Type of site
|Document archive and disclosure|
|Available in||English, but some documents are written in other languages|
|Owners||John Young, Deborah Natsios|
|Editors||John Young, Deborah Natsios|
Cryptome is a 501(c)(3) private foundation created in 1996 by John Young and Deborah Natsios and sponsored by Natsios-Young Architects. The site collects information about freedom of expression, privacy, cryptography, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and government secrecy.
Cryptome is known for publishing the alleged identity of the CIA analyst who located Osama Bin Laden, lists of people allegedly associated with the Stasi, and the PSIA. Cryptome is also known for publishing the alleged identity of British intelligence agent and anti-Irish Republican Army assassin Stakeknife and the disputed internal emails of the WikiLeaks organization. Cryptome republished the already public surveillance disclosures of Edward Snowden and announced in June 2014 that they would publish all unreleased Snowden documents later that month.
Cryptome has received praise from notable organizations such as the EFF, but has also been the subject of criticism and controversy. Cryptome was accused by WikiLeaks of forging emails and some of Cryptome's posted documents have been called an "invitation to terrorists." The website has also been criticized for posting maps and pictures of "dangerous Achilles' heel[s] in the domestic infrastructure," which The New York Times called a "tip off [to] terrorists." ABC News also criticized Cryptome for posting information that terrorists could use to plan attacks. Cryptome continues to post controversial materials including guides on "how to attack critical infrastructure" in addition to other instructions for illegal hacking "for those without the patience to wait for whistleblowers". Cryptome has also received criticism for its handling of private and embarrassing information.
John Young was born in 1935. He grew up in West Texas where his father worked on a decommissioned Texas POW camp, and John later served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers in Germany (1953–56) and earned degrees in philosophy and architecture from Rice University (1957–63). He went on to receive his graduate degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1969. A self-identified radical, he became an activist and helped create community service group Urban Deadline, where his fellow student-activists initially suspected him of being a police spy. Urban Deadline went on to receive citations from the Citizens Union of the City of New York and the New York City Council, and which later evolved into Cryptome. His work earned him a position on the nominating committee for the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design in 1998.
He has received citations from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Legal Aid Society. In 1993, he was awarded the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition. He has stated he doesn't "acknowledge the power of the law."
Deborah Natsios grew up in CIA safe houses across Europe, Asia and South America reserved for covert CIA station chiefs. She later received her graduate degree in architecture from Princeton University. She has taught architecture and urban design at Columbia University and Parsons The New School for Design, and held seminars at the Pratt Institute and the University of Texas. She is the principal of Natsios Young Architects.
In addition to being co-editor for Cryptome, she is responsible for the associated project Cartome, which was founded in 2011 and posts her original critical art and graphical images and other public resources to document sensitive areas. She additionally holds a degree in mathematics from Smith College. She has given talks at the USENIX Annual Technical Conference and Architectures of Fear: Terrorism and the Future of Urbanism in the West, and written on topics ranging from architectural theory to defenses of Jim Bell and assassination politics. She is a notable critic of Edward Snowden.
Deborah Natsios is the daughter of Nicholas Natsios, who served as CIA station chief in Greece from 1948–1956, in Vietnam from 1956–1960, in France from 1960–1962, in South Korea from 1962–1965, in Argentina from 1965–1969, in the Netherlands from 1969–1972, and in Iran from 1972–1974. While stationed in Vietnam, his deputy was William Colby, the future Director of Central Intelligence. His name was included in the 1996 membership directory of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, which Cryptome helped to publish. Cryptome acknowledged its link to Nicholas Natsios in 2000.
Cryptome's digital library includes series on:
- Cartome: An archive of news and spatial / geographic documents on privacy, cryptography, dual-use technologies, national security and intelligence—communicated by imagery systems: cartography, photography, photogrammetry, steganography, camouflage, maps, images, drawings, charts, diagrams, IMINT and their reverse-panopticon and counter-deception potential.
- Cryptome CN: Information, documents and opinions banned by the People's Republic of China.
- Nuclear Power Plants and WMD Series.
- Protest Photos Series.
- NYC Most Dangerous Buildings Series.
John Young has said of Cryptome, "We do expect to get false documents but it's not our job to sort that out." In another interview, John Young promoted skepticism about all sources of information, saying: "Facts are not a trustworthy source of knowledge. Cryptome is not an authoritative source." When asked about providing context for material, Young said, "We do not believe in 'context.' That is authoritarian nonsense. For the same reason, we do not believe in verification, authentication, background."
