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Perl's Chip Salzenberg Sued, Home Raided 698

Chip Salzenberg writes "In April of this year, Health Market Science of King of Prussia, PA, told police that they feared I was misappropriating trade secrets. That very afternoon, police raided my house with a search warrant to seize every computer in the house, paper files, CDs, and DVDs... even my wireless router and cable modem!" Chip was the pumpking for perl's 5.004 release. Keep reading for his description of his current legal troubles, and for a shortcut into what he says prompted his former company's actions, read his letter warning about abuse of open proxies.

Chip continues: "The key evidence in the search warrant was so ridiculous as to be surreal: CVS logs indicating that I downloaded more than I uploaded, and that I sometimes accessed the company network from home. Apparently, for company management, the police, and a judge, working at home through a gateway the company set up for that very purpose, and refraining from editing every source file for every code change, is a sign of nefarious behavior.

My behavior in accessing the company network was entirely within my job description and in no way involved misappropriation of anything. For the more than two years that I worked at HMS, I used ssh and CVS to access company files with my laptop both from work and home, with management knowledge and approval.

What would lead management to such a sudden action? Days beforehand, I had made an internal report of unethical and apparently illegal behavior by the company: Use of open proxies for web harvesting to avoid blockage by web site operators. HMS apparently decided that working with me to address their use of open proxies was not an option.

Health Market Science is a large corporation with, compared to me, effectively infinite resources. My legal bills have topped $40K already over just two months. If HMS succeeds in tarring me with their false accusations, what's to stop your employer or client from doing the same to you, should your relationship sour?

Friends have set up GeeksUnite.net, an informational web site and Legal Defense Fund. The site includes the search warrant, my letter about open proxy abuse, and court documents.

Please contribute to my Defense Fund to fight this attack on the normal and legal work practices of millions of tech workers. Every little bit counts! If every person who visits the site contributes only ten dollars, that will make a huge difference. Only through community effort can we protect ourselves."

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Perl's Chip Salzenberg Sued, Home Raided

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  • Uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:34PM (#12954862)
    If his version of events is true, then wouldn't there exist whistleblower protection laws he can seek refuge under?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:36PM (#12954907)
    Any time you're going to be challenging the mental giants that are in charge, ALWAYS have a lawyer in your pocket and all your ducks in a row. And offsite backups.
    Seriously, what the hell did he expect - if they can use open proxies like this, that they would play nice with him?
  • by Doktor Memory ( 237313 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:37PM (#12954918) Journal
    Retain, and have a very long chat with a very good lawyer before you threaten your bosses with police action.
  • by Deton8 ( 522248 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:38PM (#12954930)
    You should take your original letter to the police who raided you. Hopefully they will then prosecute your employer for filing a false police report.
  • Two lessons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:38PM (#12954933) Journal
    1) Past and future Ask Slashdot questioners: when we tell you to document your situation and to see a real lawyer, do it! This is why!

    2) Working for obvious scumbags is going to burn you in the end.

    (Assuming his version of the story is accurate -- I realize there's another side. I also realize that both of my suggestions are frequently easier said than done.)

  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:41PM (#12954967) Homepage
    What did you think they were going to do, make you an SVP?

    If it were me? Well, there would be a wide number of possible responses I could expect from the employer, but producing false information to police and courts to produce illegitimate legal action and have my private property unreasonably seized-- property which I may or may not ever see again once it disappears into the "evidence" system-- is not one of them.

    Anyway if he had resigned how would it have helped him one iota? He'd still be facing a frivolous and expensive lawsuit and have all his stuff jacked.
  • by IthnkImParanoid ( 410494 ) * on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:41PM (#12954971)
    IANAL, and I know this varies by state, but this kind of retribution and harassment for filing a complaint may be very illegal, and the company may have opened themselves up to liability for it. I know reporters of sexual harassment or discrimination are protected from retribution, and it would be interesting to know what protection a whistleblower for unethical behavior has under state and federal laws.

    Regardless, no one deserves this treatment for stating their beliefs the company is doing something wrong.
  • by truckaxle ( 883149 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:42PM (#12954983) Homepage
    At least he could return fire and file a police report and have have HMS's computers consficated :)
  • by caryw ( 131578 ) <carywiedemann@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:42PM (#12954992) Homepage
    Yes but how is it that a judge or magistrate (I'm sure under intense pressure from the police department) will issue a search warrant without hard evidence of any illegal activity? Strongarm tactics like this are what is wrong with our judicial system today.

    This is your tax dollars at work!
    Fairfax Underground: Fairfax County and Northern Virginia message board [fairfaxunderground.com]
  • Re:Uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by n0-0p ( 325773 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:43PM (#12954994)
    Laws do exist, but the simple reality is that most whistle blowers still get screwed and are never able to work in their respective industry again. That's probably why he tried to resolve the problem internally first, although creating a paper trail exposing misconduct can scare management just as bad.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:43PM (#12955004) Homepage Journal
    It's a lot easier to prove the company is acting maliciously against you if you:

    1) Quit
    2) Write your accusatory letter

    order is important here.

    Doubly true if you have to sign something styating you are retaining no confidential information when you leave.
  • by lpret ( 570480 ) <lpret42 AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:43PM (#12955007) Homepage Journal
    There are so many better ways to be a whistleblower and be protected from retaliation. However, before you attack a company (even rightfully so) lawyer up and make sure you have all your ducks in a row so that this type of retaliation doesn't occur. Or use an anonymous source such as ethicspoint.com. While this may seem a coward's path, it in fact can save your job.

    There is still hope for the legal system. Title VII, the FLSA, and I believe all state laws have anti-retaliation language that protects you. Go to your local attorney general's office and see what you can do.

    However, as others have said, if you do all of the above and management still does nothing -- get out! The best that can happen is you get a small blurb in the WSJ and worst case is that you'll be forever branded a snitch.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:45PM (#12955037)
    When a company breaks laws due to commands by management, you don't report it to the same people who blessed the practice in the first place!
    Accumulate evidence, assist law enforcement with an undercover investigation, and blow the whole place apart.
  • by jhoger ( 519683 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:48PM (#12955058) Homepage
    Based on the evidence at hand there was no probable cause for the search.

