In a story that continues to get more interesting with each passing day, one of our keynote speakers for The Next HOPE is said to be in great danger of being apprehended or worse by the United States government after a source of sensitive information was arrested.
Our keynote speaker, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, published a video back in April that showed U.S. troops firing on unarmed Reuters journalists in Baghdad, killing them and wounding a number of others. Attempts by Reuters to get this video through the Freedom of Information Act had failed. It was only after it was sent to Wikileaks that the truth came out and a major scandal followed.
But it didn't end there. It seems that the alleged source of this particular leak had struck up a conversation with someone in the hacker community named Adrian Lamo. According to chat transcripts provided by Lamo, Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning admitted to the leak along with one other video that has yet to be released. That video supposedly shows the 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan which killed dozens of civilians. But there was still more. According to a report in Wired, who claim to have copies of the chat transcripts, Manning had also sent 260,000 diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. This was supposedly the point at which Lamo felt he had no choice but to turn Manning in, according to the Wired story. Meanwhile Wikileaks will not confirm whether or not Manning is a source and also claims to not have 260,000 diplomatic cables. And that's where it all stands now.
So what does this all mean? According to a report in the Daily Beast, it means Julian Assange is a marked man. In fact, former Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said Assange was "absolutely" in danger and should "stay out of the U.S." Meanwhile, in another report, an anonymous U.S. official was quoted as saying of Assange, "We'd like to know where he is."
Assange is scheduled to give The Next HOPE Saturday keynote on July 17 in New York City. To make things even more interesting, Lamo has also been planning on appearing at the conference and may now wind up facing a hacker community who views his actions with, to put it mildly, disappointment. Lamo claims he was put in an impossible situation and is actually a supporter of Wikileaks, saying he even contributed money to the organization in the past.
That's pretty much the story as it stands now. One person is in prison, another is in fear of arrest or even physical harm, while a third is being ostracized by much of the hacker world. We have not been immune from this, having been subjected to a denial of service attack the day after the story broke, ostensibly because of Lamo's loose affiliation with 2600 as head of our Facebook group, among other things. But that is a relatively small price compared to the real hell being experienced by those involved firsthand.
We need to be clear on one thing. We find it reprehensible that Assange, a journalist whose only mission is to reveal the truth and protect sources, has to be subjected to this type of harassment. Wikileaks embodies all that is sacred to the hacker mentality: freedom of speech and of information, anonymity for sources, and a dedication to getting the story out, above all else. This is why Assange was chosen as one of our keynote speakers and we believe we all can and will learn a great deal from his words. That said, we will not encourage any speaker to put themselves in harm's way for us or for anybody. But we will expend every effort to make sure that they are not silenced and that their message will be heard by our attendees. We call upon (but hardly expect to hear back from) the State Department and federal authorities to ensure that Julian Assange can travel freely to our country without harassment or detainment. We ask that you help us by spreading the message "Let Julian Speak!" far and wide. If nothing else, the world needs to know that such intimidation will not go unnoticed.
We also intend to do everything possible to support and strengthen the Wikileaks organization. That includes helping to fundraise, establishing links with other communities, and getting HOPE attendees to volunteer their services. We can think of no group more worthy of this level of support, especially in light of these recent developments.
As for the controversy itself, we will not avoid it. You can count on this being a hot topic at The Next HOPE, wherever the story happens to take us by then. As always, you can count on HOPE being lively, provocative, and above all else, relevant.