terry childs found guilty

(Don’t get too upset if you don’t agree with something I say here; I likely won’t get too deeply into the discussion. There is far too high a chance that most discussions consist only of straw man arguments, or even trying to be too general without admitting to exceptions…read the many comments about this case and you’ll see them rife with logical fallacies. Wait, are mainsteam comments anything but? heh!)

The case against Terry Childs has come to an initial close as he has, predictably, been found guilty. I expect that, while guilty, there is still the chance of other grievances that Childs can raise against the city of San Francisco and his superiors and how all of this was handled. At least, I kinda hope so because my continued impression is that Childs is as much a victim as he was the problem, i.e. the victim of absolutely horrible management, both from a technical and a non-technical aspect.

Chief Security Monkey has a nice article with some comments reposted on his blog, which I suggest reading through. Update: This is a great ComputerWorld interview with one of the jurors.

I have a pending comment on that site, but wanted to just record some of my own thoughts here.

Management is fully to blame for this situation, both for horrible policies and for probably conditioning Childs in a way that made this escalation inevitable. These are people who should be banned from ever managing other people ever again. Or even manage anything technical. They obviously don’t get it. It saddens me that while Childs broke the law, these managers won’t get similarly tried and branded.

Childs is, of course, also to blame. He should have just walked away. Or he should have given up the access and taken the blow from management (which likely would have resulted in firing). But I can’t necessarily blame him for leaning into the wind stubbornly. That’s just how some people are. But yes, strictly speaking, he broke a section of penal code, hence I’m not surprised nor much saddened that he was found guilty of that part.

I expect Childs and this whole situation was the product of a very stubborn-to-a-fault (righteous?) admin, failure management, and psychological conditioning.

Yes, that conditioning part is the one where I take a leap of faith, but I expect my leap is not all that large. If, in the past, Childs was either harmed or even blamed for lapses in his network due to someone else’s changes, then I am not at all surprised that this escalated into him refusing to let anyone else into the network. Did he have anything to hide? Doesn’t look like it. Was he trying to hold the city hostage? I didn’t get that impression. Was he trying to make sure it kept running so he wouldn’t get in trouble when some moron took it down and blamed him? Probably. If I held you ultimately responsible that my coffee cup is not spilled over, you’ll probably try to keep everyone away from it to prevent the spilling, especially so if someone spilled it a few days ago when you weren’t looking and I blamed you for it.

But, in the end, while I see lots of idealistic responses and comments about this situation, I think it is far, far, far easier to talk about excrow and continuity than it is to actually walk that walk, both from an administrative but also a managerial perspective. It takes work, knowledge, politicking, and proper people management to even begin to start. And I think far too many people who make comments to that nature, don’t follow their own ideas in practice, both from a godlike administrative access but also for smaller things like inconsequential accounts, processes, systems, programs, scripts, and so on. It is the nature of things that when someone leaves, there is a gap and loss of some information…no amount of planning will truly overcome that with regards to highly skilled or specialized job roles.

But that’s me, and I’m a cynic. 🙂