Softgames opens office in Toronto
New office from Berlin-based messenger games studio will be led by by industry veteran Gili Zeevi
Softgames opens office in Toronto
New office from Berlin-based messenger games studio will be led by by industry veteran Gili Zeevi
Why Signal and not Threema ? : signal
Signal is open source, Threema is not, so that disqualifies Threema as a secure app in my opinion. You could as well continue using WhatsApp since it’s also end to end encrypted but closed source. Wire is another great alternative, and it’s German.
Hacker erklären, welche Messenger-App am sichersten ist - Motherboard
Passons sur les exigences plus poussées, je ne vois que Signal qui satisfait tous ces besoins. Après on peut toujours utiliser plusieurs « messenger apps » afin de rester au courant des « updates » de tout le monde - à l’exception des apps de Facebook (Whatsapp), Wechat et Google parce que leur utilistion constitue une menace de votre vie privée simplement par l’installation sur votre portable.
Roland Schilling (33) und Frieder Steinmetz (28) haben vor sechs Jahren begonnen, an der TU Hamburg unter anderem zu dieser Frage zu forschen. In einer Zeit, als noch niemand den Namen Edward Snowden auch nur gehört hatte, brüteten Schilling und Steinmetz bereits über die Vor- und Nachteile verschiedener Verschlüsselungsprotokolle und Messenger-Apps. So haben sie beispielsweise im vergangenen Jahr geschafft, die Verschlüsselung von Threema per Reverse Engineering nachzuvollziehen.
Ihre Forschung ist mittlerweile zu einer Art Aktivismus und Hobby geworden, sagen die beiden: Sie wollen Menschen außerhalb von Fachkreisen vermitteln, wie elementar die Privatsphäre in einer Demokratie ist. Im Interview erklären sie, auf was man bei der Wahl des Messengers achten soll, welche App in punkto Sicherheit nicht unbedingt hält, was sie verspricht und warum Kreditinstitute sich über datenhungrige Messenger freuen.
Roland Schilling: Bei mir ist es anders. Ich bringe die Leute einfach dazu, die Apps zu benutzen, die ich auch nutze. Das sind ausschließlich Threema, Signal und Wire. Wenn Leute mit mir reden wollen, dann klappt das eigentlich immer auf einer von den Dreien.
Frieder: ... Signal und WhatsApp etwa setzen auf die gleiche technische Grundlage, das Signal-Protokoll, unterscheiden sich aber in Nuancen. Threema hat ein eigenes, nicht ganz schlechtes Protokoll, das aber beispielsweise keine ‘Perfect Forward Secrecy’ garantiert. Die Technik verhindert, dass jemand mir in der Zukunft meinen geheimen Schlüssel vom Handy klaut und damit meine gesamte verschlüsselte Kommunikation entschlüsseln kann, die ich über das Handy geführt habe. Signal und WhatsApp haben das.
Roland: Ein gutes Messenger-Protokoll ist Open Source und ermöglicht damit Forschern und der Öffentlichkeit, eventuell bestehende Schwachstellen zu entdecken und das Protokoll zu verbessern. Leider gibt es auf dem Messenger-Markt auch viele Angebote, die ihre vorgebliche „Verschlüsselung“ diesem Prozess entziehen und geheim halten, oder das Protokoll zwar veröffentlichen, aber auf Kritik nicht eingehen.
Secure WhatsApp Alternatives – Messenger Comparison
Threema and Telegram under Control of Russia’s Government ?
WhatsApp Exploited by NSA and US Secret Services?
Go to the profile of Vadim An
Mar 7, 2018
This is the end of era centralized communication!
The 2017/2018 years are hot and saturated with cybersecurity challenges. Almost every week, a major media source reported hacking incidents or backdoor exploits in popular communication and messaging services. Some of which granted government agents unauthorized access to private and confidential information from within the communications industry.
According to mass-media reports, one of the most popular Swiss secure messaging apps Threema moved under the control of the Russian government and has been listed in the official registry with a view to controlling user communications.
This can be seen on regulatory public website ▻https://97-fz.rkn.gov.ru/organizer-dissemination/viewregistry/#searchform
This knockout news was commented by Crypviser — innovative German developer of the most secure instant communication platform based on Blockchain technologies, of the point of view, what does it mean for millions of Threema users?
To answer this question, let’s understand the requirements for getting listed in this registry as an “information-dissemination organizers” according to a new Russian federal law, beginning from 01 June 2018.
The law requires that all companies listed in internet regulator’s registry must store all users’ metadata (“information about the arrival, transmission, delivery, and processing of voice data, written text, images, sounds, or other kinds of action”), along with content of correspondence, voice call records and make it accessible to the Russian authorities. Websites can avoid the hassle of setting aside this information by granting Russian officials unfettered, constant access to their entire data stream.
This is very bad news for Threema users. Threema officials have reported that they are not aware of any requirements to store, collect, or provide information. Maybe not yet though since there is still some time until 01 June 2018 when the new law kicks in and Threema will be obligated to provide direct access to sensitive user’s data.
It’s possible that Threema is fully aware of this despite claiming otherwise. They may realize that the most popular messenger in Russia, Telegram, has been under pressure since refusing to officially cooperate with Russian secret services. If Russia takes steps to block Telegram as a result, then Threema would become the next best alternative service. That is assuming they’re willing to violating the security and privacy rights of its users by giving in to the new law’s requirements.
Based on the reports of Financial Time magazine, the Telegram founder agreed to register their app with Russian censors by the end of June 2017. This, however; is not a big loss for Telegram community because of the lack of security in Telegram to date. During the last 2 years, its security protocol has been criticized many times and many security issues were found by researchers. Although there is no direct evidence showing that Telegram has already cooperated with the Russian government or other governments, these exploitable bugs and poor security models make Telegram users vulnerable victims to hackers and secret services of different countries.
The same security benchmark issues have been explored in the biggest communication app WhatsApp. The security model of WhatsApp has been recognized as vulnerable by the most reputed cryptographic experts and researchers worldwide. According to the Guardian, a serious “backdoor” was found in encryption. More specifically, the key exchange algorithm.
A common security practice in encrypted messaging services involves the generation and store of a private encryption key offline on the user’s device. And only the public key gets broadcasted to other users through the company’s server. In the case of WhatsApp, we have to trust the company that it will not alter public key exchange mechanism between the sender and receiver to perform man-in-the-middle attack for snooping of users encrypted private communication.
Tobias Boelter, security researcher from the University of California, has reported that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, based on Signal protocol, has been implemented in a way that if WhatsApp or any hacker intercepts your chats, by exploiting trust-based key exchange mechanism, you will never come to know if any change in encryption key has occurred in the background.
The Guardian reports, “WhatsApp has implemented a backdoor into the Signal protocol, giving itself the ability to force the generation of new encryption keys for offline users and to make the sender re-encrypt messages with new keys and send them again for any messages that have not been marked as delivered. The recipient is not made aware of this change in encryption.”
But on the other hand, the developer of Signal messaging app Open Whisper Systems says, ”There is no WhatsApp backdoor”, “it is how cryptography works,” and the MITM attack “is endemic to public key cryptography, not just WhatsApp.”
It’s worth noting that none of the security experts or the company itself have denied the fact that, if required by the government, WhatsApp can intercept your chats. They do say; however, WhatsApp is designed to be simple, and users should not lose access to messages sent to them when their encryption key is changed. With this statement, agrees on a cybersecurity expert and CTO of Crypviser, Vadim Andryan.
“The Man-in-the-Middle attack threat is the biggest and historical challenge of asymmetric cryptography, which is the base of end-to-end encryption model. It’s hard to say, is this “backdoor” admitted intentionally or its became on front due lack of reliable public — key authentication model. But it definitely one of the huge disadvantages of current cryptographic models used for secure instant communication networks, and one of the main advantage of Crypviser platform.”
Crypviser has introduced a new era of cryptography based on Blockchain technologies. It utilizes Blockchain to eliminate all threats of Man-in-the-Middle attack and solves the historical public key encryption issue by using decentralized encryption keys, exchanges, and authorization algorithms. The authentication model of Crypviser provides public key distribution and authorization in peer-to-peer or automated mode through Blockchain.
After commercial launch of Crypviser unified app, ”messenger” for secure social communication will be available on the market in free and premium plans. The free plan in peer-to-peer authentication mode requires user interaction to check security codes for every new chat and call. The full-featured premium plan offers Blockchain based automated encryption model and powerful professional security features on all levels.
You can see the comperisation table of Crypviser with centralized alternatives in the below table
Major #facebook Updates You Need to Know
Earlier this year, on May 1st and 2nd, Facebook organized the F8 developer conference in San Jose, California. During the conference, Mark Zuckerberg introduced several new features of the social platforms Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram.The multiple updates are quite interesting considering what the company has gone through recently. Facebook has introduced some major updates like the first Facebook Analytics mobile app, omni-channel, and automated insights.If you still haven’t checked out the new updates, keep reading this post. I’ll talk about some of the major updates and takeaways from the F8 event.1. Automated InsightsThis is a tool which works in the backend and collects all of the important insights which you might need later. It can give you insights on things like the (...)
How cyber war affects #humanitarian aid
How Cyber War Affects Humanitarian AidCyberwar tips from the @SwiftonSecurity Twitter accountImagine a dramatic, airport novel, most communications are down, electric and water service intermittent, internet services like Snapchat and messenger applications, non functional. The term cyber warfare conjures up images of computers launching attacks against each other, interrupting the modern world. Imagining how one would affect current humanitarian aid operations, or the knock on crisis digital war could create has yet to be fully explored. The International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) spotting a need, ran a symposium on this and related topics with the Digital Do No Harm Conference in London 11–12 December 2018. An esteemed colleague brought me on board the working group for cyber (...)
How #chat #api boosts the Engagement and Retention of Users
Instant #messaging is a term that entered common usage during the 90s. The days of GTalk, Yahoo Messenger, Orkut, who can forget?But do you know that the actual concept of instant messaging dates back to the mid-1960s? The Compatible Time-Sharing Systems (CTSS) were one of the very first multi-user operating systems, created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Computation Center in 1961. They allowed up to 30 users to log in at the same time and send messages to each other. Those systems, which perhaps seems closer to emails today, had a lot of registered users from MIT and nearby colleges by 1965.Since then, we have come a long way as today we have multiple ways to communicate. In the case of user-user interaction, we have options like push notification, in-app (...)
Israel uses online blackmail to recruit collaborators | The Electronic Intifada
It was through social media that Ashraf Abu Leila, possibly the most notorious of recently convicted collaborators, is said to have first been recruited by Israeli intelligence. Accused with two other men of the assassination of Mazen al-Fuqaha, a senior Qassam Brigades leader who was killed in March last year, Abu Leila was executed on 25 May 2017 after being found guilty by a revolutionary court.
Under questioning, Abu Leila is said to have confessed to being recruited through an online messenger app at the beginning of 2004 by a man who claimed to be a member of al-Qaida. And over time, authorities say, Abu Leila proved a deadly assassin.
A member of Hamas since 2001, Abu Leila reportedly early became close to a Qassam commander, who would unwittingly shield him in the future. During the 2007 fighting in Gaza that led to the ouster of Fatah, Hamas authorities now say he was responsible for the murder of several members of the preventive security forces. He was also accused of another murder, but escaped punishment due to his involvement with Hamas’ military wing.
He subsequently worked in different ministries until 2013, when he became increasingly radicalized and reportedly got close to Gaza’s Doghmush clan and its Salafi Army of Islam group. Indeed, the assassination of al-Fuqaha was initially thought to have been carried out by Salafis, with whom Hamas has been engaged in conflict on and off for more than a decade.
Try sharing this link on Facebook itself, it’s funny to see what happens.
The FTC should spin off Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger into competing networks, require interoperability, so we have the freedom to communicate across social networks, and impose strong privacy rules that empower and protect us. IT’S TIME TO MAKE FACEBOOK SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY.
#Moose_Jaw_tunnels reveal dark tales of Canada’s past
One of the strangest stories in 20th-century Canadian history is coming to light thanks to excavations under the streets of Moose Jaw.
For more than 75 years, city officials denied rumours of a network of tunnels located under this sleepy city, once one of the wildest frontier towns in the Canadian West.
Now part of the network has been restored and is open to tourists. Promoted as The Tunnels of Little Chicago, the underground maze has become the city’s most popular tourist attraction, with more than 100,000 visitors to date.
Local researchers have interviewed many of the city’s senior citizens to get at the long-hidden truth.
“All of the accounts agreed on the main points,” said Penny Eberle, who has been closely involved in the restoration project.
Eberle says work on the tunnels began in about 1908 after several Chinese railway workers were savagely beaten at the CPR railyards by whites who believed the Chinese were taking their jobs.
This was the time when Western Canada was gripped by hysteria about the “yellow peril,” and Ottawa imposed its infamous head tax on Chinese would-be immigrants.
Terrified and unable to pay the head tax, the Chinese workers literally went underground, digging secret tunnels where they could hide until the situation improved.
Evidence suggests the tunnels were used for many years. The railway workers managed to bring women to live with them and even raised children in rat-infested darkness.
Access to the tunnels was gained from the basements of buildings owned by legal Chinese immigrants. The underground residents would do work for above-ground laundries and restaurants and would obtain food and other supplies in payment.
Because the tunnels were built adjacent to heated basements, they were livable in winter.
The tunnels acquired a whole new purpose in the 1920s, when the United States and much of Canada embarked on Prohibition.
As a major CPR terminus linked to the United States by the Soo Line, Moose Jaw was ideally situated to become a bootlegging hub. The city’s remote location also made it a good place to escape U.S. police.
Moose Jaw became something of a gangsters’ resort, with regular visitors from the Chicago mob.
“They came to lay in the sun,” says Laurence (Moon) Mullin, an 89-year-old Moose Jaw resident, who worked as a messenger in the tunnels as an 11-year-old boy.
It didn’t hurt that the entire local police force, including Chief Walter Johnson, was in cahoots with the bootleggers. Local historians say Johnson ran Moose Jaw like a personal fiefdom for 20 years, and even the mayor dared not interfere.
Mullin liked the bootleggers who frequently paid five cents rather than four, the official price, for the newspapers he sold on a downtown corner.
The tunnels were used for gambling, prostitution and warehousing illegal booze. Mullin says one tunnel went right under the CPR station and opened into a shed in the rail yards. It was possible to load and unload rail cars without any risk of being seen by unfriendly eyes.
Mullin says that Chief Johnson would occasionally stop by his newspaper stand. As Johnson paid his nickel he would whisper into Mullin’s ear: “There’s going to be a big storm tonight.”
