Et Tu LembaViktor Fel
A ping sent out on Jabber yesterday sent shockwaves throughout the already war-ravaged Imperium. Lemba, a highly regarded bloc FC since February 2014, had betrayed The Imperium by leaking sensitive and classified information to the EVE subreddit under the name IllumittaniLeaks.
|Traitor From: Twizzlespark Celes Sent: 2016.04.09 02:34 To: Goonswarm Federation, DOKDO, Today I come before you with a terrible news. I’ll keep it brief. GSF has been hunting for Director level spy, who has been getting more and more bold recently. This morning, with a cleverly crafted trap, we now have identified the spy. Lemba is the spy. It breaks my heart to say this, but the proof is overwhelming. We sent bait link to the leaker’s reddit account with a text file hosted from our side. When Lemba logged into the leaker account and clicked on the link’s text file and accessed the text file, we found the IP address to match that of Lemba’s. Here’s the proof. [IP information redacted] It disappoints me greatly to face up to the truth, but the proof is overwhelming. And however terrible the truth may be, DOKDO must go on. I have created corporation “I’m Fine and You aren’t”[D0KDO] and we are going to move there. We will have full support of Goonswarm Federation in the process and we will operate just as we have, sans Lemba. If you have supercapital in the corporation, keep it LOGGED OFF until it is safe for us to move them. You will bounce like a ping pong ball and will soon see gazillion supers and dreads on your head. We will arrange a safe transfer for your supers. Keep them LOGGED OFF. Apply to the new corporation with your Full API / verification key, and I will accept you shortly. The new corp is going to be in GSF in 24 hours. Don’t log in until we are in GSF when in new corp.|
The Imperium’s Black Hand and IT departments are famous for their digital forensics capabilities and they had planted a very specific trap to ferret out the traitor. I reached out to them for comment, but it’s long standing policy that these departments do not discuss sources, methods or ongoing operations. What is known is that no personally identifying information was gathered or disclosed. However, in a Crossing Zebras exclusive. I was able to speak to the man at the center of this controversy. Lemba, DOKDO CEO, former FC and Illumittani member agreed to sit down with me on Skype to discuss the reasons for his betrayal, his views on World War Bee and the future of the Imperium.
Burnout and disaffection
The Lemba that I, and so many others in The Imperium remembered was a generally happy player, a brilliant fleet tactician and trusted member of The Illumittani, The Imperium’s coalition level director group. Was it burnout, dissatisfaction, change in command and diplomatic climate in The Imperium that caused the events behind today’s revelations? As it turns out, as is the case with most defections and treasonous acts, it was a combination of all of these things that led Lemba down the path of betrayal.
“It was all of that. I was burned out from all the countless, meaningless wars. Going there putting my time into helping their cause while sacrificing my real life just to see those phat cats chomping down on food on a Yacht while I was working my ass off. Their ideology is completely screwed up and not inline with how I want to play.”
Burnout for all FCs it is one jump away. Lemba, like any long-time FC started to feel the weight of daily strategic operations. FCs are generally resilient people, but every one of them has a breaking point. Speaking from experience in my career, in EVE Online and as a former Non-Commissioned Officer in the military, when the top doesn’t appear to be actively engaged in a given conflict, it breeds resentment automatically within the lower echelons of command. Lemba made it very clear that resentment of the executive leadership of The Imperium was a major factor in his acts of betrayal. When I asked Lemba about this he outlined a situation not unlike some of the criticisms of American Presidents, senior political leaders essentially playing rounds of golf, partying, and generally not caring while the line troops were pushed to fight to the point of utter exhaustion. Lemba felt that The Mittani and others above him didn’t have any appreciation for the sacrifices in time and energy made by subordinate leaders and line members.
“When we were in the war in the south, everyone was in the war from the top down. Everyone from mittens to blawrf to the lowest FC were communicating. This time it was mittens sending us out to war and taking the top generals out to play, which is a huge problem. It was just like that. Obama calling a huge war and then fucking off to the Caribbean.”
It wasn’t as though Lemba didn’t want to fight. He had quickly earned a reputation in The Imperium as one of the most fight-hungry FCs in the entire coalition. He thought the wars in the south were a great idea for reasons he expanded on in our interview. For all of EVE, it was a time of change for the fundamental mechanics of null sec.
“I liked the idea. It was fun because ProviBloc is really really good at banding together. So the CFC had a legit enemy to test the mechanics on.”
By the fall of 2015, Lemba had moved to the Republic of Korea and was working as an AUTZ FC. He left me with the impression that he felt overburdened and trapped doing the work of what would normally be divided amongst multiple skirmish and bloc level FCs. His personal life began to suffer under the strains of being one of a few AUTZ FCs that were active during the fall of 2015, when the low sec Viceroyalty operations that were launched shortly after the failure of TMC’s Kickstarter campaign to publish a book about the Fountain War.