The front page of the (there's a missing subject here) states that "documents are removed from this site only by order served directly by a US court having jurisdiction. No court order has ever been served; any order served will be published here – or elsewhere if gagged by order." However, documents have been removed at the request of both law enforcement as well as individuals.
In 2015, it was discovered that Cryptome's USB archives contained web server logs, containing clues to the identities of Cryptome visitors including their IP addresses and what files they had accessed on Cryptome. Cryptome initially stated that they had been faked as part of a disinformation campaign. Several days later, Cryptome confirmed the logs were real and shared their findings. The logs had been mailed out to users who ordered the site's archive since they changed web hosts in 2007, which Cryptome blamed on their current ISP, Network Solutions.
Cryptome has warned users that they do not have technical measures to protect the anonymity of their sources, saying "don’t send us stuff and think that we’ll protect you."
1994: What became Cryptome began with John and Deborah's participation in the Cypherpunks electronic mailing list and Urban Deadline. Deborah Natsios called this time "seminal" and "transformative" for the internet.
1996: Cryptome was officially created out of their architectural practice.
1999: In October journalist Declan McCullagh wrote about John Young's perusal of the site's access logs.
2000: Cartome was founded. In July, two FBI agents spoke with Cryptome on the phone after Cryptome published a Public Security Intelligence Agency personnel file. The file listed 400 names, birthdates, and titles, notably included Director General Hidenao Toyoshima. The FBI expressed concerns over the file, but admitted it was legal to publish in the United States but not Japan. After speculation that the documents may have come from someone called "Shigeo Kifuji", Cryptome identified the source as Hironari Noda.
2006: Cryptome became one of the early organizers of WikiLeaks. John Young revealed that he was approached by Julian Assange and asked to be the public face of Wikileaks; Young agreed and his name was listed on the website's original domain registration form.
2007: In the early part of the year, John Young and Deborah Natsios left Wikileaks due to concerns about the organizations' finances and fundraising, accusing it of being a "money-making operation" and "business intelligence" scheme, and expressing concern that the amount of money they sought "could not be needed so soon except for suspect purposes." Cryptome published an archive of the secret, internal electronic mailing list of the Wikileaks organizers, from its inception through Young's departure from the group. On April 20 the website received notice from its hosting company, Verio, that it would be evicted on May 4 for unspecified breaches of their acceptable use policy. Cryptome alleged that the shutdown is a censorship attempt in response to posts about the Coast Guard's Deepwater program.
2010: Cryptome's Earthlink account was compromised, leading to its website being hacked and Cryptome's data copied. The hackers posted screenshots of the compromised email account. Cryptome confirmed the accuracy of the information taken, but contested specific assertions, claiming they had only about seven gigabytes of data, not the seven terabytes the attackers claimed to copy. In February, Cryptome is briefly shut down by Network Solutions for alleged DMCA violations after it posted a "Microsoft legal spy manual". Microsoft withdraws the complaint 3 days later and the website is restored. In March, PayPal stopped processing donations to Cryptome and froze the account due to "suspicious activities". The account was restored after an "investigation" by PayPal. Cryptome ended on bad terms with Wikileaks, with John Young directly accusing them of selling classified material and calling them "a criminal organization". In a separate interview, he called Assange a narcissistic and compared him to Henry Kissinger. Young also accused George Soros and the Koch brothers of "backing Wikileaks generously".
2011: In July, Cryptome named the alleged CIA analyst who found Osama Bin Laden. In September, Cryptome published a list of Intelligence and National Security Alliance members, alleging that they were spies.
2012: In February, the Cryptome website was hacked to infect visitors with malware.
2013: In February, Cryptome's website, email and Twitter account were compromised, exposing whistleblowers and sources that had corresponded with Cryptome via email. Cryptome blamed hackers Ruxpin and Sabu, who was an FBI informant at the time. In June two US Secret Service agents visited Cryptome to request removal of a former presidential Bush family email allegedly hacked by Guccifer. In August, a complaint about Cryptome's identification of alleged Japanese terrorists led Network Solutions to briefly shut down the site. In October Cryptome informed its users that Network Solutions had generated logs of site's visitors, and that requests to delete the logs were not being honored. (According to Network Solutions's website, logs are deleted after thirty days and Cryptome could choose to prevent the logging.)
