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08.28.20

Google, Microsoft and Debian

Posted in Debian, Google, Microsoft at 11:54 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

There has recently been news about money from Google and Microsoft corrupting the FSFE. Has it also touched Debian?

In May 2006, there was a discussion on debian-project asking Debian Developers not to redirect their debian-private emails into Gmail accounts. Trying to access it in the archives gives a 404 Not Found error. Censorship? It lives on in archive.org.

Ian Jackson wrote:

However, it has come to my attention that at least one developer
appears to be reading debian-private at their gmail account.

I think that this is a violation of the privacy rules surrounding the debian-private list. Google should not get a copy of debian-private, even if the only current output is aggregate keyword hit reports (ie ad presentation rate data).

Why have those comments been censored from the debian-project archives? Was Google’s money a factor?

We recently saw a former DPL’s girlfriend demoting people at Christmas. Some people feel that precipitated much bigger leaks of debian-private as people lose all respect for the project’s leaders.

Nonetheless, as of 2020, there are numerous examples of people using gmail.com instead of those coveted debian.org addresses on debian-private. What changed?

In 2018, of course, there was that mysterious $300,000 donation from Google that nobody wants to talk about. In this time of Coronavirus, we’ve been told to pay with our cards because paper money can spread the virus. At the same time that Google’s money entered Debian’s bank account, both Google and Debian were simultaneously experimenting with demotions of their respective employees and volunteers. Coincidence, or contamination?

Nonetheless, what does it look like when Microsoft’s money comes along?

There can be no greater contradiction. The letterhead of Software in the Public Interest, Inc used to request money from Microsoft???? While Sam Hartman was unleashing feral dogs to attack a long-standing volunteer, he was rolling out a red carpet for Bill Gates.

While some of us may work with Microsoft in other contexts, it is hardly appropriate in Debian. Imagine for a moment if the British Medical Association accepted money from a firm like British American Tobacco.

What are the principles that govern Debian Developers in 2020? They are clearly not the same as they were in 2006. Anybody who dares to ask about these paymasters is accused of violating the Code of Conduct. Long live the Code of Conduct.

debian-spi-microsoft-tainted
SPI, Inc now invoices Microsoft for donations

osi-board-2019-mollamby
Mollamby (Chris Lamb and Molly de Blanc) at an OSI board meeting hosted by Microsoft

Debian Choosing Secrecy (in Defiance of Its Very Own Transparency Rules) Harmful to Trust

Posted in Debian at 10:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Message by Micha Lenk:

Debian transparency

Summary: During a discussion about controversial expulsion of Daniel Baumann it was pointed out that the Debian-Private list needs to be declassified and published (status reproduced below); it’s moreover noteworthy that the Debian Social Contract, point 3, calls for something similar in order to amplify truth (this is why we publish/divulge full IRC logs every day, even if some parts of the conversations are ‘inconvenient’)

Declassification of the debian-private archives

The debian-private mailing list is used for private discussions among developers, which are sparingly needed.

For the sake of transparency, the Debian project voted in 2005 for a declassification procedure which will publish messages posted there after a period of 3 years.

Status of the GR implementation

Debian is more than willing to keep up to its promises and implement what the outcome of this GR requires. Still, the declassification cannot happen per se, but rather needs DebianDeveloper volunteers to actually do that.

Until a suitable team of volunteers with the energy to work on the issue shows up, this GR will remain not implemented.

Bottom line: help is needed. If you are interested to help, please check the last call for help on the matter and contact <leader AT debian DOT org> to volunteer.

Ideally, in your mail you should come up with a suitable declassification work flow for both past messages and for new messages that daily become declassifiable.

The Daniel Baumann Experiment: Blackmail, Expulsion, Humiliation, Shaming and Servitude

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 9:39 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

Editor’s note: we regret that Debian has taken this direction. The Debian Social Contract, point 3, calls upon us to be transparent about the way Debian treats volunteers.

On 8 March 2013, Joerg Jaspert started an experiment in shaming and controlling another volunteer, Daniel Baumann.

The story has a lot in common with other recent cases where people in the Debian cabal have abused volunteers. The Baumann experiment proves that this has been a long standing problem in Debian itself. The volunteers selected for shaming do not deserve this, no matter what mistakes they made.

