Cryptome Kills the Kickstarter: an interview with John Young

Send us material venal cowards dare not publish — see note below about perfidy of pols, lawyers, journalists, NGOs. You owe it to the fucked over public or shut your shop.

John Young,

Who doesn’t want your money?, it seems, does not. Until yesterday they had a Kickstarter funding drive that boasted $19,838. It wasn’t their $100,000 stated goal, but it would have paid for the servers for another decade or so.

The Kickstarter was cancelled last night. We spoke to them to find out why.

Cryptome is the longest-running leak site in the English-speaking world. It’s been a thorn in the secrecy-industrial complex’s side since 1996, operating more or less continuously and somehow flying under the radar of those who’ve effectively nuked WikiLeaks and inspired Edward Snowden’s Russian sojourn.

Run by New Yorkers John Young and Deborah Natsios, it has been pumping out PDF copies of things someone, somewhere is well paid to keep hidden, day after day after day on a bare-bones site that looks like a snapshot from 1994.

“Converting a random sample of Cryptome’s 71,000 files to PDFs produces a total of 6,800,000 pages over 18 years, averaging about 380,000 pages per year or about 1,000 books per year,” they claim on the Kickstarter page, and no-one would doubt it. Funding (estimated at $2000 a year for server costs and domains) has come from the principals and from occasional donations. Back in May, they decided to use Kickstarter to raise funds for a “global archives” on USB sticks, which would then be distributed to supporters of the fundraiser.

They were looking for $100,000 or, in Kickstarter figures, about two potato salads.

The video is, true to opaque and referential Cryptome form, opaque and referential, referring repeatedly to the address of a hidden room in AT&T HQ in New York, 641a, the subject of a Frontline documentary on secret government surveillance of the internet. It doesn’t actually say a thing about Cryptome or the fundraiser itself.

With some high profile media supporters like BoingBoing, and an average donation of $70, you might think they’d take what they could get instead of cancelling the project and refusing the donations. You’d be underestimating Cryptome, though; they’re in it for something else entirely.

We spoke to founder John Young about his reasons for the Kickstarter, reasons for ending the Kickstarter, his hints about a new global leak platform, institutional corruption, lawyers, money, media, and flattery. As one does.

The Cryptosphere: Money gets people’s attention. Is that why you started the Kickstarter? To attach money to a crusade and thus get more coverage, more reads, more exposure for your crusade to get all the Snowden documents released?

John Young: It is one of Cryptome’s ongoing efforts and experiments to communicate, learn and teach in new and diverse ways, with content,  outreach, invitation to critique, probe crowd-funding, diminish corrosiveness and corruption of funding secrecy, and share the results with the public while in progress.

Speaking of money, has Glenn Greenwald come after you for posting the PDF of his book? If so, how? If not, why do you think he hasn’t?
JY: No, nor offered to pay for the publicity. He’s is a deadbeat arrogant leech on other people’s work, not only of Snowden’s; it has been his life’s sole purpose. But not that different from the usual narcissistic, deranged, lawyer, journalist, NGO panhandler who preys on public generosity and trust by converting free time and effort to branded profitability. You would never do that, now, would you?
Oh, perish the thought!
You had an average donation of over $70 on the Kickstarter; that’s unusually rich. What do you think that reflects about the people who support Cryptome?
JY: $70 is both below and above the normal for donations over 18 years. One was over $11,000, many for $25, some for $100 ($25-100 is for the Archive), a lot for $0. The very best support is provided by those supplying disclosure material; that is the lifeblood of Cryptome. Donations are appreciated but most funding has been by us and is remains a trivial concern.
Are you going to refund the money, use it to produce archives, or do something else with it? Donate it to the Paypal 14, just to annoy Pierre Omidyar?
JY: Canceling Kickstarter cancels the pledges, so nothing to return except an apology to those who pledged for Kickstarter’s siphoning and selling their profile. A fair number said this is why they would not participate in this or any other crowd-funding scam, that we should be ashamed of aiding and abetting the hustle.
Had you reached the $100,000, what would you have done with the money? I mean, that’s worth two potato salads in the Kickstarter economy.
JY: We explained on Kickstarter: 25% to little-known disclosure sites struggling to survive, 25% to new disclosure sites, 25% to provide free copies of Cryptome Archive; 25% to purchase better ISP service for Cryptome.

