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[liberationtech] Resignation

Joshua Cohen jcohen57 at
Tue Sep 14 00:14:42 PDT 2010

Many thanks for the thoughtful message. I very much share your hope  
about some collective learning coming from this.


Josh Cohen

On Sep 14, 2010, at 12:01 AM, Daniel Colascione wrote:

> We met online, after the election. After that otherwise-normal day in
> June 2009, Austin Heap and I went on to found the Censorship Research
> Center. We have traveled, laughed, drank, worked, celebrated, and
> commiserated together. I have been involved in this project longer
> than anyone else; before there was a Censorship Research Center, I
> coined the name "Haystack". I feel as if I know Austin better than
> many people know their own brothers. He is fundamentally a good man.
> That's why this is such a difficult decision, and why I waited so long
> to make it.
> It is with trepidation and regret that I say that I cannot, in good
> conscience, continue associating myself with the CRC. Effective
> immediately, I am cutting all ties.
> I would like to stress that I am not resigning in shame over the
> much-maligned test program. It is as bad as Appelbaum makes it out to
> be. But I maintain that it was a diagnostic tool never intended for
> dissemination, never mind hype. I did have a solid, reasonable design,
> and described it in our brief overture of transparency. _That_ is what
> Haystack would have been. It would have worked!
> What I am resigning over is the inability of my organization to
> operate effectively, maturely, and responsibly. We have been
> disgraced. I am resigning over dismissing pointed criticism as
> nonsense. I am resigning over hype trumping security. I am resigning
> over being misled, and over others being misled in my name.
> I am as shocked and as angered as anyone, if not more so: for me, it
> was a matter of trust between friends. I genuinely felt like we were
> changing the world for the better. I still believe that for a while,
> we really were. Austin and I quit full-time jobs in the middle of a
> depression to further develop this dream. We stayed up late hours to
> prepared drafts. We shared full access to the same machines. We had a
> shared purpose. Nobody can argue that we didn't begin with the best of
> intentions. The hype and imprudence squandered that original goodwill.
> I announced several days ago that I would resume an active role in the
> CRC. I reconnected with Babak and Austin in the hope that I could put
> the work I had already completed into a finished product, and I hoped
> that I could heal the CRC's image through openness and transparency.
> My colleagues and friends welcomed me with praise, great eagerness and
> open arms. But it just couldn't work.
> I finally realize, despite myself, that the damage is irreparable. I
> can't fathom some of what I'm seen and what I've learned. Even if xthe
> organization were to do its best to make amends, I have no confidence
> that the bounty would last.
> There was plenty of error on my part too, of course. I should never
> have allowed that damned "test" program to be distributed at all, and
> should never have added diagnostics to it; running it once in a
> controlled environment was a risk --- arguably an acceptable one at
> the time. Multiplying that risk by users and by uses was what made it
> a catastrophe. I should have stuck my head out of the code and more
> strenuously objected to the hype.
> I would like to emphasize that my friend and long-time colleague,
> Babak Siavoshy, is utterly blameless. Although he is one of the most
> intelligent and professional men I know, his ignorance of the
> technical details involved made him unable to independently track our
> progress. He truly believed. For my part, although judgment of
> character is not my strongest skill, I should have known better.
> I should have resigned immediately when I began to feel a certain
> ineffable wrongness -- that action would have either ended things or
> produced lasting change. Instead, I allowed the situation to fester. I
> should have had the courage to ensure we did things right or not at
> all.
> I regret that we exposed anyone to undue risk, and that we deprived
> citizens of the effective anti-censorship tool that might have been. I
> regret standing silently while I listened to empty promises --- and I
> especially regret that this whole ordeal has scarred the
> anti-censorship landscape so badly that it may be years before
> anything grows there again.
> I only ask that everyone, please, let bygones be bygones. There will
> be no more Censorship Research Center. No more Haystack. No more hype.
> We're all wiser now in one way or another. Analyze if you must, but
> acknowledge that it's over now. Let's mitigate any remaining damage,
> then, please, move on.
> Sadly,
> Daniel Colascione
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