The Baumann experiment lasted from 8 March 2013 up to 4 August 2018. Baumann was subject to this shaming experiment for 1,975 days.

Given that shaming and humiliation were factors in the suicide of Debian’s founder, Ian Murdock, it is incredibly disrespectful that these shaming experiments are conducted over and over again to the point that they feel normal.

The gist of it is simple: Debian Developers are volunteers. Debian doesn’t pay us. Therefore, if the leaders want to make us do things, they either have to demonstrate very good leadership skills or they have to coerce us. They usually choose the latter.

As professionals, we are responsible to our employers, clients and families. Through these experiments, various people in Debian attempt to insert themselves ahead of our employers.

The experiment says a lot more about Debian than it does about Baumann. We show some of the message that started the experiment:

Subject: Your behaviour inside Debian; status change

Date: Fri, 08 Mar 2013 19:36:40 +0100

From: Joerg Jaspert <da-manager@debian.org>

To: Daniel Baumann <daniel@debian.org>

CC: All Developers <debian-private@lists.debian.org>, debian-admin@debian.org, keyring-maint@debian.org, leader@debian.org

In any credible organization, a grievance procedure begins with a private communication between the people involved. In this case, however, Jaspert has decided to involve the entire community, approximately 1,000 volunteers on the debian-private email list. A normal grievance procedure ends with a decision and punishment, but this procedure begins with the punishment, putting the volunteer on the back foot. This corrupt procedure creates a huge bias against the volunteer as many people are either afraid to challenge somebody like Jaspert or they don’t realize that Jaspert has skipped all the essential steps of due process.

This shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach is no accident: Jaspert and his ilk want to maintain control through fear. They periodically pick somebody off like this so that everybody else will be afraid.

Hello Daniel,

[snip: defamation]

We are convinced that this is an unhealthy and unacceptable working
attitude inside our community, and so we have to take action. We have
tried to reason with you in the past, but it does not seem that we
managed to get our point across.

Translation: we don’t pay you, but you have to obey us.

After a long discussion between all Debian Account Managers, we
concluded that either you are unable to properly function inside the
project, or you refuse to do so on purpose. You seem both unable to
respect your fellow DDs and our core beliefs, and unable to properly
work together with others – especially if they disagree with you.

Translation: when you disagree with us, you are always wrong and we are always right.

The long discussion between all Debian Account Managers also reveals a lot about the flawed process: why didn’t they involve Baumann in the discussion before announcing a punishment in front of the entire community?

At the same time, it would be unfair not to acknowledge that you do
valuable work. We do not want you out of Debian: we want you to be able
to participate, even while you don’t have, or while you rebuild, that
trust.

After considering all that, we decided to change your status: from that
of Debian Developer, to that of Debian Maintainer.

Translation: we are expelling you but we still want you to do stuff for us.

Any package not added to your ACL within two weeks will be offered
for adoption and eventually orphaned.

Translation: a threat to throw away all the past work that Baumann has done, removing many of his packages.

We reserve the right to revert an ACL change, and hand over packages
to other maintainers, should we deem it necessary

Translation: you do work for us but if you don’t do it the way we want, we push you aside, we build on your previous work and take credit for it.

As usual with decisions taken by DAM, you can complain to the NM
committee which can override the decision if 2/3 of them agree on
it. The NM-ctte is defined as “all active AMs who approved an
applicant in the last six months, who went on to become a DD”. You
can reach them at nm-committee@nm.debian.org.

Of course any DD can start a GR on your behalf to override this
decision as defined by our constitution.

Translation: a veiled threat, if you don’t follow our orders there will be a humiliating public vote. If you do what we tell you, we keep this semi-hidden in debian-private.

The existence of this hideous thread (below) on debian-private is a lot like revenge porn: the perpetrator threatens to disclose the material publicly, increasing the shame for their victim, if the victim doesn’t follow orders. Many victims of revenge porn are forced to continue meeting the physical needs of their partner even after being dumped. Baumann was simply expected to do more work, even after being expelled from the Debian Developer keyring. The shaming principle behind both types of abuse is almost identical.

In practice, this means your account will become a “guest account”,
with all the usual conditions attached. We recommend you follow the
procedure outlined at [2] to sort out access to those machines you
may need.

Translation: everybody will see you working from an account dba-guest now, like a child riding a bicycle with training wheels. Humiliation complete.



