Don't jail hackers

In reference to the story 'NASA hacker sentenced to juvenile facility' [GCN, Oct. 2, Page 6]: I am not a hacker, but in defense of some of these highly talented, resourceful and extremely intelligent individuals, I feel the need to speak up. It seems strange in an evolving capitalist society that we incarcerate our peculiar talent pool and expose it to real corruption behind bars.

GCN's article on the NASA hacker provokes one to question the rationale of those who would take people with misguided talent and mingle them with violent, malicious criminals'and expect that the individuals will be more like us at the end of their incarceration. It hasn't worked in the past. A very wise person once said, 'Stupidity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result.'

Such talent needs to be recognized, guided and exploited by a legitimate agency. Punishing this young hacker appears to be a vindictive response to hide the real problem.

Hacking and hackers are not the real problem. Those are elements of necessity. Hackers in the United States can be arrested, controlled and monitored. But their activities will always be in secret until those activities are recognized and respected as a necessary function of the network environment.

Every complex organism is vulnerable to infestations. The Internet is no different, as it is a very complex organism. There is a need to have hackers create viruses, worms and Trojan horses so that the organism called the Internet can become resistant to potentially dangerous elements.

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How dare I think such things? Because foreign and domestic adversaries will think of what we do not think of ourselves. The professionals we bring into government and business have less incentive than an idle person at home to be innovative in their approach to hacking systems.

Then what should we do? I suggest that we applaud those individuals, like the 16-year-old NASA hacker, give them a token of appreciation, exploit their knowledge to resolve the weakness they uncovered and offer them opportunities to mature past the hacker stage.

Moreover, let them work to pay their debt. Restitution is slow in coming from incarcerated people. In the case of c0mrad, the damages of $41,000 would be repaid sooner by a professional earning a salary than by a talented but imprisoned youth.

I love the attorney general and her sometimes-controversial choices, but a hacker is in a different category than drug users, drug dealers and terrorists. The hacker is a vital member of this society and must be respected and encouraged to come out of hiding and thus come under government control. Every thing has its flora. The hacker is simply part of the flora of this new economy.

James M. Fitz-Gerald

C2 systems requirements coordinator

Coast Guard



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