    If he didn't keep any of the company's information, they likely have no case.

    Crossing your fingers for summary judgment, a directed verdict :-) or a nice juicy settlement favoring the plaintiff.

    Pretty scary though that the judge would authorize grabbing all your equipment with no genuine evidence of theft/misappropriation of trade secrets. There ought to be a high bar set for the kind of disruption that causes. There's no reason discovery couldn't have been allowed to proceed in a less violent manner unless he wasn't cooperating.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:49PM (#12955081) Homepage Journal
    So you drive the company into Ch 11 after a long, and protracted battle. Then what has he got to show for it? Exactly what he has now: jack + big lawyer bill.
  • TImeline of events (Score:4, Insightful)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:54PM (#12955159) Homepage Journal
    [sorry for sh*tty formatting...]

    Timeline of Events

    [slashdot.org] Please Contribute. Thank you for spending time on our site. It will be updated frequently. Please come back.

    None of the views expressed in the website constitute the views of the Armstrong & Carosella PC law firm, or any

    principals or employees, or agents or experts who have been retained in any capacity in connection with the case.

    Information on this site is for educational purposes.
    Case Caption: Health Market Science, Inc. v Charles H. Salzenberg, Jr..

    Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Case Number: 05-11918

    Timeline of Events in Case

    June 21, 2005

    Intervener's Too Late? - DA Gives Away Computers Early. Company Already Imaging.

    June 20, 2005

    Emergency Stays Filed by All Parties - In an Attempt to Keep Property from falling into the Wrong Hands

    June 17, 2005

    Judge Awards Personal Property to Company - Admits to NOT Reading Salzenberg's Opposition.

    June 16, 2005

    Company Runs Interference - Files Motion to Intercept Released Computers Contrary to the May 2, Order and the "Return of Property" laws.

    June 6, 2005

    DA Drops Criminal Investigation - Annouces Return of the Seized Property to Salzenberg.

    May 2, 2005
    Company Agrees Not to Enforce Exparte Orders - Property to be Returned to Salzenberg unless another motion is filed.

    April 26, 2005
    Company files Exparte - Receives orders to intercept equipment from police to start imaging.

    April 25, 2005
    Salzenberg receives back dated letter from company "accepting his resignation"

    April 21, 2005
    Salenberg's Property Seized within hours of police report made by CEO.

    April 20, 2005
    Salzenberg and CEO exchange emails and faxes in an attempt to negotiate a face to face conversation. CEO finally gives the OK to Salzenberg bringing an attorney with him.

    April 19, 2005
    Salzenberg sends compliance letter to CEO. Salzenberg also sends follow up message to COO that he has "not resigned". CEO immediately locks Salzenberg out of company email and network.

    April 18, 2005
    Another employee leaves company after voicing compliance issues.

  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @06:57PM (#12955193) Journal
    He's a Senior Programmer, and he's writing as if he were a Partner. He's confrontational and adversarial in the same breath, and somehow expects to remain employed

    You assume, of course, that he wants to remain employed.

    There is, however, a difference between being fired, and having your employer lie to the police in order to have you arrested and your computer equipment seized.
  • SLAPP (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:01PM (#12955242) Homepage Journal
    I think you should check into SLAPP protection.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SLAPP [wikipedia.org]

    Heres the little secret, Judges do not like to read long legal briefs, if someone makes a case and references some case law, they might just get the warrent, action or restraining order.

    Its a messed up country where the legal system is in a horrible state by lazy judges/commissioners that have to actually think the about the case. Whats worse, some are voted into office...

  • by TwistedSpring ( 594284 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:02PM (#12955257) Homepage
    I think a legion of slashdot readers blasting these contact details and sending trollish e-mails will only worsen this guy's situation: "Then he got his legion of goons to come to his defence, causing massive problems with our e-mail infrastructure and bringing our website to a crawl, before this had even got to court." That cannot be good.

    I would advise any slashdot readers considering trolling this e-mail address to think carefully about the implications their messages might have on this guy, and refrain from contacting HMS unless they have something worthwhile and appropriate to contribute.
  • Missing Something! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:03PM (#12955267) Homepage Journal
    Chip isn't a whistleblower. Whistleblowing involves running to external authorities with a story.

    Chip complained internally. That's allowed. That's ethical. He was giving his employers a chance to sort out a problem. The open proxy scam might have been in contravention of company policy.

    Unlikely with hindsight, I'll grant.

    OK, I'm missing your point, I know. I don't even disagree with your advice. All I'm saying is let's watch the terminology. A lot of people will thing "Whistleblower, pah! He had it coming!" when nothing is further from the truth. He got into this mess because he gave his employers the benefit of the doubt.

  • by Doktor Memory ( 237313 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:10PM (#12955339) Journal
    mmmmmph. I don't think it's that clean-cut. Management of this company may have been corrupt, but presumably not every other employee was in on it. (They're a big company.) So, assuming that you like your co-workers and don't want to see them all out of a job (either from the cops shutting down the company or from management firing anyone who was friendly to the whistleblower), and assuming also that you believe the company can be profitable without engaging in illegal behavior, I can see wanting to try to resolve it without immediately involving the cops. The police tend to not be very tech-savvy, and once they're involved it's hard to predict which way they'll jump.
  • Face it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HPNpilot ( 735362 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:14PM (#12955393) Homepage
    Money and power are clinching their position in this country, and VERY rapidly. Combine the "Patriot" act with limiting freedom of the press to gutting of whistleblower laws to widespread corruption and add in a good dose of "liberal" bashing taking the form of "get tough on crime" and you get what we have.

    Too late now, I'm afraid, and it will ge a *LOT* worse before getting any better.

    What kind of mess have we left for our kids?
  • by suitepotato ( 863945 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:15PM (#12955399)
    They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and immediately attempted a smear campaign to draw attention away from themselves.

