Freedom Downtime

Synopsis: Computer hackers are being portrayed as the newest brand of terrorists. This is a story of a hacker named Kevin Mitnick, imprisoned without bail for nearly five years. Freedom Downtime tries to uncover the reasons why the authorities are so scared of Mitnick as well as define what exactly he did. Surprisingly, no real evidence is ever presented by the authorities to back up the sensationalist claims in mass media. But when a Hollywood studio decides to make a movie about Mitnick's life through the eyes of one of his accusers, hackers turn to activism to get their message out. Through interviews with relatives, friends, lawyers, and experts in the computer and civil liberties arena, a picture of a great injustice becomes apparent. A cross-country journey uncovers some realities of the hacker culture as well as the sobering fact that so many technically young adept people are being imprisoned.
121 min

All we can do is try to publicize the facts.

Not what the government is saying,

but the facts.

And not simply parrot or regurgitate...

what the government's saying,

because that's largely bullshit.

lt was the dead of winter.

l don't remember it ever being so cold.

And we were on a mission.

A bunch of us had volunteered

to drive our good friend to his new home...

the Schuylkill Federal Prison

in the middle of Pennsylvania.

He called himself Phiber Optik.

You'd have to look hard to find someone

who didn't think he was brilliant.

Before we left, we had a night of fun...

in the streets of Philadelphia,

in the middle of an ice storm.

Phiber learned by exploring.

He was never too busy to explain...

howthings worked to anyone interested.

l think that's what pissed of

the authorities the most.

They never tried to prove that

Phiber Optik hacked into any computers.

They got him for conspiracy...

for talking on a tapped phone line...

about howto hack certain sites.

There were people who broke into systems...

and f***ed things up,

and they never even got arrested.

The feds didn't care.

They wanted to shut down the teachers,

the people who didn't knowto keep secrets.

There's Bernie S.

He's another guy who loves to explain...

howtechnology works

to anyone who's interested.

He didn't know it, but hell

was just around the corner waiting for him.

We made one last stop

before we dropped Phiber off.

lt was a town called Frackville.

We thought it was funny because

of a hacker newsletter called Phrack.

We thought it'd make a good picture

for the hacker community.

But Bernie had the balls

to get a Frackville cop...

to pose with Phiber.

These guys had no clue

what was going on...

but they quickly got into the spirit.

lt was the last time we laughed that night.

We drove to the prison.

lt felt like it was 20 degrees below zero.

We didn't know

they'd throw him in the hole...

for the entire weekend.

Some kind of prison welcoming ceremony.

And like the gullible idiots we were...

we figured we'd have a chance

to say goodbye.

We didn't.

They grabbed him.

And we had to run out of there

to keep them from taking our camera.

Phiber came home 10 months later, a hero.

Everyone knew

sending someone like that to prison...

was a big mistake.

After it was over, we were pretty sure

it wouldn't happen again.

Were we ever wrong.

Bad boys gone to jail

Bad boys gone to jail

Look at you, boy, you've come of age

and now you're going around

saying you're a bad boy

You say that you'll never go to jail

'Cause you're so bad and you cannot fail

Oh bad boy

Oh rude boy

Oh bad boy

Gots to believe me

Oh bad boy

Here is how you fail

Gots to believe me one time

You went to town just to fool around

You met a girl who was wearing a frown

You going around, boasting, feeling bad

Now you're sitting in jail

don't you feel so sad

This is like the crudest form

of communication l've ever had to do.

l just saw something.

Was that you? Well, we can see your hand.

l doubt you can stick your whole head

through the window

Splotch your face up against the window

We'll know it's the right one,

we can at least zoom in on it.

We'll know it's the right one,

we can at least zoom in on it.

Kevin Mitnick, the world's most dangerous

computer hacker.

My regret about Cyberpunk

is talking about Kevin...

and how he was always eating

and how he was overweight.

People have really gotten on my case

about that.

Some guy came up to me

at anAustin book thing and said:

''Why did you go on and on

about Kevin's weight?''

And he was right.

l did that to the point

where it just wasn't tasteful.

Where it was sort of...

just beating an issue

that didn't need to be beaten.

For a period

after he was arrested, incarcerated...

and released into a halfway house...

l couldn't find a single article...

that talked about him

without mentioning his weight.

And the real fascination with Kevin's body...

and its relationship to technology..

is one of the things

that absolutely hooked me.

l found a number of articles in Time,

Newsweek, and the New York Times...

written by people like Markoff

and Joshua Quittner and so on.

And they would say

Kevin was in a halfway house...

where he no longer touched a computer,

and lost 100 pounds.

As if those two things were connected.

put his picture on the front page...

morphed or superimposed

with the image of Darth Vader.

And l thought this is

a remarkable combination of two things...

and it's really picking up on the idea

of the Dark Side hacker.

lf ever there was someone

who fit that description, it was Kevin.

The mention of his name was enough

to incur the wrath of the authorities.

Over the years, his reputation grew

and so did the falsehoods.

ln numerous articles, Kevin was said to have

broken into NORAD...

harassed actress Kristy McNichol...

and turned his friends'

home phones into payphones.

His beginning was on ham radio.

And on ham radio,

it's a close-knit community.

A couple of dozen people at the most

on a particular repeater or channel.

And, you know,

they would get into challenges.

And, of course,

Mitnick would be the underdog.

''Let's challenge him, let's do this and that.''

When he met their challenges,

they'd start crying and screaming...

as if they were innocentvictims of Kevin's.

This has been the case throughout.

And then people

would start unfairly using...

other contacts that they had.

ln one case there was a lieutenant

or commander in the LAPD....

One ham radio operator

who was a friend of his...

got him to write a letter saying Kevin

was interfering with LAPD communications.

And all sorts of crazy things in his past.

Cyberpunk was published in 1991...

Cyberpunk was published in 1991...

by Katie Hafner

and then-husband John Markof...

and relied almost entirely

on the words of people...

who Kevin had had a falling out with...

as well as those who didn't know him at all.

Hafner and Markoff never talked to Kevin,

because he wanted to be paid for his time.

But it didn't take much to dispel the rumors.

NORAD denied any break-ins...

Kristy McNichol had no idea

she was being harassed...

and no evidence ever surfaced

of any payphone conversions.

But none of this ever got printed.

Kevin's name was enough to convict him,

regardless of the actual evidence.

And then there was Security Pacific.

After being hired,

Kevin had once again been terminated...

because of the stories that followed him.

And this resulted in

yet another Mitnick myth being born.

There was a Newswire article coming out

that stated...

that Security Pacific

had lost billions of dollars or something...

in bad loans...

which would have affected their stock price.

That was actually tracked down

to some error...

that someone made

in entering the information.

lt had nothing to do with it not being true...

but it was an error that someone made

in entering the information.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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