Suelette dreyfus julian assange



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father were outside. He could meet with them in the visiting area.

Talking through a glass barrier, Pad tried to reassure his worried

parents. After five minutes, an officer told the family the visit was

over. Amid hurried goodbyes under the impatient stare of the guard,

Pad's parents told him they had brought something for him to read in

his cell. It was the oceanography textbook.

Back in his cell, he tried to read, but he couldn't concentrate. He

kept replaying his visits to the London Polytechnic over and over in

his mind, searching for how he might have inadvertently done

[sterling]250000 worth of damage. Pad was a very good hacker; it

wasn't as if he was some fourteen-year-old kid barging through systems

like a bull in china shop. He knew how to get in and out of a system

without hurting it.

Shortly after 8 p.m., as Pad sat on his cot stewing over the police

damage claims, sombre music seemed to fill his cell. Slowly at first,

an almost imperceptible moaning, which subtly transformed into solemn

but recognisable notes. It sounded like Welsh choir music, and it was

coming from above him.

Pad looked up at the ceiling. The music--all male voices-- stopped

abruptly, then started again, repeating the same heavy, laboured

notes. The hacker smiled. The local police choir was practising right

above his cell.

After another fitful night, Pad faced one more round of interviews.

The police did most of the questioning, but they didn't seem to know

much about computers--well, not nearly so much as any good hacker on

Altos. Whenever either of the police asked a technical question, they

looked over to the BT guy at the other end of the table as if to say,

`Does this make any sense?' The BT guy would give a slight nod, then

the police looked back at Pad for an answer. Most of the time, he was

able to decipher what they thought they were trying to ask, and he

answered accordingly.

Then it was back to his cell while they processed his charge sheets.

Alone again, Pad wondered once more if they had raided Gandalf. Like

an answer from above, Pad heard telephone tones through the walls. The

police seemed to be playing them over and over. That was when he knew

they had Gandalf too.

Gandalf had rigged up a tone dialler in his computer. It sounded as if

the police were playing with it, trying to figure it out.

So, Pad would finally meet Gandalf in person after two years. What

would he look like? Would they have the same chemistry in person as

on-line? Pad felt like he knew Gandalf, knew his essence, but meeting

in person could be a bit tricky.

Explaining that the paperwork, including the charge sheets, had

finally been organised, a police officer unlocked Pad's cell door and

led him to a foyer, telling him he would be meeting both Gandalf and

Wandii. A large collection of police had formed a semi-circle around

two other young men. In addition to Scotland Yard's Computer Crimes

Unit and BT, at least seven other police forces were involved in the

three raids, including those from Greater Manchester, Merseyside and

West Yorkshire. The officers were curious about the hackers.

For most of the two years of their investigation, the police didn't

even know the hackers' real identities. After such a long, hard chase,

the police had been forced to wait a little longer, since they wanted

to nab each hacker while he was on-line. That meant hiding outside

each hacker's home until he logged in somewhere. Any system would do

and they didn't have to be talking to each other on-line--as long as

the login was illegal. The police had sat patiently, and finally

raided the hackers within hours of each other, so they didn't have

time to warn one another.

So, at the end of the long chase and a well-timed operation, the

police wanted to have a look at the hackers up close.

After the officer walked Pad up to the group, he introduced Gandalf.

Tall, lean with brown hair and pale skin, he looked a little bit like

Pad. The two hackers smiled shyly at each other, before one of the

police pointed out Wandii, the seventeen-year-old schoolboy. Pad

didn't get a good look at Wandii, because the police quickly lined the

hackers up in a row, with Gandalf in the middle, to explain details to

them. They were being charged under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990.

Court dates would be set and they would be notified.

When they were finally allowed to leave, Wandii seemed to disappear.

Pad and Gandalf walked outside, found a couple of benches and lay

down, basking in the sun and chatting while they waited for their

rides home.

Gandalf proved to be as easy to talk to in person as he was on-line.

They exchanged phone numbers and shared notes on the police raids.

Gandalf had insisted on meeting a lawyer before his interviews, but

when the lawyer arrived he didn't have the slightest understanding of

computer crime. He advised Gandalf to tell the police whatever they

wanted to know, so the hacker did.

The trial was being held in London. Pad wondered why, if all three

hackers were from the north, the case was being tried in the south.

After all, there was a court in Manchester which was high enough to

deal with their crimes.

Maybe it was because Scotland Yard was in London. Maybe they had

started the paperwork down there. Maybe it was because they were being

accused of hacking computers located within the jurisdiction of the

Central Criminal Court--that court being the Old Bailey in London. But

Pad's cynical side hazarded a different guess--a guess which seemed

justified after a few procedural appearances in 1992 before the trial,

which was set for 1993. For when Pad arrived at the Bow Street

Magistrates Court for his committal in April 1992, he saw it packed

out with the media, just as he had anticipated.