Mullin knew what those words meant: an imminent raid by Allen Hawkes of the Saskatchewan Liquor Commission, who did not share Johnson’s tolerant attitudes.
The boy would rush to a hidden door under the Exchange Cafe, give a secret knock, run down a tunnel to a second door, and knock again. There he would be admitted to a room full of gamblers.
“The smoke was so thick you could have cut it with a sharp knife and brought it out in squares,” he says, chuckling. “But everyone seemed quite comfortable.”
Some say the bootleggers strong-armed the Chinese to take over the tunnels, but Mullin denies this. He says the Chinese and bootleggers worked together.
There are anecdotes about Al Capone himself. Moose Jaw resident Nancy Gray has written that her late father Bill Beamish, a barber, was called to the tunnels several times to cut Capone’s hair.
Mullin says he never saw Capone but did meet Diamond Jim Brady, whom he describes as Capone’s right-hand man.
He says Brady was always impeccably dressed in a grey suit and liked to show off the gun he wore under his armpit; the diamonds embedded in his front teeth sparkled when he smiled.
Mullin says he and the other messenger boys got 20 cents for every errand. The gangsters didn’t allow them to touch booze but taught them how to play poker.
“The best teachers I had in this world were those men that weren’t supposed to be any good.”
The boys held Brady in special awe: “He’d always tell us to stay on the straight and narrow. He had eyes just like a reptile and when he looked at you he almost paralysed you. I think he was absolutely fearless.”
Mullin says some rotgut whisky was made in Saskatchewan but all the good stuff came from the Bronfman distillery in Montreal.
As recently as the 1970s local officials denied the existence of the tunnels, but the denials became difficult to maintain when part of Main Street collapsed, leaving an unsuspecting motorist planted in a deep hole.
“I always said some day a truck is going to break through, and it did,” Mullin says. Guided tours of the tunnels begin daily at the Souvenir Shop, 108 Main St. N. in downtown Moose Jaw. Tours last 45 minutes and cost $7 for adults. Senior, student and child rates, as well as group rates, also offered. Wheelchair access not available. Information: (306) 693-5261
The Tunnels of Moose Jaw
The Tunnels of Moose Jaw is a year-round tourist attraction that entertains guests with unique productions of Canadian history.
Il y a deux tunnels « thématiques » :
- Passage to Fortune
The Passage to Fortune tells the story of early Chinese immigrants to Canada. You become an Immigrant and follow in their footsteps through Burrows and Sons Laundry, in darkened tunnels under the streets and in the kitchen of Mr. Wong’s cafe. Your passage to fortune is just around the corner.
- The #Chicago_connection
You’re bootleggers in 1929. You come to Moose Jaw to buy booze from the Capone organization. You’ve got to learn the ropes and stay out of the way of the local police chief. You start out at Miss Fanny’s club and end up in a tunnel, somewhere underground. And the only one who knows the way out is Gus, one of Capone’s goons.
Tunisia: Privacy Threatened by ‘Homosexuality’ Arrests
Tunisian authorities are confiscating and searching the phones of men they suspect of being gay and pressuring them to take anal tests and to confess to homosexual activity, Human Rights Watch said today. Prosecutors then use information collected in this fashion to prosecute them for homosexual acts between consenting partners, under the country’s harsh sodomy laws.
“The Tunisian authorities have no business meddling in people’s private sexual practices, brutalizing and humiliating them under the guise of enforcing discriminatory laws,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch. “Tunisia should abolish its antiquated anti-sodomy laws and respect everyone’s right to privacy.”
Human Rights Watch spoke with six men prosecuted in 2017 and 2018 under article 230 of the penal code, which punishes consensual same-sex conduct with up to three years in prison. One person interviewed was only 17 years old the first time he was arrested. Human Rights Watch also reviewed the judicial files in these cases and five others that resulted in prosecutions under either article 230 or article 226, which criminalizes “harming public morals.” In addition to violating privacy rights, these cases included allegations of mistreatment in police custody, forced confessions, and denial of access to legal counsel.
Police arrested some of these men after disputes arose between them or after neighbors reported them. Two had gone to the police to report being raped.
Some of the men spent months in prison. At least three have left Tunisia and applied for asylum in European countries.
K.S., a 32-year-old engineer, entered a police station in Monastir in June 2018 to file a complaint of gang rape, and to get an order for a medical examination of his injuries. Instead of treating him as a victim, he said, the police ordered an anal test to determine whether K.S. was “used to practicing sodomy.” “How they treated me was insane,” K.S. told Human Rights Watch. “How is it their business to intrude into my intimate parts and check whether I am ‘used to sodomy’?”
In another case, a 17-year-old was arrested three times on sodomy charges and was forced to undergo an anal examination, as well as months of conversion therapy at a juvenile detention center. Both harmful practices are discredited.
Tunisian prosecutors have relied extensively in recent years on forced anal examinations to seek “evidence” of sodomy, even though the exams are highly unreliable and constitute cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that can rise to the level of torture.
On September 21, 2017, during the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Tunisia formally accepted a recommendation to end forced anal exams. However, Tunisia’s delegation stated: “Medical examinations will be conducted based on the consent of the person and in the presence of a medical expert.” This stance is not credible because trial courts can presume that a refusal to undergo the exam signals guilt, Human Rights Watch said. Tunisia should abandon anal exams altogether.
Prosecutions for consensual sex in private and between adults violate the rights to privacy and nondiscrimination guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Tunisia is a party. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the covenant, has stated that sexual orientation is a status protected against discrimination. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that arrests for same-sex conduct between consenting adults are, by definition, arbitrary.
Tunisia’s 2014 constitution, in article 24, obliges the government to protect the rights to privacy and the inviolability of the home. Article 21 provides that “All citizens, male and female, have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination.” Article 23 prohibits “mental and physical torture.”
The Code of Criminal Procedure prohibits house searches and seizure of objects that could serve a criminal investigation without a judicial warrant, except in cases of flagrante delicto, that is when catching someone in the act.
Article 1 of Law No. 63 on the protection of personal data stipulates that “every person is entitled to the protection of their personal data and privacy of information, viewed as a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. This data can only be used with transparency, loyalty and respect for the dignity of the person whose data is subject of treatment.” However, neither Law No. 63 nor any other domestic law regulates the conditions for seizing private data during a police investigation or its use.
On June 12, the Commission on Individual Freedoms and Equality, appointed by President Beji Caid Essebsi, proposed, among other actions, to decriminalize homosexuality and to end anal testing in criminal investigations into homosexuality. It also proposed criminalizing the unlawful “interception, opening, recording, spreading, saving and deleting” of an electronic message.
On October 11, 13 members of the Tunisian Parliament introduced draft legislation for a code on individual freedoms. It incorporated several proposals from the presidential commission including abolition of article 230.
Parliament should move quickly on this draft legislation and abolish article 230, Human Rights Watch said. It should enact a law that effectively protects people’s privacy, through regulating the seizure and use of private data during criminal investigations, with consequences if such a law is violated.
The Justice Ministry should meanwhile direct public prosecutors to abandon prosecutions under article 230. The Interior Ministry should investigate reports of the ill-treatment of people arrested based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Human Rights Watch conducted face to face interviews with men in Tunisia and phone interviews with men who fled to European countries. Pseudonyms have been used to protect their privacy.
Shams and Damj, local LGBT rights groups, provided assistance.
Accounts by Men Prosecutedhttps://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/styles/1070w/public/multimedia_images_2018/201811mena_tunisia_lgbt_4.jpg?itok=9-XNs6tZ#.jpg
K.S., 32, engineer
K.S. used to work for an international company in Tunis. He said that on June 8, he went to spend the weekend in at a friend’s house in Monastir, a coastal city. He had earlier chatted with a man from Monastir on Grindr, a social network application for gays. They made a date and they met that day in a café. The man invited K.S. to his house, but once there, the man became aggressive and showed K.S. a police badge. Two other men arrived, and they started insulting him, calling him “sick.” “One said, ‘You people of Loth [a demeaning term derived from the Biblical and Quranic story of Lot], you deserve to be killed, you are like microbes.’”
They punched and slapped him on the face, he said. Then the man who had invited him said, “We will show you what sodomy is like.” The men then forced him to take off his clothes and bend over. Two of them held K.S. by the arms while the third inserted a baton in his anus. “It was unbearable, I felt that I will faint,” K.S. said. They finally let him leave.
I was shivering and bleeding [when I reached my friend’s house]. The next day, I went to Fattouma Bourguiba hospital in Monastir. I just wanted to get medical treatment and to check that I did not have internal hemorrhaging.
But, he said, the doctor refused to examine him without a police order:
I went to the Skanes district police station in Monastir, to try to get the requisition order. I did not want to tell the police the full story, so I just said that three men had raped me. The policeman who was typing my statement left the room at some point, and that’s when I saw on the screen that he was instructing the doctor at Fatouma Bourguiba hospital to examine whether I am ‘used to practicing sodomy.’ I felt the blood freeze in my body.
Human Rights Watch reviewed the June 9 police requisition order, in which the chief instructs the doctor to examine whether K.S. was “used to practicing sodomy” and whether he was victim of anal rape.
K.S. said that, when the policeman returned to the office, K.S. asked if he could leave. The policeman replied: “And go where? You can’t leave before we check what kind of stuff you do.” The policeman called for a patrol car to drive K.S. to the hospital.
The doctor told me that he has a requisition order to perform an anal test. “We want to check whether this is a habit,” he said. I was terrified. I told him that I didn’t want to do the test. But he insisted that he had to perform it. He told me to remove my pants and assume a prayer position [on hand and knees] on top of the medical bed. He put on gloves and started to examine me with his fingers. As soon as he did, I felt sick and told him I wanted to go to the toilet. I wanted to stop this humiliation. He let me go. I managed to avoid the policemen who were waiting for me in the corridor and left the hospital. Once in the parking lot, I started running until I felt safe, and then went to my friend’s house.
K.S. said he took a flight on June 13 to Belgium, where he has filed a request for asylum.
K. B., 41, documentary filmmaker
K.B. spent 13 months in pretrial detention on accusation of sodomy and unlawful detention. He is married and the father of an 8-year-old girl. He told Human Rights Watch that on March 3, 2017, at around 9 p.m., he went to downtown Tunis for drinks. While he was sitting in a bar, S.Z., a young man, approached him. They chatted for a while, then K.B. invited him to his place. He said that, after having sex, he went to the kitchen to prepare some food. When he came back to the living room, he caught the man stealing money from his wallet. K.B. tried to force him out of his apartment, but the man locked himself in a bedroom, went to the balcony, and screamed for help. Policemen arrived, arrested them, and took them to the Aouina district police station.
Police treated me with contempt. The first question the interrogator asked was whether I had sex with S.Z. I denied it categorically and told him we only had drinks together. But he said that S.Z. had confessed. The interrogator asked me: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
K.B. said the police at the station confiscated his phone and looked at his social media history and his photo archives. They switched the phone off and did not allow him to call his family or a lawyer. They presented him with a statement to sign, but he refused. At 4 a.m., they transferred both men to Bouchoucha detention center. Later that morning, the police took the men to the Tunis first instance court, where a prosecutor ordered them to undergo an anal test. The police took them to Charles Nicole hospital, K.B. said, where he refused the test. “The idea of them intruding into my intimacy and into my body was so humiliating to me.”
He was returned to detention and after a few weeks decided to undergo the test in the hope that negative results would prove his innocence. He said he informed the investigative judge during a hearing and the judge issued a requisition. Police officers took him again to Charles Nicole Hospital.
It was the worst thing that ever happened to me. The doctor asked me to strip and get on the examination table. He asked me to bend over. There was one policeman in the room and one medical assistant, watching. The doctor put one finger into my anus and moved it around. I was so ashamed. It was very dehumanizing.https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/styles/1070w/public/multimedia_images_2018/201811mena_tunisia_lgbt_1.jpg?itok=9kBJG-hA#.jpg
K.B. said that even though the test result was negative, the investigative judge indicted him for sodomy. The order referring the case to trial said that the time elapsed between the alleged act and the test prevented the court from ruling out that K.B. was “used to the practice of sodomy.”
In May 2018, 13 months after the court placed K.B. in pretrial detention, it acquitted and freed him.
In the indictment, the investigative judge wrote that S.Z. had confessed to the police to “committing the crime of sodomy in exchange for money” and that he admitted that he “approached and dated men he met via Facebook.” The judge quotes the police report, which describes in crude terms the sexual intercourse between K.B. and S.Z. The judge also states that K.B has denied the accusation of sodomy, and instead stated that he and S.Z. were only having drinks at his place and did not have sex.
The investigative judge notes that S.Z. later retracted his confession and says that he gave instructions for the forensic doctor in the Charles Nicole Hospital to administer an anal test to determine whether K.B “bore signs of the practice of homosexual activity” recently or whether he “practices sodomy in a habitual way.”
The judge’s indictment of K. B. was based on S.Z.’s confession to the police, later repudiated, from “the circumstances of the case, which show that the two men had no other reason to go to K. B.’s house” and K. B.’s refusal to take the anal test. The judge wrote: “given that the test was performed 20 days after the reported incident, the forensic doctor was not able to find signs of anal penetration because those signs disappear five days after the act.”
“Free” (nickname), 32, hairdresser
Free said that on the night of April 5, 2018, he went with a female friend from Sousse to Monastir for drinks and to meet his boyfriend. When they arrived at around 9 p.m., he said, a police patrol stopped them and asked for their papers, then told the woman to accompany them to the station for further identity checks. Free waited outside the station.
While waiting, Free received an angry message from his boyfriend asking him why he was late. Free explained where he was and snapped a photo of the station as proof. A police officer saw him and confiscated Free’s telephone, saying he had endangered state security. The officer took him to an interrogation room, where another officer handcuffed him to a chair. An officer searched the phone and finding nude photos of Free, then searched his social media activity and read the conversations he had with men on gay dating apps and his chats with his boyfriend on Facebook Messenger, some of them sexually explicit.
Free said that the police officer turned to him and said, “I hate you, you sodomites. You will have to pay for your depravity.” Other police officers in the room insulted Free, he said. The officer interrogated him about his sexual activity, wrote a report, and told him to sign it. When Free refused, a policeman slapped him in the face and said, “Ah, now you are trying to be a man. Just sign here, you scum.” Free signed the report without reading it.
At no point during the interrogation did the police advise Free of his right to speak to a lawyer. At around midnight, they moved him into a cell, where he spent the night. The following day, he was taken before a prosecutor, who charged him with sodomy but decided to release him provisionally pending trial. On June 6, he appeared before the first instance court in Monastir. The presiding judge closed the courtroom to the public.
