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What's the problem here? (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079221)

Clearly, some paper-pusher at the university office freaked that somebody was using The Freedom of Information Act to force them to release information about their underground tunnels... most likely because the feds told universities to call them if anybody makes requests for information about campus infrastructure.

And, let's face it... even though it's perfectly legal to file a Freedom of Information Act request, doing so for topics like this totally out of the blue is certainly suspicious activity.

One thing to point out is that the agents called and said they wanted to speak with the student, but it doesn't appear they ever arrested him. That means he could have told them that he wasn't interested in meeting with them, or he could have walked out of the room at any time. He also could have at any time brought in a lawyer.

The moral of the story is that if you ask for some creepy information, and it's not exactly clear why you asked for it, then the FBI and Secret Service are going to have some questions to ask you, and they'll open a file on it. They won't deprive you of any of your freedoms over that alone... being confronted by men with badges who are looking for you may be a scary thing, but he could have just as well told them to leave him alone and they would have had to. He agreed to meet with them, so that's that.

Re:What's the problem here? (4, Insightful)

Metallic Matty (579124) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079243)

And, let's face it... even though it's perfectly legal to file a Freedom of Information Act request, doing so for topics like this totally out of the blue is certainly suspicious activity.

So basically what your saying is, regardless of what you may actually plan on doing with that information, you should automatically be considered suspicious and investigated? Its like assuming that someone is guilty of being a terrorist until proven otherwise. That's bullshit.

God forbid someone actually USE the freedom of information act!

Re:What's the problem here? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079265)

If you're requesting something unusual (like this) that could very well be used for a terrorist attack, I'd hope the FBI looks into it. They didn't arrest him or charge him, they're just making sure it's all on the up and up.

Re:What's the problem here? (4, Insightful)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079290)

Nobody ever said the student was guilty of anything.

No, you are innocent until proven guilty. There's only one way to prove stuff; investigation. God forbid we declare everyone permanently innocent and unfair to even think they might be guilty. The Catholic Church got it with the Devil's Advocate; he attempts to find any negative information about a beatified person on track to sainthood. That's not BS, that's common sense: humans will be human.

Re:What's the problem here? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079303)

They didn't arrest anyone or deny anyone their freedom or civil rights. They're investigating possible suspicious activity on a campus that has thousands of people on it.

Are you suggesting the proper thing to do is to wait until something bad happens? Or to investigate completely in secret so as not to hurt the feelings of the principal person involved?

Re:What's the problem here? (4, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079305)

Well, it's most likely that they have certain types of information that act as trigger points - you seek those and someone might just take notice.

The point is that they perhaps figure that it is better to be prudent and be careful, rather than let be swept under the Freedom of Information act.

He was just interrogated - if his freedom were taken away, or if he was warned or if something along those lines had happened, I can understand your reaction.

However, he was interrogated because the law enforcement is being careful (and maybe justifiably so), or maybe they are acting on the basis of some kind of information that we do not know about (who knows, they may have received threats or information of such a possibility) and over-reacted because of that.

The truth is, we will never know. I'm not saying that what they did was right, but it was not wrong either. Its just being cautious, and I do not see anything wrong in law enforcement being careful.

Re:What's the problem here? (1, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079317)

Somebody who does something suspicious by definition becomes a suspect. Police investigate suspects and try to get them convicted.

They didn't arrest him, they didn't throw him in jail. They just questioned him... that's what they do when they have a suspect but not enough evidence. He didn't give up any info that let them go forward, but he also didn't convince them that he was on the up and up. Therefore, the FBI and Secret Service don't know if he's a terrorist or not... so all they can do is keep a file.

Re:What's the problem here? (5, Insightful)

Chess_the_cat (653159) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079345)

The government just can't win. I'm not saying this student is a bomber or was planning to shoot up the school but just for argument's sake let's say he was. He gets information on the tunnels and places a bomb in them. The bombs go off and the school blows up. Then the FBI discovers that the student requested information on the tunnels but no one flagged it as unusual. What happens next? All the newspapers are filled with stories about how the FBI are incompetent. I mean look at the inquiry going on now regarding 9/11. Remember Columbine? The sheriff's department there were villified for "not seeing the warning signs." So what kind of solution do you propose? Personally, I don't have a problem with the FBI simply talking to this guy just to clear the situation up before anything happens.

So what you are saying is (4, Insightful)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079396)

People should only be investigated after they are proven guilty?

That's gonna work real well!

Re:What's the problem here? (5, Insightful)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079246)

Request all the knowledge you want, but just be aware that they are watching you.

America, land of the secure (formerly the land of the free).

Re:What's the problem here? (1)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079359)

Would you rather the land of the free to mess with underground tunnels providing infrastructure? I'm sure this student had no evil intent, but the government can't be as sure, and can't hold the liability if he were plotting something.

