Edward Snowden Explains The Direct Connection Between John Perry Barlow’s “Declaration of Cyberspace” & His Historic Surveillance Disclosures

Edward Snowden

John Perry Barlow woke me up. He raised a message sounded an alarm, that I think we all heard. He didn’t save the world. None of us can, but perhaps he started the movement that will.

Complete transcription and MP4 available for download from the Internet Archive.

Edward Snowden: Thank you. (Applause.) I’m never going to get used to this. (Standing ovation at the Internet Archive)

There are a lot of things that can be said about John Perry Barlow, or, as I called him, JPB. He was a good man. He was a brave man. He was an original thinker. This was an incredibly talented charismatic individual.

He had no obligation to live a life that was touched by the struggles and challenges and politics that we’re made to deal with and confront every single day. For many of us, it’s not a choice. We have no alternative. We have no special talent. We are not rock stars. But he chose to side with us. He chose that. And it is that shrewdness that I think is the mark of highest distinguishment for his character.

This was a man who actively sought discomfort when he had every opportunity to sort of stay in bed with the wonderful and interesting people that were involved in his life, and he never lost this. In fact, as he got older, in the brief time that I knew, and I had the rare opportunity to share a stage with him, he became ever more politically involved. Ever more politically astute and ever more self-sacrificing.

This was a man who was not afraid to say things that others were not. This was a man who was not afraid to ask questions that would make people uncomfortable, and yet were necessary. And it was this trait that he put into the organization and lives that he was connected to that brought be forward.

One of the stories that is very little told in the media, perhaps untold, is this story: I’m sitting at the NSA as a high school dropout being paid an extraordinary amount of money to help build and run machines to spy on you. And there were over 30,000 people working at the NSA at the time. This was a comfortable life. This was an easy life. And it was certainly the path of least resistance for me.

Now I started out as a true believer. I too, had a choice, but as I climbed higher and higher levels of the government I gained access to more and more highly classified information. And eventually, I reached the sort of highest peak of security clearance. I realized that something wasn’t right. I realized that what was legal was not necessarily what was moral. I realized that what was being made public was not the same as what was true. And eventually this reached the point where we had the most senior intelligence official in the United States government, General James Clapper, who went before Congress, and swore an oath to tell the truth nothing but the truth. You know, we’ve all heard it. And he was asked by Senator Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA spying on millions, or hundreds of millions, of American’s communications.” The general immediately starts sweating, rubs his head, realizes he’s on camera. Thinks about it for a second. He’s gotten these questions 24 hours in advance. And he says “No. No sir. Not wittingly.”

This was a problem that John Perry Barlow understood, even though he didn’t know exactly how that was a lie. He knew it didn’t sit right. He talked to me about this after the fact, after I had come forward. But the idea here is this story from 2013 of the mass surveillance revelations was never about the surveillance. It was about democracy. What does it mean that when we have a system of government? When we have elected officials… when we have the highest powers in our country accountable the lowest standards of behavior. At the same time, if we break the smallest law, as ordinary people, we face the highest consequences.

Well, JPB created this organization, The Electronic Frontier Foundation,with his friends. He created the Freedom of the Press foundation, that I would later join myself and have the privilege of serving on the board with him. And the idea is this…. It’s an argument that he put to me when I shared a stage talking about the future of democracy. And I was talking about sort of where I thought the systems were breaking down; where things were working, and where they weren’t working in a very technical sort of engineer’s way, because I’m not a politician by training. And he said that he thought I was missing the point. He said, in the unique case of these United States the whole question of national security, this entire area of conversation topic, is being misrepresented by the government to the detriment of the public. “National security” doesn’t mean what they try to make you think it means. “National Security” is not about terrorism. “National security” is not about military.

“National Security” means the security of our founding principles. It’s not our borders. It’s not our culture. It’s not anything except those founding documents that we still profess to believe in. According to him. And if we are insecure in our beliefs and our willingness to protect and preserve those beliefs, that is a threat to national security, and perhaps the only one that matters. Now I’m not even sure he knew this at the time, but when I was going about my sort of dark work at the NSA gathering information about crimes against the public on a previously unprecedented scale, I was wearing a hoodie from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It was a parody of the NSA. When I came forward, it was in the very first photograph that was made public of me in Hong Kong, where I was meeting with journalists, to provide them this material, which then I lost access to. Because, I didn’t want to be exploited. I didn’t want to be the person who’s making the choices of what should and should not be made public. I felt this was the role of the fourth estate. This is the proper function; the necessary purpose of press in a free society. To contest the government’s monopoly control of information. As much as it’s wonderful when hackers go out and get this information for us — and as much as I think it is necessary for whistleblowers to share with us the information that we need to know — I wasn’t elected president of disclosure. And I don’t think anyone else is either. This is why the First Amendment is first.