    Further, on nothing more than the company's say-so, they got a search and seizure warrant from a judge who was obviously unfit for service by the very fact of his signing it. Actual investigation and evidence is required usually for this kind of thing and it seems to be a case of "he-said, got the warrant, screw what the other guy said" sort of thing. Having been the victim of this myself, I am not surprised. Saddened that it continues, but not surprised. People who love increasing the powers of the state for their political aims can just as quickly be the nail getting pounded down by that same state.

    What is so shocking is that they think they will get away with it. All that are needed are logs from servers harvested by this scumbag outfit despite their attempts at a polite no through robots.txt, etc., and it will become a landslide against them with the first lawsuit for the intrusion.

    If I had any money, I'd send some.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:17PM (#12955439)
    This has nothing to do with what the man did or did not do. I couldn't care less about that, frankly. I am concerned that the judge in this case appears technically illiterate and granted a search warrant on pretty damn flimsy "evidence". Any of us could get hit just as easily, and for even less reason. Good reason to maintain hidden offsite backups and to thoroughly encrypt anything important, that's for sure. Let them have your computers ... those are cheap nowadays. But if the evidence-handling types "lose" your data (as they often do after your hardware has been confiscated) you're screwed.

    Law enforcement and the judiciary seem to have taken the approach that anyone who is knowledgeable about computers is suspect. I think that's largely due to ignorance: the majority of people (judges, cops, FBI guys, whoever) don't know squat about computing technology, and consequently lack the ability to make intelligent judgements about issues that involve it. That really needs to change, or more technojocks are going to end up on the wrong end of the stick.
  • by waynegoode ( 758645 ) * on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:17PM (#12955446) Homepage
    Very good point. I'd give you my last mod point, but I've already posted here. I too encourage those who reply to show restraint.

    I sent a short email (50 words or so) using the contact page that basically said "The guy was trying to help. Leave him alone." My point was to let them know people support Chip, not to aggravate them.
  • by david_anderson ( 896517 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:21PM (#12955491)
    Where did I mention retaliation?

    I did not suggest harassment, whech the judge would have problems with. I suggested reporting actual violations of the labor laws. Judges are generally in favor of reporting illegal activity.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:29PM (#12955583)
    You do not understand what police are or do.

    A DA would be a more appropriate place, but not right either. Finding people that have been abused by the company, and having them file action would be even better.
  • by gomiam ( 587421 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:32PM (#12955614)
    ...he essentially blackmailed his employer...

    And, pray tell, where is the blackmail? I have read this letter [geeksunite.net] and it just states what HMS was doing and its being illegal. Asking the company to stop doing it, refusing to cooperate on it, and warning on telling the authorities amounts to blackmail now? I guess there's this hidden paragraph where he asks for money or some other compensation. When you find it, please tell me. Until then, your blackmail charge falls flat.

  • by DShard ( 159067 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:33PM (#12955625)
    one comment about two... make sure it is to the DA and anonymous.
  • by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:34PM (#12955635) Homepage Journal
    The thing is-- it is quite possible that nobody knows he was doing something wrong except for him.

    I don't doubt the depiction of verifiable events (law suit, search warrant, letter sent) and they lead me to lean towards thinking he did nothing wrong. But I don't know. And I'm not dishing up my cash until I do.

    The fact that he is well known just doesn't have much to do with it. I've been shocked by what people I know personally have done. I've never met this guy before in my life. That he is a skilled programmer tells me nothing about what is really going on.
  • Re:Own grave dug (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lifeblender ( 806214 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:34PM (#12955640)
    No, that's not how it's supposed to work. As an employee, loyal to the company, you are supposed to have internal recourse available to bring illegal activity to the attention of your seniors, and all the way up the chain if you direct supervisor won't listen. You are not supposed to have to go to the police, since a company should be capable of cleaning up its own act. Going to the police means that the normal channels of reporting issues have failed.

    Everything I wrote there is how it works in ethical companies, meaning companies whose executives have laid out specific plans for remaining on the right side of the law. I don't care if you think that "most companies aren't like that". What that would mean is that "most companies deserve liquidation". If you can't at least have a plan for handling your own breaches of the law, and avoiding them in the future, then the company is not run in an ethical manner. Go ask someone with an MBA what kind of ethics class they had to take to get it. A company that doesn't have a plan for reporting issues about itself is derelict in its duties. All claims of impropriety leveled at such companies, including Chip's, have extra weight once they reach court.

    Yeah, it'll be a while before they reach court.

    If his complaints are true, then I sure as hell don't want to have anything to do with those companies. See? That's the reason that (ethical) companies need internal reporting mechanisms. If the CEO of an ethical company got wind of this behavior through internal channels, then they could correct it before I ever heard of it, and they wouldn't lose me as a customer, distributor, or business partner. That's what internal channels are for: protecting the company from itself.

    Anyway, it's obvious from this that Chip's company doesn't have good internal reporting mechanisms. And that necessarily gives that company a strike against them to begin with. Or it should. We'll have to wait and see if it really does.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:37PM (#12955667)
    I *am* a lawyer......

    Chip's mistake, from what I can tell, is not consulting with a lawyer before he did anything. The letter he wrote, while a great "f* you" letter to his employer, made a couple of mistakes that almost lawyer would've told him to leave out. Including the threat of legal action.

    Once someone threatens you with even possible legal action, most companies go into offense mode. It's not really a choice they have, they have to protect themselves and what they see as their intellectual property. (I say it's not a choice because it's what their counsel tells them. They can also choose to ignore their counsel, but then few companies do that since it defeats the purpose of engaging such counsel in the first place, at least in their minds.)

    I feel badly for this guy and will likely contribute to this fund. But I can't help but think there was a better way of handling this situation before it got down to an employee threatening their employer with legal action if they don't stop a behavior they, personally, find objectionable.