Kind regards,

The Debian Account Managers

Joerg Jaspert

Enrico Zini

Christoph Berg

Debian, Daniel Baumann, humiliation, shaming, expulsion, demotion, joerg jaspert, lynching, experiments, volunteers

How many more Daniel Baumanns are being shamed in Debian and other free software communities right now?

We can see that over 100 people simply disappeared and over 250 people were removed from the keyring. Some simply resigned in disgust, but how many of them were subject to secret humiliation and blackmail under the demotions experiment?

If a volunteer does commit suicide, their family is usually oblivious to what happened in the debian-private email list. They may never be able to join the dots and establish Debian’s culpability.

When the UN recently used the word Cybertorture to describe experiments in shaming people online, the 1,975-day Daniel Baumann experiment was one of the first things that came to mind.

If you employ somebody who participates in a large free software project and they came under the coercive influence of an experiment like this, would you be concerned about them taking orders from somebody outside your company?

Dr Norbert Preining Blackmail & Lucy Wayland Timeline

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux at 9:31 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

Here is a diagram to help understand the blackmail/shaming period when Lucy Wayland passed away.

Debian’s blackmailing of Daniel Baumann had finished in August 2018 and Debian began blackmailing Dr Preining days before Christmas. The Debian Christmas lynchings.

Research suggests that witnesses to bullying, such as Wayland and others who observed the lynchings, may face more mental health risks than the victims, such as Dr Preining. As a large community, Debian has many contributors who may suffer from mental illness or other challenges that are compounded by the aggression of the blackmail plots.


Lucy Wayland, aardvark, bipolar, accidental death, debian, christmas, lynchings

We believe it is time for Debian to follow the example of Amnesty International, where two workers committed suicide during a period of unacceptable workplace pressure. Instead of hiring lawyers to insult volunteers, the money could be better used for consultants to help improve organization culture.

Teaser: The Cancellation of Linus Torvalds, Linux Founder and Git’s Father

Posted in Debian, Kernel at 7:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Cancellation of Linux Torvalds

Summary: Techrights is about to publish many leaks; in the meantime we leave readers with the above. As a source put it: “At some point you will hit the mother lode – notice the scrollbar in the screenshot…”

For context:

More here

How Was Linux Australia Coerced to Change Stance on Jacob Appelbaum?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 7:15 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from the Free Software Fellowship

We’ve recently read that Debian Developer Russell Coker spread the vendetta against Jacob Appelbaum from Debian to Linux Australia. It is a vendetta that has spread through the entire free software community in a manner not unlike coronavirus.

Shortly after that, on 22 June 2016, Linux Australia publicly stated they would wait for the matter to become clearer before deciding if any response was necessary.

Eight days later, on 1 July 2016, Linux Australia published a long email publicly denouncing Jacob Appelbaum. They reached the decision to do that in just eight days, but four years later, the situation hasn’t actually changed: not one person ever filed a police complaint against Appelbaum.

blackmail

What forces influenced Linux Australia to set their principles aside and publish the defamation?

Fellowship has a lot of experience of these things and we want to put them in the open.

But we don’t know for sure. If you have tips, please share them on the Fellowship discussion list.

Blackmailing individual Linux Australia board members

We’ve already read how Debian does blackmail in quite some detail. The case of Dr Preining was quite extreme but many people in the free software world feel they have a 007-style license-to-blackmail.

Individual board members may have been told they would be denied speaking opportunities or travel grants for events in other countries. They may have been told they would not get technical help in some of the communities that are particularly obsessed with codes of conduct.

Blackmailing at the organization level

Some sponsors may have threatened to withdraw from sponsoring LCA, the largest Free Software event in Australia.

Some individual speakers may have threatened to boycott the event. This is not such a big problem as there are many good tech speakers who can replace them.

Corporate infiltration

Many large free software organizations have been infiltrated by companies like Google. This means there are Google employees who are members and sometimes board members in non-profit organizations like Linux Australia. If one of these companies decided that Jacob Appelbaum is bad for business, their employees would have been ordered to make the kill.

Corporate infiltrators rarely reveal when they are acting on company orders like this. Remember the Google motto: don’t get caught doing evil.

