The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a law that has been repeatedly misused to go after net activists and handout draconian punishments. Aaron Swartz is but one example. Indeed the CFAA can be easily read so broadly that anyone under 18 who reads news on-line could be a criminal. Yet, the Department of Justice wants to make this bill even worse, and Congress seems willing to help.
We are asking you to help take a stand against the CFAA, and demand it be fixed. Three things you can do:
- Urge your Congress people to roll back the CFAA, especially today and tomorrow,
- This Saturday, join with us, Demand Progress, and other groups to rally for Aaron Swartz and roll back the CFAA. We will meet at noon Dewey Square Park in downtown Boston,
- Spread the word to your friends and get them to help!
Aaron isn’t the only person to run afoul of the CFAA. Australian activist Asher Wolf, eloquently details how it was used to convict Andrew Auernheimer (Weev) for the crime of accessing an AT&T public interface and revealing that it wasn’t secure. Many thanks to Asher!
Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o’er mankind.” ~ The Iliad, Book 9.
On November 20, 2012 a jury sitting in the Federal District Court for the District of New Jersey convicted Andrew Auernheimer of one count of conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2)(C)) and one count of identity theft (18 U.S. C. 1028(a)(7).In essence, Andrew Auernheimer – or Weev, as much of the Internet knows him – was found guilty of incrementing a number on a url – doing basic arithmetic – and has been ceremoniously chucked behind bars for the next 41 months of his life – as a result of speaking up to point out a security problem.Weev was sent to jail on a trumped-up charge, for a crime that hurt nobody, not even a fly.At his pre-sentencing press conference Weev read poetry by John Keats on the steps of the courthouse – ‘The Fall of Hyperion’, according to reports from onlookers:“Who alive can say,
‘Thou art no Poet may’st not tell thy dreams?’
Since every man whose soul is not a clod
Hath visions, and would speak…”
The process of writing about Weev is a disorderly affair, which seems appropriate. Descriptions of his history vary. Versions change depending on who you ask about him. Even Weev’s own versions of his history changes from time to time. Perhaps it’s so difficult to write about Weev because we live in complicated times, and our tales – our histories are not so simple anymore. It’s as though I could write an epic novel in verse about Weev and yet, the truth would be still like a needle in a haystack.
A quote by Raymond Queneau, a French poet and novelist jumped out at me when I began to write about Weev: “the Illiad is the private lives of people, thrown into disorder by history.” The tale of Weev, meanwhile is the story of a man thrown into history by disorder. Some of that disorder of course, came from Weev’s own making. But the tragedy of this story is of a bright, young person, swept into the pathway of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – a hugely over-reaching piece of legislation. Today, Weev has been sentenced to four times the years the Steubenville rapists will spend behind bars – for a “crime” that has no victim.
I spent a lot of time trying to think about how to write honestly about Weev. The act of writing about someone is essentially the art of attempting to bring order to a narrative of history. But before all ordering of items, first there is always chaos.
Originally I began trying to write about Weev by trampling across the internet in search of the “true history” of Weev. Dumb idea. It soon became apparent the amount of information generated by Weev’s escapades made determining a singular history almost an impossible task.
So instead, I will tell you about Weev, as I have come to know him.
Weev is a master of chaos, a devotee of the Discordian persuasion. He is a joker, a puck, an epic troll, a jester, and just perhaps an exiled prophet railing on the fringe of society, variously misidentified as a drug-addled, mentally imbalanced felon. Scratch the surface and you find a man who likes reading Proust, and listening to Wagner.
I initially got to know Weev when an Australian TV show was looking to interview trolls. They asked me if I knew any trolls they could invite on to the program. Weev immediately came to mind.
“Should we be concerned about Weev creating chaos on the show?”, the program’s research assistant asked me worriedly.
“I’m not actually sure. I guess… treat him like a live grenade?”
I’ve never really known how to respond to Weev. I’ve oscillated between the desire to mother him and an a repetitive urge to strangle him. I’m sure Weev would say it’s a sexual thing. One of my earliest responses was to claim “HE’S NOT MY FRIEND” loudly on twitter, when people linked us. I was scared, simply of being associated with him. Later, I was ashamed of myself.
Weev has become a friend. A good friend. Someone – who for all his offensive statements – is never inane, and for all his trickery is never dishonest.
