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“With the benefit of hindsight”
Jacob Appelbaum in the Middle East in 2009 – the tweets
assembled by drs. Efthimia Dilpizoglou

Today I am going to present a collection of tweets that Jacob Appelbaum posted to Twitter while touring the Middle East in 2009 seemingly on behalf of The Tor Project or for the purpose of promoting the use of Tor in the Middle East. These tweets together convey what appears to be some kind of a tour of the Middle East that Appelbaum undertook in the winter of 2009, which involved him visiting not just Lebanon, but also Qatar, Jordan and even attempting, apparently unsuccesfully, to enter Syria two years prior to the 2011 civil war.

While reading through these tweets, always keep in mind the timeline of the Syrian Civil War:

With regards to Appelbaum’s touring of the Middle East I’d also like to bring your attention to the following excerpt from a highly critical essay on Appelbaum in which he is provocatively referred to as a “military contractor”, something he would surely dispute:

For someone who sells himself as a techno-anarchist fighting against the all-powerful US Imperial Surveillance State, it’s a bit weird to see Appelbaum fight for the interests of political movements and activists in conflict zones around the world — activists that just so happen to be in states like Iran and Syria, where the U.S. has been trying to conduct regime operations since before Appelbaum was born.

I would also like to link to the following podcast expressing a possibly even harsher critique of Appelbaum and the milieu he seems to operate within, which you are going to have to pay to listen to but it’s worth it:

The above aren’t the first time that people have questioned why it oh so happens to be that Appelbaum visited Arab countries just before there were attempts at regime change with the context of the so-called Arab Spring spreading through the Middle East.

Keeping in mind this critique of Jacob Appelbaum, let’s have a look at the actual tweets that Appelbaum posted while he was touring the Middle East in 2009:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 27 nov. 2009
Today is going to be hectic. Packing for Beirut, flying to Lebanon via Frankfurt tomorrow…

This is tweet number one about Jacob Appelbaum going to Lebanon. This tweet suggestes he was in Lebanon on the 28th or 29th of November 2009. He conspicuously leaves out the fact that he entered Lebanon through Israel, as he admitted later in a public lecture. Here, he claims he flew into Lebanon directly from Germany.

Jacob Appelbaum was in Beirut for the following event:

happy monday #lebanon. what u wanna know ~ net security or mobiles 4 change? @smexbeirut talks w/@ioerror & @katrinskaya coming in December.
23:02 – 29 nov. 2009

Note the language used in this tweet. The event was promoted as a “net security” event. It was not promoted as a “digital democracy” event or as net “surveillance/censorshipop circumvention” event. In 2009, Arabs attending a Tor lecture assumed they were listening a “net security” lecture. The wording of things is very important in these contexts and this is why we have to pay very close attention to how things were worded back then.

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 3 dec. 2009
I might have a chance to visit Syria this weekend. Any suggestions for me while visiting Damascus?

This is a tweet that Jacob Appelbaum tweeted while in Lebanon. Lebanon was supposed to be a stepping stone towards entering Syria and visiting Damascus, which is the capitol of Syria and is relatively near the Lebanese border. Later he will tweet that he failed to enter Syria but he will not elaborate on what caused this failure. So what happened?

That Appelbaum was in Lebanon is confirmed online, for example here:

The second annual Arab Bloggers Workshop is currently taking place in Beirut, Lebanon (see other blog posts here); the Workshop consists of various presentations and smaller workshops on topics ranging from “Arab techies” to online campaigns to anonymity and circumvention technologies. Today, Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror on Twitter) of Tor gave a presentation on how to select the right circumvention tool, as well as specific information on the project for which he works.

Once in Beirut, he discovered that the Lebanese goverment was blocking people from accessing Tor’s website in order to download Tor, and posted an image of this blockage on his “hilariously” named website

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 7 dec. 2009
HTTP filtering in Lebanon of Tor’s website: #ab09 #censorship #tor


On the 9th of December 2009 he posted (note: Doha is in the State of Qatar):

I want to travel from Beirut to Doha and then to Cairo. I can always return to Germany by way of Beirut from there… Where else in MENA?
06:08 – 8 dec. 2009

A day later he was “still in Lebanon”:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 9 dec. 2009
@thomhastings I’m still in Lebanon and it’s people here who are setting up Tor servers, not me. 🙂

Note the date of this tweet: 9 December 2009. Appelbaum would later do a join lecture with Seth Shoen, the recording of which has since been removed from the internet but of which I still have a private copy, in which he stated before a crowd that the Lebanese authorities wouldn’t let him into Lebanon because they supposedly had a problem with either him being a Jew or a homosexual. This tweet directly contracts that claim. Appelbaum was in Lebanon in December of 2009.

