all forms were being
monitored. After expressing severe doubts about the operations of the
NSA program, both Deputy Attorney General Comey and former Assistant
Attorney General Jack Goldsmith both believe they also came under
intense surveillance. Both decided to leave the Bush Administration
after these developments.

If Tice’s allegations are correct, then Hayden managed a program which
was in essence a massive felony, violating strict federal criminal
statutes that limit the NSA’s domestic surveillance operations. While
a number of media outlets reported that Hayden’s activities were
“vindicated” by a recent FISA court ruling approving the NSA
surveillance program, that view is completely incorrect. The FISA
court ruling dealt only with the implementation of a program under the
newly amended FISA following Hayden’s departure.

NSA Whistleblower: Grill the CEOs on Illegal Spying
BY Kim Zetter  /  January 26, 2009

Former National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice shed new light on
the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic spying last week when
he told MSNBC that the NSA blended credit card transaction records
with wiretap data to keep tabs on thousands of Americans.

But Tice didn’t say where the credit card information, and other
financial data, came from. Did the agency scoop it in as part of its
surveillance of U.S. communications backbones, or did financial
companies give up your records in bulk to the NSA?

The distinction is significant. Telecommunication companies, such as
AT&T and Verizon, are embroiled in lawsuits over their alleged
cooperation with the government’s warrantless surveillance. If credit
card companies and banks also provided information without a warrant,
it’s conceivable they could face a courtroom challenge as well.

I spoke with Tice extensively in the spring of 2006. With Bush still
in power, the whistleblower was considerably more taciturn than on
television last week. But looking back through the transcript of my
interviews now, in the context of his new revelations, it seems clear
that Tice was saying that credit card companies and banks gave the
same kind of cooperation to the government that phone companies did.

“To get at what’s really going on here, the CEOs of these telecom
companies, and also of the banking and credit card companies, and any
other company where you have big databases, those are the people you
have to haul in to Congress and tell them you better tell the truth,”
he said at the time. “Because anyone in the government is going to
claim executive privilege.”

The New York Times broke the story in 2006 that the NSA obtained
access to financial records in the international SWIFT database. But
that database mostly involves wire transfers of money in and out of
the U.S., not domestic transactions. Tice’s comments reveal that the
agency may have obtained bulk data on domestic credit card
transactions as well from U.S. financial institutions — all without a

I spoke with Tice for a story about a secret room at an AT&T facility
in Bridgeton, Missouri that had the earmarks of an NSA data mining

Shortly after Mark Klein, a retired AT&T employee in San Francisco,
came forward with information about a secret room in a San Francisco
building that appeared to be providing the NSA with a real-time data
feed, two sources who once worked for the company told me about a
similar room in the company’s Bridgeton facility that appeared to be
doing the same kind of data mining at a much greater level. Bridgeton
is the network operations center for AT&Ts broadband services.

I turned to Tice for more details. Tice had already publicly
identified himself as one of the sources the New York Times had used
for its 2005 story on the government’s warrantless wiretapping. Tice
warned me at the start of our conversation that he believed our phone
call was being monitored by the FBI and that there were a lot of
things he wouldn’t be able to discuss, on the advice of his lawyer.

Tice had been in the intelligence community since 1985. He entered the
Air Force after finishing college, and went to work in signals
intelligence. After leaving the military, he worked as an intelligence
contractor, then was employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency
before taking a job with the NSA.

His unclassified resume hides all of this history. “[It says] I deal
with space systems. Space communications, all kinds of space weenie
stuff. If it deals with outer space I’m your man,” he said.

Do you have any connection to outer space stuff? I asked.

“I watch Buck Rogers.”

What follows are excerpts from my interviews with Tice, beginning with
his explanation of one way the NSA’s data mining could operate.

Tice: Say you’re pretty sure you’re looking for terrorists, and you’re
pretty sure that the percentage of women terrorists as opposed to men
is pretty [small]. So you just filter out all female voices. And
there’s a way to determine whether the signature of the voice is male
or female. So, boom, you get rid of 50 percent of your information
just by filtering there. Then from your intelligence work you realize
that most terrorists never talk more than two minutes. So any
conversation more than two minutes, you immediately filter that out.
You start winnowing down what you’re looking for.

Q: Without really knowing what it is you’re looking for?

Tice: Right. And if you can develop a machine to look for the needle
in the haystack and what you come out with from having the machine
sift through the haystack is a box of straw, where maybe the needle’s
in there and maybe a few bonus needles, then that’s a whole lot better
than having humans try to sift through a haystack.

Secretroom1_f_2 Q: Presuming that the NSA is collecting data in San
Francisco or data mining, what happens to the data after it’s
collected? If they find actionable material in the data does the NSA
pass it on to the FBI?

Tice: The NSA avoids sending anything to the FBI if they can help it.
If there is a criminal element or activity in the data it has to be
determined whether it’s passed to the FBI, or Homeland Security, as it
happens to be these days. When I was in the business, we all knew that
the FBI leaked like a sieve. So we were very hesitant to take
advantage of the FBI on anything because you were liable to see it on
the news the next day. The FBI will compromise anything to get a
conviction. But in the intelligence community you don’t think that
way. We’re more than willing to let a criminal go to protect
classified information. . . .

Q: But would the info be passed to the FBI if it involved terrorists
and national security?

Tice: Yes, they would. And if it’s some big mob thing, they would also
give it to the FBI, but tell them to come up with some other way as to
how they got the information.

Q: Why would the agency need to be so secretive about the AT&T rooms?

Tice: The big reason why they would put the San Francisco operation at
such a high classification level is to hide the fact that they’re
breaking the law and to hide the fact that they’re breaking the NSA’s
own policy. It should be [the sort of project] that any NSA analyst
should be able to walk in and have access to. But to cloister it away
where only a few people know about it means that it’s something they
don’t want anyone to know about. …

Say we’re doing that same sort of deal overseas against a
foreigner. … More than likely anyone in NSA could potentially have
access to that information. It wouldn’t be compartmentalized. So if we
set up that same scenario, even covertly in some frame room in
Bucharest or something, anyone at NSA with a TS/SCI clearance could
potentially look at intelligence reports from information garnered
from that particular collection point. So all of a sudden that same
thing is being used here in the states and it’s being put into a
special SAP program — Special Access Program. … They’re extremely
closely held programs that are super-duper clearance nonsense. It’s
what I specialized for the last eleven years or whatever.

Q: So you’re saying that San Francisco and this other room [in
Bridgeton] reek of “super-duper” secrecy?

Tice: Yes, it reeks of SAP. Potentially. For NSA to do what they
did … it means that they knew that it was illegal and the reason
they put this super high clearance on it was because they were
protecting their own hides to keep anyone within NSA from finding out
that it was going on. …

Let me tell you, the biggest sweat that happened at NSA happened when
John Kerry almost got elected president [in 2004], because they were
concerned they were all going to be thrown in jail. They were all
wiping sweat off their forehead when he lost. That’s the scuttlebutt.

Q: Is it correct to say that, if the NSA is doing what Mark Klein says
they are doing, that this would be a departure from the NSAs mission?
Meaning that this would be the first time since 1978 or so when FISA
was passed that it was engaging in this kind of activity?

Tice: That’s correct. This would be an entirely new business for them,
especially since FISA.

If you look at USSID 18, the NSA’s bible on how it operates, the
number one commandment of the NSAs ten commandments is You Shall Not
Spy on Americans. So when this was brought up, I assume by [former NSA
Director Michael] Hayden, he knew that what he was proposing was a
violation of the fourth amendment and of USSID 18. And everyone at NSA
knows this, too, because it’s drilled into our heads over and over

To get at what’s really going on here, the CEOs of these telecom
companies, and also of the banking and credit card companies and any
other company where you have big databases, those are the people you
have to haul in to Congress and tell them you better tell the truth.
Because anyone in the government is going to claim executive

I just hope in the long run that … at some point that the American
people wake up and that this stuff is dealt with. Right now … do you
know the adage about the frog in the water? That’s what we’re dealing
with here. The American people are the frog in the tepid water, and
the temperature is slowly being turned up. And we’re about to become
frog soup, and the American people don’t know what’s happening.

Aristotle said that the biggest danger to democracy is not insurgency,
it’s apathy. And I think that’s what we’re seeing right now. To a
large extent it’s politicians doing CYA and doing everything they can
to make sure that people don’t know what’s going on. But to another
extent, it’s the populace who is more concerned about Janet Jackson’s
breast jumping out of her dress at the Super Bowl as opposed to what’s
really important in this world. Who cares about Britney Spears having
her baby on her lap or all that nonsense that you see on TV?

I’ve done my constitutional duty. I’ve done what I had to do. That’s
all I’ll say. Let the chips fall where they may. I’m out of the game.
I’ve fallen on my sword.




In a New History of NSA, Its Spies’ Successes Are [Redacted]
BY Siobhan Gorman  /  November 14, 2008

For much of its history, the government’s most-secretive intelligence
agency sought to conceal its very existence. So it was a surprise last
year when university researchers persuaded the National Security
Agency to hand over a top-secret, 1,000-page account of its Cold War

George Washington University plans to release the report today, giving
historians a rare look inside the agency that gathers intelligence
through eavesdropping. But one thing appears to be missing: Many of
its biggest successes.

Not wanting to reveal too much, NSA blanked out sensitive chunks of
the account that, according to intelligence experts, appear to
chronicle espionage breakthroughs. What remains makes it appear that
the world’s largest ear has been a bit deaf.

According to the declassified report, government eavesdroppers
generated half of their intelligence reports just after World War II
from listening in on the French. Code breakers missed a key tip-off in
the Cuban Missile Crisis. The report also suggests that, for the most
part, the government couldn’t crack high-grade Soviet communications
codes between World War II and the 1970s.

“This was a perfect opportunity for NSA to put its best foot forward,”
says Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian who pressed the agency to
release the report and plans to publish his own NSA history next year.
“Instead what you’re left with is a fair to middling picture of this

The report’s author, Thomas R. Johnson, declined to say how the edited
history compares with the original version. But intelligence experts
say it’s common for failures to become more public than successes
because such breakthroughs can be too good to reveal. Even making
older successes public may reveal sources, hint at continuing
intelligence efforts, or hurt diplomatic relations. When NSA
declassified the government’s World War II code-breaking activities,
it faced criticism from State Department colleagues who were upset the
U.S. had spied on allies, says Mr. Aid, a visiting fellow at the
National Security Archive at George Washington University.

NSA, once dubbed “No Such Agency,” was created in a secret executive
order in 1952 to intercept electronic communications through
eavesdropping. It wasn’t until 16 years later that its power to
eavesdrop on foreigners was established in public law.

On three separate occasions, the agency set out to write its history,
but it aborted each effort because it was too overwhelming. In 1992,
NSA tapped Mr. Johnson to take another crack at it. “Even when I came
to the agency in 1964, there was this culture that we were so secret
that no one would ever get into our affairs,” Mr. Johnson said in an
interview that NSA officials arranged and attended.

He spent more than six years writing the report, divided into four
intelligence eras, that draws on his 34 years in government
eavesdropping around the world. When friends asked him when they would
read it, the 68-year-old would say: “We’ll all be dead before this is

In 1998, he completed the report before retiring from NSA the next
year. All of its pages were stamped “TOP SECRET UMBRA,” using agency
jargon that signified it was particularly sensitive.

The most revealing portions of the history hint at U.S. failures to
crack Soviet communications after a day in 1948 the agency dubbed
“Black Friday,” when the Soviets changed their communications codes.
The following year, the NSA’s predecessor, the Armed Forces Security
Agency, inherited from the military services “a Soviet problem that
was in miserable shape,” Mr. Johnson wrote, in reference to cracking
Soviet codes.

U.S. intelligence agencies were surprised to discover the Soviets
exploded a nuclear device in September 1949, the history says. They
were again caught off guard four years later when the Soviets
detonated a hydrogen bomb. Some government officials believed the
effort to decode Soviet communications “was hopeless and should not be
funded,” Mr. Johnson wrote.

NSA also fought internecine battles with its sister agencies,
especially the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA didn’t inform NSA
Director Lt. Gen. Ralph J. Canine about its effort in the mid-1950s to
tap East German and Soviet cables, dubbed the Berlin Tunnel, the
history says.

In a photo from 2006, a workstation bears the National Security Agency
logo inside the Threat Operations Center inside the Washington suburb
of Fort Meade, Md.

In the lead-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, NSA and military spies
missed the Soviets transferring a battery of offensive missiles to
Cuba. That “marked the most significant failure” by government
eavesdroppers to warn national leaders since World War II, Mr. Johnson

Bobby Ray Inman, a retired admiral and former director of NSA during
the late 1970s, says the history doesn’t acknowledge the successful
tracking of Soviet ships that were heading toward Cuba. During the
late 1970s, “there were several access breakthroughs that provided
some extraordinary insights,” he says.

Hinting at those successes, the declassified history says that as NSA
entered that period, it made significant advances in unlikely
circumstances. “Even with decreased money, cryptology was yielding the
best information that it had produced since World War II” by that
time, Mr. Johnson wrote.

In 1979, NSA successfully warned of the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan, and White House postmortems called it an intelligence
success. In the 1980s, he wrote, the NSA used “lots of shiny new toys
to very telling effect.

“After years of struggle, it was now possible to predict with some
clarity and speed the intentions of the major antagonist. It had been
a long walk from Pearl Harbor,” the history says.

