Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy: The Rise of Wikileaks by David Lee – Part 2

Annual Congress of the Members of the Computer Chaos Club, Alexanderplatz, Berlin December 2007

 

“How can one reveal the secrets of power without burying it from behind? “Ben Lori, a coding expert

 

The recording of the conference shows a frame in which Julian Assange raises a excited fist for greetings. A weak, tense youth stood beside him. This is German programmer Daniel Domschayt-Berg, who just met Assange during the 24th Chaos Communications Congress, Europe’s largest hacking forum, and will soon become his right-hand man. Subsequently, Demschat-Berg will relinquish his permanent place in the US computer giant EDS and devote himself to improving the technical architecture of WikiLeaks under the alias Daniel Schmidt.

The friendship between the two will end with a mutual exchange of bitter accusations, but the relationship between them marks an important stage in the emergence of Assange’s “cocoa” from Melbourne’s student body and turning him into a hacker. “I heard about WikiLeaks from friends at the end of 2007,” says Demschat-Berg. “I started to take a keen interest in them. I was aware of the public benefit of such a project. “

The Computer Chaos Club is among the largest and oldest hacking groups in the world. It was founded in 1981 by the hacker visionary Crow “Wow” Holland-Moritz, whose friends after his death set up the Wow Holland Foundation. This non-governmental organization is becoming a vital source of money for WikiLeaks around the world. Club members in attendance at the Berlin congress, such as Domschayt-Berg and his Dutch counterpart, Rope Honhripe, have developed capabilities that have proven to be key to the realization of Assange’s illegal project. (Later, Assange himself tries to reject the definition of “hacker”. At an Oxford gathering, he said that “hacking” refers to an activity “developed primarily by the Russian mafia to rob your grandmother’s bank savings. Therefore, the qualification is already doesn’t sound so flattering,

Dossheim-Berg is passionate about the ideas of social idealism and preaches the hacking mantra for freedom of information: “How do you feel about society? He later teaches. “Do you just look around and consider everything a gift from God, or do you see society as a place where you can point out a problem and then find a creative solution?… Are you an observer or an active member of society?” to find the ideal location for WikiLeaks servers around the world. In Berlin, Domscheit-Berg urges other hackers to identify countries that WikiLeaks might use as their base:

“Many countries nowadays do not have very strict media laws. However, several countries remain, such as Belgium, the United States because of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and especially Sweden, in which the law largely protects the media and the work of investigative journalists and the guild in general. So … if there are Swedes among you, try to protect your country as one of the havens of free information. “

Subsequently, Sweden really became a harmless paradise for leaking information – which is a particular kind of irony given the subsequent problems of Assange with Swedish morals and understandings. Attackers at the Berlin congress have links to the infamous file sharing site The Pirate Bay. Through it, they reach the internet hosting company PRQ, which is WikiLeaks’ face to the world. Michael Viborg, the bearded owner of an Internet service provider, will talk on television about his business, located in an unpretentious suburb of Stockholm. “First they wanted to spend their traffic through us to work around the bans in countries where they did not look with a good eye on WikiLeaks,” he says. “But they later installed the server in Sweden.”

PRQs offer their users privacy. The company claims that their systems do not allow eavesdropping on chats or tracking who sends what to whom.

“We provide anonymous services, so-called. VPN [virtual private-network] tunnels. The client connects to our server and downloads information from it. If someone tries to follow the path of the source information, it will only come to us – however, we do not disclose the user’s IP [Internet Protocol] address. Anything permitted by Swedish law, regardless of its contentious nature, is acceptable to us. We are not judges of morality. “

Dumbshit-Berg likes the uncompromisingness: “PRQs have the reputation of being the most” stable “internet service providers in the world. Only they do not worry about being bullied by the content of their servers’ information. “

WikiLeaks laptops use military-grade encryption, ie. in the event of capture, the data on it cannot be read even from the hard disk. Seattle-based hacker Jacob Appelbaum often boasts that he will destroy any laptop he has overlooked for fear of being infected with a virus. However, none of the team is particularly concerned about the consequences of losing a computer, because the site’s control codes are stored on other computers under their control – in other words, “in the cloud” – and the necessary passwords are remembered by heart .

