Archive for April 14th, 2010
MagicJack is a USB widget that connects your phone to the world via the internet. It’s gotten mixed reviews. Walter Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal was grudgingly positive. Others, not so much. But WC isn’t writing this about marginally useful voice over internet gadgets; this post is about ignorance. Specifically, criminal ignorance. And not just in criminals.
The FBI found the guy who was making threatening phone calls to Nancy Pelosi. These were the anonymous calls (some four dozen in all) in which the caller threatened to torch Speaker Pelosi’s home if she voted for health care reform. The FBI was able to trace the calls, even though the thug thought the calls were untraceable. It seems the accused, one Gregory Giusti, was using a MagicJack to place the calls, and thought the gadget made the calls untraceable. He was wrong. Even cuter, when the FBI came to visit, he denied making the calls and one of the FBI agents dialed the number on his cell phone, and Giusti answered. Oops. The Amended Criminal Complaint and the Affidavit of Special Agent Bryan Smith are available on-line.
Years ago, WC did some criminal defense work. One case involved a theft of some lumber. The tire tread on the vehicle used for the theft had a slash in it, allowing the cops to follow the tire tracks in the fresh snow directly to the door of my client. The conversation went like this: “Hello, I’m Officer Dave Curwen. I’m investigating the theft of some lumber.” WC”s client: “Yeah, that’s us.” Some folks are too stupid to succeed as criminals.
An incomplete understanding of technology – assuming anonymity because, I suppose, you don’t know how it works – creates additional challenges for would-be criminals. But it’s really a symptom of larger suite of problems, displayed by people ranging from Sarah Palin to many members of the “Tea Party.” It’s a combination of willful ignorance, intellectual laziness and group think. The world is a complicated place. Technology is sophisticated.
The issues facing America are also difficult. Trying to address them with incomplete knowledge can lead to disaster. Refusing to look further than the surface – or embracing leaders who boast of their unwillingness to look deeper – will compound the disasters. The least of which might be the FBI knocking on your door.