On the 11th of December 2009 he tweeted:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 11 dec. 2009
Tickets booked for Doha, Cairo, Amman, Beirut and then to Frankfurt. I guess I’m driving from Frankfurt on the evening of December 26th…

I really have to recommend visiting Beirut. Lebanon is an amazing place. Friendly people, good food, intense music, insane taxis… #ab09
09:31 – 11 dec. 2009

But, also on the 11th of December 2009, he tweeted the following:

I was refused entry to Lebanon, denied a new visa, my previously visa was “not valid” and now I’m waiting at the gate. Kafkaesque transit.
Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 11 dec. 2009

Contrast this 11 Dec 2009 tweet (“I was refused entry to Lebanon”) to the previous tweets as well as the one from 9 Dec 2009 (“I’m still in Lebanon”). Why is he claiming that he was refused entry into Lebanon while he just admitted he was there?

Note also how he claims he has “a previous visa”… so that means he was Lebanon even before 2009! What was he doing there on behalf of whom?

On the 14th of December he tweeted:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 14 dec. 2009
I’m all packed and ready to fly to Doha shortly. I’m really looking forward to meeting with Al-Jazeera and visiting Qatar. I’ll miss Beirut.

Followed by

The filter in Doha on Qtel appears to be NetSweeper.
15:19 – 15 dec. 2009

NetSweeper is “The best web filtering internet security solution for schools, Telcos and business.

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 16 dec. 2009
Islamic Art Museum of Doha:

Indeed, he was in Qatar to shoot the Al Jazeera studios, with some of the pictures later appearing on Laughing Squid:

Photos: The Al-Jazeera Studios in Doha, Qatar

Recall here the central role of Al Jazeera in the coverage of the Arab Spring.

Wherever he was in the Middle East, he was always detailing the “censorship”… or should that rather be: determining a 3rd world goverment’s capability to prevent destabilization efforts by hostile Western entities?

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror
Here’s another Qatari censorship screen:
13:08 – 16 dec. 2009

On the 15th and 16th of December 2009 he was in Qatar, posting this Flickr picture.

And on the 19th of december he was done with Qatar:

RT @ioerror: Time to head to the Doha airport and fly to Cairo.

And then he hit Amman in Jordan:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 23 dec. 2009
I’m packing for Jordan and flying out in a few hours. I’m speaking at  PSUT in the Luai Shamout Auditorium in Amman tomorrow at 13:00.

According to the following website, the Jordan Open Source Association had organized a lecture with Jacob Appelbaum to talk to them about Tor at the Princess Sumaya University for Technology:

Appelbaum presented several practical examples on how to use the project, which was also presented in a Middle-East tour in the last Arab Bloggers Conference in Beirut and at Al Jazeera Satellite Channel in Doha, Qatar.

Lecture flyer:!topic/jolug/tg3GLv5CvFo

The following is a typical example of Jacob Appelbaum’s “humour” on Twitter:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 24 dec. 2009
How does this Jew celebrate Christmas in Jordan? By taking up smoking, drinking Baileys and sitting in front of a gas heater. Thank no gods.

On the 25th of Dec 2009 he was done in Amman and was to return to Frankfurt through Beirut:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 25 dec. 2009
After a nice hour of sleep, I’m awake and trying to find my way to the airport in Amman. Soon Beirut and then to Frankfurt! To the Congress!

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 25 dec. 2009
Books@Cafe is totally my favorite place in Amman.

This series of tweets is interesting because Appelbaum is communicating with people who were in Israel who wanted to meet Appelbaum to go to Petra in Jordan. Did he end up meeting these people? Unknown.

Sharon ?@sharon 23 dec. 2009
@ioerror that would be awesome, but we have plans in israel  on xmas with my best friend.   how long are you in jordan?


Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 23 dec. 2009
@sharon I’ll be in Jordan in five hours. I’m sepaking at PSUT tomorrow at 13:00. Will you be around Jordan? Want to go to Petra on xmas?


@ioerror we are traversing the same part of the planet as you. we were just in egypt, now we’re in israel/palestine, heading to jordan soon.



Sharon ?@sharon 23 dec. 2009
@ioerror 😦 looks like we’ll just miss each other.  but have an amazing time and let us know how petra is!!!  xo


Space Rogue ?@spacerog 23 dec. 2009
@ioerror If you get a chance rent a car and drive down to Petra, or just the Dead Sea, defiately worth it, was there a year ago, awesome!