The first question he asked me was whether I am used to the practice of sodomy. I told him I was not. He asked the question again, then asked, “Then why did you confess?” I answered, “Because the police forced me to.” The judge asked, “But if you are not a sodomite, why do you dress like this, why do you look like one of them?”
He said the judge adjourned the trial to June 14, when he convicted Free and sentenced him to a four-months sentence with probation, based on his phone conversations and his forced confession. Free has appealed.
M. R., 26, paramedic
M.R. worked in a hospital in Tebourba, a city 40 kilometers west of Tunis. He fled to France and applied for asylum after being charged under article 230 and granted pretrial release.
M.R. said he had always hidden his sexual orientation because of severe social stigma. In November 2017, he chatted with a man on Facebook. The man, called A.F., sent him photos, and they decided to meet. When they did, M.R. realized that the photos were fake and told A.F. that he would not have sex with him. A few days later, on November 28, A.F. banged on his door at around 4 a.m. Fearing scandal, M.R. opened the door to find A.F. drunk and wielding a knife. A.F. slapped him on the face, ordered him to remove his clothes, and raped him, he said, threatening to cut his throat. After a few hours, A.F. told M.R. to buy A.F. cigarettes. M.R. went to the Tebourba police station and filed a rape complaint.
When I told the police officers about the rape, they asked me how I knew the man and how we met. I dodged the questions, but they insisted. I told them that I am gay, and their behavior changed instantly. The station chief said: “Ah, so you were the one who initiated this, you are an accomplice to the crime, there is no rape here – you deserve this.” Then, he handed me a requisition order and told me to go get an anal test the following day at Charles Nicole Hospital.
The police interrogated M.R., then accompanied him to his apartment, where they arrested A.F. The police told M.R. to undergo the anal examination, then report to the First Instance Court in Manouba. M.R. consulted the nongovernmental association Shams, which defends sexual minorities, and decided to skip the anal test. When he reported to the court, the investigative judge treated him as a criminal, not a victim. M.R. said:
He asked questions about my sex life and when I started practicing sodomy with other men. He said that I deserved everything that had happened to me and that I should be ashamed of myself.
M.R. said that the judge charged him with sodomy and granted him pretrial release. A.F. was kept in custody and charged with sodomy and rape.
The indictment of M.R., prepared by the investigative judge and dated December 13, 2017, provides purported details from M.R.’s intimate life, including confessions that he is gay. The indictment also relies on the confession from A.F. and cites a condom seized at M. R.’s house as evidence.
M.R. said that, three days after the encounter with A.F., he reported to work at the hospital. The director handed him a dismissal notice on the grounds that he was facing trial.
I had to go back to my family’s place, as I had no salary anymore. It was like living in a prison. My father and older brother beat me many times, my father even burned me with a cigarette. They did not allow me to go out, they said they were ashamed of me.
Having lost everything, he left Tunisia for France.
I had no other choice, I felt rejected by everyone, my family, society, my colleagues. And I was afraid of going to prison.
Mounir Baatour, M.R.’s lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that the case is stalled in the first instance court in Manouba, and has yet to go to trial. On May 15, 2018, indictment chamber sent the indictment to the cassation court for a legal review, which is pending.
R. F., 42, day laborer, and M.J. 22, unemployed
On June 12, 2018, police in Sidi Bouzaiane arrested R.F. and M.J. after R.F. went to the police to say that M.J. had refused to leave R.F.’s house.https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/styles/1070w/public/multimedia_images_2018/201811mena_tunisia_lgbt_8.jpg?itok=lqTZnK8L#.jpg
M.J. said that the police came to his house and took both men to the police station at around midnight. They interrogated them in the same room, asking them how they met. A police officer took R.F.’s phone and watched videos stored on it, then said to R.F., “So you are a miboun [a degrading term for gay]. M.J. said:
One of the four officers present during interrogation slapped R.F. on the face. Then he turned toward me and asked, “So what were you both doing in the house? I’m sure you were having sex, so you too must be a miboun. You are staining this country,” he said.
M.J. said that policemen beat him on his face, head, and back. When the police finished the interrogation at 3 a.m., they presented a written report and told M.J. to sign it. He said he asked to have a lawyer first, but they refused to let him call one and insulted him. He signed the report.
The police report, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, states that neither man requested a lawyer. R.F.’s purported statement, as the police recorded it, describes in graphic terms how he habitually practices sodomy and has sex with men. The police report states that officers searched R.F.’s smartphone and found videos of R.F. having sex with men. The police confiscated his phone, the report says, as “evidence of the crime.”
Two days after the arrest, M.J. said, he and R.F. appeared before a prosecutor, who asked them: “Aren’t you afraid of God’s judgment?” He ordered pretrial detention, and they were sent to the Sidi Bouzid prison. M.J. said that one of the prison guards harassed him and asked him vulgar questions such as: “How you do this? Are you getting fucked for money? Why are you fucking men? Aren’t there enough women to fuck in this country?”
He said he was put in a cell with 100 other men, who seemed to have been informed about his “crime.” Over the following days, his cellmates insulted, beat, and sexually harassed him. He said that one night, he refused to have sex with the cell “strongman”, so the man and two others beat him. He said they held his arms, while the strongman slapped him on the face and punched him on the chin.
After a week in detention, he appeared before an investigative judge, who asked him about his sexual behavior. M.J. said he admitted that he is gay. He said he had done nothing wrong, but the judge replied, “You are harming society.”
The first instance court in Sidi Bouzid sentenced the two men on June 12 to three months in prison for sodomy. The appeals court upheld the sentence.
S.C., 24 and A.B., 22
Police arrested S.C. and A.B. in Sousse on December 8, 2016, when they were allegedly caught committing sodomy in public. They were sentenced, on March 10, 2017, to eight months in prison under article 230 of the penal code and not on charges related to public indecency. The police report describes their sexual intercourse in detail and concludes that S.C. “committed active sodomy,” while A.B. was a “passive sodomite.”
The judgment from the first instance court in Sousse, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, states that both denied committing sodomy or being homosexuals. It states that they were both subjected to anal examinations on December 9, 2016, that turned out “negative.” The judge concluded that: “the results of the anal tests cannot exonerate the accused of the crime, especially given that the [tests] were performed sometime after the facts.” The court based the guilty verdict only on the declarations by police officers and wrote that: “it is appropriate to sentence them to eight months as an adequate and dissuasive sentence proportional to the offense that they have committed.”
A.C., 18, student
A.C. was arrested three times for sodomy. The first time was in August 2017, when he was 17. Police forces arrested him at his house after his two sisters denounced him as gay and took him to the Kasba police station in Tunis. He said that they interrogated him extensively about his sexual orientation and took his smart phone and searched his personal data. The next day, they took him to a forensic doctor in the Charles Nicole hospital for an anal examination. He said he did not have a lawyer and that the police did not inform him of his right to have one.
I did not understand what was going on. The police told me that the test is mandatory. The doctor told me to go on an examination bed and to bend, and then he inserted his fingers in my insides. The doctor did not explain what the test is about.https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/styles/1070w/public/multimedia_images_2018/201811mena_tunisia_lgbt_3.jpg?itok=DW6d16yn#.jpg
A.C. said he was released without charge after spending two days in the Kasba police station.
On May 15, 2018, he went to the police station in Sijoumi, in Tunis, in response to a summons. He said police officers told him his family had filed a complaint and questioned him for almost four hours. A.C. confessed to being gay. The police took him to Bouchoucha detention center in Tunis, where he spent the night. The next day, May 16, he appeared before the Tunis first instance court in Sidi Hassine, where an investigative judge interviewed him. The judge asked him: “Why are you like this? Don’t you know that what you’re doing is haram [forbidden under Islam]?”
I told the judge that I didn’t break any laws, that what I do is my personal business. I did not hurt anyone. This is my private life and should not be the concern of anyone else.
He said the judge ordered his detention for two months in a juvenile rehabilitation center, as he was still a minor, and forced him to undergo “conversion therapy,” a thoroughly discredited method to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. At the center, a psychiatrist visited him twice, telling him that “he should work on changing himself and his mind.” He appeared before another investigative judge, on June 25, who released him.
A.C. said that on September 2, he was running some errands with his boyfriend when the police stopped them and asked for their identity cards. The police told A.C. that his family had filed a complaint against him. They took him to Hay Hlel police station in Tunis, where they questioned him about his sexual life, confiscated his phone, and looked at his photos and personal conversations. A prosecutor issued a warrant to detain him, and he spent eight days in the Bouchoucha detention center. On September 20, he appeared before a judge, who released him without charge.
F.B, 28; N.A, 21 and B.K., 27, day laborers
In Sousse, a coastal city, the police arrested three men in January 2017, after neighbors complained that they suspected the men were gay. In the indictment, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, the investigative judge states that the police went to the house where the men were staying, seized their phones, on which they found “evidence that they were sodomites,” as well as “women’s clothing,” and took the men to the police station.
The investigative judge ruled that the men harmed public morals based on the content of the seized phones and “because they dressed up like women, used lipstick, and talked in a languid way.” The police report and the indictment, which usually would include information about a judicial warrant, did not indicate that the police had one. The three men were sentenced to two months in prison for the charge of harming public morals and served their terms.
It turns out that Facebook could in fact use data collected from its Portal in-home video device to target you with ads
Who you call and what apps you use could determine what ads you see. Facebook announced Portal last week, its take on the in-home, voice-activated speaker to rival competitors from Amazon, Google and Apple. The biggest question surrounding the device : Why should anyone trust Facebook enough to put Facebook-powered microphones and video cameras in their living room or kitchen ? Given Facebook’s year of privacy and security issues, privacy around the device — including what data Facebook (...)
Instagram founders quit amid suspected clash with Zuckerberg
Tension with Facebook may have prompted Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger to leave The co-founders of Instagram have announced their resignation from the company, amid reports that their departure might be due to an increase in meddling by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the site’s parent company, Facebook. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger did not say why they were leaving their positions as chief executive officer and chief technical officer, respectively, of the photo-sharing service, just that they (...)
The Messenger’s special delivery
Sabotage’s Martin Brouard discusses the strategy behind making his studio’s indie retro action platformer stand out from the crowd
Are Lynchings “Apolitical”?
Lynchings destroy the notion of community. Each act of violence renders the subsequent act of violence inevitable and more heinous. We should be worried about these events, and not relegate them to ‘apolitical’ acts of disciplinary violence aimed at ‘alleged criminals’. Lynchings are predominantly discipline and punish projects, directed at policing ‘the other’.
A lynching is a public, extrajudicial execution. Once we begin with this definition of lynching, the claim made in a recent Print.in article about a spate of WhatsApp rumor based lynchings that “There is, sadly, no political angle in these killings. There’s no Hindu-Muslim dispute, not even caste. There’s no India-Pakistan, no BJP-Congress, no jihad or Naxalism, no RSS or Kashmir, no statements and counter-statements by politicians”, stands in correction. Indian journalism and its reporting around lynchings have, oddly, focused on the medium as the messenger – WhatsApp – rather than the nature of violence, and its long history of targeting the ‘other’.
Acts of collective public violence do not occur in isolation. These seemingly independent events are linked to broader social, economic, and political forces. Framing these acts as “disciplinary violence” against an “errant” individual out of “righteous anger” or “anxiety” does great harm and disservice to understanding and preventing what is now an everyday enactment of grotesque violence.
For the past year, our team of researchers at The Polis Project’s Violence and Justice Lab has been building a data set on collective public violence and justice in India since 2000. Our dataset logs acts of mob-based violence – lynchings, massacres, riots, gang rapes, etc. involving two or more persons – and traces how these acts are processed through the justice system. We have found collective public violence to be steadily on the increase since 2000. This could be a function of better and faster reporting or a function of the availability of such information in non-traditional news spaces. However, what we are rapidly seeing through our data is that one cannot make either of the claims – that Indian society was ever tolerant, or, that violence has not been on the upswing.
(Your password iochow99)
It seems that, iochow99, is your password. You may not know me and you are probably wondering why you are getting this e mail, right?
actually, I setup a malware on the adult vids (porno) web-site and guess what, you visited this site to have fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching videos, your internet browser started out functioning as a RDP (Remote Desktop) having a keylogger which gave me accessibility to your screen and web cam. after that, my software program obtained all of your contacts from your Messenger, FB, as well as email.
What did I do?
I created a double-screen video. 1st part shows the video you were watching (you’ve got a good taste haha . . .), and 2nd part shows the recording of your web cam.
exactly what should you do?
Well, in my opinion, $1000 is a fair price for our little secret. You’ll make the payment by Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search “how to buy bitcoin” in Google).
(It is cAsE sensitive, so copy and paste it)
You have one day in order to make the payment. (I’ve a unique pixel in this e mail, and at this moment I know that you have read through this email message). If I do not get the BitCoins, I will certainly send out your video recording to all of your contacts including relatives, coworkers, and so on. Having said that, if I receive the payment, I’ll destroy the video immidiately. If you need evidence, reply with “Yes!” and I will certainly send out your video recording to your 6 contacts. It is a non-negotiable offer, that being said don’t waste my personal time and yours by responding to this message.
Merci pour les tags et le partage de vos expériences... Le message m’a bien amusé :-) Et pour les passants : c’est un spam, faut pas croire ce qu’il y a écrit... (quoique j’aurais bien été eu s’il y avait eu un de mes mots de passe...)
(Part num your Hacked phone. +XX XXXXX7766)
It seems that, +XX XXXXX7766, is your phone. You may not know me and you are probably wondering why you are getting this e mail, right?
actually, I setup a malware on the adult vids (porno) web-site and guess what, you visited this site to have fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching videos, your internet browser started out functioning as a RDP (Remote Desktop) having a keylogger which gave me accessibility to your screen and web cam. after that, my software program obtained all of your contacts from your Messenger, FB, as well as email.
What did I do?
I backuped phone. All photo, video and contacts.
I created a double-screen video. 1st part shows the video you were watching (you’ve got a good taste haha . . .), and 2nd part shows the recording of your web cam.
exactly what should you do?
Well, in my opinion, $1000 is a fair price for our little secret. You’ll make the payment by Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search “how to buy bitcoin” in Google).