    If you don't like something your company is doing, let them know you don't like it. If they say, "Tough sh*t," then you have two choices -- leave on your own, or stay and suck it up. Staying and making threats against your employer isn't likely to be tolerated by anyone, anywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:38PM (#12955691)
    Retain, and have a very long chat with a very good lawyer before you threaten your bosses with police action.

    Amen. I learned the hard way through several companies (some I started, some I helped turn around, and some I was wise to leave) that unless you're old money, your best option is to walk away. Notify the authorities anonymously and under extreme caution if you must, but make sure it's darn near impossible to pin it on you that you were the whistleblower, and even then, expect them to still come after you (who do you think the authorities work for, the people? LOL!). Old money and its network will blacklist you further than you'd ever imagine possible. Old money continues to keep making money by having idealistic middle class hard working entrepreneurs achieve great successes, only to discover old money eats first. After they are full, they may decide to leave you with some scraps.

    The most important lesson I learned is that in any company, figure out quickly who is just like you (assuming you're a member of the unpriviledged middle class) and who's old money nobility. They're special people - the equivelent of "made men" - and middle class folks are not permitted to touch them. I learned at one company that even a psychotic, cocaine abusing, chair-sniffing and female harassing sexual predator, old money company owner who kept on blowing through family millions had more clout than a the technology manager who rebuilt the dying company product.

    If you have to get into battle, get an old money law firm and get some old money patrons on your side. Let them protect you and understand you'll have to pay back the favor if you haven't already earned it. Just because the United States is technically a representative republic doesn't mean Machievelli's world doesn't rule here. I've had too many attorneys explain otherwise (if you've ever had a hearing moved to a different judge that your attorney used to clerk for, you know what I mean). As long as you understand that several thousand years of civilization has been about those in power making sure that the rest of us keep them in power and luxury, and you don't mess with that rule, you'll do fine.
  • by Romancer ( 19668 ) <romancerNO@SPAMdeathsdoor.com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:40PM (#12955705) Journal
    How do you blackmail an employer by filing an internal memo that can be traced by anybody in management? Blackmail requires some basic form, what's the threat and what's the demand?

    It's more plausable that the company feared the files that would prove that they were breaking the law were copied on his home computers and made something up with their lawyers to get his computers for "imaging". He might or might not have been planning on going public, but their reaction is totally over the top. We'll see if any of the computers come back formatted. :)
  • by krbvroc1 ( 725200 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:41PM (#12955718)
    Here's an employee who's signed an agreement not to disclose trade secrets, and he's threatened to disclose the source code.

    Where did his letter say that? I just read the entire thing and do not recall any threat to disclose source code. He simply said that he looked at the source code, which as a Senior Programmer, he was authorized and verified that some of the claims he made in his internal letter were valid (ie; code doesn't use robots.txt, code culls current list of open relays from online databases, etc).

    He said he could not work on an project he felt was violating the law.

    As far as the company perspective, I have not seen it so I cannot comment. Personally, his internal memo was much too details for most executives to understand. He should have layed out his concerns at a high level. Actually, he should have first contacted the press and law enforcement.

  • Re:Own grave dug (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:48PM (#12955783)
    Like others have noted, as I read his letter I could only think "Just what did he expect would happen if he delivered a letter like that to an employer that was knowingly involved in these activities?" The only thing more surprising than his naivete in giving them that letter was that I read all the way to the end only to find that was *not* a letter of resignation. If I received a letter in that tone from any of the people I manage, irrespective of specific content, I would assume I was reading a letter of (probably immediate) resignation.

    That they are only out to screw him over seems pretty obvious, but his apparent lack of wordly understanding of these matters has given them every possible opportunity to do so. To anyone in a similar situation, my advice (as a manager, for whatever that may be worth), is to:

    1) Prepare yourself financially to be unemployed;

    2) Prepare your documentation of all allegations;

    3) Make a backup set and put it in some secret offsite location that no one could reasonably either know about or get a search warrant for;

    4a) Get a lawyer;

    4b) Submit your letter of resignation, and don't say why. If pressed for an answer, just say you want to take some time off, then pursue other opportunities;

    5) Finally, when you are no longer employed at that company, go to the police with your evidence.

    The order of 4b and 5 could be reversed on advice of counsel, and if you want to move 4a up to, say, 1a, well, it's never too early to have a lawyer in a situation like that.
  • by oliphaunt ( 124016 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:51PM (#12955818) Homepage
    Deserves? No. Expects? well, that's another matter entirely. If you've already confronted the founder of the company and pointed out that the business practices that he himself WROTE THE CODE to perform are, in fact, illegal... and he didn't seem shocked and appalled by that news... then odds are, he's already well aware of the legal status of his company's activities, he's a (wealthy? powerful?) unscrupulous bastard anyway, and won't mind squashing you like a bug if it keeps things just the way they are.

    honestly, people- if your company's financial success is built on illegal behavior, and the guy who owns the majority of the company set it up to be that way, why would you think he's going to change anything just because you were bright enough to notice? The best you could hope for is that, when you try to blackmail him into splitting the profit with you, it's not just cheaper to have you killed.

    Picture this: Vince Coll walks into Dutch Shultz's office.

    Vince: Hey Dutch, I've been thinking.
    Dutch: That's a dangerous habit.
    Vince: You know, this Prohibition thing? That makes alcohol illegal right?
    Dutch: Yeah.
    Vince: So, all this beer we're selling, that's illegal too, right?
    Dutch: Yeah. That's why we make so much money.
    Vince: Well, I don't feel so good about breaking the law.
    Dutch: I don't like where you're going with this.
    Vince: I think maybe we should, you know, stop?
    Dutch: Don't make me shoot you in my office.

    I can understand why Chip had the moral problems that he did, but he sure picked a naive way to try and resolve them. There IS a federal whistleblower statute, so if he went to the Feds with his first letter he would have been legally protected from retaliatory action from his employer... but keeping your job after you've turned them in doesn't do you any good if the company's only revenue stream depends on illegal activities.
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:53PM (#12955835)
    If he didn't keep any of the company's information, they likely have no case.