The Skype Internet service, a popular tool for everyday home calls, also uses encryption. Developed in Sweden, not the United States, the Uquilliques team has voted for it to have no “back door” through which the US National Security Agency can keep track of their conversations.

As the name implies, WikiLeaks starts as a wiki site whose content can be edited by users (which sometimes leads to confusion with the popular, editable Wikipedia user encyclopedia, but no such link). Assange and his colleagues are quick to understand that the content and the need to quickly remove dangerous or incriminating information deprives this type of model of convenience. Assange will rethink his belief that the thousands of “civilian journalists” on the Internet will readily review, publish and understand whether they are authentic or not.

Although the wiki elements have been abandoned, participants are still looking for a way to create a structure that allows the anonymous submission of confidential documents. British encryption specialist Ben Lori is also coming to his rescue. A former mathematician and resident of West London, who also rents bomb shelters for deploying paid Internet servers, he shares that when Assange first laid out his plan for an “open democratic intelligence system”, he thought that is “pressurized air”. But very soon he leans in, fires at the idea, and starts giving coding tips. “There is one small detail: how can one reveal the secrets of power without burying it from behind?”

It looks like WikiLeaks is trying not to censor and not to be tracked. Issuing confidential documents can be enormous in a way that “combines the security and anonymity of cutting-edge cryptographic technology.” Assange and his assistants claim to have used OpenSSL (an open secure internet connection system used by 81ctronic trading sites such as Amazon), IreeNet (a method of storing files on hundreds or thousands of computers directly connected to each other) its which does not allow the origin or file holder to be disclosed) and PGP (the open cryptographic system, which is short for the jokey name Pretty Good Privacy, a “well-kept secret”).

But the primary means of maintaining anonymity that WikiLeaks uses is called Thor. In their words: “We do not store data from where you uploaded the information, in what time zone, from which browser or when you submitted the data.” This is exactly what classic anonymity means through Thor.

For US intelligence, the Thor system is important for undercover espionage, so it is no joy at the fact that it is being used to reveal their own secrets. In practice, Thor allows the submission of data and conversations between internal users to remain hidden to a potential observer. The Thor system was developed as a project of the U.S. Naval Forces Research Laboratory in 1995, which was later adopted by hackers around the world. It employs a network of about 2000 volunteer servers that, with the help of other computers connected to the Thor system, can be used to anonymously and seamlessly track the path of each message, eventually reaching the recipient outside system. The main idea is,

However, this does not apply to data sent over the Internet, where each message is broken down into “packages” containing source information, the recipient and other types of organizational information (eg the location of the package in the overall message). On the recipient’s computer, the packages are again “assembled”. Anyone who monitors the Internet connection of the sending or receiving computer will disclose the recipient and source of the information, even if it is encrypted. And for people who leak secret information, it can have catastrophic consequences.

The Thor system introduces the principle of concealing information that prevents it from being read. Let’s take the following example. Appelbaum, who is based in Seattle, wants to send a message to Demschat-Berg in Berlin. To do this, both need to run the Tor program on their computers. Appelbaum reinsured itself by first encrypting the message through the free PGP system. He then sends it using the Thor program. With the participation of several “nodes” on a worldwide network, the software creates an additional encrypted channel that uses the routes of Tor servers. The encoding is at levels: when the message goes through the network, each node “peels” a certain level of encoding and thus receives information at which point it should be directed.

An observer who is external to the system and monitors the traffic passing through it cannot decode the content of the information sent, but sees only the movement II one way or the other. So tracking connections between the sending and receiving computers only shows a transfer to or from a node of the Gore system – and nothing else. This method of coding, by analogy with the zipper onions, also gives the original name of the Thor system, Justo is an abbreviation of “The Onion Router” (“onion”, “onion” – BC).

In addition, the Thor system allows users to install “hidden services” such as sending real-time messages that cannot be detected while controlling server traffic. They are accessed using the corresponding first level aliases with the onion extension. This is another type of security measure so that someone who sent a physical version of an electronic record, such as a flash drive, can encrypt the record and send it to another, and only then reveal the encrypting cipher. Particularly popular with WikiLeaks members is the Jabber encrypted chat service.

