Wordcarpenter Books
The Leaking Hourglass

Chapter Nine

The Productive Fifth

I'm always asked about my core beliefs and a possible manifesto to explain why I view the world as I do. The truth is that my manifesto has already been written, in bits and pieces here and there, in an essay, in a chatroom, in an email to a friend and in the journals I kept for years, recording my ideas and equations during my search for meaning. During this time I was happy to travel and see the latest innovations at tradeshows and conferences in the hacking community, doing the circuit for a few years. It was a pool of ideas, inventions of such brilliance that I am humbled to admit I could never describe some of the prototypes that roamed around at these events. The best and the brightest were attracted to computer technology but this wasn't always the case. In the early years sometimes they were very amateur and awkward. It was the beginning of computer technology inscribing itself into human life so I had allowed for some periods of awkwardness that were necessary while new prototypes were being built. But these events served as my education of this new world that is now coming into existence.

It didn't take long to meet the salesmen who peddled the latest innovations from Taiwan and Japan, and the latest software from America and Germany. It was during these fast times that I was able to work longer because I had so many ideas and tools from the conferences I was attending. I fed off the vibe that resulted in breakthroughs for the submission platform and the logistical flow and architecture of the website as a whole.

During this ascending computer zeitgeist I discovered an even more potent energy drink and spent countless sleepless nights in front of my laptop building my website and submission platform. I knew that I was damaging my eardrums with the music volume so high but when I was in the zone I could spend three hours typing and navigating without thinking once of the time. Looking back at it now, the productivity factor was astounding. And that was how I was able to get through the bricks and mortar required for the foundation of a smooth running engine.

I spent long nights in Berlin typing in an empty apartment with only the flickering lights of postwar Berlin outside, with the church dome somehow always visible through the window. Only those who have binged on hard work when creating something from nothing can appreciate and comprehend the immense euphoria that comes from such a project. It's like no other feeling. You know that after each day your work is another brick in the building of the temple. Self-belief is the fuel that ensures the momentum is not shattered by outside forces. Diligence builds effective buildings. Thank you Howard Roark for inspiring me during my productive years. I don't particularly care for Ayn Rand's philosophy though I do understand it, but I enjoyed her two big books with larger-than-life characters that has inspired generations of readers. And that is what good literature does: inspires men towards greatness.

Chapter Ten

Unauthorized Biography

My time with the biographer O'Hagan was fun until near the end when it had become tedious and mired in pushy publishers rushing a project that didn't need to be rushed. There were other more pressing problems in play at the time. I thought it might turn out quite well but then the publishers chose to use the incomplete first draft and run with it to cash in on the high demand. A proper book that had nuance and care and polish was what I wanted rather than a superficial outline of a life by deciphering facts from conversations over the course of months. Recording is an effective way to get the words right but a dangerous way of taking things out of context when editing the text.

I must say that I like O'Hagan's writing style and his use of words. He writes clearly and with intelligence. I was convinced from the start that he was an educated man with an eye for detail. With this I entrusted him to uncensored campfire banter and tangential recollections of times past, which usually involved some good-hearted exaggeration on my part. Remembering some of the things I shared with him I became very aware of some exaggeration and hyperbole I had used. I was anxious about these comments being taken out of context but when I read his unauthorized biography I saw that he had shied away from comments that could easily be misunderstood. He kept it tight and economical, choosing his words well for his purposes. We spoke a lot of writing a manifesto but we both knew that that would become more of an academic work. And that couldn't have taken place in such a social place, with Vaughn's guests always there both working and socializing. They were fun days despite the growing unease I felt about what was going on in Sweden. And then when my lawyers found out about the grand jury indictment happening in Virginia, I knew that my life was about to irrevocably change.

The fallout from the Swedish charges has been far and wide. And still today I recoil from facing the painful costs of my decision to seek refuge in the embassy here in London.

But the large kitchen of Vaughn's country home were full of hope and belief in our purpose, a belief that we had ended up together because this idea of transparency was a good one and therefore could facilitate events that lead to revolution. I return to memories from that period of my life often, more than I thought I would. I was a nervous guy for years so it wasn't until I began speaking about the website at these conferences in 2010 that I felt my hard work was being rewarded with recognition. It was the same template I had been using for years except now on a much larger scale. With newfound popularity the Internet had become an autobahn to share our submitted data pockets with the world.

