14 August 2004

ABC News Visits Cryptome

About 10 AM August 11, Jake Tapper called Cryptome to say he was a producer at ABC News and he was preparing a report about terrorists using the Internet to get attack information. He said Cryptome's name came up in a meeting and he wanted to do an interview. Sure, we said. Could you come to the studio, he asked. Sure, we said. Jake said his colleague Sean Smith would be calling to arrange a time. He left a number: 212-456-4040.

Sean called in a few minutes and said we'd like to do the interview at your place. Sure, we said. He said he'd check the schedule and call back. He called back to propose 4 PM. Sure, we said.

At 4, Sean arrived with a camera and sound men (didn't get their names, sorry) pushing a snowmobile-sized cart heaped with equipment: several cameras (shoulder, hand, micro), lights, mics, recorders, tripods, electrical, video and sound cables, boxes of tapes, lots of electronic devices.

Furniture was shifted, cables strung, mic wire tucked in our shirt, lighting, sound and video tested and tweaked. The phone was unplugged, the shades closed. The team discussed settings and shots, tuned the equipment, measured light, installed dimmers on our desk lamps to lower glare, worked around us mannequins, commented how hard it is to get interesting images of somebody using a computer, to avoid the usual numbing dumbshit images of computer users and screen shots.

Sean said while the equipment was set up, "you're not going to eyeball my home are you?"

Sean said Jake would come shortly to do the interview. The rest of the team would stay afterwards for additional shots of the scene. The set-up took about 30 minutes.

Jake Tanner arrived, used the bathroom, no small-talk, got right to work, coached us briefly on what to do, began the questions. An overlooked phone rang, got unplugged, we started over. Someone said, I broke Henry Kissinger's phone in his Connecticut country home trying to turn it off, and was he pissed.

Relax, talk normally, Jake said.

Someone said, wipe your forehead, you're greasy.

Jake prodded and pushed and jostled us with questions about helping terrorists easily find information, why we did that, whether we cared about the thousands of lives lost on 9/11, why publish names and addresses of Bush officials and George Tenet, why publish sensitive military, infrastructure and governmental information, what have the authorities done to you for it, what did the FBI ask you, what did Homeland Security ask you, how did you get started, who was in the organization. We blinked at the lights and swore we were not culprits, it was FAS, National Security Archive, Global Security, RAND, Library of Congress, US Geological Survey, they did it, those kinds of organizations provide far more Internet information to attack the US than we do, and they have been doing it for many years, you should blame them. Jake said I know about them and they don't do what you do, you're going too far.

The grilling lasted about 20 minutes.

Jake said now we'll shoot the back of my head as if I'm talking to you, for use later.

We asked when would the story air. He said tomorrow if it isn't bumped.

Jake said thanks and left.

The team spent another hour shooting scenes in the room, shots of us striding with purpose, typing, mousing, gaping at the box. Shoulder and hand cameras used for front, back and side head and torso shots; close-ups of our giant claws tapping keys and stroking mouse; a micro camera put right next to the screen to capture warped text and images; panning screens of Cryptome's eyeball series of US airports and Condi Rice's home and nuclear bunkers and NYC bridges and tunnels and the Republican convention and NYC gas pipelines; and then scrolling lists of British and Japanese spies.

Sean said, okay, that's enough, thanked us and left. The others disassembled their apparatus, packed and strapped it onto the cart, replaced the furniture. One said you're right that officials protect themselves more than they protect the public.

We asked what it was like for Disney to own ABC. "They're mean sons-of-bitches."

The next day Jake called several times for clarifications, for names and phone numbers at DHS, who wrote the comments on Cryptome about crappy DNC security (Jim Atkinson, we said), what's our age.

ABC issued teasers about the story for two days beforehand that promised terrifying news. We weren't told who else would be in the story. It aired August 12:


Someone later suggested that ABC was used by the authorities to invade and document our secret bunker, to plant wee electronic devices. Whoa.