“The importance of the Thor system for WikiLeaks should not be exaggerated,” Assange told Rolling Stone when they outlined his companion, the US West Coast hacker Appelbaum. However, the system has a curious weakness. Unless it is encoded from the beginning, outsiders can sometimes read the message. This may be a minor technical detail, but it does contain evidence that explains the true reason for the creation of WikiLeaks in 2006 – not as a journalistic tribune in the traditional sense, but as an element of opportunism in the underworld of hackers – the possibility of tapping.

    On the eve of WikiLeaks’ first publication in early 2007, Assange sent an emotional message to a veteran proponent of Cryptome’s leaked information site, John Young, explaining the origin of the vast amount of information he has:

“Hackers track data from Chinese and other insights, digging deeper into the target just like us. An inexhaustible source of material. Approximately 100,000 documents / emails per day. We will destroy the world and make it blossom into something new … We have all over Afghanistan since 2005. Almost everything from the Indian federal government. Half a dozen foreign ministries. Dozens of political parties and consulates. The World Bank, OPEC, UN organizations, trade groups, Tibet and Falun Dafa associations and… the Russian phishing mafia, who are downloading data everywhere. We are drowning in this information. We are not even aware of one-tenth of what we hold as information, nor of their possession. We stopped hoarding after 1Tb.

A few weeks later, in August 2007, Swedish Thor expert Dan Eggerstad told Wired magazine that he had confirmed the ability to retrieve documents, emails, usernames and passwords of various diplomats and organizations by maintaining a voluntary ” exit “Tor node. This is the last server on the border of the Thor system, where documents without full encryption come first. The magazine reported that Egerstad “discovered the e-mail addresses of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, the United Kingdom visa office in Nepal and the Indian Ministry of Defense’s Research and Defense Organization. Moreover, Egerstad had the opportunity to read the ambassador’s correspondence to China, various Hong Kong politicians, Dalai Lama PR staff and several human rights groups and Hong Kong activists. “I was shocked,” he says. “I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who understood that.”

The suspicions are largely confirmed in 2010, when Assange allows Rafi Khachaduryan to write an Outline for him. Here’s what a New Yorker journalist says: “One of the WikiLeaks activists owned a server used as a node of the Thor system. Millions of secret messages went through it. The activists noticed that Chinese hackers were using the network to gather information from foreign governments, and began recording the traffic in question. WikiLeaks published only a small portion of the information, with the former serving as the basis for the website. As Assange states, “We received over 1 million documents from 13 countries.” In December 2006, WikiLeaks made its first publication: a “secret solution”, intercepted 0t traffic to China via the Web and signed by Sheikh Hasan Dahir Aweis,

 

The underground environments of computer maniacs are only part of the soil on which WikiLeaks sprouts. The rest are anti-capitalist radicals – the society of environmentalists, human rights advocates and political revolutionaries, who form that part of society known in the 1960s as “counterculture” [2].. Assange’s first public announcement regarding WikiLeaks was at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2007, where the organization was organizing its own booth. The event is a complete parody of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where rich and influential people gather to talk about money. The World Social Forum, which is emerging in Brazil, aims to do the opposite – in countries where the poor and the disenfranchised gather to speak for justice.

During the forum, tens of thousands flock to Nairobi Freedom Park and chant, “Another world is possible!” Organizers have been forced to cancel entry fees after protests by residents of the poorer neighborhoods of the Kenyan capital. The BBC reports that dozens of homeless children making a living from begging broke into a five-star hotel and snatched food intended to be sold for $ 7 a serving, with much of the local population living on $ 2 a day: ” The hungry kids were joined by other participants, who complained that the food was too expensive and the cops, unprepared, were unable to stop the free meal, which left no crumbs. “

Assange spends four days at a World Social Forum tent with three friends and talks to people, handing out brochures and making contacts. He is so intoxicated by what he calls the “largest non-governmental beach party in the world” that he stays in Nairobi for most of the next two years in the camp of Doctors Without Borders and other foreign activists organizations.