The report also offers a glimpse inside the offices of the mysterious
agency. In 1954, at its unairconditioned and overcrowded headquarters,
then in Arlington, Va., NSA had a hot-weather policy that allowed
employees to leave work “when conditions became fairly unbearable,”
Mr. Johnson wrote. The agency drew a chart listing the heat and
humidity combinations that permitted employees to leave, starting at
95 degrees. In colder months, employees’ metal badges proved “ideal
for scraping ice off windshields,” he wrote.

After Mr. Johnson turned in the report, it remained under wraps at the
NSA. He mentioned it to Mr. Aid, the historian, after meeting him at
an intelligence conference in Canada.

In 2006, Mr. Aid joined forces with George Washington University’s
National Security Archive and filed a request to get the report. The
agency handed over Mr. Johnson’s first three volumes the following
year, except for about 75 to 100 pages that it deemed too sensitive.
“I was stunned,” Mr. Aid says. “Clearly this history was meant for
internal consumption only.”

Eager to get a copy after it was handed over to the university, Mr.
Johnson called a friend at NSA. But she wouldn’t give it to him. “She
said, ‘I’m not sure we want to do that because then you’ll be talking
on the record about this, so I’m looking into it,’ ” Mr. Johnson says.
He didn’t hear back and ended up getting a copy from Mr. Aid.

Historians are working to get their hands on a fourth volume that Mr.
Johnson wrote about the NSA. Mr. Johnson says it includes “a couple of
instances” during the 1980s where “somebody really made a bad error
here and should have been fired. “I hope it will come out,” he says
about the fourth volume. “It’s still classified.”

Secret Agency Man
The new NSA is decentralized, privatized, and coming to a “data
center” near you. Author James Bamford catches up with his old nemesis
BY Lee Gardner  /  11/5/2008

Not long after U.S. Air Force Major General* Michael Hayden learned he
was going to be named the director of the National Security Agency in
1998, he and his wife went out on a date. The Haydens lived in Seoul,
South Korea, where he was stationed with the United Nations Command,
and they decided to take in a movie at the local U.S. army base. The
feature presentation that evening happened to be Enemy of the State, a
then-new Hollywood thriller that depicted the highly secret, enigmatic
NSA as a ruthless organization that used its array of electronic
surveillance devices to peer into every corner of the private lives of
Americans and murdered those who stood in its way, including a

As Hayden told journalist James Bamford during an interview in 2000,
“Other than the affront to truthfulness, it was an entertaining
movie.” Hayden went on to explain that he appreciated Enemy of the
State for its deeper message: “the evils of secrecy and power.”

Hayden’s words came back to Bamford in 2005 after the New York Times
broke the story that the NSA under Hayden had been conducting
widespread eavesdropping on the conversations of Americans
communicating overseas, a practice expressly outlawed by the 1978
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act but controversially put in
motion by the Bush Administration in the wake of the terrorist attacks
of September 11.

Bamford was, and remains, very likely the person who knows the most
about the NSA outside the NSA itself. He is the author of 1982’s best-
selling The Puzzle Palace, the first extensive investigation into the
electronic-spying agency headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland; when
he interviewed Hayden he was working on a best-selling sequel, 2001’s
Body of Secrets. As Bamford notes during a recent telephone
conversation, he had no plans to write a third book about the NSA. But
when the Times’ “warrantless eavesdropping” story broke, he got back
to work.

Bamford’s new book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11
to the Eavesdropping on America (Doubleday), presents an account of
the drastic and ominous shift in the agency’s mission and tactics over
the past seven years. After detailing the NSA’s failure to follow up
on the clues it had about the September 11 terrorists entering the
United States, Bamford recounts Hayden’s quick capitulation to the
Bush Administration’s request for an illegal surveillance dragnet and
the fallout from the Times story, including persistent attempts to
continue the program and indemnify the participants that were only
resolved with the passage of the FISA Amendments Act this past July.
(Hayden left the NSA in 2005; he is currently the director of the
Central Intelligence Agency.)

The revelations don’t stop there. The Shadow Factory discusses the
National Business Park, a complex near Fort Meade that’s crammed with
private companies that now earn millions to do much of the NSA’s
highly classified work. Among the private companies winning contracts
with the agency are Narus and Verint, firms with ties to Israeli
intelligence that sell surveillance equipment to the NSA, and also to
countries such as Vietnam and China, which use it to crack down on
dissidents. Bamford wraps up with the agency’s growing interest in
gathering and mining communications data, which includes building a
massive new 470,000-square-foot “data warehouse” in San Antonio that,
as Bamford observes, “may eventually be able to hold all the
information in the world.”

Low-key but voluble, 62-year-old Bamford spoke with the Current’s
Times-Shamrock sister publication, Baltimore City Paper, from his home
in Washington, D.C.

Q: How did you first get interested in the NSA and start writing about
A: I was in the Navy for three years, and then [thanks to] the GI Bill
I went to college and law school. After graduating from law school, I
wasn’t that interested in practicing law. I wanted to get into
writing, and one of the areas I was kind of interested in was
intelligence. There had been lots of books written about the CIA, and
there wasn’t really much I could contribute, but no one had ever done
a book on NSA, which I’d heard about but didn’t really know too much
about. I thought that might be something I could do that no one else
had done.

Q: When you started writing your book in 1979, wasn’t the NSA’s
existence still more or less officially unacknowledged by the
A: It was officially acknowledged in the late ’50s, early ’60s as the
result of a couple of spy scandals, but for a number of years they
[used] a cover story in terms of what they did — this sort of
gobbledygook double-talk about “keeping America’s communications
secure.” They didn’t really talk about their eavesdropping or code-
breaking role. That started coming out later on in the ‘60s, but by
the time I began writing about them in the late ’70s, they were still
pretty much in the closet. There had been a couple of articles about
them, but not really very much. It was sort of like exploring a lost
continent, since very few people had gone some of the places I went in
terms of finding documents or finding people or finding information
about the agency.

Q: Did you get any pushback from the agency when you started writing
about it? After all, it’s supposed to be top secret.
A: I had a difficult time. My advance was fairly small, I was living
in Massachusetts, I didn’t really know anyone in intelligence, and I
hadn’t written anything before. And I was going up against NSA.

One of the things I was good at in law school was research, so I
thought maybe I’d try using the Freedom of Information Act. The
problem with that was, NSA is really the only agency excluded from the
act. If you sent them an FOI request, they would just send you a
letter back saying under [Section 6 of the National Security Act] we
don’t have to give you anything, even if it’s unclassified.

But I found this place, the George C. Marshall Research Library in
Lexington, Virginia, and William F. Friedman, one of the founders of
the NSA, had left all his papers there. When I got down there, I found
the NSA had gotten there just before me and gone through all of his
papers, and taken a lot his papers out and put them in a vault down
there and ordered the archivist to keep them under lock and key. And I
convinced the archivist that that wasn’t what Friedman wanted, and he
took the documents out and let me take a look at them.

Among the documents was an NSA newsletter. These are things the NSA
puts out once a month. They’re fairly chatty, but if you read them
closely enough you can pick up some pretty good information about the
agency. … When I was reading one of the newsletters, there was a
paragraph that said, “The contents of this newsletter must be kept
within the small circle of NSA employees and their families.” And I
thought about it for a little bit, and I thought, hmm, they just
waived their protections on that newsletter — if that’s on every
single newsletter then I’ve got a pretty good case against them. If
you’re going to open it up to family members, with no clearance, who
don’t work for the agency, then I have every right to it. That was a
long battle, but I won it, and they gave me over 5,000 pages worth of
NSA newsletters going back to the very beginning. That was the first
time anyone ever got a lot of information out of NSA.

We made this agreement where I could come down and spend a week at
NSA, and they gave me a little room where I could go over the
newsletters and pick the ones I wanted. So I got all that information
and spent about a week at NSA. And finally they really wanted to
delete some names and faces, and I said you can do that, but there
ought to be some kind of quid pro quo. The quid pro quo was that I get
to interview senior officials and take a tour of the agency. And that
was what really opened it up.

It wasn’t the NSA you see today — it was much different. They just
thought no one would ever try to write about NSA, and they didn’t
think I would have any luck, because who am I? I’m just some guy up in
Massachusetts with no track record.

Q: What was the agency’s reaction once the books came out?
A: They threatened me with prosecution twice when the first book came
out. And then when the sequel came out in 2001, they went to the
opposite extreme and had a book-signing there. Body of Secrets was
fairly favorable, because they had changed their ways after ’78 — they
weren’t doing domestic eavesdropping anymore. It seemed like they’d
learned their lesson and were obeying the law.

That phase of my relationship with NSA ended on December 16, 2005.
That’s when the New York Times broke the story about their domestic
eavesdropping. I had been telling people [the NSA is] obeying the law
now and they would never go back on that, and here they were the whole
time, doing that ever since 2001. And that’s when the ACLU asked me to
join their class-action lawsuit as a plaintiff against NSA. So I went
from getting dinner invitations to the director’s house and Christmas-
party invitations to being on the other side of a lawsuit. It’s a love-
hate relationship, and it’s been going on a long time.

Q: When I told people I was going to be interviewing you about the
NSA, some of them made jokes about the agency listening in on the
phone call. I think a lot of Americans, correctly or not, halfway
believe that the agency actually does such things. Do you?
A: I never claimed that NSA eavesdrops on domestic-to-domestic
communications, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this [call]. As I
point out in the book — and this comes from a number of people on the
front lines with the earphones and all that — after 9/11 and the
warrantless eavesdropping program got started, they have been
eavesdropping on Americans calling Americans [overseas, or to or from

One of the people I talked to worked four years before 9/11 in the
same place, and she was saying [before 9/11] when they came across an
American they would immediately turn off the computer and move on to
the next call. It’s called “minimization” — you don’t keep a record of
it, you don’t transcribe it, you don’t record it, unless you have a
warrant from the Foreign Intelligence court. But after 9/11 she says
they weren’t doing any minimization. They’d pick up Americans calling
Americans and they’d actually listen to those conversations, they’d
transcribe some of them, and they’d all be recorded and stored — for
eternity for all I know.

Q: So people’s paranoia about the NSA listening in on phone calls, at
least inside the United States, is unfounded?
A: Unless there’s stuff I don’t know, which is quite possible, there’s
never been domestic-to-domestic [telephone or e-mail surveillance].
Most of what they do is foreign country to foreign country or U.S  to
a foreign country or a foreign country to the U.S. But think of how
many communications there are to or from Americans [internationally]
in terms of email, telephone calls, faxes, and everything. The world
has shrunk a great deal. And that was the problem [with the
warrantless eavesdropping] — they were picking up a huge amount of
American communications but no Al-Qaeda, and certainly no Americans
talking to Al-Qaeda, which is what President Bush said this was all
about. This was Americans talking to Americans. What they were
intercepting is the Inmarsat satellite, and most of the people who had
satellite phones in the Middle East were reporters, military people,
aid workers, that kind of thing. [My source] thought they were wasting
their time. She didn’t join the Army to listen to bedroom talk between
soldiers and their wives.

Q: Another aspect of the warrantless eavesdropping program had to do
with communications between foreign nationals in other countries that
nonetheless pass through the United States that the NSA wanted access
to, right?
A: There’s so much information that flashes between ISPs in the United
States like Google, Yahoo, and AOL, and there are so many large nodes
for the transfer of internet communications that the U.S. plays a huge
role in the thing.

Say you’re in Madrid and you send an email to Tehran and it’s 10 a.m.
in Madrid. There’s a good chance that’s gonna go from Madrid to New
York to Tehran instead of, say, Paris, because at 10 in the morning
there’s a huge amount of traffic passing through those European hubs,
and at the same time its about 5 in the morning on the East Coast [of
the United States], so it’s very quiet, and it’s also cheaper. The
computer would automatically reroute that communication. This is a
foreigner talking to a foreigner, and the only U.S. nexus is that for
a millisecond this communication bounces in and out of an internet
hub. This was a problem. (Editor’s note: The FISA law prevented the
NSA from accessing such communications without a warrant but, at the
urging of the Bush Administration and with the permission and
cooperation of telecommunications companies, it tapped into fiber-
optic cables anyway.)

Q: It’s strange to think about the NSA as this agency engaged in all
this highly secret, super-technical, and, in this case, illegal
activity, but at the same time think of it as the place you’ve
described as having office Christmas parties and softball games and
all the other mundane stuff that goes along with working in a big
government agency. What’s the culture of NSA like?
A: It’s hard for me to generalize, since I know a select group of
people there, but the NSA is a very insular agency. People have
secrecy drummed into them. I’ve talked to a lot of NSA people who say
they feel very uncomfortable going to parties with a lot of non-NSA
people, because the subject will come up of Iran or Iraq, and they
have to either drift out of the conversation or say very little. A lot
of time they get nervous when they contribute something because they
may not be sure whether it’s something they read in Time magazine or
something they read in a top-secret memo or something. Or if they read
it in Time magazine and they say it, whether someone will report it
because they think they’re giving up a secret. So at least the people
I’ve talked to in the past tended to keep in their small employee-type

Q: Well, one of the first things people tend to ask someone they just
met at a party is “What do you do?”
A: Yeah, and in the area around NSA, in the past it was “Department of
Defense.” So if they say Department of Defense and you’re in Laurel,
Maryland, you know they’re working for the NSA. If it was just
neighbors, maybe people could say NSA, but if they didn’t know who was
there, I think they would try not saying anything or saying something
generic like “I work for the government” or “I work for the Department
of Defense” and hope it wouldn’t go any further than that.

Q: I’m struck by the fact that you sound genuinely surprised and
upset, still, about the warrantless eavesdropping program.
A: Well, I was very surprised. I had defended the agency in a number
of places.