In every free society, the legitimacy of government derives from a single principle; the consent of the governed. But that consent it only meaningful if it’s informed. What happens when we cast votes for politicians who make certain campaign promises, and then, not only do they not deliver on them, they actually expand the surveillance programs that they pledged to terminate. And this is that part of John Perry Barlow’s sincerity that I admired. And this is the reason, ultimately, that led me to many of the choices in life that I have made.

When I was a young man. I was reading his Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, and perhaps that may have been that seed of radicalization. I’ve said before that I used to work for the government and now I work for the public. I’m not sure JPB ever had any other allegiance. His love was for all of us. This is why he spent that long life that could have been so comfortable — so frictionless — constantly searching for the next thing. Constantly searching for the next struggle.

He told me on that same day — on that same stage — one of the things that he struggles with, is people who turn away. People who don’t think. People who are so in love with comfort that they forget that struggle is what drives us forward. He shared with me a saying that he says he got from the Navajo, which is the kind of thing that only an interesting guy like him could just pass off as a throwaway comment: “You can’t awaken somebody who’s pretending to be asleep.”

John Perry Barlow woke me up. He raised a message — sounded an alarm, that I think we all heard. He didn’t save the world. None of us can, but perhaps he started the movement that will. I want to thank him for everything that he did for me, for us, for the United States, and for this world. He was an incredible person. He was an inspiration to me and it was an honor to have known him. There is one thing that I I’d like to say from him, which I will keep with me for the rest of my life as I think about what comes next for myself and hopefully those of you in the room as well.

I said, when we’re looking at all of these problems that face the world today, that face our politics today: the partisanship, incivility, the inhumanity, the injustice that fills every conversation and we try to make the people who are in power confront that and fix it and do their jobs. I struggle with the question of how it is that we correct this. What is it that we’re supposed to do, and why is it that they feel so comfortable. And it came down, finally, to this feeling of immunity, of unaccountability, that these powerful institutions all seemed to enjoy. It didn’t matter whether it was the Attorney General breaking the law. It didn’t matter who was the CEO of Citibank breaking the law. They had a different standard behavior. And when they saw the world… when they saw the system… when they saw how much control they had and how little we had they said, “Well what are you going to do about ?”

And he sat, and he thought. Just a long pause on stage in front of so many people which is the kind of thing that only somebody like him could really get away with. I know I personally feel obligation to fill the silence. Then he said “The United States such as it is today exists to look at precisely that claim. “What are you going to do about it? And to answer that question, and to answer it right.”

Ladies and gentlemen the life of John Perry Barlow was an example to everybody. Thank you.

Transcription courtesy of Lisa Rein, co-founder, Aaron Swartz Day.

Edward Snowden “on stage” with (left to right) Trevor Timm, Cory Doctorow, Cindy Cohn, (Brewster Kahle in foreground.)

Do G-Men Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Flashback Friday MONDO 2000 Issue #3)


by R. U. Sirius & George Gleason

It’s no secret that mischievous young computer hackers get into trouble with the law. Occasionally, as in the case of the original legendary phone phreak John Draper aka Cap’n Crunch, they wind up in jail, although for the most part, their cyber-joyriding pranks are merely wrist-slapped. Suspended sentences. Probation. Charges dropped along with promises not to hang with the wrong crowd. Law enforcement quickly learned that it is not in their best interests to lock the hacker—and all that tricky expertise—in with a bunch of hardcore criminals. Indeed, the unmasked hacker may end up working as a security agent—for the phone company, a bank, or even some federal agency. Computer “crime” can be seen as the bush league, training for the Security Industry.

This relatively benign view of phreaking held through the first years of the personal computer industry. After all, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs gave birth to the PC partly through funds gathered by selling the “blue box,” a device for phone phreaking. And back before the digital revolution was taken over by the marketing departments, it was common knowledge that hackers were the backbone of the industry. Hacking is about exploration and access—exploring the limits of systems, finding what you need, whether to satisfy your curiosity or to complete some useful work. Proprietary concerns are not always treated with the utmost respect. Since hackers also tend to be pranksters, they can at times tend to be downright disrespectful towards authority. But a revolutionary conspiracy of self-conscious anarchists, this subculture has never been. Not quite.

