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FBI Illegally Tapped Phone Phreaks In 1969 296

Posted by kdawson
from the nothing-new-under-the-sun dept.
xmedar writes "In his talks about the history of Apple, Woz has often recounted how the 1971 Esquire article 'Secrets of the Little Blue Box' set him on the road to phone phreaking. Now someone has obtained the FBI file of one of the phreaks, Joe Engressia (who later changed his name to Joybubbles), via Freedom of Information requests. The file reveals that Engressia was illegally wiretapped by the FBI and the phone company back in 1969. J. Edgar Hoover considered the blind college student a national security risk and wrote a memo about him to John Ehrlichman."
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FBI Illegally Tapped Phone Phreaks In 1969

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  • by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Monday June 30, 2008 @10:37PM (#24011387)
    It's sad, this guy had an I.Q. of 170 and it sounds from the article like his extreme potential was completely ruined by sexual abuse.

    To me, treating this guy like he's some hacker god is borderline mockery. He had a right to live his life unmolested, and he lost that. And instead of helping him, the government spied on him.

    When I look at my old collection of hacker books, I can still feel much of the pain that I felt as a child (never as extreme as sexual abuse) and I feel disgusted that Hollywood tried to make me feel like a genius because I was different and quirky and creative. In fact, if anything, my emotional pain put me at risk of not being able to use my potential at all.
  • Re:That's ok (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jgardner100 (559892) on Monday June 30, 2008 @10:48PM (#24011453) Homepage
    I still love Rutger Hauer's quote in Blade Runner "Aren't you supposed to be the good guy?" It applies more and more to the behaviour of Western Governments these days. (Yes I know a lot of the other's are misbehaving, but that doesn't mean they should become the norm that we strive for.)
  • by smchris (464899) on Monday June 30, 2008 @11:06PM (#24011601)

    Met him once. When I mentioned he made the NYT list of interesting obits for the year at a Mensa gathering in January I was surprised to discover that several people maintained contact with him and were very fond of him. There are worse ways to make friends than start the Church of the Eternal Child. He wasn't unloved.

  • by Alibaba10100 (1296289) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:20AM (#24012061) Journal
    I can't decide whether things are better or worse now. Back then, the FBI put wiretaps on whoever they damn well pleased without any legal justification. There was no public debate on whether warrantless wiretapping should be allowed. Law enforcement acted with impunity, but technological limitations kept the number of wiretaps small. Now, those technological limitations have evaporated. Wiretapping requires much less manpower. Law enforcement agencies would like to be able to wiretap anyone they want without a warrant, and they want to do it legally. If we pretend that no illegal wiretaps are placed, I wonder if its better to have a broad wiretapping program in public view or to have a small scale wiretapping operation with absolutely no public oversight.
  • by BcNexus (826974) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:24AM (#24012081)
    Joybubbles was a frequent contributor to the Pioneer Press feature "Bulletin Board." His entries to this print-based forum were fun and insightful.

    He lived the last 19 years of his life as a five year old. Crazy as that sounds, it seems like a nice way to live: free-spirited and fun loving.

    I had no idea he was a phreaker. Small world, eh? Especially with Bruce Schneier living in the Twin Cities too!
  • 8038's? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ScottFree2600 (929714) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:27AM (#24012103)
    He was! Are you sure that it wasn't intersil 8038's? I'm familiar with that design. What area did you live in at that time? We may know a lot of the same people. :)
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:59AM (#24012251)

    Also true to a point.

    I usually point the blame at the media. Basically what I call the "cult of the loser" that's running rampart.

    The examples are manifold. Let's start with afternoon talk shows. What do you get to see? Some washouts who sit there, telling you that they've been unemployed for years, living off wellfare and that it's all a great party. Message: Being unemployed and mooching off society isn't something to be ashamed of, it makes you a TV star.

    Then we switch over to court TV. Here again, petty cases that are little more than neighborhood bickering. Message: Be a jerk and sue without any reason, and you are a celebrity.

    We switch over to early evening shows and watch The Simpsons (as much as I love them, they broadcast the same message). A total and complete loser in a dead end job experiencing the most interesting adventures, simply by being a loudmouth and constant nuisance, his son being an elementary school soon-to-be-dropout and quite "successful" with his peers while Lisa, the brain in the family, usually gets the short end of the stick. Message: Be dumb and loud and you're successful in life.

