[NetBehaviour] Fwd: <nettime> Aaron Schwarz and Wikileaks
bram.org at gmail.com
Sun Dec 6 10:41:08 CET 2015
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From: nettime's anonymous source <nettime at kein.org>
Date: Sun, Dec 6, 2015 at 10:27 AM
Subject: <nettime> Aaron Schwarz and Wikileaks
To: nettime-l at mx.kein.org
Lisa: Ladies and Gentlemen, Jacob Appelbaum.
Jacob: First of all, thank you so very much for having me tonight. It’s
actually really difficult that I can’t be there in person, and I wish
that I could be. And, when Lisa asked me to speak tonight, I actually
didn’t feel that I had something to say until I sat down and wrote a
text. So, I’m just going to read you a text, and as a result I’m going
to cover my camera because there’s nothing worse than watching someone
read. So, as you can see there, it’s just a bright white light, and now
I’m going to read you this text, and I hope that you can still hear me.
[Crowd chanting “We want Jake!”]
Lisa Rein: Jacob, come back on camera, please. Don’t do it, Jake.
Jacob: I’m sorry. It has to be this way. That’s how it has to be, I’m
sorry, but here we go.
Lisa: It’s okay. No, no, no!
Jacob: You can’t fucking be serious. [laughing] Terrible.
Lisa: Jacob, please. Thank you. (Jesus Christ.)
Jacob: Look, I want to see all of you, too, but we don’t get what we
want so I’m going to read you this text now.
The first time that I heard Aaron Swartz speak in person was at the
Creative Commons release party in San Francisco.
Lisa: Jacob, we’re going to turn it [the podium laptop] around.
Jacob: I was working the door as a security guard, if you can believe
that. I think it was in December of 2002. Meeting people in that
seemingly weird world mutated life in a good way. Over the years, we
crossed paths many times, be it discussions relating to CodeCon, to age
limits, or free software, or the Creative Commons, or about crypto, or
any other topic. Aaron was an insightful, hilarious, and awesome person.
Aaron and I worked on a few different overlapping projects and I very
much respected him. Some of the topics that came up were light, but some
were very heavy and very serious. The topic of WikiLeaks was important
to both of us. In November of 2009, long before I was public about my
work with WikiLeaks, I introduced Aaron to someone at WikiLeaks who
shall remain unnamed. If we had a secure and easy way to communicate, if
some sort of communication system had existed that had reduced or
eliminated metadata, I probably could’ve done so without a trace. But we
didn’t. You’re not the first to know, the FBI and the NSA already know.
Less than a year later, Aaron sent me an email that made it clear how he
felt. That email in its entirety was straightforward and its lack of
encryption was intentional. On July 10, 2010, he wrote, “Just FYI, let
me know if there’s anything, ever, I can do to help WikiLeaks.” Did that
email cast Aaron as an enemy of the state? Did Aaron worry?
2010 was an extremely rough year. The US government against everyone.
The investigation of everyone associated with WikiLeaks stepped up. So
many people in Boston were targeted that it was effectively impossible
to find a lawyer without a conflict. Everyone was scared. A cold wave
passed over everything, and it was followed by hardened hearts from many.
In February of 2011, a few of us were at a party in Boston hosted by
danah boyd. Aaron and I walked a third person home. A third person who
still wishes to remain unknown. The sense of paranoia was overwhelming,
but prudent. The overbearing feeling of coming oppression was crushing
for all three of us. All of us said that our days were numbered in some
sense. Grand juries, looming indictments, threats, political
blacklisting. None of us felt free to speak to one another about
anything. One of those people, as I said, still wishes to remain
unnamed. We walked through the city without crossing certain areas,
because Aaron was worried about being near the properties that MIT owned.
When Aaron took his life, I remember being told by someone in San
Francisco, and I didn’t understand. I literally did not understand who
they meant or who it could be. It seemed impossible for me to connect
the words that were coming out of their mouth with my memories.
Shortly after Aaron was found, WikiLeaks disclosed three facts:
- Aaron assisted WikiLeaks.
- Aaron communicated with Julian and others during 2010 and 2011.
- And Aaron may have even been a source.
I do not believe that these issues are unrelated to Aaron’s persecution,
and it is clear that the heavy-handed U.S. prosecution pushed Aaron to
take his own life. How sad that he was abandoned by so many in his time
of need. Is it really the case that there was no link? Is it really the
case that the U.S. prosecutors went after Aaron so harshly because of a
couple of Python scripts and some PDFs? No, clearly not.
I wish that Aaron had lived, as we all do. This was the year that
brought us the summer of Snowden, and yet it felt like ten years of
grief in a single one. It was the last time I spent any time in the
U.S., and even now it feels like a distant memory, mostly bad memories.
Especially the memory of learning about Aaron.
Only a few months later, in 2013, there was a New Year’s Eve toast with
many of us who were being investigated, harassed, and targeted for our
work, our associations with WikiLeaks, and for our political beliefs. It
was me that stupidly, stupidly said, “We made it.” But I know it was
Roger, and I remember it well, when he said, “Not all of us.” And he
wasn’t speaking only about Aaron, but him too. And it was heartbreaking
to remember, and it was telling of how to cope. How some try to forget,
and we do forget, and that it is important to remember. Especially right
then and especially right there. Just as it is here, and just as it is
When we learned more details about the U.S. prosecutors, we learned that
they considered Aaron a dangerous radical for unspecified reasons. One
of the primary reasons is probably the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.
