Monday, January 3, 2011

Byron Sonne is Still in Prison

I sent the following as a letter to my federal member of parliament, David McGuinty. I suspect it would be useful for others to send similar letters to their MP if this issue disturbs them as well.

Mr McGuinty, MP for my riding of Ottawa South,

I wanted to make sure you are aware of a citizen from the security/hacker community I am part of that is still in prison from before the G20 summit.

There is an audio story about the issue:

"The strange, suppressed story of Byron Sonne, the G-20 security hacker who has been held, unconvicted, for 6 months and counting. An interview with technology journalist Jesse Hirsh."

I find this very disturbing. There is a media ban on talking about the issue, with this being a case of a security person investigating the security measures being set up for the G20. In our community, security research and transparency are assumed good things and not something that should ever be considered harmful. While I am more aware of what I consider to be counter-productive laws given my policy work, most in the community are entirely unaware. From everything I have heard so far this isn't even a very political person.

As the Liberals question the violations of civil liberties that were part of the G-20 summit, please ensure that this issue comes up as well.

Russell McOrmond
<full contact information removed, but part of letter. Make sure you always include your address with postal code in letters to your MP. >

Separate thought: It is interesting how TVO has been acting as public television, with various TVO journalists bringing forward stories from the perspective of the general public. As I watch CBC reporting it is increasingly hard to differentiate from CTV. This is something that will inevitably come up during debates about CBC funding/etc.


Dannie said...

Byron is in jail not because he was investigating the security preparations of the G20.

He purchased TATP explosive ingredients off the internet and tipped off the police that he was planning on disrupting the G20 using the explosive ingredients he purchased.

Did you know he also planted fake bombs in his High School and was on probation for that?

This is like the Columbine Kids, Dylan and Klebold, had they survived, buying fertilizer bombs if Columbine was hosting the G20 15 years later. And then bragging to police about it.

So no, he is not being held without a trial. One is coming up very soon. He was denied bail because he was deemed a public menace. And look at his legal team. No one of any caliber is stepping forward to defend him. Its a bunch of pro-bono clowns who know they are going to lose but will reap huge rewards in publicity so leftist organizations will hire them later.

Byron Sonne is right where he deserves to be.

Russell McOrmond said...


We've never met, and until this comment I've never even heard of you that I am aware of. So you should understand if I am sceptical of what you wrote, almost as much as I would an anonymous comment.

What is your source for what you posted? Were you in the court listening to the reasons for denying bail? Are you a member of some of the same computer clubs/etc that Byron was? Do you know him personally?

All I know about Byron is what two Jesse's have told me: one of which I know in person (have stayed overnight at his parents place/etc) and the other whose radio/podcast shows I've been following for a while now. If they confirmed for me what you wrote then I'd change my opinion of Byron's situation, but at the moment I have nothing new to go on.

Digimer said...

Oh look, it's Danstrator again. Byron must of really pissed you off at some point in time, eh? For the record, "Dannie" has no inside knowledge of Byron's case and is, if I may be colloquial for a moment, "talking out of his ass".


Thank you for this post. It is worth stating that the publication ban was requested by Byron's lawyers to prevent the unsubstantiated claims of the crown from being made public.

The next phase of the trial will be where the crown will finally have to start backing up their claims with facts, something we know they cannot do.

Byron's actions and intentions prior to the G20 were totally transparent and public. As anyone with any exposure to security research will know, being public is the litmus test for an ethical security researcher. The problem is, I believe, the government has not interest in viewing Byron's case objectively.


Russell McOrmond said...


Thanks for the note. One quick thought. Whenever I hear the phrase "the government" being used to talk as if this were a unified entity that can as a unit think thing, I cringe.

This is partly why I wanted to draw the attention of my MP to this issue. He has met me numerous times in his parliamentary and riding office over the years, so has a good idea of where I'm coming from. He has also witnessed my transformation from being far more of a technical geek when we first met in 2004 to being much more of a policy wonk now (living in the Digital Copyright bubble does nasty things to ones head :-).

I guess I feel that if I took a mildly different political direction a little over a decade ago that it could easily be me in prison for doing what I thought was right.

The same of Jesse Hirsh who is now trusted by some big media and political names, but I think of as a longer-time important part of the wider Ontario/Canada hacker culture.

This is from what I've heard so far of the case, so feelings could change if I received new and trustworthy information to suggest this individual is different than what I'm imagining thus far. I'm willing and able to be corrected.

Digimer said...

With regard to "the government", fair enough. :) I know many in politics who are very good people doing their best to make things work right. Frustration can lead to flippant language, which I should guard against.

Thus far, I've been to all of the hearings and plan to be at all future ones. I've also spoken to Jesse Hirsh so I know he is more up to speed on Byron's case than most.

If you are in the Toronto area and ever want to grab a coffee, I would be happy to explain what I can. In person, talking about the details of the case is ok under the publication ban. You would not be able to write about it, but I think it would go a fair ways in helping you understand the overall issues, which I believe you can talk about.

Cheers, and thank you again for taking an interest in Byron's case.

Dannie said...

Look its Digimer, the unshaved leftist agitator hippie. Go put on some makeup you sow.

Get ready to retract your support. The facts I wrote earlier are open source and published in your Canadian newspapers.

He acquired TATP and bragged about it:

Voted Most Likely to Become International Terrorist after planting a fake bomb in high school:

Besides, ask yourself what is most likely:
Your Canadian government snatches up citizens and holds them for no reason?
Your Canadian government denied bail to someone they think is a dangerous menace to society.

Most likely the latter.

Digimer and the rest of the Hacklab crowd is going to be eating lots of crow when he gets convicted.

Oh, but they can always blame the shoddy lawyering.

Russell McOrmond said...


The two articles you offered links to may be good examples of why the defense desired a temporary publication ban, but they don't offer evidence of wrongdoing.

You also asked the "which is more likely" question of the wrong person. I don't believe there is anything that can be said about "Your Canadian government" that makes sense, as it is not a unified thing. That said, I have over the years come in contact with many non-technical people who are fearful of the hacker ethic. This ranges from misunderstandings from colleges when I have been working within government myself, to people who assume anyone who thinks outside the box should be put in a box.

In other words, holding a citizen for no reason I would consider valid is just as likely as this person being dangerous.

In my "copyright" policy work I have met many public servants, bureaucrats and policy makers suggesting that the "only" reason one would want to circumvent a technical measure is to violate copyright. I am involved in order to protect the rights of technology owners to unlock their own information technology, and am concerned with the circumvention of the traditional contours of many other laws that comes from incorrectly regulating digital locks.

The first article written about my participation in this area of policy had the headline "Anti-Copyright Crusader" which demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the entire interview and article by the headline writer. The journalist better understood, but the editors changed the meaning of the article in numerous ways.

It takes a while to explain to non-technical people these critical issues. I've been at it heavily for almost 10 years now, and I still get falsely accused of being anti-copyright for being pro-IT property rights.

While this is a conversation about what is locked and who holds the keys (hint: it is not the owner), if I was talking about a different type of misunderstood security I could be in the same position Byron appears to be in.

I am looking forward to hearing more information on the case, and not repeats of likely misunderstandings by bureaucrats/lawyers/prosecutors, media or the less technically aware public.