WikiLeaks co-creator found dead: Suicide or murder?

James Dolan co-created the technology that permitted WikiLeaks to acquire and publish the leaked DNC and Podesta emails, was found dead at 36 years old, ruled a “suicide.”  His death comes nearly five years after the “suicide” death of his friend, and co-creator (and Reddit co-founder) Aaron Swartz.

Dolan, a former Marine, and Swartz help create the secure communications system in 2012, alongside Wired editor Kevin Poulsen, who spearheaded the project first known as “StrongBox” then later “DeadDrop.” The safe submission system has been used by The New Yorker, Washington Post, The New York Times, Associated Press and Gizmodo.   These secure transactions allowed “highly secure communication between journalists and sources in possession of sensitive information or documents,” per Gizmodo.

Co-creator Aaron Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013, at the young age of 26. Swartz left no suicide note in his New York apartment. However, some people noted he may have been depressed and was facing jail time under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for hacking into MIT’s computer network and stealing copies of 4.8 million academic papers.

Swartz’s father believes the government “indirectly killed” Swartz.  While his girlfriend at the time, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman thinks he was driven to suicide by a two-year prosecution over the MIT hacking case which had “drained all of his financial resources,” despite not fitting any of the signs of clinical depression and associated disorders.

Dolan joined the Freedom of the Press Foundation to maintain SecureDrop after co-creator Aaron Swartz took his life, as pressure mounted in a federal investigation against him that many felt was overzealous.

In a tribute post, the Freedom of the Press Foundation said that Dolan had “long suffered from PTSD from his time serving in the Marines during the Iraq war,” adding “It was an experience that affected him in multiple ways. He often cited the Iraq War as his inspiration for wanting to help journalists and whistleblowers; it made him realize governments needed to be much more transparent and accountable.”

Timm, FPF’s Executive Director, wrote: “It is impossible to overstate how fundamentally important James Dolan was to the development of both Freedom of the Press Foundation and SecureDrop.”

Conspiracy theorists say it’s eerily suspicious how all of the top WikiLeaks people and some of Julian Assange associates, end up dying from early deaths, notably suicides, over the span of one-year after WikiLeaks contributed secrets to the 2016 Presidential election. Aaron Schwarz, Seth Rich, James Dolan, and more are gone, and interestingly enough, James dies the day after the Assange got his SSID from Ecuador.

When an institution as subversive as WikiLeaks has two of its three founding developers commit suicide in a roughly five-year span, it’s inevitable that the conspiracy theorist crowd will immediately assume the worst. However, both the case of Aaron Swartz and James Dolan, who was reported dead Tuesday, are deaths for which suicide are a plausible means. They are far from the most suspicious cases of alleged suicide that have ties to high-ranking American politics, even considering that WikiLeaks is perhaps the greatest threat to corrupt politicians and questionable government practices today.

Dolan’s death will gain more traction in the conspiracy theorist community because of Swartz’s own suicide on January 11, 2013. Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit who worked with Dolan in developing SecureDrop, ‘an open-source whistleblower submission system that media organizations can use to securely accept documents from and communicate with anonymous sources’ and the primary tool which allows WikiLeaks to exist, was an advocate for complete freedom of information on the internet. This advocacy inspired him to illegally download 4.8 million academic articles from JSTOR, a service for which access is paid for, typically by universities. Subsequent to being caught on camera retrieving and switching out the laptops onto which the JSTOR files were being downloaded in an MIT wiring closet, Swartz was arrested by MIT police and a Secret Service agent and eventually charged by federal prosecutors with thirteen felony counts for which maximum punishment would be 50 years imprisonment and up to $1 million in fines.

It is nearly impossible to ignore the obvious connection between this seemingly inordinate punishment and Swartz’s open rebellion against restricted internet access and the government itself. His story was told graphically in the documentary The Internet’s Own Boya format in which Swartz’s increasing and understandable despair and jadedness in the time leading up to his trial – a two-year period in which plea deal negotiations made clear he would not be receiving a slap on the wrist under any circumstance – becomes even more evident.

