By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
@LibertyLynx got an important tip -- a videotape of a lecture in Germany by Jacob Appelbaum, WikiLeaks booster and anarchist hacker known for founding Tor and making chaos in which he acknowledges that he was in Hawaii in April with 20 friends for his birthday.
But which April?
A Streetwise Professor has blogged about it here and helfully provided a transcript albeit a bit garbled.
Good! Because these kinds of things can get scrubbed -- interesting there is even a videotape of the impromptu talk for hackers in Germany while he was there, with only about 327 views.
The best birthday is a yoga retreat without internet on a small friendly island.
Yes, Edward Snowden was in Hawaii, too -- but that was this year, not in 2012, which is indicated in Jacob's tweet.
But then yes, after a little more searching it turned out Jacob did go again this year to Hawaii as @LibertyLynx discovered, as can be seen from this tweet.
Successful indication my birthday diving trip is off to a good start: Subsurface 3.0.2-79-g218fd994eea9 #hawaii
Is that code for something else? Diving...into what, exactly?
Hmm. It looks as if this were a slip-up and a match -- but these people are pretty wily -- and it isn't, exactly a match. Where was this island where Jake snorkled, was it near Honolulu or did he pass through Honolulu? Did Snowden go to the island or meet Jake in Honolulu -- months before May?
Interesting coincidence? Booz Allen has an office in Honolulu, and Edward Snowden went there to work -- deliberatley, as he later explained, in order the better to hack the NSA -- in about February 2013.
The Telegraph says he was there in Hawaii working for BH until May 1, when he and his girlfriend abruptly moved out. Did he make any business trips in the year before that? So Jacob did go back, perhaps once he'd established his alibi of swimming with the manta rays? Who are these 20 friends, the "G9" team?
Why does this matter?
Because Jacob claimed in the Der Spiegel article that he only heard about Snowden in May, when Laura Poitras called him and they worked out this interview with Snowden while he was in Hong Kong which was then published:
"In mid-May, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras contacted me," Appelbaum said. "She told me she was in contact with a possible anonymous National Security Agency (NSA) source who had agreed to be interviewed by her."
"She was in the process of putting questions together and thought that asking some specific technical questions was an important part of the source verification process. One of the goals was to determine whether we were really dealing with an NSA whistleblower. I had deep concerns of COINTELPRO-style entrapment. We sent our securely encrypted questions to our source. I had no knowledge of Edward Snowden's identity before he was revealed to the world in Hong Kong. He also didn't know who I was. I expected that when the anonymity was removed, we would find a man in his sixties."
Jacob goes out of his way to tell us that he had "no knowledge" of Snowden until he was "revealed to the world" in Hong Kong. But maybe they partied on the beach together in April 2013? or even earlier?
So who are the 20 friends? Are those re-tweeters and birthday-well-wishers among them, and are any of them involved in handling Snowden?
"Data retention tells a story about you that isn't necessarily true," says Jake sagely to his hacker buddies.
Well, maybe, then maybe not.
WikiLeaks claims the interview Poitras and Appelbaum did was conducted over encrypted email before Snowden left Hawaii on May 1. But maybe they were there in person even before?