Re:What's the problem here? (5, Funny)

petabyte (238821) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079392)

Actually, the best quote of that I saw (I believe I saw it as someone's sig here) was:

Welcome to America, Land of the Free*

*Some restrictions apply, void where prohibited.

Re:What's the problem here? (1)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079432)

My network used to be the "network of the free." No root passwords on the linux machines, no passwords on the Windows machine, no firewall to the Internet. It was really cool! And really free! Hell, I almost got the ACLU to sponsor me.

Then the shit hit the fan and we're no longer the network of the free.

How many times does history need to repeat itself?

Re:What's the problem here? (1)

mt v2.7 (772403) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079315)

And remember kids, using the law to achieve something for your own personal gain if your income is under 500,000 a year can be classified as a felony of the highest order.

Re:What's the problem here? (4, Insightful)

Catamaran (106796) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079357)

The question you have to ask yourself is what is the potential for abuse. Suppose that J. Edgar Hoover wants to give you a hard time. You recently checked a book out of the library on midevil catapults (or fertilizer, tide tables, or whatever). He sends agents out to talk to your friends, business associates, employer, etc. to ask about "suspicious activities" and the next thing you know you are friendless and unemployed.

Re:What's the problem here? (1)

tha_mink (518151) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079451)

If J. Edgar Hoover wants to give you a hard time, then you will be given a hard time. It doesn't stand a a reason to not investigate someone who requests plans for underground tunnels or other major infrastructure. They didn't arrest this guy, merely investigated him. Isn't that what we pay them for? The "I" in "FBI" isn't there for "Ice Cream".

Re:What's the problem here? (1)

Moocowsia (589092) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079469)

This is what comes of a society that is so paranoid about their security that they give up their freedoms. This guy didnt do anything illegal, or even near illegal. He shouldn't have a record at all.

US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (3, Insightful)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079222)

The US goverment can not secure our borders, yet they are going after people that file FOIA requests.

Someone please explain to me how in the hell that make sense.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (0, Troll)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079262)

The only government here that tried to secure borders were the Indian nations. As far as they were concerned, we were terrorists and invaders taking their land forcing our ways and our religion upon theirs.

People who file requests for random information may be the bad seed that entered our borders or were bred here (stopping immigration at any point other than our founding years wouldn't have stopped McVeigh). Besides, it makes more sense, logically and economically, to investigate suspicious activity than to investigate everyone.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079325)

Please point out where I even suggested that we stop legal immigration.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (1)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079394)

One, the occupation of America by the colonists and the atrocities committed against the existing occupants were most definitely illegal.

Two, in the phrase "secure our borders." Can you find a system to secure our borders while still allowing "legal immigration"? How do you determine if a particular immigrant is good-intentioned or not? If the immigrant will turn angry and violent after passing checks? How do you investigate every immigrant without running investigations?

Besides, it's xenophobic to assume immigration is more dangerous to our country than self-destruction.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079428)

One way to tell is if they follow the current legal ways to immigrate into this country.

What the colonists did may have been immoral, but it wasn't illegal.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (4, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079329)

Maybe because real threats are likely to come from within rather from outside?

Its almost impossible to enforce complete border regulation, and making it strict only flies in the face of the US policy of being open to immigrants.

Most of the real threats come from people who have entered US through legal means, or are already inside the US. And the reason they questioned this guy is not because he sought some information, its the kind of information that he sought - they merely thought that kind of information could be used for other purposes, and were careful.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079362)

No, it doesn't. The US policy of being open to immigrants applies to those that come to this country legally. I don't know of a time when we allowed unrestriced immigration, hell, even Ellis Island turned away a lot of people.

The people I know that are most upset about illegal immigration are those that have or are in the process of coming to this country legally.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079467)

I should have made myself clearer.

I meant that -

(a) controlling the borders to prevent influx is hard
(b) strict profiling and controlling of legal immigrants is hard and maybe construed wrong

Therefore, the only way to prevent any suspected people of entering the US is to enforce a very strong background checking of people who are already coming in (which already happens, and is not looked upon well by the rest of the world).

He's giving OBL ideas! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079332)

I really wish Mark Miller had not filed the open records request. That may give Osama bin Laden ideas. Because we all know that's how terrorists work. Something like this:

FROM: Osama bin Laden
SUBJECT: Open Records Request
MAIL TO: Mountains of Afghanistan, Cave 23.

During the war on Vietnam, the FBI was used as a way of suppressing dissent. FBI agents would visit the neighbors of non-violent protesters. Often that would be enough to cause suspicion toward the protesters. (He must have done something wrong, otherwise why would the FBI be investigating him.)

He lied. They died.