(It is cAsE sensitive, so copy and paste it)
You have 48 hour in order to make the payment. (I’ve a unique pixel in this e mail, and at this moment I know that you have read through this email message). If I do not get the BitCoins, I will certainly send out your video recording to all of your contacts including relatives, coworkers, and so on. Having said that, if I receive the payment, I’ll destroy the video immidiately. If you need evidence, reply with “Yes!” and I will certainly send out your video recording to your 6 contacts. It is a non-negotiable offer, that being said don’t waste my personal time and yours by responding to this message.
Variante. De toute évidence, une base de données commerciale a été volée. Les 4 chiffres transmis correspondent à un vrai numéro que le destinataire possède...
LEP : [email@example.com] 19-08-2018 03:58:09 You can easily get off
Ticкet Detаils: LEP-334-34033
Camera ready,Notification: 19-08-2018 03:58:09
Status: Waiting for Reply 53xuAaTy6A2d12wInNmOkG6ReW9Yy07Bu1_Priority: Normal
If you were more attentive while playing with yourself, I wouldn’t write dis message. I don’t think that playing with yourself is extremely awful, but when all colleagues, relatives and friends get video record of it- it is obviously for you.
I placed virus on a web-site for adults (with porn) which was visited by you. When the object click on a play button, device begins recording the screen and all cameras on your device starts working.
Moreover, soft makes a dedicated desktop supplied with keylogger function from the system , so I was able to save all contacts from ur e-mail, messengers and other social networks. I’ve chosen this e-mail cuz It’s your working address, so you will read it.
In my opinion 730 usd is pretty enough for this little false. I made a split screen vid(records from screen (u have interesting tastes ) and camera ohh... its funny AF)
So its your choice, if u want me to delete this сompromising evidence use my Bitсоin wAllet aDdrеss- 1KLV9CDNtfy1XV1CEABDdShQMYWKhUuUNH
You have one day after opening my message, I put the special tracking pixel in it, so when you will open it I will know.If ya want me to show u the proofs, reply on this letter and I will send my creation to five contacts that I’ve got from ur device.
P.S.. You are able to complain to cops, but I don’t think that they can help, the investigation will last for 5 month- I’m from Estonia - so I dgf LOL
Je n’ai toujours pas reçu la dite vidéo. Ça me stresse...
LKO : [firstname.lastname@example.org] 19-08-2018 06:53:42 Your life can be destroyed
Tiсkеt Detаils: LKO-529-93365
Camera ready,Notification: 19-08-2018 06:53:42
Status: Waiting for Reply 99xuFady0A0f96wZnEmMkV1PrO5Ty05Iu8_Priority: Normal
If u were more scrutiny while caress yourself, I wouldn\’t worry you. I don\’t think that playing with yourself is extremely awful, but when all your friends, relatives, сolleagues receive video record of it- it is certainly for u.
I adjusted malisious soft on a porn site which you have visited. When the object click on a play button, device starts recording the screen and all cameras on ur device begins working.
Moreover, my virus makes a remote desktop supplied with key logger function from the device , so I was able to get all contacts from ya e-mail, messengers and other social networks. I\’m writing on dis e-mail cuz It\’s your corporate address, so you will read it.
I suppose that 870 usd is pretty enough for this little false. I made a split screen vid(records from screen (u have interesting tastes ) and camera ohh... its funny AF)
So its your choice, if u want me to delete this сompromising evidence use my BitcOin wAllеt aDdrеss- 1PcCBv4wvErq7TSTq44wnPM3xDZ9uE8QHH
You have one day after opening my message, I put the special tracking pixel in it, so when you will open it I will know.If ya want me to share proofs with ya, reply on this letter and I will send my creation to five contacts that I\’ve got from ur contacts.
P.S.. U are able to complain to police, but I don\’t think that they can help, the inquisition will last for several months- I\’m from Ukraine - so I dgf lmao
Les adresses BTC changent d’un mail à l’autre...
Deux adresses mails spécifiques, un n° de téléphone particulier. Ces 3 éléments ont un point commun particulier : je les utilise pour mes accès aux services Microsoft. Ça me donne l’impression que c’est Microsoft qui se serait fait piquer sa base de comptes « live.com »... pas plus de preuves que ça... et aucune référence sur Internet à ce sujet évidemment.
Facebook introduces AR games to group chats
“Don’t Smile” and “Asteroids Attack” are the first games to emerge on Messenger via company’s AR Studio
This is insane: #slack could never #crash again.
Today the impossible happened, our beloved Slack crashed sending chaos into offices around the globe. “Wow, how am I now going to vote for the flavour of our new office candy???”, I thought. But even though it might not have felt like it, everything else around us was still working: the world was still spinning, South Korea was winning over Germany at the World Cup, and today’s quotas and goals had to be met. In these situations, people most often turn towards traditional messaging tools like messenger, WhatsApp or email and hope for the best — that Slack will be back up soon. However, these temporary remedies are not without their complications: undelivered messages that you thought were read, lost documents, mental breakdowns, wasted time, etc.… In general, for us it creates a problematic (...)
7 Key Step to Develop Chat Bot for Messenger
The evolution of artificial intelligence is now in full swing and #chatbots are only a faint splash on a huge wave of progress. Today the number of users of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Slack, Skype and their analogs is skyrocketing, Facebook Messenger alone has more than 1.2 billion monthly users. With the spread of messengers, virtual chatterbots that imitate human conversations for solving various tasks are becoming increasingly in demand. Chinese WeChat #bots can already set medical appointments, call a taxi, send money to friends, check in for a flight and many many other.What is Chat bot?Chat bot is one type of computer program who design for human user ,especially over the Internet.1. Determine the target audience and required functionalityNow and again, the underlying perspective (...)
Behind the Messy, Expensive Split Between Facebook and WhatsApp’s Founders
After a long dispute over how to produce more revenue with ads and data, the messaging app’s creators are walking away leaving about $1.3 billion on the table
By Kirsten Grind and
June 5, 2018 10:24 a.m. ET
How ugly was the breakup between Facebook Inc. FB 0.49% and the two founders of WhatsApp, its biggest acquisition? The creators of the popular messaging service are walking away leaving about $1.3 billion on the table.
The expensive exit caps a long-simmering dispute about how to wring more revenue out of WhatsApp, according to people familiar with the matter. Facebook has remained committed to its ad-based business model amid criticism, even as Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has had to defend the company before American and European lawmakers.
The WhatsApp duo of Jan Koum and Brian Acton had persistent disagreements in recent years with Mr. Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who grew impatient for a greater return on the company’s 2014 blockbuster $22 billion purchase of the messaging app, according to the people.
Many of the disputes with Facebook involved how to manage data privacy while also making money from WhatsApp’s large user base, including through the targeted ads that WhatsApp’s founders had long opposed. In the past couple of years especially, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg pushed the WhatsApp founders to be more flexible on those issues and move faster on other plans to generate revenue, the people say.
Once, after Mr. Koum said he “didn’t have enough people” to implement a project, Mr. Zuckerberg dismissed him with, “I have all the people you need,” according to one person familiar with the conversation.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified about privacy issues and the use of user data before a Senate committee in April.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified about privacy issues and the use of user data before a Senate committee in April. Photo: Alex Brandon/Press Pool
WhatsApp was an incongruous fit within Facebook from the beginning. Messrs. Acton and Koum are true believers on privacy issues and have shown disdain for the potential commercial applications of the service.
Facebook, on the other hand, has built a sprawling, lucrative advertising business that shows ads to users based on data gathered about their activities. Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg have touted how an advertising-supported product makes it free for consumers and helps bridge the digital divide.
When Facebook bought WhatsApp, it never publicly addressed how the divergent philosophies would coexist. But Mr. Zuckerberg told stock analysts that he and Mr. Koum agreed that advertising wasn’t the right way to make money from messaging apps. Mr. Zuckerberg also said he promised the co-founders the autonomy to build their own products. The sale to Facebook made the app founders both multibillionaires.
Over time, each side grew frustrated with the other, according to people in both camps. Mr. Koum announced April 30 he would leave, and Mr. Acton resigned last September.
Facebook paid substantially more for WhatsApp than any other deal.
Facebook’s five largest deals*
Oculus VR (2014)
*price at close of deal †approximately 615 AOL patents and patent applications
The WhatsApp co-founders didn’t confront Mr. Zuckerberg at their departures about their disagreements over where to take the business, but had concluded they were fighting a losing battle and wanted to preserve their relationship with the Facebook executive, people familiar with the matter said. One person familiar with the relationships described the environment as “very passive-aggressive.”
Small cultural disagreements between the two staffs also popped up, involving issues such as noise around the office and the size of WhatsApp’s desks and bathrooms, that took on greater significance as the split between the parent company and its acquisition persisted.
The discord broke into public view in a March tweet by Mr. Acton. During the height of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, in which the research firm was accused of misusing Facebook user data to aid the Trump campaign, Mr. Acton posted that he planned to delete his Facebook account.
Within Facebook, some executives were surprised to see Mr. Acton publicly bash the company since he didn’t seem to leave on bad terms, according to people familiar with the matter. When Mr. Acton later visited Facebook’s headquarters, David Marcus, an executive who ran Facebook’s other chat app, Messenger, confronted his former colleague. “That was low class,” Mr. Marcus said, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Acton shrugged it off. Mr. Marcus declined to comment.
Staff at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Small cultural disagreements between Facebook and WhatsApp staffs, involving issues such as noise, size of desks and bathrooms, created friction.
Staff at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Small cultural disagreements between Facebook and WhatsApp staffs, involving issues such as noise, size of desks and bathrooms, created friction. Photo: Kim Kulish/Corbis/Getty Images
The posts also prompted an angry call from Ms. Sandberg to Mr. Koum, who assured her that Mr. Acton didn’t mean any harm, according to a person familiar with the call.
When Mr. Acton departed Facebook, he forfeited about $900 million in potential stock awards, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Koum is expected to officially depart in mid-August, in which case he would leave behind more than two million unvested shares worth about $400 million at Facebook’s current stock price. Both men would have received all their remaining shares had they stayed until this November, when their contracts end.
The amount the two executives are leaving in unvested shares hasn’t been reported, nor have the full extent of the details around their disagreements with Facebook over the years.
“Jan has done an amazing job building WhatsApp. He has been a tireless advocate for privacy and encryption,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in May at the company’s developer conference about Mr. Koum’s departure. He added he was proud that Facebook helped WhatsApp launch end-to-end encryption a couple of years after the acquisition.
In many ways, Facebook and WhatsApp couldn’t have been more different. Facebook from its beginning in 2004 leveraged access to user information to sell targeted advertising that would be displayed as people browsed their news feeds. That business model has been hugely successful, driving Facebook’s market value past half a trillion dollars, with advertising accounting for 97% of the firm’s revenue.
A sign in WhatsApp’s offices at Facebook headquarters. Some Facebook employees mocked WhatsApp with chants of ‘Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!’
A sign in WhatsApp’s offices at Facebook headquarters. Some Facebook employees mocked WhatsApp with chants of ‘Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!’
It is also the antithesis of what WhatsApp professed to stand for. Mr. Koum, a San Jose State University dropout, grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine, where the government could track communication, and talked frequently about his commitment to privacy.
Mr. Koum, 42, and Mr. Acton, 46, became friends while working as engineers at Yahoo Inc., one of the first big tech companies to embrace digital advertising. The experience was jarring for both men, who came to regard display ads as garish, ruining the user experience and allowing advertisers to collect all kinds of data on unsuspecting individuals.
WhatsApp, which launched in 2009, was designed to be simple and secure. Messages were immediately deleted from its servers once sent. It charged some users 99 cents annually after one free year and carried no ads. In a 2012 blog post the co-founders wrote, “We wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse” and called ads “insults to your intelligence.”
Text MeWorld-wide monthly active users for popularmessaging apps, in billions.Source: the companiesNote: *Across four main markets; iMessage, Google Hangoutsand Signal don’t disclose number of users.
The men are also close personal friends, bonding over ultimate Frisbee, despite political differences. Mr. Koum, unlike Mr. Acton, has publicly expressed support for Donald Trump.
When Facebook bought WhatsApp in February 2014, the messaging service was growing rapidly and had already amassed 450 million monthly users, making it more popular than Twitter Inc., which had 240 million monthly users at the time and was valued at $30 billion. WhatsApp currently has 1.5 billion users.
The deal still ranks as the largest-ever purchase of a company backed by venture capital, and it was almost 10 times costlier than Facebook’s next most expensive acquisition.
Mr. Zuckerberg assured Messrs. Koum and Acton at the time that he wouldn’t place advertising in the messaging service, according to a person familiar with the matter. Messrs. Koum and Acton also negotiated an unusual clause in their contracts that said if Facebook insisted on making any “additional monetization initiatives” such as advertising in the app, it could give the executives “good reason” to leave and cause an acceleration of stock awards that hadn’t vested, according to a nonpublic portion of the companies’ merger agreement reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The provision only kicks in if a co-founder is still employed by Facebook when the company launches advertising or another moneymaking strategy.
Mr. Acton initiated the clause in his contract allowing for early vesting of his shares. But Facebook’s legal team threatened a fight, so Mr. Acton, already worth more than $3 billion, left it alone, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some analysts in the tech community said a clash was inevitable. Nate Elliott, principal of Nineteen Insights, a research and advisory firm focused on digital marketing and social media, said the WhatsApp founders are “pretty naive” for believing that Facebook wouldn’t ultimately find some way to make money from the deal, such as with advertising. “Facebook is a business, not a charity,” he said.
At the time of the sale, WhatsApp was profitable with fee revenue, although it is unclear by how much. Facebook doesn’t break out financial information for WhatsApp.
David Marcus, vice president of messaging products for Facebook, spoke during the company’s F8 Developers Conference in San Jose on May 1.
David Marcus, vice president of messaging products for Facebook, spoke during the company’s F8 Developers Conference in San Jose on May 1. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News
Facebook’s hands-off stance changed around 2016. WhatsApp topped one billion monthly users, and it had eliminated its 99 cent fee. Facebook told investors it would stop increasing the number of ads in Facebook’s news feed, resulting in slower advertising-revenue growth. This put pressure on Facebook’s other properties—including WhatsApp—to make money.
That August, WhatsApp announced it would start sharing phone numbers and other user data with Facebook, straying from its earlier promise to be built “around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible.”
With Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg pushing to integrate it into the larger company, WhatsApp moved its offices in January 2017 from Mountain View, Calif., to Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters about 20 minutes away. Facebook tried to make it welcoming, decorating the Building 10 office in WhatsApp’s green color scheme.
WhatsApp’s roughly 200 employees at the time remained mostly segregated from the rest of Facebook. Some of the employees were turned off by Facebook’s campus, a bustling collection of restaurants, ice cream shops and services built to mirror Disneyland.