Bewitching

We don’t like the expression toxic woman. It is sexist and degrading. Nonetheless, Debian Community News has suggested that Erinn Clark may have bewitched the Debian Account Managers in the same way that a woman from Greece bewitched Australian police to prosecute a minister in the Victorian state government, Theo Theophanous.

In particular, Clark wrote multiple emails begging for public shaming. It appears this goal was achieved both in Debian and Linux Australia. Both organizations could have simply made a private communication to suspend Appelbaum’s participation pending an investigation but they succumbed to lobbying from people like Clark and made the most damaging public attacks on Appelbaum.

If bewitching does exist, it may represent the phenomena that men in authority are gullible rather than a sign that women have magical powers.

Secret lobbying

The widely publicized email from Enrico Zini is chilling. It demonstrates how there is a little mafia who spend endless hours sending these clandestine emails to different organizations to denounce people. Victims like Appelbaum may never know how many of these emails have been sent.

Enrico Zini strikes us as the volunteer from hell. No coding, just backstabbing.

Nonetheless, organizations get worn out by these letter-writing campaigns and sometimes they change their mind just to stop the nagging.

Subject: On coverage of Abbelbaum being "banned" from Debian
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2016 09:34:50 +0200
From: Enrico Zini <enrico@enricozini.org>
To: andrew.matler@itwire.com

Dear Editor in Chief of iTWire,

you may want to do something about this article by Sam Varghese on
Debian revoking membership of Jacop Appelbaum:

http://www.itwire.com/business-it-news/open-source/73441-appelbaum-banned-from-debian-events-after-sexual-misconduct-charges.html

While the first part is factually correct in its DPL quote, the article
ends with baseless hints of Debian and Tor having fallen victims to
manipulations by GCHQ psyops.

I consider that to be psycological violence[1] against the various well
known people who came out to report abuse, and I wish that news coverage
about this situation could rather contribute to creating a community
that encourages victims of abuse to speak up.

Quoting the DPL again, "In reaching their decision, the Debian Account
Managers took into account the public disclosures from members of the
Tor project and others, and first-hand accounts from members of the
Debian community."

We are not talking about vague rumors spread by a couple of
infiltrators, we are talking about first-person accounts provided by
well known and respected members of both communities, with a track
record of contributions of many years.

These people who had the guts to speak up deserve credit and respect,
and the article published on your site gives them none.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

Regards,

Enrico

Please compare the bolded phrases in Zini’s email to the facts in other emails.

Enrico Zini, Debian, Falsified harassment claims, Jacob Appelbaum, Perjury

Enrico Zini, DebConf18, Taiwan

Debian Leadership Falsified Harassment Claims in Jacob Appelbaum (of Tor, Wikileaks Etc.) Expulsion

Posted in Debian, Deception at 5:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock

In 2016, there was an enormous amount of noise about Jacob Appelbaum from the Tor Project and winner of the Henri Nannen Prize for journalism.

An anonymous web site had been set up with allegations of harassment, abuse and rape. Unlike the #MeToo movement, which came later, nobody identified themselves and nobody filed a police complaint. It appears that the site was run by people who live in another country and have no daily contact with Appelbaum. Therefore, many people feel this wasn’t about justice or immediate threats to their safety.

Long discussions took place in the private mailing lists of many free software communities, including Debian. Personally, as a I focus on my employer, clients and family and as there are so many long email discussions in Debian, I don’t follow most of these things. I’ve come to regret that as it is now clear that at least some claims may have been falsified, a serious injustice has transpired and this could have been easily detected.

I don’t wish to discount the experiences of anybody who has been a victim of a crime. However, in the correspondence that was circulated within Debian, the only person who has technically been harassed is Jacob Appelbaum himself. If Appelbaum does have a case to answer then organizations muddying the waters, inventing additional victims, may undermine the stories of real victims.

The Debian Account Managers (DAM) had sent various emails summarizing the situation. I quote one of those:

Subject: Re: What is true and what is false in accusations against Jacob Appelbaum
Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2016 14:32:03 +0200
From: Enrico Zini <enrico@enricozini.org>
To: Debian Private List <debian-private@lists.debian.org>

On Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 02:33:53PM +0100, Dimitri John Ledkov wrote:

> No, the decision was not made based on those accusations but based on
> Debian's own member contribution / testimonials to the appropriately
> delegated team.