Q: But, as you write in The Shadow Factory, the agency had been caught
spying on Americans before in the ’70s with Project Shamrock.
A: I agree, but I didn’t know the people back then. I knew the people
this time. I trusted that Hayden was going to follow the law. I talked
to a lot of people there, and that was the impression I got. The
mid-’70s was the worst time in NSA’s history, the first time a
director had to sit in front of an open hearing of Congress and get
blasted and humiliated, and all these horror stories came out about
eavesdropping on all the telegrams entering and leaving the country
[as part of Project Shamrock]. The FISA court got set up as a new
safeguard, the buffer between NSA and the public. Everyone I talked to
from then on said those were the horror days, we don’t want to relive
them, we’re going to keep as far from the edge as possible.

I didn’t think that was going to change after 9/11 — you still had the
[FISA] court there, you still had laws, the Constitution. That’s why
when I read the reports and talked to people who indicated that they
had decided to bypass the court … I mean, that’s illegal. There is
no other word for it. The FISA act says if you want to eavesdrop on
what they call a “U.S. person,” you get a warrant from the FISA court.
You don’t bypass it. That’s a felony. You can get five years in

I’ve written more than anyone else on the agency and, you know, it’s
no big deal, I just go on with the next day like the day before, but
when I find out that this agency that I’ve been saying would never do
these things is doing them, yeah, it’s a shock and a disappointment, a
disappointment in the people that you didn’t think were going to do

The people I did have respect for were [Deputy Attorney General] Jim
Comey, even [Attorney General John] Ashcroft, and Bob Mueller, the
head of the FBI. They, plus people under them, came within a day of
resigning over this whole thing. And that’s standing up for moral
principles, and I would have much preferred that General Hayden would
have stood up to Cheney or whomever and said that’s illegal, I can’t
do that, I can’t carry out that order so I’m going to have to resign.
It’s scary to think that someone puts a little pressure on you and you
say, OK, that’s fine, we’ll go ahead and bypass the law.

They could have gone to Congress. Congress would have given them
anything they wanted in those days. But it’s the arrogance of power
when you decide you’re not even going to do that. You’re just going to
do it because you feel like doing it, because you’re the person who’s
going to save the world. That’s how tyrannies get to be tyrannies,
because people think they’re above the law.

Q: One of the interesting, and disturbing things about the warrantless
eavesdropping as you describe it in the book is that the NSA started
getting this increased level of access and raking in more and more
communications but seemed to get little usable information out of it
A: The problem is that NSA was never designed for what it’s doing. It
was designed after World War II to prevent another surprise attack
from another nation-state, particularly the Soviet Union. And from
1945 or ’46 until 1990 or ’91, that’s what its mission was. That’s
what every piece of equipment, that’s what every person recruited to
the agency, was supposed to do, practically — find out when and where
and if the Russians were about to launch a nuclear attack. That’s what
it spent 50 years being built for. And then all of a sudden the Soviet
Union is not around anymore, and NSA’s got a new mission, and part of
that is going after terrorists. And it’s just not a good fit. They
missed the first World Trade Center bombing, they missed the attack on
the U.S.S. Cole, they missed the attack on the U.S. embassies in
Africa, they missed 9/11. There’s this string of failures because this
agency was not really designed to do this. In the movies, they’d be
catching terrorists all the time. But this isn’t the movies, this is

The big difference here is that when they were focused on the Soviet
Union, the Soviets communicated over dedicated lines. The army
communicated over army channels, the navy communicated over navy
channels, the diplomats communicated over foreign-office channels.
These were all particular channels, particular frequencies, you knew
where they were; the main problem was breaking encrypted
communications. [The NSA] had listening posts ringing the Soviet
Union, they had Russian linguists that were being pumped out from all
these schools around the U.S.

Then the Cold War ends and everything changes. Now instead of a huge
country that communicated all the time, you have individuals who hop
from Kuala Lampur to Nairobi or whatever, from continent to continent,
from day to day. They don’t communicate [electronically] all the time
— they communicate by meetings. [The NSA was] tapping Bin Laden’s
phone for three years and never picked up on any of these terrorist
incidents. And the [electronic] communications you do have are not on
dedicated channels, they’re mixed in with the world communication
network. First you’ve got to find out how to extract that from it,
then you’ve got to find people who can understand the language, and
then you’ve got to figure out the word code. You can’t use a Cray
supercomputer to figure out if somebody’s saying they’re going to have
a wedding next week whether it’s really going to be a wedding or a

So that’s the challenge facing the people there. So even though I’m
critical about them for missing these things, I also try in the book
to give an explanation as to why this is. It’s certainly not because
the people are incompetent. It’s because the world has changed.

I think the problem is more serious than people realize. I talked to
the people at Fort Gordon [in Georgia], which is the main listening
post for the Middle East and North Africa. What was shocking to me was
the people who were there were saying they didn’t have anybody [at the
time] who spoke Pashtun. We’re at war in Afghanistan and the main
language of the Taliban is Pashtun.

The answer here is to change our foreign policy so that we don’t have
to depend on agencies like NSA to try to protect the country. You try
to protect the country by having reasonable policies so that we won’t
have to worry about terrorism so much. It’s just getting harder and
harder to find them.

Q: I think most Americans know about NSA and have some general idea
what it’s about, but I was surprised to read about the National
Business Park, where there’s been this huge boom in private
contractors doing NSA work since September 11.
A: That came as a huge surprise to me. I’ve watched NSA grow since
1979, and it really came as a shock to me when I saw the National
Business Park and how huge it’s grown. What it is is all the private
contractors doing what NSA used to do. You see Booz Allen [Hamilton]
and Titan and General Dynamics, and then you look at the [local]
newspaper and see all these companies advertising for intercept
operators and network analysts. This agency, which used to be
dedicated to having employees who would work there for 30 years, now
is outsourcing so much. I have a statistic in there that in 2001 the
NSA had 55 contracts with private firms and in 2005 it had 7,197. If
you turn this into a huge [private] industry, and at the same time
you’re deregulating the industry — if you look at the financial
industry you see the problems you get into when you start
deregulating, and that’s what they’ve done here. They’ve deregulated
eavesdropping. There are no rules, and the people who are doing it
aren’t even really accountable — they’re just employees of private
companies. It gets very worrisome.

These are things that are out there to find, but it seems so few
people are out there looking. Congress seems to be paying no
attention. Even before 9/11, Congress seemed very reluctant to
criticize NSA or put restraints on NSA. It seemed like Congress was
resisting the Administration’s push last spring. In February, the
temporary [Protect America Act] ran out and the Bush administration
was pushing very hard to have this new FISA law passed, and the House
resisted it until July. They finally buckled in July when they
realized the election was about four months away, because they’re all
afraid of being accused of being weak on terrorism. But I wonder how
many of them really knew much about NSA or the things they were voting
for. The only way you’re going to know it is to go to a special room
where there was classified information, and they couldn’t take notes,
and have to sit there and read it, and how many of them are gonna do

Q: We’re talking before the presidential election, but I’m curious
what you think might change in regard to the NSA under McCain or
Obama, the latter of whom somewhat surprisingly voted for the FISA
Amendments Law.
A: What’s interesting is that Obama seemed to have a lot of
disagreements with the changes in the FISA Act early on, and he even
threatened to filibuster early on against the legislation the way it
[was] written. But then he compromised and voted for it in the end —
he said sometimes you’ve gotta compromise, we need something and this
is the best we can do. The question is whether you’re gonna stand up
for principles when the times get tough or always just compromise. I
think if he could have applied enough pressure they could have
reworked it. Right now the FISA court is pretty well neutered. I don’t
know where that goes.

I don’t think McCain would make much of a change when it comes to NSA.
It’s a question of where Obama’s gonna go. You can see his heart is in
the right place; he says the right things when these issues come up.
But the question is, down the road, is he going to give into political
pressure and compromise away some of the things people are voting for
him for, or is he gonna stand up?

Q; So where does the NSA go from here? Some of the stuff in the last
section of The Shadow Factory reads like science-fiction — data-mining
and artificial intelligence.
A: Right now they’re at a point where they’ve got enormous amounts of
money, but they don’t seem to be getting much out of it. They’re
getting hugely into this data-mining — look at that building they’re
building down in San Antonio. And this is an agency that missed all
these terrorist incidents, so what is this for? Is it good money after

The thing I worry about is when you do have so few people watching NSA
and so few restrictions on data-mining that they just get carried away
with it. That’s why they’re building that huge facility in San
Antonio. Not only to store data, which you probably only need about 75
people for — Microsoft, which is building a very similar facility only
a few miles away that’s almost exactly the same size, they only have
75. The NSA’s going to put 1,400 people in there. The only reason you
need that many people is if you’re not just going to keep the routers
humming, is if you’re actually going to dig into all the data in
there. And what’s in there could be what I’m looking at on my computer
right now, or web searches I’ve been making, or what books people are
buying from Amazon or what websites they’re visiting. Those are the
things that worry me.

Q: But, as we discussed, the NSA isn’t allowed to eavesdrop on
domestic communications.
A: The restrictions are much less on data communications. The FISA act
only really applies to phone communications or email.

When Congress was looking at the NSA back in the ’70s, when the only
thing [the agency] could do is listen to your hard-line telephone in
your house, [Senator] Frank Church said that he didn’t want the
country to go over into the abyss that was there if we ever let this
agency get out of control, and that was back then. Look at today, when
your every thought, almost, gets transmitted into electrons at one
point, either walking down the street talking on a cell phone or
sending an email or web-searching. Thirty years ago they didn’t have
access to mail, ’cause it was in envelopes, and they couldn’t watch
what books you pulled out of the library or look at what magazines you
flip through at the newsstand. Now they get to all that stuff by
watching your web searches and what sites you visit.

Q: Even with everything you know about the NSA, do you ever think to
yourself, I worry too much about this stuff?
A: I’m not a very paranoid person. I couldn’t have written all these
books if I was paranoid. But what bothers me is that there’s this huge
agency out there, and there are so few people who know how it works
and pay any attention to it. Look at the 9/11 Commission report, for
example. They spent all this time looking at the CIA, and they spent
no time looking at the NSA. That’s just par for the course.
Journalists, everybody, seem to avoid looking at it because it’s
surrounded by this wall of secrecy, and it’s highly technical.

I think the thing that bothers me most was how easy it was to take
this huge agency and turn it against the law. How easy it was, how few
people knew. If it wasn’t for two reporters from the New York Times,
we still might not know about it, if you think about it that way.





The Fed Who Blew the Whistle : Is he a hero or a criminal?
BY Michael Isikoff  /  Dec 22, 2008

Thomas M. Tamm was entrusted with some of the government’s most
important secrets. He had a Sensitive Compartmented Information
security clearance, a level above Top Secret. Government agents had
probed Tamm’s background, his friends and associates, and determined
him trustworthy.

It’s easy to see why: he comes from a family of high-ranking FBI
officials. During his childhood, he played under the desk of J. Edgar
Hoover, and as an adult, he enjoyed a long and successful career as a
prosecutor. Now gray-haired, 56 and fighting a paunch, Tamm prides
himself on his personal rectitude. He has what his 23-year-old son,
Terry, calls a “passion for justice.” For that reason, there was one
secret he says he felt duty-bound to reveal.

In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at a
Justice Department unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and
spies—a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their
hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon
entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly
classified National Security Agency program that seemed to be
eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that
appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal
judges who are required to approve such surveillance. When Tamm
started asking questions, his supervisors told him to drop the
subject. He says one volunteered that “the program” (as it was
commonly called within the office) was “probably illegal.”

Tamm agonized over what to do. He tried to raise the issue with a
former colleague working for the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the
friend, wary of discussing what sounded like government secrets, shut
down their conversation. For weeks, Tamm couldn’t sleep. The idea of
lawlessness at the Justice Department angered him. Finally, one day
during his lunch hour, Tamm ducked into a subway station near the U.S.
District Courthouse on Pennsylvania Avenue. He headed for a pair of
adjoining pay phones partially concealed by large, illuminated Metro
maps. Tamm had been eyeing the phone booths on his way to work in the
morning. Now, as he slipped through the parade of midday subway
riders, his heart was pounding, his body trembling. Tamm felt like a
spy. After looking around to make sure nobody was watching, he picked
up a phone and called The New York Times.

That one call began a series of events that would engulf Washington—
and upend Tamm’s life. Eighteen months after he first disclosed what
he knew, the Times reported that President George W. Bush had secretly
authorized the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails of individuals
inside the United States without judicial warrants. The drama followed
a quiet, separate rebellion within the highest ranks of the Justice
Department concerning the same program. (James Comey, then the deputy
attorney general, together with FBI head Robert Mueller and several
other senior Justice officials, threatened to resign.) President Bush
condemned the leak to the Times as a “shameful act.” Federal agents
launched a criminal investigation to determine the identity of the

The story of Tamm’s phone call is an untold chapter in the history of
the secret wars inside the Bush administration. The New York Times won
a Pulitzer Prize for its story. The two reporters who worked on it
each published books. Congress, after extensive debate, last summer
passed a major new law to govern the way such surveillance is
conducted. But Tamm—who was not the Times’s only source, but played
the key role in tipping off the paper—has not fared so well. The FBI
has pursued him relentlessly for the past two and a half years. Agents
have raided his house, hauled away personal possessions and grilled
his wife, a teenage daughter and a grown son. More recently, they’ve
been questioning Tamm’s friends and associates about nearly every
aspect of his life. Tamm has resisted pressure to plead to a felony
for divulging classified information. But he is living under a pall,
never sure if or when federal agents might arrest him.