Re:He's giving OBL ideas! (2, Informative)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079441)

Part 1: straw man. Terrorist-lords like UBL work by hiding in mountains, spreading propaganda, and getting dumb 20-somethings to actually do the attacks.

Part 2: roughly a post hoc. Simply because the FBI was corrupt during that time it does not mean it is still corrupt; investigations are not bad solely because they have been used for bad purposes.

Logical fallacies refuted. Poink. Your overly dramatic post vanishes.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079425)

It's possible to do all that's reasonable and still have some people free for other tasks. Should we pull beat cops and traffic cops off the streets and send them after terrorists? Mugging, rape, burglary, GTA, DWI, gang activity, all those pale compared to terrorism, right? The country's law enforcement agencies are fighting a battle on a huge number of fronts and isn't devoting 100% of its resources to any single one of them.

Re:US Gov. not serious about War on Terror (2, Funny)

baggins2002 (654972) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079446)

It's pretty simple. When filling out an FOIA form you put your name address and phone number. When stealing across the border, you leave a foot print. It is much easier to go after someone that left there name address and phone number.
Maybe we could drop forms and pens in the Arizona desert asking them to fill it out
Maybe we could spread Linux computer terminals powered by solar panels throught out the Southwestern Desert. They could fill out a web form. LINUX PROTECTS OUR BORDERS.

GUESS WHAT (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079229)


First post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079230)


man boobies (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079235)


Re:man boobies (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079350)

Man Boobies! I have man boobies! Do you want to suck?

Sounds fair to me (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079236)

Consider what people would say if a terrorist requested the information for a tunnel system under a school, and the FBI didn't investigate it? It's not like they were tracking this guy's every move. He requested someone rather unusual, and they checked it out as they should.

Re:Sounds fair to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079252)

Have to agree... Mark Miller is under investigation, not in jail. This is appropriate caution.

Re:Sounds fair to me (3, Insightful)

next1 (742094) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079338)

i agree, it's the nature of the request.

the article specifically says that the tunnel network was made secret as a result of 9/11 (along with the surveilance system), so obviously if someone asks for that information it is going to be investigated.

seems fair enough.

A thought... (5, Funny)

brolewis (712511) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079242)

This story may be related to Austin's Anti-Terrorism Force, but they have a saying at UT that may be apropos: You can't spell stupid without UTPD

So WTF? (5, Insightful)

ka55ad (571279) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079245)

So now everytime someone requests info through the FOIA they will be questioned by the FBI or CIA? Is the government trying to discourage this?

Its kinda usless to have a right if you are harassed every time you use it.

Re:So WTF? (1)

daitengu (172781) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079301)

So now everytime someone requests info through the FOIA they will be questioned by the FBI or CIA? Is the government trying to discourage this? Its kinda usless to have a right if you are harassed every time you use it.
Well, the key is to get everyone to start making requests, eventually they'll realize that they can't keep up with all of them, and they'll be overworked. They can't look into every person who does a FOIA request. maybe they'll give up.

Re:So WTF? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079307)

Its kinda usless to have a right if you are harassed every time you use it.

I tend to agree that the US seems to be becoming more and more USless every day. Somewhere, your founding fathers are saying "WTF?" (paraphrased).

Re:So WTF? (4, Funny)

BandwidthHog (257320) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079430)

Yeah, I keep threatening to make up some "What Would Jefferson Do?" bumper stickers, but nobody gets the joke so I haven't bothered.

[answer: ~85 rpm]

This isn't everytime. (4, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079382)

This is one time someone requested information about apparently sensitive information.

It's an abnormal request - a student doesn't have an obvious need for information about the tunnels at his school. If you went and bought 10x the amount of ammonia-based fertilizer that anyone would need, they'd investigate that too. Not because owning a lot of fertilizer is illegal, but because purchasing that amount of fertilizer is a decent sign that you may be about to do something illegal.

I'd much rather have the FBI taking the time to ask some intelligent questions when confronted with suspicious activity than letting universities be blown up.

This is another excuse to hassle average citizens (2, Interesting)

AbraCadaver (312271) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079449)

I have to kinda agree with parent - I wouldn't be surprised if this is being used in some way to the effect of "sure, you can have access to this information, but we're going to screw with you and make a fuss every time you ask for it." The end goal being that your average citizen won't use it for fear of the hassle. Imagine these guys came to your job and started asking your boss questions about your possible terrorists links, because you requsted info on a local clock-tower structure or something (maybe for a private graphics project, etc). This would probably affect how your boss, or the employer as a whole, would look at you, whether you were "Guilty" or not. Soon, the only people who would make such requests would be the "damn-it's-my-right-you-HAVE-to-give-me-that-info" people, who would then probably be considered "activists" (and therefor, risky) by the government, so that the FOIA and the like could presumably be dropped with the explaination of "well, look, the ONLY people who really want this information are troublemakers - we should really lock this stuff down to protect the country from terrorists...".
Anyway, the main point I was trying to make is that there are SO many ways that the kid could have gotten this info, besides doing it the proper way. He could have explored some/most of those areas himself, MIT style, learning how to "access" locks and the like in the process, and no one would have been the wiser. This blanket "we've got to protect people from terrorists" crap is getting to be an excessive excuse for anything the current administration doesn't like. Yes, there are bad people in the world who don't like us, and some are already inside the US, but come ON. And I'm saying this as a member of the US Armed Forces, protecting their right to use this excuse. Go figure.

