Category Archives: Aaron Swartz Day 2015

Jacob Appelbaum at Aaron Swartz Day 2015

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Jacob Appelbaum read a powerful statement at this year’s Aaron Swartz Day Celebration. I’m still processing everything he revealed to us that night.

Here are some highlights. A complete transcription follows.

Quotes From Jacob’s Talk:

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…

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 justice.

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…

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…

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.

***Complete Transcription Below***

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!”]

Jacob: (Laughing)

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 right now.

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 justice.

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.

Good night.

Cindy Cohn at Aaron Swartz Day 2015


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Note: I’m including a full transcription at the bottom of this post. (Thanks to OpenTranscripts.org for their transcriptions of these talks.)

Quotes from Cindy’s Talk:

The Internet is going to be the means by which we do all the rest of the change that we need to do so badly in this world. And that I think there’s enough people now that we really have a movement, and we need to start thinking of ourselves as a movement, and we have to figure out what our next steps are…

Sitting here and listening to all the presentations tonight, seeing the amazing activity out there, seeing the tentacles of what Aaron was a part of in the early days, and in some ways the heart of, in the early days, become a movement. You guys, you’re a movement and thank you so much for doing this. So let’s figure out what our next fights are together and our work is together…

I think if people who want to honor Aaron Swartz do one thing with regard to Congress and then go back to coding, the one thing you should do is say “That law goes no further. It doesn’t get any worse and it doesn’t take any lives.”…

There is some good news in the state of California. We just passed, and we got Governor Brown to sign, a law called CalECPA, which requires the cops, the California state cops, to get a warrant before they go after your information stored with service providers…

It’s time for the legislature and the FBI to get over it. Crypto is here to stay, and all of the tools that we’ve talked about here tonight depend on the ability for people to have strong unbreakable crypto, and we need to stand up for it again. Watch the EFF web site. We’re going to keep talking about this, and you’ll see some causes…

I think we need to send a strong message to the White House that President Obama needs to come out and take a strong stand on crypto, not just say “we’re not going to come after crypto right now, but we may do something later” but to say, “No. Hell no. Americans deserve to have locks on their doors that don’t have backdoor entries for law enforcement.”…

And while the folks in Washington DC like to just wave their hands and say, “You geeks sort it out. Find a way to have a backdoor that only good guys can go in and bad guys can’t,” those of us who know about technology, and more importantly those of us who know about math, know that this is impossible…

I’m so happy to see so many projects being celebrated here that were created or inspired or legally defended by EFF. We’re going to continue to be the support for this community. One of the things that John Perry Barlow taught me years ago is that your rights aren’t given to you, your rights have to be taken. And we’re here today to continue to take our rights.

*** Complete Transcription Below***

Thanks so much for inviting me. When I took over as Executive Director of the EFF in April [2015], many people asked me, “Well, what do you want to do? How do you want to be different than your predecessor, the amazing Shari Steele” who has her own little statue. She’s the only non-Archive person who has a statue in the Archive, and Brewster did that to honor her and the work that we’ve done together.

What I said was, you know I think that there are enough people who care about the Internet, who understand, as my friend Cory Doctorow said, that whatever other issue draws you, if the Internet isn’t free this is the place. The Internet is going to be the means by which we do all the rest of the change that we need to do so badly in this world. And that I think there’s enough people now that we really have a movement, and we need to start thinking of ourselves as a movement, and we have to figure out what our next steps are.

And I have to say, sitting here and listening to all the presentations tonight, seeing the amazing activity out there, seeing the tentacles of what Aaron was a part of in the early days, and in some ways the heart of, in the early days, become a movement. You guys, you’re a movement and thank you so much for doing this. So let’s figure out what our next fights are together and our work is together. But, this has just been very exciting to see, and to see the growth. And, ya know, we lost our dear friend as a result of some really horrible laws and some really horrible policies, but seeing the green shoots that’ve grown as a result of this just does my heart good.

