Jacob Appelbaum, a gangly, chestnut-haired intellectual with thick glasses and a metal bar through his right ear, extends a tentative hand and sarcastic sense of humor. In a plaintive voice, the exiled American gently warns his interviewer, a visiting journalist from Washington, that the printed word still has meaning.
”I hope whatever you publish can help me get back home,” he says equal parts serious and sardonic. “What you write could decide my fate. Keep that in mind.”
Mr. Appelbaum, once described to his chagrin as “the most dangerous man in cyberspace” by Rolling Stone magazine, walked out of an art gallery in Friedrichshain, a gentrified corner of former East Berlin, where his first solo photography exhibit would premiere the following night.
The early 30-something polymathic hacktivist, notorious Wikileaks collaborator, mass surveillance prophet and all-around government agitator lives in the world’s fastest-growing asylum for digital fugitives, a chaotic, largely ungoverned, indebted bed of data distrusters — Berlin.
For more than two years, Mr. Appelbaum has stayed close to his undisclosed hangout in the German capital, unable to come home, he said, for fear of what the U.S. government might do to him.
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