Book of the Month

Ramona's picture

Three Years ago Julian Assange Lost his Luggage. He Just Now Noticed?

It was a long weekend and I was devilishly busy and exhausted to the point of just plain weary, so you'll have to forgive me if I didn't get this right:
 
I read today that on September 27, 2010--almost three years ago--Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame checked a bag at an airport in Sweden containing three laptops filled with Wikileaks stuff, including some top secret "war crimes" information that, if it hadn't been stolen by some shady government dudes, would have knocked our socks off with revelations of dirty deeds so devastating, if they had ever, ever been revealed, the world as we know it might just stop spinning.  Or heads would roll.  Or Assange would be hailed as the hero he fancied he already was.  Whatever.  Something BIG would happen if ever those revelations saw the light of day.  So, of course, they were stolen by one or more shadowy government dudes who were not about to let that happen.

 


Well, okay, that's it, then.  But is it just me or does it seem odd that, first of all, Julian Assange would just hand that suitcase over to a Swedish ticket agent who would then send it into the airport bowels to have to fend for itself until it arrived safely at the baggage claim in Germany, where Assange would surely be jostling with his fellow passengers to see who could grab their luggage first and get the hell out of there?

And secondly, isn't it odd that Assange wouldn't notice, right there in the baggage claim line, that this most essential bit of baggage wasn't there?  If he had noticed, wouldn't he put up such a stink right then and there, maybe calling the Russians or The Guardian or Glenn Greenwald, or somebody, to help him find the damned thing?

And third--does it seem as odd to you as it does to me that Assange is only just now, three years later, filing a claim?  Did he wake up the other day and  remember that he once had a suitcase that held three laptops containing whopping war crime secrets and other really important things?  Was he so ashamed of the fact that he actually forgot one of his suitcases and only now remembered, he had to think fast and--yes!--blame it on those shadowy government dudes who were almost surely stalking him at the airport anyway?

I don't know.  I'm confused.  Did you know about this before?  Because I didn't.  Not until today, when I read all over the place that the Swedish police have opened an investigation into Assange's claims.  Three years later they've finally been asked to investigate. 

This is how the Washington Post's Europe page reported it today:

In the affidavit, Assange suggested his bag may have been illegally seized “as part of an intelligence operation with the purpose of gathering information about me.” He offered no proof but said all attempts to locate the bag had failed.

The move comes a day before President Barack Obama visits Sweden.

“The suspected seizure or theft occurred at a time of intense attempts by the U.S. to stop WikiLeaks’ publications of 2010,” Assange said and suggested that Swedish authorities “seek explanations” from members of Obama’s delegation during their visit.

The police border control division at Arlanda Airport opened an investigation as a matter of course after receiving the complaint Tuesday, spokeswoman Jessica Fremnell said.  She declined to comment on Assange’s suggestion to interrogate people in Obama’s entourage, saying “we make our own decisions about what we think we need to do.”

No indication if the Post's reporting was done with a straight face, but one can only hope there were a few snorts and guffaws in that newsroom. 

If not, there were enough in my room to make up for their lack.

(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)

So we are all thus informed about what a patient, reasonable fellow Mr. Assange is,  far above most international travelers these days in that regard.

Possibly also he just figured it might be best to wait until the Swedish Prosecution Authority calmed down about wanting to speak to him on another matter before he pestered them about the missing luggage?

Searching for a clue,  anything....whether there might be anything more of sense to this news... aha, there might be something in this sentence in the AP report:  The move comes a day before President Barack Obama visits Sweden. So this may be a way to furnish "Talking Points" for the media upon Obama's visit, very thoughtful of him.

Yes, I suspect that stand-alone one-sentence paragraph, "The move comes a day before President Barack Obama visits Sweden", wasn't that prominent by accident.

Good luck with finding a suitcase missing for three years.  But it's not really the suitcase, is it?  It's the thought of the suitcase that's the thing now.  A suitcase filled with delicious, wicked secrets.  Secrets that only Assange has ever been privy to.  Secrets that are so volatile, so damning, so dangerous the world must listen to Julian Assange now!

Or not. 

But it's not really the suitcase, is it?  It's the thought of the suitcase that's the thing now.

Where's Another Trope when we need him? wink

Its not that complicated. Often, when I'm traveling, I protect delicate electronics by packing lots of underwear around them.  Now I might forget where I packed my laptops with the secret documents but in the end, I'll always remember where my extra underwear is. After so many years holed up in the embassy Assange is likely running out of underwear. I can see the flow of his thoughts. Underwear? wrapped around those laptops, hey! where's that suitcase with the laptops in it.

Thank you for clearing that up for me.  I wondered if I would be able to sleep tonight, this whole thing weighing so heavily. . .

I'm trying not to think about Julian's underwear.  Or yours, for that matter.

OBAMA! Obama stole his luggage and now he knows stuff about Assange. I'm serious sheeple!