But those days at Vaughn's were still flavored with optimism and hope, and a camaraderie was born with the biographer there, some nights going deep into the morning hours. I did tell stories from my childhood, like the time we lived on Magnetic Island and my life was transformed into a Tom Sawyer adventure, building rafts and constructing forts in the woods. As I have described, mine was a great childhood, full of exciting memories I often revisit while mental traveling here in the embassy. I find myself looking at the mantelpiece across from me and recall the fires in the house we lived in when I was young. My mother and I were a team that endured obstacles that appeared before us, and have stuck together through it all. My mother has had quite a life. And in this sense my upbringing was different from most. I don't have roots like most people. There isn't a family home where I can leave my stuff when I leave for Nairobi or Reykjavik. So my time living at Vaughn's felt like we had become a family united by one purpose. I know we all thrived on the work because what we were doing was important and mattered, with each keystroke a micro-step closer to what it has become today.

What I wanted to talk to O'Hagan about most was what I sensed was going to happen. With secrets uncovered, the vast majority a cold slap on the face, people now had talking points so robust discussions were born and with that came change. It felt like the ground under our feet was moving, as if a fissure had surfaced in the evolving geo-political mantle. O'Hagan wanted to talk about me and I was reticent to a certain degree, feeling at times powerless by giving him personal information and trusting his capacity to understand where each piece fit within the web of my character. We agreed that for the second draft I would go through the first draft and add my piece about the transparency movement. I remember feeling more and more uneasy about this because it was during this time when men followed me. I was unaware that I was being studied so that I could be framed but I sensed something was now different so talking about my past and delving deeply into my life for a in-depth biography seemed rather secondary.

The worst thing about being followed was that each agent looked so different from the other that soon being followed made me paranoid. Soon I couldn't help but think anyone could be watching me. For someone who preferred to remain behind the scenes and incognito, I became scared and nervous. I believed talking to the press about the data on the site was important but I always knew that this would be a short-lived period before I could return to my life sequestered in a safe room with my Internet connection. But being hunted like an animal changed everything in my life. I'm sure that my co-workers who knew me before the war logs were published saw a change in me. This change was part of the reason why I published the un-redacted files. I was pissed off at the intrusion and their hostility. I could feel their bitterness when I saw their eyes. They looked at me as the enemy but I was merely a journalist who published items found in the submission platform. I didn't know Manning. I didn't know Snowden. They found the site on their own and the rest is, as far as I was concerned, history.

Was I wrong to think I was such a benign player? Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe I misjudged the reality of the situation. How could I think was "uninvolved" when I was the one who created the website and its submission platform? Was I incredibly nave and guilty of thinking in terms of categories? Did I put myself into the category of publisher when in fact I was more like an enabler? Did my submission platform, with its promise of anonymity, actually encourage illegal activity?

I'm still too proud (and stubborn) to admit I might have made a mistake to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy. I still believe this can all end well, but after over three years of living in this converted ladies washroom, the novelty of having a safe "writer's den" has worn off. With my long list of administrative tasks now completed from working hard in my room, time has suddenly started to move slower. My legs are weaker from lack of exercise, my energy levels are lower from stagnant blood flow, and even the color of my eyes are darker from the lack of sunlight. For a young Tom Sawyer and globetrotting computer hacker, being holed up this long has become harsh.

I hadn't resented the time spent here in my room but now something has changed. Now I feel the creeping passion of resentment in me with each passing day. The resentment comes from a newfound sense that time is being stolen from me. It is a theft of my free will. Sure I can focus of the website and other writing projects but my output and the growth of the organization could be greater. We accomplished feats in Vaughn's kitchen at that long table, drinking coffee and staying up late. There is a cool harmony that takes over when everyone is engaged with their laptops working towards a common goal. Like a rock band, the instruments align and get in tune, and before you know it a song it created. A mutual project is shared through different but harmonized notes. We fortified our hardware to handle the traffic and organized the files from the submission platform. Redacting was a job that required time and labor so we spent our time making sure the whole thing didn't collapse.

Of course it was all bad timing. Now would be a good time for a biography but I am weary. I fear the information I provide will be twisted by those who detest me. So for those who want to know my biographical information is online. You just need to find it. The facts are out there. O'Hagan got those all right, but he didn't get what was in my head. So that's what I want to get down in this small piece - a record of my thoughts on my life, how things played out and my hope for a just resolution of my situation.

Table of Contents

  1. Fair Play in Death
  2. The Beginning
  3. I am a Conduit
  4. White Hair
  5. Puppies with Machine Guns
  6. The Leaking Business
  7. Organization of One
  8. The Life of Neo
  9. The Productive Fifth
  10. Unauthorized Biography
  11. The Cold Brick of Jail
  12. Cyber Vikings
  13. Berlin
  14. Censorship
  15. Legal
  16. The Thing in Sweden
  17. The Day My World Changed
  18. The Current State of Play
  19. Addressing World Leaders
  20. Nothing More To Say

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