Some Facebook staffers considered the WhatsApp unit a mystery and sometimes poked fun at it. After WhatsApp employees hung up posters over the walls instructing hallway passersby to “please keep noise to a minimum,” some Facebook employees mocked them with chants of “Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!” according to people familiar with the matter.
Some employees even took issue with WhatsApp’s desks, which were a holdover from the Mountain View location and larger than the standard desks in the Facebook offices. WhatsApp also negotiated for nicer bathrooms, with doors that reach the floor. WhatsApp conference rooms were off-limits to other Facebook employees.
“These little ticky-tacky things add up in a company that prides itself on egalitarianism,” said one Facebook employee.
Mr. Koum chafed at the constraints of working at a big company, sometimes quibbling with Mr. Zuckerberg and other executives over small details such as the chairs Facebook wanted WhatsApp to purchase, a person familiar with the matter said.
In response to the pressure from above to make money, Messrs. Koum and Acton proposed several ideas to bring in more revenue. One, known as “re-engagement messaging,” would let advertisers contact only users who had already been their customers. Last year, WhatsApp said it would charge companies for some future features that connect them with customers over the app.
None of the proposals were as lucrative as Facebook’s ad-based model. “Well, that doesn’t scale,” Ms. Sandberg told the WhatsApp executives of their proposals, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ms. Sandberg wanted the WhatsApp leadership to pursue advertising alongside other revenue models, another person familiar with her thinking said.
Ms. Sandberg, 48, and Mr. Zuckerberg, 34, frequently brought up their purchase of the photo-streaming app Instagram as a way to persuade Messrs. Koum and Acton to allow advertising into WhatsApp. Facebook in 2012 purchased Instagram, and the app’s founders initially tried their own advertising platform rather than Facebook’s. When Instagram fell short of its revenue targets in its first few quarters, Facebook leadership pushed the founders to adopt its targeted advertising model, and the transition was relatively seamless, according to current and former employees. Today, analysts estimate that Instagram is a key driver of Facebook’s revenue, and its founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, remain with the company. The men didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“It worked for Instagram,” Ms. Sandberg told the WhatsApp executives on at least one occasion, according to one person familiar with the matter.
Attendees used Oculus Go VR headsets during Facebook’s F8 Developers Conference.
Attendees used Oculus Go VR headsets during Facebook’s F8 Developers Conference. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Other high-profile acquisitions such as developer platform Parse, ad tech platform LiveRail and virtual-reality company Oculus VR have fallen short of expectations, people familiar with those deals say.
The senior Facebook executives appeared to grow frustrated by the WhatsApp duo’s reasons to delay plans that would help monetize the service. Mr. Zuckerberg wanted WhatsApp executives to add more “special features” to the app, whereas Messrs. Koum and Acton liked its original simplicity.
Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg also wanted Messrs. Koum and Acton to loosen their stance on encryption to allow more “business flexibility,” according to one person familiar with the matter. One idea was to create a special channel between companies and users on WhatsApp to deal with issues such as customer-service requests, people familiar with the matter said. That setup would let companies appoint employees or bots to field inquiries from users and potentially store those messages in a decrypted state later on.
Last summer, Facebook executives discussed plans to start placing ads in WhatsApp’s “Status” feature, which allows users to post photo- and video-montages that last 24 hours. Similar features exist across Facebook’s services, including on Instagram, but WhatsApp’s version is now the most popular with 450 million users as of May.
Mr. Acton—described by one former WhatsApp employee as the “moral compass” of the team—decided to leave as the discussions to place ads in Status picked up. Mr. Koum, who also sat on Facebook’s board, tried to persuade him to stay longer.
Mr. Koum remained another eight months, before announcing in a Facebook post that he is “taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate Frisbee.” Mr. Koum is worth about $9 billion, according to Forbes.
The next day, Mr. Koum said goodbye to WhatsApp and Facebook employees at an all-hands meeting in Menlo Park. An employee asked him about WhatsApp’s plans for advertising.
Mr. Koum responded by first alluding to his well-documented antipathy for ads, according to people familiar with his remarks. But Mr. Koum added that if ads were to happen, placing them in Status would be the least intrusive way of doing so, according to the people.
Some people who heard the remarks interpreted them as Mr. Koum saying he had made peace with the idea of advertising in WhatsApp.
In his absence, WhatsApp will be run by Chris Daniels, a longtime Facebook executive who is tasked with finding a business model that brings in revenue at a level to justify the app’s purchase price, without damaging the features that make it so popular.
Among WhatsApp’s competitors is Signal, an encrypted messaging app run by a nonprofit called the Signal Foundation and dedicated to secure communication, with strict privacy controls and without advertising. Mr. Acton donated $50 million to fund the foundation and serves as its executive chairman.
Corrections & Amplifications
Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion monthly users. An earlier version of a chart in this article incorrectly said it had 2.13 billion users. (June 5, 2018)
Write to Kirsten Grind at email@example.com and Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com
How to develop a Telegram chatbot on #python
Technological progress and automation are starting to influence numerous spheres of human economy and everyday life. The rapid development of artificial intelligence imposes training computers to do the human work and implement their usage in business. One of the main applications of artificial intelligence in business is the chatbot.NLP together with #chatbots have great potential in the area of customer service, and can easily accept the customer’s order and give them a consultation regarding the company’s services.It is possible to automate the work of support centers with the help of bots on the official website of the company or in popular messengers like Telegram, Slack or Facebook Messenger.In this article, we shall give you a brief tutorial about chatbot development, and share our (...)
Messenger Problem: Why “Secure” Does Not Mean “Private” and How to Fix This With #blockchain
Photo by Daniel Falcão on UnsplashNot long ago it turned out that Facebook was scanning messages sent via its Messenger app. The company said that it scans messages only for abuse, however, we all remember that Google used to read personal emails for better ads personalization. Another popular Telegram messenger is experiencing pressure from authorities in different countries who would like to get an opportunity to read what users are writing in chats.Seems that nowadays it is almost impossible to use any convenient communication without completely sacrificing #privacy. Let’s talk about how this could be fixed.The problemToday there are plenty of messengers that present themselves as “secure and anonymous”. The problem is that while claims about security could be more or less true, it has no (...)
French goverment will use Matrix Riot to replace Whatsapp
According to a recent report, the French government is currently developing an end-to-end encrypted alternative to WhatsApp and Telegram that its officials could use without worrying about foreign spying. Although the French government’s spokesperson said that the government’s app will be ...
Security Brief: Unclear U.S. Demands on North Korea; Iran Deal Fall Out – Foreign Policy
Don’t shoot the messenger. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are set to meet on June 12 in Singapore for a highly anticipated summit meeting, but White House officials are struggling to get on the same page in their messaging ahead of the summit.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton made the rounds on Sunday talk shows to pledge that the United States does not seek to overthrow Kim and that the United States will help boost the North Korean economy if he agrees to give up his nuclear weapons.
“What President Trump wants is to see the North Korean regime get rid of its nuclear weapons program in completely and in totality and in exchange for that, we are prepared to ensure that the North Korean people get the opportunity that they so richly deserve,” Pompeo said on CBS.
But at another point in his CBS interview, Pompeo appeared to outline a far more modest goal for the summit — that “America is no longer held at risk” by North Korean nuclear weapons and that Pyongyang eliminate its chemical and biological weapons program.
In an appearance on Fox News, Pompeo again appeared to focus on preventing North Korean nukes reaching American targets, “America’s interest here is preventing the risk that North Korea will launch a nuclear weapon into L.A. or Denver or to the very place we are sitting here this morning,” Pompeo said. “That’s our objective.”
Pompeo’s rhetorical stumbles over the weekend are notable in part because of an astounding admission he made on Friday. Asked how he would define what the United States means by its goal of “denuclearization” in North Korea, Pompeo conceded: “I’m not sure how to define it fully.”
He then immediately back-tracked and offered a convoluted answer: “It’s pretty clear what that means. It would be an activity that undertook to ensure that we didn’t end up in the same place that we’d ended up before, or multiple passes at trying to solve this conundrum for the world, how to ensure that North Korea doesn’t possess the capacity to threaten not only the United States but the world with nuclear weapons.”
Je ne sais pas ce qui, de tout ça, est le plus inquiétant…
…to ensure that the North Korean people get the opportunity that they so richly deserve.
(comment ne pas entendre : _se débarrasser, ENFIN !, de la famille Kim ?)
America is no longer held at risk
Sympa pour les alliés sud-coréens et japonais.
I’m not sure how to define fully “denuclearization” in North Korea.
How #blockchain can solve the #facebook problem
Maybe you’ve heard. Facebook has a problem. Quite a few of them.It all started with the ads Russia bought to tip the 2016 presidential election.It culminated with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The data of about 87 million users has been exposed without their consent.And in-between, there were revelations about Facebook retaining users’ deleted videos, the whole “fake news” controversy, the systematic scanning of photos shared on Messenger, Zuck’s superpower to delete his own messages from other people’s inboxes, and so on.These scandals seem to come from all places. But they have one thing in common. They show how powerful Facebook has become, and how Facebook is making use of its power: to benefit Facebook first and foremost. Most often to the detriment of its own users. Some even argue, (...)
In The Control Commission
One afternoon General Shabalin sent for me. When I reported he handed me an invitation from American headquarters, asking him and his coworkers to take part in a conference at Frankfurt-on-Main to discuss the liquidation of the I.G. Farben Industry. “Take my car,” he said, “and drive to Zehlendorf. Hand in the list of our delegation, and find out when the plane leaves. If there isn’t a plane, obtain passes for us to use our cars for the journey.”
It was five-fifteen when I arrived outside the American headquarters. ’Well, now I shall have to wait an hour for an interview,’ I pondered. ’And I’ve got to see Eisenhower’s economic adviser, but I haven’t any letter of introduction, only my personal documents.’
I stopped the car at the gate and took out my documents. The American guard, in white helmet, white canvas belt, and white gaiters, raised his white-gloved hand in salute and seemed to be completely uninterested in my documents. To give some excuse for stopping the car, I asked him some meaningless question. Without speaking, he pointed to a board with an arrow and the one word: ’Information’. I drove past the Information Bureau slowly, and glanced back casually to see whether anybody was watching me. ’I’ll find what I want, myself; it’s a good opportunity to have a look round without trouble. I’ll see what sort of fellows these Americans are. They may not pull me up at once. And if necessary I’ll simply say I took the wrong way.’
I strictly ordered Misha to remain in the car and not stir a step. Who knows whether he might be kidnapped, and then I’d lose my head!
I went along a corridor. All the doors were wide open, the rooms were empty. Here and there German women cleaners were sweeping the floors. On each door was an ordinary tablet: ’Major So-and-so’ or ’Colonel So-and-so’, and the name of the department. What on earth did it all means? Not a sign of security precautions. We Soviet authorities did not hang out name-boards on the doors to inform our internal and external enemies who was inside.
I felt a little uncomfortable, almost queer, with anxiety. As though I had got into a secret department by accident and was afraid of being caught. In search of the right room I looked at one nameplate after another and felt as though I was a spy going through the card index of an enemy General Staff. And I was in full Soviet uniform, too!
One of our officers had once told me there was no point in visiting an American office after five p. m. “After that they’re all out with German girls,” he explained, and I couldn’t be sure whether his words expressed contempt or simply envy of American methods. “They think anyone who sits in an office after office-hours doesn’t know how to work or arrange his time.”
’He was right,’ I thought now. ’The Americans obviously don’t intend to work themselves to death. General Shabalin’s working day really begins at seven in the evening. I suppose I must apply to “Information” after all.’
In the Information Bureau I found two negroes extended in easy chairs, their feet on the desk. They were chewing gum. I had some difficulty in getting them to understand that I wanted to speak to General Clay. Without stopping his chewing one of them called something incomprehensible through a small window into the next room. Even if I had been President Truman, Marshal Stalin, or a horned devil, I doubt whether he would have removed his feet from the desk or shifted the gum from his right to his left cheek. And yet ’Information’ functioned perfectly: a sergeant behind the window said something into a telephone, and a few minutes later an American lieutenant arrived and courteously asked me to follow him.
In General Clay’s outer office a woman secretary was turning over the pages of a glossy magazine. ’She’ll probably put her feet on the typewriter too,’ I thought, and prudently sat down at a safe distance. While I was wondering whether to remain silent or enter into conversation with the ’Allies’, a long-nosed little soldier burst through the door leading to the general’s room. He tore through the outer office and snatched his cap down from a nail, saying a few hurried words to the secretary.
’The general must be a bit of a martinet, if his men rush about like that,’ I thought.
At that moment the soldier held out his hand to me and let loose a flood of words which overwhelmed my weak knowledge of English. “General Clay,” the secretary said in an explanatory tone behind my back. Before I could recover my wits the general had vanished again. He wasn’t a general; he was an atom bomb! All I had under-stood was ’Okay’; and that the necessary order had already been issued. And in addition, that here it wasn’t at all easy to tell the difference between a general and a GI The privates stretched themselves out with their feet on the desk while the generals tore around like messenger boys.
Another officer appeared at the same door, and invited me into his room. This time I prudently glanced at his tabs. Another general! Without offering me a chair, but not sitting down himself, the general listened to me with cool efficiency. Then he nodded and went out.
I looked round the room. A modest writing desk. Modest inkstands. A thick wad of newspapers. A number of pencils. Nothing unnecessary. A room to work in, not to catch flies in. When a writing desk adequate for General Shabalin’s rank was required, all Karlshorst and all the booty warehouses were turned upside down. The inkstands were obtained specially from Dresden for him.
A little later the American general returned and told me, apparently on the basis of a telephone conversation, when the aeroplane would be ready. I had plenty of opportunities to see later on that where we Soviet authorities would demand a ’document’ signed by three generals and duly stamped, the Americans found a telephone conversation sufficient.
I did not have to present the list of the Soviet delegation at all. Here everything was done without resort to a liaison service and without any counter-check by the Ministry of Internal Affairs! The general handed me a packet of materials on the I.G. Farben Industry, so that we could familiarize ourselves with the tasks of the conference.
Next morning the Soviet delegation, consisting of General Shabalin, Lieutenant-Colonel Orlov, Major Kuznetsov, two interpreters, and myself went to the Tempelhof landing ground. There the sergeant on duty explained that he had been fully informed concerning us, and spent a little time in phoning to various offices. Then he asked us to wait, as our plane would be starting rather later than arranged. I had the feeling that the Americans were holding up our departure for some reason. Machines rolled slowly on to the tarmac in the distance, but not one of them showed the least intention of taking us with it. The general swore, and, as he did not know whom to vent his anger upon, he turned to me. “What did they really say to you yesterday? Why didn’t you get it in writing?”