Cut to 1990. A year that will live in infamy. For some unfathomable reason, agents of the law decided that this is the time to get busy stomping on self-expression. Just briefly: we had the bust of an art gallery in Cincinnati for showing Robert Mapplethorpe’s infamous photos, we had police agents entering a music shop in Florida and seizing dangerous CDs, records and cassettes, we had the 2 Live Crew busts, we had Jock Sturges —a reputable photographer—busted and all of his everything seized for daring to process photos of the young nude body, and we had the US Armed Forces invasion of Humboldt County, uprooting a fistful of the killer weed to impress the president of Colombia.

It is in this context that we come upon Operation Sun Devil and the concerted crackdown against young computer hackers by the US Secret Service.

Think of this calendar of events as a kind of scorecard that you can refer hack to as you read this section’s interviews with such Dramatis personae as Craig Neidorf, Steve Jackson , John Barlow , Mitch Kay or, et al.

Summer 1988: Hackers’ Convention 4.0. CBS News shows up with prepared script intending to depict hackers as dangerous criminals. This was particularly bizarre given that this Hackers gathering, formed by Steven Levy (author of the book Hackers) and Stewart Brand with the Whole Earth Institute, is frequented primarily by older, comfortable, relatively law-abiding computer fiends. Many of the people who were portrayed as “high in the Santa Cruz mountains plotting the downfall of the computer industry” were actually CEOs in that industry. Many more were, at the very least, major stockholders and well-paid executives in mainline companies. The dangerous-looking longhaired man seen looking at violent computer games while playing with a yoyo by millions of newswatching Americans was none other than Clifford Stoll, National Security Agency collaborator and author of The Cuckoo’s Egg. The CBS coverage was probably the first inkling for the older 60’s-generation hacker set that something might be amiss in their world.

Many who were portrayed as “high in the Santa Cruz mountains plotting the downfall of the computer industry” were actually CEOs in that industry

November 1988: The Internet Worm runs wild across many of the nations’ computer networks, shutting down an estimated 6,600 computers tied to the Internet and causing an estimated loss of 40 to 90 million dollars. The code, written by Robert Morris, was intended to map the net. In the words of John Barlow, “It was going to go around to every node on the net and report back in and tell just how big this sucker is.” But, due to faulty code, it winds up reproducing itself at a phenomenal clip, eating up all the cyberspace in its path and closing many systems. Within a day of Morris’ arrest, it is revealed that his father, also Robert Morris, is the chief computer security expert at the National Security Agency. Those who wish to conjecture about the possible meaning of this may proceed at their own risk.

December 1988: Legion of Doom member “The Prophet” downloads a Bell South document on the administration of E-911 systems, and then posts it around bulletin board systems (BBSs) such as Jolnet. It reaches Knight Lightening, aka Craig Neidorf. Knight republishes it in his electronic magazine, Phrack.

Read more “Do G-Men Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Flashback Friday MONDO 2000 Issue #3)”

The 7B2 in Handel Gothic (It is steampunk)

lThat nag of the wristwatch to be real, be present, and to stick by one’s intended boundaries of privacy is more powerful than the nag of the phone. The phone nags differently.

by Woody Evans


I regarded it, but this little Casio did not regard me as I settled onto the toilet. In that moment, the watch won me over, and now I’m in the analog-gadget bag, big time.

The face is marred at the fifty-six-minute-mark on this black resin Casio MQ24-7B2 wristwatch. It is physical, is analog, it doesn’t quite fit the left wrist right, and I love it. It’s just too small for me except when worn on the last couple of notches, and over the last year I’ve banged it up working in the yard; some third of a millimeter of plastic is gouged out on the southeast or five o’clock side — scraped the fencerow or something, I dunno.

Over this first year, though, it has kept time to within thirty seconds (runs a little fast), and the numerals’ font is a  homogenous mix of the slightly-too-serious and the slightly-sci-fi (in the Handel Gothic family, @greatdismal (aka William Gibson) and his Twitter friends suggest).  It is “water resist.” My son gave it to me last year— unclear why he thought it important, but he turned out to be right.

I love this watch for all of the above particularities, and I love it more than any other wearable bit of tech I own.  I’ve got a few small blades, including a thumb-sized Mad Max looking lockblade that rides on my keychain. I go, too, for a Night Ize first generation DoohicKey, which isn’t exactly a knife, but has a beveled edge which works for most minor box-cutting-type jobs, carabines onto my extant keyrings, and works as a wrench, bottle opener, and a 40 millimeter ruler. I have a small red SanDisk .mp3 player that’s going on 10 years old, but still works great. Then, in my pockets, I have tins and a palmable plastic bottle or two for mints or meds… and, of course, the phone (Samsung Galaxy S4 — glass face replaced last month after a proper shatter on ceramic tile as I leaned into the fridge for beer and it leaned out of my shirt pocket for gravity). Read more “The 7B2 in Handel Gothic (It is steampunk)”