Here’s the headline: Innocent Man Accused Of Child Pornography After Neighbor Pirates His WiFi.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lying on his family room floor with assault weapons trained on him, shouts of “pedophile!” and “pornographer!” stinging like his fresh cuts and bruises, the Buffalo homeowner didn’t need long to figure out the reason for the early morning wake-up call from a swarm of federal agents.
That new wireless router. He’d gotten fed up trying to set a password. Someone must have used his Internet connection, he thought.
“We know who you are! You downloaded thousands of images at 11:30 last night,” the man’s lawyer, Barry Covert, recounted the agents saying. They referred to a screen name, “Doldrum.”
“No, I didn’t,” he insisted. “Somebody else could have but I didn’t do anything like that.”
“You’re a creep … just admit it,” they said.
Law enforcement officials say the case is a cautionary tale.
You’re damn right it is! It’s a cautionary tale that the Buffalo SWAT team is dangerous and out of control, going in armed for an Al Qaeda stronghold and terrorizing law-abiding citizens.
Law enforcement officials say the case is a cautionary tale. Their advice: Password-protect your wireless router.
Plenty of others would agree. The Sarasota, Fla. man, for example, who got a similar visit from the FBI last year after someone on a boat docked in a marina outside his building used a potato chip can as an antenna to boost his wireless signal and download an astounding 10 million images of child porn, or the North Syracuse, N.Y., man who in December 2009 opened his door to police who’d been following an electronic trail of illegal videos and images. The man’s neighbor pleaded guilty April 12.
No, no, no, the lesson here is not that unlocked Wi-Fi is dangerous. The danger from unlocked Wi-Fi is minimal. How many cases can you think of where someone has used unlocked Wi-Fi for wrongdoing? I can think of two in the nine years or so that it’s been available. That’s about the same as none at all, given how many unsecured Wi-Fi access points are out there.
Whereas, as the AP notes, we’ve had numerous cases of militant Rambo-wannabes with badges terrorizing innocent citizens.
I can certainly think of some lessons we might draw. One might be: Maybe the cops should check to see if a suspect’s wireless network is secure, and therefore that they have the right guy, before they break into his home and point their guns at his head.
Another lesson: Maybe it’s not such a good idea to send the SWAT team after someone suspected of downloading—not even manufacturing—child porn in the first place. Are people who download kiddie porn known to be heavily armed?
The New Orleans police department is so corrupt that the federal government has taken over. “The New Statesman’s report on NOLA’s version of justice sounds like something out of Baghdad or a Mexican border town or a wild west novel about corrupt frontier towns,” writes Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing. Incidents include a case where a 31-year-old African-American man was shot by a police sniper while picking up goods behind a shopping mall during Katrina.
He was taken by his brother, a friend and a passer-by to a nearby school that police were using as a special operations centre. There a Swat team let Glover bleed to death and beat his rescuers. Another policeman took the body in the rescuer’s car to the levee and torched it, putting two shots into the body (he later called that ‘a very bad decision’). The incinerated car with Glover’s remains inside it lay a block from the police station for weeks.
The New Statesman article adds:
That the police force in New Orleans is “a significant threat to the safety of the public”, as the DoJ says, is obvious. But the same problems can be seen all over the South, from Miami to Mississippi to Alabama; and the same nationwide, according to Paul Craig Roberts, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal and former assistant secretary to the treasury under Ronald Reagan, who wrote recently: “Police in the US now rival criminals, and exceed terrorists as the greatest threat to the American public.”