2014: Cryptome attempted to raise $100,000 to fund the website and its other disclosure initiatives. In June, Cryptome was pulled offline again when malware was found infecting visitors to the site. In July, Cryptome said it would publish the remaining NSA documents taken by Edward Snowden in the "coming weeks".
2015: In September, Cryptome announced that their encryption keys are compromised. A few days later, Cryptome filed for incorporation in New York. Later that month, a GCHQ document leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the agency is monitoring visits to Cryptome. In October, a sold edition (USB stick) of the Cryptome archive was observed to contain web server logs, containing clues to the identities of Cryptome visitors. The logs had been mailed out to users who ordered the site's archive at least since 2007. Cryptome denied the logs were real, and accused the discoverer of forging the data and other forms of corruption. Cryptome later confirmed they were real. Cryptome posted pictures of logs dating back to the site's creation, claiming that Cryptome is for sale. Cryptome later claimed that the sale is a parody and that "Cryptome has no logs, never has", noting that their "various ISPs have copious logs of many kinds" along with metadata and that Cryptome tracks these "to see what happens to our files".
2016: In April, Cryptome published thousands of credit-card numbers, passwords and personal information allegedly belonging to Qatar National Bank's clients. In July, Cryptome alleged LinkNYC was "tracking Cryptome's movements through the city" after the company responded to Cryptome's social media posts by attempting to prevent them from photographing the company's installations.
A 2004 The New York Times article assessed Cryptome with the headline, "Advise the Public, Tip Off the Terrorists" in its coverage of the site's gas pipeline maps. Reader's Digest made an even more alarming assessment of the site in 2005, calling it an "invitation to terrorists" and alleging that Young "may well have put lives at risk".
Cryptome was awarded the Defensor Libertatis (defender of liberty) award at the 2010 Big Brother Awards, for a "life in the fight against surveillance and censorship" and for providing "suppressed or otherwise censored documents to the global public". The awards committee noted that Cryptome had engaged with "every protagonist of the military-electronic monitoring complex".
In 2012, Steven Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, described John Young and Cryptome as "fearless and contemptuous of any pretensions to authority" and "oblivious to the security concerns that are the preconditions of a working democracy. And he seems indifferent to the human costs of involuntary disclosure of personal information." Aftergood specifically criticized Cryptome's handling of the McGurk emails, saying "it's fine to oppose McGurk or anyone else. It wasn't necessary to humiliate them".
In 2014, Glenn Greenwald praised and criticized Cryptome, saying "There is an obvious irony to complaining that we're profiting from our work while [Cryptome] tries to raise $100,000 by featuring our work. Even though [Cryptome] occasionally does some repellent and demented things—such as posting the home addresses of Laura Poitras, Bart Gellman, and myself along with maps pointing to our homes—[they also do] things that are quite productive and valuable. On the whole, I'm glad there is a Cryptome and hope they succeed in raising the money they want."
Giganews criticized Cryptome for posting unverified allegations which Giganews described as completely false and without evidence. Giganews went on to question Cryptome's credibility and motives, saying "Cryptome's failure to contact us to validate the allegations or respond to our concerns has lessened their credibility. It does not seem that Cryptome is in search for the truth, which leaves us to question what are their true motives."
Peter Earnest, a 36-year veteran of the CIA turned executive director of the International Spy Museum and chairman of the board of directors of the Association for Intelligence Officers criticized Cryptome for publishing the names of spies, saying it does considerable damage and aids people that would do them harm.
- Cryptome quotes
- Distributed Denial of Secrets
- Open government
- Internal Revenue Service (October 19, 2015). "Cryptome Tax Exempt".
- Patrick Howell O'Neill (May 9, 2014). "Cryptome, the original WikiLeaks, launches $100,000 Kickstarter". The Daily Dot.
- Joseph Cox (July 6, 2014). "Why All the Snowden Docs Should Be Public: An Interview with Cryptome". Vice.
- Alexander J Martin (September 16, 2015). "Cryptome founder revokes PGP keys after weird 'compromise'". The Register.
- "Cryptome suffers brief take-down over Japanese 'terror' files". www.theregister.com.
- Rosen, Armin. "A Radical Pro-Transparency Website Is Raising Money To Annoy Glenn Greenwald". Business Insider.
- "Whistleblowing Website Cryptome Hacked, Conspiracy Theories Do Not Abound". February 13, 2012.
