A wry rebuttal to Nuts, Nuns and Nukes



Franklin M. Siler is an interesting lawyer and a blogger, particularly on matters of technology. He holds degrees in computer science, accounting, and law, and he spent more than a decade as an IT consultant working with British Telecom among others. I don’t doubt that he knows a lot about security issues. He practices law in Kansas.

Frank wrote me with his humorous take on Nuts, Nuns and Nukes. With Frank’s permission, I reprint a portion of his correspondence next.

Frank writes:

I have to say . . . I’m perplexed at your post. Though I regularly work with clients who have less than a full deck, I found this almost farcical. I’ll write my response as a security consultant, since that is my alter ego.

. . .

The fact that the guardians of the henhouse are so incompetent hardly seems like a reason to punish those who were trivially able to defeat the security measures in place.

“Deadly force is authorized,” signs there read. “Halt!” Images of skulls emphasize the lethal danger.

I don’t see how this has any more legal meaning than a dump truck that has a sign on the back proclaiming “not responsible for broken windshields”. It might be foolish to follow such a truck, just as it is foolish to walk past such a sign- but I don’t see how that can be interpreted as an aggravation on the trespassers’ part. It’s simply that the Keystone Kop guardians failed to use any of the measures they warn about.

. . .

There are people who make a ton of money doing what these people did for free. It’s called “penetration testing”, or “pentesting” for short. As a taxpayer, I’m dumbfounded but unsurprised that granny and her miscreant accomplices were able to do this. I’m equally unsurprised that the government took more than two weeks to explain to itself what happened.

What DOES surprise me is that you seem to characterize this mishandling on the government’s part as some kind of test for whether national security was compromised. There’s no indication that they got close to destroying any material equipment, disrupted our military stance, or even necessarily slowed down the services. Their intents and acts certainly fall in to the “symbolic” rather than “substantive” when it comes to damage to national defense.

The government should be embarrassed by this case. Instead of admitting ineptitude and fixing what may or may not be substantive security problems, it reached out and threatened minor vandals with a 20-year sentence. It’s blaming the wrong people for the problem.

. . .

I totally agree they’re nuts. I totally agree that some time in custody is warranted. I just can’t agree that they tried to “sabotage” anything.

. . .

 Now, back to my copy of DSM-5 to see what’s wrong with my latest batch of “interesting” clients.

I responded to Frank’s concluding remarks about the DSM-5 (the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)). I wrote: “Don’t spend too much time with the DSM-5. I did that once. I now see, hear and smell Dinosaurs. Haldol doesn’t help unless I chase it with a jigger of gin.”


17 responses

  1. It’s a pretty amazing case in that for how high security so many other government places seem to be, a nun and some friends were able to do as much as they could. Definitely an interesting case at least. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and Frank’s rebuttal on it.

  2. What are the standards for psychiatric opinions from bloggers? Can mental illness really be diagnosed from departure from the conventional world view of most lawyers? Am I being self righteous? This has become very confusing. Like trying to teach impossible attemps and Lady Eldon’s lace. Maybe she was nuts, she was married to a judge.

  3. Frank is correct. If one is a really smart IT/computer guy that whole Rule of Law thing is just so out-of-date.

    Get with it America! The President can do whatever he wants. He decides what the law is. We now ALL decide what the law is and if we don’t like the law, so what?

  4. Are we a nation of laws, or men? When Presidents and judges can defy the law with impunity, it must be the latter.

    What would Chief Justice Marshall say?

  5. Many years ago my cousins son was at a Boy Scout jamboree near the CIA headquarters near Langley VA. One night he and two of his friends managed to get to the center of the CIA compound before they were caught. There was no prosecution because the government realized they would have demonstrated to the entire world that the CIA was run by bozos.

  6. Frank’s response is a model of common sense reaction and analysis. The perpetrator’s are moon-batty zealots who need to grow up in their old age, and the government, out of embarrassment acts like a paranoid bully. Put the moonbats’ asses in jail for awhile to make a point and let them play out their martyr games for their miniscule followers, and tighten up the asses in the security force at the facility in question so it doesn’t happen again.

  7. Doesn’t the act of breaking into any military facility, much less a nuclear one, “obstruct the national defense”? Splashing blood around and parading through a building containing “enriched uranium” is presumably also rather obstructive to the national defense, wouldn’t you think? I’m not a militarist or a “law-and-order” type, but laws are laws, and sometimes you’ve just gotta respect them.

  8. I guess I should clarify my reasoning here. I know that what these people did had very little actual impact, but their conduct is deliberately not conducive to the “national defense.” By entering a facility used for military purposes, an act that could have possibly gotten them shot by a guard, weren’t they demonstrating their intent to be obstructive?

  9. So you charge them with a more appropriate offense, like 18 U.S.C.A. § 1382 (basically trespass) or 18 U.S.C.A. § 2152 (ditto). Or the original trespassing charge of 42 U.S.C.A. § 2278a(c).

    The punishment range is lower than what they were actually convicted of–and the 20 year range is excessive for what they did.

  10. I’d say in this case that even if they were trying to “obstruct” this particular facility, it wouldn’t fulfill the language of 18 USC 2155. The reason is that the facility’s relationship to the military, and to military readiness, is too tenuous.

    I’m guessing that I’d be in a minority with that logic, but that’s okay with me.

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