A few hackers also fronted up to fly the flag of the underground. One

of them--a stranger--came up to Pad after court, patted him on the

back and exclaimed enthusiastically, `Well done, Paddy!' Startled, Pad

just looked at him and then smiled. He had no idea how to respond to

the stranger.

Like the three Australian hackers, Pad, Gandalf and the little-known

Wandii were serving as the test case for new hacking laws in their

country. British law enforcement agencies had spent a fortune on the

case--more than [sterling]500000 according to the newspapers--by the

time the 8lgm case went to trial. This was going to be a show case,

and the government agencies wanted taxpayers to know they were getting

their money's worth.

The hackers weren't being charged with breaking into computers. They

were being charged with conspiracy, a more serious offence. While

admitting the threesome did not hack for personal gain, the

prosecution alleged the hackers had conspired to break into and modify

computer systems. It was a strange approach to say the least,

considering that none of the three hackers had ever met or even talked

to the others before they were arrested.

It was not so strange, however, when looking at the potential

penalties. If the hackers had been charged with simply breaking into a

machine, without intending any harm, the maximum penalty was six

months jail and a fine of up to [sterling]5000. However, conspiracy,

which was covered under a different section of the Act, could bring up

to five years in jail and an unlimited amount in fines.

The prosecution was taking a big gamble. It would be harder to prove

conspiracy charges, which required demonstration of greater criminal

intent than lesser charges. The potential pay-off was of course also

much greater. If convicted, the defendants in Britain's most important

hacking case to date would be going to prison.

As with The Realm case, two hackers--Pad and Gandalf--planned to plead

guilty while the third--in this case Wandii--planned to fight the

charges every step of the way. Legal Aid was footing the bill for

their lawyers, because the hackers were either not working or were

working in such lowly paid, short-term jobs they qualified for free

legal support.

Wandii's lawyers told the media that this showcase was tantamount to a

state trial. It was the first major hacking case under the new

legislation which didn't involve disgruntled employees. While having

no different legal status from a normal trial, the term state trial

suggested a greater degree of official wrath--the kind usually

reserved for cases of treason.

On 22 February 1993, within two months of Electron's decision to turn

Crown witness against Phoenix and Nom, the three 8lgm hackers stood in

the dock at Southwark Crown Court in South London to enter pleas in

their own case.

In the dim winter light, Southwark couldn't look less appealing, but

that didn't deter the crowds. The courtroom was going to be packed,

just as Bow Street had been. Scotland Yard detectives were turning out

in force. The crowd shuffled toward Room 12.

The prosecution told the media they had about 800 computer disks full

of evidence and court materials. If all the data had been printed out

on A4 paper, the stack would tower more than 40 metres in the air,

they said. Considering the massive amount of evidence being heaved,

rolled and tugged through the building by teams of legal eagles, the

choice of location--on the fifth floor--proved to be a challenge.

Standing in the dock next to Wandii, Pad and Gandalf pleaded guilty to

two computer conspiracy charges: conspiring to dishonestly obtain

telecommunications services, and conspiring to cause unauthorised

modification to computer material. Pad also pleaded guilty to a third

charge: causing damage to a computer. This last charge related to the

almost a quarter of

a million pounds worth of `damage' to the Central London Polytechnic.

Unlike the Australians' case, none of the British hackers faced

charges about specific sites such as NASA.

Pad and Gandalf pleaded guilty because they didn't think they had much

choice. Their lawyers told them that, in light of the evidence,

denying their guilt was simply not a realistic option. Better to throw

yourself on the mercy of the court, they advised. As if to underline

the point, Gandalf's lawyer had told him after a meeting at the end of

1992, `I'd like to wish you a happy Christmas, but I don't think it's

going to be one'.

Wandii's lawyers disagreed. Standing beside his fellow hackers, Wandii

pleaded not guilty to three conspiracy charges: plotting to gain

unauthorised access to computers, conspiring to make unauthorised

modifications to computer material, and conspiring to obtain

telecommunications services dishonestly. His defence team was going to

argue that he was addicted to computer hacking and that, as a result

of this addiction, he was not able to form the criminal intent

necessary to be convicted.

Pad thought Wandii's case was on shaky ground. Addiction didn't seem a

plausible defence to him, and he noticed Wandii looked very nervous in

court just after his plea.