“My personal life was affected because there was no one else on the AUS timezone to do all the fleets required. So I spent too much time away from my family fighting his war. I felt terrible for the allies. On USTZ there are a lot of dudes to pass down fleets, not on AU”.
For Lemba, the breaking point wasn’t as simple as one thing, but a myriad of issues, seemingly left unaddressed by his leaders. Eventually this highly respected FC and Illumittani member hit his breaking point.
“Their concept and idea of war. The yacht trip. Their plans to let allied alliances fall; everything about this war.”
When the Viceroyalty campaign came to an end, Lemba was well and truly finished with The Imperium in all but name. Something stuck out during the follow up questions however. He claimed there was a plan by The Illumittani to let allies fall. So I asked him if there there any indications that this was their specific, intentional plan and if so, how long had the operational plan had been active for? His response seems to paint a picture of a rather feckless Illumittani directorate. One that was oblivious, or otherwise unconcerned about emergent threats.
People play EVE online for a lot of different reasons, and sometimes the reasons and desires of leaders don’t always match up with what the members and middle management want or need from New Eden. The divide between various leaders, and the plans Lemba suggested were being considered reminded me of a book written by former CIA Case Officer Michael F. Scheuer, Imperial Hubris. In the book, the former Station Chief lays out problems with U.S. policy. Discarding allies, a failure of policy makers to maintain situational awareness as the political and a changed military landscape all caused an evolving situation that no-one had a handle on. Finally it led to a near-total collapse of the intelligence community that directly attributed to 9/11. In New Eden, it’s quite possible to mimic such a situation, so I asked Lemba if he thought this is what had happened to The Mittani, Sion and other key Imperium leaders?
“That’s a hell of a question. I think that the mittani makes enough money off the game that it clouds his own judgment. I think he thinks we are all still into the role playing, and we’re not. I think he is blind to the fact that the people are not happy with him, nor how this war is going. So he is disconnected. We just want to fight and they want the opposite.”
Had the Illumittani members, including Lemba, changed? Or was it The Mittani and/or the top cadre of The Imperium whose attitudes had shifted toward the gameplay in EVE? Again, the answer was not as simple as one would think. Like a couple whose relationship is slowly dismantling, the disgruntled Illum members and The Mittani slowly drifted apart, until things were irreconcilable. Was there some way that The Mittani and others could have turned it all around? Was there a missed decision point that could have made World War Bee avoidable and preserved the vast empire of the northwest? Lemba went on to explain in greater detail.
“I honestly just think they made too many enemies. The reddit propaganda train, the narrative, the ISK involved. It all builds up to where we are now. There is nothing they could have done I don’t think. Strategically they are surrounded and can’t do anything. The line members don’t want to do anything and are leaving. It’s a little of both. We (that left) just want to fight. Illum wants to live a legacy and write the empire.”
Finally, the subject of abandoning those who knew Lemba best from his fleets came up. About a month ago IllumittaniLeaks started posting confidential Imperium information on r/eve. I wondered how Lemba felt about his treason, his betrayal of his friends and colleagues, and the line members who counted on him.
Lemba has been labeled a traitor to The Imperium by The Mittani, but does he view himself that way? Does he feel betrayed by The Imperium? Did Lemba feel justified in leaking confidential information to the general public of EVE, like Edward Snowden when he leaked classified NSA data? Did he believe that the betrayal of trust and assured enmity of The Imperium was worth it to expose what he saw as corruption, hubris, or at least negligence by The Mittani and other senior Imperium leaders? His response was brief and to the point.
“Sure, I am a traitor. However I became a traitor because of the way the Illum/Imperium was going. I was tired of it and wanted to add fuel to the fire. I was stuck. I felt bad for the other folks that were affected by it all.”
Looking forward, and given the serious pressure that The Imperium faces on both the Eastern and Southern fronts, Lemba’s outlook is bleak for the future of bloc as a null sec power. He sees a way back to greatness, but not without enormous difficulty and some reflection on how The Imperium develops as an entity going forward.
“I think they will lose everything over the next month or so they will shrink member number wise and they will become what TEST was before all of this. They will gain some traction and may take a hack and sov again, but they need to seriously lighten up and just play the game or nothing’s going to change.”
In closing what can we look forward to from Lemba in EVE Online, or is this an and to his time in New Eden? The short of it is that he will continue to write for TMC and he is not sharing his future plans. He confirmed it would spoil the fun if he did. I personally, like all loyal Imperium members, look forward to shooting Lemba in the face, but I’ll always remember the good times with him. While I can never agree with what he did, I can empathise with the pressures he faced in such a tough environment. Before we automatically knee-jerk and criticise, perhaps the most important unanswered question is ‘what would we do in the same situation’?