The Spy Who Came in From the Code: How a Filmmaker Accidentally Gave Up His Sources to Syrian Spooks
Last fall, “Kardokh,” a 25-year-old dissident and computer expert in the Syrian capital of Damascus, met with British journalist and filmmaker Sean McAllister. (Kardokh is his online pseudonym, used at his request.) McAllister, who’s made award-winning films in conflict zones like Yemen and Iraq, explained that he was shooting a documentary for Britain’s Channel 4 about underground activists in Syria, and asked if Kardokh would help him.
At the time, the situation in Syria was deteriorating rapidly, as protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s repressive regime turned violent following a vicious crackdown by security forces. The Syrian government had drastically curtailed visits by foreign journalists, but McAllister had managed to get in undercover. Kardokh was grateful for a chance to tell his story. “Any journalist who was making the effort to show the world what was happening, that was a very important thing for us,” he told me in February.
At the time, Kardokh was providing computer expertise and secure communications to the resistance. He agreed to be interviewed about his work on camera by McAllister, who filmed his face, telling Kardokh that he would blur it out before publishing the footage. McAllister also asked Kardokh to put him in touch with other activists.