Pad and Gandalf left London after their court appearance, returning to

the north to prepare for their sentencing hearings, and to watch the

progress of Wandii's case through the eyes of the media.

They weren't disappointed. It was a star-studded show. The media

revved itself up for a feeding frenzy and the prosecution team, headed

by James Richardson, knew how to feed the pack. He zeroed in on

Wandii, telling the court how the schoolboy `was tapping into offices

at the EC in Luxembourg and even the experts were worried. He caused

havoc at universities all around the world'.4 To do this, Wandii had

used a simple BBC Micro computer, a Christmas present costing

[sterling]200.

The hacking didn't stop at European Community's computer, Richardson

told the eager crowd of journalists. Wandii had hacked Lloyd's, The

Financial Times and Leeds University. At The Financial Times machine,

Wandii's adventures had upset the smooth operations of the FTSE 100

share index, known in the City as `footsie'. The hacker installed a

scanning program in the FT's network, resulting in one outgoing call

made every second. The upshot of Wandii's intrusion: a [sterling]704

bill, the deletion of an important file and a management decision to

shut down a key system. With the precision of a banker, FT computer

boss Tony Johnson told the court that the whole incident had cost his

organisation [sterling]24871.

But the FT hack paled next to the prosecution's real trump card: The

European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer in

Brussels. They had been left with a [sterling]10000 phone bill as a

result of a scanner Wandii left on its machine,5 the court was told.

The scanner had left a trail of 50000 calls, all documented on a

980-page phone bill.

The scanner resulted in the system going down for a day, EORTC

information systems project manager Vincent Piedboeuf, told the jury.

He went on to explain that the centre needed its system to run 24

hours a day, so surgeons could register patients. The centre's

database was the focal point for pharmaceutical companies, doctors and

research centres--all coordinating their efforts in fighting the

disease.

For the media, the case was headline heaven. `Teenage computer hacker

"caused worldwide chaos"' the Daily Telegraph screamed across page

one. On page three, the Daily Mail jumped in with `Teenage hacker

"caused chaos for kicks"'. Even The Times waded into the fray.

Smaller, regional newspapers pulled the story across the countryside

to the far reaches of the British Isles. The Herald in Glasgow told

its readers `Teenage hacker "ran up [sterling]10000 telephone bill"'.

Across the Irish Sea, the Irish Times caused a splash with its

headline, `Teenage hacker broke EC computer security'.

Also in the first week of the case, The Guardian announced Wandii had

taken down the cancer centre database. By the time The Independent got

hold of the story, Wandii hadn't just shut down the database, he had

been reading the patients' most intimate medical details: `Teenager

"hacked into cancer patient files"'. Not to be outdone, on day four of

the trial, the Daily Mail had christened Wandii as a `computer

genius'. By day five it labelled him as a `computer invader' who `cost

FT [sterling]25000'.

The list went on. Wandii, the press announced, had hacked the Tokyo

Zoo and the White House. It was difficult to tell which was the more

serious offence.

Wandii's defence team had a few tricks of its own. Ian MacDonald, QC,

junior counsel Alistair Kelman and solicitor Deborah Tripley put

London University Professor James Griffith-Edwards, an authoritative

spokesman on addictive and compulsive behaviours, on the stand as an

expert witness. The chairman of the National Addiction Centre, the

professor had been part of a team which wrote the World Health

Organisation's definition of addiction. No-one was going to question

his qualifications.

The professor had examined Wandii and he announced his conclusion to

the court: Wandii was obsessed by computers, he was unable to stop

using them, and his infatuation made it impossible for him to choose

freely. `He repeated 12 times in police interviews, "I'm just

addicted. I wish I wasn't",' Griffith-Edwards told the court. Wandii

was highly intelligent, but was unable to escape from the urge to beat

computers' security systems at their own game. The hacker was obsessed

by the intellectual challenge. `This is the core ... of what attracts

the compulsive gambler,' the professor explained to the entranced jury

of three women and nine men.

But Wandii, this obsessive, addicted, gifted young man, had never had

a girlfriend, Griffith-Edwards continued. In fact, he shyly admitted

to the professor that he wouldn't even know how to ask a girl out. `He

[Wandii] became profoundly embarrassed when asked to talk about his

own feelings. He simply couldn't cope when asked what sort of person

he was.'6

People in the jury edged forward in their seats, concentrating

intently on the distinguished professor. And why wouldn't they? This

was amazing stuff. This erudite man had delved inside the mind of the

young man of bizarre contrasts. A man so sophisticated that he could

pry open computers belonging to some of Britain's and Europe's most

prestigious institutions, and yet at the same time so simple that he

had no idea how to ask a girl on a date. A man who was addicted not to

booze, smack or speed, which the average person associates with

addiction, but to a computer--a machine most people associated with

kids' games and word processing programs.

