Hacker Gets Back On Air

After blowing $16000 on legal fees, the famed (and once jailed) hacker Kevin Mitnick had his ham radio license restored by the FCC, though he’s still barred from using the Internet until later in 2003. His license was revoked due to the so-called “character clause” in telecomm law that basically says licensees should be of “good character.” Apparently the FCC thought his computer crime conviction made him unfit to be an amateur radio operator. But in their decision to restore the license the FCC wrote:

“Mr. Mitnick is a convicted felon. …He started hacking as an inquisitive teenager and wound up a disgraced felon. … It is now concluded that Kevin David Mitnick has been sufficiently rehabilitated to show that he now possesses the requisite character for the renewal of his licenses in the amateur radio service.”

Similarly, last year former Tampa, FL radio pirate Doug Brewer lost his amateur radio license after being busted for operating a broadcast station without a license. At that time the FCC wrote,

“[We] conclude, based upon evidence of Mr. Brewer’s ‘pirate radio’ and other unlawful activities, that he lacks the basic character qualifications to be and remain a Commission licensee.”

Apparently the FCC’s character standards only apply to individual licensees and typically not big media conglomerates (which, not coincidentally, typically have much greater legal defense resources than most individuals). In Oct. 2001 a man who owned FM stations in Indiana and Missouri was stripped of his licenses after being convicted of felonies. Yet, no move has ever been made to strip General Electric of its many broadcast licenses despite its felony record. A 1994 FAIR articleuncovers the FCC’s unequal enforcement of the “character clause.”

The moral of the story? License? We don’t need no stinkin’ license!


  • Internet 1, Attorneys 0, 11/4/02
  • The Mitnick Chapter, 11/4/02

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