US Gov't Funded Julian Assange's Crypto Research… Then Pulled The Plug
from the it-all-comes-back-around dept
PandoDaily has a fascinating story from Peiter Zatko who had known Julian Assange way back in the day, and last ran into him at Chaos Congress in 2009 (Wikileaks was going strong at this point, but it was well before the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, the accusations of rape, the Ecuadorian embassy asylum and all that). They caught up over dinner and Assange revealed to Zatko how the US government had funded and then shut down his research into a crypto-file system which would allow you to reveal a way to decrypt it that just showed innocuous files, so you could be “forced” to decrypt something without actually revealing anything. Of course, as we pointed out not that long ago, the NSA has a bit of a history of trying to stifle crypto research if it fears that the crypto might be too good, and it sounds like Assange was a victim of that, despite not being American nor working at an American university:
Julian told me his graduate work had been funded by a US government grant, specifically NSA and DARPA money, which was supposed to be used for fundamental security research. It was a time when the Bush Administration and Department of Defense were seen to be classifying a great deal of fundamental research and pulling back on university funds. These universities were getting the message that they could no longer work on the research they had been conducting, and what they had already done was classified. In a Joseph Heller-like twist, they weren’t even allowed to know what it was they had already discovered.
According to Julian, the US government cast such a wide net that even general scientific research, whose output had always been published openly, was swept up in America’s secrecy nets. As you can imagine this did not sit well with Julian, because his work had also been funded by one of these fundamental research funding lines and yanked.
Zatko notes that this experience is a big part of what drove Assange to dedicate his life to openness and helping to expose organizations that tried to keep the public ignorant of important things. While the crux of the article is that the US government inadvertently “created” Wikileaks, that seems like a bit of an exaggeration. However, it is somewhat interesting to know that Assange’s work was, at one point, funded by the US government.