Lisa wanted me to talk a little about CISA, the cybersecurity act. I think that at this point the best thing that this community can do about CISA is first of all continue to talk about how rotten it is, because it’s a really rotten idea. We have a terrible cybersecurity problem. This is the a cybersecurity act that was recently passed out of the Senate.

We have a terrible problem with security on the Internet, as Brewster pointed out, and Congress just passed a bill that doesn’t make anything better and makes several things significantly worse, in the fine tradition of our Congress.

I don’t know that there’s too much we can do in terms of public activism on the bill right now, realistically, because it’s in a conference committee time, which isn’t the time when there are very many members of Congress who are going to pay attention to it. There’s one thing, though, that we have to keep watching on and that you’ll hear EFF and others rally the troops on, and that is the effort to try to put some horrible changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act into this bill. We expect it’s going to come up again, and when it does you’ll hear the rallying cry. And I think if people who want to honor Aaron Swartz do one thing with regard to Congress and then go back to coding, the one thing you should do is say “That law goes no further. It doesn’t get any worse and it doesn’t take any lives.”

We have a couple other policy opportunities that I thought I’d mention to you guys. We just got a really amazing ruling out of the European Court of Justice in the last couple weeks that really points out what a global problem the NSA’s overreach and the surveillance overreach is. It’s got some complicated stuff having to do with the safe harbors and how American companies get to process information related to people all around the world. But the important part for us is to keep a close eye on what happens next, because the old rules have been crossed out and the American companies and the European regulators and the American government are in an intense negotiation about what happens next.

So we’ve got an inflection point opportunity here and we ought to be talking about this European Court of Justice opinion and what it means, because what the European Court of Justice said is the NSA surveillance is not appropriate. For the legal geeks, this is surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Act and Executive Order 12333. What that means is the American government’s view that it can spy on the rest of the world with impunity, that it can do mass spying of people around the world who are not suspected of any crimes, who aren’t targets, who aren’t foreign spies, is unacceptable under European law. It’s a really excellent decision. You guys should all thank Max Schrems, who brought that case.

And there’s a moment now, for the next few months, and I think to the extent that you guys are blogging, writing, tweeting, you should be paying attention to this because we’ve the American companies are really scared. They want to be able to continue to serve Europe, and we need to give them a backbone to say “enough with the surveillance. It’s hurting our business.” And if we could have that argument plus “it’s actually just plain wrong.” We might be able to get somewhere. So please, if you’re watching the policy debates, that’s something to watch.

There is some good news in the state of California. We just passed, and we got Governor Brown to sign, a law called CalECPA, which requires the cops, the California state cops, to get a warrant before they go after your information stored with service providers. This is completely consistent with the values— it’s California taking the lead in a place where frankly the U.S. Congress is unwilling to go, and we’re hoping to spread this across the country. So, for people who are not Californians this is a law to look at if you want to do something locally and try to match or even do one better than California did with that. So we’ve got some good news as well.

And of course one of the other things that we’re going to have to keep an eye on in the policy things is the cryptowars are back. Now, I had the honor of being deeply involved in getting crypto free from government regulation when we did it the first time in the 90s and frankly I’d like to do something else now. So it’s time for the legislature and the FBI to get over it. Crypto is here to stay, and all of the tools that we’ve talked about here tonight depend on the ability for people to have strong unbreakable crypto, and we need to stand up for it again. Watch the EFF web site. We’re going to keep talking about this, and you’ll see some causes.

We just got 100,000 people to sign our savecrypto.org petition, which is going to go to the President now, and the President has to respond to it. It’s not too late, though. If people want to still sign it, I think it’s still available to sign. I think we need to send a strong message to the White House that President Obama needs to come out and take a strong stand on crypto, not just say “we’re not going to come after crypto right now, but we may do something later” but to say, “No. Hell no. Americans deserve to have locks on their doors that don’t have backdoor entries for law enforcement.”

And while the folks in Washington DC like to just wave their hands and say, “You geeks sort it out. Find a way to have a backdoor that only good guys can go in and bad guys can’t,” those of us who know about technology, and more importantly those of us who know about math, know that this is impossible. So we need to make sure that that message starts here from the West Coast and makes it all the way to the East Coast. I hear they know about math out there, too, so it shouldn’t be that hard to explain it. But I think we’re going to have to continue to do some explaining.

