By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Here you go, Your Honor

U.S. District Judge George O’Toole yesterday continued the restraining order against three MIT students who had been prevented from telling what they know about security problems with the MBTA’s automated fare system.

Among other things, O’Toole demanded that the students hand over a paper they wrote for class by today at 4 p.m.

Well, I don’t know if this will expedite matters, but here’s the slideshow (PDF) they were planning to use during their presentation in Las Vegas last weekend. Does that help?

Ridiculous. And good for The Tech for putting it online.

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  1. Steve

    And here is the paper (or at least a 4-page summary) the students were enjoined from delivering at DEFCON. The MBTA put it into evidence in order to get their injunction, so it became a part of the public record. Way to keep it under wraps, MBTA!

  2. Jon Garfunkel

    Wow, the District Court would *never have guessed* that those documents are online!Obviously they know about them. The judge clearly is seeking information that they haven’t divulged yet.Review the court documents if you want to report on this. #10 is the filing from a T official covering the correspondence with Anderson.What’s been worrying the T has been this comment from Anderson in his email (also reported by Yahoo and Wired): “Note that we absolutely are not disclosing everything we found in this report.”

  3. zadig

    When does someone above this judge step in to point out that he must have skipped the part of his constitutional law class where they talked about freedom of speech. Not to mention the class where they talked about prior restraint. Jeez.

  4. Leslie

    MIT students have always been pioneers in McGyvering, even before there was a McGyver. In 1961, the day of really expensive long distance, my boyfriend, a freshman at MIT, (now a distinguished professor at the Wharton School) used to call me in Michigan for free from a pay phone his fellow students had rigged to make free LD calls. Everybody, including his roommate, from Japan, called home all the time via the magic phone. And I consider myself, now and then, an ethical person, but I never hung up on him, even knowing the calls were being stolen. So, you know, business at the same old stand for MIT. And situational ethics at the same old stand for me.However, chronic bleeding heart liberal that I am, I don’t honestly know how I feel about the free speech factor in the present situation. Dan, if I have the plans to your house and combination to the safe where you keep your Red Sox baseball cards collection, including how to enter through a back door and rob you, do you think I should have the right to make that info into a school paper, slide show and online college newspaper article, even if I say that my priority is helping you figure out how to beef up your security system? So, OK, you’re an individual, not a public utility. Would it make a difference if the MIT students wanted to publish directions of how to enter the T offices and rob the safes? Or take money out of the fare box (do they still have them?) on the trolley? Again, of course, with the high-minded goal of encouraging the T to obtain better security.) What’s our limit on what we think of as free speech? Is everybody’s different? Damned if I know. For us liberals to reflexively hide behind the free speech banner is too easy. Leslie

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Leslie: As someone who’s damn near a free-speech absolutist, I have found that standing up for the First Amendment is hard, not easy.The Constitution is clear. You can’t stop speech before the fact except for the very narrow reasons defined in Near v. Minnesota. That doesn’t mean you can’t prosecute them after the fact, although I’m not sure for what.

  6. James

    Aren’t there some fifth amendment issues here? The slides definitely imply some illegal activity (trespassing, forgery, illegally gaining access to a computer network) but stop just short of actually admitting to it, in most cases.Any word on whether the students are being asked to waive their fifth amendment rights, or are being granted immunity, or are just having their rights ignored?

  7. Steve

    james – the slides don’t just imply illegal activity. The slides actually say “THIS IS VERY ILLEGAL! So the following material is for educational use only.”And leslie – if someone found flaws in my home security system, came and told me about the flaws, then published them, I would be taking action to fix the flaws, not taking action against the publication. After all, it’s the act of breaking into my home that’s the crime, not telling someone how to do it.

  8. Adam Gaffin

    The MBTA’s latest filing (copy here) makes some interesting reading, in particular the part where the T argues the students have no First Amendment rights.

  9. mike_b1

    ONe wonders what Messrs. Mahoney and Bodoin think of the MLK-led sit-ins of the 1960s. *tee hee*

  10. James

    steve-The “This is very illegal” slide is a pretty standard disclaimer for DEF CON — generally the speaker says something along the lines of, “Don’t exploit any of the vulnerabilities we’re about to show you, if you do, it’s very illegal.” Basically the same disclaimer as on the “this is how to bypass the electronic lock on a secure government facility” talk. If they’ve got legitimate access to the fare gates they’re bypassing (e.g. if they’ve got a monthly pass) it’s a gray area whether it’s illegal to trick the gate into opening using a fake charlie ticket.Some illegal activity is explicit (assuming putting a forged charlie ticket into a fare vending machine is illegal), but much more is simply implied, and should be protected by fifth amendment rights.

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