“I was quite clearly informed,” I answered; “this morning at ten, the Tempelhof airground. A special machine would be waiting for us, and the airport commandant was notified.”
The general clasped his hands behind his back, drew his head down between his shoulders, and marched up and down the concrete road outside the building without deigning to give us another glance.
To pass the time. Major Kuznetsov and I began to make a closer inspection of the landing ground. Not far away an American soldier in overalls was hanging about, giving us inquisitively friendly glances, and obviously seeking an excuse to speak to us. Now a blunt-nosed Douglas rolled up to the start. During the war these transport machines had reached the Soviet Union in wholesale quantities as part of the lend-lease deliveries; every Russian knew them. The American soldier smiled, pointed to the machine, and said:"S-47."
I looked to where he was pointing, and corrected him: “Douglas.” He shook his head and said: “No... no. S-47. Sikorsky... Russian constructor....”
’Was it really one of Igor Sikorsky’s designs?’ I wondered. Sikorsky had been the pioneer of Russian aviation in the first world war, and the constructor of the first multi-engine machine, Ilya Mourometz. I knew that, like Boris Seversky, he was working in the field of American aviation, but I had not known that the Douglas was his job. It was interesting that Pravda hadn’t taken the opportunity to make a big song of it.
The soldier pointed his finger first at the clock, then into the sky. With his hand he imitated a plane landing, and explained as he pointed to the ground: “General Eisenhower.”
’Well, if General Eisenhower’s arriving,’ I thought, ’that probably explains why we couldn’t start.’
While we were talking to the soldier a machine grounded just behind us, and a group of cheerful old gentlemen poured out of it. Like a horde of children just out of school they surrounded General Shabalin and began to shake his hand so heartily that you would have thought it was the one thing they had flown from America for. The general was carried away by their exuberance and shook their hands in turn. Later it transpired that they had mistaken Shabalin for General Zhukov. Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Orlov had found out somewhere that these gay old boys were American senators, who were on their way to Moscow. He whispered this news into the general’s ear, but it was too late. Shabalin had already exchanged cordial handshakes with these sworn enemies of the communist order.
All around them, camera shutters were clicking. The senators seemed to get a great kick out of posing with General Shabalin, holding his hands. The general had little wish to be photographed in such compromising company, but he had to put a good face on it. He was quite convinced that all these photos would find their way into the archives of some foreign secret service, and thence into the archives of the Narcomvnudel. And then the fat would be in the fire.
Major Kuznetsov asked Lieutenant-Colonel Orlov incredulously: “But are they really senators?”
“Yes, and the very worst of them all, the Senate Political Commission,” Orlov replied.
“But they don’t look at all like capitalists.” Kuznetsov still felt dubious.
“Yes, they look quite harmless; but they’ve got millions in their pockets. They’re cold-blooded sharks,” Orlov retorted. Evidently he regarded it as a mortal sin to have money in one’s pocket. But then, he was a dyed-in-the-wool party man.
“So they’re the lords of America, and they behave like that. Now if one of our ministers....” Kuznetsov’s reflections were interrupted by the arrival of a column of closed cars, which drove straight on to the landing ground. A group of Soviet officers stepped out. The gold braid on their caps and the red piping on their coats showed that they were generals.
“Now we’re in for a parade!” Kuznetsov muttered. “That’s Marshal Zhukov and all his staff. We’d better take cover in the bushes.”
General Shabalin seemed to be of the same opinion. He had not been invited to this meeting, and to be an uninvited guest of Marshal Zhukov was rather a ticklish matter. But his general’s uniform made it impossible for him to hide behind others’ backs.
In this hour of need the lively old gentlemen from America came to the rescue. With unreserved ’Hellos’, friendly handshakes and back-slayings, an unstained, friendly atmosphere was created. “I like these senators!” Kuznetsov enthused. “They slap hands together like a lot of horse-dealers at a market. Great old boys!” He licked his lips as though he had just drunk to brotherhood with the American senators.
Marshal Zhukov, a medium-sized, thickset man with a prominent chin, always dressed and behaved with unusual simplicity. He took hardly any notice of the bustle all around him, but seemed to be waiting for the moment when they would come at last to business. Unlike many other generals who owed their career to the war, by all his bearing he clearly showed that he was only a soldier. It was characteristic of the man that, without any encouragement from official Kremlin propaganda, he had become known all over Russia as the second Kutuzov, as the savior of the fatherland in the second great patriotic war.
The airground grew more and more animated. Forces of military police in parade uniforms marched on. The servicing personnel hurried to and from. A guard of honor took up its position not far from us.
A four-engine machine landed quietly. The swarm of autograph hunters suffered disillusionment: double rows of guards swiftly and thoroughly cut them off from the landing spot.
Major Kuznetzov looked at the guards and remarked: “Clean work! Look at those cutthroats. They must have been taken into the army straight from gangsterdom.”
The first line of military police was certainly an impressive lot. They looked pretty sinister, even though they were clean-shaven. The second line might well have been pugilists and cowboys, mounted not on horses but on motorcycles that made more noise than aeroplanes.
Meanwhile the guard of honor had begun to perform some extraordinary exercise. The men raised their arms shoulder-high and spread out as though about to do Swedish gymnastics. Decidedly inept and un-military by our standards. “It reminds me of operetta,” Kuznetsov said to the lieutenant-general. “What are they doing that for?”
Orlov waved his hand contemptuously. “Like senators, like soldiers! They’re chocolate soldiers. Give them black bread to eat and they’d be ill.”
“Are you so fond of black bread then?” Kuznetsov sneered. “Or are you simply concerned for well-being of your fellowmen, as usual?”
Orlov ignored the questions. He was attached to our delegation as a legal expert. Also, he was public prosecutor to the military court, and knew well enough what might be the consequences of talking too frankly.
General Eisenhower stepped out of the plane, wearing a soldier’s greatcoat, the usual broad grin on his face. He greeted Marshal Zhukov. Then he signed a few autographs, asked where they could have breakfast, and took Zhukov off with him.
Hardly had the distinguished guests departed when the dispatcher announced that our plane was ready to start. Now we knew why we had had to wait so long.
A man in the uniform of an American brigadier-general addressed General Shabalin in the purest of Russian. Apparently he had learnt that we were flying to Frankfurt, and now he offered us his services. He spoke better Russian than we did, if I may put it so. He had left Russia thirty or more years before, and spoke the kind of Russian common in the old aristocratic circles. Our speech had been modified by the new conditions, it was contaminated with jargon and included a mess of new words.
I had no idea why Eisenhower and Zhukov were flying to Russia. The Soviet papers carried no official communiqué on the subject. A week later, as I was making my usual report to General Shabalin, he asked me: “Do you know why Eisenhower flew to Moscow?”
“Probably to be a guest of honor at the recent parade,” I answered.
“We know how to be hospitable,” the general said. “They entertained him with such excellent vodka that he sang songs all night. Arm in arm with Budionny. They always bring out Budionny as an ornament on such occasions.” Apparently that was all the general knew about Eisenhower’s visit to Moscow; but he put his finger to his lips, then wagged it admonitorily.
Such small incidents clearly revealed the true position of the man who was deputy head of the S. M. A. He was really nothing but an errand-boy, and only by accident knew what was happening ’above’.
An American officer stepped into Major Kuznetsov’s room. He thrust his cap in the hip pocket of his trousers, then swung his hand up to his uncovered head in salute. After which he introduced himself in the purest of Russian: “John Yablokov, captain of the American Army.”
Kuznetsov was a very intelligent man, but he was also a humorist and a bit of a wag. He replied to the American with: “Greetings, Ivan Ivanovich! How do you do!”
The American Ivan Ivanovich seemed to be no greenhorn, and he did not allow the major’s sneering smile to put him out. In fact, it transpired later that John Yablokov was one of those men who are the life and soul of the party. Either to please us or to show that, although American, he was a progressive; he rejoiced our ears with a flood of Russian oaths that would have brought down the Empire State Building. But that was later. At the moment Captain Yablokov had arrived on an official visit to invite General Shabalin to the first organizational conference of the Control Commission Economic Directorate. The general twisted the invitation and the agenda paper (both were in English) between his fingers. Trying not to reveal that English was all Greek to him, he asked: “Well, what’s the news your way?”
A second American officer who had accompanied Captain Yablokov answered also in Russian: “Our chief, General Draper, has the honor to invite you to a...” He did not seem very well acquainted with the terminology of Red conferences, and was forced to fall back on the wording of the invitation: “... to a meeting, General.”
Now the general was seated comfortably in the saddle. He did not know English, but he knew the Stalinist terminology thoroughly. He gave the American the sort of look he had given subordinate Party officials in his capacity as secretary of the Sverdlovsk District Party Committee, and explained in a hortatory tone: “We have to work, not attend meetings.”
That was a standing Stalinist phrase, which all party officials used as a lash. But at this juncture it sounded rather rude. However, the general held to the principle that too much butter can’t spoil any bread, and that Stalin’s words can never be repeated enough.
I sat in a corner and enjoyed myself immensely. The general would be starting to give the Americans a lecture on party training next. As was his habit in intercourse with foreigners, he observed the unwritten law never to trust one interpreter and always to apply the method of cross-examination, especially when the interpreter belonged to the other camp. While the Americans did their best to explain what they meant by a ’meeting’, I, too, attempted to help. The general never liked being prompted, but he always snorted afterwards: “Why didn’t you say so before?” So I tactfully observed: “It’s not really important, Comrade General. Let them hold their meeting and we’ll work.”
After we had settled a number of minor questions the Americans went back to their Chevrolet and drove home. Major Kuznetsov remarked: “But they could talk excellent Russian. The one with the little mustache looked like Douglas Fairbanks.” The general pulled him up: “You can see at once what sort of birds they are. That fellow strikes me as Chinese. They’re spies.”
The general appeared to fathom the true nature of his future colleagues extraordinarily well! A few days later, during a talk, Captain Yablokov informed me quite frankly that he had formerly worked in the American secret service in China. He did not appear to think he was in any way betraying service secrets. If a Soviet officer had mentioned such a fact he would have been committing a serious breach of his duty.
Some days later we drove to the first meeting of the Control Commission; we went with the firm intention of working and not holding meetings. The Allied Control Commission had taken over the former Palace of Justice in Elshoizstrasse. The conference hall was almost empty; the delegations were only just beginning to assemble. I felt genuinely afraid that I would be exposed to ridicule: we had no interpreter with us, and I didn’t know English too well. When I mentioned this to the general he told me curtly: “You should know!” Another Party slogan, but it didn’t make things any easier for me. Until the meeting was officially opened we relied on German, for all the Allies without exception could speak German more or less well.
When the general noticed that I was talking to French and English colleagues he barked at me as he passed: “You wait, Major, I’ll cure you of your mock modesty! You and your ’don’t know English’! Now you’re talking away, even to the French, nineteen to the dozen, but you never told me you knew French.” It was hopeless to think of explaining. And the general would probably stick me in a comer to exercise control over the French interpreters too, as he had done with the Americans.
That, too, was due to the general’s Party experience. It is a common thing in the Soviet Union for specialists and experts to dodge responsible posts. Gifted engineers, or former directors of large trusts and combines, get appointments as ’technical managers’ to some small factory or a cooperative of war-wounded, which employs only five or six workmen. In such positions they are less exposed to the risk of being flung behind the bars as ’saboteurs’, and so they keep quiet about their abilities and their diplomas. The Party officials are aware of this trick, and do their utmost to round up the ’pretenders’. And so even if you try to escape responsibility you’re in the wrong: you’re a ’passive saboteur’.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I discovered that the American and British delegations had first-class Russian interpreters.
Another difficult problem for me was my uniform. I looked as though I had covered the entire journey from Stalingrad to Berlin crawling on my belly. My uniform had been washed in all the rivers of Russia and Eastern Europe, the color had faded from it completely; in addition, I was wearing ordinary military boots. Before we drove to the conference General Shabalin gave me a critical look up and down and snarled: “Haven’t you got any shabbier-clothes you can wear?” He knew quite well that I had left my good uniforms in Moscow as an iron reserve.
Many of us took the view that, after all, the army wasn’t a puppet-show, and in any case children were running about naked at home. One man had a little sister, another a young nephew. Warm clothes or breeches could be made for them out of a uniform, and the kids would be hugely delighted: “Uncle Gregory has fought in this uniform,” the child would say, pointing proudly to the holes left by the pins of orders. I, too, had left several complete outfits in Moscow. In any case I would be getting the so-called ’Foreign Equipment’ when I reached Berlin. Only I had overlooked the possibility that I would have to take part in meetings of the Control Commission before the new equipment arrived.
As our Administration for Economy developed its organization and activities, more and more men arrived from Moscow to work with us. Usually, deputies of the People’s Commissars for the corresponding Moscow commissariats were appointed heads of the S. M. A. departments, which in practice were functioning as the ministries of the Soviet zone. One and all, these men were old Party officials, specialists in the running of Soviet economic affairs. When they took over their new posts one could hardly avoid laughing: they were pure crusaders of communism.
In due course we were rejoiced at the sight of the newly appointed head of the Industrial Department, Alexandrov, and his deputy, Smirnov. They both wore squeaking, highlegged boots of Stalin pattern, which its creator had himself long since discarded. Above the boots they had riding breeches of heavy overcoating material, and to crown this rigout they had dark blue military tunics dating from the period of revolutionary communism. At one time such attire was very fashionable among Party officials, from the local chairmen of Machinery-Tractor Stations right up to People’s Commissars, for it was symbolical not only of outward, but of inward devotion to the leader. For a long time now the People’s Commissars had been wearing ordinary European clothes, and one came across antiquated garb chiefly in remote collective farms. I can imagine what sort of impression these scarecrows made on the Germans; they were exact copies of the Hitlerite caricatures of bolsheviks.
It was not long before these over-zealous Party crusaders them-selves felt that their historical costumes were hardly suited to the changed conditions, and gradually began to adapt themselves to their surroundings. Later still, all the civilian personnel of the S. M. A. were dressed in accordance with the latest European fashions, and even with a touch of elegance. All the leading officials, especially those occupied in the Control Commission, received coupons en-titling them to ’foreign equipment’ corresponding with their position.
I stood at a window, talking to the head of the French delegation, General Sergent. Our conversation was on quite unimportant subjects, and I prudently tried to keep it concentrated on the weather. Prudence was always advisable; this Frenchman might be a communist at heart, or in all innocence he might repeat our conversation to someone, and in the end it would find its way... I knew too well from my own experience how thoroughly our secret service was informed of all that went on among the Allies.
