Weev, aka Andrew Auernheimer, is free. The 29-year-old hacker, released from the Allenwood Federal Correctional Center in Pennsylvania last weekend, has spent the past few days celebrating a federal appeals court decision to reverse and vacate his conviction but took a bit of time to discuss his incarceration and plans with me.
To get the big question out of the way: Yes, he’s still a troll and doesn’t seem to have mellowed. But, to be fair, he’s dedicated himself to an interesting new kind of trolling that involves financial markets and is founding a new hedge fund, TRO LLC. That’s right: the Troll Company.
TC: How are you feeling?
Weev: I am pretty stoic about this moment of freedom. I think I have to channel the spirit of Seneca the Younger, who whilst the wealthiest in Rome wrapped himself in a blanket in case he lost everything in a shipwreck. While I am now out of prison and the government has consented to a dismissal of the indictment (which, when the judge rules shortly, will release me from my bail conditions) they are explicitly reserving the right to try me in another jurisdiction.
TC: What happened inside? Why were you in solitary?
Weev: I was repeatedly placed in solitary because I kept intentionally antagonizing the federal government by continuing to speak and troll, even from prison. Also I do not take any shit from anybody, and told all the corrections workers what I think of them.
TC: I’ve been attacked for supporting you online. To be clear, we’ve had a good relationship. What will you do to change your perception/methods? Will you do anything?
Weev: I think the best thing someone can possibly do for a work of art is to hatefully criticize it. My business model is short equities. I am here to shift the market cap of publicly traded companies downward by publicizing problems in their technical infrastructure. Very few people manage to do this. In fact, besides the times I’ve done so, I can only think of a handful of other incidents. TJX, Target, Lulzsec’s Sony incidents. I think I might be the only person to do this more than once. I am able to cause impact precisely because I am so polarizing. Eyeballs are attracted to what I do because lots of people very viscerally dislike me. The spectacle of my presence causes more impact than my initial actions. I was a little worried I would come out of all this being a little too well liked, and am delighted to see that isn’t the case.
TC: What did you think of the defense? Your legal team? How deeply did they understand the “crime?”
Weev: My legal defense was the greatest in the world. Tor Ekeland is a real trench fighter and secured all the necessary arguments at trial. I’d interviewed hundreds of criminal defense attorneys and he was the only one that understood the merits of the case. EFF only wanted to take the case when it got to the appeals level. I would still be in prison if it weren’t for Tor, and he and Marcia Hofmann (who was co-counsel on my appeal) are the single two smartest lawyers you can go retain in private practice. Go give them all your money. The EFF and Professor Orin Kerr put in amazing work on my appeal brief, and Orin Kerr of course literally wrote the book on the subject, “Computer Crime Law”. Orin’s oral argument was so good that legal blogs keep praising its quality. The amicus briefs were also extremely compelling, my personal favorite being Jennifer Granick’s at Stanford. I am disappointed that such legendary legal minds came to attack the CFAA with me and only got a venue verdict. In response, I have instructed my counsel not to file a motion for dismissal by cause of double jeopardy if the government brings this case in another jurisdiction. I will gladly litigate this matter again to attack the CFAA a second time, even if the result is another round of imprisonment.
TC: What’s next?
Weev: What’s next? I am starting a new fund, TRO LLC (yes, the troll corporation), based in generating actionable financial intelligence from the computer underground. The primary strategy will be short equities.
TC: What can activists do to avoid your fate?
Weev: One can abandon their citizenship in a tyranny for more reasonable shores. That’s about it. “Three Felonies a Day” is a great book explaining the commonplace reality of capricious indictments. A lot of people think I was indicted because I am an asshole. That is not true. Aaron Swartz was not an asshole. Matthew Keys is well loved by everyone as well. Deric Lostutter literally exposed rapists to public scrutiny, and he is still catching a case for it. The underlying issue is that there are real criminals that loot billions from our economy through computer crime. The FBI has neither the competence to identify them nor the ability to extradite them from Russia where they are operating. They receive a metric fuckton of money to solve this problem and have to act like they are doing something about it. They will not indict you because you are a bad operator. They will indict you because you are there. I overturned my verdict only because I am an asshole. You can’t avoid being indicted here, but you can fight endlessly against the seditious morons that do it. Don’t cop a plea. Go to trial. Fight until you have nothing left.
Illustration based on a photo by Flickr user Pinguino K under a CC by 2.0 license