What'd you expect... (2, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079247)

The Daily Texan asking for the location of security cameras to be published is at least a request that makes logical sense... the student newspaper is of course in the business of making Freedom of Information Act requests on issues that the school would rather keep under wraps.

But, assuming he's not a terrorist, why did this student want to know about the underground tunnels? He clearly isn't going to get authorized access to them. So, what value was that information to him?... that's a point that the article totally neglects. Without this kid being willing to give that explanation, no wonder he's being presumed a terrorist.

If he's got a perfectly legit reason to want to know, then he should tell us. Otherwise, I don't mind him being given extra attention every time he walks by airport security. He should have known that'd happen for making such a request without a clear reason for doing so.

Re:What'd you expect... (1)

Student_Tech (66719) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079313)

Well it mentioned that who wanted to know the size of the system, so it was just curiosity (and right now we all seem to be a bunch of cats...).

GITMO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079324)

That's what I'd expect. Maybe anal rape, too. Seems to be the normal procedure.

It is in the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079331)

A network of underground utility tunnels connects campus buildings to provide water, steam, coaxial tables, compressed air and fiber optics. Miller was curious about the dimensions of the network. He said a physical plant official told him such details were secret "because of 9-11."

Re:What'd you expect... (5, Insightful)

cmdrxizor (776632) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079367)

But then who is it to determine what a legitimate reason is for wanting the information? After all, someone who is researching the tunnels for a civil engineering paper may have a very valid reason, but is everyone going to think that? The Freedom of Information Act is meant to let you have access to this information without necessarily saying what it is or isn't going to be used for... it prevent's the government from arbitrarily saying "you can't know that" in most cases.

Granted, in the post-9/11 world, it has become a lot harder to draw the line between security and the free flow of information, but I believe the policy should still basically be one where the government must show why you *don't* need (non-classified, obviously) information, as opposed to you showing why you should be allowed to have it.

Re:What'd you expect... (4, Informative)

starwed (735423) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079385)

>>But, assuming he's not a terrorist, why did this student want to know about the underground tunnels?
Clearly, you've never been a college student.

Re:What'd you expect... (4, Insightful)

blincoln (592401) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079395)

Have you never just been curious about something?

Maybe I read a little too much of Infiltration [infiltration.org], but I am really interested in underground tunnel systems, abandoned subway lines, etc. If there were any in my area, I would be checking them out too.

If he's got a perfectly legit reason to want to know, then he should tell us.

Papers please, citizen.

Re:What'd you expect... (5, Insightful)

Fuzion (261632) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079398)

Why should the student have to tell you anything? It's his right as an American citizen to make a perfectly legal request under the Freedom Of Information Act, There's no law requiring people to justify their requests, and just because he's not authorized to access them doesn't mean he should be investigated for being curious about their locations.

He does have perfectly legit reason and he's told them (as stated in the article): he was curious about the underground tunnel network, and wanted to know its dimensions.

And, how exactly should he have "known that'd happen for making such a request without a clear reason for doing so."? What next? Someone being investigated for looking up the whitehouse on a map "without a clear reason for doing so"? Why should anyone who doesn't work there, or is planning to visit, look it up on a map? He was simply curious, and made a legitimate request for the information, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Re:What'd you expect... (3, Insightful)

riprjak (158717) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079399)

so you have never wanted to know something just to know it??

you probably arent a geek or a hacker then... By all means, the security services should investigate this... indeed any act that could have a nefarious purpose... but you should NEVER be aware the security services are investigating you until there are sufficient grounds to act.

For all you know, he is a cave clan member or just seeks knowledge for knowledge's sake... but to be subjected to a visible investigation due to a request for information is Draconian at best and definately Fascist; Im just glad Im not an American!


Re:What'd you expect... (0, Flamebait)

j3ll0 (777603) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079409)

What kind of fuckwit are you?

America, land of the free...unless LostCluster doesn't think you should know 'that' particular bit of information. Maybe he wanted to add a question to a trivia game?

Freedom of Information act = perfectly legitimate reason.


