NEW YORK – The FBI came calling after maps of urban rail tunnels and gas lines were posted online. Microsoft aggressively complained after the websites publication of a confidential handbook on company policies for helping police. Other critics have gone further, warning that some of the postings could aid Americas enemies.
Yet Cryptome carries on.
The website, unfamiliar to the general public, is well-known in circles where intelligence tactics, government secrets and whistle-blowing are primary concerns. Since its creation in 1996, Cryptome has amassed more than 70,000 files – including lists of secret agents, high-resolution photos of nuclear power plants, and much more.
Its co-founder and webmaster, a feisty 77-year-old architect, doesnt hesitate when asked why.
Im a fierce opponent of government secrets of all kinds, John Young says. The scale is tipped so far the other way that Im willing to stick my neck out and say there should be none.
Young describes several exchanges with federal agents over postings related to espionage and potential security breaches, though no charges have ever been filed. And he notes that corporate complaints of alleged copyright violations and efforts to shut Cryptome down have gone nowhere.
For Young, theres a more persistent annoyance than these: the inevitable comparisons of Cryptome to WikiLeaks, the more famous online secret-sharing organization launched by Julian Assange and others in 2006.
Young briefly collaborated with WikiLeaks creators but says he was dropped from their network after questioning plans for multimillion-dollar fundraising. Cryptome operates on a minimal budget – less than $2,000 a year, according to Young, who also shuns WikiLeaks-style publicity campaigns.
We like the scholarly approach – slow, almost boring, Young says. He likens Cryptome to a dusty, dimly lit library.
Thats not quite the image that Readers Digest evoked in 2005, in an article titled Lets Shut Them Down. Author Michael Crowley assailed Cryptome as an invitation to terrorists, notably because of its postings on potential security vulnerabilities.
Claims that Cryptome aids terrorists or endangers intelligence agents are hokum, Young said.
We couldnt possibly publish information to aid terrorists that they couldnt get on their own, he said, depicting his postings about security gaps as civic-minded.