“I met with journalists and human rights activists in key positions,” Assange said in an interview with Australian media. – [Kenya] has incredible opportunities for reform. In the 1970s a revolution broke out in the country. Democracy dates back to 2004. “It says that in Africa he has become acquainted with” many dedicated and courageous individuals – banned opposition groups investigating corruption, alliances, fearless print media and priests. ” These fearless men are the real people for him – in his letters he ruthlessly opposes them to his colleagues in the West. “A significant part of those who are involved in endeavors such as the Social Forum are incompetent puppies, specializing in making films for themselves and arranging “dialogues” for friends with the foundations’ money. They … love to shoot them. “

Assange distinguishes himself from them as a man of manhood. In one of the letters to WikiLeaks, he mentions his idol: “The following quote from Solzhenitsyn sounds more and more relevant:” The decline of manhood in the modern West is perhaps the most striking thing for an outside observer. The western world has lost its civic courage … This decline of masculinity is seen most of all among the ruling elite and leading intellectuals. “Assange often repeats to others around him:” Men are contagious. “

Kenya provides the opportunity for WikiLeaks’ first journalistic coup – a large-scale report on alleged corruption by former President Daniel Arap Moy, commissioned by the private consulting firm Kroll. But the successor to the post, President-designate Mvai Kibaki, did not subsequently publish it, most likely for political reasons. “This report has become the Holy Grail of Kenyan journalism,” Assange said later. “In 2007, I went to a place and managed to get to it.”

In fact, the circumstances surrounding the publication of the report are far more complex. The report was first sent secretly to Mvalimu Mathi, chairman of the anti-corruption organization Mars Gruy Kenya. “It is unknown how the report ended up on our computers,” he says. At the initiative of a friend of his in Germany, Mattie volunteered on the WikiLeaks site. The fear of a backlash is too great to publish a report on the group’s own website: “So we wondered if we would put it on the WikiLeaks site.” The Guardian newspaper. The full text of the document has been uploaded to the WikiLeaks website titled Kenya’s Missing Billions. The press release states that WikiLeaks is not yet open to the general public. For now, we are only open to providing information from journalists and dissidents. However, given the political situation in Kenya, we believe it is unjustified to delay the publication of this document. “

There was a sensational response. Around the event, much of the noise and even Assange later claimed that the news displaced Kenya’s election results by 10%. The following year, WikiLeaks publishes another highly praised report, this time on Kenya’s criminal squads, entitled “The cry of blood – killed and disappeared without trial and sentence”. The report cites information from the Kenyan National Committee on Human Rights. Four of the homicide investigators have been killed in their turn, including human rights activists Oscar Kingara and John Paul Oulu.

Assange has been invited to London to receive the Amnesty International Award: a moment of recognition for journalism. Completely in order, he arrives with a delay of 3 hours after numerous round-trip flights from Nairobi and hiding of his identity by the authorities until the last minute. The award-winning speech is overbearing, but a little pompous: “Thanks to the courageous work of organizations such as the Oscar Foundation, the Kenyan National Committee for Human Rights, the Mars Group of Kenya and others, we have received the fundamental support we need to exposing the killings to the world. I know that neither they nor we will stop acting until the guilty get their due. “And this time there is a symbiotic interaction with the established media:

After these events comes another that brings bitterness. In March 2009, journalist Mikela Rong published a book on corruption in the East African country called “Now is our Time to Eat”, which she has been writing for three years. Bookstores in Nairobi worry about distributing it, and to their dismay, the author finds a published pirate copy of her book on the WikiLeaks site without her permission. “They have infringed my copyright by publishing a commercial product – a book that is not banned by the government of any African country and is not a secret document. I was kind of steamed. “

He wrote in a written statement: “I was very pleased with the creation of WikiLeaks and personally took advantage of their courage to publish secret documents exposing government sales, such as the Kenyan government. But this is something completely different. “She said an unpleasantly complacent response from WikiLeaks, who ultimately agreed to download the book from her site:” We do not treat this document as secret; it is censored material that needs to be fired into Kenyan political space. We decided that you … secretly exported the PDF for advertising purposes. That being said, the importance of the book as an instrument of political struggle in Kenya overshadows your personal involvement. She is your birth and I am sure you think so, but she is also Kenya’s grown son. “

*

 

At that time, Assange and the people around him witnessed a steady stream of secret documents, including from some British military sources. Assange is looking for a way to sell them. He writes several times to the Guardian, posing as a “editor” or “investigative editor” of WikiLeaks, and tries to get the newspaper’s editor, Alan Rasbridge, to use his subjects. He does not seem to tolerate the fact that the news he sometimes delivers may not be as interesting – no, in his opinion, the lack of response is always due to cowardice or something even worse by the hateful established media.

