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The Persecution of Terry Childs

The eejits always win.


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The jury came back with their verdict in the Terry Childs case. Guilty.

Childs has been sitting in the stir for two years already. On bail no one can pay. Those San Francisco wheels of justice turn slowly.

Two years ago Childs was confounded by a group of total nincompoops who had nothing to do with Childs' city network but who insisted on him turning over the keys - his passwords.

No eejit himself - and he'd been praised for making the San Francisco network run so well - Childs understood who his foes were. And more specifically what incompetent eejits they were.

Admin rule #1: never let anyone for any reason get access to your network, even if they're qualified to run things. Admin rule #2: even if you find reason to break admin rule #1, you never but never make an exception for blowhard politicians. They're the last people who should be allowed near your network.

Practically speaking, they're going to screw things up and then spin it so you get the blame. That's almost rule #3.

Terry Childs fought with them a long time. And then they brought out the big guns. Had him arrested. And held on an impossible bail. The mayor finally came to talk to him. Childs didn't want to give the passwords to anyone because he knew who would get their hands on them in the end. But he relented for the mayor.

And the San Francisco network continued to run smooth as ever.

Childs' main foe in this case is Richard Robinson. Robinson is the chief operations officer for the city's department of technology and information services. Needless to say, Childs pegged Robinson as a thoroughbred eejit.

So Robinson used his political clout and huffed and puffed. The jury returned with the verdict. Guilty.

Guilty of what? Denial of service, said Robinson's friends. What service was denied? Something could in theory have gone wrong with the network in the 12 days Childs withheld his passwords from Robinson. Could have - but didn't. Didn't because Childs had put the network together and Childs is an extraordinary admin.

Robinson's friends told the court they spent $900,000 cleaning up the 'mess' Childs had caused - except there was no mess. Did they really spend $900,000? Of course not. But this is what the eejits always do in cases like this: they cook the books. $900,000 to crack a password? To run the main boxes in SUM and set new passwords? Robinson and his friends are totally incompetent so they don't know how to do that anyway.

Childs had no way out. Everything was telling him what to do. And he did do the right thing. The bad guy here - Richard Robinson - wasn't going to let that lie. Career people rarely do - and they don't care a mite whose lives they destroy in the process, as long as they get to keep climbing that ladder to success.

Childs intends to appeal the verdict, but still and all - he's already spent years behind bars. For doing the right thing. And opposing people obsessed with doing the wrong thing for personal gain only. Robinson is persecuting Childs to save face. That's the whole story.

What Admins Say

Paul Venezia reports on a leak to Slashdot from one of the jurors.

'This case should have never come to be. Management in the city's IT organisation was terrible. There were no adopted security policies or procedures in place. This was a situation that management allowed to develop until it came to this unfortunate point. They did everything wrong that they possibly could have to create this situation.'

Venezia picks up the ball.

'Shouldn't the letter of the law be applied to other 'denial of service' problems caused by the city while they pursued this case? In particular, the person or persons who released hundreds passwords in public court filings in 2008 be tried for causing a denial of service for the city's widespread VPN services? After all, once the story broke that a large list of usernames and passwords had been released to the public, the city had to take down its VPN services for days while they reset every password and communicated those changes to the users. And the kicker is that the VPN password debacle had immediate and widespread negative effects on the users and clearly caused a service outage, while Childs' actions did not effect users in any way.'

The difference of course is that Childs wasn't 'connected', wasn't political, and Robinson, at the head of the notorious city IT organisation described by a juror as 'terrible', was.

'If the letter of the law is what convicted Terry Childs, then the law is simply wrong', concludes Venezia.

Penguin Pete writes:

'I'm now more convinced than ever that Childs found himself on the dirty end of some office politics, with somebody who had a personal beef against him.'

Matthew Smith fells the following at Slashdot.

'Apparently the city of SF is having a wee bit of a problem understanding exactly what a network admin does. I read TFA, the guy sounds sane.'

Mitch Trachtenberg comments after.

'Not only does the guy sound sane, it sounds as though he's got grounds to sue the folks who are trying to prosecute him. TFA suggests these incompetents were upset to find (1) a modem that had been in the admin's office since before he started working there, and (2) a modem set up to page him on any problems, and (3) a modem set up to handle emergencies. Obviously, this was not handled well by either side, but I'm inclined to believe the guy in jail over the clearly incompetent managers.'

But juries don't have any IT competence either. And that's why the evil people almost always win.

See Also
InfoWorld/Paul Venezia: Rough justice for Terry Childs
Penguin Pete: After Seven Months, the Terry Childs Witchhunt Drags On
PCWorld/Richi Jennings: Jailed SF Network Admin Terry Childs Speaks Out
PCWorld/Robert McMillan: Admin Who Kept SF Network Passwords Found Guilty

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