    If he was still working for the company at the time of the seizure, than chances are he had a full source tree on his home computer so that he could do test builds at home. All of which is perfectly normal and necessary to do his job. To the non-technical, the argument "why did he need copies of files he was not charged with maintaining?" may sound valid. However, anybody who has ever maintained software can tell you that you usually need almost all the header files and always need all the objects to link against in order to do a test build just to see if you made any mistakes in the single file you changed. Again, finding all the companies source on his home computer proves nothing; what they would have to do is find proof that he was transmitting that source to somebody else. The REALLY stupid thing is that it is not at all necessary to download source to your home computer to appropriate secrets; anybody could walk into the company with a few 1GByte USB flash memory keys and walk out with all the source, and there would be no record of it having been transferred. Hmm... did the search warrant explicitly include flash memory devices as well? I am not a lawyer, but I beleive they can't seize anything not specifically mentioned in the warrant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:58PM (#12955890)
    I'm tired of crap answers like this. What do I expect them to do? Act responsibily and don't abuse the law.

    What the fuck is up with nerds on slashdot thinking that companies acting like this should be acceptable, reasonable, or predictable? Yeah, it's all those things as long as you let it. I mean shit, if my company pissed me off and filed false charges against every level of management, would that be acceptable or predictable? Why is it okay for companies to act like this and people just accept that it's normal and acceptable?

    This company and the managers behind this action should be skinned alive and hung out to dry. I just contributed 50 bucks and will contribute more after next payday.

    And if he loses this, then I know what I will do in the future while working for a company engaged in questionable activity. Legal action first, ask questions later. And trump the lawsuits up too, like the CEO made unwanted gay advances towards me, promises of promotion if I'd only let him have his way with me, etc... Fsck this. Corporate America wants a war, let's bring it to them.
  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:09PM (#12955974) Homepage
    The newspapers don't do the research on judges. For minor offices I go by endorsements. I can't even get endorsements for most judgeships. How is the average person supposed to get this information?
  • by chrisah6 ( 740870 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:10PM (#12955982)
    Threats? Where do you arm chair lawyers get this crap? He brought this to the attention of management through a memo and stated he would have nothing to do with it and report it to the authorities if it didn't stop. That is a threat? Next time someone does something illegal and you know about it, don't say a word. Then when that person gets caught you tell the authorities that you knew what the person was doing all the time but you didn't think it was any of their business. Then let you know what happens.
  • by BoneFlower ( 107640 ) <george@worroll.gmail@com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:14PM (#12956009) Journal
    Spammer or not, how he is being treated is wrong.

    I don't know about you, but I don't think morals should change simply because you don't like someone.

    Certainly, if there is probably cause that he commited a crime, he should be investigated, and then prosecuted if the investigation bears out the initial suspicions, but that isn't what happened here. His home was searched and his property siezed, and *not* returned, based on him doing his damn job. It would be like your boss having you arrested for tresspassing, using your timecard that is punched for that day as evidence you tresspassed.
  • by Apuleius ( 6901 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:17PM (#12956030) Journal
    Just make DAMN sure it's legal in your state.
  • Ghouls (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:26PM (#12956104) Homepage Journal
    "Health Market Science"? They sound like peddlers of human flesh. Diseased flesh. They really do sound like the worst kind of sleazy scumbags, and that's just their name. Harvesting open relays and persecuting a whistleblower, and maybe even bribing a judge, all sound like the least of their crimes. If there were any justice, the local DA would accept Salzenberg's report as a criminal complaint, and call off the dogs. But of course there's no justice, or HMS' mere allegations would never be enough to threaten the security of this person's home, papers and effects [findlaw.com].
  • by iamwahoo2 ( 594922 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:30PM (#12956137)
    Just because a few peoople within the company are doing somethings wrong is not a good reason for quitting. The last thing you should do is quit, ecspecially if you are determined to fix the problem. If you quit, the acts will look retaliatory.
  • by Geekgirl2005 ( 896548 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:31PM (#12956142)
    Somebody is trying to tell untruths here. Salzenberg is not a spammer and he did not find out the company's harvesting procedures until he was employed there for a while. Stop telling lies to confuse people. Read the letter.
  • Re:Oops... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:36PM (#12956176)

    They were running through open proxies in order to avoid blocks set up to block their IP. They also were scanning for such proxies.

    So, no they weren't planting trojans all over the place, they were just borrowing everyone else's machines (a jerky thing to do) to get past blocks set up to stop them from being jerks.

    Then, when someone called them on it, they resorted to mafioso tactics to make life hard for that guy. To show him who's boss.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) * <charleshixsn@ea r t h l i n k.net> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:38PM (#12956188)
    Yes. It's much easier than affording $40,000 (and climbing) legal bills.

    If you don't think you might end up in the same place, then you aren't exhibiting much foresight.
  • by ElBeano ( 570883 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:42PM (#12956212)
    The problem is... you'll decide it's too much trouble to get to the bottom of it and pass on a chance to help. Maybe I'm wrong, but apathy conveniently finds excuses to do nothing.
  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:43PM (#12956220) Homepage
    Seems to me that this might fall under the grounds of railroading, harassment, blackmail, or any number of other unethical items. Seems to me that, once the criminal charges are over (are there any?) he'll have the grounds to sue them for millions (not to mention potential legal reprecussions): for falsely representing evidence, for lying to cops, using the law to their own ends, ruining his name and reputation, for taking his property, and functionally preventing him from working (due to the legal charge). It might even direly impact his career in the future.

    There isn't a single ethical computer science professional in the world (professors, lauded scientists, hell, even LW or LT) that wouldn't hesitate to come to his defense as an expert witness, I imagine.
  • Re:Two lessons (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @08:59PM (#12956324)
    2) Working for obvious scumbags is going to burn you in the end.