Exhausted by the uncertainty clouding his life, Tamm now is telling
his story publicly for the first time. “I thought this [secret
program] was something the other branches of the government—and the
public—ought to know about. So they could decide: do they want this
massive spying program to be taking place?” Tamm told NEWSWEEK, in one
of a series of recent interviews that he granted against the advice of
his lawyers. “If somebody were to say, who am I to do that? I would
say, ‘I had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.’ It’s stunning
that somebody higher up the chain of command didn’t speak up.”

Tamm concedes he was also motivated in part by his anger at other Bush-
administration policies at the Justice Department, including its
aggressive pursuit of death-penalty cases and the legal justifications
for “enhanced” interrogation techniques that many believe are
tantamount to torture. But, he insists, he divulged no “sources and
methods” that might compromise national security when he spoke to the
Times. He told reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen nothing about
the operational details of the NSA program because he didn’t know
them, he says. He had never been “read into,” or briefed, on the
details of the program. All he knew was that a domestic surveillance
program existed, and it “didn’t smell right.”

(Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said the department had no comment on any
aspect of this story. Lichtblau said, “I don’t discuss the identities
of confidential sources … Nearly a dozen people whom we interviewed
agreed to speak with us on the condition of anonymity because of
serious concerns about the legality and oversight of the secret
program.” Risen had no comment.)

Still, Tamm is haunted by the consequences of what he did—and what
could yet happen to him. He is no longer employed at Justice and has
been struggling to make a living practicing law. He does occasional
work for a local public defender’s office, handles a few wills and
estates—and is more than $30,000 in debt. (To cover legal costs, he
recently set up a defense fund.) He says he has suffered from
depression. He also realizes he made what he calls “stupid” mistakes
along the way, including sending out a seemingly innocuous but fateful
e-mail from his Justice Department computer that may have first put
the FBI on his scent. Soft-spoken and self-effacing, Tamm has an
impish smile and a wry sense of humor. “I guess I’m not a very good
criminal,” he jokes.

At times during his interviews with NEWSWEEK, Tamm would stare into
space for minutes, silently wrestling with how to answer questions.
One of the most difficult concerned the personal ramifications of his
choice. “I didn’t think through what this could do to my family,” he

Tamm’s story is in part a cautionary tale about the perils that can
face all whistleblowers, especially those involved in national-
security programs. Some Americans will view him as a hero who (like
Daniel Ellsberg and perhaps Mark Felt, the FBI official since
identified as Deep Throat) risked his career and livelihood to expose
wrongdoing at the highest levels of government. Others—including some
of his former colleagues—will deride Tamm as a renegade who took the
law into his own hands and violated solemn obligations to protect the
nation’s secrets. “You can’t have runoffs deciding they’re going to be
the white knight and running to the press,” says Frances Fragos
Townsend, who once headed the unit where Tamm worked and later served
as President Bush’s chief counterterrorism adviser. Townsend made
clear that she had no knowledge of Tamm’s particular case, but added:
“There are legal processes in place [for whistle-blowers’ complaints].
This is one where I’m a hawk. It offends me, and I find it incredibly

Tamm understands that some will see his conduct as “treasonous.” But
still, he says he has few regrets. If he hadn’t made his phone call to
the Times, he believes, it’s possible the public would never have
learned about the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program. “I
don’t really need anybody to feel sorry for me,” he wrote in a recent
e-mail to NEWSWEEK. “I chose what I did. I believed in what I did.”

If the government were drawing up a profile of a national-security
leaker, Tamm would seem one of the least likely suspects. He grew up
in the shadow of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Tamm’s uncle, Edward Tamm, was
an important figure in the bureau’s history. He was once a top aide to
Hoover and regularly briefed President Franklin Roosevelt on domestic
intelligence matters. He’s credited in some bureau histories with
inventing (in 1935) not only the bureau’s name, but its official
motto: Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity. Tamm’s father, Quinn Tamm, was
also a high-ranking bureau official. He too was an assistant FBI
director under Hoover, and at one time he headed up the bureau’s crime
lab. Tamm’s mother, Ora Belle Tamm, was a secretary at the FBI’s
identification division.

When Thomas Tamm was a toddler, he crawled around Hoover’s desk during
FBI ceremonies. (He still remembers his mother fretting that his
father might get in trouble for it.) As an 8-year-old, Tamm and his
family watched John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural parade down Pennsylvania
Avenue from the balcony of Hoover’s office, then located at the
Justice Department.

Tamm’s brother also served for years as an FBI agent and later worked
as an investigator for the 9/11 Commission. (He now works for a
private consulting firm.) Tamm himself, after graduating from Brown
University in 1974 and Georgetown Law three years later, chose a
different path in law enforcement. He joined the state’s attorney’s
office in Montgomery County, Md. (He was also, for a while, the
chairman of the county chapter of the Young Republicans.) Tamm
eventually became a senior trial attorney responsible for prosecuting
murder, kidnapping and sexual-assault cases. Andrew Sonner, the
Democratic state’s attorney at the time, says that Tamm was an
unusually gifted prosecutor who knew how to connect with juries, in
part by “telling tales” that explained his case in a way that ordinary
people could understand. “He was about as good before a jury as
anybody that ever worked for me,” says Sonner, who later served as an
appellate judge in Maryland.

In 1998, Tamm landed a job at the Justice Department’s Capital Case
Unit, a new outfit within the criminal division that handled
prosecutions that could bring the federal death penalty. A big part of
his job was to review cases forwarded by local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices
and make recommendations about whether the government should seek
execution. Tamm would regularly attend meetings with Attorney General
Janet Reno, who was known for asking tough questions about the
evidence in such cases—a rigorous approach that Tamm admired. In July
2000, at a gala Justice Department ceremony, Reno awarded Tamm and
seven colleagues in his unit the John Marshall Award, one of the
department’s highest honors.

After John Ashcroft took over as President Bush’s attorney general the
next year, Tamm became disaffected. The Justice Department began to
encourage U.S. attorneys to seek the death penalty in as many cases as
possible. Instead of Reno’s skepticism about recommendations to seek
death, the capital-case committee under Ashcroft approved them with
little, if any, challenge. “It became a rubber stamp,” Tamm says. This
bothered him, though there was nothing underhanded about it. Bush had
campaigned as a champion of the death penalty. Ashcroft and the new
Republican leadership of the Justice Department advocated its use as a
matter of policy.

Tamm’s alienation grew in 2002 when he was assigned to assist on one
especially high-profile capital case—the prosecution of Zacarias
Moussaoui, a Qaeda terrorist arrested in Minnesota who officials
initially (and wrongly) believed might have been the “20th hijacker”
in the September 11 plot. Tamm’s role was to review classified CIA
cables about the 9/11 plot to see if there was any exculpatory
information that needed to be relinquished to Moussaoui’s lawyers.
While reviewing the cables, Tamm says, he first spotted reports that
referred to the rendition of terror suspects to countries like Egypt
and Morocco, where aggressive interrogation practices banned by
American law were used. It appeared to Tamm that CIA officers knew
“what was going to happen to [the suspects]”—that the government was
indirectly participating in abusive interrogations that would be
banned under U.S. law.

But still, Tamm says he was fully committed to the prosecution of the
war on terror and wanted to play a bigger role in it. So in early
2003, he applied and was accepted for transfer to the Office of
Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), probably the most sensitive
unit within the Justice Department. It is the job of OIPR lawyers to
request permission for national-security wiretaps. These requests are
made at secret hearings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Court, a body composed of 11 rotating federal judges.

Congress created the FISA court in 1978 because of well-publicized
abuses by the intelligence community. It was designed to protect the
civil liberties of Americans who might come under suspicion. The
court’s role was to review domestic national-security wiretaps to make
sure there was “probable cause” that the targets were “agents of a
foreign power”—either spies or operatives of a foreign terrorist
organization. The law creating the court, called the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act, made it a federal crime—punishable by
up to five years in prison—for any official to engage in such
surveillance without following strict rules, including court approval.

But after arriving at OIPR, Tamm learned about an unusual arrangement
by which some wiretap requests were handled under special procedures.
These requests, which could be signed only by the attorney general,
went directly to the chief judge and none other. It was unclear to
Tamm what was being hidden from the other 10 judges on the court (as
well as the deputy attorney general, who could sign all other FISA
warrants). All that Tamm knew was that the “A.G.-only” wiretap
requests involved intelligence gleaned from something that was
obliquely referred to within OIPR as “the program.”

The program was in fact a wide range of covert surveillance activities
authorized by President Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. At that time,
White House officials, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, had become
convinced that FISA court procedures were too cumbersome and time-
consuming to permit U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to
quickly identify possible Qaeda terrorists inside the country.
(Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, referred to the FISA court
in one meeting as that “obnoxious court,” according to former
assistant attorney general Jack Goldsmith.) Under a series of secret
orders, Bush authorized the NSA for the first time to eavesdrop on
phone calls and e-mails between the United States and a foreign
country without any court review. The code name for the NSA collection
activities—unknown to all but a tiny number of officials at the White
House and in the U.S. intelligence community—was “Stellar Wind.”

The NSA identified domestic targets based on leads that were often
derived from the seizure of Qaeda computers and cell phones overseas.
If, for example, a Qaeda cell phone seized in Pakistan had dialed a
phone number in the United States, the NSA would target the U.S. phone
number—which would then lead agents to look at other numbers in the
United States and abroad called by the targeted phone. Other parts of
the program were far more sweeping. The NSA, with the secret
cooperation of U.S. telecommunications companies, had begun collecting
vast amounts of information about the phone and e-mail records of
American citizens. Separately, the NSA was also able to access, for
the first time, massive volumes of personal financial records—such as
credit-card transactions, wire transfers and bank withdrawals—that
were being reported to the Treasury Department by financial
institutions. These included millions of “suspicious-activity
reports,” or SARS, according to two former Treasury officials who
declined to be identified talking about sensitive programs. (It was
one such report that tipped FBI agents to former New York governor
Eliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes.) These records were fed into NSA
supercomputers for the purpose of “data mining”—looking for links or
patterns that might (or might not) suggest terrorist activity.

But all this created a huge legal quandary. Intelligence gathered by
the extralegal phone eavesdropping could never be used in a criminal
court. So after the NSA would identify potential targets inside the
United States, counterterrorism officials would in some instances try
to figure out ways to use that information to get legitimate FISA
warrants—giving the cases a judicial stamp of approval.

It’s unclear to what extent Tamm’s office was aware of the origins of
some of the information it was getting. But Tamm was puzzled by the
unusual procedures—which sidestepped the normal FISA process—for
requesting wiretaps on cases that involved program intelligence. He
began pushing his supervisors to explain what was going on. Tamm says
he found the whole thing especially curious since there was nothing in
the special “program” wiretap requests that seemed any different from
all the others. They looked and read the same. It seemed to Tamm there
was a reason for this: the intelligence that came from the program was
being disguised. He didn’t understand why. But whenever Tamm would ask
questions about this within OIPR, “nobody wanted to talk about it.”

At one point, Tamm says, he approached Lisa Farabee, a senior counsel
in OIPR who reviewed his work, and asked her directly, “Do you know
what the program is?” According to Tamm, she replied: “Don’t even go
there,” and then added, “I assume what they are doing is illegal.”
Tamm says his immediate thought was, “I’m a law-enforcement officer
and I’m participating in something that is illegal?” A few weeks later
Tamm bumped into Mark Bradley, the deputy OIPR counsel, who told him
the office had run into trouble with Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the chief
judge on the FISA court. Bradley seemed nervous, Tamm says. Kollar-
Kotelly had raised objections to the special program wiretaps, and
“the A.G.-only cases are being shut down,” Bradley told Tamm. He then
added, “This may be [a time] the attorney general gets indicted,”
according to Tamm. (Told of Tamm’s account, Justice spokesman Boyd
said that Farabee and Bradley “have no comment for your story.”)

One official who was aware of Kollar-Kotelly’s objections was U.S.
Judge Royce C. Lamberth, a former chief of the FISA court. Lamberth
tells NEWSWEEK that when the NSA program began in October 2001, he was
not informed. But the then chief of OIPR, James Baker, discovered
later that year that program intelligence was being used in FISA
warrants—and he raised concerns. At that point, Lamberth was called in
for a briefing by Ashcroft and Gen. Michael Hayden, the NSA chief at
the time. Lamberth made clear to Ashcroft that NSA program
intelligence should no longer be allowed in any FISA warrant
applications without his knowledge. If it did appear, Lamberth warned,
he would be forced to rule on the legality of what the administration
was doing, potentially setting off a constitutional clash about the
secret program.

Lamberth stepped down as chief FISA judge when his term ended in May
2002, but Kollar-Kotelly asked him to continue as an adviser about
matters relating to the program. In early 2004, Kollar-Kotelly thought
something was amiss. According to Lamberth, she had concerns that the
intelligence community, after collecting information on U.S. citizens
without warrants, was again attempting to launder that intelligence
through her court—without her knowledge. She “had begun to suspect
that they were back-dooring information from the program into” FISA
applications, Lamberth tells NEWSWEEK. Kollar-Kotelly drew the line
and wouldn’t permit it. “She was as tough as I was,” says Lamberth,
who had once barred a top FBI agent from his court when he concluded
the bureau hadn’t been honest about FISA applications. “She was going
to know what she was signing off on before she signed off … I was
proud of her.” (Kollar-Kotelly declined to speak with NEWSWEEK.)