So that’s just a quick update of what we’re doing at EFF. I’m so happy to see so many projects being celebrated here that were created or inspired or legally defended by EFF. We’re going to continue to be the support for this community. One of the things that John Perry Barlow taught me years ago is that your rights aren’t given to you, your rights have to be taken. And we’re here today to continue to take our rights.

Thanks.

Micah Lee at Aaron Swartz Day 2015

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Note: I’m including a full transcription at the bottom of this post, for safekeeping. Thanks to OpenTranscripts.org for their transcriptions of these talks.

Micha Lee gave a charming first person account of how Ed Snowden first contacted him anonymously, looking for Laura Poitras’ PGP key, and then asked him to please get Glenn Greenwald get set up on PGP.

Next, he explains how SecureDrop enables sources to connect with journalists without having to learn PGP, and how Aaron’s core design is still in use today.

Micah has also written about this entertaining story in much more  splendid detail at The Intercept.

Quotes from Micah’s Talk:

“…two years before Edward Snowden decided to start becoming a whistleblower, Aaron had already done a lot of development work on DeadDrop and was well on his way to making it so that rather than having someone like Ed have to try and send a bunch of plaintext emails to journalists he wants to talk to to convince them to learn how to use PGP and stuff, he made it so that whistleblowers could talk to journalists in less than six months. I think that was pretty amazing…

The one thing is that SecureDrop has come a very long way and it’s really easy to use for sources now. So now if you’re a whistleblower and you want to leak documents, it’s really easy. All you need to do is go and download Tor Browser, go to a web site, click “I’m a new source,” and upload a document. Then you’re done…

…he (Aaron) made it so that whistleblowers could talk to journalists in less than six months. I think that was pretty amazing. And like what Garrett was saying earlier, the core design of DeadDrop is still exactly the same in SecureDrop, and that’s pretty amazing I think that he had such good foresight to figure out what all these technical problems were and try and solve them.– Micah Lee, Co-Founder, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Technologist at The Intercept.

 

***Complete Transcript Below****

Hello. I don’t have a whole lot to say.

When I was thinking about what I would talk about last night, I was reading more about Aaron. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him before he died, but I realized that he passed away on January 11, 2013, and that was actually the same day that I first heard from Edward Snowden.

At the time I didn’t know that it was Edward Snowden. He was anonymous. He sent me an email and it was encrypted. And he was trying to get Laura Poitras’ PGP key and he was saying that—you know, he couldn’t tell me what it was for but I should help Glenn Greenwald learn how to use PGP and it was important.

So I helped out as I could, and it took several months. I kept talking to Glenn and Glenn was into it, but he was also really impatient with learning anything new on the computer and he didn’t really know why it was so important. I didn’t really know why it was so important. There were a couple of false attempts at teaching Glenn PGP, and finally I had a Skype call with him where I helped him set up Pidgin and off-the-record encryption. That was like, five and a half, six months later after I first got that encrypted anonymous email from Snowden. And that was the first time that Snowden was able to have a secure conversation with Glenn Greenwald.

And I was thinking about it. Aaron had already kind of done a lot of work to solve this problem. The year, two years before Edward Snowden decided to start becoming a whistleblower, Aaron had already done a lot of development work on DeadDrop and was well on his way to making it so that rather than having someone like Ed have to try and send a bunch of plaintext emails to journalists he wants to talk to to convince them to learn how to use PGP and stuff, he made it so that whistleblowers could talk to journalists in less than six months. I think that was pretty amazing. And like what Garrett was saying earlier, the core design of DeadDrop is still exactly the same in SecureDrop, and that’s pretty amazing I think that he had such good foresight to figure out what all these technical problems were and try and solve them.

