Chapter 1-2
Hacker Crackdown

Go to Table of Contents

Like the crash in the telephone system, this chain reaction
was ready and waiting to happen.  During the 1980s,
the American legal system was extensively patched
to deal with the novel issues of computer crime.
There was, for instance, the Electronic Communications
Privacy Act of 1986  (eloquently described as "a stinking mess"
by a prominent law enforcement official).  And there was the
draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, passed unanimously
by the United States Senate, which later would reveal
a large number of flaws.  Extensive, well-meant efforts
had been made to keep the legal system up to date.
But in the day-to-day grind of the real world,
even the most elegant software tends to crumble
and suddenly reveal its hidden bugs.

Like the advancing telephone system, the American legal system
was certainly not ruined by its temporary crash; but for those
caught under the weight of the collapsing system, life became
a series of blackouts and anomalies.

In order to understand why these weird events occurred,
both in the world of technology and in the world of law,
it's not enough to understand the merely technical problems.
We will get to those; but first and foremost, we must try
to understand the telephone, and the business of telephones,
and the community of human beings that telephones have created.