    Minor difficulty: This would exclude 90% of corporations -- worldwide -- as it appears that being a "scumbag" is a pre-requisite to "corporate success". One has to only take look at the current CEO/CFO lineups, their views on society, their history of "ethics" and their inexplicable inter-dependencies with each other to see that quite clearly. These are the proponents of "globalization" where wealth is to be shuffled around the planet and no attention is to be paid to societal consequences of it. These are the promoters of taxation of individual consumption (via sales taxes) and no taxation of their own vast fortunes to "promote economic growth". These are the people who profit from wars and (in the case of Chip's nemesis) from illness and misery. Or slave labor. List an evil and chances are you can name a large corporation involved.

    On a side, off-topic note, the problem is systematic to any large corporation. Larger the size, more attractive the operation becomes to conmen. Well healed conmen with dynastical family connections or self-made conmen who grease the right palms, it doesn't really matter. Sooner or later any company of value is run by them. Honest people do not stand a "snowball's in Hell" chance because the corporate game is rigged hopelesly against them, mostly due to the fact that the whole "free market" charade is run by the said hustlers, but also due to the fact that these thieves use the most powerful weapon known to blind and stupify their prey: greed. Thus they constantly talk about "growth" and "share value" to separate shareholders from their senses and grant themselves all the powers they need. A honest person, when put beside a pack of these howling wolves, appears timid and meek. Which is seen by the shareholders, themselves whipped to a frenzy, lusting for mega-profits to dismiss a down-to-earth, objective and realistic candidate out-of-hand and replace him/her with a snake who will promise them "profits beyond your wildest dreams". And the rest is history.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @09:00PM (#12956336)
    The problem isn't just sleezy company practices, sleezy CEO's, and sleezy attorneys. It's judges who don't read what's put before them, and if they do read and don't understand what's put before them, don't get enough information so that they have an understanding before they rule. I was tempted to write "bonehead judges," but that would have been hostile.
  • by Night Goat ( 18437 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @09:14PM (#12956424) Homepage Journal
    I've always been kind of hesitant to try something like this myself because I get the feeling that once I got my "gotcha" moment and saved my job, the rest of my days working there would be tainted by my having done this. I just get the feeling that I'd be treated poorly and the management would probably be searching hard for a way to get me fired cleanly. Did you have to put up with much crap after doing this? Maybe you have to weigh the pros and cons before doing this kind of thing.
  • by putaro ( 235078 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @09:14PM (#12956429) Journal
    Chip's mistake, from what I can tell, is not consulting with a lawyer before he did anything

    Yah, everybody's mistake is not consulting with a lawyer before tying their shoes or opening their mouths. I think that everyone should have a lawyer with them at all times to make sure that they don't do or say anything actionable.

    I say it's not a choice because it's what their counsel tells them.

    Maybe the problem is that lawyers tend to see every problem as requiring legal action and more billable hours.
  • I'm gonna be nice and chaulk the GP to horrid misreading.

    Salzenberg was working for a company that started using some seriously shady practices. He did the legally appropriate thing, and brought it to the attention of upper management/officers. They went ballistic and pulled the plug on him insteas of the illegal activity. (what says that they already knew of the illegal activities?).

    They then called the cops on hime and got them to sieze his compuers on the flimsiest of evidence.

  • by Zaak ( 46001 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @09:55PM (#12956707) Homepage
    ...they lead me to lean towards thinking he did nothing wrong. But I don't know. And I'm not dishing up my cash until I do.

    The purpose of a legal defense is not to exonerate the guilty. It is to ensure a fair trial. Whether you believe he is guilty or innocent, or whether you don't know, makes no difference. He has the right to a fair trial. At present in the United States, that means having a lot of money to pay a competent lawyer.

  • by NutscrapeSucks ( 446616 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @10:21PM (#12956873)
    and report it to the authorities if it didn't stop. That is a threat?

    Yes, that is a threat. By definition.

    English. Learn it, love it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 30, 2005 @10:58PM (#12957100)
    I read the affadavit, and I saw no legal basis for the seizure of this man's property. This was one step above an anonymous tip. I imagine the conversation might have been like this: Mark Brosso: "Look! This guy that we've employed for 2+ years at a job involving software development has been transferring data to and from our network using our computers! He's a thief! Seize him!" Affiant Det. Al Elverson, Jr: "Er, didn't you, his employer, issue him the computer and the account? Wasn't it his job to access your computer network? Didn't his job involve transferring data? If you wanted him to stop, why didn't you deactivate those? Do you have any EVIDENCE that what he downloaded was outside the normal course of his work? Can you prove to us that you have even informed him that he is no longer authorized to access the data? Can you prove that any of your trade secret information has been disclosed to ANYONE? So, you have a SUSPICION that a person who you employ MIGHT have trade secret information on his company laptop, or on removable media... which isn't illegal, since he hasn't DISCLOSED it... and you want me to bring the force of the law in to seize private property? I think I can find a judge that will do that..." Judge: "So, you have no evidence of any actual wrongdoing, and you want me to sign a warrant to seize private property? Sure! Where do I sign?

    For, who the good fortune to be able to vote AGAINST someone who would issue a warrant for the seizure of computer equipment based on the affadavit of someone who couldn't even use a word processor to edit the request (see for yourself! It's obviously copied from a drug-related case, with the drug parts CROSSED OUT), without any actual basis of suspicion other than one man's un-sworn complaint against another, the issuing judge is the Honorable Jeremy Blackburn. Remember that when his term is up. Unfortunately, I think his district is in Chester County (where the property was seized), not in Montgomery County (where Salzenberg works, and where I live), so I don't think I get to vote for him.

  • by putaro ( 235078 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @11:00PM (#12957117) Journal
    Hello! 1950 is calling and they want their business environment back.

    In small companies and large budgets are constantly being revised. Publicly traded companies are just as bad if not worse than small companies as they are managed to their quarterly earnings, not to a yearly budget. Within departments projects get approved, disapproved and juggled regularly. Some other department goes over budget and your department pays. The company has a "hiring freeze" or, worse, layoffs.

    Get real. Yah, everyone does a yearly budget but it is not a cast in stone contract and it's subject to revision at any time. Head count is constantly tweaked. I've worked, and managed, in large (yes, publicly traded) and small companies and I've seen it again and again and again.
  • by the_mad_poster ( 640772 ) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @11:23PM (#12957289) Homepage Journal
    You're not real clued in to how criminal investigations work, huh?