Why did you tie the end of the Kickstarter to the PCLOB meeting that was yesterday?

JY: No connection, did not remember the totally fraudulent and propagandistic PCLOB. But thanks for reminding to slur the sleazy bastards in public.

You’ve been dropping hints about another leak/publication system in the pipeline. What is it? Is it a concrete project, or are you just hoping to inspire/flush someone out? What do you mean by this “Distributed” model you talk about in the Kickstarter? Is there one project out there that has your backing, specifically? Or are you working on something behind the scenes?
JY: We initiate new disclosure means every few months. We operate about 12 domains now and fund several others. Three of our latest domains were set up recently, not yet announced, awating suitable material. We distribute our Archive by a variety of means, online and off. We exchange material with other initiatives. We urge those providing material to us to set up their own initiatives, many have. We also recommend avoiding entanglement with us and other initiatives due to the high likelihood of compromise, honey pot, entrapment, witting or unwitting.

No disclosure initiative can avoid being spied upon sooner or later. Best to keep very low profile as long as possible, do not trust security promises of existing initiatives, including Cryptome. The more popular the disclosure initiative the greater the chance of screwing those who provide material to advance the interests of the operators.  Distributed is the only way to disclose, concentrated means are never honest — see note above about perfidy of pols, lawyers, journalists, NGOs. You are the exception.

Sure I am, John.
JY: Commercial, NGO and individual incitement of disclosers to take risk by funding dropboxes and disclosure sites as well as outright bribery with fund-raisers (crowd-funding laundering), speaking fees,
honoria, travel costs, and legal expenses is cowardly, sleazy and corrupting of public disclosure. The same as what spies and Law Enforcement does to conspire, entrap, coerce, cut deals with, gullible disclosers.
Snowden [is] a prime example of organized lawyer-media crime against risk takers.The canard that journalists and publishers do not pay sources, and assures confidentiality and comsed f sources, is a giant of shit that needs disposing and cleansing in sewage processing plants.Moreover, media practice of consulting with governments on what to publish or withhold of material disclosed by risk takers, is anti-democratic, unconsitutional, venal, protective of privilege and betrayal of public trust. See note about pols, lawyers, journalists, NGOs and manipulative oligarchs.

Not you, never.
Sure, John.
What kind of changes does the future hold for You’ve had tussles with servers and DNS before. It’s hard to believe this would put you off for long.
JY: We stated at the start of the Kick that Cryptome will continue to evolve, in new and unexpected ways. No doubt, money fucks up everybody, grotesquely rich or desperately poor. Cheating and lying about it is obligatory across the spectrum around the planet  — see note above about perfidy of pols, lawyers, journalists, NGOs. You are the exception.

Sure, John. Thanks, John.


Featured image Cryptome logo plus original image by Emory Allen on Flickr

Categories: Censorship, Cryptome, Cryptosphere, Freedom, Hacktivism, John Young, Leaks, Long Reads, Money, News, NSA, Privacy, Surveillance

6 replies

  1. John Young seems to be getting increasingly mentally unstable by the day.


  2. Hey, is there an email address I can ask young something, or can you pass something along, rather, since I’m sure I’ll forget to check back here later on.

    I have a question regarding their site(s), mainly, why all the subsites of cryptome aren’t linked on the main page. It doesn’t make much sense in my mind to have them be inaccessible and not even mentioned on the main page.

    I just found out about cryptome, and the only reason I know that “Protest Photos Series” , for example, exists, is that I bothered to read the wikipedia article.


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