If you agree with Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the website WikiLeaksput the lives of American soldiers and Afghan allies in danger by releasing thousands of documents related to the war there, then in your mind, Seattleite Jacob Appelbaum is an enemy of the state. But Appelbaum's day job at a Massachusetts-based non-profit called the Tor Project, is all about keeping people safe online, according to a spokesperson there. He helps activists in countries like China send messages through the internet while keeping their identities hidden from authorities. "It's not like you can portray him as someone who does not care about human safety," Tor representative Karen Reilly says by phone.
WikiLeaks founder Aussie Julian Assange has been off U.S. soil since his site posted a video in April allegedly showing soldiers in Afghanistan gunning down civilians from a helicopter. Since then, Appelbaum has become the defacto representative of WikiLeaks in the U.S., making appearances at conferences for Assange.
Reilly is quick to distance WikiLeaks from her organization. "Tor is not WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks is not Tor," she insists. "We're very content agnostic, we don't have a political agenda to put forward."
That said, Reilly has no problem with Appelbaum working for WikiLeaks on his own time. Tor's mission is to ensure people can safely express their opinions or share information in totalitarian countries, she says. "As an organization dedicated to freedom of expression, we don't dictate what employees do on their own time."