Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer is a troll, but he’s not a criminal. This is clear. In his recent appearance in federal appellate court in Philadelphia, the ignorance surrounding his actions and the lack of proof that they are a felony, even according to the wide-open standards of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, makes it clear that the defendant should walk.
Thus far Weev has spent over a year in prison, part of a 41-month sentence that has seen him pulled away from human contact and placed in solitary. I used to get letters from Weev from prison – his wide-ranging fulminations were a source of interest and a bit of mirth – and now we don’t even get that. His Twitter account is live but he can no longer get messages out to its manager.
The problem, in short, is that the Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Moramarco doesn’t understand what Weev did and instead compared his hacking to “blowing up a nuclear plant in New Jersey.” He said:
We have a case here where…[the defense] is arguing that this was completely open to everyone. But you look at the testimony of Daniel Spitler and the steps he had to take to get to this wide open Web and I’m flabbergasted that this could be called anything other than a hack. He had to download the entire iOS system on his computer. He had to decrypt it. He had to do all sorts of things—I don’t even understand what they are.
The “all sorts of things” Weev had to do was increment a single number and scrape a webpage, a process that any computer illiterate, Moramarco included, could understand. The suggestion that Weev hacked AT&T is akin to saying I hacked AT&T when visited the webpage to look at this picture of the iPhone 5C.
The argument that he is dangerous is also ludicrous. This would be as similar to blowing up a nuclear plant in New Jersey only if the nuclear plant were stupid enough to put a button on their website – hidden, obviously, through a feat of minor obfuscation – that said “Press Here To Blow Up Nuclear Plant.”
I am not enamored of Weev. I know there were far more behind-the-scenes machinations performed by Weev and his online friends – including the “leaking” of this information to Gawker – but taken in context of the free-wheeling, always-open world of the mind which we Internet users espouse, he did nothing wrong. To argue any differently would be to argue in defense of corporate Internet control.
Auernheimer’s lawyer Orin Kerr knows the score. He argued that to be in violation of the CFAA, Weev would have had to have broken a “password-gate.” He did not. He did exactly what any of us could have done. Sadly, because he is Weev, the government saw an unsympathetic and surly young hacker rather than a fighter for truth.
Weev has been nice to me. He’s also an Internet troll and a walking example of the advice to shut up and do good work. We are reminded of Wilhelm Stekel’s comment that the “mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
It would behoove Auernheimer to remember this. But, in this case, sadly, Auernheimer suffers unjustly at the pleasure of a confused court, and no one — not even one who seems so odious as Weev — deserves that.
Article updated to clarify statement about Auerenheimer’s character.