Blown To Bits

The Saga of the MIT Students Continues

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

The three MIT students are talking a bit more about what they did and did not intend to say at the talk in Las Vegas last Sunday, before it was blocked by a judge’s temporary restraining order. The Globe and the Tech both have informative stories. The slides of the talk itself were distributed to registrants at the conference before the students and MIT had been sued. They are worth perusing (pdf here). You don’t need to parse the cryptography slides to be interested in the photographs of physical insecurities: unlocked doors, unattended equipment, etc.

Yesterday’s Herald story is also well-informed. And the comments seem to be running about 4:1 against the MBTA. Of course, the MBTA is a favorite whipping boy in the Boston area. This is the same organization that earlier in the summer went after Legal Seafoods, the great seafood restaurant chain, for some ads that teasingly compared MBTA conductors to halibut.

Media Nation has the right take on this. “Charles Evans Hughes forgot something when he wrote the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark¬†Near v. Minnesota decision in 1931.¬†The chief justice listed national security, obscenity and the imminent threat of violence as essentially the only three reasons that the courts could ever step in and order someone not to exercise his right to free speech. What he left out: information that could result in the MBTA’s losing some fare money. What a bonehead, eh?” The Media Nation post goes on to note that the judge who issued the TRO has a history of offenses to the First Amendment.

Discussions of security problems at places like DEFCON enhance security. Let’s suppose the T had answered their phone when the students first tried to contact them and the whole thing had gone no farther than that. Then the T would have had the benefit of what those three undergraduates had learned. With a discussion at the conference, they would have had the ideas debugged by many far more experienced security experts too. Openness is the way to the truth; stifling free speech makes matters worse, not better.

Last month, Governor Patrick was being discussed as a possible Supreme Court nominee under an Obama administration. He knows about this case; supposedly he weighed in on it. The MBTA reports to him. He supposedly cares about education, and constitutional liberties. Get going, Mr. Governor. Tell Daniel Grabauskas, the T head, to drop the suit. And to stop complaining about fish jokes, too, and get his organization focused on locking its doors, at least!

One Response to “The Saga of the MIT Students Continues”

  1. Blown to Bits » Blog Archive » The MBTA Goes High-Tech Says:

    […] the security ¬†deficiencies of the T’s fare card system. (See my previous blog posts here, here, and here.) Last week,the T finally admitted that the students were right: the security of the fare […]