In July 2008, for example, he stated the following: “Did the Guardian and other print publications in the UK, who serve as an outlet, lose their civic prowess when it comes to the State Secret Act?” to fight the rebels in the United Kingdom in 2007, but no one reached for the “forbidden fruit” he offered: “I suppose the British press has lost its hold … All publications are equally castrated and profitable. It’s time to put an end to the cowardice cartel. “

       Those of you who remember what he wrote on his profile on the Melbourne dating site will probably be intrigued by Assange’s remark that engaging in fierce journalistic disclosures is a great opportunity for him to find sexual partners: “In Kenya, we are used to assassinations of newspapers and order arrests, so this does not impress us. These cumbersome attempts make popular stories that generate them, sell newspapers, stand well in one’s autobiography and, like the knighthood, attract lovers. “

In a subsequent attempt at media manipulation in 2008, Assange tried to auction off a bundle of thousands of e-mails allegedly addressed by professional speechwriter to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. The winning bidder will have exclusive access to the documents in question. The reason for the auction is Assange’s belief that people do not take the materials provided free of charge. He even points out: “The magazine Pipel paid a fabulous sum of over $ 10 million for the pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s babies.” no one is bidding on them.

 

Assange already knows that unfortunately, publishing long lists of raw and random documents on a website will not change the world. He spoke grimly of the failure of his original idea of ​​”mobilizing the crowd”: “At first we said, ‘Look at all the people who edit Wikipedia. Look at the crap they are dealing with … I’m sure all those busy editing articles in history, math and more, as well as bloggers who are always learning about … human rights disasters … I’m sure if these people are provided with fresh material, they will come forward and do something. Nothing like that. All this is nonsense. Bullshit. In fact, people write about things in general (when it comes to writing from professional coercion), because they want to demonstrate their value system to others like themselves. They don’t really care about the materials at all. “

He continues unsuccessfully to look for a model for WikiLeaks to bring profits and attract worldwide political attention. His published reflections from this period speak eloquently: he manages to see the problem from the side but is unable to resolve it:

“The big question for WikiLeaks is the waste of first-class authentic material because of our unlimited supply, which causes news agencies, with or without reason, to refuse to” invest “in analytics without additional incentives. Economic logic goes against intuition – temporarily restrict supply to increase absorption … economists are well aware of this
paradox. Given that WikiLeaks has
to curtail supply for some time to increase the estimated value of investing time by
journalists in writing quality material, the
question arises as to what method we should choose to provide material
to those who are most more willing to invest in it. “

There is only one way, albeit limited to some extent, by established media to start showing interest in the Assange model, and it is a rejection of the original design of WikiLeaks to be an anonymous dummy for documents and a move to the Assange-formulated “last resort” principle . The dazzling clash between WikiLeaks and a Swiss bank has shown the truth of at least one of the main allegations of Assange’s supranational cyberstructure – that he can make fun of lawyers.

For eight years, Rudolf Elmer has been managing the Julian Baer office in the Cayman Islands. (Ice moving to Mauritius makes unsuccessful attempts to bring Caribbean authorities to the attention of “former tax evaders” by clients of his former employer, so he contacts Assange: “We made our contact based on encrypted software, receiving instructions how to proceed … I did not seek anonymity. “

       Enraged by this act, Zurich bankers are bringing a case in California in an attempt to force WikiLeaks to download files from the website on the pretext of “unlawfully distributing stolen bank accounts and personal details of bank account holders.” When the court ordered the domain name California-based company Dynadot to block access to the name “wikileaks.org”, the bank temporarily won the battle. But very soon, the Baer people lose the war: WikiLeaks retains access to other sites whose servers are located in Belgium and other countries. Numerous “mirror sites” emerge that copy the content of the incriminating documents. The court ruling was overturned after a number of US organizations stood behind WikiLeaks in the name of free speech.

