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[liberationtech] New Yorker debut's Aaron Swartz's 'Strongbox.'

Dave Karpf davekarpf at
Thu May 16 07:51:25 PDT 2013

I was glad that they "marketed" it the way they did.  Stephen Heymann and
Carmen Ortiz have faced no consequences for their prosecutorial zeal.
 "Aaron's Law" isn't going anywhere fast, and it would be very easy for the
public at large to move on to other things.

Any mention of Aaron in the *New Yorker* is a good thing, if we think that
Heymann and Ortiz should continue to face pressure.  And I think this
mention is particularly appropriate because most *New Yorker* readers have
only a vague sense that he was "some hacker guy who stole some copyrighted
things."  The article does a nice, respectful job of remembering him.  And
we shouldn't be forgetting him just yet.

You're probably right that there's something a litte morally problematic
about using him to market deaddrop software in this way.  But in this case
I think the moral ledger is weighted pretty heavily in the other direction.


On Thu, May 16, 2013 at 10:42 AM, Nadim Kobeissi <nadim at> wrote:

> On Thu, May 16, 2013 at 10:21 AM, Griffin Boyce <griffinboyce at>wrote:
>> Nadim Kobeissi <nadim at> wrote:
>>> The technical aspects aside, I find the fact that they're using Aaron
>>> Swartz as a marketing asset to be morally problematic. :/
>>> NK
>>   I was originally conflicted by this as well, but... Considering he was
>> the architect of the project and worked on it, and his family/friends seem
>> to be at peace with it...  I suspect there's more to this than meets the
>> eye.
> Yes, he was definitely a main developer, but the article trumpets that a
> bit too much. It's definitely important and valuable, it should definitely
> be mentioned, but it reminds me of the Silent Circle debacle where everyone
> trumpeted Silent Circle as "unbreakable" because Phil Zimmermann was
> involved. I don't like it when projects are evaluated by virtue of *who* worked
> on them rather than how good the code is.
>>   What happens to our projects when we die? Will anyone really care about
>> them as much as we do? Will they be mired in potential controversy and left
>> unfinished?  There are layers and layers of things that need to be
>> considered when something like this happens, and as I don't know personally
>> know anyone involved, I'm just giving people the benefit of the doubt.
>>   If every investigative journalist took the time to learn PGP, Strongbox
>> wouldn't have much to offer.  It's *completely* possible to encrypt files
>> on a flash drive and mail it to a journalist (or email it using Tor and a
>> throwaway email).  This process is not even especially difficult under
>> Windows.  The problem is a lack of user education.
>>   I haven't taken a look at the code yet, but cobbling together a webmail
>> script, a remailer (even a not-especially-robust one), and the Stanford
>> javascript crypto library would not be a particularly arduous task.  It's
>> not trivial, and you'd have to be a coder, but due diligence and selecting
>> file hosts and all of that would be the hardest part of this entire process.
> The GlobaLeaks project, to my knowledge, is trying to balance open
> accessibility in a fashion likely more relevant to your preferences.
>> best,
>> Griffin
>> --
>> Technical Program Associate, Open Technology Institute
>> #Foucault / PGP: 0xAE792C97 / OTR: saint at
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Dave Karpf, PhD

Assistant Professor
George Washington University
School of Media and Public Affairs
davekarpf at

Author of *The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American
Political Advocacy<>
 *(Oxford University Press)
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