03.07.20

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Arjen Kamphuis Spoke About Free Software Influence and Control Games Before His Disappearance

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 5:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

1.5 years later the fate of Arjen Kamphuis is still unknown to authorities

Arjen Kamphuis: Missing
Arjen Kamphuis: Missing

Summary: Corporate money funnelled into public interest projects in the name of good causes (like inclusion of women) serves to feed exploitation, predation, and sometimes infiltration as well while discussion about any of these pertinent issues is being viciously suppressed if not censored (with whistleblowers silenced, reprimanded, and sometimes completely banished)

THE disappearance — and likely death — of Arjen Kamphuis is a topic we wouldn’t normally cover here because Kamphuis was best known for contributions to security and association with Assange/Wikileaks. We’ve put in Daily Links well over 100 news links about him. But we never wrote an article on the subject.

Why the sudden relevance?

“Not much is said about Kamphuis anymore.”Something he wrote about an issue we’ve often covered here, especially in recent months. After the death of Debian’s founder (as a result of extreme humiliation by police*) and various removals from power of leading Free/Open Source software proponents/founders (the list is already becoming too long to exhaustively recall) we wouldn’t be off our rocker to ask, cui bono? Following the shambolic ‘trials’ of Julian Assange it’s clear that it’s rarely about justice; it’s about protecting power in a decapitation strike-like fashion. The witch-hunt was all along about Cablegate, not about women whom Julian Assange met in Sweden. The media helped cloud matters such as war crimes as an issue of women’s rights as if to oppose heinous crimes is the equivalent of sexual subjugation of women. But we digress. This is politics and we’re not an inherently political site. The underlying methods, however, need to be understood. They’re increasingly prevalent as a vehicle of disempowerment (removing officials not for corruption but for sexual behaviour, views on race, choice of words and so on). I too saw some attempts; a week ago I shared an example.

“We’ll try to focus not on this incident; instead we’ll talk about his connection to Free software.”Not much is said about Kamphuis anymore. Back in January we saw this article which said: “Arjen Kamphuis was well known for his work on government transparency, and especially IT and online security. He e.g trained journalists on how to do their work more safely, and consulted various companies on their IT security. He also e.g. consulted the Dutch government in 2013 on why using voting computers is bad practice in an accountable democracy. Next to that he was an avid hiker and mountaineer. In August 2018, during a trip in the north of Norway he went missing, and is presumed to have died due to a kajaking accident. I’ve known Arjen through his work for well over a decade (and I’ve written about his disappearance here before). I’m sad about his disappearance, and as a result have been more active in paying what I learned from him and what he made me aware of forward since then.”

We’ll try to focus not on this incident; instead we’ll talk about his connection to Free software. We understand that some people still hope to find him, not giving up hope. Recently someone tweeted: “In August 2018 my best friend #ArjenKamphuis went on holiday and never returned. He was a brilliant infosecurity specialist. That’s why we #teamarjen archived his work in this handy and beautiful book available on https://t.co/l9SCrd0tci…”

In respect to Kamphuis, here’s a link to that book. I had personally followed the developments related to and wrote hundreds of tweets about Kamphuis. It was in our IRC channels, our Daily Links and so on for a number of months. The circumstances of the disappearance and the failure of Norwegian police (with help from Dutch authorities) to explain what happened continues to fascinate me. It means people who are not ‘convenient’ to particular companies/governments can just be ‘vanished’ without a trace (Saudi Arabia does this a lot, as does the Chinese government).

“We should note that it isn’t an attack on Outreachy but rather some nefarious affairs surrounding the program’s management (and it may be reducible to few ‘rotten apples’).”Last month we learned something of interest.

“Before Arjen Kamphuis disappeared, he sent me an email about abuse problems in a free software organization,” one person told us. “It is signed and encrypted, so there are no doubts about authenticity.”

Kamphuis was a master of security, with a career in well-known corporations followed by consulting (his CV was publicly available on his site when I last checked, exposing reputable employers and distinguished jobs). Encryption is something he would not get wrong.

“We met at many events in Albania,” the person continued, and “there are even some photos” (of the events).

“The email,” the person told us, “is damning for more than one organization.”

I’ve since then asked a Techrights associate about this. That associate too is very familiar with the events surrounding the disappearance of Kamphuis.

“Could that be one of the reasons that Arjen was offed? Various agencies have been exploiting fringe groups to infiltrate and undermine FOSS projects,” that associate noted.

“Context matters here. Some people like to remove context so as to misrepresent the real grievances.”Yesterday the mail was published in a site that examines what it calls “cult psychology in free, open source software organizations” (like Debian). To quote a recent post: “Many free, open source software organizations have seen increased tension in the last few years due to cult-like phenomena. The Debian Community News team is offering to mentor an intern under Outreachy or another funding program to explore this problem.”

We should note that it isn’t an attack on Outreachy but rather some nefarious affairs surrounding the program’s management (and it may be reducible to few ‘rotten apples’). As yesterday’s post put it, “an encrypted email sent to the same Debian Developer by Arjen Kamphuis before he disappeared in August 2018″ and the message said: “I don’t want to get caught up in internal politics but have noticed some strange events around [redacted/event]. Will have discusson [sic] about that with [redacted/group] and especially [redacted/name] who seems to put himself in positions of control in cases he should not.”

Context matters here. Some people like to remove context so as to misrepresent the real grievances. “Kamphuis names the same problem a Debian Developer had asked for support with,” the post clarifies, “a local male organizer putting himself in positions of control over women. If Wikimedia, LibreOffice (Document Foundation) and Kamphuis had all concluded the problem originated with the same person, how could Debian’s leader spread false accusations about one of his own volunteers?”

Yesterday I corresponded with the person in question for further clarifications. “I preferred not to link to these,” said the person, “but these are examples of the behaviour described in the blog, herding women to get diversity funding and give the money to men:

https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:TPS/Nafie_shehu/FOSScamp_Syros_2017

https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:TPS/Silva.1994/FOSScamp_Syros_2017

https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:TPS/Sido_uku/FOSScamp_Syros_2017

“Notice the €40 participation fees for those events? They ask for the money as they are participants in Open Labs (a non-profit) and then they pay the fee to a private company. One of the directors of the company then writes one of the endorsements on the grant applications, without anybody declaring his company is beneficiary of the money.”
_______
* Our associate insists that this understates the severity of what happened. I intentionally chose an understatement in case the critics choose to say that Ian Murdock may have exaggerated or even lied. “However,” our associate notes, “Murdock was not ‘humiliated’ by police, he was beaten severely by them twice in the same day. IIRC they even followed him home from the hospital to ensure they could do the second beating.”

CNN has these quotes from him: “The police here beat me up for [knocking] on my neighbor’s door.. they sent me to the hospital [...] They followed me home… then they pulled me out of my house and did it again.”

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