The current issue of Toronto Life
's cover story is the sad and perverse tale of Byron Sonne, a Toronto security researcher, hackspace stalwart, and anarcho-libertarian who decided to show up the security theatre at play in last year's billion-dollar-plus G20 preparations. Sonne published extensive accounts of the vulnerabilities in the preparations, taunting the police and officials who were putting on a kind of repressive, city-wide puppet show about security, rather than securing much of anything. Sonne was arrested and spent
more than just under
a year in jail, being held without bail on a variety of charges, almost all of which have been dropped (his bail conditions
are nothing short of Kafkaesque). Sonne's actions seem, on their face, to be over-the-top and ill-considered (though we haven't heard his side of things yet), but the Canadian judicial system's response is so insanely paranoid that it makes Sonne look extremely reasonable by comparison.
Sonne's story is the sad tale of a geek who lost everything -- his marriage, his home, his livelihood -- because he couldn't figure out how to contain or express his disgust with the state's increasing encroachment on personal liberty. If the authorities wanted to make an object lesson to scare activists into quietly accepting "security" measures, the response to the Toronto G20 (including the arrest and jailing of Sonne) is absolutely fit for purpose.
At a preliminary hearing in February, most of Sonne's charges were dropped. The mischief charge is gone, as are two counts of intimidating justice system officials, one of them "by watch and beset," an extremely rare charge that refers to stalking and threatening. The weapons charge was also dismissed. (The potato guns at the Sonnes' cottage aren't illegal and, evidently, aren't going to be counted against him.)
How Byron Sonne's obsession with the G20 security apparatus cost him everything
Sonne still faces the explosives charge, plus a new charge added at the end of the preliminary: counselling to commit mischief not committed. Simply put, it seems his Internet posts showed people how to disable security cameras and tear the fence down, although no one acted on that information. He had to return to jail when the hearing was over, and he anticipated being there at least another six weeks while his lawyers prepared his third bail application. His parents are burning through their retirement fund to pay for the legal costs. Sonne carries a lot of guilt about the stress his arrest is putting on his family and friends (some of whom have been cautioned by their employers not to associate with him). His certification as a security system professional was suspended pending an acquittal, and he suspects he'll have trouble getting security work after this, even if he is vindicated. On top of all that, it looks like his marriage is over.
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
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