- "How a White House Flickr Fail Outed Bin Laden Hunter 'CIA John'". July 12, 2011.
- Bruce, Gary (2010). The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi. Oxford University Press. p. 32. ISBN 9780195392050.
- McCullagh, Declan (July 21, 2000). "FBI Pressuring Spy Archivist". Wired. Archived from the original on December 28, 2013. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
- John Ware and Alasdair Palmer (May 18, 2003). "Is he or isn't he?". The Daily Telegraph.
- Dan Duray (December 8, 2010). "The Original Wikileaker". The New York Observer..
- "More Edward Snowden Leaks on the Way? New York-based site Cryptome says it will publish the remaining NSA documents that Edward Snowden swiped". July 2014.
- Zetter, Kim (October 6, 2010). "Cryptome Hacked". Wired.
- Crowley, Michael. "That's Outrageous – Let's Shut These Websites Down". Reader's Digest. Archived from the original on December 9, 2006. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- Urbina, Ian (August 29, 2004). "Mapping Natural Gas Lines: Advise the Public, Tip Off the Terrorists". The New York Times.
- "Web Site Raises Questions About Public Access to Sensitive Government Info". Archived from the original on August 15, 2004.
- "How To Attack Critical Infrastructure, No-Bullshit Guide" (PDF).
- Lake, Eli (June 14, 2012). "The Man Behind the 'Blue Ball' Emails Scandal That Snared Brett McGurk". The Daily Beast.
- "The Whistleblower Architects: surveillance, infrastructure, and freedom of information according to Cryptome (part 1)".
- "Older, less flashy than WikiLeaks, Cryptome perseveres as a favored site for sharing secrets". Fox News. March 9, 2013.
- "PROJECTS 1963 TO 1998". Archived from the original on December 19, 2005.
- "John Young CV". Archived from the original on July 16, 1998.
- "Bibliography and Awards". Archived from the original on April 16, 2008.
- "He Digs 'Through' Gov't Muck". Archived from the original on March 1, 2000.
- "DEBORAH NATSIOS AND JOHN YOUNG BIBLIOGRAPHY". natsios-young.org.
- "A Discussion With Cryptome". Gawker. June 19, 2013. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
- Greig Crysler, C.; Cairns, Stephen; Heynen, Hilde (January 10, 2012). The SAGE Handbook of Architectural Theory. ISBN 9781412946131.
- "Deborah Natsios". Archived from the original on February 11, 2018. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
- "Library". Archived from the original on February 11, 2018. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
- "Natsios Young Research" (PDF).
- "Reversing the Panopticon". Archived from the original on October 5, 2011.
- "Homeland Defense and the Prosecution of Jim Bell". Archived from the original on February 9, 2015.
- "Warum ihr selbst auf die Snowden-Dokumente zugreifen solltet". February 5, 2016.
- "Secrets and Lies". Archived from the original on March 24, 2008.
- "NATSIOS NICHOLAS ANDREW".
- "Nicholas Natsios - Obituary".
- "CIA and the House of Ngo, Covert Action in South Vietnam, 1954–63" (PDF). National Security Archive.
- "Assn. Former Intelligence Officers. Membership Directory. 1996". Archived from the original on October 18, 2015.
- "CARTOME". cryptome.org. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
- "Cryptome". WikiLeaks.
- "Cryptome Nuclear Power Plants and WMD Series". cryptome.org. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
- "Cryptome Protest Photos Series". cryptome.org. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
- "Cryptome NYC Most Dangerous Buildings Series". cryptome.org. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "THE INTERNET: CIRCUMVENTION OF CENSORSHIP?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 13, 2002.
- "An Excerpt From 'This Machine Kills Secrets': Meet The 'Spiritual Godfather Of Online Leaking'".
- "LeaksWiki Continues and Cryptome Interview – MIT Center for Civic Media".
- "Cryptome". Archived from the original on November 11, 2015.
- "After calling it disinfo, Cryptome admits they leaked their logs". that1archive.neocities.org.
- "Leak site Cryptome accidentally leaks its own visitor IP addresses". The Daily Dotaccessdate=October 11, 2015.
- "Cryptome grudgingly admits to leak of users' ancient IP addresses".
- "An Excerpt From 'This Machine Kills Secrets': Meet The 'Spiritual Godfather Of Online Leaking part 2'".
- Howard Gillette Jr. (May 21, 2015). Class Divide: Yale '64 and the Conflicted Legacy of the Sixties. ISBN 9780801456114.