Unbeknownst to Tamm, something else was going on at the Justice
Department during this period. A new assistant attorney general, a law
professor named Jack Goldsmith, had challenged secret legal opinions
justifying the NSA surveillance program. (The controversial opinions,
written by a young and very conservative legal scholar named John Yoo,
had concluded that President Bush had broad executive authority during
wartime to override laws passed by Congress and order the surveillance
of U.S. citizens.) James Comey, the deputy attorney general, had
agreed with Goldsmith and refused to sign off on a renewal of the
domestic NSA program in March 2004. Attorney General Ashcroft was in
the hospital at the time. The White House first tried to get an
extremely ill Ashcroft, drugged and woozy, to overrule Comey, and
then, after he refused, President Bush ordered the program to continue
anyway. Comey, in turn, drafted a resignation letter. He described the
situation he was confronting as “apocalyptic” and then added, “I and
the Justice Department have been asked to be part of something that is
fundamentally wrong,” according to a copy of the letter quoted in
“Angler,” a book by Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman.

Tamm—who had no knowledge of the separate rebellion within the ranks
of the Justice Department—decided independently to get in touch with
Sandra Wilkinson, a former colleague of his on the Capital Case Unit
who had been detailed to work on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He
met with Wilkinson for coffee in the Senate cafeteria, where he laid
out his concerns about the program and the unusual procedures within
OIPR. “Look, the government is doing something weird here,” he recalls
saying. “Can you talk to somebody on the intelligence committee and
see if they know about this?”

Some weeks passed, and Tamm didn’t hear back. So he e-mailed Wilkinson
from his OIPR computer (not a smart move, he would later concede) and
asked if they could get together again for coffee. This time, when
they got together, Wilkinson was cool, Tamm says. What had she learned
about the program? “I can’t say,” she replied and urged him to drop
the subject. “Well, you know, then,” he says he replied, “I think my
only option is to go to the press.” (Wilkinson would not respond to
phone calls from NEWSWEEK, and her lawyer says she has nothing to say
about the matter.)

The next few weeks were excruciating. Tamm says he consulted with an
old law-school friend, Gene Karpinski, then the executive director of
a public-interest lobbying group. He asked about reporters who might
be willing to pursue a story that involved wrongdoing in a national-
security program, but didn’t tell him any details. (Karpinski, who has
been questioned by the FBI and has hired a lawyer, declined to
comment.) Tamm says he initially considered contacting Seymour Hersh,
the investigative reporter for The New Yorker, but didn’t know where
to reach him. He’d also noticed some strong stories by Eric Lichtblau,
the New York Times reporter who covered the Justice Department—and
with a few Google searches tracked down his phone number.

Tamm at this point had transferred out of OIPR at his own initiative,
and moved into a new job at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He says he
“hated” the desk work at OIPR and was eager to get back into the
courtroom prosecuting cases. His new offices were just above
Washington’s Judiciary Square Metro stop. When he went to make the
call to the Times, Tamm said, “My whole body was shaking.” Tamm
described himself to Lichtblau as a “former” Justice employee and
called himself “Mark,” his middle name. He said he had some
information that was best discussed in person. He and Lichtblau
arranged to meet for coffee at Olsson’s, a now shuttered bookstore
near the Justice Department. After Tamm hung up the phone, he was
struck by the consequences of what he had just done. “Oh, my God,” he
thought. “I can’t talk to anybody about this.” An even more terrifying
question ran through his mind. He thought back to his days at the
capital-case squad and wondered if disclosing information about a
classified program could earn him the death penalty.

In his book, “Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice,” Lichtblau
writes that he first got a whiff of the NSA surveillance program
during the spring of 2004 when he got a cold call from a “walk-in”
source who was “agitated about something going on in the intelligence
community.” Lichtblau wrote that his source was wary at first. The
source did not know precisely what was going on—he was, in fact,
maddeningly vague, the reporter wrote. But after they got together for
a few meetings (“usually at a bookstore or coffee shops in the shadows
of Washington’s power corridors”) his source’s “credibility and his
bona fides became clear and his angst appeared sincere.” The source
told him of turmoil within the Justice Department concerning
counterterrorism operations and the FISA court. “Whatever is going on,
there’s even talk Ashcroft could be indicted,” the source told
Lichtblau, according to his book.

Tamm grew frustrated when the story did not immediately appear. He was
hoping, he says, that Lichtblau and his partner Risen (with whom he
also met) would figure out on their own what the program was really
all about and break it before the 2004 election. He was, by this time,
“pissed off” at the Bush administration, he says. He contributed $300
to the Democratic National Committee in September 2004, according to
campaign finance records.

It wasn’t until more than a year later that the paper’s executive
editor, Bill Keller, rejecting a personal appeal and warning by
President Bush, gave the story a green light. (Bush had warned
“there’ll be blood on your hands” if another attack were to occur.)
BUSH LETS U.S. SPY ON CALLERS WITHOUT COURTS, read the headline in the
paper’s Dec. 16, 2005, edition. The story—which the Times said relied
on “nearly a dozen current and former officials”—had immediate
repercussions. Democrats, including the then Sen. Barack Obama,
denounced the Bush administration for violating the FISA law and
demanded hearings. James Robertson, one of the judges on the FISA
court, resigned. And on Dec. 30, the Justice Department announced that
it was launching a criminal investigation to determine who had leaked
to the Times.

Not long afterward, Tamm says, he started getting phone calls at his
office from Jason Lawless, the hard-charging FBI agent in charge of
the case. The calls at first seemed routine. Lawless was simply
calling everybody who had worked at OIPR to find out what they knew.
But Tamm ducked the calls; he knew that the surest way to get in
trouble in such situations was to lie to an FBI agent. Still, he grew
increasingly nervous. The calls continued. Finally, one day, Lawless
got him on the phone. “This will just take a few minutes,” Lawless
said, according to Tamm’s account. But Tamm told the agent that he
didn’t want to be interviewed—and he later hired a lawyer. (The FBI
said that Lawless would have no comment.)

In the months that followed, Tamm learned he was in even more trouble.
He suspected the FBI had accessed his former computer at OIPR and
recovered the e-mail he had sent to Wilkinson. The agents tracked her
down and questioned her about her conversations with Tamm. By this
time, Tamm was in the depths of depression. He says he had trouble
concentrating on his work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and ignored
some e-mails from one of his supervisors. He was accused of botching a
drug case. By mutual agreement, he resigned in late 2006. He was out
of a job and squarely in the sights of the FBI. Nevertheless, he began
blogging about the Justice Department for liberal Web sites.

Early on the morning of Aug. 1, 2007, 18 FBI agents—some of them
wearing black flak jackets and carrying guns—showed up unannounced at
Tamm’s redbrick colonial home in Potomac, Md., with a search warrant.
While his wife, wearing her pajamas, watched in horror, the agents
marched into the house, seized Tamm’s desktop computer, his children’s
laptops, his private papers, some of his books (including one about
Deep Throat) and his family Christmas-card list. Terry Tamm, the
lawyer’s college-age son, was asleep at the time and awoke to find FBI
agents entering his bedroom. He was escorted downstairs, where, he
says, the agents arranged him, his younger sister and his mother
around the kitchen table and questioned them about their father.
(Thomas Tamm had left earlier that morning to drive his younger son to
summer school and to see a doctor about a shoulder problem.) “They
asked me questions like ‘Are there any secret rooms or compartments in
the house’?” recalls Terry. “Or did we have a safe? They asked us if
any New York Times reporters had been to the house. We had no idea why
any of this was happening.” Tamm says he had never told his wife and
family about what he had done.

After the raid, Justice Department prosecutors encouraged Tamm to
plead guilty to a felony for disclosing classified information—an
offer he refused. More recently, Agent Lawless, a former prosecutor
from Tennessee, has been methodically tracking down Tamm’s friends and
former colleagues. The agent and a partner have asked questions about
Tamm’s associates and political meetings he might have attended,
apparently looking for clues about his motivations for going to the
press, according to three of those interviewed.

In the meantime, Tamm lives in a perpetual state of limbo, uncertain
whether he’s going to be arrested at any moment. He could be charged
with violating two laws, one concerning the disclosure of information
harmful to “the national defense,” the other involving “communications
intelligence.” Both carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison. “This
has been devastating to him,” says Jeffrey Taylor, an old law-school
friend of Tamm’s. “It’s just been hanging over his head for such a
long time … Sometimes Tom will just zone out. It’s like he goes off in
a special place. He’s sort of consumed with this because he doesn’t
know where it’s going.”

Taylor got a few clues into what the case was about last September
when Agent Lawless and a partner visited him. The FBI agents sat in
his office for more than an hour, asking what he knew about Tamm. The
agents even asked about Tamm’s participation in a political lunch
group headed by his former boss, Andrew Sonner, that takes place once
a month at a Rockville, Md., restaurant. “What does that have to do
with anything?” Taylor asked.

Agent Lawless explained. “This kind of activity”—leaking to the news
media—”can be motivated by somebody who is a do-gooder who thinks that
something wrong occurred,” Lawless said, according to Taylor. “Or it
could be politically motivated by somebody who wants to cause harm.”
If it was the former—if Tamm was a “do-gooder”—the government could
face a problem if it tried to bring a case to trial. The jurors might
sympathize with Tamm and “you’d face jury nullification,” said
Lawless, according to Taylor, referring to a situation in which a jury
refuses to convict a defendant regardless of the law.

Just this month, Lawless and another agent questioned Sonner, the
retired judge who had served as a mentor to Tamm. The agents wanted to
know if Tamm had ever confided in Sonner about leaking to the Times.
Sonner said he hadn’t, but he told the agents what he thought of their
probe. “I told them I thought operating outside of the FISA law was
one of the biggest injustices of the Bush administration,” says
Sonner. If Tamm helped blow the whistle, “I’d be proud of him for
doing that.”

Paul Kemp, one of Tamm’s lawyers, says he was recently told by the
Justice Department prosecutor in charge of Tamm’s case that there will
be no decision about whether to prosecute until next year—after the
Obama administration takes office. The case could present a dilemma
for the new leadership at Justice. During the presidential campaign,
Obama condemned the warrantless-wiretapping program. So did Eric
Holder, Obama’s choice to become attorney general. In a tough speech
last June, Holder said that Bush had acted “in direct defiance of
federal law” by authorizing the NSA program.

Tamm’s lawyers say his case should be judged in that light. “When I
looked at this, I was convinced that the action he took was based on
his view of a higher responsibility,” says Asa Hutchinson, the former
U.S. attorney in Little Rock and under secretary of the Department of
Homeland Security who is assisting in Tamm’s defense. “It reflected a
lawyer’s responsibility to protect the rule of law.” Hutchinson also
challenged the idea—argued forcefully by other Bush administration
officials at the time—that The New York Times story undermined the war
on terror by tipping off Qaeda terrorists to surveillance. “Anybody
who looks at the overall result of what happened wouldn’t conclude
there was any harm to the United States,” he says. After reviewing all
the circumstances, Hutchinson says he hopes the Justice Department
would use its “discretion” and drop the investigation. In judging
Tamm’s actions—his decision to reveal what little he knew about a
secret domestic spying program that still isn’t completely known—it
can be hard to decipher right from wrong. Sometimes the thinnest of
lines separates the criminal from the hero.






The New Thought Police:
The NSA Wants to Know How You Think — Maybe Even What You Think
BY James Bamford

The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George
Orwell’s Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial
intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are

With the entire Internet and thousands of databases for a brain, the
device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex
questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is
collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks
like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation,
Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—
it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what
they are doing, but what and how they think.

The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher
has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful
weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.

Getting Aquaint
Known as Aquaint, which stands for “Advanced QUestion Answering for
INTelligence,” the project was run for many years by John Prange, an
NSA scientist at the Advanced Research and Development Activity.
Headquartered in Room 12A69 in the NSA’s Research and Engineering
Building at 1 National Business Park, ARDA was set up by the agency to
serve as a sort of intelligence community DARPA, the place where
former Reagan national security advisor John Poindexter’s infamous
Total Information Awareness project was born. [Editor’s note: TIA was
a short-lived project founded in 2002 to apply information technology
to counter terrorist and other threats to national security.] Later
named the Disruptive Technology Office, ARDA has now morphed into the
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

A sort of national laboratory for eavesdropping and other spycraft,
IARPA will move into its new 120,000-square-foot home in 2009. The
building will be part of the new M Square Research Park in College
Park, Maryland. A mammoth two million-square-foot, 128-acre complex,
it is operated in collaboration with the University of Maryland.
“Their budget is classified, but I understand it’s very well funded,”
said Brian Darmody, the University of Maryland’s assistant vice
president of research and economic development, referring to IARPA.
“They’ll be in their own building here, and they’re going to grow.
Their mission is expanding.”

If IARPA is the spy world’s DARPA, Aquaint may be the reincarnation of
Poindexter’s TIA. After a briefing by NSA Director Michael Hayden,
Vice President Dick Cheney, and CIA Director George Tenet of some of
the NSA’s data mining programs in July 2003, Senator Jay Rockefeller
IV, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a
concerned letter to Cheney. “As I reflected on the meeting today,” he
said, “John Poindexter’s TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my
concern regarding the direction the administration is moving with
regard to security, technology, and surveillance.”

Building “Hal”
The original goal of Aquaint, which dates back to the 1990s, was
simply to develop a sophisticated method of picking the right needles
out of a vast haystack of information and coming up with the answer to
a question. As with TIA, many universities were invited to contribute
brainpower to the project. But in the aftermath of the attacks on
9/11, with the creation of the NSA’s secret warrantless eavesdropping
program and the buildup of massive databases, the project began taking
on a more urgent tone.