I guess the one thing is that SecureDrop has come a very long way and it’s really easy to use for sources now. So now if you’re a whistleblower and you want to leak documents, it’s really easy. All you need to do is go and download Tor Browser, go to a web site, click “I’m a new source,” and upload a document. Then you’re done, and you don’t have to go through all of this having to be a technical expert and having to train the journalists and all this stuff. But the hard part is that it’s still not nearly as easy for journalists to use. So, in fact, Glenn Greenwald doesn’t use SecureDrop himself. Instead, other people who have more time and patience with technical stuff use it and talk to him about it if there’s stuff for him.

So there’s still a lot more work to be done in this area, and I just really wish that Aaron were still around to help with this, because I think that he would contribute greatly on his project.

And that’s all that I have to say.

Friends of Aaron Video From Aaron Swartz Day 2015 – Video and Full Transcription

Complete Transcription of the Friends of Aaron movie, including: Cory Doctorow, Brewster Kahle, Cindy Cohn and Virgil Griffith.

From the November 7, 2015 evening event at the Internet Archive, in San Francisco, before the speakers.

“Hi, I’m Cory Doctorow. Welcome to the third annual Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon.”

Now a Few Words from a Few Friends of Aaron’s

Cory Doctorow
Blogger, BoingBoing, Science Fiction Author,                                              Little Brother/Homeland
Special Advisor, Electronic Frontier Foundation

You know. I knew Aaron for a really long time. And when we first met, people who cared about the Internet were a bit weird. It was as though we were really interested in something trivial and futuristic and speculative, while all around us raged really important battles about more significant issues. Issues about climate change. Issues about financial fairness. Issues about privacy. Issues about race and gender.

And what we’ve found in the years since then is that those other issues have gotten even more urgent, but more and more people have come to realize that the Internet is the fight that will determine how all those other fights go on. Because the Internet is the battlefield on which all those fights will be fought.

And so it’s really crucial that we win the Internet. Not because the Internet is more important than everything else, but because it’s the most foundational thing.

I hope you have a great day at the International Hackathon.

Brewster Kahle
Founder and Digital Librarian
Internet Archive

Aaron Swartz lives in many many ways. Aaron Swartz’ ideas have been carried forward by many others, and in fact, tragically, by his persecution, prosecution, and death, has come to be widely known to others.

The idea of public access to the public domain. That we can live open source lives freely, and that it’s desirable, and you meet new and interesting people.

And the lesson of Aaron Swartz has not been forgotten by the institutions that participated in having him crushed, and has led to reforms, top and bottom, of those organizations, to not have that ever happen again. So, public access, public domain, living open source lives, should be encouraged for the next generation, and made safe by the institutions that are too slowly learning their lessons.

Cindy Cohn
Executive Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Aaron has left us all such a legacy of caring about the politics around technology and not just caring, but getting involved. And whether you’re getting involved as a technologist or an activist you can have no better loadstar than Aaron. I have watched as he’s inspired people all over the world.

We haven’t had success in building things in DC, to help fix things. Aaron’s law has gotten stalled. However, we’ve been able to stop the bad. There have been several attempts, and there’s one right now, in the Cybersecurity to continue on the horrible pathway of making the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act worse and worse and worse. And, we stopped it cold, shortly after Aaron died. We’ve gotten it dramatically changed this time, and I think we’re gonna stop it cold again. So, while we haven’t yet been able to make good out of what happened to Aaron, we’ve been able to stop some bad. I’m not done yet. It’s still early days. But, I still run into people all the time who tell me that learning about Aaron was the moment. Their “wake up” moment. When they decided, “I care about technology too, and I want to get involved.” And that’s awesome!

Virgil Griffith
Technologist d’Avant-Garde
Tor2Web, WikiScanner

So after Aaron Swartz’ death, there was a rash of suicides at Cal Tech, where I was at school. (Unrelated!) And they had a little suicide thing. And I gave a little talk there, and I’ve been thinking about it recently. And I remember what I told them. I said “even when you feel like crap. You’re like ‘I can’t do anything.’ ‘I’m no good.’ ‘I spend like four days out of the week sleeping.’ ‘I’m only productive one day a week, tops.’ I would say, “even that one day a week, is more valuable than you would ever realize.”