Bassam Ali ?@3abbas 25 dec. 2009
@ioerror I hope you enjoyed ur petra Trip

Petra is a Jordanian ancient city famous for its pink-hued rock-cut architecture. The Dead Sea is of course between the West Bank, which is for all intents and purposes ISRAEL, and Jordan.

Appelbaum responds with the following statement:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 23 dec. 2009
@spacerog I’ve been to the dead sea about six years ago. After I had some fresh piercings too. It was great. 🙂

In other words, Appelbaum says here that he was at the Dead Sea 2009-6= in 2003. Was Appelbaum at the Dead Sea on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea? Remember here the previous tweet about an earlier VISA…

Now, pay VERY close attention to the following tweets, because this is where Appelbaum’s tour in the Middle East gets really strange!

The undercover (customs? police?) agents in Lebanon are the keystone cops of the (wannabe) spook world.
Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 26 dec. 2009


I made it out of Lebanon. I was only detained one more time before departure. We drove from Frankfurt to Berlin and now I’m at the BCC. Imad Bazzi ?@TrellaLB 26 dec. 2009

Compare this tweet about “making it out of Lebanon” with him claiming during the Seth Shoen lecture that customs wouldn’t let him into Lebanon because he’s a Jew or a homosexual… which is it? Did he or did he not manage to enter Lebanon? And was he trying to enter Lebanon… possibly through ISRAEL? It is my personal experience since 2010 that almost every single one of Appelbaum’s stories disintegrates as soon as you go into the details. But maybe there is something I am missing here.

What is clear from the above tweets is that “something weird” happened in Lebanon. Possibly this was the date of the incident he spoke about in the Seth Shoen lecture where he said he was kicked out of Lebanon and sent back to Israel. However there are no subsequent tweets about being sent to Israel or being in Israel. Curious isn’t it? It gets even more curious with the following tweet:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 4 feb. 2010
That quick ten day trip to Lebanon really snowballed into something else. Sixty plus days later, I’m finally heading back to San Francisco.

Here Appelbaum claims was supposed to be in Lebanon for only 10 days in 2009… but ended up staying in the region for 60+ days. This presumably includes the failed  attempted entry into Syria and his being thrown out of Lebanon upon re-entering from Amman in Jordan.

In March of 2011 Appelbaum starts tweeting about brewing unrest in Syria:

Events in Syria are extremely serious – the government is shooting people and killing them. #Daraa #syria
22 mrt. 2011


Another bizarre tweet from the same day is the following in which Jacob Appelbaum refers to what he calls “the leader of the Syrian revolution” (?!) whose private contact information he claims he had (where did he get it from?)

If media is looking for the leader of the Syrian revolution in Dara – I’ll pass contact information for Ahmad Sayasnah – DM me #syria
22 mrt. 2011


Several months later, on the 19th of August 2011 he tweeted the following. Note the complete absence of tweets from Syria in the above collection of tweets. Indeed, tweets about Appelbaum being in Syria in 2009 are nowhere to be to be found using Twitter’s search-engine despite his stated intent to visit Syria:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror
@barrythrew I was in Lebanon and the surrounding areas but my trip to Syria did not work out as planned. Probably for the best.
12:37 – 19 aug. 2011

“I was in Lebanon and the surrounding areas”… does that term, “the surrounding areas” include Israel? He stated he couldn’t get into Syria, so what other “surrounding areas” could there have been for him to get into, besides Israel?

Also with regards to “the surrounding areas”, he cryptically posted this on the 18th of December 2009, almost a year after his 2009 Middle East tour:

Jacob Appelbaum ?@ioerror 18 dec. 2009
Probably as close as I’m ever going to get to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

The woman posing with him on that Flickr picture is someone he only identifies on Flickr as “Jackie”. Note the complete absence of any reference to this person traveling with him or to trying to visit Saudi Arabia in any of the other tweets I have posted.

As for Wikileaks themselves happily participating in those regime-change efforts during the Arab Spring, something Julian Assange openly takes pride in facilitating, here is Wikileaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum dog-whistling Anonymous regarding Syria and of course Israel and US’s arch-enemy Iran back in 2012 with “Dear #Anonymous” –>

Dear #anonymous – consider that the government of Syria and Iran are taking major actions against their people today and this weekend.
04:34 – 10 feb. 2012

These are the tweets that I have been able to find that are IMO relevant to Jacob Appelbaum’s tour of the Middle East in the winter of 2009. Jacob Appelbaum in Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, almost Syria… maybe ISRAEL? Later I will get into another interesting person who was in the Middle East at the same time with Appelbaum. This person, who is of the opinion that “no one” is busy “fact-checking the fact-checkers”, is actually a researcher who is herself worth researching. More later.


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