Surf's Up or What's Up: Hacker Convergences in Hawaii - Wired State

The coincidental presence of the hacker and WikiLeaks promoter Jacob Appelbaum in Hawaii in April 2012 and April 2013 when Edward Snowden was also in Hawaii has been noted. Formally, Appelbaum said he first heard of Appelbaum around May 2013 and did an interview of him for Der Spiegel together with Laura Poitras published in May 2013. He makes it seem like he "didn't know his name" or "didn't know who it was" when evidently discussing this source with Laura Poitras, who says she first heard from Snowden in January 2013.

But to recruit and vet Snowden, organize the hack, discover the files, torrent the files out or download them to thumb-drives, then secure them somewhere in encrypted form -- and talk about all this in carefully encrypted e-mail -- takes time and effort. That's why some of us think that Assange and others from WikiLeaks, their hacker helpers and Snowden had to have been in touch long before this.

Snowden came to Hawaii in 2012 and was in Hawaii in April 2012 working for Dell. His girlfriend came to live with him a month later.

I posted a transcript of Appelbaum's efforts to explain away his Hawaii trip in his June talk in Berlin and followed up further on his data trail. Streetwise Professor has now posted a blog summarizing the research on these hypotheses some of it supplied by @LibertyLynx on Twitter from sources she had and from Internet sleuthing.

I've added a comment there pointing out that Appelbaum himself tweeted that he was in Hawaii on his birthday in April 2012. That's why it seemed so disingenuous when he created this elaborate cover story of his friends paying for a birthday trip to Hawaii in April 2013, his lifelong dream -- i.e., if he had just had the lifelong dream the year before, what's up?

There's more to surf on all this, and Streetwise and LibertyLynx came up with the Spring Break of Code, a coding retreat organized by Moxie Marlinspike, a prominent hacker and colleague of Appelbaum's who, like Appelbaum and Poitras, has been stopped and searched at the border when returning to the US from abroad because of his proximity to hacking stories and WikiLeaks. Also involved inthe SBOC was Claudine Corbett, a brainy female scientist also interested in hacking and encryption  -- rare in this field -- with numerous talents who also hung out with the MIT hackers while there. She goes way back with Appelbaum; here they are lounging around at Burning Man.

Streetwise discusses whether all of these people are "in on it" -- "it" being a plot to recruit and help Snowden. Appelbaum mentions that he had "20 friends" with him -- one or some of whom paid for the trip -- and we know Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing, his long-time friend was also in Hawaii at the same time swimming with the sea turtles -- and other friends can be teased out of the retweets and the Instagrams. Corbett has an Instagram of Appelbaum standing in the exotic Hawaiian flora with the fog rising...perhaps Snowden will emerge any moment.

On the SBOC website, one receipient of the grant to come and code for a week "for the cause" (which is, roughly speaking, encrypting people with anarchist views who want to overthrow governments and create some utopian society with Bitcoins and whatnot) is a guy named Tyler who writes an interesting blog:

This is the sort of rabid stuff the young hackers write these days:

I know very well that each and every crisis of modernity is concentrating, concatenating, and seating more deeply into everyday life. I know the struggles of the world’s unseen and unheard are being subsumed – appropriated – under and into the framework of a liberal democracy, leaving those at the periphery still under the yoke of capital. The Right further entrenches itself into political discourse, both in the United States, and (more extremely) abroad (Finland, Greece, … et al.). The Left is no less problematic: reiterating the petty values of social democracy, negotiating the terms of our entrapment within capitalism. Every season, new horrors fall from the clouds and rise from the seas as industrial civilization demonstrates that terraforming can also work in reverse. The world’s genetic library – the most prime commons, if ever one existed – is rapidly contracting via extinction, privatization, and engineering. The colossal failure of ideology in the twentieth century has left the radicals of today no other choice but to see themselves as “post-ideological”. This is a deeply concerning conundrum, as ideology survives in post-ideology, different only to the extent that it is less apparent. Yes, it seems like we are living in end times – an entire era of Apocalypse – made only more insidious by our optimism in its shadow.

Oh, dear. Spoiled kids, raised on the Internet, like in a barn. Where's Dad?

But then he gives a clue as to who might be at the beach party:

Personally, I’ve tried to live according to that principle – right now, I’m a high-school dropout sitting amongst current and former employees of Twitter, an MIT-educated theoretical physicist, globe-trotting journalists, renown mathematicians, and emerging prodigy developers.

The people who won the contest for the all-expense-paid coding retreat -- their bios are on the site -- don't fit all these descriptions. Former employees of Twitter? who is that? The guy who used to try to make it run on Ruby on Rails? The MIT theoretical physicist is probably Corbett, but who are the globe-trotting journalists. Laura Poitras? Glenn Greenwald doesn't seem to have been in Hawaii, and Spencer Ackerman told me he was last in Hawaii in 1997 or something, although he has relatives there...

Corbett also writes about a journalist on the same website:

A journalist visiting Open Whisper Systems’ Spring Break of Code commented that she expected more philosophy, politics, and conversation. After all this group is composed of people who are not only technologists, but also open source evangelists, activists, and humanists.

But that could be Xeni Jardin who also wrote of being in Hawaii at the same time, or anybody else in the list who happens to be a journalist -- which in their world, could mean "blogger." But probably not Quinn Norton, because she doesn't get along with Appelbaum, and while she runs with the same MIT hacker/open source/crypto/WikiLeaks crowd, I don't see any evidence she was there.

Anyone is welcome to go mine all this endlessly and built NodexL graphs like Katy Pearce to their heart's content.

