The Freedom of Press Foundation released a statement on Tuesday expressing their sorrow and distress over their former colleague, James Dolan. The cause of death has not been released and many are asking serious questions. Some friends suspect suicide over the holidays. The 36-year-old marine worked to produce the WikiLeaks-inspired website SecureDrop.
A former marine who saw action in Iraq, Dolan is described as being a virulent supporter of human rights and in particular the First Amendment. Looking for a way for information to be shared securely and privately in the name of free speech, James Dolan worked with Aaron Swartz to develop the prototype StrongBox.
Since 2012, media organizations such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the New Yorker all use the secure website. The media was once hailed as a branch of government where the citizenry could provide oversight to the elected officials. In that dream, Dolan helped provide an independent platform where sources could be kept anonymous and information could be verified and encrypted.
Intended to be used as a means for whistleblowers to step forward without the fear of repercussion, Dolan and Swartz worked to provide a form of interdiction for the American people. Working with Pulitzer prize winner Kevin Poulsen, an independent agency was created to fight for the rights of Americans at home and abroad.
Second developer of WikiLeaks inspired submission system “SecureDrop”, security expert James Dolan, aged 36, has tragically died. He is said to have committed suicide. The first, Aaron Swartz, is said to have taken his own life at age 26, after being persecuted by US prosecutors.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 9, 2018
Aaron Swartz believed not only in the freedom of speech but also the freedom of information. The Obama administration mercilessly went after whistleblowers. The United States Government decided to prosecute Swartz for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. A student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Swartz was permitted use of all the school’s technical papers and published writings.
Swartz wrote a script to download thousands of documents from the school. He was accused of copying academic papers, breaking and entering and another 11 indictments in an overzealous case. The 26-year-old was facing up to 50 years in prison. The young programmer is said to have committed suicide in the beginning of 2013.
In his memory, The House of Representatives proposed to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. By removing the felony charges associated with breaking a term of service, the bill would reshape the way the internet is policed. Breaching of the contract is a federal offense and can be prosecuted as one while the 1986 legislation remains.
The other Aarons Law, Congress has twice tried to push legislation that would make taxpayer-funded research more readily accessible to the public. Most recently the bill was introduced in the Senate by John Cornyn (R-TX) in 2015.
The discussion over internet freedom and intellectual property has been a new fight on a new plane. Leading the charge in such a cause can be an extremely taxing experience. Witnessing a close friend go through hardships is similar to experiencing those hardships yourself.
Co-founder of the website similar to Wikileaks, SecureDrop, James Dolan has followed his old friend. Seeing combat as a marine in the Iraq war, people closest to him say he battled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dolan was 36 when he died.
Dolan cited his experience in the Middle East as one reason why he was so adamant in his need to help journalists. The war he experienced made him realize that governments need to be held accountable. Transparency needs to be a vital concern for government administrations.
The Obama administration’s hunt for whistleblowers looks like they were hiding something. The number of whistleblowers increased to the largest levels in American history under President Obama. Whistleblowers from Edward Snowden to Bradley Manning had their lives destroyed for the pursuit of freedom.
Under President Donald Trump, Chelsea Manning has seen freedom, and the pursuit of Snowden has been abandoned. Julian Assange is creeping closer to freedom every day. Most recent accounts report the editor in chief of Wikileaks has been issued an Ecuadorian passport.
President Trump has taken shocking steps to reinvent what transparency means for government processes. The 45th president has broadcasted open talks with members of Congress on hot topic agendas and showed the people the inner workings of cabinet meetings under his administration.
Top officials of the Obama administration have recently come under scrutiny in the form of FBI investigations. Creating and administrating the SecureDrop platform, Nolan and like Swartz, was privy to a wealth of classified information pertaining to government abuses.