I used Aaron as an explicit example. Even though Aaron was not even near (pauses). He was definitely not thriving. He was in surviving, not thriving mode. But still, even him in surviving mode was like amazing. You know. But I think he just couldn’t see it.

And I feel like Aaron was making this mistake as well. Okay so, Aaron would kind of flip between being egotistical and being very self deprecating. So, internally, he though of himself very highly, but outwardly he’d be very self deprecating. I felt like just in general, he did not appreciate, like, his own importance and the things he could do. Even if Aaron was active one day a week. Well that’s awesome. A one day a week Aaron, I’ll take it. I’ll totally take it. Ya know. And I think he would have really had difficulty, seeing that, as useful to the world. He’d be like “oh I’m so unproductive. I’m so ungood. Blah blah blah blah. No no no. One day a week’s great.

Brewster Kahle (ending comments):

Aaron Swartz has inspired hackathons, yearly gatherings of people remembering and moving forward some of the ideas of SecureDrop, of going and building public access to journal literature, to basically building a public sphere that may not be tied to institutions, certainly not tied to business plans, but tied to an inspiring vision, of information access and living open source lives. Aaron Swartz lives on in many many ways.

Newsweek Covers the Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon

Newsweek’s Seung Lee came by the hackathon on Saturday. He’s written a nice piece that I’d missed last week :-)

Inside the Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon
By Seung Lee for Newsweek

1114swartz
Side view of Saturday’s hackathon on November 7, 2015.

From the article:

Programmers, journalists and whistleblowers flocked to San Francisco to speak during the conference. Representatives from the Tor Project, which advocates for online anonymity, and Glenn Greenwald’s project The Intercept were in attendance. In addition, Chelsea Manning, the Army lieutenant who leaked sensitive documents to Wikileaks in 2010, wrote a letter of support to the conference from her prison cell in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The day was more than just a parade of experts talking and guests listening. “Aaron would not have wanted people to mope around about him,” says Rein. “He would have wanted us to build new things.”

More than 30 computer programmers huddled together around foldable tables in the foyer and typed away at assigned projects. One of these projects was Privacy Badger, a third-party tracker-blocking application built by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights advocacy group. While Privacy Badger helped stop hidden trackers from following one’s digital footrpints, the application sometimes disabled images and videos from being displayed, and thus needed some outside help…

“Aaron led an open source life and took the open source movement to another level,” says Kahle. “Programming for the social good is still very much alive. But we, the general public, all screwed up by taking the life of a promising young man.”

In the evening, the Internet Archives hosted a dinner banquet during which several speakers, including Kahle and those from the afternoon conference, took turns saying a few words about Swartz. At the close, Manning’s letter was read aloud by Rein.

Manning spoke about the “paradox” of technology leaving society more connected and open and yet more paranoid and insecure. She asked the guests to use their technologies for a better, freer and more private Internet, as Swartz would have wanted.

“I now believe that today’s coders and engineers have an extra ‘hat’ that we have to wear on top of the colorful spectrum of hats we already have—namely, the technology ethicist and moralist hat,” reads Manning’s letter. “Technology is only a toolbox. It’s what we create our software for, what we intend to use it for, and who we allow to use it, and how much, that really count.”

Interview with Alison Macrina, Founder of the Library Freedom Project

lison Macrina, Founder, Library Freedom Project
Alison Macrina, Founder, Library Freedom Project

About the Library Freedom Project, the ACLU, and Tor

The Library Freedom Project (LFP), along with its partners the ACLU and the Tor Project, provides trainings for library communities, teaching people their rights under the law, and how to find and use free and open source, privacy protective technologies.

Alison spoke at this year’s Aaron Swartz Day event (video, transcript).

LFP had a bit of excitement last summer, when it and the Tor Project worked with the Kilton Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to set up a Tor relay. Those who run Tor relays are providing a public service, as Tor is a free, open network that helps people defend against mass surveillance by providing them anonymity online. Tor depends on thousands of volunteers who run “relays” (computer servers that support the Tor network).

