As many of you may know there has been lots of turmoil in the infosec world about the allegations of sexual assault against Jacob Appelbaum surfaced last week.
Jacob has provided a carefully worded statement, and Franklin Bynum has provided his “attempt decipher” it here. Jacob isn’t widely know to be the most empathic and compassionate human being on earth, and his perceived total lack of empathy along with a heavy dose of sarcasm and bad manner hasn’t won him a very large group of admirers, as the dear hacker Nick Farr has more than clearly stated in his statement a few days ago, but although Franklin’s post was (probably) meant to be sarcastic “analysis”, and contempt against Jacob is clear and transparent (and probably deserved). But we’re supposed to judge facts and not emotions, and since a huge amount of my contacts are using Franklin’s post to interpret Jacob’s statement as a signed “proof of guilt” (which it isn’t) I thought to devote some time in crafting some sort of more complete analysis of the statement.
DISCLOSURE: I do run a Digital Reputation company, and part of my work is to consult and craft (or decode) statements as Jacob’s one.
Here is my professional analysis of the statements, along with the analysis by Franklin:
[Jacob’s Statement] In the past few days, a calculated and targeted attack has been launched to spread vicious and spurious allegations against me.
[Franklin’s Point of view] I can’t directly say the allegations are false.
Nope, not by bar. Complete declaration of falsity of allegations is clearly expressed a couple of sentences below.
First statement underline not only that in Jacob’s point of view the allegation are totally spurious, but in addition to this that are vicious, intended not to seek truth but to cause the most possible damage to his personality and reputation. A statement that, in the light of what is happening, is completely accurate.
[J]: Given the way these accusations have been handled, I had little choice but to resign from my position as an advocate at the Tor Project and devote my full attention to completing my doctoral work on cryptography at the Technical University of Eindhoven.
[F]: They were going to fire me if I didn’t quit.
Although Franklin is technically right on the fact that, in the view of the coming investigation, the Tor Project would have probably put Jacob “on hold”, mainly to safeguard Tor Project’s mission, that is not that the statement says. Jacob’s attention has to be totally devoted to “set the record straight” (two statements below), a position in litigation that is hardly compatible with an advocate role…
[J]: Vague rumors and smear campaigns against me are nothing new. As a longtime public advocate for free speech and a secure internet, there have been plenty of attempts to undermine my work over the years.
[F]: I need you to believe the government is behind this.
Nope, not by far.
Although Jacob is known to be paranoid about Governments, it has plenty of evidence for being so: he has a long story of being detained at airports and had his electronic equipment seized several times. Franklin seems to forget that in 2010, the US Department of Justice obtained a court order compelling Twitter to provide data associated with the user accounts of Appelbaum, as well as several other individuals associated with Wikileaks, an order Twitter successfully petitioned the court to unseal, permitting them to inform their users of the request.
[J]: Now, however, these unsubstantiated and unfounded attacks have become so aggressive that I feel it’s necessary to set the record straight. Not only have I been the target of a fake website in my name that has falsely accused me of serious crimes, but I have also received death threats (including a Twitter handle entitled ‘TimeToDieJake’).
[F] This one troll account mentioned my death in its handle, so now I am the victim. If that account didn’t exist, I would have had to invent it.
Nope, again. Statement says “things have escalated quickly”, and while until now Jacob didn’t feel the need to address the issue, now it is time to do so in a more structured form.
And even if death threats are not coming in thousands, you only need one killer to die. I honestly think even Franklin would thing to countermeasure if the death threats were against him.
[J] I think it’s extremely damaging to the community that these character-assassination tactics are being deployed, especially given their ugly history of being used against fellow members of the LGBT community. It pains me to watch the community to which I’ve dedicated so much of my life engage in such self-destructive behavior. Nonetheless, I am prepared to use legal channels, if necessary, to defend my reputation from these libelous accusations.
[F] I can’t sue.
Nope: you first defend yourself, then sue. And defense is, right now, the first and foremost tactic.
Jacob is, although, playing the LGBT card a little bit too easily.
[J] I want to be clear: the accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false.
[F] I’ll never be convicted of a crime.
Come on, Franklin! You’re a lawyer (and a good one, I’m said), not a jester :)
This statement is a clear and total declaration of falsehood of the allegations. The one you were searching for in the first comment up there…
I know that you could say that denying that you’re guilty of a crime and denying that something happened are two different things, but that’s pure sophistry. And you know it.
[J] Inevitably, there may have been moments in my professional or private life when I may have inadvertently hurt or offended others’ feelings. Whenever I was aware of these instances, I have, and will continue to, apologize to the friends and colleagues in question and to continually learn how to be a better person. Though the damage to my reputation caused by these allegations alone is impossible to undo, I nonetheless take the concerns of the Tor community seriously.
[F] I’m not sorry.
Yes, in this case Franklin is perfectly right: there is nothing Jacob feel sorry about this situation. Which is a little bit odd. A better phrasing would have been something in the line “Although allegations are completely devoid of any basis, I’m sorry that people felt so bad about a situation that felt compelled to move against me”. Is is to be merited to Jacob that the other part of the statement clearly read ad “I know I’m often an ass”.
[J] To dispel any further rumors, to the best of my knowledge, the Tor network is not ‘compromised.’
[F] The Tor network is fine, I guess. I haven’t had a patch accepted in several years.
I’m not commenting on this one :) But I strongly advise Franklin to look up the word “advocate” :) That was a little bit different from “developer” the last time I checked :P
[J] I’ve dedicated my life as a journalist, activist, and longtime member of the Tor Project to advocating for the transparency of public processes and to speaking out about the necessity of privacy, security, and anonymity. These are ideals that I will continue to uphold, despite the vicious campaign that is currently being waged against me.
[F] Read this whole thing again; I never directly said that any of the allegations are not true.
Take your suggestion and re-read it you too, Franklin: sixth statement, “the accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false”. Which part wasn’t clear? :)
Just to make it clear, I don’t really think Franklin was deliberately trying to directly harm Jacob: it was a funny (and spirited) way of commenting the statement and to express his personal feeling.
I’d really like, though, that the bad interpretation of the statement will now come to an abrupt end and that we can concentrate on more compelling evidence, instead of emotive charge.