More Than Slight Paranoia

There’s this guy in Bloomington, Indiana. He’s a graduate student and security researcher. He has been poking holes in the security theater our government pretends to protect the airlines with, and then blogging about it publicly. When he created a program to generate fake NWA boarding passes, and posted it on the web, he made a lot of waves. It went so far as for a member of Congress to call for his arrest.

Osama Bin Ladin's Boarding PassAnd that’s when it started. Go read his blog. It’s called Slight Paranoia, and it is totally surreal to think that this guy - who I greatly admire for standing up and exposing the absurdity of our government’s so-called security policies - had his door kicked in and his possessions seized for something so absurd.

And why is this absurd? I mean, it might seem like anybody who created and distributed a program to create fake boarding passes deserves to have the FBI knocking on their door, right?

Wrong. Boarding passes are so simple to fake that anybody with even a rudimentary knowledge of the World Wide Web and HTML can do it. What’s more, this isn’t some new discovery. I have been saying privately to my friends and family for years how easy it would be to fake them, and any other geek worth their salt has said the same.

So our law enforcement is going to ruin this guy’s life because he created a program to do what everybody already knew how to do and was capable of doing. He just happened to get noticed.

In another age - before October 26, 2001 - having one’s life invaded by the government might just be the expected due for a cutting-edge risk taker exposing government stupidity. One could be assured of at least a lawyer to make the defense that this is common knowledge, and one could be assured of the right to a trial by a jury of peers who could surely see through such balderdash.

Now I’m not so sure. With our government’s attempt to remove our right of habeas corpus, how can this guy be sure of his right to either fair representation or judgment? He could just be declared an “unlawful enemy combatant” and be disappeared.

What country is this where fear of sudden lifetime imprisonment with no remedy in the courts is a real possibility? What country is this where our Congress debates precisely how much torture we can legally allow? What country is this where a security researcher - a citizen of these United States - who points out an obvious flaw to an overzealous government, could realistically face such imprisonment and legalized torture?

This isn’t America. I want to throw up.