Indeed. I noticed a tendency, when famous people are involved, to put
the celebrity at centre stage and give everyone else nameless walk-on
parts.

In this story, and in Debian especially, there were several players on 
stage. In -private we have read first-person stories by Erinn Clark,
Jérémy Bobbio, and Ximin Luo. In DAM's mailbox we have read stories from
3 more people who are well known and trusted in our community.

... snip ...

Enrico (with input from Joerg and Christoph), as DAM

I had taken comments like that at face value and not looked any deeper. Zini is referring to six “testimonies” in total, three have been hidden and Zini expects us to trust him. Secret evidence is normal in countries like North Korea but it has no place in Debian.

Nonetheless, in 2018 I resigned from some of my activities for Debian due to family circumstances. Later on, I heard that people who knew nothing about my family life and the death of my father had started trying to create gossip. This motivated me to get further away from these people but on the other hand, I became curious about finding the truth in Appelbaum’s case.

I started with the quote above from the DAMs and went looking for the evidence of Erinn Clark, Jérémy Bobbio (Lunar) and Ximin Luo. I found messages from each of these people, which I quote:

From: Ximin Luo <infinity0@debian.org>
Date: 2016:06:15 16:21 +0200

I and several other DDs are also Tor Project members, which is where these
accusations first surfaced. I myself have tried to stay away from the messy
details of the situation, but I do know that some of these other DDs have
personally spoken to some of the accusers, whom they have known as friends in
real life for a while. These accusers are also known and respected within the
infosec community, which is why you will see so many of them voicing opinions
against Jake. It's probably not too hard to deanonymise some of them, if you
tried.

From: Erinn Clark <erinn@debian.org>
Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2016 11:08:32 -0400

+1
I've been much more involved in Tor than Debian for the past 7 years, but I can
personally vouch for at least 3 of anonymous victims (who are known to me).
This is not a state-sponsored attack.

From: Jérémy Bobbio <ltlunar@debian.org>
Date: 15/06/2016, 18:39

I can personally vouch for 2 of the stories on the website. I also have
direct experience of Jake playing with people's boundaries, mine
included since I first met him in Florence four years ago.

--
Lunar
lunar@debian.org
.''`.
: :A :
`. `'`
`-
# apt-get install anarchism

I remembered Zini’s words, “first-hand accounts”, but that is clearly not true. These three emails do not say they are from victims. They are not even witnesses, only acquaintances. They made brief references to stories from a third party. They may all be referring to the same source(s). In four years that have passed, not one of the people referred to has filed a formal complaint, so these scant emails are nothing more than rumours and innuendo.

It appears that all the developers who trusted the analysis of the DAMs have had the wool pulled over our eyes. Zini had taken these three people who heard the story from a friend and told us they were victims with first-hand accounts. We took his word for it. Zini had implied there were at least three victims in the Debian community but there were none.

This deception prompted me to look more closely at the emails that Enrico Zini of the DAM team has been sending on behalf of the Debian community. The message that caught my eye was a message from Zini to the editor of ITWire. Zini is disrespectful to the journalist, Sam Varghese and he is lobbying the editor to try and change an existing news report. Zini uses exactly the same fake victims as part of the justification and he even asserts the DPL quote is correct:

Subject: On coverage of Abbelbaum being "banned" from Debian
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2016 09:34:50 +0200
From: Enrico Zini <enrico@enricozini.org>
To: andrew.matler@itwire.com

Dear Editor in Chief of iTWire,

you may want to do something about this article by Sam Varghese on
Debian revoking membership of Jacop Appelbaum:

http://www.itwire.com/business-it-news/open-source/73441-appelbaum-banned-from-debian-events-after-sexual-misconduct-charges.html

While the first part is factually correct in its DPL quote, the article
ends with baseless hints of Debian and Tor having fallen victims to
manipulations by GCHQ psyops.

I consider that to be psycological violence[1] against the various well
known people who came out to report abuse, and I wish that news coverage
about this situation could rather contribute to creating a community
that encourages victims of abuse to speak up.

Quoting the DPL again, "In reaching their decision, the Debian Account
Managers took into account the public disclosures from members of the
Tor project and others, and first-hand accounts from members of the
Debian community."

We are not talking about vague rumors spread by a couple of
infiltrators, we are talking about first-person accounts provided by
well known and respected members of both communities, with a track
record of contributions of many years.