The Swiss bank and its corrupt customers only manage to attract more attention to themselves, while WikiLeaks shows that they are indeed inaccessible to court orders. The result is zero for WikiLeaks against the Julius Bayer Bank. In London, Assange received another award – this time from the freedom group for the word “Censorship Index”. The poet Lemn Sisey, who is a member of the jury of this award, describes in his blog the typical behavior of an Assange showman: “We did not know if Julian Assange … would ever appear at the awards ceremony. Fortunately, he came – tall, serious man with stunning blond hair and very light skin. Seconds before she hit the podium, she whispered, “Someone can rush to the stage and give me a call. I cannot afford such a thing, so if something doubts me, I leave. “

In London, the Guardian newspaper already understands the benefit of publishing sensitive documents on the WikiLeaks website. Once, Barclays bank attorneys woke up a judge at two o’clock in the middle of the night to order the removal of the secret documents published by the Guardian detailing the bank’s tax evasion schemes. But the full text is already published by WikiLeaks, which makes the whole exercise meaningless. (In a fun mix of old and new censorship techniques, the court initially manages to plug the mouth of the Guardian and the British media, forbidding them from disclosing that the documents in question can be read on the WikiLeaks site. Only when a member of the House of Commons Lords of the Liberal Democratic Party use its parliamentary immunity to comment on the case,

WikiLeaks provides online support, along with the Dutch branch of Greenpeace and state-run Norwegian television, to publish an incriminating report on the disposal of Trafigura oil traders by toxic traders. Their lawyers manage to keep the Guardian’s mouth shut and stop publishing the report: however, the draconian measures imposed by them prove to be a waste of time in the world of digital globalization.

Assange keeps looking for ways to get out of the niche he is in. From the very beginning, in 2006, it attracted the ire of John Young from a similar site for publishing intelligence data, Cryptome. Young condemns Assange’s pursuit of billionaire George Soros, who finances various media projects mainly in Eastern European countries. However, when he learns that Assange is talking about raising $ 5 million, he breaks his indignant relationship with him. “The very idea of ​​setting a goal of raising $ 5 million by July [2007] kills the effort itself,” he writes. “This is what WikiLeaks looks like on a Wall Street pyramid. In such a short time no one can need such a large sum unless his intentions are unclean. Soros will kick you out of his office, if you approach him with such a humble request. Foundations are overwhelmed at times by any people with the gift of the word who make great promises, tossing out famous names and promising amazing results. “

Two years after this false start, Assange made another attempt to raise impressive funds.

Together with his alternate, Dossheim-Berg addresses the Knights Foundation in the US, which at the time is engaged in a “media competition to accelerate the future of journalism by inventing new ways of digitally informing human communities.” Berg is asking $ 532,000 to equip a network of regional newspapers with something that in practice is “WikiLeaks”. The very idea, proposed and developed by Demschayt-Berg, envisages that sources of classified information on the ground can be linked to each other through news sites, thereby obtaining a steady stream of documents. The competing project, Document Cloud, proposes to create a public database with the full content of materials related to traditional news stories, and receives the support of the New York Times team and the non-governmental journalistic initiative ProPublic. They are given $ 719,500 and not a cent for Assange. At the end of 2009, the WikiLeaks are still trying to build credibility.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

       It was the largest leak in human history. WikiLeaks aroused the wrath of the world’s number one superpower, dismayed the British royal family and aided the outbreak of a revolution in Africa. Behind this organization is Julian Assange, one of the strangest personalities in the world. What is this person like – an online messiah or a cyber terrorist? Freedom of Information Fighter or Sex Offender? As the world discusses these issues, US politicians call for his assassination. Winners of multiple journalism awards David Lee and Luke Harding of the British newspaper The Guardian are at the center of a unique drama related to the publication of 250,000 secret diplomatic communications and confidential information files from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At one point, a platinum-hacker is even hiding from CIA agents at David Lee’s home in London. 

Together with a team of investigative newspaper reporters in this book, Lee and Harding offer an inside look at Julian Assange’s shocking story and leakage of information.