Regardless of his flash-bang shock of his razor-sharp wit and inexplicable statements that variously offend most sub-segments of the world’s population, Weev is someone I genuinely *like* – despite his despicable outbursts – and let the record show, I don’t really, genuinely like many people at all.
Beyond the mouthy, chaotic prick trolling the universe there’s a soul fighting not to flat-line in cognitive dissonance – and Weev has had more than his fair share of fear, disappointment and sadness, unsettled adolescence viewing life through the lens of relentless intelligence.
Weev’s capacity to create chaos thru trolling is considered epic across the Internet – a person needs only to Google “goatse” (please don’t) to immediately experience a taste of the kind of abhorrent shock factor his trolling can create.
I spoke to Weev in the final days before sentencing. He was unrepentant.
“Our whole society is so stagnant and un-innovative now, because we spend this huge amount of resources trying to fight against entropy. And if there is one thing that is always true, it is that the principle of disorder is as strong or much stronger than the principle of order.”
“Trolling is using rhetoric divisively, I do not put a bigger definition on it than that. It can be small or large, important or banal, good or evil. Its a rhetorical method for fucks sake, and it suits me just fine.”
“Aren’t you scared of consequences?”, I asked Weev.
“No, I’m scared of stagnancy. Consequences are in the future and I only give a vague fuck about that. I’m more concerned about now, because stagnant things smell like shit, literally and figuratively. I don’t want to live in a place that smells like shit – and yet, now I am stuck in New Jersey. Joke’s on me!The trial – defies reflection. It is a living story and it is not over yet I suppose. I mean, they will not let me work. Dennis Yu, he made Yahoo Personals once. Now he has a company called BlitzMetrics, he handed me an offer letter. But my employment has to be pre-approved by pre-trial services. They’re kind of like a probation officer for people who have not yet been convicted of a crime. They simply won’t approve it. I have $2.66 in my bank account. I spent a lot of nights not eating. That is the worst part. The bail conditions make it impossible to work or live
It has been two years since they ripped me from my home. Anyways, I used to drive to the airport in Bentonville, AR, from my shack in Fayetteville when I was leaving town to go on a job. And on the way, I’d smell the honeysuckle. I always picked flights late at night, because if I left in the day, sometimes I’d cry. Maybe that is weird, but I am spiritually connected to that land, and I just didn’t want to see the landscape roll by in the daytime. The mountains, the land, the rivers… those Ozark hills are dear to me
They took me out of my home, two years ago, from a town where the rent floor is around $200, they took me out in leg irons and they brought me to a fucking shithole, on some fucking piece of shit criminal complaint full of lies written by some faggot FBI Agent.
I mean New Jersey is the single most unhappy state in the US. It looks like shit, and smells like shit. And they have not let me back to Arkansas in 2 years. I’m forced to stay in a place where the rent is $800 per month – and they won’t let me work. So yeah my life sucks now
Yeah I expect I’m going to fucking prison. It’s a fucking travesty. But whatever, I am in a war. You don’t fucking get into a war and not expect to be a casualty. This is a fucking war-zone. I am a fucking scrapper. You fight, sometimes you die”
“You felt like you took on the U.S. government?”, I asked Weev.
“Let’s just say I’d rather go to Valhalla than stay at home”, he responded.
“Weev – why does the government want to lock you up?” Something inside me is nagging at the idea that the only reason the authorities want to lock Weev up is “because he’s just too much gawdam trouble.” But it’s still not a good enough reason to put someone behind bars.
“They said in a search warrant once that they’d been surveilling me since 2001. I was 15 in 2001. I wonder what the fuck I could have done to be watched by the government from a young age. I got involved in a number of ideological movements…everything in the press that I’ve ever done ain’t shit compared to what never hit the press.”
“You going to tell me a little of what hasn’t hit the press?”, I begged Weev.
“Sure, but getting it credited to me could get me killed, could get my friends killed…”
And then Weev told me a story. It’s a Weev kind of story. The story of an epic trolling he’d undertaken on a ketamine high. The sort of incident that scrambled governments out of their beds at night. It was the sort of tale that made my jaw hang agape, and caused me to jump up out of my seat and pace nervously around the living room for half an hour after he’d finished telling me the details. If Weev had told me he’d hacked the the launch codes for intercontinental ballistic missiles attached to nuclear warheads – my teeth would have been chattering perhaps as much.
