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Who Killed Cryptome.org?


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It's the one secret radical open information activist John Young can't crack: what drove his ISP, Verio/NTT, to finally pull the plug on his website, Cryptome.org, where for years he's posted every sensitive document, photo or map he could get his hands on.

Young -- a 72-year-old architect in New York -- has hosted countless government documents with the "For Official Use Only" markings intact; exposed the names of long-ago CIA collaborators; the alleged identities of current British intelligence agents; compiled a travelogue-style guide to the Pennsylvania mountain believed to be the vice president's "undisclosed location"; and even put up a map showing where major Manhattan gas pipelines are buried, which he posted ahead of the Republican National Convention in New York.

So what happened, after all that, to make Verio decide to stop hosting him now?

Verio isn't saying. Spokeswoman Marla Kramer sent had this to say:

Verio customer information is confidential. As a matter of policy, Verio will not discuss the specific details of any customer. Verio consistently investigates and works with its customers to resolve issues. Recent events, however, related to Cryptome presented a different situation that Verio was unable to reconcile with its AUP. Based on these events, Verio made the decision that it could no longer support Cryptome as a customer.

On April 20, 2007, Verio provided Cryptome with notification of the termination via both email and certified mail. Verio provided Cryptome with two week's notice to allow the organization to obtain another service provider.

Verio respects both the rights of its customers and those of third parties. Verio is confident that it has been fair and consistent in its approach to these matters, and stands by its decision in this instance.

It's admirable that Verio won't discuss confidential customer information with a reporter, but somewhat baffling that it's stonewalling Young on the same question, referring him to its AUP. Maybe he violated the clause prohibiting subscribers from "engaging in activities, whether lawful or unlawful, that Verio determines to be harmful to its subscribers, operations, reputation, goodwill, or customer relations." Or maybe he didn't violate any clause, and that's why they can't say. Maybe the wrong person at Verio finally read Young's site.

Young goes overboard, but there's always been something comforting about Cryptome's existence. Remember, the New York Times sat on the NSA domestic surveillance story for a year, and the L.A. Times killed its story on AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein after talking to the top U.S. intelligence official. If a CIA document ever leaked that revealed JFK was killed by space aliens, Cryptome was the one outlet that I was 100% sure could not be cowed into hiding the truth.

Young has until Friday to find a new home. He vows to keep Cryptome online, "in the US or elsewhere. Or if necessary, underground, or via means not easily shuttered, or by way of whatever is invented for opposing technologies of information control." Maybe Young will find his own undisclosed location.


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