The defence proceeded to present vivid examples of Wandii's addiction.

Wandii's mother, a single parent and lecturer in English, had terrible

trouble trying to get her son away from his computer and modem. She

tried hiding his modem. He found it. She tried again, hiding it at his

grandmother's house. He burgled granny's home and retrieved it. His

mother tried to get at his computer. He pushed her out of his attic

room and down the stairs.

Then he ran up a [sterling]700 phone bill as a result of his hacking.

His mother switched off the electricity at the mains. Her son

reconnected it. She installed a security calling-code on the phone to

stop him calling out. He broke it. She worried he wouldn't go out and

do normal teenage things. He continued to stay up all night--and

sometimes all day--hacking. She returned from work to find him

unconscious--sprawled across the living room floor and looking as

though he was dead. But it wasn't death, only sheer exhaustion. He

hacked until he passed out, then he woke up and hacked some more.

The stories of Wandii's self-confessed addiction overwhelmed, appalled

and eventually engendered pity in the courtroom audience. The media

began calling him `the hermit hacker'.

Wandii's defence team couldn't fight the prosecution's

evidence head-on, so they took the prosecution's evidence and claimed

it as their own. They showed the jury that Wandii hadn't just hacked

the institutions named by the prosecution; he had hacked far, far more

than that. He didn't just hack a lot--he hacked too much. Most of all,

Wandii's defence team gave the jury a reason to acquit the

innocent-faced young man sitting before them.

During the trial, the media focused on Wandii, but didn't completely

ignore the other two hackers. Computer Weekly hunted down where

Gandalf was working and laid it bare on the front page. A member of

`the UK's most notorious hacking gang', the journal announced, had

been working on software which would be used at Barclay's Bank.7 The

implication was clear. Gandalf was a terrible security risk and should

never be allowed to do any work for a financial institution. The

report irked the hackers, but they tried to concentrate on preparing

for their sentencing hearing.

From the beginning of their case, the hackers had problems obtaining

certain evidence. Pad and Gandalf believed some of the material seized

in the police raids would substantially help their case--such as

messages from admins thanking them for pointing out security holes on

their systems. This material had not been included in the

prosecution's brief. When the defendants requested access to it, they

were refused access on the grounds that there was classified data on

the optical disk. They were told to go read the Attorney-General's

guidelines on disclosure of information. The evidence of the hackers'

forays into military and government systems was jumbled in with their

intrusions into computers such as benign JANET systems, the defence

team was told. It would take too much time to separate the two.

Eventually, after some wrangling, Pad and Gandalf were told they could

inspect and copy material--provided it was done under the supervision

of the police. The hackers travelled to London, to Holborn police

station, to gather supporting evidence for their case. However, it

soon became clear that this time-consuming exercise would be

impossible to manage on an ongoing basis. Finally, the Crown

Prosecution Service relented, agreeing to release the material on disk

to Pad's solicitor, on the proviso that no copies were made, it did

not leave the law office, and it was returned at the end of the trial.

As Wandii's case lurched from revelation to exaggeration, Pad and

Gandalf busily continued to prepare for their own sentencing hearing.

Every day, Gandalf travelled from Liverpool to Manchester to meet with

his friend. They picked up a handful of newspapers at the local agent,

and then headed up to Pad's lawyer's office. After a quick scan for

articles covering the hacking case, the two hackers began sifting

through the reluctantly released prosecution disks. They read through

the material on computer, under the watchful eye of the law office's

cashier--the most computer literate person in the firm.

After fifteen days in the Southwark courtroom listening to fantastic

stories from both sides about the boy sitting before them, the jury in

Wandii's trial retired to consider the evidence. Before they left,

Judge Harris gave them a stern warning: the argument that Wandii was

obsessed or dependent was not a defence against the charges.

It took the jurors only 90 minutes to reach a decision, and when the

verdict was read out the courtroom erupted with a wave of emotion.

Not guilty. On all counts.

Wandii's mother burst into a huge smile and turned to her son, who was

also smiling. And the defence team couldn't be happier. Kelman told

journalists, `The jury felt this was a sledge hammer being used to

crack a nut'.8

The prosecution was stunned and the law enforcement agents

flabbergasted. Detective Sergeant Barry Donovan found the verdict

bizarre. No other case in his 21 years in law enforcement had as much

overwhelming evidence as this one, yet the jury had let Wandii walk.

And in a high-pitched frenzy rivalling its earlier hysteria, the

British media jumped all over the jury's decision. `Hacker who ravaged


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