Snowden’s First Move Against the NSA Was a Party in Hawaii | Threat Level | WIRED Kevin Poulsen
(Disclosure: I’m on the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Technical Advisory Board with Sandvik, and both Snowden and Greenwald sit on the foundation’s board of directors.)
In Melbourne, Wolf received an e-mail asking for advice on putting together the Oahu event. She offered some tips: Teach one tool at a time, keep it simple. “If I’d known it was someone from the NSA, I’d have gone and shot myself,” she says.
Snowden used the Cincinnatus name to organize the event, which he announced on the Crypto Party wiki, and through the Hi Capacity hacker collective, which hosted the gathering. Hi Capacity is a small hacker club that holds workshops on everything from the basics of soldering to using a 3D printer.
“I’ll start with a casual agenda, but slot in additional speakers as desired,” write Cincinnatus in the announcement. “If you’ve got something important to add to someone’s talk, please share it (politely). When we’re out of speakers, we’ll do ad-hoc tutorials on anything we can.”
When the day came, Sandvik found her own way to the venue: an art space on Oahu in the back of a furniture store called Fishcake. It was filled to its tiny capacity with a mostly male audience of about 20 attendees. Snowden spotted her when she walked in and introduced himself and his then-girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, who was filming the event. “He was just very nice, and he came to the door and introduced himself and talked about how the event was going to run,” Sandvik says.
They chatted for a bit. Sandvik asked Snowden where he worked, and after hemming and hawing, he finally said he worked for Dell.
Last week Glenn Greenwald published his book on Snowden, No Place To Hide, which revealed the Cincinnatus nickname for the first time, leading me and others to the Oahu crypto party post. It turns out Snowden sent his first anonymous e-mail to Greenwald just 11 days before the party. At the time of the event, he was still waiting for Greenwald to reply.
“I kind of hope, secretly, that the #crypto_party offered Snowden an outlet to think about what he was already beginning to plan to do,” Wolf says.
“I’m kind of proud that he taught a group of people as well,” she says. “That’s huge. We relied on volunteers who often put themselves at risk to teach at places and situations that were uneasy for them. That was a huge risk for him to teach a crypto party while he was working for the #NSA. I’m glad he did. What a fucking legend.”