Aaron Swartz as alleged WikiLeaks source and US persons in the WikiLeaks ‘organization’ circa 2009.
- posted January 5, 2020
As I was working on some related research, a question I have long had about Aaron Swartz as an alleged WikiLeaks source reappeared.
Jacob Appelbaum, who reportedly attended the WikiLeaks 26c3 presentation on December 27, 2009 in Berlin, said in 2015 that he introduced Aaron Swartz to someone at WikiLeaks “who shall remain unnamed” in November 2009 (via presumably electronic communication based on his other comments about the exchange).
Appelbaum’s own account of his Swartz introduction may not be reflective of all the facts.
WikiLeaks released Congressional Research Service reports in February 2009. At the 2009 Hackers at Random conference (which Appelbaum was also reportedly at) Assange details how WikiLeaks came upon information that resulted in the publication of 6,800 Congressional Research Service reports.
At har2009 Assange also states that WikiLeaks “received information about a small vulnerability inside the Congress document distribution system. This is a very trivial vulnerability…This is what any one of you would find if you are actually looking.”
In 2009, Swartz interned in the Congressional offices of Democrat Representative Alan Grayson.
As Appelbaum notes in 2015, in the wake of Swartz suicide in January 2013, WikiLeaks disclosed that Swartz assisted WikiLeaks, communicated with Assange and others during 2010 and 2011, and may have even been a source.
It’s also worth noting that WikiLeaks did not have a publicly facing and purportedly anonymous submission system in and around June 2010 and May 2015.
>On July 19, 2011, Swartz was indicted for downloading millions of academic articles from a subscription based service he had access to by means of a guest account through MIT.
Assange himself mentions Swartz at the har2009 presentation (without using his name). Assange describes Swartz’ work releasing 10 percent (New York Times reported it was 20 percent) of the PACER database.
Assange also goes on to refer to Swartz as the “guy who invented RSS.” Assange then remarks that Swartz “likes to call that part of the movement we have in common Guerilla Open Source.”
Assange also states at har2009, “Yes, we had…actually I won’t mention that. But, we were given details how to access that material [CRS reports]. But, of course that is not a crime. And in fact just giving us all the material is not a crime. If a Congress Member gives us all the CRS leaks this violates a very small Senate’s rules thing, which is really not of much consequence.”
Assange adds that WikiLeaks had U.S. people in 2009. According to recent reporting, David House was a Wikileaks volunteer from 2009 to 2013. The question I have is, was Swartz? To answer that question in part may also require an analysis of what the WikiLeaks organization is from a structural perspective.
Side notes related to U.S. v. Assange:
Assange details at har2009 the alleged origins of the WikiLeaks Most Wanted list (at issue in the Assange indictment). Assange states the list was compiled in response to a Dutch IT consultant who had claimed to have access to restricted material, but didn’t know what material would have political impact for WikiLeaks. So, WikiLeaks, according to Assange, allegedly began compiling a list of material that activists, human rights lawyers, etc. wanted.
Assange also details at various points in the har2009 presentation the monetary value of the CRS database and the CIA Open Source database (the latter is also relevant to the superseding indictment of him and to the Manning case, especially and for the 18 U.S.C.
41, stealing U.S. government property charges) 793/1030 charges.
Firstly, the Central Intelligence Agency’s OSC is mentioned in the infamous chats between Manning and Assange. Secondly, Assange elucidates the value of these datasets (i.e. CRS and OSC).
This valuation is also placed in the context of digital Marxism. Assange remarks at har2009 that releasing these databases (CRS and OSC) would be beneficial to smaller and poorer governments, which cannot afford a CIA.
Vis-a-vis the superseding indictment against Assange and the general reported sentiment of some in U.S. law enforcement and intelligence that Assange as ‘information broker,’ Assange remarks at 26c3 (in response to a query about counterintelligence and information handling and attribution for closely held material) that a countermeasure is only releasing portions of the information as well as distributing the material to multiple recipients. In terms of tradecraft, the discussion calls to mind how the material attributed to the so-called second source was reportedly handled.
In addition, Assange also states that WikiLeaks can provide custom solutions for sources dealing with closely held material while they are placed inside organizations. Much like in the 26c6 presentation, at har2009 Assange states that sources should come to the organization for a tailored solution, including regarding legal counsel.
As a side note on Swartz, and perhaps immaterial, on December 27, 2009 (day of the WikiLeaks 26c3 talk), Swartz posted that he was looking for researcher(s) preferably with Wikipedia-like experience.
Swartz and Assange both reportedly attended 24c3 in 2007.
Given the subject matter, I will link to my disclaimer here.
CORRECTION February 1, 2019: I corrected 18 USC 641 to 18 USC 793/1030. Assange is not charged with 18 USC 641. I confused that with Manning specifications. Value does relate to 18 USC 793 per discussion in Assange’s superseding indictment. Moreover, Count 18 for 18 USC 1030 conspiracy charges would wrap in 641 per Assange superseding indictment: “in furtherance of a criminal act in violation of the laws of the United States, that is, a violation of Title 18, USC, 641, 793(c), and 793(e).”