Wikileaks and the Search for a Cryptographic Mythology

[ by Charles Cameron ]

Jean Rosenfeld of the UCLA Center for the Study of Religion just posted a comment on an earlier Zenpundit post of mine, opening up a topic which may interest some readers here: that of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s mythological associations.

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Jean had earlier pointed me to Assange’s use of the name “Marutukku” to describe his encryption program, and a little fishing brought me to these two Assange-related documents:

One Man’s Search for a Cryptographic Mythology

Enuma Elish

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I’d been idly wondering about cryptographic mythology myself, as it happens, nudged by vague memories of a cache of porno images tweaked by jihadists as encoding devices for steganography.

Steganography is the cryptographic – or is it kabbalistic? — art devised by one Abbot Trithemius, whose 1518 Polygraphia is the first work on cryptography printed in Europe, and whose Steganographia was known in MS to such hermetic philosophers as Cornelius Agrippa, Giordano Bruno and John Dee. Jim Reeds captures the ambiguity of Trithemius’ work nicely in his paper, Solved: The Ciphers in Book III of Trithemius’s Steganographia, when he asks:

Is it [the Steganographia] primarily an exposition of cryptographic techniques disguised as angel magic, or is it primarily a magic work disguised as cryptography?

Readers of Frances Yates and Ioan Couliano will be somewhat familiar with these matters.

And jihadist steganography? The technique itself is described in the al-Fajr Information Center’s Technical Mujahid magazine of Feb. 2007 according to a Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor piece, but the reports of actual jihadist use of the technique may turn out to be fabrications.

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But it was Julian Assange‘s bliss we were trying to follow, right?

Assange sidekick Suelette Dreyfus wrote The Idiot Savants’ Guide to Rubberhose — which is the manual for Assange’s crypto program… but this business of naming the program gets complicated, eh?

Dreyfus explains:

If you’re wondering about the name of this program, Marutukku is the internal development name (it’s spelled Ru-b-b-e-r-h-o-s-e, but it’s pronounced M-a-r-u-t-u-k-k-u)

In case you didn’t get it, there may be a play on Lewis Carroll there, and the exchange Alice has with the White Knight in Through the Looking-Glass as to what the name of a certain very sad song is called.

Alice aside – and such detours are in fact the very method of discovery in non-linear thinking – Dreyfus offers as an epigraph to her piece the following quote:

The third name is MARUTUKKU, Master of the arts of protection, chained the Mad God at the Battle. Sealed the Ancient Ones in their Caves, behind the Gates.

which she attributes to “The Akkadian Creation Epic”. That would be the Enuma Elish.

Assange, in his One Man’s Search for a Cryptographic Mythology, attributes his choice of the name Marutukku to a conversation he had with a friend concerning the Enuma Elish, telling us (after much other curious and wandering stuff) that his friend recommended the god Marduk’s third name to him, saying

The third name is MARUTUKKU, Master of the arts of protection, chained the Mad God at the Battle. Sealed the Ancient Ones in their Caves, behind the Gates.

Assange liked the idea, observing, “Even the very word MARUTUKKU looked like it had been run through a product cipher”.

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