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17 July 2012

David House trolls the Wikileaks Grand Jury

Programmer invokes the fifth amendment 25 times in 50 minutes

By Alex Hern

David House, a friend of alleged Wikileaks source Private Manning, was called in June to the grand jury convened to determine whether anyone involved in the organisation should be indicted. House, a 23-year-old computer scientist from Boston, was apparently wary of incriminating not only his friend, but also himself, and seems to have been determined to disrupt the proceedings in whatever way he could.

As he told Forbes’ Andy Greenberg:

I felt kind of powerless in there. Having a pen to write stuff down was the most subversive thing I could do.

House decided to make a transcript of his hearing, which, as he is informed, “is a violation of rule 6(e) of this grand jury.” Nonetheless, he got away with it, and what remains is a document to the surprising effectiveness of sheer obstructiveness. Amongst other things, House invokes the fifth amendment to answer every question except his name and birthday:

PM: What is your birthdate?
DH: March 14, 1987
PM: Where do you live?
DH: Can you restate the question?
PM: What is your address?
DH: I invoke.
PM: What is your current occupation?
DH: I invoke.
PM: Were you a senior in computer science at Boston University in January 2010?
DH: I invoke.
PM: Isn’t it true that you told PBS Frontline that you were a senior at Boston University in January 2010?
DH: I invoke.
PM: Do you know what a hackerspace is?
DH: I invoke.
PM: Do you know what BUILDS is, the acronym?
DH: I invoke.

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The full transcript can be found here. As well as invoking the fifth amendment 25 times in 50 minutes, House accidentally-on-purpose forces multiple short breaks, gets questions repeated, and is generally quietly, commendably, subversive. Now that is how to protest illegitimate crackdowns on free speech.

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