When we Soviet officers working in the Control Commission discussed our impressions some time later I realized why we were all cautioned against talking with foreigners. A captain remarked: “All these stories about spies are only in order to make us keep our mouths shut. It’s to prevent our giving away other secrets.” He said no more; we didn’t talk about those secrets even to each other.
The Control Commission session began punctually at ten o’clock. After settling the details of the agenda relating to the work of the Economic Directorate, the times of meeting, and the rotation of chairmanship, we turned to drawing up the agenda for the next meeting. The head of the American delegation, which was chairman at this first meeting, proposed that the first item on the agenda should be: ’Working out of basic policy for the economic demilitarization of Germany.’
The Potsdam Conference had ended the previous week; at the conference it had been decided to demilitarize Germany economically, so that restoration of German military power would be impossible, and to draw up a peacetime economic potential for the country. The decision was remitted to the Allied Control Commission to be put into effect.
The interpreters now translated the chairman’s phrase into Russian as: ’Working out the policy of economic demobilization.’ Another of those borderline cases in linguistics! The English formula had used the word ’policy’. The interpreters translated this literally into the Russian word ’politik1, although the English word had a much wider meaning, and the Russian phrase for ’guiding principles’ would have been a more satisfactory translation.
At the word ’politick’ General Shabalin sprang up as though stung. “What ’politick’? All the political questions were settled at the Potsdam Conference!”
The American chairman. General Draper, agreed: “Quite correct, they were. Our task is simply to translate the decision into action, and so we have to lay down the guiding policy...”
The interpreters, both American and English, again translated with one accord: “... ’Politick’.”
General Shabalin stuck to his guns: “There must be nothing about politics. That’s all settled. Please don’t try to exert pressure on me.”
“But it’s got nothing to do with politics,” the interpreters tried to reassure him. “The word is ’policy’.”
“I see no difference,” the general objected. “I have no intention of revising the Potsdam Conference. We’re here to work, not to hold meetings.”
That was the beginning of the first hour-long battle round the oval table. Solely and simply over the awkward word ’policy’, which General Shabalin was not prepared to see in the agenda or in the minutes of the meeting.
It was often said in the economic spheres of the S. M. A. headquarters that the Kremlin regarded the decisions of the Potsdam Conference as a great victory for Soviet diplomacy. The Moscow instructions emphasized this aspect at every opportunity. At the Potsdam Conference the Soviet diplomats won concessions from the Western Allies to an extent that the diplomats themselves had not expected. Perhaps this was due to the intoxication of victory and an honorable desire to recompense Russia for her heroic exertions and incredible sacrifices. And perhaps it was due to the circumstance that two new Allied representatives took part in the conference, and that President Truman and Mr. Attlee had not yet got to the bottom of the methods of Soviet diplomacy.
The Potsdam Agreement practically gave the Soviet Union the right of disposal of Germany. Its terms were expressed in very subtle language, and they were open to various constructions later on, whenever it seemed desirable. The task of the S. M. A. now was to extract full value from the advantages won by Soviet diplomacy. “Nothing of politick!” General Shabalin defended himself like a bear threatened with a javelin. And in all probability he was thinking: ’Do you want to send me to Siberia?’ Once more the old reaction of even the highest of Soviet officials, not to do anything on their own responsibility and risk. One reason why all decisions is made from above.
Subsequently I myself saw that the American or the British delegation could change its decisions in the actual course of negotiations. But the Soviet delegation always came and went with previously formulated decisions, or else with red questionmarks on the appropriate document, which the general kept in a red document-case always under his hand. At the Control Council he acted more like a messenger than an active partner. A question that arose in the course of discussion was never decided the same day, it was only discussed.
Then the general would return to his office and make direct telephonic contact that night with Moscow. Usually Mikoyan, a member of the Politburo and plenipotentiary extraordinary for Germany under the Ministerial Council of the U. S. S. R., was at the Moscow end of the line. He was in effect the Kremlin’s viceroy for Germany. And during those telephone conversations the decisions were taken, or rather the orders were issued, on which the Allied delegations later broke their teeth.
Even at that first meeting with the Allies one could not help noticing a great difference between them and us. They welcomed us as joint victors and sincere allies in war and peace. Each of their delegations approached questions from the national aspect. And they considered that there could be no conflict of national interests or antagonisms among us victor powers, neither then nor in the immediate future. They assumed that this was a simple fact that must be as clear to us as it was to them.
We, on the other hand, regarded the ’Allies’ as the opposing party, as enemies with whom we had to sit at the one table only for tactical reasons. We decided questions from the ideological aspect. The Allies believed that Marx and Lenin were dead. But now the shades of these two men stood behind us in the Control Commission conference hall. The Allies could not understand that? So much the worse for them!
Generally speaking, the members of the delegations not only represented their state interests, but were also unusually typical representatives of their respective nations. Of course this doesn’t mean that Dimitry Shabalin smoked the coarse Russian Mahorka tobacco or that William Draper chewed gum. Not, at any rate, during the sessions.
The American delegation was headed by the American director in the Economic Directorate, General William Draper: a thin, athletic figure, with angular, swarthy features-a lively and energetic man. When he laughed, he revealed the spotless white of strong, wolfish teeth beneath his black mustache. Better not put your finger between those teeth! He set the tone at the sessions, even when he was not in the chair. He had an abundance of the healthy energy peculiar to young, self-confident nations. I don’t know how many millions General Draper really had in his pocket, I know only that General Shabalin remarked more than once: “Ah! A millionaire! A shark!” It would have been interesting to know what he based his remark on: his communist beliefs or the reports of our secret service.
The head of the British delegation and the British director of the Economic Directorate were Sir Percy Mills. A typical Briton. He gave off the smell of fog and Trafalgar Square. He wore a military uniform of thick cloth, with no insignia of rank. From the way everybody deferred to his opinion it was obvious that he was a recognized authority in the economic field. According to General Shabalin he was a director of the large British firm of Metro-Vickers. He was painfully clean-shaven; if he ever thought it necessary to smile, only the folds around his mouth came into action, while his eyes remained fixed on his documents and his ears listened closely to his numerous advisers.
In the person of Sir Percy Mills, Great Britain worked hard, but always paid attention to the voice of its young ally and victorious rival, America.
At the conference table of the Control Commission the historical changes that had occurred in the world influence of the various great powers were very perceptible. Great Britain had played out her role, and now, with a pride born of self-confidence, was surrendering her place to the younger and stronger. As befitted a gentleman!
France was the reflection of all the greatness to be found in European culture. But only the reflection. Her representatives were the successors to Bonaparte and Voltaire, the contemporaries of Pierre Petain and Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism. How to keep one’s head above water. The French director of the Economic Directorate, General Sergent, had nothing better to do than to maneuver as tactfully as possible, and not agree too completely with the West, nor be too much in opposition to the East.
The great Eastern Ally was represented by General Shabalin, a man who had a mortal terror of the word ’politick’, and by Major Klimov, who simultaneously performed the duties of secretary, interpreter, and general adviser. The Soviet side could have been represented just as successfully by one man to act as a postman. However, in those days I still naively believed that something was really being decided in those meetings. And, although we were armed to the teeth with communist theory, I felt really uncomfortable when I noted the large size of the other delegations and the sort of men who composed them.
’Nothing new in the West.’ The Allies, as one man, clung to the word ’policy’, while for three hours General Shabalin repeated: “Nothing of politick... At the Potsdam Conference....” In confirmation of his views he took a newspaper from his document-case and pointed to a passage underlined in red. Then his fellow-members in the commission also brought out newspapers and began to compare the texts. Truly, it was very interesting to take part in one session of the Control Commission; it was more interesting than the operetta. But to take part in them week after week was dangerous: one might easily have a nervous breakdown. Half a day spent in fighting over one word in the agenda for the next meeting!
The members of the other delegations looked more and more frequently at their watches. The Western European stomach is used to punctuality. At last even General Shabalin lost his patience and he officially demanded: “What is it you really want to do to me: violate me? Yes?” The interpreters wondered whether they had heard aright, and asked irresolutely, not knowing whether to regard his remark as a joke: “Are we to translate that literally?”
“Of course, literally,” the general obstinately replied.
Sir Percy Mills tried to indicate that he found it highly amusing, and twisted his lips into a smile. The chairman for the session, General Draper, rose and said: “I propose that we adjourn the meeting. Let’s go and have some eats.” It was difficult to tell whether he really was hungry or whether he was fed up with Soviet diplomacy. Everybody breathed more easily, and the sitting ended.
We departed as victors. We had won a whole week. The same night General Shabalin would be able to ask Comrade Mikoyan whether the word ’politick’ could be included on the agenda or not.
While we were holding our meeting, the Special Committee for Dismantling, and the Reparations Department, with General Zorin at its head, was hard at work. The Allies would be faced with an accomplished fact. Okay! In the last resort each defends his own interests.
The Control Commission gave me my first opportunity to get to know our Western Allies personally. During the war I had come across, or rather seen, many Americans and British in Gorky, and later in Moscow. But I had then had no official excuse for personal contact with them, and without the special permission of the Commissariat for Internal Affairs even the most harmless acquaintance, even a conversation with a foreigner, is sheer lunacy in the Soviet True, there is no open interdiction, but every Soviet citizen knows exactly what unfortunate consequences are entailed by such thoughtless behavior. Give a foreigner a light for his cigarette in the street and you are hauled immediately before the Ministry for Internal Affairs and subjected to strict interrogation. That, at the best. At the worst, one disappears into a Minvnudel camp, for ’spying’, and thus one helps to fill out the labor reserve.
To stop all contact between Soviet people and foreigners, the Kremlin spreads the story that all foreigners are spies. So anybody who has any contact with a foreigner is also a spy. It’s as simple as that.
One of the Soviet government’s greatest achievements has been to raise lawlessness to a law, with all the paralyzing fear of ’authority’ that follows from it. Every individual lives in a state of anxiety. The Kremlin exploits this mood as a highly effective means of training and guiding the masses. Not even the members of the Politburo are free from it.
Once, after one of the usual fruitless debates in the Control Commission, Sir Percy Mills proposed that we adjourn, and then invited the members of the other delegations to lunch with him.
General Shabalin went and rode with his British colleague. I had received no instructions whatever so I got into the general’s seat in our car and ordered Misha to drive immediately behind the one in which our chief was traveling. I entered Sir Percy’s house with decidedly mixed feelings. All the guests left their hats and document-cases on a small table or on the hallstand. The maid-servant took my cap from me, and held out her hand to take my document-case. I was at a loss to know what to do; it was the general’s red case that I was carrying. It had nothing of importance in it: just the minutes of the last sitting, which on this occasion had been sent to us by the British. I couldn’t leave the case in the car, but to leave it on the hall table with the others would have been a crime against the State. Yet to take it with me looked rather silly.
General Shabalin himself rescued me from my awkward situation. He came across to me and said quietly:
“What are you doing here. Major? Go and wait for me in the car.”
I felt relieved, went out, got into our car, and lit a cigarette. A few minutes later a British captain, Sir Percy Mills’ adjutant, came to the door and invited me in again. I tried to get out of it by saying I wasn’t hungry, but he stared at me in such bewilderment that there was nothing to be done but follow him. As I entered the hall where the guests were waiting the general gave me a sidelong look, but said nothing. Later it transpired that our host had asked his permission to send the adjutant for me. The British are justly famous as the most tactful people in the world.
I gave the document-case to the general. Of all the idiotic possibilities that seemed the most harmless. Let him feel a fool!
I stood at a great Venetian window looking out on to the garden, and talked to Brigadier Bader. The brigadier was a real colonial wolf. Sandy, sunbleached hair and eyebrows, gray, lively eyes behind bleached eyelashes, a complexion dry with the tropical sun. According to General Shabalin’s amiable description he was nothing less than one of the cleverest of international spies. And now I had the honor of chatting with this distinguished person. We talked in a mixture of English and German.
“How do you like being in Germany?” he asked.
“Oh, not bad!” I answered.
“Everything’s kaput,” he went on.
“Oh yes, ganz kaput,” I agreed.
After disposing of German problems we turned to others. The summer of 1945 was unusually hot, and I asked:
“After the English climate, don’t you find it very hot here?”
“Oh no, I’m used to the heat,” he smiled. “I’ve spent many years in the colonies, in Africa and India.”
I carefully avoided addressing my companion directly. What form of address was I to use? ’Herr’? That was rather awkward. To our ears ’mister’ sounds contemptuous. ’Comrade’? No, for the time being I kept off that word.
Just then I noticed General Shabalin’s eyes fixed on me. In all probability my chief was afraid the brigadier was already enrolling me as his agent. At that very moment a maid came up to us with a tray. Bader took one of the small glasses of colorless fluid, raised it to eye-level, and invited me to help myself. I put the glass to my lips, then set it down on the windowsill. While the brigadier had his eyes turned away for a second I threw the whisky out of the window. Stupid, I know, but it was the only thing to be done. And the worst of it was that the general would never believe I had performed such a patriotic act. Whether flung down my throat or out of the window, that whisky would be put to the debit side of my personal account.
An air of open cordiality and hospitality reigned in the room where we were waiting for Sir Percy Mills to take us to lunch. This inter-national assembly felt no constraint in face of that variety of uniforms and babel of tongues. Only the Soviet delegate Kurmashev, head of the S. M. A. Fuel and Power Department, sat alone in his easy chair, one leg crossed over the other, and apparently suffering torments. He felt more uncomfortable than a missionary among cannibals; he wiped the sweat from his forehead and looked again and again at the clock. When we were invited to the dining room he clearly heaved a sigh of relief. I am sure he would have been only too glad to talk to his neighbor, even if he had had to resort to sign language; he would have been delighted to laugh and toss off a couple of whiskies. But he was not a man like other men. He was the representative, and the slave, of communist philosophy.
At table General Shabalin sat on the right hand of his host, who conversed with him through an interpreter. His uniform gave him confidence and certainly more sureness than was possessed by Kurmashev, who was a civilian. But in his civilian clothes Kurmashev tried to show that he was completely indifferent to all that went on around him, and tackled his food with the utmost ferocity. It was no easy task to fill your mouth so full that you couldn’t talk with your neighbors.
My chief smiled formally and forced out a laugh at Sir Percy’s jokes. But for his part he made no attempt to keep the conversation going. No wonder the British think it difficult to talk to Russians not only at the conference, but even at the dining table. At one time we contemptuously called the English narrow-minded; now the boot is on the other foot.