Libraries are ideal locations to host Tor relays, because they are staunch supporters of intellectual freedom and privacy, and because they provide access to other essential internet services. This was the spirit behind the Kilton Library seeking to become one of the many nodes in Tor’s worldwide internet freedom system.

Tor is used by human rights activists, diplomats, journalists, government officials, and anyone else who values privacy. For instance, Journalists in repressive countries use it to publish their work without fear of government surveillance, censorship or prosecution. Domestic violence survivors use it, so that they cannot be tracked by former partners. People in African countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa use it to report poaching of endangered animals without fear of retribution.

Human Rights Watch recommends Tor for human rights advocates in their report about censorship in China. Reporters without borders suggests that journalists and bloggers all over the world should use Tor to keep themselves and their sources safe.

Tor was originally developed by the US Navy, and still gets funding from the State Department, as it is used by many high officials in the US Government.

When LFP announced the Tor relay project at the Kilton Library, that project received popular media attention and overwhelming community support. Then, in mid-August (2015), the Boston office of the Department of Homeland Security contacted the Portsmouth and Lebanon Police Departments, to warn them, falsely, that Tor’s primary use is to aid and abet criminal activity. In the face of this Federal Law Enforcement pressure, the Kilton Library shut down the project.

The kind of pre-emptory thought crime was disturbing to say the least. LFP compared the move to shutting down public parks for fear that crimes might be committed there in the future. This Kilton Letter, published by LFP, on September 2, provides a more thorough explanation of what took place and why. The letter was signed by members of the ACLU, The Tor Project, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Luckily, the Lebanon Board of Trustees had a change of heart, as explained in the Valley News article, Despite Law Enforcement Concerns, Lebanon Board Will Reactivate Privacy Network Tor at Kilton Library:

The Lebanon Library Board of Trustees let stand its unanimous June decision to devote some of the library’s excess bandwidth to a node, or “relay,” for Tor, after a full room of about 50 residents and other interested members of the public expressed their support for Lebanon’s participation in the system at a meeting Tuesday night.

“With any freedom there is risk,” library board Chairman Francis Oscadal said. “It came to me that I could vote in favor of the good … or I could vote against the bad. “I’d rather vote for the good because there is value to this.”

Interview with Alison Macrina

Lisa:  So the good guys won in Kilton! Is the Tor relay still up and going strong?

Alison: Quick note: we won in Lebanon, New Hampshire. The name of the library is Kilton Library, of the Lebanon Libraries. And yes, the board and community decided unanimously to keep the relay online. Chuck McAndrew, the IT librarian, recently turned it from a non-exit into an exit, so we’re going to write a blog post soon detailing the success of the pilot and encouraging other libraries to get on board.

Lisa: Can other libraries contact you about setting up their own Tor relay?

Alison: Yes, they can contact us at exits@libraryfreedomproject.org for all the information and supporting materials they might need. We have a questionnaire for them to fill out regarding their network details. And then we can schedule a time for us to do a site visit.

Lisa: What is your advice to Librarians who are thinking about setting up a Tor relay, that might be getting pressured by their local law enforcement to not do so?

Alison: We can’t guarantee that law enforcement won’t try to halt other libraries from participating in this project, but we can use Kilton Library’s example in case such a thing happens again. If law enforcement pressures another library, we will do what we did in Lebanon — rally a network of global support to stand behind the library and urge them to continue their participation in the project. We think that our overwhelming victory at Kilton shows us that we’ll be victorious at other libraries, should it come to that.

Lisa: So there’s nothing inherently criminal about using Tor any more than there is something inherently criminal about using the Internet?

Alison: Not at all! Privacy-enhancing technologies like Tor are
perfectly legal. Tools like Tor are also the best ways to protect
ourselves against government and corporate surveillance. By using and promoting Tor Browser and running Tor relays, libraries can help
ordinary people protect their privacy and other basic civil rights.

Alison Macrina, Founder of the Library Freedom Project, spoke at this year’s Celebration of Hackers and Whistleblowers, on November 7th, and also gave a two-hour tutorial on Sunday morning, at the Privacy-enabling Mini-Conference, on November 8th.

