What’s In Store for Edward Snowden?
Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer is currently residing in a federal prison. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed an appeal of his conviction and his prison sentence. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act on Monday, July 1.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is an anti-hacking law that has been applied to cases that really didn’t have anything to do with hacking, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As one example of this, Aaron Swartz was being prosecuted under this law for downloading articles that he was not restricted from downloading in any way. For electronics rights and civil rights activists, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is overly broad, applied inappropriately quite frequently and has been used as a justification to violate the rights of people who really committed no crime whatsoever.
Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer and His Conviction
Auernheimer discovered a major security flaw in the AT&T website. The security flaw involved publishing the email addresses of iPad users when one of those users queried a URL that contained a number that was the same as the number on the SIM card of the iPad.
Auernheimer and a partner, Daniel Spitler worked on a script that managed to collect well over 100,000 email addresses based on the security hole. Auernheimer decided to make certain that the public knew about the security flaw and sent the information they collected to journalists. Gawker, a popular online news site, wrote a story about the security flaw.
Auernheimer’s revelation did prompt AT&T to work on the problem and ultimately to fix it. Auernheimer ended up being indicted for hacking and sentenced to 41 months in prison.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, there are numerous holes in the case against Auernheimer. The man was clearly not attempting to hack anybody’s information but, rather, attempting to expose a security hole that had been overlooked by a major telecom provider and the entire case represents a huge misapplication of a law regarding computer hacking.
Edward Snowden is facing much more serious issues. He could be realistically charged with espionage or other high crimes due to his revealing of classified information. What has become apparent, however, is that the federal government is determined to apply computer laws in any way it sees fit, even if the crimes that are being prosecuted don’t really fit the law. In Snowden’s case, it’s difficult to see how he could ever not be convicted of something and, thus, difficult to see how he could ever receive a fair trial if even someone who simply exposed a completely incompetent moment on the part of a major telecom provider gets thrown in federal prison for years.