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Len Sassaman has passed away
135 points by ColinWright on July 3, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments
I'm hearing rumors/reports that Len Sassaman has passed away. If anyone has news then I'd appreciate more concrete details.


I'm his wife. Sadly, the reports are true; I've been visiting family in the States and I got the call from the Leuven police department a couple of hours ago.

He was the most brilliant man I ever met, and I still can't believe this is happening.

A brilliant mind has been lost today. However, his brilliant ideals shall live on. My sincerest condolences.

I'm so sorry. I was lucky to be able to spend some time with him (and you) at PETS08 in Leuven.

This is a really sad moment. Please accept my deepest condolences.

My condolences.

This is really sad news; my honest condolences!

:'( I'm so, so sorry. Len was an amazing man.

My deepest condolences. I can't imagine what you must be going through.

Thank you for posting. I'm so incredibly sorry for your loss.

I am so sorry. My condolences for you and your family.

feel sorry:(

Meredith, I'm so sorry.

My condolences as well.


I met Len in 1999, he was a kid. A cocky kid who thought he knew everything and I wasn't impressed. I think we were arguing about K of N keysplitting. Rodney Thayer said "Yeah, he's like we were at that age." Rodney was gracious and patient, accepting and loving towards Len and I felt obliged to follow his lead. This is a highly improbable description of Rodney, but it was the truth. I became friends with Len and we were coconspirator cypherpunks at a time when that was a wild frontier. We were reimagining our world, riddled with cryptosystems that would mathematically enforce the freedoms that we treasured. Anonymous remailers to preserve speech without fear of retribution; onion routers to ensure nobody could censor the internet; digital cash to enable a radically free economy. We have schemes to decentralize & distribute everything. We imagine complex and esoteric threats to problems we might someday have - we architect futuristic protocols to insulate against those threats. All this is a highly academic geek utopia exercise. I tend to keep it that way, but Len wanted to get his hands dirty. There were times when Len got visits from various Federal agencies over remailer abuse. At first Len would get scared and I'd get him out of the house which he assumed was bugged, and drive around for a while. Especially in those early years, Len was trying to impress us. We invited him to join The Shmoo Group, where I'm a fringe radical, and Len became the lunatic fringe. I'm sure we helped temper his apocalyptic tendencies and at times he even bordered on diplomatic. But it isn't in our nature to acknowledge prowess directly. You only know a hacker respects you if he's willing to waste his time shooting holes in your ideas. I have thousands of messages to and from Len spanning the last decade, and I doubt a single one of them offers any direct praise.

Len got his hands dirty. He committed himself to building the stuff we imagined. I play it safe and remain blameless, but I get to stay balanced because courageous guys like Len fulfill the extremes.

Len, you are, in fact, an inspiration to those of us who inspired you. You made something great of your life. You left a lot behind for us. Thanks for letting me be a part of it all.

Cypherpunks write code.

Thank you for posting this. Puts into words what I and I expect others are feeling. Sad to think he is gone.

I met Len at PET in Toronto. Despite the fact that I was unable to add anything but stupid questions to the conversations Len let me tag along with him for a while. He would take the time to explain things to me that were patently obvious to everyone else taking part in the discussions. I was clearly out of my league but for some reason Len let me listen and occasionally take part in conversations that I only dreamed about.

My thoughts go out to his friends and family. It is a testament to Len's character that the loss of a person who I spent no more than eight hours could have such a profound impact on me.

Never met him, but was on the cp list and recognized his name and that he had contributed greatly. I've lost a friend to depression and I have it too; meds can help clamp the extreme lows.

His home page is here: https://securehomes.esat.kuleuven.be/~lsassama/

WikiPedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Len_Sassaman

Reported by Rob Bird (@conduit242) and Bram Cohen (@bramcohen)

* https://twitter.com/conduit242

* https://twitter.com/bramcohen

It was a suicide. :(


Len was brilliant, the inventor of mixmaster, cocreator of CodeCon, and a wonderful human being. The world just lost a great mind and a great man.

When I met Len at Open Science Summit 2010, I was struck by how friendly Len was. He was the genuine article. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that, had I asked him for a kidney or his liver, he would have said yes. That's just who he was.

While most of us know of Len because of his security work, I first met him through the do-it-yourself biohacking community. He gave a great talk at Open Science Summit on this topic. I was in the audience at the time, and figured I'd type a transcript. I apologize for typos, but QWERTY can only be pushed so hard. He was talking about the involvement of the FBI with DIYbio, conveying his unfortunate experiences in the past with law enforcement and what he hopes will become of these trends.


We're going to run into similar problems here where your local sheriff, your backwoods outpost for FBI agents who are not qualified to be doing their jobs, to the nosy neighbor who files a report that has the men in biohazard suits coming through your windows and raiding your art projects with glowing bacteria. Education and outreach to the legislature and the law enforcenment is critical if we want to be viewed not as advisories, the bad guys, and not be viewed as a threat. If you've ever had to be on the wrong side of the table, an unfortunate situation, say, the FBI, as I have, you'll realize that at that point, it's too late to try to convince a law enforcement officer that you're the good guy- you're the suspect.


This is our heritage, this research, these ideas that we have, that is leading to knowledge that no human in history has had the opportunity to have before. This is what we're going to be handing down to future generations. We need to make sure we are not backed into a corner where we are not able to distribute this research to others, and that this isn't locked up in IP vaults with lawyers standing guard. And finally, there will be accidents and problems. We need to mitigate these risks.

