January 22, 2004

I’VE GOTTEN A BUNCH OF EMAILS asking what I think about this scandal:

Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight — and with what tactics.

I don’t know. This may or may not be illegal — I wouldn’t be surprised either way — but it’s certainly cheesy. “Gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s mail,” and all that. But nobody ever mistook these guys for “gentlemen.” Certainly no hacking skills seem to be involved:

A technician hired by the new judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, apparently made a mistake that allowed anyone to access newly created accounts on a Judiciary Committee server shared by both parties — even though the accounts were supposed to restrict access only to those with the right password.

We’ll probably hear more about this — although, on the other hand, it’s so embarrassing for everyone concerned that maybe we won’t.

UPDATE: Reader Rick Giovanelli thinks this is mostly an embarrassment for the Republicans:

A fat lot of good it did them. Hard to believe they could have had LESS success had they not been snooping.

Good point.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Allen S. Thorpe emails with a contrary view:

If I were Leahy, I wouldn’t make a big deal about this. It will only make him look like a doofus.

Is there a Latin term for “Beware of the Techie,” say, Cave Geekem?

I don’t think the Romans had geeks.

UPDATE: Reader John P. Wilson says I’m wrong:

Please, the whole Republic and Empire was crawling with civil and weapon engineers, the original geeks. The Greeks too. Heron, Philon, Frotinus, and Vitruvius, weren’t they all geeks? Can’t you just see them arguing over where the best cement can be found, what makes the ideal aggregate, optimal draw weights by limb cross-section on bows?

It’s easy to believe that the Romans had plenty of nerds. But geeks? I’m not so sure.

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