    When the police find something "suspicious", you don't just say "oh, I have this perfectly plausible excuse which sounds highly improbable to technical incompetents like you" and walk away. Trust me, I know. I had to jump through some pretty ridiculous hoops with a detective once just to prove that it was not, in fact, uncommon for a brand-spanking new hard drive to appear "wiped".

    The justice system is a misnomer. It's not a "justice" system, it's a "legal" system. Justice would imply that all parties are acting in an informed, responsible, and full-capacity manner, which is probably the sickest joke one could make about our incompetent, bungling court system.

    Chip Salzenberg is fucked. You would be fucked if you tried to right off your little hidden system with that excuse, and you'd probably get charged for trying to interfere with the investigation and giving false information to the police if you used it.
  • by UnrepentantHarlequin ( 766870 ) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @11:28PM (#12957327)
    Clean up their act, maybe?

    Ethical people tend to believe that others are ethical until and unless (and sometimes even after) they are faced with incontrovertible proof to the contrary. If you tell an ethical person that he's doing something wrong, his response will be "oops, lemme fix that." So, assuming Chip is an ethical person (and the fact that he tried to resolve the matter internally is evidence of that) it's logical to assume that he expected them to say "oops, we'll get right on fixing that" and, in fact, fix the oversights -- not retaliate against him for bringing up the intentional violations of either legal or ethical standards.
  • Re:Own grave dug (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @11:29PM (#12957331) Homepage
    As an employee, loyal to the company, you are supposed to have internal recourse available to bring illegal activity to the attention of your seniors, and all the way up the chain if you direct supervisor won't listen.
    Had that been what he did - you'd have a point. But it's not. He threatened (personal) legal action against the company and announced his refusal to continue working on his assigned project. If you actually read the memo he submitted - it paints a very different picture from the sob story at the head of this discussion.
    Anyway, it's obvious from this that Chip's company doesn't have good internal reporting mechanisms.
    A completely groundless assumption. Again, try actually reading the memo - it has a whole raft of adressees, and no discussion or indication that any attempt to bring this to the attention of anyone had been made beforehand.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2005 @12:01AM (#12957547)
    Yeah, but the people that say "we want to hire you", are not necessarily the ones who can say "I have the power to hire you"
  • by egarland ( 120202 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @12:21AM (#12957652)
    Any time you're going to be challenging the mental giants that are in charge, ALWAYS have a lawyer in your pocket and all your ducks in a row. And offsite backups.

    I absolutely agree. Speak softly and carry a big stick.

    This was a loud letter full of scarrey words for a CEO like "illegal" and "under explicit management direction" and it ends with "notifying the appropriate authorities". Hell, if I was a CEO and I got this letter, I'd freak out too.

    DON'T EVER send a letter like this without already having talked to a lawyer and given the lawyer everything you'd need. The unfortunate fact is that police will raid the house of an employee in a heartbeat, take all your computers with evidence on them and hand them over to the criminal employer who can then accidentally delete all the evidence. There's no way in hell they'd be able to get to anything you've given your lawyer though.

    Honestly.. I'd want to have already talked to the appropriate authorities before sending a letter as explosive as the one he sent.
  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @01:00AM (#12957851) Journal
    Because most of those proxies are running without the machine owner's permission or even knowledge.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2005 @01:17AM (#12957942)
    This guy got screwed over and I feel bad, but it was incredibly stupid of him to go internal with this after he found out the CEO fully supported the operation. What did he think they were going to do? If he had done the smart thing and gone to the Feds, he wouldn't need to be taking donations on his website right now.
  • by Sigl ( 691196 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @01:29AM (#12958007)
    Wishing a company sued into oblivion for being unorganized is alittle harsh don't you think?

    Interesting story though because I've had a similar experience looking for work. I drove 3.5 hrs to interview for a job. When I got there I interviewed with a couple people but they apologized because they forgot the guy I would work for was out for the day. They said he could do a phone interview Wed. Meanwhile I interviewed with another company. I called the first company Wed and they said he would call me Friday. I said OK. The second company made me an offer that was detailed and in the form of an offer letter which I can't say I've seen before. I was impressed. Yet, I wanted to give the other company a chance to play so I told them I would get back to them Monday. Friday came and Monday I accepted the second job. The first company called a couple days later to offer me a job and I told them I already accepted one.

    I guess the point is, until they offer me a job there's no way for them to screw with me because I'm not waitin around for them to get organized.

    Just like selling a house. You don't take your house off the market because someone promises to make an offer. You only take it off once you've accepted their offer.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2005 @01:33AM (#12958019)
    That is only one example of the reasons trade unions are actually a Good Thing. By banding together, workers can afford to fight this kind of abuse when it occurs. And companies knowing that helps keep the abuse from happening in the first place.

  • by Lew Payne ( 592648 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @02:18AM (#12958223) Journal
    || The company's staff lawyers probably recommended a pre-emptive strike

    BINGO... and of course, the typical slashdotter (and Chris) will begin by saying IANAL, and
    then proceeding to act like one. Well... guess what... if you're not a lawyer, shut the **ck up
    when it comes to dispensing legal advice (or an opinion smelling of legalese). Above all, do not
    threaten others (especially others who have more wealth than you) with your armchair legal opinion.

    I'm surprised that Chris is surprised about what happened, and about suddenly finding himself in a
    position where it's costing him $20,000/month in startup legal fees. That's an expensive lesson.
  • by iamnotanumber6 ( 755703 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @02:31AM (#12958275)
    When they kick in your front door,
    How you gonna come?
    With your hands on your head,
    Or on the trigger of your gun?
    --The Clash

    I used to think of these scenarios in terms of 'in Soviet Russia'... but nowadays, my mental picture of someone getting their front door kicked in is situated usually right in the ol' US of A.

    And nevermind terrorism, but in the name of fscking trade secrets and Copyright issues?

