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    Tuesday, August 5, 2008

    What I'd Ask Kevin Mitnick

    I'm interested to know if Kevin, as a hacker, feels restricted with the technology he uses fearing that someone could claim that he's back to cracking systems? Also, does he worry that the remainder of his life will be under scrutiny of law enforcement? Conversely, the hacker community has embraced him and has since the beginning of his ordeal with law enforcement. Does he feel more "at home" with the hacker community? Are hackers, such as Kevin, a modern version of the “...angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,” in Ginsberg's Howl? Are we just trying to figure out how things work within the technological constructs of our modern society?

    I'm curious as to how Kevin feels about the hacker community because it is one of the most accepting communities I've encountered. I'm not a sociologist, but I believe that the hacker community (see my blog posting on setting up a Hacker Space and how popular these hang-outs are becoming) may be the hippies-from-the-70s kind of counter-culture for generation X and Y, but with better hair and attire. And when you add technology to that--it's the great anonymizer in today's Big Brotherish society. Instead of inspiration from Allen Ginsberg's Howl or Jack Kerouac's On the Road, we've read The Mentor's The Conscience of a Hacker (“Hacker Manifesto”) and heard him read it at H2K2, read Hackers by Steven Levy, William Gibson's Neuromancer and Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash.

    As for world-wide affects of his trial and jail time? From one perspective, it made the hacker community more cautious about law enforcement—either from the perspective of being more careful when exploring and aware of criminal statutes or more aware of their surroundings in public and online. On the other hand, it also drove the community more outside of their internal Internet existence and encouraged some usually quiet and seclusive individuals to go outside with “Free Kevin” stickers, signs, and publications. 2600 Magazine was a big supporter of Kevin and was the first introduction I had to his case.

    Perhaps Kevin's experience, and that of the hacker community at large, is aptly put by The Mentor:

    “This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

    Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.

    I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can't stop us all... after all, we're all alike.”

    Or, on the other hand, are we just the children of 70s counter-culture parents who read us Howl and taught us to type on a manual typewriter but still have the same philosophy and ideals as our parents? Perhaps the hacker culture isn't anything novel, but a modern incarnation of fighting to maintain our civil liberties and freedom.

    “..the last fantastic book

    flung out of the tenement window, and the last

    door closed at 4. A.M. and the last telephone

    slammed at the wall in reply and the last fur-

    nished room emptied down to the last piece of

    mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted

    on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that

    imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of


    ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and

    now you're really in the total animal soup of


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