Re:What'd you expect... (1)

jwbing (447164) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079427)

I totally agree, he should totally have to justify his reasoning for wanting to know about those steam tunnels. It's not like a physics student could ever want to know how something works. I mean, that is just preposterous.

Obviously, it is up to us to tell him whether his quest for knowledge is valid or not.

Re:What'd you expect... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079444)

Seriously LostCluster, with your type of mentality everyone in the world would be hiding away in fear. You're the type of person that this government wants more of.

Why should he have to give a clear reason? If it cost him nothing, why didn't he have the right to just ring up and find out? What has it come to where you can be put in the FBIs spotlight for doing something as simple as this?

What's UT Watch? (3, Interesting)

Rick Zeman (15628) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079254)

I guess the supposition was that everyone should know what it is, especially when it was mentioned along with the ACLU. I don't, though, but I guess it has something to do with the UT camera system they mentioned?

Re:What's UT Watch? (1)

Zeppelingb (609128) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079343)

Actually, from the context of the article it sounds like a UT activist group. Probably a very liberal group that is outspoken about government corruption or some such thing.

Re:What's UT Watch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079373)

UT Watch is an organization dedicated to keeping watch over the sometimes counter to public higher education actions that the University of Texas is involved in. Check out their site at http://www.utwatch.org/

Perhaps a bunch of pissed off activist former green party trust fund babies.

Creepy (3, Insightful)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079255)

This is downright CREEPY. Since when does it make you suspect to file a request under the FOIA?

This isn't tinfoil hat stuff folks, this is for real.

It doesn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079353)

Only certain requests, like those for information on infrastructure, would get this attention. Kids investigating bridges in the past have triggered the exact same thing. Once they find out why someone wants the information, the matter is generally cleared up.

Terrorists attack... (3, Interesting)

tbjw (760188) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079259)

...University? Anyone else less than convinced by this scenario? Sounds like Americans are so crazy, they'd suspect anyone. Hey I have a bomb... ... and a big hello to my new FBI fans and admirers,
xx ben.

Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079383)

Shortly after 9/11, I and a group of friends were discussing possible soft targets for a terrorist attack. Dorm move-in was just a couple weeks earlier, and to us it made a perfect target:

Tons of new people, including international students, so no one looks out of the ordinary.

Lots of moving vans parked right next to builds.

Chance to kill hundreds or thousands of young students.

Re:Terrorists attack... (1)

mec (14700) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079391)

Ever hear of Theodore Kaczynski? The first two letters of "Unabomer" stand for "University"!

FBI's UNABOM chronology [cnn.com]

I was an undergraduate at Berkeley when someone started leaving backpacks with explosives in the hallways of the EECS department and mailing explosives to computer science professors. That was terrorism, and it happened at a university.

Secret Service ? (2, Funny)

ThomasFlip (669988) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079270)

Doesn't the secret service deal strictly with the president himself ? Could this mean that there is some sort of connection between the President and these tunnels ? Is this standard policy for the secret service to visit domestic terrorist threats ? It seems kind of strange to me.

Re:Secret Service ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079328)

Considering that one of the President's daughters attends the University of Texas I can understand why the SS would consider this something that they should look into.

Re:Secret Service ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079358)

Considering that one of the President's daughters attends the University of Texas I can understand why the SS would consider this something that they should look into.

They go to school? Surprising. Thought they'd be out hitting the bars and doing crack like their father taught them.

I know this guy... (5, Interesting)

Michael Spencer Jr. (39538) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079274)

I know the guy (Mark A Miller) being described in this article. I use IRC mostly as a contact list, and have a channel for users of my unremarkable non-profit server. Mark has been a regular in my small (under 20 people) channel for months. I know this is the same guy as the Mark Miller in this article because the user in my channel talked incessantly about these freedom of information act requests, months ago.

[04/13 00:16] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Ah.
[04/13 00:17] <@Mirell[Mobile]> District Attorney Office. Forgot to go by that.
[04/13 00:17] <@dyfrgi> Why do you want/need to?
[04/13 00:17] <@Mirell[Mobile]> To file a writ of mandumus against UT Austin.
[04/13 00:18] <@Mirell[Mobile]> They are ignoring one of my open records request.
[04/13 00:18] <@Mirell[Mobile]> To find out how much they pay for their Internet service.
[04/13 00:18] <@mspencer> "one of"?
[04/13 00:18] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Okay, several of.
[04/13 00:18] <@Mirell[Mobile]> They initiall complied.
[04/13 00:19] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Now they're ignoring me hoping I'll go away.
[04/13 00:19] <@mspencer> I'm surprised you've filed even one open records request, let alone several.
[04/13 00:19] <@mspencer> What are you using the data for?
[04/13 00:19] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Er?
[04/13 00:19] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Why are you suprised?
[04/13 00:20] <@mspencer> I mean, as long as you're being adult about it, and making sure your need for the data is worth the time they need to put into filling those requests.
[04/13 00:20] <@dyfrgi> Writ of Mandumus?
[04/13 00:20] <@Mirell[Mobile]> mspencer,
[04/13 00:20] <@mspencer> So what are you using the data for?
[04/13 00:20] <@Mirell[Mobile]> To satiate my curiousity.
[04/13 00:21] <@Mirell[Mobile]> I'm not sure if that's how you spell it, dyfrgi.
[04/13 00:21] <@mspencer> Do you think those requests are having any kind of negative effect on the University or its staff?
[04/13 00:21] <@dyfrgi> I'm just wondering what it is.
[04/13 00:22] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Let's see...I requested initially any contracts or invoices detailing the cost the University entails in gaining Internet connectivity.
[04/13 00:22] <@dyfrgi> Mm. I assume you want to file a petition for a writ of madamus.
[04/13 00:22] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Then I filed another one for something they withheld on an invoice.
[04/13 00:22] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Then another one for another thing they left out..
[04/13 00:22] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Then one about the UT Classroom Web Cams they deny knowledge of
[04/13 00:23] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Then one about the UT Information Security Council briefs, since we had the Social Security Number scare.
[04/13 00:24] <@Mirell[Mobile]> And I'm not at all sure what you are trying to say by "Negative Affect" when they have a position who's sole purpose is to manage Open Records Requests.
[04/13 00:25] <@dyfrgi> I think he is implying that you should not ask, because it costs money for them to tell you.
[04/13 00:25] <@mspencer> I was deliberately vague: any effect, emotional or financial or otherwise, that is more significant than the benefit you get from satisfying your curiosity.
[04/13 00:26] <@Mirell[Mobile]> No.
[04/13 00:26] <@mspencer> hopefully there isn't one, but if there is, I'd like to think you considered that.
[04/13 00:26] <@bl0d> i dunno, i'd really be curious about the Webcam one...that's just fucked up...
[04/13 00:26] <@mspencer> Ah, OK then.
[04/13 00:26] <@Mirell[Mobile]> http://www.dailytexanonline.com/main.cfm?include=d etail&storyid=620962
[04/13 00:27] <@Mirell[Mobile]> They pull crap like this as well.
[04/13 00:27] <@Mirell[Mobile]> And this: http://www.dailytexanonline.com/main.cfm?include=d etail&storyid=657367
[04/13 00:27] <@Mirell[Mobile]> As well as this: http://www.dailytexanonline.com/main.cfm?include=d etail&storyid=620963
[04/13 00:27] <@bl0d> nifty little camera that just happens to break...
[04/13 00:28] <@Mirell[Mobile]> mspencer, why.
[04/13 00:29] <@Mirell[Mobile]> Oh yes, and this:
[04/13 00:29] <@Mirell[Mobile]> http://www.dailytexanonline.com/main.cfm?include=d etail&storyid=495720
[04/13 00:29] <@mspencer> Because some people have a certain kind of psychotic or sociopatic defect that causes them to do things just to make others squirm for their own pleasure, without considering the other effects of their actions. I just wanted to make sure I didn't have one of those in my channel.
[04/13 00:29] <@Mirell[Mobile]> There's also been a scandal about UT System abusing their personal planes
[04/13 00:30] <@Mirell[Mobile]> No, it's not because of that.

If you'd like to contact the person referenced in this article, and don't mind using IRC to do it, he goes by nickname "mirell" on the IRC server irc.aniverse.com. (You may have to use port 6661 to connect and/or use the alternate hostname irc-2.aniverse.com.) He's frequently hanging out in my channel, #mspencer, on that server.

Re:I know this guy... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079337)

heh i bet you dont know this guy. just karma whoring. stfu. i'll do the same later if you don't stfu

Re:I know this guy... (3, Funny)

0x12d3 (623370) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079366)

If you'd like to contact the person referenced in this article, and don't mind using IRC to do it
Why should I bother, he's obviously up to something evil [slashdot.org]

Are you in a two party consent state? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079404)

You could be in legal trouble for keeping that log if you are.

Attention (2, Funny)

ztwilight (549428) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079279)

Due to unwarranted disclosure of information of how the FBI has investigated this case, you are ALL under surveillance now, and labeled as potential terrorists until proven by the FBI. Thank you and have a nice day.

Sooooo (2, Funny)

graveyardduckx (735761) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079285)

Where can I file to get blueprints of the tunnels under the MPAA, RIAA, SCO, MS, FBI, CIA, White House, Pentago, NAACP, Disney, AOL, RedHat, and Frito-Lay headquarters? Did I ask for enough to warrant government attention???

Legitimate reasons (5, Interesting)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079288)

I'm an undergrad at Caltech and here at least it's really popular to illegally enter the underground tunnel system for various reasons. There are all sorts of reasons for it -- you can get to classes when it's raining, you can get into buildings that would normally be locked at odd hours to turn in homework, etc. Also, some of our parties and other events have components in the tunnels and there's a bit of a cultural legacy associated with them as well -- people who attend the school are often given midnight tours highlighting various murals and the like. I've heard that this is popular at Carnegie Mellon as well.

Re:Legitimate reasons (2, Interesting)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079352)

I should add that in my lack of any information about the particular circumstances, I'd agree with the decision to question the guy. Questioning is *not* a form of intimidation; as its name implies it's an attempt to get some information. From what I've *ahem* heard from people who've been questioned by various enforcement organizations, questionings aren't overtly hostile or intimidating situations. It does not appear that the intent of the FBI in this case is to discourage use of the FIA, simply to check on what's going on.

Re:Legitimate reasons (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079371)

It's been part of the culture at Tech for 50 years to use the steam tunnels. But I've watched security get ratcheted up over the decades and these days it is a concern. BTW, Scurves rule :)

Re:Legitimate reasons (1)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079435)

I've haven't seen anything concerning about it; as far as I know security is pretty lax about it. On the other hand, I've only been here for a while.

Where's Robert Stack? This is an Unsolved Mystery! (2, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079289)

This case is never going to close. It's going straight to the cold case bin where it's going to sit forever.

The agents were called in to investigate if this kid was a threat based on one suspicious, yet not illegal, thing that he actually did. The key question was of course why he made a request for such sensitive info about tunnels he would never be allowed to access anyway. Well, the only way to answer that question is to ask the kid...

So they requested a meeting. They got the meeting. They asked him about every reason they could brainstorm about why he made the request, and didn't walk out knowing much more than they knew walking in. The question's now more-or-less impossible to answer.

And that's the end of the story. Unless he does something else to reactivate his file, this will always be an unsolved case. They'll likely never bother to do anything more, but should he ever come up again in their sights the Feds will at least have the records from this case to remind them of what he did in the past.

Re:Where's Robert Stack? This is an Unsolved Myste (1)

Jardine (398197) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079440)

And now if he applies for a job that requires some kind of security clearance, someone might just notice that he's got a red flag on his file because he was investigated. And the reason he was investigated? Because he asked a fucking question.

The US is no longer free (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079293)

Just another example of the American reality, no different than the old Soviet Union. Remember to vote Democrat in November! At least we'll end the mandate of power by the GOP

"Terrorist" (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079296)

the word "Terrorist" is REALLY overused.
"Are you a terrorist?" "No, I'm going to blow up my school for purely non-political reasons"
Then pee on them.

Baylor's tunnels (2, Informative)

phreak03 (621876) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079308)

Baylor Has simmilar tunnels running under its campus that link all the buildings. They are pretty much for utilities, and maintanence of such. A couple years back they realized that everyone was useing em to sneak around (includeing the secret noze brotherhood) and decided to lock them up. Unless you have a pair of bolt cutters you can't get down there, but then again they are hot nasty, and all the exits are locked so its kinda pointless. If i asked the university about them, they would probebly give me a blank stare also though.

Scared people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079319)

Sadly, scared people can make life hell for regular people.

I always carry a gun, and have permits to do so in 30 states.
In Maine, my home state, I am not required to actually conceal it, so I carry a revolver in a western holster.

Usually I have no problems, as most everyone in Maine is comfortable with guns. But every now and then someone will call the police when they see me walking around, and I ger harassed by the cops for 20 minutes while they check my ID with the state.

99% of the people out there, and even the cops, don't care that I'm carrying, it's old news, but that one person that's scared of a little gun ruins my day, and takes the cops away from real problems.

Re:Scared people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079452)

lol, are you serious?

"Sadly, scared people can make life hell for regular people."

Regular people? BAH. If this police attention was truly unwanted, you wouldn't wear your gun exposed like that, whether its legal or not. Is it really such a common occurance to see someone with a western holster and sidearm running around in friggin *Maine*? Its obvious you are just reveling in the attention it brings you.

"...someone will call the police...and I ger harassed by the cops for 20 minutes while they check my ID with the state."

Great, so the cops have to waste valuable time on your ass over and over again just because you won't buy a shoulder or ankle holster.

Not to mention the "scared people" who genuinley think they are doing the right thing by reporting something suspicious involving a firearm. (yes yes, so its legal...its so rare that it still makes it suspicious and you know it.)

Here's a Newsflash, chief: You're the one "making life hell for regular people".