(heh)

This brings to mind my own family's recent experience with a late arriving food delivery from our favorite Indian restaurant (big ups to Benares of Tribeca for delivering all the way to the West Village).  Clearly our last order was intercepted by government agents seeking to learn what it is that makes Dablog tick.  Of course, they mess with my food because their fear Wolraich and Doc Cleveland and they know that you, Mona, would figure it out immediately. I'm sure that Wolfrum tipped them off to my vulnerabilities on this front.

Paranoia doesn't mean they're not out to get you!

I'm sure he has the baggage claim ticket. This will be solved in no time. 

 

Rhetorical question:  why does luggage only get lost?  Does anyone ever come home with EXTRA luggage?  Inquiring minds want to know.

This has all been fun but all kidding aside, its not really helpful. When I misplace my keys I always try to recreate my steps to see where I might have lost them. Now if I were Jullian Assange and I had laptops with super valuable highly classified top secret documents what would I do with them? hmm, hmm, I know! I'd find some teenager to watch over them. Because everyone knows if you're looking for someone to stay focused and diligent in protecting those laptops, someone who is sure to handle that type of responsibility, no one could do it better than a high school kid.

Hope that helps in finding those lost laptops.

Go figure: he's not kidding around, it's not just a P.R. razz at the U.S., he's gone full bore on it:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/09/julian-assange-claims-his-enc...

Criminal complaints in Germany and Sweden with "more coming," 186-page affidavit....

 

Thanks for the link, AA.  That's funny, and I mean that seriously.

[Chaos Computer Club member and Assange colleague] Andy Müller-Maguhn (Appendix C) learned through his inquiries that the disappearance of my luggage on a flight with these characteristics was highly unusual: where luggage goes missing there is a 12-hour policy in place for the Star-Alliance partners. If inquiries are not dealt with within this time frame, the inquiry is prioritized. It seemed that this had not happened in my case. My suitcase had simply disappeared from the system. The lack of response or resolution on the part of the authorities and handling companies compounded these unusual characteristics.

But Julian, the point is. . .you checked that piece of luggage!  You!  You, who worried about hanging around the airport for too long, for fear your activities would be noticed.  You, who calls yourself "an investigative journalist who specializes in intelligence reporting".

You, the same guy who went to great lengths to explain just how careful you are about these things. . .

I implement counter-intelligence practices when I am aware that there is an active intelligence interest in my activities and movements. As I have explained above, I had learned through WikiLeaks' own sources and through media reports that there were heightened activities of this nature directed at me. As an investigative journalist who specializes in intelligence reporting, one of the methods I use to reduce the chance of post-flight surveillance of my work is to buy or exchange tickets immediately before a flight, often at the airport, so that intelligence services do not have sufficient time to observe, understand, alert, authorize, equip, and deploy.

I followed my routine counter-intelligence practice in this instance as well. I arrived at the airport just after noon with the intention of purchasing a ticket shortly before the departure on the early afternoon flight. However, I was not able to gain a seat on my preferred flight and had to wait until a later flight, SAS SK2679 departing at 17.25. As a result, I was forced to wait at the airport for many hours longer than I would prefer, given my security concerns.

I knew that Swedish intelligence services and possibly other countries' intelligence agencies were likely to monitor Arlanda airport and its ticketing system. I was concerned that my continued presence at Arlanda would be noticed and would permit those monitoring the airport to inform US authorities of my presence, take action themselves and/or alert German counterparts or services operating unlawfully in Germany of my pending arrival.

. . .you let loose of that bag--that bag that you yourself carried into a public airport that you yourself suspected would be teeming with intelligence agents-- and handed it over to the ticket clerk. 

I don't think you're getting what the problem is.

 

where luggage goes missing there is a 12-hour policy in place for the Star-Alliance partners If inquiries are not dealt with within this time frame, the inquiry is prioritized.

Ha ha ha, makes me laugh. Like anyone who has ever had checked luggage lost believes a stated policy like that means anything to an airline. Prioritized my ass. Just visit the lost luggage areas sometime, you'll see how "hard" they try to find the owners. You've got to find it yourself, call and call, demand access to all storage areas, search and search, file claim and file it again....

moreover, the normal fourth amendment strictures don't apply at the airport . even carrying a data drive that is encrypted is an invitation to have your shit tossed, (virtually). BTW, encryption, even when robust, is useless against a patient and well equipped adversary.

Theoretically, I should be more sympathetic to Julian's claims. Every time those T.S.A. shits have left a little love note inside that they have gone through my bag, I think I am missing something and get real pissed. But then, also every time, I either eventually found the thing or remembered how I mighta left it in the hotel room...blush Got paranoia 'bout this? Yez I do! (And like in every job, we know for a fact that there are T.S.A. agents that steal stuff.)

He should be tweeting to get his luggage back.

Donal, I just looked at your link now. Hilarious! I simply cannot believe the replies British Airways started giving him on Twitter when he asked them how does a billion dollar corp only have 9-5 social media support for a business that operates 24/7? DM me yourselves. It's hard to believe those Tweets were real and not a Saturday Night Live Monty Python script!