These people who had the guts to speak up deserve credit and respect,
and the article published on your site gives them none.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

Regards,

Enrico

Enrico Zini, Debian, Falsified harassment claims, Jacob Appelbaum, Perjury

Enrico Zini, DebConf18, Taiwan

The Debian Project Leader (DPL) had copied the same words from Zini and used them in statements distributed to the press. I couldn’t help wondering: if the illusion of victims in Debian hadn’t been conjured up by Zini, Debian never would have made a public attack on Appelbaum.

Looking through the web, I was able to quickly find a range of news articles mentioning the first-hand accounts or Debian’s expulsion of Appelbaum. Each of these journalists and editors had been deceived by Zini too, with staggering consequences for Appelbaum.

Here are some of them using the exact same words:

  • ITWire – published the quote
  • Daily Dot – mentions “first-hand accounts”
  • The Verge – uses the phrase “first-hand accounts”

All the largest media outlets, including respected names such as The Guardian, NY Times, Wired and Washington Post had mentioned the story in one way or another. The ferocity with which accusations were spread and elaborated by people like Zini may well have contributed to this extraordinary impact.

While this looks like an incredibly serious deception, I still wanted to give Zini the benefit of the doubt and consider the possibility that this was an act of gross incompetence and not a deliberate lie. How can we reliably distinguish one from the other?

The first thing that makes me consider this was no accident is that the publicity didn’t occur in January after the New Year’s Eve party. A more thoroughly researched piece by Die Zeit notes the Tor Project supervisory board elections were imminent at the time of the accusations in June. This provides a clear motive for rivals seeking Appelbaum’s position. The second major consideration is that Erinn Clark, one of the not-victims quoted above, was lobbying for Debian to make a public attack on Appelbaum. That is cronyism, Erinn Clark had a clear conflict of interest arguing for public revenge on behalf of a personal friend. Nevertheless, Debian’s leader was pursuaded by Clark and others to make a damaging public attack on Appelbaum, including a reference to the fake victims. Thirdly, one of the three people had tried to correct Zini, but Zini never made any effort to correct the communications after this:

From: Ximin Luo <infinity0@debian.org>
Date: 21/08/2016, 17:31

... snip ...

To nitpick, I did not submit a "first-person" story about Jake. I said that the
accusations were from credible people and not anonymous sources or government
agents.

... snip ...

Zini’s mistake was no typo.

People’s lives are destroyed by vendettas like this and Debian has recklessly amplified them. The DAMs and other people who were appointed to consider such matters appear to take it no more seriously than running a WhatsApp group or a multi-user role-playing game. To this day, the falsified references to fake victims remain in the debian-private list archives accessible to all volunteers. Many newspaper editors would be keen to remove such statements and publish retractions but Zini has pursued a competing goal, lobbying them to make their reporting more adverse to Appelbaum, as the email to ITWire demonstrates.

Two years after the Appelbaum events, Zini gave a talk at DebConf18, Multiple People, where he comes out about his move into the queer space. That is not such a big world. Appelbaum, the accused, also explains that he identifies as queer: there is real concern that Zini may have had conflicts of interest with people who were mutual acquaintances of Appelbaum. According to the anonymous claim of rape published against Appelbaum under the pseudonym River, the victim was unconscious and woke to find she was not alone with Appelbaum: other people were in the room watching. If that assault really happened, with an audience from this inner circle of infosec specialists, how many of the people were from Debian? Was Zini in that room himself? If they saw this happening with an unconscious victim, why didn’t they intervene?

Whenever I’ve asked about conflicts of interests in Open Source projects, people have responded unprofessionally, denouncing the questions as harassment with almost the same ferocity that they threw at Jacob Appelbaum. People have tried to ridicule these basic ethical concerns as mere conspiracy theories. In the worst cases, some people threatened never to talk to me again. That would be very convenient: helping me identify the remaining members of the Debian community who do have some integrity.

Open Source organizations have taken to vague and overgeneralized Codes of Conduct that say little about these issues, the Debian Code of Conduct being a typical example. Compare that to the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Code of Ethics, where point 1.3 makes it unambiguous:

Computing professionals should be honest about their qualifications, and about any limitations in their competence to complete a task. Computing professionals should be forthright about any circumstances that might lead to either real or perceived conflicts of interest or otherwise tend to undermine the independence of their judgment.