I believe it is for a computer network (3, Interesting)

el_munkie (145510) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079323)

I attend UT, and the explanation I got during orientation was that UT was, at least during the cold war, the custodian of the backup computer for various defense systems. In the event that the primary computer in who-knows-where was destroyed, the computer at our school was supposed to take over.

Re:I believe it is for a computer network (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079454)

I suspect the primary computer was at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We used to be the #3 target on the USSR's strike list due to NCSA headquarters and a large amount of hardware being kept there.

Always use anonymous proxies when using the web (2, Informative)

Zip In The Wire (701259) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079341)

1) Get an anonymous proxy manager like EarthStation5. Tell it to exclude proxies from the U.S, Britain, Australia and any other country that gives a shit about this kind of stuff. 2) Using said anonymous proxies, go to hotmail and get an email account. 3) Only browse using the anonymous proxies, and only use the web via proxies to get your email at hotmail. You will be protected from this kind of bullshit. If you don't do this, don't whine and moan if you get harrassed. Technology is always many steps ahead of the MAN who wants to run your life but it cannot protect you if you don't use it.

shower cams? (3, Funny)

filtur (724994) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079370)

So are these underground tunnels how college coed shower cams that I keep seeing advertised get installed? Or maybe the government didn't want people to find out about their dorm room cam racket :)

Long Term Effects (4, Interesting)

neoThoth (125081) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079387)

Scene: Interview
Interviewer "So have you ever been convicted of a felony"
Mark "No"
Interviewer "Have you ever been investigated for terrorist activites?"
Mark "well.. there was this one time in college..."
Interviewer "OK thanks we'll call you" (calls security)

I've seen comments saying "he could have denied the meeting or walked away". I'm sure that wouldn't inflame the agents curiosity even more. The question about the ACLU was really out of line. Personally I think he should join the ACLU before making any other requests and then pull the card out if any other agents stop by.
the sentiment that I have to agree with is American citizens making FOIA requests should NOT trigger investigations.

maybe? [speculation] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079400)

I'm graduating in two weeks and its a big deal that GWB will *not* be in attendance at neither Jenna nor Barbara's graduations...because they'd make life a nightmare here and in texas. Perhaps (wild rampant speculation) UT itself is under more scrutiny because one of the first daughters is there?

I want in those tunnels too. :) (5, Insightful)

nfsilkey (652484) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079418)

I go to utexas.edu. I can vouch for the administrative craziness that all too often plagues this school. :)

This is the same place where the suits did everything they could to keep the FOIA and other legal mechanisms from revealing information about the post-9/11 surveillance system. UT even went after our state attorney general over this. [dailytexanonline.com] A friend of mine said it best: "Never sue someone when they have a law school." ;)

The whole reference to UTWatch [utwatch.org] in the article creeped me out. UTWatch is a student-run organization which follows up on what the regents and other suits do. Like Ralph Nader in the 70s, its a mere watchdog organization checking if proposed policies will adversely affect the student body at large. Recently they have been very vocal speaking out concerning tuitition deregulation and the involvement of UT managing the Los Alamos laboratories. Not simply fact checkers, UTWatch does get [dailytexanonline.com] involved [dailytexanonline.com] when it smells something fishy.

I applaud what Mark Miller did. There is all sorts of cool things under the ground here at UT. Under ENS and RLM you can find a retired tokamak! More than just he are interested in whats buried. Simply put, what UT did (assuming it did something to spur this) simply lacked honor [utexas.edu]. ;)

Ugh (2, Informative)

Steve the Rocket Sci (770940) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079447)

I can't say I'm surprised. The university isn't exactly forthcoming when this kind of thing is concerned. You should have seen what it took just to get the location of SOME of their security cameras around campus. For those interested, it should be in the Daily Texan archives somewhere.

Paranoia causes stupidity (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9079453)

The thing that I found most ironic after 911:

Up here in Canada we were apologizing to the Japanese-Canadians who were interned during World War two. We said that such a thing should never happen again. One month later, the Japanese were forgotten and we were threatening to treat arab looking people the same way. Sigh

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

Planning a plot? (4, Funny)

actiondan (445169) | more than 9 years ago | (#9079458)

I enjoyed this part:

"The Joint Terrorism Task Force probably would look into something like that. [Miller] could be a terrorist. He could be planning a plot."

Planning a plot? That's only the tip of the iceberg! What if he is plotting a scheme or scheming a plan?

I see no problem with such a request being investigated. It does sound like they asked the guy some pretty stupid questions though (do they really think that long hair is significant when it comes to identifying terrorists? or membership of the ACLU?) OTOH, those questions may well have been filler to pad out the real questions they wanted to ask.

If they find no evidence during their investigation, they really should grant his further information requests though. Once they are satisfied that he's not a terrorist, they'll have no reason not to let him see all the files relating to his case, surely?

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