- "Open Source Design 01: The architects of information". www.domusweb.it.
- "Natsios Young Architects". Archived from the original on July 16, 1998.
- "Mapping Natural Gas Lines: Advise the Public, Tip Off the Terrorists". The New York Times. August 29, 2004. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- Whalen, Jeanne (October 26, 2010). "Website for Leaked Data Shines Spotlight on WikiLeaks" – via www.wsj.com.
- McCullagh, Declan. "Wikileaks' estranged co-founder becomes a critic (Q&A)". CNET.
- "Who Killed Cryptome.org?". Wired.
- Gohring, Nancy (April 30, 2007). "Verio dumps controversial Cryptome site". Computerworld. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- "Cryptome to be Terminated by Verio/NTT - Slashdot".
- Zetter, Kim (October 6, 2010). "Secret-Spilling Sources at Risk Following Cryptome Breach" – via www.wired.com.
- Quigley, Robert (February 24, 2010). "Site Leaks Microsoft Online Surveillance Guide, MS Demands Takedown Under Copyright Law (UPDATE 6)". Geekosystem. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- Diaz, Jesus (February 24, 2010). "The Secret Government Surveillance Document Microsoft Doesn't Want You To See". Gizmodo. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- "Microsoft Online Services Global Criminal Compliance Handbook" (PDF). Wired. February 24, 2010. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- "Cryptome Restored After Microsoft DMCA Takedown". PCMag.com. February 25, 2010. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
- "Now PayPal Goes for Cryptome, Suspends Account". Fast Company. March 8, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
- "Wikileaks are for-hire mercenaries - Cryptome". www.theregister.com.
- Storm, Darlene (September 19, 2011). "3,000 Intelligence officials' names, emails leaked as 'INSA spies'". Computerworld.
- Goodin, Dan (February 13, 2012). "Breaches galore as Cryptome hacked to infect visitors with malware". Ars Technica.
- "Cryptome site, Twitter and email account hacked again". February 13, 2013.
- Kovacs, Eduard. "Cryptome Email, Website and Twitter Account Hacked". softpedia.
- "Network Solutions Log File Spying". cryptome.org.
- "Tools and Tips Archives". Network Solutions Blog.
- "Cryptome Kills the Kickstarter: an interview with John Young". July 24, 2014.
- "Cryptome pulled OFFLINE due to malware infection: Founder cries foul". www.theregister.com.
- "More Edward Snowden Leaks on the Way?". Vocativ. July 1, 2014.
- "Someone Stole the Encryption Keys of WikiLeaks Precursor 'Cryptome'".
- "Cryptome Incorporated in New York, NY - Reviews - Bizapedia Profile". Bizapedia.com. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
- "From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users' Online Identities". The Intercept. September 25, 2015. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- Parasie, Nicolas; Fitch, Asa (April 27, 2016). "Qatar National Bank Probes Alleged Leak of Clients' Data". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
- Ragan, Steve (April 27, 2016). "Examining the leaked passwords and PINs from Qatar National Bank". CSO Online. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
- "Who Killed Cryptome.org?". Wired.
- "John Young and Deborah Natsios". 2008.
- "War of the Nerds: The Battle Over Wikileaks". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
- "WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Fights Calls to Step Down". March 27, 2015.
- "Preistraeger". Big Brother Awards.
- "Steven Aftergood".
- "It's a Gigahoax - Giganews is NOT an FBI Operation". www.giganews.com.
- WikiLeaks Search of Cryptome Archive and Tweets
- WikiLeaks mirror
- Cryptome dataset 1996-2016 - 102,000 files on the Internet Archive
- The Cryptome Archives hosted by The Cthulhu
- Siteprotect.net mirror
- Why All the Snowden Docs Should Be Public: An Interview with Cryptome (Cox, Joseph, Vice/Motherboard, July 16, 2014)
- Older, quieter than WikiLeaks, Cryptome perseveres (Associated Press, Mar. 9, 2013)
- Wikileaks' estranged co-founder becomes a critic (Q&A)
- Young and Natsios radio interview with Emmanuel Goldstein on Off The Hook. (February 2012, WBAI)
- Open Source Design 01: The architects of information (Domus June 2011)
- An Excerpt From 'This Machine Kills Secrets': Meet The 'Spiritual Godfather Of Online Leaking' (Greenberg, Andy, September 17, 2012)