On the contrary, Zini did not have the competence to investigate a serious crime but he may have had multiple conflicts of interest.

Linux Australia had taken a more moderate approach than Debian, anouncing on 22 June 2016 they would wait for the matter to become clearer before any decision about Appelbaum’s participation in events down under. They were persuaded to change their minds, either they were threatened like me or subject to a subversive lobbying campaign, similar to Zini’s attempt to corrupt IT Wire’s reporting. Barely eight days later, on 1 July 2016, they came out with a statement saying that Appelbaum would be banned from future events.

The attack statements from all of these organizations include monotonous texts about Codes of Conduct. None of them comment on how potential victims can seek support from people qualified to assist victims of crime. None of them remind people that the accused is innocent until proven guilty by a competent tribunal.

If I hadn’t already resigned from my role in Debian, I would do so now. It is completely inexcusable that people in leadership positions can set up a kangaroo court, falsify evidence and hide their conflicts of interest when dealing with such a serious matter.

Ian Murdock and Police Brutality in Context

Posted in Debian at 12:49 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Debian Community News

Tributes:

Over the last week, people have been saying a lot about the wonderful life of Ian Murdock and his contributions to Debian and the world of free software. According to one news site, a San Francisco police officer, Grace Gatpandan, has been doing the opposite, starting a PR spin operation, leaking snippets of information about what may have happened during Ian’s final 24 hours. Sadly, these things are now starting to be regurgitated without proper scrutiny by the mainstream press (note the erroneous reference to SFGate with link to SFBay.ca, this is British tabloid media at its best).

The report talks about somebody (no suggestion that it was even Ian) “trying to break into a residence”. Let’s translate that from the spin-doctor-speak back to English: it is the silly season, when many people have a couple of extra drinks and do silly things like losing their keys. “a residence”, or just their own home perhaps? Maybe some AirBNB guest arriving late to the irritation of annoyed neighbours? Doesn’t the choice of words make the motive sound so much more sinister? Nobody knows the full story and nobody knows if this was Ian, so snippets of information like this are inappropriate, especially when somebody is deceased.

Did they really mean to leave people with the impression that one of the greatest visionaries of the Linux world was also a cat burglar? That somebody who spent his life giving selflessly and generously for the benefit of the whole world (his legacy is far greater than Steve Jobs, as Debian comes with no strings attached) spends the Christmas weekend taking things from other people’s houses in the dark of the night? The report doesn’t mention any evidence of a break-in or any charges for breaking-in.

If having a few drinks and losing your keys in December is such a sorry state to be in, many of us could potentially be framed in the same terms at some point in our lives. That is one of the reasons I feel so compelled to write this: somebody else could be going through exactly the same experience at the moment you are reading this. Any of us could end up facing an assault as unpleasant as the tweets imply at some point in the future. At least I can console myself that as a privileged white male, the risk to myself is much lower than for those with mental illness, the homeless, transgender, Muslim or black people but as the tweets suggest, it could be any of us.

The story reports that officers didn’t actually come across Ian breaking in to anything, they encountered him at a nearby street corner. If he had weapons or drugs or he was known to police that would have almost certainly been emphasized. Is it right to rush in and deprive somebody of their liberties without first giving them an opportunity to identify themselves and possibly confirm if they had a reason to be there?

The report goes on, “he was belligerent”, “he became violent”, “banging his head” all by himself. How often do you see intelligent and successful people like Ian Murdock spontaneously harming themselves in that way? Can you find anything like that in any of the 4,390 Ian Murdock videos on YouTube? How much more frequently do you see reports that somebody “banged their head”, all by themselves of course, during some encounter with law enforcement? Do police never make mistakes like other human beings?

When a felon is convicted of a crime, there is always a lot of discussion about whether they apologize and show remorse. What is staggering about police communications, like this one, is that there is never any hint that they may have any responsibility, nobody saying “he was in our care, and we failed”, no sign of regret or humility.

If any person was genuinely trying to spontaneously inflict a head injury on himself, as the police have suggested, why wouldn’t the police leave them in the hospital or other suitable care? Do they really think that when people are displaying signs of self-harm, rounding them up and taking them to jail will be in their best interests?