Weev backed up his tale with a link to a news article confirming he wasn’t making it up. He’s never been caught for the incident. Weev and I discussed the possibility of releasing the story – and I wish I could. But I’ve since consulted lawyers and after taking advice have decided it’s in nobody’s interest to know the details.
Weev finished his story with a flourish.
“And that was the best damn Apple I ever threw.”
“Where’d you dispose of it?”, I asked. Then hurriedly added: “don’t answer that.”
Confusion abounded. “Dispose of what?”, asked Weev.
“Your Apple computer. You tossed your computer into a lake afterwards, right?”
“OOhhh nOooo. I was referring to the story where Eris throws the golden apple and ends up starting a war. I’m a Discordian – I’m into throwing apples. I’ve started unfathomable amounts of shit in this world. Most of it – very few people know about.”
Eris and the Apple of Discord – the roots of the Trojan War. Eris, the goddess of discord who Peleus and Thetis failed to invited to their wedding. Eris, who stormed in and threw a golden apple onto the table – the apple which Eris claimed belonged to whomever was the fairest. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite each reached for the apple…
It’s no wonder Weev identifies with Eris. His trolling always played society’s flaws back like a mirror. He’s an ubiquitous shit-stirrer. And the consequences of his small actions – though perhaps you won’t believe me – affect nation states.
“Do you think there’s any chance you’ll walk without a sentence?”
“Probably not, can’t imagine. There’s the pre-sentencing report. It said 41 months. So about 3.5 years? However thats just the guidelines, the judge can sentence me higher, up to the statutory maximum of 10 years – plus I’ve been a right mouthy bastard, so i imagine it might be ticked a little higher.”
My heart fell when I heard Weev had been sentenced to jail this morning, even though I was sure it would be the outcome… it is pointless injustice. The powers who hold freedom in their hands, have locked yet another of our best and brightest behind bars.
As a child my school teachers and parents somehow imparted the idea to me that best and brightest would without doubt be of the ilk that march in time, and sing in perfect harmony like an angelic school choir.
Yet as an adult I’ve come to believe that wisdom is often contained in spaces, places and individuals most difficult to access, most problematic to interact with. There are ideas in this world that are painful, difficult, offensive, and inexplicable to many – Weev spoke of those ideas. It doesn’t make him any less than the best and brightest amongst us.
Our governments continue to lock up the people who speak truth to power. Bradley Manning. Jeremy Hammond. Barrett Brown. The list goes on. Men and women who say things that offend the powers that be, end up behind bars or frozen in their tracks, awaiting verdict.
Our governments call them criminals, deviants, law-breakers. The authorities force the accused into the worst of situations, barred from financially supporting themselves while they await the verdict of a court. All this, is meant to shut us up. It’s meant to make us meek and mild, while the machine churns onwards.
Weev often spoke to me of martyrs and prophets. He taught me there is a defining factor amongst them all – outcast, persecuted for speaking truth to power. And now Weev – the filthy, prophet of discord, infinitely raging against the machine – has been martyred upon the pyre of the U.S. regime’s bloodlust for revenge against whistleblowers, technologists, journalists, hackers, and intellectuals.
I’m just that much angrier than I was yesterday when the cops bashed the last group of protesters, or dispossessed yet another home-owner, sold-out the people and the land in search of another dollar to line the pockets of Wall Street or bombed another country in search of natural resources.
Austerity is coming to the U.S.
You can see it already in the crumbling infrastructure. The emperors have no clothes. Change will come, and to be honest it will be a happier affair for everyone if the U.S. opts for reform rather than revolution.
Weev and his ilk are not the enemy. The discord they surf – the chaos of a world of inconsistent values and hypocritical, corrupt governance – is within the fabric of everything we have grown up with. The abhorrent practice of locking up people who turn a mirror on corruption, insecurity and abuse is as useless as trying to stop the sun rising in the morning.
Putting Weev behind bars is pointless and tragic. Jailing the most outspoken men and women amongst our generation won’t stop the leaks, the hacks, the news revelations, the whistleblowers – and most of all it won’t stop the rage of the malcontent, dispossessed youth from eventually tumbling down upon the heads of the bureaucrats who sold us out and then tried to lock us up when we complained.
Weev will fight for an appeal. And one way or another, eventually he’ll be free. And even in jail, I have no doubt, Weev will find a way to make himself heard.
And they can’t shut us all up. Fuck ‘em.