In a 2004 pilot project, a mass of data was gathered from news stories
taken from the New York Times, the AP news wire, and the English
portion of the Chinese Xinhua news wire covering 1998 to 2000. Then,
13 U.S. military intelligence analysts searched the data and came up
with a number of scenarios based on the material. Finally, using those
scenarios, an NSA analyst developed 50 topics, and in each of those
topics created a series of questions for Aquaint’s computerized brain
to answer. “Will the Japanese use force to defend the Senkakus?” was
one. “What types of disputes or conflict between the PLA [People’s
Liberation Army] and Hong Kong residents have been reported?” was
another. And “Who were the participants in this spy ring, and how are
they related to each other?” was a third. Since then, the NSA has
attempted to build both on the complexity of the system—more essay-
like answers rather than yes or no—and on attacking greater volumes of

“The technology behaves like a robot, understanding and answering
complex questions,” said a former Aquaint researcher. “Think of 2001:
A Space Odyssey and the most memorable character, HAL 9000, having a
conversation with David. We are essentially building this system. We
are building HAL.” A naturalized U.S. citizen who received her Ph.D.
from Columbia, the researcher worked on the program for several years
but eventually left due to moral concerns. “The system can answer the
question, ‘What does X think about Y?'” she said. “Working for the
government is great, but I don’t like looking into other people’s
secrets. I am interested in helping people and helping physicians and
patients for the quality of people’s lives.” The researcher now
focuses on developing similar search techniques for the medical

Thought policeman
A supersmart search engine, capable of answering complex questions
such as “What were the major issues in the last 10 presidential
elections?” would be very useful for the public. But that same
capability in the hands of an agency like the NSA—absolutely secret,
often above the law, resistant to oversight, and with access to
petabytes of private information about Americans—could be a privacy
and civil liberties nightmare. “We must not forget that the ultimate
goal is to transfer research results into operational use,” said
Aquaint project leader John Prange, in charge of information
exploitation for IARPA.

Once up and running, the database of old newspapers could quickly be
expanded to include an inland sea of personal information scooped up
by the agency’s warrantless data suction hoses. Unregulated, they
could ask it to determine which Americans might likely pose a security
risk—or have sympathies toward a particular cause, such as the antiwar
movement, as was done during the 1960s and 1970s. The Aquaint robospy
might then base its decision on the type of books a person purchased
online, or chat room talk, or websites visited—or a similar
combination of data. Such a system would have an enormous chilling
effect on everyone’s everyday activities—what will the Aquaint
computer think if I buy this book, or go to that website, or make this
comment? Will I be suspected of being a terrorist or a spy or a

Controlling brain waves
Collecting information, however, has always been far less of a problem
for the NSA than understanding it, and that means knowing the
language. To expand its linguistic capabilities, the agency
established another new organization, the Center for Advanced Study of
Language (CASL), and housed it in a building near IARPA at the M
Square Research Park. But far from simply learning the meaning of
foreign words, CASL, like Aquaint, attempts to find ways to get into
someone’s mind and understand what he or she is thinking.

One area of study is to attempt to determine if people are lying
simply by watching their behavior and listening to them speak.
According to one CASL document, “Many deception cues are difficult to
identify, particularly when they are subtle, such as changes in verb
tense or extremely brief facial expressions. CASL researchers are
studying these cues in detail with advanced measurement and
statistical analysis techniques in order to recommend ways to identify
deceptive cue combinations.”

Another area of focus explores the “growing need to work with foreign
text that is incomplete,” such as partly deciphered messages or a
corrupted hard drive or the intercept of only one side of a
conversation. The center is thus attempting to find ways to prod the
agency’s cipher-brains to fill in the missing blanks. “In response,”
says the report, “CASL’s cognitive neuroscience team has been studying
the cognitive basis of working memory’s capacity for filling in
incomplete areas of text. They have made significant headway in this
research by using a powerful high-density electroencephalogram (EEG)
machine acquired in 2006.” The effort is apparently directed at
discovering what parts of the brain are used when very good
cryptanalysts are able to guess correctly the missing words and
phrases in a message.

Like something out of a B-grade sci-fi movie, CASL is even trying to
turn dull minds into creative geniuses by training employees to
control their own brain waves: “The cognitive neuroscience team has
also been researching divergent thinking: creative, innovative and
flexible thinking valuable for language work. They are exploring ways
to improve divergent thinking using the EEG and neurobiological
feedback. A change in brain-wave activity is believed to be critical
for generating creative ideas, so the team trains its subjects to
change their brain-wave activity.”

Obama’s Black Widow
BY Nat Hentoff  /  23 December 2008

Thanks to Bush and Obama, the National Security Agency now knows more
about you. Barack Obama will be in charge of the biggest domestic and
international spying operation in history. Its prime engine is the
National Security Agency (NSA)-located and guarded at Fort Meade,
Maryland, about 10 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. A brief glimpse
of its ever-expanding capacity was provided on October 26 by The
Baltimore Sun’s national security correspondent, David Wood: “The
NSA’s colossal Cray supercomputer, code-named the ‘Black Widow,’ scans
millions of domestic and international phone calls and e-mails every
hour…. The Black Widow, performing hundreds of trillions of
calculations per second, searches through and reassembles key words
and patterns, across many languages.”

In July, George W. Bush signed into law the FISA Amendments Act of
2008, which gives the NSA even more power to look for patterns that
suggest terrorism links in Americans’ telephone and Internet
communications. The ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit on free speech
and privacy grounds. The new Bush law provides farcical judicial
supervision over the NSA and other government trackers and databasers.
Although Senator Barack Obama voted for this law, dig this from the
ACLU: “The government [is now permitted] to conduct intrusive
surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on,
what phone lines and e-mail addresses it intends to monitor, where its
surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance
or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing.”
This gives the word “dragnet” an especially chilling new meaning.

The ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer, director of its National Security Project,
adds that the new statute, warming the cold hearts of the NSA,
“implicates all kinds of communications that have nothing to do with
terrorism or criminal activity of any kind.” Why did Obama vote for
this eye-that-never-blinks? He’s a bright, informed guy, but he wasn’t
yet the President-Elect. The cool pragmatist wanted to indicate he
wasn’t radically unmindful of national security-and that his previous
vow to filibuster such a bill may have been a lapse in judgment. It

What particularly outraged civil libertarians across the political
divide was that the FISA Amendments Act gave immunity to the
telecommunications corporations-which, for seven years, have been a
vital part of the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program-
thereby dismissing the many court cases brought by citizens suing
those companies for violating their individual constitutional
liberties. This gives AT&T, Verizon, and the rest a hearty signal to
go on pimping for the government. That’s OK with the Obama
administration? Please tell us, Mr. President.

Some of us began to see how deeply and intricately the telecoms were
involved in the NSA’s spying when-as part of an Electronic Frontier
Foundation lawsuit-it was revealed by a former AT&T technician, Mark
Klein, that he had found a secret AT&T room in which the NSA was
tapping into the telecom giant’s fiber-optic cables. On National
Public Radio on November 7, 2007, he disclosed: “It’s not just AT&T’s
traffic going through these cables, because these cables connected
AT&T’s network with other networks like Sprint, Qwest [the one firm
that refused to play ball with the government], Global Crossing,
UUNet, etc.”

What you should know is that these fruitful cables go through “a
splitter” that, as Klein describes, “just copies the entire data
without any selection going on. So it’s a complete copy of the data
stream.” Under the new FISA Amendments Act, there are no limits on
where this stream of data can be disseminated. As in the past, but now
with “legal” protection under the 2008 statute, your suspicious
“patterns” can go to the FBI, Homeland Security, the CIA, and state
and local police that are also involved in “fusion centers” with the

Consider the enormous and bottomless databases that the government-and
its NSA-can have a ball with. In James Bamford’s The Shadow Factory
(Doubleday)-a new book that leads you as far as anyone has gone into
the bowels of the NSA-he notes: “For decades, AT&T and much of the
rest of the telecommunications industry have had a very secret, very
cozy relationship with the NSA.” In AT&T’s case, he points out, “its
international voice service carried more than 18 billion minutes per
year, reaching 240 countries, linking 400 carriers, and offering
remote access via 19,500 points of presence in 149 countries around
the globe.” Voilá! Also, he notes: “Much of those communications
passed through that secret AT&T room that Klein found on Folsom Street
in downtown San Francisco.”

There’s a lot more to come that we don’t know about. Yet. In The
Shadow Factory, James Bamford quotes Bush’s Director of National
Intelligence Mike McConnell as saying that this wiretapping program
was and is “only one program of many highly secret programs approved
by Bush following the attacks on 9/11” (emphasis added). McConnell
also said of the NSA’s nonstop wiretapping: “This is the only aspect
of those various activities whose existence has officially been

Come on, Mike. Bush acknowledged the NSA’s flagrant contempt of the
First and Fourth amendments only after The New York Times broke the
story in December 2005. When the Times executive editor, Bill Keller,
first decided to hold the explosive story for a year, General Michael
Hayden-the former head of the NSA who is currently running the CIA-was
relieved because he didn’t want the news to get out that “most
international communications pass through [these telecommunications]
‘switching,'” Bamford reports. It would blow the cover off those
corporate communicators. Now, AT&T, Verizon, et al., don’t have to
worry, thanks to the new law.

There are increasing calls, inside and outside of Congress, for
President Obama to urge investigations by an independently bipartisan
commission-akin to the 9/11 Commission-to get deeply into the many
American and international laws so regally broken by Bush and his
strutting team. But there is so much still to find out about the NSA’s
“many highly secret programs” that a separate commission is sorely
needed to probe exclusively into the past and ongoing actions of the
Black Widow and other NSA lawless intrusions into our privacy and

President Obama could atone for his vote that supported the FISA
Amendments Act of 2008 by appointing such a bipartisan commission
composed of technology experts who are also familiar with the
Constitution. Bamford says that the insatiable NSA is “developing an
artificial intelligence system designed to know what people are
thinking.” Here come the thought police!

BLACK WIDOW,0,7827877.story
Spying NSA’s failures : Bamford looks into the mistakes made by the
secretive agency protecting the nation
BY David Wood  /  October 26, 2008
Review of The Shadow Factory By James Bamford

The bad news in James Bamford’s fascinating new study of the National
Security Agency is that Big Brother really is watching. The worse
news, according to this veteran journalist, is that Big Brother often
listens in on the wrong people and sometimes fails to recognize
critical information, like the fact that terrorists are gathering and
plotting an attack. When it does find a critical nugget like that, it
occasionally files it away somewhere and doesn’t tell anybody.

This is a tale of bad news, told by a master whose two previous books
on the NSA, The Puzzle Palace (1982) and Body of Secrets (2001), laid
bare some of the machinations of the world’s largest and most
technologically sophisticated spy agency. In brisk and colorful
narrative, The Shadow Factory details the agency’s failure on Sept. 11
(the hijackers, on whom the NSA had been eavesdropping for 18 months
without sharing the intelligence with the FBI or CIA, were camped out
late that summer virtually on the NSA’s doorstep, in Laurel).

Bamford whisks the reader through the NSA’s embarrassing failure to
figure out that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and
through the distressing post-Sept. 11 years when the agency
demonstrated both technical gee-whizzery and brash law-breaking. The
book is certain to raise questions about whether the NSA, with
headquarters in those huge, foreboding structures just off the
Baltimore-Washington Parkway on Fort Meade Road, ever can operate
effectively and efficiently – and legally.

Bamford convincingly argues that the agency, grown from a few creative
code-breakers into a vast network of sensors, wiretaps, robo-
eavesdroppers, secret data-miners and storage bunkers, broke the law
and spied on Americans and nearly got away with it. His detailed
descriptions of secret underground fiber-optic wiretaps and
clandestine operations centers persuasively describe the NSA’s
expanding reach.

Yet Bamford might have acknowledged that reporting on a complex
organization whose effectiveness requires secrecy is an inherently
incomplete work: Its successes are unknown. Surely, the NSA has done
valuable work in identifying and tracking terrorists, achievements not
noted by Bamford.

The book is “a disservice” to the NSA employees who seek to protect
the nation while safeguarding Americans’ privacy, an agency
spokeswoman, Judith A. Emmel, said in a statement. Of course, the
agency’s eavesdroppers and analysts are motivated, hard-working
people, often forward-deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army Sgt.
Trista Leah Moretti, an NSA cryptologist killed in a mortar attack in
southern Iraq on June 25, 2007, is the most recent entry on the
agency’s Memorial Wall.

The NSA’s former director, Michael Hayden, once described the NSA’s
eavesdroppers as “people who … go shopping in Glen Burnie and their
kids play soccer in Laurel. And they know the law. They know American
privacy better than the average American, and they’re dedicated to

But as history has proved time and time again, dedicated and well-
intentioned people can be overwhelmed by the imperatives of the
institution within which they work. Can the NSA itself be trusted, in
secret, to make the fine judgment calls between protecting Americans
and spying on them?

Bamford’s history is not reassuring. It was Hayden, after all, who
authorized Operation Highlander. It siphoned all phone and e-mail
traffic off the Inmarsat satellite communications system used by
American troops, the Red Cross, the U.N. and journalists, including
those at The Baltimore Sun, to call home from Iraq. NSA analysts
listened in on and recorded “incredibly intimate personal
conversations,” one analyst told Bamford, who said she was shocked and
distressed (her story has been corroborated by some of her NSA
colleagues and disputed by others). On any given day, Bamford writes,
the NSA had been spying on as many as 500 Americans at home and 7,000

Even now, he writes, the NSA has “the capacity to make tyranny total
in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss.”
Despite Bamford’s burning distrust of the agency, he got and shares
astonishing access to No Such Agency, as the NSA is sometimes known.
Here, courtesy of the eavesdroppers, is Osama bin Laden’s phone
number: 00-873-6825-0533 (surely disconnected by this time).