It's easy to poke fun at Julian Assange. But there may be more to this than a pompous egotist whining for attention. 

My reading of the story is that the bag's disappearance was immediately noticed and reported. The air carrier's response: "We dunno." Assange could hardly go to the cops at the time and say, "I had a top-secret video supplied by Bradley Manning in that bag, could he? 

What's new now is that Assange has filed a police complaint, based on the fact that the same CIA agent he says was following him around the airport testified at Manning's trial, unsuccessfully seeking to link the accused to that encrypted video. 

It seems to me Assange is trying to establish that Manning's arrest and conviction were based on illegally obtained evidence. It's unlikely to work, given the bias against defendants in the military-justice system, but I notice Manning has already applied for a presidential pardon. 

Just to pre-empt an expected argument, the fact that the evidence obtained by an illegal search may actually prove a crime doesn't retroactively render the search legal. At least not in civilian courts; military ones seem to be more flexible on that rule.

My gut tells me its likely that those laptops were taken by Sweden's secret service and turned over to the US. That's where my cynical mind set takes me. And yes, that's not a good thing for governments to do. I also still believe he has a legitimate fear of extradition to the US if he returns to face the rape allegations.

Its just that Assange ran Wikileaks so incompetently that its hard not to poke fun at him.

One has to keep in mind that "what's a good thing to do" is very relative, as governments do tend to think that publishing their secrets is not a good thing to do.

And that the whole spy vs. spy thing has never followed rule of law. That's why spy stories are a popular genre, where the individual spy who is brilliant at manuvering without protection of law is endlessly fascinating. And why it's common to make fun of spies who seem to be hapless.

I don't think this fits in the spy vs spy scenario. However stupidly Assange ran his website and however much he dealt in secret documents I think we still have to consider him a journalist rather than a spy. A really incompetent journalist but a journalist never the less.

It would have been more complicated but I do think there are ways the government could have confiscated those laptops openly under the rule of law. I generally prefer that governments work that way.

What laptops?  Where is the proof there were ever any laptops?

Maybe there are no laptops. I haven't read the 186 plus page affidavit and this story isn't important enough for me to invest my time doing that. So I can't make a judgment call on the probability of the existence of laptops. Mostly I just wanted to poke fun at Assange but acanuck shamed me into getting a bit serious.

I'll drop out now and let those who care enough to read the relevant documents discuss it.

I meant that for acanuck, too.  But, wait!  I meant for this to be fun.  I think it's lol funny that Assange can't find his laptops.  I think it's extremely funny that Assange wants us to take this whole thing seriously, even though there is no proof of any incriminating laptops, aside from Assange's word--and I'll let everyone else decide what that's worth to them.

I have no intention of reading the affidavit, either, but I really don't have to to find the humor in this situation.  I am not going to take this seriously and nobody can make me.

No need to drop out--unless you just want to.

Oh, I misunderstood. I thought you were seriously challenging me and I really try not to spout off unless I have some decent understanding of the details of the story.

But my weird sense of humor, I've always got that. I actually have to resist the urge or I'd be posting jokes here constantly.

Look around, ocean-kat.  We're awash in weird senses of humor around here.  You should feel right at home!

Sometimes we're so weird about things it doesn't translate well.  Then we get in trouble.  Maybe you've noticed? lol

Here's an oldie but a goodie:

There are two hard problems in computer science: cache validation, variable substitution, and off-by-one errors.

laugh

I smell a rat.

I have a crappy laptop. I travel a lot and sometimes I have to take that crappy laptop with me. I would NEVER trust baggage handlers to deliver it back to me safely. I suspect I'm not alone in this. I also back up the important stuff I keep on my crappy laptop. 

I don't think what's-his-face would have checked computers. Seems more likely that he would have been highly paranoid that his computers would disappear in just the fashion that he is now claiming they did. And if he was dumb enough to check his baggage when he "knew" he was being watched, then kudos to the lucky spy who nicked the suitcase. 

The leaks, how we're handling the leaks, the information contained in the leaks...all of this is such serious stuff. I'm happy to know the leader of the Swedish version of the Keystone Cops has been pulling the strings all this time.

Indeed. Anything this important wouldn't be stored on laptops. It'd be stored on some form of external data storage and encrypted with 4,096-bit keys. Those will suffice until D-Wave or some other R&D company finally builds a true quantum computer. (Of course, I suppose the NSA might already have a quantum computer, but I honestly doubt they could keep that a secret in this day and age.)

Wow, VA, that is a whole new world.  4096-bit keys?  Quantum computers?  Who knew?

(Apparently everybody.  But me.)

Well, to be fair, this is closely related to what I now do for a living. (My focus is actually on formal proofs of safety properties, but security properties are a proper subset of safety properties.)

You know the story of how the UK spooks made The Guardian smash the hard drive of the laptop with the Snowden stuff on it? Luggage handlers all over the world do that all the time without even trying! devil

Latest Comments