The thing is, I think what Appelbaum has done here is created a kind of Tor-like obfuscation, or a sort of jungle print, in which lots of people are doing lots of things and then they all have alibis. The SBOC may have been conceived right at the time Laura Poitras said she first heard from Snowden, but that could be a coincidence. Or it could be the effort to make a cover of an innocent idealistic activity that would serve as a cover for the contact with Snowden.

But really, the problem is that while we know Snowden was in Hawaii, he can't be confirmed as placed in Maui, about 90-100 miles away, via boat or via a short and cheap plane ride, at the SBOC or Jacob's birthday party.

Given how Snowden seemed to methodically wipe out his online footprint from 2009 to present, what's left?

Well, there are some tantalizing clues left by the also-wiped narcissistic blog of Snowden's girlfriend. Lindsay.

While she took down her blog, some of it is still in Google cache, and some of the photos survive still in her Instagram and Flickr accounts. I didn't see any photos of Maui in there matching the dates in question, but there is this, in Google cache, from the now-deleted blog:

Rear Portrait | L's Journey | Page on September 21, 2012 by lsjourney .... I'm not sure I can really consider my trip to Maui, and the fun that occurred on Oahu afterward, as a vacation.

The date isn't right, but maybe she wrote it later while making the album. Or maybe that date fits with another item on the page that is just truncated here in Google's cache. The fact is, she did make a trip to Maui -- not unusual if you live in Honolulu and like to make photographs for a hobby or even profession.

Yet it was a trip that she didn't consider as a vacation -- maybe because she went with her bf Edward, and had his nose in the laptop the whole time...

There's another interesting ghost of a clue in Instagram search that now no longer hooks up to anything:

coral jj | Search.Stagram - Discover Instagram Photos (beta) #coral at the bottom of the #ocean in #maui is sharp! ... #coral #stripes and a #blazer help too  #jj #photooftheday @photooftheday #lsjourney #hintofpink.

Those hashtags include #lsjourney, which is the name of her blog. But again, this may not fit with any entry she made, as search phrases can render in Google cache that are attached to other things on that Instagram page with those tags, i.e. somebody else's photo of Maui (which is what it looks like).

If you look up Lindsay's blog on the Wayback Machine, where some of it is still held from past crawlings, you find another tantalizing mention on April 1, 2013 of Edward's travel March 30:

Flight was the theme of my weekend. Okay, who am I kidding? Flight is the theme of nearly all my recent days. Maybe I just have hollow bones! E flew off Saturday evening giving me six hours to kill before I had to pick up DucatiD from the airport. Luckily Hawaii has good food and friends to pass the time. With E soaring through the sky and friends dropped off, I snuggled to sleep in my empty home. Only to start Sunday circus with another airport pickup — taxi license in my future? Chisel arrived home in perfect time for silks and acro in the park. I commend him for being alert and willing enough to play after traveling all day. We ran the sun down and had our usual fruit-filled dinner while being serenaded by our new favorite local guitarist Greencard. One final pitstop on the weekend’s run around schedule, was dropping Chisel off at his vacant home. Where we found his jeep had a flat tire. In true duo fashion we tackled the tire task. And as I was putting the final tightening touch on the lug nuts, I slipped and punched Chisel’s jeep with my face. My clumsy super power always shows up at the most appropriate times. I can now check off jeep face-punching from my to-do list. Thankfully the resulting black eye is faint enough that I don’t look too abused. Nothing a little sunshine and arnica won’t solve. Spring has sprung in its jumbling-of-life manner. Everyone has been coming or going lately. Perhaps it’s my time to mix things up and be chauffeured next week. My time to soar away.

So...Edward flew off somewhere on April 1st; Appelbaum's birthday beach bash was on or around April 3rd, his 30th birthday.

This entry sounds like LS was pressed into service picking up and dropping off a lot of people -- I don't know who all the references relate to, but maybe they are the "20 friends".

Remember, as the South China Morning Post originally reported,  Snowden joined Booz, Hamilton Allen in March 2013 deliberately to hack more (see also timeline). He disappeared then for a few weeks in May, telling his employer that he needed treatment for epilepsy.

But this is April 2013, where he's flying...somewhere. Maybe just 90 miles away to Maui?

The next entry, showing LS posing half-naked with a stuffed turtle, also speaks of how she is alone:

Just me and turtle for the next week or two. If you don’t have a house turtle I highly recommend procuring one. They are comforting and make a house feel like a home. And I will surely need his snuggle powers this month with all that is going down. April is turning into spring cleaning on crack — houses, travel, relationships — and the month hasn’t even begun! E is leaving tomorrow for two weeks of business on the mainland. If you know of any fun slumber parties going down over the next two weeks count me in! There may be a ticket to the east coast with my name on it somewhere in those two weeks or potentially later in April/early May (you know I’m a last minute decider). On top of mainland adventures there is this pesky task of moving. We just happen to be moving two streets away from our current house. Which is convenient, but of course I would prefer a hillside abode in the city. So now I have to coordinate the next month. Rendezvous with E on the east coast and make it back in time to move; pack the house and forego seeing E for a month; plan my east coast visit to fall around the time of family/friends’ travel plans; forget it all and head for antarctica — the options are endless. And when the options are endless my indecisive nature completely shuts down, leaving me at the mercy of random chance.

But that entry says he is going "to the mainland," which sounds like the States. Was this for training at BHA?

Could he have done both -- gone to Maui *and* gone to the mainland?

She notes that he returns by April 15, and there's a rare photo of them together, lying on the floor of their new as-yet-unfurnished home.

Philip Bump at the Atlantic Wire asks questions about the sequence of events, and whether Snowden hacked all or only some of his files from BHA.

This week or two in late March/early April must be covered somewhere in all the news coverage of Snowden's work history, but I haven't seen it (i.e. it's not here).