The prospect of imprisonment is daunting for anybody, but for a hyper-intelligent, wealthy, scrawny 26-year-old who had lived in comfort for his entire life, an inevitable future behind bars is a more than plausible explanation for suicide. The government’s zeal in making an example of one of the men who had allowed whistleblowers a safe forum to provide evidence of what they saw as abuses of power is what led Swartz’s father and girlfriend to conclude that the DOJ had an indirect hand in Swartz’s death. His father went so far as to assert that Swartz was “killed by the government”. The father of the internet, Tim Berners Lee, agreed that Swartz was being punished for actions aside from the downloading of JSTOR files, a service for which he had access through a Harvard account.

“We felt the indictment was nonsense and that he would be acquitted,” Berners Lee told the Telegraph after speaking at Swartz’s funeral service.

Still, there was little of the ‘staged suicide’ talk that often comes with conspiracy theories. Swartz wrote a blog post that overtly hinted at his fate, and at least one person close to Swartz cites his ulcerative colitis as a potentially compounding reason for Swartz’s ultimate decision. Still, there was little to dig into when it comes to conspiracy theories, other than the exposure of how vehemently the federal government loathes whistleblowers, particularly those with the most power and reach and especially those with connections to WikiLeaks.

The government cites its own statutes in defending its actions, with a presidentially-appointed prosecutor who oversaw the case maintaining in the wake of Aaron Swartz’s suicide by hanging that the prosecution “was appropriate”, even “generous”, under the guidelines of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In another clear message, the government refused to consider firing the prosecutors involved in the case nearly two years after petitions to do so garnered 61,000 signatures, an amount astronomically higher than the 25,000 needed to review petitions at the time.

“We will not address agency personnel matters in a petition response,”the White House wrote in its official response, “because we do not believe this is the appropriate forum in which to do so.”

A later Atlantic report stated that lead prosecutor Stephen Haymann allegedly “failed to timely disclose exculpatory evidence relevant to Mr. Swartz’s pending motion to suppress,” and “misrepresented to the Court the extent of the federal government’s involvement in the investigation into Mr. Swartz’s conduct prior to the application for certain search warrants,” serious charges which make the prosecutors look even more villainous to those who saw the entire case as overzealous.

So, while nobody is credibly maintaining that anybody but Aaron Swartz had a direct hand in his suicide, the impression that the federal government would go to great lengths – potentially unethical lengths – to unduly punish those who blow the whistle on its activities – especially those which are meant to remain most secretive – has only been fortified in the years following Swartz’s death.

Which brings us to Wednesday’s announcement that James Dolan became the second of the StrongBox trio – which included Swartz and Wired editor Kevin Poulsen – to commit suicide. Dolan, a 36-year-old former Marine who was said to suffer symptoms related to PTSD, was portrayed in a 2013 New Yorker article as instrumental in the mainstream-ification of the StrongBox technology.

‘In New York, a computer-security expert named James Dolan persuaded a trio of his industry colleagues to meet with Aaron to review the architecture and, later, the code. We wanted to be reasonably confident that the system wouldn’t be compromised, and that sources would be able to submit documents anonymously—so that even the media outlets receiving the materials wouldn’t be able to tell the government where they came from. James wrote an obsessively detailed step-by-step security guide for organizations implementing the code. “He goes a little overboard,” Aaron said in an e-mail, “but maybe that’s not a bad thing.”’

Again, it cannot be overstated that this StrongBox, which served as the basis for SecureDrop, is what allows for WikiLeaks and countless anonymous articles published in major media outlets to be. After Swartz’s death Dolan was reportedly the only person who could allow the SecureDrop project to continue any evolution it may require.

“At that point, James was literally the only person in the world who knew all the ins and outs of the system, how to install it, and how to make it better.” (Freedom of the Press Foundation)

And, according to FPF, Dolan sacrificed a lucrative job and a far less taxing life to dedicate himself to SecureDrop’s evolution and proliferation.


thanks to joelh for the link..

the coincidences pile up..thats 2 gone now..only one left..are his days marked as well?

“When an institution as subversive as WikiLeaks has two of its three founding developers commit suicide in a roughly five-year span, it’s inevitable that the conspiracy theorist crowd will immediately assume the worst. ”

well yeah..duh?

“James Dolan co-created the technology that permitted WikiLeaks to acquire and publish the leaked DNC and Podesta emails, was found dead at 36 years old, ruled a “suicide.”  His death comes nearly five years after the “suicide” death of his friend, and co-creator (and Reddit co-founder) Aaron Swartz.”


~ by seeker401 on January 29, 2018.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: