|The following images and text are courtesy of correspondent Tamara Mann. Tamara Mann is a photojournalist and writer focusing on conflict zones and media personalities. She lives everywhere and does everything, as long as it’s arguably stupid and undeniably dangerous. To find out how you can be a correspondent for OhInternet, view our About page.|
New York City, NY 04/02/2011 – It was 9:30am and I’d been on the road since 2am. 9:30 sucks pretty hard when you’re tired and pissy, not to mention trying and failing for a relatively disturbing length of time to walk off the numbness in your ass from 7 and a half hours of winter driving in a rapidly rusting hatchback with serious commitment issues when it comes to proper wheel alignment. All this while standing on top of a mountain at a New Jersey welcome centre off the interstate, twirling in circles trying to maintain some semblance of signal on my shitty prepaid burner phone, calling Weev.
I’d never met Weev before. We’d (I swear this was funnier before I fixed my tenses, and it read “we’ve”) known each other for a little while now. Maybe not that long, maybe just over a year. His mom, AT&T, and the Federal Government know him better as Andrew Auernheimer, the villainous iPad hacker, illicit harvester of a ton of email addresses hung out to dry on the line and forgotten until Weev, via his baby, Goatse Security, exploited the security hole. Weev did that about 3, 4 months after we first started talking. Mainly just idle chitchat. His home in Fayetteville, Arkansas was raided shortly afterwards, and he was charged with possession of a handful of various drugs. If you’ve ever heard of Weev, that’s somewhat unsurprising.
In January he was officially arrested for the iPad job (after which the drug charges were dropped) and incarcerated in Oklahoma. Weev went to jail, and was released in late February upon finally posting bail, after being transferred through federal lockup in Jersey and eventually to Essex County, in Newark. I happened to be passing through Jersey 3 days after his release, but I was in a hurry, and plans to do an interview fell through. Then I realised I’d pretty much driven right past him to get where I was going, and I had a couple of hours, and that’s how I ended up shivering my ass off on that New Jersey hinterlands interstate hill, making arrangements to meet up with him for the first time.
An hour or so later I arrived at his new home, a surprisngly clean and arguably pleasant single room occupancy unit in Jersey City. We hugged. He’s short and hairy and has big eyes and bigger clothes. He was friendly and weird, swimming in attire 7 or 8 sizes too big for his frame, shirt parachuting up in the breeze, pants cinched around his waist and cuffed and recuffed til they almost didn’t entirely cover the incongruously yuppie blue canvas boat shoes. It was all the same clothing he’d been wearing in the one photo I’d seen of him from the day of his release. We hugged, walked to a closed restaurant, and hopped in my car to find some place open.
After driving for a bit, he informed me that his studio was under surveillance and his cell phone (calls and text only; Weev’s not allowed to touch any device with data access unless it’s for purposes of finding or maintaining employment, part of the bail agreement) was bugged, and suggested we get some pho, since it’s gluten free, and that’s how he rolls. We settled on a Vietnamese restaurant surrounded by taquerias and guatemalan bodegas. Auspicious! Talked a little bit about his case and a little bit about my heroic shambles of a love life, and he asked me if I’m a fed.
Weev is remarkably easy to talk to. We had the benefit of the acquired comfort of chatting online for months in our favour, but his charimsa goes beyond that. In his own words, he’s not really a hacker, never has been. He’s a social engineer – and despite some of the straight up crazy shit that comes out of his mouth, he has a remarkably compelling manner of speaking. The gift of gab, I guess. Incidentally, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking Weev is stupid, or ignorant, or naive. Don’t argue the bible with him; he will quote pertinent chapter and verse at you without hesitation, and you’ll lose. To be honest, he’s probably one of the smartest people I’ve met in a dog’s age, and he’s not afraid of showing it.
After some underwhelming rice paper rolls, he finished most of his pho, got the rest to go, and I suggested he pick up another order of something to eat later. I discovered that his comically large clothes were in fact donated last minute when his bail was posted, and he needed to pick up the clothes he’d been arrested in from Essex County Jail before they were disposed of in the incinerator. Off we went!
Briefly considering taking a few shots of him in front of lockup, but neither of us could remember if taking photos of jails is illegal or not, and the last thing I wanted to do was accidentally violate the terms of his bail during a 3-hour drivethrough. Let me tell you, though: I don’t have a whole lot of experience with jails, and the waiting room of Essex was significantly swankier than I’d expected. The cute guy with the tattoos behind the desk helped. He also recognized Weev after he went inside to pick up his clothes.
“Is he a computer guy?”
“Yeah,” I mumbled. “He is.”
“Looks like one. Is he the iPad hacker? He was on the news the other day!”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
Great, Weev was apparently even ever so mildly famous at the jail. In New Jersey. I started to wonder, at that point, if meeting him was a good idea. I got a little uncomfortable, I’ll admit.
“Hey miss, hey.. is he your BROTHER?”
Wait, what? What the fuck was going on? My brother? No, my brother was, at the time, in the middle of a 4wd offroad mud race on an island in the Philippines with the boy my mother promised me to in marriage when I was born. This should indicate that not only is Weev not my brother, but we look nothing alike. It was awkward. But providence shone upon me like the fist of a somewhat apathetic god, and Weev walked back out with a torn up white garbage bag full of his belongings. It was time to blow this popsicle stand.
On the way out I advised him of his celebrity status. I was pretty tired and wouldn’t bet the farm on it, but my recollection is that he actually started glowing and I think levitated an inch or two off the ground. But then, a conundrum: with an hour left til I battled crosstown Manhattan traffic, what would we do?
Well, apparently we would rock out to KMFDM and Ke$ha and Taylor Swift on our way to the harbour, to say hi to the Statue of Liberty, then accidentally almost trespass on some bridge going out over the water and get yelled at by an ever vigilant nastyass honey badger of a Homeland Security officer, just walking and enjoying the sun and the water and the sights.
I took a few photos, too. Weev is nothing if not engaged in an enduring and abusive love affair with attention and the limelight, and he vogued like there was no tomorrow. Got the shots, waved at Manhattan, dropped him back off at his house.
What else did we talk about? The recent Westboro Baptist Church judgment (“a fantastic victory! I’m pretty psyched about it honestly,”) what it was like in jail (not that bad; he taught some bible classes and even had monitored dropbox access to email when he was transfered to fed, and learned pretty fast that typing out emails for other inmates at supernerd internet messiah wpm was a sweet sweet ride to cigarettes and other barter fare he could trade for commissary items, not to mention the goodwill of the involuntary populace.) A lot about his case, but mostly about mutual friends and enemies and frankly I think the best time he had was in the car with the sunroof open, picking through my ipod and blasting tunes I don’t think he’d heard in a while, waxing poetic about the Taylor Swift cover he wants to record. I’m ok with that.
I asked him if he had anything he wanted to say. That was the only time while we hung out that I saw him hesitate. No statements that day. He’s saving them up for the real thing.
|The next post in this series features exclusive video interviews with Weev. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for the video series or visit the “exclusive” tag on the blog for more.|
Additional reporting and editing by Sherrod DeGrippo