 

Great Round Up of Journalist Encryption Tools From Aaron Swartz Day

Jenny Manrique has written a wonderful round up of five tools you can start using today to keep your sources’ data (or clients’ data,  no matter what field you are in) safe and secure:

Five tools for journalists’ online safety, privacy

by Jenny Manrique for the International Journalists’ Network.

From the article:

These are some tools featured over the weekend:

Onion Share

Developed by Lee, Onion Share lets anybody securely share any size file…”It is like Dropbox, but encrypted and reliable. As soon as the person downloads the file, it can be erased from the server and it’s no longer accessible to anyone,” explains Micah Lee… (Freelancers can find this tool useful for communicating with whistleblowers.)…

Tor Messenger

If you are familiar with the TOR Project, currently the best way to navigate online without leaving trace, you will be glad to learn that it recently launched TOR Messenger. The cross-platform tool facilitates encrypted chats on a variety of networks like Facebook and Gchat…

Keybase

Keybase is an open directory of public keys that you can verify through social media accounts… the Keybase directory can tell you who’s that key, according to his or her profiles on Twitter, Reddit, Github, Bitcoin and domain names…

Signal (TextSecure on Android)

Don’t confuse it with the Facebook or Linkedin Signal apps. This tool, developed by Open Whisper Systems, allows you to make encrypted voice calls, as well as send encrypted text messages, with your existing number and the contacts that also download the app.

OpenArchive

OpenArchive is a mobile application that seeks to preserve audiovisual civic media in a secure way…The app, currently in beta for Android, uses mobile TOR technology to allow people on the ground to send sensitive images without fear of being tracked…

Video and Transcripts From Aaron Swartz Day 2015

Please donate to my Kickstarter for “From DeadDrop to SecureDrop” – Thanks!!

Index of Speakers and Direct Links to Video and Transcriptions

Giovanni Damiola (Open Library Project)
YouTubeVideo – Transcript

Garrett Robinson (Lead Programmer, SecureDrop)
YouTubeVideoTranscript

Alison Macrina (Founder and Director, Library Freedom Project)
YouTubeVideoTranscript

Brewster Kahle (Digital Librarian, Internet Archive)
YouTubeVideoTranscript

Cindy Cohn (Executive Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation)
YouTubeVideoTranscript

Jacob Appelbaum (Security Expert seen in Citizen Four, Wikileaks volunteer) (Appearing remotely via Jitsi)
YouTubeVideoTranscript Internet Archive Video & Download

Roger Dingledine (Interim Executive Director, Tor Project)
YouTubeVideoTranscript

Micah Lee (Co-founder, Freedom of the Press Foundation and Technologist at “The Intercept”)
YouTubeVideo – Transcript Internet Archive Video & Download

A Special Statement from Chelsea Manning: “The Human Element”
(Read by Lisa Rein)
YouTubeVideoTranscript – Link to Chelsea’s Statement

 

Chelsea Manning’s Statement for Aaron Swartz Day 2015

Donate to Chelsea’s legal defense fund to help with her appeal.

Download Chelsea Manning’s Statements as a PDF file.

Chelsea E. Manning 89289                                                                                   1300 North Warehouse Road                                                                             Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-2304

2015.11.07

Statement for Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon-2015

The Human Element – International Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon

Hello Everyone,

First, I’d like to apologize for the awkwardness of this written medium. I would love to speak in person – as well as attend and contribute to – events like these, but certain circumstances are complicating my ability to travel and communicate in any fashion recognizable to most of us in the 21st century.

In fact – seeing that this is a technology event – l’d like to talk about the incredible ubiquity and access that society now has to highly connected information technology devices. It seems to me, at least, that as we enter the era of ubiquitous computing, the so called “Internet of Things” – with cell phones hugging against our hips, laptops and tablets in everyone’s bag, and toasters that have the uncanny ability to sort our music libraries in the wrong way and have uncomfortable conversations with our grumpy selves in the morning – we have begun to blur the lines within our Human society in unexpected and even exciting ways.