    Works just as well for everything else, from King of Queens to Home Improvement.

    And finally the day culminates in American Idol, the show where it is carried to the extreme. Be loud, be a complete washout, have the intelligence of a doorknob and be a freak, as long as you can look cute and sing halfway decently (the latter is optional), you can become a huge teenage hero!

    Do you need anything more?

    People believe what they see on TV. They idolize the people they see there and they learn from them. Especially when it's "real" people (like in the first mentioned afternoon "reality" shows). They may not be heros, but they show you that it's ok to be a slob, that it's no shame to mooch off the rest of the country, that it's acceptable to be a nuisance to everyone around.

    And far too often the message that sticks is: Why not be an annoying, mooching slob yourself, "everyone" does it.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:26AM (#24012405) Journal
    a) get a group of people who regularly go through the laws and remove the crap.
    b) have most of your laws expire after a certain time unless manually renewed - the lifespan is linked to how many legislators required to pass that sort of law.
    c) all of the above.
  • by evil_aar0n (1001515) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:22AM (#24013021)

    I suggested, quite a while ago, as a topic of an "Ask Slashdot," whether a "Slashdot Party" would make sense. I got a form letter politely rejecting the idea. (Hey editors, kindly see "figure one...")

    Not that we can agree on whether the sky is blue - or, given our proclivities, to what degree - I still think it would be a great idea. Nerds need representation, too, and neither the Repugs nor the Dems are up to the job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:59AM (#24013193)

    This doesn't solve the basic problem, they system it self is flawed.

    We have people deciding for us still, its NOT democracy, its a serial dictatorship, because once this idiots ARE in office we have no way to hold them accountable.

    We have 70 year old men who are out of touch with reality voting for private interests based on what lobby group bought them more fancy lunches, And despite your good intentions you'll either end up as one of them, or a target of nothing but ridicule.

    Look at the previous generations, we got woodstock, hippies, sit in's, they all thought their government was fucked too, now they've grown up and turned into exactly what they hated, because thats the way the system is set up.

    Important issues are being passed by a few hundred old men with no input from "we the people" We're even seeing APPOINTED officals conducting international agreements that will bypass even the limited representation we do have.

    435 people. Thats the size of The House of Representatives. 435 people to represent over three hundred million citizens, We can get more than 435 people here on /. to agree that a new law sucks more balls than a 2 dollar hooker ffs.

    Don't work from within the system, the system is broken and shouldn't be encouraged, the system needs replacement.

  • by Admiral Ag (829695) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @04:56AM (#24013395)

    You won't be pleased to know that Hunter had such a low opinion of today's politicians that he said were Nixon running against them, he'd vote for Nixon.

    Hell, I'd vote for Nixon over any of the current crop. Nixon actually had an environmental policy, for example.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:04AM (#24016081) Homepage Journal

    J Edgar Hoover came into his own during the Roosevelt Administration and ultimately formed such a powerful force that he became almost a branch of government in his own right. He was universally reviled by every administration over the years from Kennedy to Johnson although they ultimately allowed him to continue.

    Now Nixon was mad enough to at least contemplate removing Hoover from FBI, but he ultimately let him stay on because he, as previous administrations though, that Hoover had the goods on him. As it turned out, this decision ultimately lead the number 2 at FBI to go Deep Throat and this ultimately did bring down the Hixon government.

    So clearly, the FBI had become a national problem.

    In the wake of watergate, a bunch of liberals stormed the national elections, and although they did a lot of stupid stuff, they did form an unusual coalition with libertarians and enacted a number of laws designed to prevent the likes of Hoover from happening again. It is these laws that were torn down during the foolish "we're tougher on terror than the other guy" legislative race between Democrats and Republicans and lead directly to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

    The most important point to make is, just because your party has absolute control of government, does not put that government in the right when it abuses civil rights. You can't let yourself be sullied into believing that the targets of immoral arrests and searches are in fact, anything more than political targets. If the police have the evidence, they can cough it up, and have a trial, for any citizen of the United States who is supposedly accused.

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