Freedom of Speech Main Topic Privacy Surveillance Transparency

In Tribute: Kevin Michael Gallagher.

Image Credit: James O'Keefe CC-BY-SA/4.0

I have more to say at the end, but Asher Wolf certainly said it better than I can, so she should go first. Reproduced with permission from her post.

Asher Wolf

“[It’s] always worth reminding yourself that you’re part of a community of users, plus often one or more movement(s), with people coming up above, around and underneath you” ~ Kevin M. Gallagher, April 3rd 2021.

@ageis talking about Disk encryption & OTR at Boston Cryptoparty. Photo credit: @masspirates:

Dear Kevin,

You’re not meant to be dead yet. You were meant to outlive our wild youth and the wreckage of our activism. We were going to learn and grow from all the mistakes we made. We were going to get better at surviving, find new ways to be happy, room to breathe and better tactics to fight back. And you can’t do that if you’re not here. And you’re not here.

Wikileaks, Anonymous, Cryptoparty, Occupy, ProjectPM…we were always bumping shoulders as activists, continents and oceans apart. Time and time again over the years we told each other we were going to hang out, we were going to work on projects, we were going to change the world, we were going to…

You were always that quiet voice of reason in the background, scaffolding the revolutionary plans of activists.

You never asked to be acknowledged, you never promoted yourself, you never demanded to be ring-master of a circus or to lead the swarm. Yet you were the coder at the centre of so many riotous projects that would not have existed without you. You fought back against superpowers, you put your life on hold to take on adversaries with resources far greater than your own, all in the name of what was just and right. You were the quiet superhero everyone needed.

And you knew what you were doing:

Sometime prior to 2004, you wrote:

“To me there is nothing more powerful than discovering the work of a great artist in any field. This type of discovery incurs an immensely valuable transformation in one’s ways of thinking. The person may be an author, musician, painter, performer, filmmaker or theorist: I have considered them my real teachers. I am fascinated by those who conduct their work outside the realm of what is socially acceptable. I am drawn to those who make sacrifices, who are willing to experiment and subvert conventions. This type of education is entirely self-motivated. If my schooling has taught me anything, it is only what distinguishes me from others.”

Linux sysadmin/DevOps/SRE privacy & transparency activist. You placed yourself at the crossroad of alliances between hackers/infosec practitioners, academics, journalists, and artists. You were committed to protecting the security of others. You hacked for the revolution. You were the definition of cypherpunk.

You were at the heart of the digital rights community for a decade. You believed in privacy by design. You stood with those who fought for justice, fighting for accountability and transparency from those in positions of power. You knew you were part of history and you are indelible as part of ours.

You supported our comrades who were jailed, and you testified for those who needed your voice.

You were good to people. You were thoughtful. You didn’t make your problems a social media drama. And I wish you had. I wish you’d been more of a problem, louder and more demanding, so people would’ve grabbed on and held you harder. Last time we messaged, you told me you were ok, that you’d found a new home, that things would work out. I should’ve been louder, more demanding, so you’d have known my offer of support and words of friendship were more than just lip-service.

Should’a, could’a, would’a. Sometimes there are no “next times”, and there are no words good enough to honour you.

The resistance needs more heroes like you, quiet sysadmins of the revolution, the indispensable support crew of people standing up to spies for hire and corporate cronies, forever backing those who speak truth to power.

Your voice never shook. You made your words and actions count.

Comrade, rest in peace and power. May your memory stay with us forever in the fight for justice and inspire generations of activists and their activism.

I heard about Kevin Gallagher’s death Thursday night when Barrett Brown tweeted a notice about it:

I have known Kevin for years when he taught at our cryptoparties and lived in the Boston area. He was always a great activist and a calm and dedicated force in the fight for privacy and transparency.

It was reading Asher’s words and seeing the photo she included, which I expect I took back in 2014 and shared on the masspirates twitter account, that brought his death home to me. We lost someone vital to our efforts and we will be poorer without him. I hope that his example will motivate others to carry the struggle on to victory.

I don’t know the exact circumstances of his death, but I understand that multiple people were not able to reach him in the weeks prior to his death. The pandemic has been tough for most of us and being an activist for freedom and justice is often hard slog. Please check in with your friends, compatriots, family and co-workers and remind them how much you love and care for them. I know I will. I hope you all are well in the months and years ahead. Peace.

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