Most convincingly, Bamford guides the reader through the NSA’s
greatest challenge: staying ahead of the explosive growth in volume
and types of communications. Voice traffic alone increases 20 percent
a year. Digital cell phones and fiber-optic cables vastly complicate
the eavesdroppers’ job. Today, the NSA’s colossal Cray supercomputer,
code-named the “Black Widow,” scans millions of domestic and
international phone calls and e-mails every hour. That’s harder than
it sounds: For purposes of speed and encryption, many of these
communications are transmitted in fragments. The Black Widow,
performing hundreds of trillions of calculations per second, searches
through and reassembles key words and patterns, across many languages.
Storing all this data, Bamford reports, is already an enormous
headache for the NSA.

But the larger and more disturbing issue is not so much collecting all
that data, but analyzing, digesting and using it. “Our ability to
collect stuff,” a senior NSA official acknowledged to Bamford, “far
outstrips our ability to understand what we collect.”






Mike Connell: Bush IT Guru–KHOo8tkM

“ATTENTION: Employees of GovTech Solutions, New Media Communications,
and Technomania: If YOU know anything about Vote Tampering — the time
to speak up is Now!”

bonus link:
overly polite lady attempts citizen’s arrest of karl rove (fails)

Early Voting Sees Reports of Voter Intimidation, Machine “Malfunctions”

Early voting has begun, and problems are already emerging at the
polls. In West Virginia, voters using touchscreen machines have
claimed their votes were switched from Democrat to Republican. In
North Carolina, a group of McCain supporters heckled a group of mostly
black supporters of Barack Obama. In Ohio, Republicans are being
accused of trying to scare newly registered voters by filing lawsuits
that question their eligibility. We speak to NYU professor Mark
Crispin Miller, author of Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the
Subversion of Democracy.

Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media culture and communication at
New York University. He is the author of several books, most recently
Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy,
2000-2008. His previous book is called Fooled Again: How the Right
Stole the 2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too.

AMY GOODMAN: Just days after reports that six early voters in at least
two West Virginia counties claimed their votes were switched from
Democrat to Republican, a couple in Nashville, Tennessee reported
similar problems with paperless voting machines. In West Virginia, one
voter said, ‘I hit Obama, and it switched to McCain. I am really
concerned about that. If McCain wins, there was something wrong with
the machines.” In Tennessee, a filmmaker couple also had difficulties
casting their vote for the Democratic candidate, the Brad Blog
reports. They had to hit the Obama button several times before it
actually registered, and in one case it momentarily flipped from Obama
to Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. Patricia Earnhardt said,
“The McKinney button was located five rows below the Obama button.”
The couple in Nashville were using machines made by the same company
as those in the counties in West Virginia—by Election Systems and
Software. Meanwhile, there are reports of longlines at early voting
sites in several other states, including somecounties in Texas,
Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.

Mark Crispin Miller is a media critic who’s been focused on voter
problems and election fraud in this country. He’s a professor at New
York University, author of several books. Most recently he edited
Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy,
2000-2008. His previous book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the
2004 Election and Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too.

Mark Crispin Miller now joins us in the firehouse studio. Welcome to
Democracy Now!

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your concerns right now, Mark?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, you’ve referred to a couple of them
already. We now see a burst of vote flipping by machines,electronic
voting machines in a couple of states. This is something that we saw
in at least eleven states in the 2004 election, hundreds and hundreds
of people coming forward to say, “I pushed the button for Kerry, and
the button for Bush lit up.” So, clearly, this was a systematic
programming decision by the people in charge of the machines, which in
that case and this one is the Republican Party.We’re also seeing
systematic shortages of working voting machines in Democratic
precincts only. This is also something that did not happen only in
Ohio in 2004, but happened nationwide. That election was, in fact,

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know that?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, I know because there’s been an audit of the
vote in eighteen counties of Ohio by a researcher named Richard Hayes
Phillips, who had his team literally scrutinize every single ballot
that was warehoused in eighteen Ohio counties. They took over 30,000
digital photographs. This is not speculation, Amy. This is a
meticulous, careful, specific and conclusive demonstration that John
Kerry actually won some 200,000 votes in those eighteen counties only
that were taken away from him. Bush’s official victory margin, you may
recall, was about 118,000. So there is no question about it. Ohio was

AMY GOODMAN: When they—OK, so they have the pictures of all these—

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Pictures, there’s a CD with this book that you can

AMY GOODMAN: But they have the pictures of the ballots.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Of the variously altered, mutilated ballots, yes.
Ballots with stickers placed over the square that people had blacked
in for Kerry/Edwards; somebody else blacks in Bush/Cheney.Thousands
and thousands of ballots that were pre-marked before they were
distributed, so that people would mark different boxes on them, and
then they would be invalidated.

Even more chilling is the fact that after Phillips did his research,
the boards of elections in fifty-five Ohio counties destroyed all or
some of their ballots in defiance of a court order. So we have
criminal behavior here of a kind of grand and systematic kind. But the
point is—not to engage in what Sarah Palin calls finger-pointing
backwards, the point here is to note that we’re dealing with a
consistent pattern of subversive behavior by the Republican Party
since2000 and extending all the way up to the present. What we’re
seeing now is an especially brazen and diverse range of dirty tricks
and tactics that are being used both to suppress the vote and also to
enable election fraud.

AMY GOODMAN: Ohio has been very much in the news this past week, not
around the issue of voter suppression, but around the issue of
fraudulent registration forms, the concern about them being handed in
by the organization ACORN.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, the whole ACORN thing is a first-class
propaganda drive. ACORN has done nothing wrong. ACORN has,however,
been guilty of trying to register low-income citizens to vote.Because
they’ve been in the sights of the Republican Party for several years
now, they’ve always been extremely scrupulous about checking the
registration forms that they garner from their volunteers.

You know, they pay people, basically, to register other voters. So,
naturally, from time to time, some volunteer who wants the money will
fill out a registration form, you know, with Mickey Mouse or the names
of the Dallas Cowboys, something like that. Precisely because that is
an ever-present possibility, the people at ACORN have always
scrupulously checked the forms before submitting them.

And ten days ago, what they did was, in Las Vegas, their office in Las
Vegas, they found a number of these suspicious forms, handed them over
directly to the Secretary of State in Nevada, and his response was to
turn around and say, “Aha! Here is evidence that you’re conspiring to
commit voter fraud.” Now, that effort, that drive went from Nevada to
Missouri to Ohio, and now we hear that the FBI is investigating ACORN.

The important point here, Amy, is that voter fraud is practically
nonexistent. Several studies have taken a close look at this and found
that there really is no voter fraud of this kind.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films has put out a new
short film about ACORN and the attacks against them. Let me play an

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: We need to know the full extent of Senator
Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe
perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this
country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: John and I are calling on the Obama campaign
to release communications it has had with this group and to do so

CARMEN ARIAS: These attacks on ACORN are part of a pattern of
voter suppression that the GOP has been carrying on for a long time.

PAUL WEYRICH: They want everybody to vote. I don’t want
everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They
never have been, from the beginning of our country, and they are not
now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections, quite
candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: The McCain campaign has now two camps.And one
of them is already assuming that he’s lost, and he’s aiming for the
post-election warfare in the Republican Party, and part of that isthe
ACORN strategy, which is trying to delegitimize the result in advance,
if Obama were to win, by saying it was rigged by minority voters.
That’s what this is about.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Someone here keeps yelling “ACORN, ACORN.”
Now, let me just say to you, there are serious allegations of voter
fraud in the battleground states across America. They must be

NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: Let’s look at North Carolina. We turned
in 28,000 applications in North Carolina, and there are investigations
into four of them right now. Over 95 percent of the cards we turned in
were error-free. So we’re talking about an extremely small percentage
of the overall 1.3 million cards collected. To suggest that this is
some kind of widespread criminal conspiracy is just absurd.

radical—extremist community group.

CARMEN ARIAS: This is hardly the first time that these Rove-
style tactics have been used to suppress low-income minorities.

NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: They did it in 2000.

GREG PALAST: Voters were being removed from the registries by
the Secretary of State, Katherine Harris.

NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: They did it in 2004.

UNIDENTIFIED: Evidence has emerged that in the last presidential
election the Republican Party organized efforts to suppress the votes
of active-duty military, low-income and minority voters by challenging
their registrations. The Republicans put in motion a plan to hold down
the Democratic vote in key battleground states. Many are convinced
that Republican officials broke the law.

NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: And they’re doing it again right now.

CARMEN ARIAS: Suppressing the low-income minority voters can
swing an entire election. A handful of improperly filled-out voter
registration cards cannot.

AMY GOODMAN: That, an excerpt of a piece by Robert Greenwald and Brave
New Films. Professor Mark Crispin Miller?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, well, I think he hit the nail right on the
head. The important point to get here is that the party that is itself
engaging in disenfranchisement on a massive scale, the deliberate,
systematic disenfranchisement of arguably millions of Americans, is
clouding the issue by accusing—essentially accusing its victims of
doing the same thing. OK?

Voter fraud—I want to repeat this—is virtually nonexistent.There have
been several academic studies of this notion of whether individuals
actually stuffed ballot boxes or show up at polling places pretending
to be somebody else. There’s actually not a single known case of any
such type of voter fraud being prosecuted by the Department of
Justice. And yet, that notion of voter fraud is used as the pretext
for taking steps that do demonstrably result in tens of thousands of
people being unable to vote, you see? It’s a really masterful
strategy.And I only wish that the Democratic Party had all this time
been aggressive in pointing out that the Republicans are the party
engaged in disenfranchisement.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, we have to break. When we come back,
I want to ask you about a man named Stephen Spoonamore—


AMY GOODMAN: —a prominent expert, supposedly, on computer fraud, and
what he has to say. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media, culture and
communication at New York University is our guest. His most recent
book, Loser Take All. Who is Stephen Spoonamore?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Stephen Spoonamore is a conservative Republican,
a former McCain supporter and, most importantly, a renowned and highly
successful expert at the detection of computer fraud. That’s his
profession. He works for major banks. He works for foreign
governments. He works for the Secret Service. Those are his clients.

He knows personally the principal players in Bush-Cheney’s conspiracy
to subvert our elections through electronic means since 2000, and he
has named these principal players. Specifically, he has named a man
named Mike Connell. Mike Connell, according to Spoonamore, is Karl
Rove’s computer guru. This is the guy who has helped Bush-Cheney fix
election results through computers since Florida 2000, in Ohio in
2004, also in the stolen re-election of Governor Don Siegelman in
Alabama in 2002, also in the stolen re-election of Senator Max Cleland
in Georgia in 2002.


MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, basically, they use a kind of architecture
that’s called Man in the Middle, and it involves shunting election
returns data through a separate computer somewhere else. This is
something that computer criminals do all the time with banks.
Spoonamore explains that the Man in the Middle setup is extremely
effective and basically undetectable as a way to change election

Now, the scariest thing is that Connell told Spoonamore that the
reason why he has helped Bush-Cheney still these elections for the
last eight years has been to save the babies. See? We have to
understand that there’s a very powerful component of religious
fanaticism at work in the election fraud conspiracy. We saw a little
bit of that in Greenswald’s film, where Paul Weyrich was talking about
how we don’t want people voting.

AMY GOODMAN: The conservative activist.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, because the majority is a majority of
unbelievers. They’re pro-choice. They’re corrupt. They’re evil. They
don’t get it. It’s therefore necessary to fix election results in
order to prevent the unjust and the unrighteous from taking over.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Mark Crispin Miller, you keep saying the
election was clearly stolen in 2004. This is not a widelyheld belief.
Why do you think more information is not known about this?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Because the press and the Democratic Party have
steadfastly refused simply to mention, much less discuss, the

AMY GOODMAN: You talked to John Kerry.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: I talked to John Kerry. In fact, the last time I
was with you, I was here to talk about that conversation with him. On
October 28th, 2005, we met. I gave him a copy of my book Fooled Again,
and we discussed the last election, and he told me, with some
vehemence, that he believed it was stolen.

AMY GOODMAN: In Ohio in 2004—and Ohio, key battleground state right now


AMY GOODMAN: And we remember at Kenyon, for example, those long, long
lines in 2004, people waiting for hours.


AMY GOODMAN: When you talk about the computer setup for 2004, explain

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, what happened was, with the election
results that were coming into Ken Blackwell’s website, right, in real

AMY GOODMAN: The former Secretary of State of Ohio.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: The former Secretary of State.

AMY GOODMAN: The former chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign there.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: And co-chair of Bush-Cheney and a big-time
election thief and an ardent theocrat, by the way. The election
returns went basically from his website to another computer that was
in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee, under the control of
Spoonamore and a guy with another private company, another
evangelical.The data was shunted through that computer and then back
to the Secretary of State’s website.

Spoonamore says that this Man in the Middle setup has only one
purpose, and that is fraud. There’s no other reason to do it. And he
believes that such a system is still in place in Ohio, it’s in place
in a number of other states. And the crucial fact to bear in mind
here,since we’re talking about John McCain attacking ACORN and so on,
is that Mike Connell is now working for John McCain.