Looking at the rapid advances in our social and political sphere in the information era – such as the cultural progress queer and trans movements have started to make – the relationships between such things as gender and sexuality, between art and work, between gender and work, and between sexuality and art, have blurred in incredible ways. Now there are elements and ideas which seem to implement the concepts of “transhumanism,” and its becoming normal for more and more people who anticipate – as well as fear – the economic, information, and technological “singularity” at the supposed end of our exponential graphs in our own lifetimes.

But, consider the paradox that technology has provided for us. We seem more diverse and open as a society, but isn’t it also the case that we are more homogenous and insecure than we ever have been in the last century or so? You might try and tell me something like – “Well, today’s tools provide us with the ability to be more independent from the control of our governments and corporations than ever before.” But, I ask, do they really? I don’t think very many people in here are convinced that technology is a purely liberating tool, as we are now seeing that it can also be used to censor, to control, to monitor, to anticipate, to imprison, and sometimes even kill.

I am arguing that we can be independent and liberated as a society even without advanced technology. It seems that some people today even find their independence by embracing the Luddite philosophy – ditching their cell phones for the weekends, or avoiding the Internet at certain times of the day or week. But, I hope you don’t think that you have to run to the hills of Montana and live in a cabin for years on end – that seems a little disproportionate, haha.

Today, as is obvious in some of the headlines that we see online – we are in a constant technological arms race, and I think that it’s important to realize that we are always only a single breakthrough away from making the methods of network obfuscation and encryption pointless or unusable. While I agree that it’s unlikely, it certainly is well within the realm of possibility that we might wake up tomorrow morning – or, if we’re really honest, tomorrow afternoon for some of us – and find out that some truly brilliant or devious mathematician or mathematicians have solved the Riemann Hypothesis, throwing entire regions of our encryption arsenal into turmoil. Or, we might wake up and find out that a six, eight, or even ten qubit quantum computer with near perfect error correction has been built, effectively accomplishing the same thing.

The point I’m trying to make here is that – and it is sometimes hard for those of us in the tech community to accept – that our technology can only take us so far on its own. Rather, it is the Human element that is so important, and unfortunately very easy to forget.

As most of us are acutely aware, our software can be written to accomplish a task that, in the right hands, solves incredible problems, creates miracles, eliminates boundaries, and saves lives. Think about, for instance, the entertainment provided by streaming videos and video games, the real-time artificial intelligence applications that are used in automated cars, manufacturing plants, and medical equipment, or the so called “big data” platforms being applied for Internet search, marketing, political campaigning, and healthcare.

Yet, that very same software with a few minor tweaks can, in the wrong hands, cause immense problems, create nightmares, raise insurmountable boundaries, and destroy and even end lives. Think about how the same technology used in streaming video, video games, real-time command and controls, and artificial intelligence, can also be used in unmanned aircraft armed with missiles to wreak havoc on barely discernible people hundreds or thousands of miles away. Think about the statistical “nudges” in big data algorithms that create gender, racial, ethnic, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious, political and other biases across large swaths of the online population. Also, think about the intensifying polarization and heavy focus on precision targeting on “swing voters” in the political realm. Real people in real places in real time are affected – sometimes on an immense scale.

Software is only a tool. Technology is only a toolbox. It’s what we create our software for, what we intend to use it for, and who we allow to use it, and how much, that really count.

I now believe that today’s coders and engineers have an extra “hat” that we have to wear on top of the colorful spectrum of hats we already have – namely, the technology ethicist and moralist hat. Whether we’re amateurs or professionals, and despite whether we want to or not, it has now become another duty that we have. I only hope that the majority of us can figure out and fully understand what that is going to entail as we approach the edge of our graphs. In fact, Human lives and the future of Humanity may depend on it.

Thank you for your time everyone, and good luck in your endeavors. I would especially like to thank Lisa Rein for her lovely letter last month inviting me to speak before you all. It was an incredibly warm and heartfelt letter that made my day a little brighter.

Good night, everyone.

CHELSEA E. MANNING

 

Chelsea’s statement is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License (CC BY-SA 2.0)