I was sitting at the far end of the table, between Brigadier Bader and the British adjutant. As I chanced to look up from my plate I met General Shabalin’s eyes gazing at me keenly. The longer the lunch continued the more the general eased his bolshevik armor plate, and finally he went so far as to propose a toast to our host. But meanwhile he gave me frequent interrogative glances.
Of course I knew the general was in duty bound to keep an eye on me. But I noticed that he was not so much watching me as attempting to decide whether I was watching him. He was firmly convinced that I had been set to watch over him. Kurmashev was afraid of the general, the general was on his guard against me, and I distrusted myself. The higher one climbs in the Soviet hierarchy, the more one is gripped by this constant fear and distrust.
And the one who suffers most of all from this remarkable system is its creator. When one observed how Soviet higher officials suffered from fear and distrusts one lost all desire to make a Soviet career. General Shabalin had been unquestionably a much happier man when he was minding sheep or tilling the soil.
After lunch we all gathered again in the hall. Brigadier Bader offered me a thick cigar with a gold band, and wrapped in cellophane. I turned it over curiously in my fingers. A real Havana! Hitherto I had known them only from caricatures, in which millionaires always had them stuck between their teeth. With the air of an experienced cigar-smoker I tried to bite off the tip, but that damned cigar was tough. I got a mouthful of bitter leaf, and to make matters worse I couldn’t spit it out.
“How did you like the food?” the brigadier asked genially.
“Oh, very good!” I answered as genially, carefully blowing the bluish smoke through my nose.
At that moment General Shabalin beckoned to me. I asked the brigadier’s pardon, prudently stuck the cigar in a flowerpot, and followed my chief. We went out into the garden, as though we wanted a breath of fresh air.
“What have you been talking about with that...?” the general muttered, avoiding mention of any name.
“About the weather, Comrade General.”
“Hm... hm....” Shabalin rubbed his nose with the knuckle of his forefinger, a trick of his during conversations of a semi-official nature. Then he unexpectedly changed his tone:
“I think there’s nothing more for you to do here. Take a day off. Have my car and go for a drive through Berlin. Take a look at the girls....”
He made a very frivolous remark, and smiled forcibly. I listened closely as I walked with him about the garden. What did all this condescension and thought for me mean?
“Call up Kuznetsov this evening and tell him I shall go straight home,” was the general’s final word as he went up the verandah steps.
So he had no intention of returning to the office today. There all the ordinary routine was waiting for him, to keep him as a rule till three in the morning. That was not compulsory, it was his duty as a bolshevik. He must be around in case the ’master’ called him up in the middle of the night. But now, after a very good lunch and a few glasses of wine, he felt the need to be a man like other men for a few hours at least. The comfort of the villa and the open cordiality of the company had had its effect even on the old Party wolf. Just for once he felt impelled to throw off the mask of an iron bolshevik, to laugh aloud and smack his colleagues on the shoulders, to be a man, not a Party ticket. And he thought of me as the eye and ear of the Party. So he was dismissing me on the pretext of being kind to me.
I returned to the house, picked up my cap as unobtrusively as possible, and went out. Misha was dozing at the wheel.
“Ah, Comrade Major!” He gave a deep sigh as I opened the door. “After a lunch like that, what man wouldn’t like to stretch himself out on the grass and sleep for an hour or two!”
“Why, have you had some lunch too?” I asked in surprise.
“What do you think! I’ve eaten like a prince.”
“Why, here. A special table was laid for us. Like in the fairy story. And do you know what, Comrade Major?” He looked sidelong at me, with all the air of a conspirator. “Even our general doesn’t have such good grub as I’ve had today.”
After seeing Sir Percy Mills’ house, I could not help comparing it with General Shabalin’s flat. In the Control Commission the habit developed for the directors to take turns in inviting their colleagues home. The first time it was Shabalin’s turn to issue the invitations he ignored the habit, as though he had forgotten it. The real reason was that he had no place to which he could invite the foreigners.
Of course he could have requisitioned and furnished a house in conformity with his rank. But he could not bring himself to do this on his own responsibility, while the head of the Administrative Department, General Devidov, simply would not do it for him, since under the army regulations such luxury was incompatible with the position of Soviet generals. The authorities had got to the point of providing special ’foreign equipment’, but nobody had yet thought of suitable residences. Shabalin had exchanged his small house for a five-roomed apartment in the house where most of the workers in the Administration for Economy were accommodated. Nikolai, his orderly, and Misha, the chauffeur, had collected furniture and all sorts of lumber from all over the district for the apartment, but it looked more like a thieves’ kitchen than a general’s home. It was impossible to receive foreign guests there: even Shabalin was conscious of that.
Once more, the contradiction between bolshevik theory and bolshevik practice. The Kremlin aristocracy had long since discarded the proletarian morals they still preached, and lived in a luxury that not every capitalist could afford. They could do so without embarrassment because their personal lives were secured from the people’s eyes by several walls. The smaller leaders tended to follow the same course. The Party aristocracy, men like Shabalin, lived a double life; in words they were ideal bolsheviks, but in reality they trampled on the ideals they themselves preached. It was not easy to reconcile these two things. It all had to be done secretly, prudently, one had continually to be on guard. Here in Germany there was no Kremlin and no area forbidden to the public, here everything was comparatively open. And supposing the lords of the Kremlin started to shout!
At first General Shabalin had taken his meals in the canteen of the Soviet Military Council-in other words, in the generals’ casino. But now Dusia, his illegal maidservant, was taking the car to the canteen three times a day and bringing the food home. Yet even in such circumstances the general could not invite any guests to his apartment, and visitors, especially foreigners, were not allowed in the canteen.
Even here, in occupied Germany, where we were not restricted by problems of living space or rationing, and where we could literally pick up everything we liked, even here we kept to our Soviet way of life.
A little later the S. M. A. staff accommodated itself to circumstances and solved the problem in the old Potiomkin fashion. (Prince Gregory Potiomkin, favorite of Empress Catharine, who organized show-places and even ’model villages’ to impress the Empress. - Tr.). A special club was set up, in which the leading officials of the S. M. A. could hold receptions for their western colleagues. In each separate case an exact list of the proposed guests had to be sent in advance to the S. M. A. liaison service, to be carefully checked by the Narcomvnudel, and to be countersigned by the S. M. A. chief of staff". Of course such a simple form of invitation as that of Sir Percy Mills-"come and have lunch with me, gentlemen", and including even the chauffeurs-was quite impossible in such circumstances.
During those early meetings with the Western Allies I was seriously afraid that I would be asked too many questions that I could not, or rather that I dared not, answer. But the longer I worked in the Control Commission the less was I able to understand their behavior. The representatives of the democratic world not only made no attempt to ask us political questions, as I had thought was simply bound to happen when representatives of completely opposed state systems came together, but they displayed a perfectly in-comprehensible indifference to the subject.
At first I thought this was out of tactfulness. But then I felt sure it must be due to something else. The average western man was far less interested in politics and all that goes with it than the average Soviet man. The men of the West were much more interested in the number of bottles of champagne that had been drunk at a diplomatic reception in the Kremlin, and in the evening gown Madame Molotov had worn on the occasion. This was in the best case, but usually they confined their interests to sport and the beautiful girls on the covers of magazines. To any man living in normal conditions this seemed perfectly natural. If the Soviet men could have chosen they would have done the same.
At that stage the West had no idea of the extraordinary dichotomy of Soviet existence. In thirty years we have changed fundamentally, to a certain extent we are Sovietized. But while becoming Sovietized we have simultaneously become immunized against communism. The West has no suspicion of this. It is with good reason that the Politburo has begun to underpin the Soviet edifice with the old national foundations, which proved themselves so well during the war. After the war the process of giving the rotting state organism a blood transfusion was continued. The method will doubtless meet with success for a time; it will confuse some and arouse illusory hopes in others. But the Kremlin’s plans will not be modified to any extent.
A small but characteristic example: in occupied Germany all the Russian soldiers and officers suddenly began to use the word ’Rossiia’-’Russia’. The movement was quite spontaneous. Some-times out of habit one would let ’U. S. S. R.’ slip out; but it was corrected to ’Rossiia’ at once. We ourselves were surprised at this fact, but it was so. Yet for twenty-five years anyone who used the word ’Rossiia’ was liable to be accused of chauvinism, and quite possibly to be charged under the corresponding article of the Narcomvnudel code. One could not help noticing this seemingly small detail when one found the word ’Rossiia’ coming to every soldier’s lips.
Unconsciously he was emphasizing the difference between the concepts ’Soviet’ and ’Russian’. As though in spite, the foreign press confused these concepts. What we ourselves couldn’t stand they called ’Russian’; all that was dear and precious to us they described as ’Soviet’. The Soviet people neither wish to nor do they need to teach foreigners their political ABC. Why risk one’s head simply to satisfy a stranger’s idle curiosity?
How constrained Soviet people feel in intercourse with ’foreigners’ is shown by the following incident.
One day, during an interval in the sittings of the Control Commission, several members of various delegations were discussing what they would like to do on the following Sunday. Kozlov, the chairman of the Soviet delegation in the Industrial Committee, let slip the unwise admission that he was going hunting with a group of colleagues. Kozlov’s foreign colleagues were enthusiastic at the idea of spending a Sunday all together, and said they would gladly join the party. Kozlov had to behave as though he were delighted beyond measure.
On the Sunday the hunters set out in several cars. During the journey the Soviet members of the party racked their brains over the problem of how to give their Allies the slip. But the need to show some courtesy, plus the excellence of the western cars, gave Kozlov no chance of getting away from his unwanted friends. At the rendezvous the Allies got out and lay about on the grass, with the idea of having a little snack and a little chat. To avoid this, Kozlov and the other Russians slipped off through the bushes, and wandered about the forest all day, cursing Fate for pushing such politically unreliable companions on to them.
In order to secure himself against the possibility of being reprimanded, Kozlov spent all the following week cursing and swearing to other members of the Administration for Economy about his bad luck, and carefully emphasizing his own ’vigilant* conduct. We could not enter freely into intercourse with the West. But what was the West doing to obtain information on Soviet problems?
I had several opportunities of observing how the West obtained knowledge of Soviet Russia from ’reliable and competent’ sources. Those sources were usually journalists. The American and British journalists went to great trouble to get together with their Soviet colleagues, for they were convinced that these colleagues could and would answer their questions exhaustively and truthfully. Naive fellows! One can no more expect truth from a Soviet journalist than chastity from a prostitute.
The American journalists in Berlin tried hard to get together with their Soviet brothers, free of constraint. But the Soviet journalists did their best to avoid any such meeting. Finally it had to be arranged: they had to invite the foreigners to their Press Club. It was at least a step forward that the Americans took the opportunity to ask questions which even the very adroit Soviet journalists could not easily answer. All they could do was keep their mouths shut. It was also very good that the Americans gradually realized the true meaning of ’Narcomvnudel’; they thought their Soviet colleagues were victims of the Narcomvnudel and were ringed about with spies, and that a dictaphone was built into every desk. Of course it would have been even more sound to assume that their hosts were themselves Narcomvnudel agents. My experiences in the college had taught me that all the Soviet Union’s foreign correspondents were coworkers of that organization.
The Americans took their Soviet colleagues’ silent reserve as indicating their anxiety. This was pretty near, but not quite, the truth. Once the Americans even raised the subject of the ’Soul of the Soviet Man’, but they made the mistake of discussing the soul as such. The Soviet soul is a function of the Soviet reality; it cannot be analyzed in isolation from its milieu.
Our work in the Control Commission was very instructive. From the very first sittings I realized that the widely held view that a diplomat’s life is easy and carefree was false. In reality it is a devilishly hard, or rather a tedious, occupation. One needs to have the hide of a hippopotamus, the sensitiveness of an antelope, nerves of manila rope and the endurance of a hunter. An English saying has it that it is the highest achievement of good manners to be bored to death without showing it. Now General Shabalin gave his colleagues extensive opportunities to demonstrate the truth of this remark. It was astonishing to see how earnestly earnest people could struggle for hours and days on end with an insoluble problem before they would admit that it was insoluble!
In selecting their diplomats the British act on the principle that the least suitable of all candidates is one who is energetic and stupid; one who is energetic and clever is not very suitable, and the most suitable of all is a man who is clever and passive. The British prefer to be slow in drawing the right conclusion, and they fear nothing more than precipitate unsound decisions.
This same rule applies to Soviet diplomats, only in reverse. The ideal Soviet diplomat must be exceptionally energetic and exception-ally stupid. He needs no intelligence, as he may not take any independent decisions in any case. On the other hand, energy is a quality needed by every commercial traveler, whether it is razor blades he is trying to sell, or his master’s policy. General Shabalin was an out-standing example of this type of Soviet diplomat. For that matter, all Soviet diplomats are distinguished by their enormous activity. The Kremlin can be charged with anything rather than passivity.
Our first encounters in the Control Commission were quite educative. Despite my skeptical attitude to the policy of the western powers, I could not help reaching the conviction that they were genuinely anxious to work together with us for the solution of post-war problems. The creation of the United Nations Organization testified to the western democracies’ desire to secure peace to the world.
Outwardly, we, too, gave out that we were interested in the same thing and wanted to take the same road. But the very first practical measures proposed indicated that the opposite was the truth. Our readiness for collaboration on the problem of world peace was nothing but a tactical maneuver with the object of maintaining the democratic mask, winning time for the reorganization of our forces, and exploiting the democratic platforms in order to sabotage world public opinion. The very first sittings of the Control Commission opened my eyes to all this.
I recalled Anna Petrovna’s remark, which had so astounded me, when I was in Moscow. From her words I could only deduce that the Kremlin was thinking of active operations for the Soviet fighting forces in the post-war period. Yet it seemed absurd to think of any kind of war plans when we had only just ended terrible battles, and all the world wished for nothing more urgently and passionately than peace. Now, after those first sittings of the Control Commission it was clear, to me at least, who was neither diplomat nor politician, which the Kremlin had not the slightest desire to collaborate with the democratic West.
The representatives of the western democracies racked their brains to find an explanation for their eastern ally’s extraordinary conduct. They sought persistently for a modus vivendi with the Kremlin. They sought a key to the enigma of the soul of the East, they turned over the pages of the historical tomes; but it never occurred to them to study the million-copy editions of Lenin’s and Stalin’s works. They attached too much importance to the dissolution of the Comintern. They are not acquainted with the winged words by which the Soviet leaders justify their every deviation from the Party general line: “A temporary deviation is completely justified if it is necessary for reorganization and the accumulation of new strength for the next advance.” The inflexible general line can wind like an adder.