Now, on the strength of Spoonamore’s testimony, right, it’s driving a
RICO lawsuit in Ohio. On the strength of his testimony, Connell has
been subpoenaed. He was subpoenaed last week for a deposition, so that
he can answer questions on the record, under oath, about what he’s
been up to. He and a bevy of Republican lawyers have been very, very
vigorously fighting this subpoena, because, of course, they don’t want
him to testify ’til after Election Day.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Mark Crispin Miller, the Bradley Effect that is
being discussed, explain what it is and how you feel it’s being used.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: The Bradley Effect is a theory which holds that
African American candidates do better in pre-election polls than they
do in elections, because white racists are shy about admitting to
pollsters that they wouldn’t vote for a black man. So they will tell
pollsters, “Sure, I’ll vote for him.” Then they sneak into the polling
booth and listen to the inner Klansman, you know, they vote as

Now, the problem with this theory is that there are almost no examples
of its having happened. It’s named for Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los
Angeles, who ran for the governor of California and did much better in
polls beforehand than he did on Election Day. Well, it turns out, if
you study that race, that the reason why he lost was that a lot of bad
news about his tenure in Los Angeles came out just before the
election. That’s the reason why people often lose elections. There are
only two races that we know of where the Bradley Effect may arguably
have obtained, both in 1989: Doug Wilder’s run for the governor of
Virginia and David Dinkins’s first run for the mayor of New York,
where Dinkins didn’t do as well as we thought he would. Well, in his
second run, the polls were dead on.

The point is, we’re talking about two races that may form the basis
for this idea that Barack Obama, with his enormous lead, may lose
because of millions and millions of closet racists, you know, who will
say one thing to pollsters, out of a fear of not seeming politically
correct, and then vote a different way. I’ll tell you why I worry
about this. Something that you very, very badly need to steal
elections, aside from the apparatus and the volunteers and all the
money and everything, is a narrative. You have to have a convincing
rationale toexplain an upset victory. Four years ago, the rationale
was millions of values voters materialized on the horizon at the end
of the day, and like Jesus with loaves and fishes, they suddenly
multiplied and voted for Bush, and then they disappeared. Well,
there’s no evidence that that actually happened. But it served as a
narrative. This time, I’m afraid the primary narrative will be racism:
Barack Obama actually lost, despite all predictions, because so many
Americans are racist.

I think that this is, first of all, unverifiable. We don’t know that
it’s true, whereas we do know all the stuff about vote suppression and
election fraud. But I’m afraid that people will be encouraged to
accept this line to prevent them from taking a hard look at the real
reasons why Obama may have “lost”—and I put “lost” in quotation marks.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, I want to thank you for being with
us. Mark Crispin Miller is a professor at New York University and
author of, well, the latest book he edited, this came out just this
summer, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of
Democracy, 2000-2008.

DIEBOLD, SAIC REPORT, ETC,_says_gop_computer_security_expert/

‘Here, in this shattering new interview, Stephen Spoonamore goes into
harrowing detail about the Bush regime’s election fraud, past, present
and–if we don’t spread the word right now–to come. Since he’s the
only whistle-blower out there who knows the perps themselves, and how
they operate, we have to send this new piece far and wide.

Here Spoon tells us that McBush’s team–i.e.,Karl Rove and his
henchpersons–have their plan in place to steal this next election: by
51.2% of the popular vote, and three electoral votes. He also talks
about the major role played by the Christianist far right in the
electronic rigging of the vote.

And he defines our electronic voting system as a major threat to US
national security, calling for it to be junked ASAP, in favor of hand-
counted paper ballots.

Since Spoon is a Republican and erstwhile McCain supporter, as well as
a noted specialist in nosing out computer fraud, his testimony is
essential–not only for its expertise, but, no less, for the impact
that his views will surely have on those Republicans who have been
loath to see what Bush Co. has done to our election system.
That whole story’s just about to break . . . starting with today’s
news on a breakthrough in the lawsuit that Spoon’s testimony has
enabled, and on other aspects of that all-important case.’  –MCM


Full-length video

Spoonamore video in 10 YouTube episodes

It’s a network, people

Electronic voting machines are a national security threat

The genie is out of the bottle. . .

Fifty ways to steal an election

Mike Connell: Bush IT Guru–KHOo8tkM

The Rapp Family: Ohio election cover-up

Evangelicals and voting machines

Paper ballots please

McCain/Palin will win by theft

People should doubt the vote, it’s being stolen

and forward this to your friends who understand computers


e/ info [at] connelldonatelli [dot] com
p/ 703.647.5862
‘Netcraft is showing that an event happened in the Ohio 2004 election
that is difficult to explain. The Secretary of State’s website,which
handles election reporting, normally is directed to an Ohio-based IP
address hosted by the Ohio Supercomputer Center. On Nov. 3 2004,
Netcraft shows the website pointing out of state to a server owned by
Smartech Corp. According to the American Registry on Internet Numbers,
Smartech’s block of IP addresses –
encompasses the entire range of addresses owned by the Republican
National Committee. Smartech hosted the recently notorious
domain used from the White House in apparent violation of the
Presidential Records Act, from which thousands of White House emails
‘On two occasions in recent elections, a third-party source
recordedthat the Ohio election results website
‘’ wasoperating at an IP address which falls
within the range assigned toservice hosted by Chattanooga, TN-based
SMARTtech Corp. The IP addressassigned to ‘’,, lies between IPaddresses assigned to and which are managed bythe RNC and affiliates.’

Akron Headquarters
302 N. Cleveland-Massillon Rd.
Akron, OH 44333
v/ 330.665.3483
f/ 330.665.3486
info [at] govtechsolutions [dot] com


Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S)
11208 John Galt Blvd.
Omaha, NE 68137 USA
Toll Free: 1-800-247-8683
Phone: 402-593-0101
Fax: 402-593-8107
email : info [at] essvote [dot] com


801 Broad Street
Suite 220
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Phone (423) 664-7678
email : support [at] airnetgroup [dot] com

‘… Jeff Averbeck, CEO of Smartech, which is running theRepublican
websites, says, ‘Politics today is getting people to get upand do
something.’ More than 1 million volunteers and 6 million e-mailand
letter-writing activists have signed up for the Republicans thisyear
over the Web.’

Coptix Inc.

Coptix Inc. (web), another Chattanooga-based company, ‘provides backup
DNS hosting for Smartech/Airnet.’ [1]
50 E. Main Street
Postal Box 2026
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37408
Telephone: 423.822.6850
Facsimile: 423.825.2001
email: info [at] coptix [dot] com

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


“This confidential, internal JP Morgan presentation details the
aspects of Hedging and monetization, the so-called PrISM concept, Rule
10b5-1 and Postpaid PrISM. Wikileaks contacted JP Morgan Private Bank
successfully. The bank refused to respond once asked to deny the
document. The introduction into Hedging and monetization, titled
Diversifying restricted stock requires navigating complex rules and
regulation explains various regulatory limits a trader is constrained
by, and explains strategies to optimize investments under these

One of these strategies, called PrISM (Principal Installment Stock
Monetization strategy), is explained in the second part of the
document. Besides various details on transaction flows and ROI
information, the section also provides popular samples of investors
into this program. The third part of the presentation pertains to Rule
10b5-1, a regulatory rule enacted by the United States Security and
Exchange Commission (SEC) and explains how PrISM relates to the
constraints imposed by this rule [that is already considered to be
object to abuse] This gets more detail in the figures presented in the
fourth and last part.

[Wikileaks editors note: The thrust of the “original submitter”‘s
interpretation and a follow up article by GAWKER.COM based on this
material is very likely incorrect. The JP Morgan document released by
Wikileaks shows that Barry Diller is not named in the IAC example.
Further IAC / Diller have issued a strong denial to Wikileaks in
response: “The suggestion that Barry Diller entered into any hedging
transactions is incorrect. Mr. Diller did not directly or indirectly
hedge or otherwise insure his shares against a decline.” — April 5,

Whistleblower exposes insider trading program at JP Morgan

Legal insider trading in three easy steps, brought to you by JP Morgan and the SEC
BY Kevin Wilson, Maria Christina Padro, Julian Assange  /  March 17, 2008

“A confidential memo obtained by Wikileaks shows that not only has the
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission created an insider trading
loophole big enough to drive a truck through, but that Wall Street is
taking full advantage of it, establishing ‘how-to’ programs and even
client service divisions to help well-heeled clients circumvent
insider trading regulations. Most of us think of insider trading as
illegal. It allows those with inside knowledge to tilt the playing
field, with the small investors invariably losing to the privileged
few. Unfortunately for the small investor, the big boys get to play by
different rules, and it has all been made legal, thanks to the SEC.

In 2000 the SEC promulgated Rule 10b5-1. The new Rule was designed to
address the confusion caused by a series of court decisions that had
left investors uncertain about what constitutes insider trading. Rule
10b5-1 was designed to “clarify” what constitutes illegal insider
trading. But top Wall Street houses were not to be deterred from
advantaging their big clients at the expense of their small ones. Wall
Street firms like JP Morgan found loopholes in Rule 10b5-1 that
allowed them to continue trading on inside information “legally.”
Indeed, JP Morgan has gone so far as to set up an entire ‘selling
program’ within its Securities division to help their clients profit
from the loophole.

Documents obtained earlier this month by Wikileaks from JP Morgan
Private Bank, which subtitles itself as “World class solutions for
wealthy individuals and families”, show the firm has a dedicated
’10b5-1 Selling program,’ along with a ‘dedicated 10b5-1 team’ to help
its clients take advantage of the loophole.

Here’s how it works:
1. An insider client transfers all or a portion of their company stock
into a JP Morgan Securities Inc. brokerage account.
2. The insider then develops, in conjunction with the 10b5-1 team, a
‘phased, pre-planned sales program to be executed at either market or
specified prices’.
3. Depending on the information available to the insider (but not the
public), the insider can decide whether to execute the sale or not.

By gaming the system this way, JP Morgan teaches insiders how to use
their knowledge to create a rigged market, one in which it is the
“house” that always wins, and the small investor that always loses.

Alan D. Jagolinzer, an assistant professor at Stanford University
Graduate School of Business, completed a study of roughly 117,000
trades in 10b5-1 plans by 3,426 executives at 1,241 companies. He
found that trades inside the plans beat the market by 6% over six
months. By contrast, executives at the same firms who traded without
the benefit of plans beat the market by only 1.9%.”


email : jagolinzer [at] stanford [dot] edu


Insiders With A Curious Edge
BY Jane Sasseen  /  Dec 18, 2006
How corporate executives seem to be violating the spirit, if not the
letter, of a rule meant to prevent insider trading

The confusion over corporate executives trading on inside information
never seems to go away. In 2000 the Securities & Exchange Commission
came up with a way to remove the guesswork over when it’s legal to
trade and when it’s not. But a raft of recent trades by executives
suggests the plan might not be the cure-all that was hoped for.

The SEC’s solution was to create prearranged trading plans, known as
10b5-1 plans for the rule that authorized them. Launched six years
ago, they were designed to remove discretion from executives’ trades
and provide a “safe harbor” from insider trading charges. The rules:
Executives can’t set up a plan when they possess material inside
knowledge, and they must set the dates or prices of their trades in

But those are the only major stipulations. The SEC never addressed the
number of shares sold or the possibility of stopping and starting
plans or running multiple plans at once. As a result, executives have
far more flexibility than is generally understood. Besides providing
legal cover, the plans allow execs to trade around earnings
announcements and other significant events. Normally insiders are
prohibited from trading on these “blackout dates.”

Executives appear to be using their flexibility to the max. People
selling shares in 10b5-1 plans generate returns substantially better
than would be expected if the trading were truly automatic. As
reported in BusinessWeek on Nov. 6, Alan D. Jagolinzer, an assistant
professor at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, recently
completed a study of roughly 117,000 trades in 10b5-1 plans by 3,426
executives at 1,241 companies. He found that trades inside the plans
beat the market by 6% over six months. By contrast, executives at the
same firms who traded without the benefit of plans beat the market by
only 1.9%.

Those numbers imply that the rules allow execs to benefit from inside
knowledge. “The SEC’s intent was to shelter people who didn’t have any
[material] inside knowledge from liability,” says Jesse M. Fried, a
Stanford law professor and expert on executive compensation who has
reviewed Jagolinzer’s study. “But that outperformance suggests instead
that it’s the people using what information they have who are most
often entering into trading plans.” Says Walter G. Riccardi, deputy
director of the SEC’s Enforcement Div.: “Setting up a 10b5-1 plan
while in possession of material information…could be securities

BusinessWeek examined a database created by Thomson Financial (TOM )
of companies that had suffered a 20% stock slide in the past year and,
from that group, focused on the roughly 150 where executives had used
10b5-1 plans and where significant trading–both inside and outside
plans–had taken place.

The results? BusinessWeek found a surprising amount of leeway over
preplanned trades. At nearly half the companies examined, sales were
concentrated in the months leading up to a stock’s peak or just
thereafter. Frequently, the number of shares sold increased as the
stock hit new highs, then trailed off or ended as the stock dove.

There are many possible explanations. One, says Michael Painchaud,
president of Market Profile Theorems Inc., a Seattle executive trading
tracker, is that top officials often know about a company’s prospects
long before the information is considered legally “material.” Another
explanation: Many executives pay close attention to valuation levels
and decide to cash out after they’ve seen a big rise. “Insiders know
that institutional traders can be very fickle and that money will go
elsewhere if their momentum starts to slow,” says Mark LoPresti, who
follows executive trades for Thomson Financial. In fact, sales in some
plans are automatically triggered when stocks reach certain price

Still, the words “prearranged trading plans” bring to mind a steady
pattern of trading over a long period of time. When discussing their
plans, companies tend to reinforce that perception, says LoPresti. But
in reality, many executives sell huge numbers of shares in a very
short time, and often right before a tumble.