His wife's Twitter account (@maradydd) appears to corroborate this. A tragic loss, especially considering his age (I don't know, but I'd estimate ~35). At that age, it would almost have to be an accident or suicide, and I'm fervently hoping that it was an accident.

Unfortunately no; it was unambiguously suicide.

Depression is a horrible, horrible thing, both for those who experience it and the people who love them. Len was a brilliant, sensitive, loving man with the rotten luck to be too tormented by his own brain chemistry to realise how much he was valued by so many people, no matter how often we told him.

He was 31.

I am so sorry. My ex was prone to depression. I can't imagine what I would have done had he taken his own life.

I'm dreadfully bad at the whole condolences thing. I hope you get the support you need to get you through this.

And thank you for taking the time to respond here on HN.

Len was a huge part of my young teen years back in Pottstown Pa...I remember burning our first CD together (11 hours) playing the Hill Schools version of Zorg and of course YMCA Leaders. We grew apart and only communicated on occasion over the past few years. I don't know what I can do or say I am truly at a complete loss as to what to do or say, if anyone knows who to get in touch with it would be a great help. Leaderkam at gmail.

I am so saddened by your loss. Depression has taken so many people from all of us and shows no sign of being solved. My hope is that he's at peace and that you are able to find the inner strength to continue living, as difficult as that will be. Please know that you're in our thoughts and hearts as you go through this awful time.

I am so, so sorry. I only "met" him (online) near the start of June, so it's probably not my place to be sad, but from what little I knew of him, Len was a brilliant, inspiring, and often witty man, and I'm profoundly sorry that this has happened. If there's anything at all that I can do to help, I'd be more than willing.

Really sorry to hear this.. I only new Len from the few times we hung out around Code Con in San Francisco and he was always amazingly nice, constructive, and curious about anything regarding computer science, tech, and generally a fun guy.

Sad to find out this news. :-(

I don't even quite know what to say. I knew Len from back in the mid-90s and had sporadic occasion to correspond with him for the many years after (always via PGP- of course). All I can do is reflect back to tell you that, indeed, he was valued.

- Black Unicorn

LeaderKam, I was in Teen Leaders with you, and I went to Hill with Len. I'm sure you can deduce who I am from that. I'm sorry for your loss, it's quite a shock to me even if we lost contact after Hill. RIP Len.

I knew Len back from Bar Area cypherpunks days and later CodeCon. He was inspiring and always a clear thinker on topics we discussed. His contributions to liberty and privacy were significant. I will miss him.


len was a huge inspiration to me, i am so glad that i got to spend the time with him i did.

As par Wiki Info, he was 31. Really sad to hear this loss

Len, you will be missed.

CP's may write code, but you were among the true believers who would run that code as well. I hope that you are somewhere at peace, writing happy code, and in charge of turning away hopeful former fedz arriving at the Pearly Gates. Your legacy will live on in polynomial time.

//Nonaht Leyte

I had the pleasure of meeting Len in the early 2000's through my involvement with the cyberpunk and privacy community. I always respected his advice and saw him as trusted collegue.

My sincere thoughts and prayers are with you in this time of loss. Please do let me know if you both had a charity and/or organization you supported.

Hugs from Washington

Robert Guerra Managing director, Privaterra

Len is such a wonderful person, it's really hard to put into words how much he meant in my life.

He was so incredibly encouraging of taking big leaps and always striving to do courageous things, even if it meant taking on risk. You could always count on him for a totally unvarnished opinion of your code or project, which is both rare and incredibly cherished.

It was amazing to work on a project for two weeks and have him tell you in two minutes what was wrong with it, why, and a better way to do it. For a plebe like me, it meant the world for him to actually take the time and explain things to me.

On top of everything else, he really made a difference at a time when I was struggling with depression.

It just seems like there are not enough words to truly talk about the impact his life had on the world. His legacy is just tremendous.

@maradydd - Deepest condolences.

It is extremely sad to lose a brilliant young guy to depression. Oh the vagaries of life.

My jaw dropped when I read this. I always looked forward to Len's surprise appearances. He was, without a doubt, one of my favorite people.

I will really miss him.

My thoughts are with you, Meredith.

-- Bill Pollock

My most heartfelt condolences to Meredith et. al. I crossed paths with Len only briefly during his days at Netaxs; he was without a doubt one of the most brilliant people I've ever encountered and one of those I most enjoyed conversing with.

It's been years; when I got work from a colleague from the Netaxs days, I was an am still stunned.

Meredith, I am so sorry. A gentle man. I was there for the wonderful on-stage proposal at CodeCon. I didn't realize he was so young. He will be missed for many years by many people. --Nana

I am so sorry. Yes, Len was brilliant, but he was also a truly good human being. I don't think he had a mean bone in his body and he was always pleasant and of good humor. What a loss.

I remember Len barking at a squirrel on a tree during one of Cypherpunk gatherings at Stanford campus in early 2000s.

It was one of more coherent threads at those meetings.

That's also one of my first memories of Len - mostly he chased it around the tree and then it got really fed up and started yelling at him.

Oh man. That's a sad, sad, loss if true.

that's horrible news, really really sad - our deepest and sincere condolences


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