Nobody has heard from cybersecurity expert and occasional Wikileaks collaborator Arjen Kamphuis since he checked out of his hotel in Bodo, Norway one month ago.
In the intervening weeks, items purportedly belonging to Kamphuis, including his ID and a recently purchased kayak, were discovered by a local fisherman 50 kilometers from his hotel. While this would at first seem to suggest some type of fatal accident, in a strange twist, authorities say that both Kamphuis’ work and mobile phones were briefly switched on more than 1,700 km from Bodo 10 days after Kamphuis – who is Dutch and was purportedly traveling back to Amsterdam when he disappeared – was seen leaving his hotel.
But despite authorities best efforts, there are still more questions than answers, as the Guardian makes clear in a story about Kamphuis’ disappearance. Though police have suspiciously insisted that Kamphuis’ disappearance had nothing to do with the fact that Bodo houses a Norwegian military airbase, or that the country’s secret cyber defense operations were situated not far from where Kamphuis was staying.
Police have denied any connection between Kamphuis’s disappearance and the fact that Bodø houses a Norwegian military airbase, and that buried deep inside a nearby mountain is a major part of the Scandinavian country’s secret cyber defence operations.
With an internet campaign using the hashtag #FindArjen to locate him, unconfirmed sightings of Kamphuis have also been reported in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and several parts of Norway.
To the consternation of Kamphuis’ friends and family, who are apparently hoping that he merely decided to take a break from society for a little while, Wikileaks has ratcheted up suspicion by floating several theories and highlighted several suspicious developments, including the fact that the Norwegian military have reportedly joined the search.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) September 15, 2018
The grassroots campaign to find him has been spread with the help of the hashtag #FindArjen.
As rumors and speculation about his disappearance intensify, Kamphuis’ loved ones have pushed back against so-called conspiracy theories that he may have been on a secret mission on behalf of Wikileaks, or that he may have been targeted by Russian or Western intelligence. Meanwhile, unconfirmed sightings have been reported in Germany, Denmark and Norway.
Officially, Norwegian police believe his disappearance could be linked to one of three possibilities.
Police said on Thursday they were “holding all possibilities open in respect to what might have happened” to Kamphuis and pursuing three distinct lines of inquiry: a “voluntary disappearance” including a possible suicide; an accident; or foul play.
Some of Kamphuis’ friends told the Guardian that he has gone “off the grid” before, and that they remain hopeful that he will surface when he feels ready.
Carlo said Kamphuis had “gone off grid before. It can be good for the soul. I was worried before, and it is worrying now. But I have strong faith he will come back into the welcoming arms of his friends when he is ready, in his own time.” Van der Leest told Dutch radio that while Kamphuis “certainly didn’t come across as someone who was planning to be away for a long time. He had lots of appointments.”
Though reports that he purchased a kayak and told a salesperson that he was heading to the Norwegian fjords have left many concerned that he may have encountered some trouble while he was out.
Dutch police have said Kamphuis bought a foldable kayak before leaving the Netherlands, telling the salesman who sold it to him that he was planning on going canoeing in the fjords.
Other friends said Kamphuis was no daredevil. “If he’s heading into dangerous territory, he always seeks out company,” Helma de Boer told NRC Handelsblad. “And he always has good equipment. His motto is: ‘better safe than sorry.'”
Still, it’s worth considering that Kamphuis has helped Wikileaks and many other organizations – some controversial, some not – thwart intelligence agencies and other prying organizations. That type of work could help a man make enemies who are both motivated and resourceful (doubly so if he was caught doing some unauthorized snooping).
Then again, there’s also the possibility that he may have tried to fake his own death – leaving his possessions in the water on purpose to convince authorities that he drowned. But one would think that such a talented cybersecurity engineer would understand the risks of using his phone.
On the other hand, if he was engaged in some type of clandestine errand, why draw more attention to himself by continuing to make daily headlines?