Saturday, October 28, 2006

Jack-booted authorities raid home of doctoral student

I know I sound alarmist, but I'm slightly worried. I guess that's better than Christopher Soghoian, the doctoral student who recently posted a php script for generating a fake, but fairly plausible-looking, boarding pass. I posted about him yesterday. Anyway, as Mr. Soghoian noted in his blog, slight paranoia -- I note the irony here and also think it may be time for Mr. Soghoian to upgrade from "slight" -- he was visited yesterday evening by two federal agents. Later in the evening, agents returned executing a search warrant. As Mr. Soghoian noted,
I didn't sleep at home last night. It's fair to say I was rather shaken up.

I came back today, to find the glass on the front door smashed.

Inside, is a rather ransacked home, a search warrant taped to my kitchen table, a total absence of computers - and various other important things. I have no idea what time they actually performed the search, but the warrant was approved at 2AM. I'm sincerely glad I wasn't in bed when they raided the house. That would have been even more scary.
Now, here's my question. And, this seems a fair question, especially considering I am not an attorney. What law is Mr. Soghoian alleged to have broken?

Did he break a law when he wrote the php script allowing anyone to generate a boarding pass? Come on. While I can't write a script to do it, I could certainly gin one up using what little computer expertise -- as a user -- I have with photoshop or maybe even just Word.

Did he break the law when he provided a road map for skirting airport security? Well, plenty of other people -- including me -- have made various rumblings, and some of us have been as direct and forthright, or more so, than Mr. Soghoian.

Or maybe providing scenarios is against the law. In which case, we ought to arrest nearly every writer of terrorist fiction, including Tom Clancy who provided the textbook idea of flying a jumbo jet into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress. I've provided ideas of what I'd do here in Hampton Roads; my focus has been on taking out the tunnels.

Anyway, I'd be interested to know what law Mr. Soghoian actually broke. And, if the agency acted purely on the demands of a Congressional representative, well, pity the Republic, frankly.

In the mean time, see this post in Washington Post's blog and keep up with Mr. Soghoian's status via Google News and his own blog, which hopefully he will continue to use as an outlet of speech.

And, speaking of technology and free speech, I found this from InfoWorld Tech, after quoting our President who said in an interview earlier this week that he uses "The Google,"
And just today, Rep. Edward Markey called for the arrest of security researcher Christopher Soghoian, who created a Web site, called Northwest Airlines Boarding Pass Generator, on which users could print up a forged boarding pass for Northwest Airlines flights. That, to me, is yet again indicative of a politician who is missing entirely the big technology picture of airline security. (There's also a question there about freedom of speech, but this entry is more about politician's knowledge of technology, not Constitutional law.)
In the mean time, keep up with Mr. Soghoian; let us not let him be disappeared... er, not that that would ever happen here in the United States... well, er, ah, anyway... And, while you may call me a commie, let us hope the ACLU and the EFF jump in on this case, and let us support both of these organizations that seek to support our civil liberties and keep our government transparent.

Oh, and the bit about the jack-booted authorities, that was just editorial license, metaphor, if you will.

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