Jacob Appelbaum is a US citizen and core member of TOR project (funded originally to provide internet communication security). He writes open source software, is an independent security software developer, activist hacker and passionate resister to tyranny.
He has stated in past interviews that he believes “personal privacy and institutional transparency are complementary ideas that help to create a free and open society …..Tor is part of an ecosystem of software that helps people regain and reclaim their autonomy. It helps to enable people to have agency of all kinds; it helps others to help each other and it helps you to help yourself. It runs, it is open and it is supported by a large community spread across all walks of life.”
Appelbaum eloquently discusses warrantless or “open writ” dragnet surveillance as “turnkey tyranny” and posits that the black budget agencies that engage in such surveillance are violating the 3rd Amendment Rights of US Citizens, likening the actions of the NSA to de facto “digital soldiers” being quartered in our homes without our knowledge or permission.
Washington’s Blog writes on Appelbaum’s 30c3 talk (embedded at the end of this post) and his insistence that the government is essentially “quartering military” in our homes –
“…Colonial Americans lost the quiet use and enjoyment of their homes. Modern Americans are losing the quiet use and enjoyment of our digital homes because the NSA is stationing digital “troops” inside our computers and phones.
Just as the Colonists’ homes were no longer theirs … our computers and phones are no longer ours.”
Appelbaum has been compelled to speak out against what he sees as rising tyranny from an unaccountable government as the government’s surveillance becomes even more pervasive and universal. Frustrated, he has met with Congressional staff members without success, many of whom he feels do not understand the technical issues, and others who can not speak on the issue because of security issues (which he understands). In the end, he feels that they have no political solution to offer or any real method of providing oversight to agency that has essentially gone rogue. He also believes that the actions of the government harm US citizens and businesses, by preventing them from protecting themselves from security and information breaches.
Appelbaum has come under attack in the past because of his alliance with Wikileaks – in 2010, he was the Wikileaks representative to a Hacker’s conference, and assisted Julian Assange in disseminating many of Snowden’s documents.
For these activities, Appelbaum has been targeted by the US government, which has placed him under surveillance, seized laptops and mobile phones, sought a court order to review his Twitter account, as well as detaining him at the border more than a dozen times. As a result of the ongoing harassment he is seeking permanent residency status in Germany, where he believes privacy rights are stronger than in the US, stating he no longer feels safe in the US.
Those aligned with the US government continue to seek to undermine his credibility and paint him as a “traitor” for revealing just how widespread and illegal the surveillance efforts are.
At the December 2013 Chaos Communications Congress (30c3) in Hamburg, Germany, Appelbaum gave a hair raising talk about the capabilities of the NSA, citing specific examples and providing documents that had been recently released in conjunction with his article published by the German paper Speigel on December 29th, 2013.
The 3 part Speigel piece discusses the elite hacker unit, known as the “TAO team” at the NSA and some of the methods used to covertly spy on ordinary Americans who pose no national security threat.
The talk given at the 30c3 conference is long – just over 1 hr – and includes language that would be NSFW or children – as well as some technical discussion that may be too in depth for some casual viewers. However, even with those caveats, in my opinion, it is highly worth sticking with the whole presentation, because the scope of the NSA abilities and their cavalier attitude towards data gathering on all US citizens is something every citizen should be aware of.