Jacob Appelbaum is an independent computer security researcher and hacker. He was employed by the University of Washington, and is a core member of the Tor project. Appelbaum is known for representing Wikileaks at the 2010 Hope conference. He has subsequently been repeatedly targeted by US law enforcement agencies, who obtained a court order for his Twitter account data, detained him 12 times at the US border after trips abroad, and seized a laptop and several mobile phones.
Appelbaum, under the handle "ioerror", has been an active member of the Cult of the Dead Cow hacker collective since 2008, and is the co-founder of the San Francisco hackerspace Noisebridge with Mitch Altman. He has worked for Greenpeace and has volunteered for the Ruckus Society and the Rainforest Action Network. He is also a photographer and ambassador for the art group monochrom.
Upon returning to the US from the Netherlands on 29 July 2010, Appelbaum was detained for three hours at Newark airport by agents, according to anonymous sources. The sources told CNET that Appelbaum's bag was searched, receipts from his bag were photocopied, and his laptop was inspected, although in what manner was unclear.
Appelbaum reportedly refused to answer questions without a lawyer present and was not allowed to make a phone call. His three mobile phones were reportedly taken and not returned. On 31 July he spoke at DEF CON and mentioned his phone being "seized". After speaking, he was approached by two FBI agents and questioned.
According to CNET in an interview with Appelbaum, he told them that "other people who appeared in the address book of [his] seized cell phones also have encountered trouble at borders or in airports".
On December 14, 2010, the US Department of Justice obtained a court order compelling Twitter to provide data associated with the user accounts of Appelbaum, as well as several other individuals associated with Wikileaks, including Julian Assange and Birgitta Jónsdóttir. While the order was originally sealed, Twitter successfully petitioned the court to unseal it, permitting the company to inform its users that their account information had been requested.
When Appelbaum returned from a vacation in Iceland on January 10, 2011, he was again detained by US Customs agents for 30 minutes at the Seattle airport. According to Appelbaum, the agents "specifically wanted laptops and cell phones and were visibly unhappy when they discovered nothing of the sort. I did however have a few USB thumb drives with a copy of the Bill of Rights encoded into the block device. They were unable to copy it."
Similarly, Appelbaum was detained in Houston, Texas while returning from a trip to Serbia on April 12, 2011. He was again subject to detention on arrival in Seattle on June 14, 2011.
After being detained at Keflavik Airport on October 27, 2011 when returning to the United States Appelbaum wrote about the experience on the weblog Boing Boing.
In April 2012 Appelbaum told a Democracy Now Exposé that "I don’t have important conversations in the United States anymore. I don’t have conversations in bed with my partner anymore." He said that his being targeted creates a threat for those he wants to help and therefore makes him "less effective" in his work for the Tor Project.