This is a good document, and, as many others, I respect it and I admire
it. The Guerilla Open Access Manifesto is not as radical as the U.S.
prosecutors might consider it. But their fear is telling, so let us say
it out loud: We should honor it and we should extend it.
Let’s not only liberate the documents of the world, let us act in
solidarity to liberate all of humanity. Let us create infrastructure
that resists mass surveillance. Let us enable people to leak documents.
And let us also work to infiltrate those organizations that betrayed us.
There is a division of labor, and we all bring different skills to the
table. Let us all use them in service of a better world, in service of
We must have total transparency about the investigation into Aaron. Why
was the Department of Justice grinding their axe with Aaron? Was it
really because of JSTOR and the past anger about PACER? That is absurd
and unbelievable. It is disproportionate and it is unjust.
One concrete thing that needs to happen is for the FOIA case to be
properly resolved. We must find a way to speed up the processing about
FOIAs regarding Aaron. Rather than hundreds of documents at a time, we
should have all 85,000 at once, and not mediated by MIT, who is
partially responsible for the outcome we have today.
And we must not drop the pressure. If you are invited to MIT, I
encourage you to decline and to explain that you do so because of MIT’s
treatment of Aaron Swartz. But not just Aaron, but those like Star
Simpson and Bunnie, who MIT would’ve left to be like Aaron, if the cards
had played a little differently.
Here are some things you can do to support the legacy and spirit of
Aaron. We can support the development of some of Aaron’s projects like
SecureDrop. Kevin, Garrett, Micah, and others are carrying that torch.
We can work with them. They’re still with us today. You can come and
work with many people at the Tor Project on Tor Browser and Tor
Messenger, and other software to be of use to disseminate and to push
out information, important information to people that might have
otherwise not happened without that software. And you can come and help
us make free software for freedom, just as Aaron did.
And there are other projects that need assistance. OnionShare, Let’s
Encrypt, GlobalLeaks, Pawn[?], Subgraph, Signal, the Transparency
Toolkit, and many more.
But it isn’t just software. There are so many things that can be done.
You can write to prisoners of conscience of Aaron’s generation, of my
generation, of your generation. Do Jeremy Hammond, Barret Brown, and
Chelsea Manning have to die before we work to correct the injustices
that they face daily? We can and we should free them.
Here are some things to support each other during the hard times, those
with us now and those sure to come in the future. We should support
WikiLeaks, an organization under attack for publishing information in
the public interest. We should support the EFF. They support people who
are at the edge. We should support the ACLU. When others called Edward
Snowden a traitor, the ACLU gave him legal support. We should support
the Courage Foundation. They are the ones that helped Edward Snowden to
seek and to receive asylum and do the same with others that are directly
under threat today and those under threat tomorrow. And we should
support the Library Freedom Project. They work to educate, to deploy,
and to resist, by deploying alternatives in public spaces for everyone
today. And together, we are already building, deploying, supporting, and
using infrastructure which is not merely a matter of protest, but is an
act of resistance in itself, by being a practical alternative.
And there is a legal lesson that we actually must learn in a very hard
way, as many communities have learned it already, and it is one where
the lawyers in the audience who represent me are already cringing from
what I’ve said, but they’ll cringe harder next. We must resist grand
juries. We must not bow down. We must band together. And together we can
refuse to be isolated. We must resist it every step of the way, never
giving them anything, ever, at all, when they wish to persecute us for
our political beliefs. And if you feel there is no other choice, drag it
out and make it public.
Consider that the core of Aaron’s legacy is not simply about information
or about writing software. It is about justice, about fairness, through
transparency, through accountability, through consideration. So then let
us consider our empire and most of all we must consider our complicity.
It is up to us to act and to change things, to fight for the user, but
also to consider the world in which he lives. To think as technologists,
but to think far beyond only the technology and into our common humanity.
How is this lesson applied to gender and racial inequality? Aaron wasn’t
a bigot; he was thoughtful. He was not a homophobic person; he was
accepting. He wasn’t a racist; he was unprejudiced. Aaron was kind and
compassionate. He fought for free speech. He worked and he supported
your anonymity directly with actions, and he worked to free our
culture’s knowledge. We must be forward-thinking, not just about winning
one or two battles. Not just about one or two legal cases. Rather in a
broader sense, towards a movement of movements. The Internet is a
terrain of struggle and it will help shape all of the other terrains of
struggles to come, and Aaron, Aaron helped to shape that terrain for us,
so that we could shape it for others.
Part of what Aaron carried was an understanding that it wasn’t just that
something needed to be done. He carried with him the idea that very
specific things needed to happen, and for very good reasons, to benefit
all of those alive and all of those yet to live. He cared deeply about
free software, and he cared deeply about the free culture movement. He
worked to advance many other issues. Let us carry on that work, whatever
the cost, wherever they may take us.
Aaron was headstrong and hilarious. He was young. Today, he would’ve
been 29. Use your time wisely. May you have more time than him, and may
you use it as wisely as he did.
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