Now, I’m not suggesting this started out with some sort of conspiracy. Police may have been at the end of a long shift (and it is a disgrace that many US police are not paid for their overtime) or just had a rough experience with somebody far more sinister. On the other hand, there may have been a mistake, gaps in police training or an inappropriate use of a procedure that is not always justified, like a strip search, that causes profound suffering for many victims.

A select number of US police forces have been shamed around the world for a series of incidents of extreme violence in recent times, including the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, shooting Walter Scott in the back, death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the attempts of Chicago’s police to run an on-shore version of Guantanamo Bay. Beyond those highly violent incidents, the world has also seen the abuse of Ahmed Mohamed, the Muslim schoolboy arrested for his interest in electronics and in 2013, the suicide of Aaron Swartz which appears to be a direct consequence of the “Justice” department’s obsession with him.

What have the police learned from all this bad publicity? Are they changing their methods, or just hiring more spin doctors? If that is their response, then doesn’t it leave them with a cruel advantage over those people who were deceased?

Isn’t it standard practice for some police to simply round up anybody who is a bit lost and write up a charge sheet for resisting arrest or assaulting an officer as insurance against questions about their own excessive use of force?

When British police executed Jean Charles de Menezes on a crowded tube train and realized they had just done something incredibly outrageous, their PR office went to great lengths to try and protect their image, even photoshopping images of Menezes to make him look more like some other suspect in a wanted poster. To this day, they continue to refer to Menezes as a victim of the terrorists, could they be any more arrogant? While nobody believes the police woke up that morning thinking “let’s kill some random guy on the tube”, it is clear they made a mistake and like many people (not just police), they immediately prioritized protecting their reputation over protecting the truth.

Nobody else knows exactly what Ian was doing and exactly what the police did to him. We may never know. However, any disparaging or irrelevant comments from the police should be viewed with some caution.

The horrors of incarceration

It would be hard for any of us to understand everything that an innocent person goes through when detained by the police. The recently released movie about The Stanford Prison Experiment may be an interesting place to start, a German version produced in 2001, Das Experiment, is also very highly respected.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world and the second-highest per-capita incarceration rate. Many, including some on death row, are actually innocent, in the wrong place at the wrong time, without the funds to hire an attorney. The system, and the police and prison officers who operate it, treat these people as packages on a conveyor belt, without even the most basic human dignity. Whether their encounter lasts for just a few hours or decades, is it any surprise that something dies inside them when they discover this cruel side of American society?

Worldwide, there is an increasing trend to make incarceration as degrading as possible. People may be innocent until proven guilty, but this hasn’t stopped police in the UK from locking up and strip-searching over 4,500 children in a five year period, would these children go away feeling any different than if they had an encounter with Jimmy Saville or Rolf Harris? One can only wonder what they do to adults.

What all this boils down to is that people shouldn’t really be incarcerated unless it is clear the danger they pose to society is greater than the danger they may face in a prison.

What can people do for Ian and for justice?

Now that these unfortunate smears have appeared, it would be great to try and fill the Internet with stories of the great things Ian has done for the world. Write whatever you feel about Ian’s work and your own experience of Debian.

While the circumstances of the final tweets from his Twitter account are confusing, the tweets appear to be consistent with many other complaints about US law enforcement. Are there positive things that people can do in their community to help reduce the harm?

Sending books to prisoners (the UK tried to ban this) can make a difference. Treat them like humans, even if the system doesn’t.

Recording incidents of police activities can also make a huge difference, such as the video of the shooting of Walter Scott or the UK police making a brutal unprovoked attack on a newspaper vendor. Don’t just walk past a situation and assume everything is under control. People making recordings may find themselves in danger, it is recommended to use software that automatically duplicates each recording, preferably to the cloud, so that if the police ask you to delete such evidence, you can let them watch you delete it and still have a copy.

Can anybody think of awards that Ian Murdock should be nominated for, either in free software, computing or engineering in general? Some, like the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering can’t be awarded posthumously but others may be within reach. Come and share your ideas on the debian-project mailing list, there are already some here.

Best of all, Ian didn’t just build software, he built an organization, Debian. Debian’s principles have helped to unite many people from otherwise different backgrounds and carry on those principles even when Ian is no longer among us. Find out more, install it on your computer or even look for ways to participate in the project.

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