    Seriously, what are people smoking (or not smoking) there, that you can put up with this?

    In the past few years, I've heard so many things that make me afraid for the security of my person in the U.S. - even though my biggest crimes are only copying DVDs I rented so I can watch them later, and downloading software I don't own to test out from bittorrent - that I won't even make connecting flights through the U.S. anymore.

    Yes this guy wrote a really stupid letter to his employers. But this justifies a total jackboot search and seizure of all his personal stuff, private letters, diaries, and the like? I would feel so violated.

    Mod me troll if you like, but, assuming he is innocent of these fairly obviously fabricated accusations, what happened to him is a crime bordering on assault or rape.

    And if this happened to me, and the perpetrators weren't thrown in jail, I'd be out shopping for ammunition^H^H^H^H^H writing my congressman.

    I sure think it's time that people started making a REALLY BIG NOISE that accusation of intellectual property infringment brought by a wealthy corporation does not override basic human rights to personal security of the average citizen...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2005 @02:47AM (#12958338)
    Chip's problem was he treated the matter like one of the many flamefests he's been involved in on USENET over the years where a dose of heavy language makes you sound authoritative and the only repercussions is having to repeat ad nauseum when you get a smackdown on some newsgroup discussing spam. What the company did was indeed wrong, but he was a total fool for sending that letter.
  • by ShawnDoc ( 572959 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:22AM (#12958458) Homepage
    The problem with voting histories for members of congress, is that final bills that get voted on are very complex and often contain content that goes against the title and summary of the bill. You know that the person in question voted against the "Feed the Orphans Act of 2003", but you don't know why. Were they against feeding orphans? Or did someone amend the bill to include language to make it illegal to wear pink on Thursdays? There are so many bills that start off good, generate good buzz, do good things, and then either get gutted or have so much crap added into them before the final vote that they no longer do any good.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2005 @04:03AM (#12958620)
    I learned at one company that even a [...] company owner [...] had more clout than a the technology manager.

    This somehow surprises you? What bizzaro world companies have you been working for?
  • by boots@work ( 17305 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @04:04AM (#12958626)
    Well, I'm not a lawyer. But they perhaps might have told him any of these things (I don't know which):

    "Take out these sentences, it sounds like you're threatening them."

    "Resign first, make absolutely sure you have none of their information on your machines, then send this."

    "Don't warn them, just contact the DA."

    "Don't be a hero, just resign and keep your mouth shut."

    "Make a statory declaration of the facts first, and give me a copy of the documents."
  • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @05:07AM (#12958815) Homepage Journal

    HMS fabricated evidence in order to have the police raid Chip's house and sieze his computer equipment.

    Chip threatened his own employers with legal action. What do you expect them to do?

    Have your expectations regading business ethics fallen so low that you expect all companies to break the law as a matter of routine? Or are you suggesting that this is acceptable behaviour for an employer? Your message reads as though you approve, which may not be what you intended to convey.

    HMS was already knowingly engaged in illegal activities. So probably Chip should have expected their response to be similarly illegal. With hindsight, that seems glaringly obvious.

    But to simply dismiss that the company's actions with "what do you expect?" is foolish and dangerous. If we grant acceptance to such activities what can we expect the next time some CEO decides to push the envelope?

    I mean yeah, ok, ScumBagSoft sent some goons around to beat the guy senseless, rape his wife and kidnap his kids. But, you know, he was like rude to his CEO in public. What'd the guy expect?
  • It's amazing.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hyfe ( 641811 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @05:18AM (#12958845)
    It's amazing how stories like this crop up so often in the US, and how no-one seems to draw what seems (for me atleast) to be the evident conclusion.

    The company gets away with this behaviour because it's damn more powerfull than it's (ex)-employees. However, a company is nothing without its employees. Any sort of collective defence against this sort of behaviour is going to hurt the company like hell. I mean, ever heard of actually sticking up for eachother?

    If you're too afraid of unions etc, just call it something else. Bottom line is that it's in the other workers self-interest to insure nothing like this happens ever again.

    Individualism is all fine and all, but it kinda breaks down when a much larger individual comes along wanting to use you as a doormat.

  • by Shaper_pmp ( 825142 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @06:05AM (#12958999)
    FFS strap down that jerking knee before you do someone an injury.

    Yes, lawyers get involved in things too easily these days.

    Yes, the legal profession is sucking the money, time and vitality from american (world?) culture, and fattening up on their ill-gotten gains.

    Yes, lawyers themselves often come off as objectionable, closed-minded, grabby little bastards (with apologies to the GP).

    However... this is someone who uncovers prolonged, well-known and deliberate, immoral and illegal behaviour by the company he works for.

    The software in question (IIRC) was written by the very people he's writing the memo to.

    They clearly understand and appreciate they're doing something shady (if not outright illegal), and he basically calls them on it, to their faces.

    If this memo was written as a resignation letter, fair play (although the implications are a little threatening - I know you're doing illegal stuff, here's how much trouble you'd get into if anyone found out, BTW I'm quite clearly pissed off with you and I'm resigning...).

    If it wasn't offered as a resignation letter, it's extremely stupidly-written. Sure, the company has gone way overboard and are clearly a bunch of shameless criminal cunts, but read the letter again - did he ever, under any circumstances actually expect them to thank him for the memo and pat him on the head?

    No - he's clearly telling them he knows what they're doing, he's clearly stating how much trouble they'd be in, and stating his position as diametrically opposed to them.

    Sure, it could harm his professional credibility if/when it came out, so he should have resigned quietly, or gone straight to the authorities. Given the company's position on the matter he's clearly never going to persuade them to stop what they're doing, so his job was pretty much gone from the moment he decided he couldn't tolerate their behaviour.

    Sending this not-resignation letter, requesting (presumably) he be assigned to another project, then explicitely threatening them with legal action?

    I have all the sympathy in the world, but well, he's basically asking for trouble.

    Just to clear up: I have every sympathy for Chip, and I sincerely hope these criminal fuckwads get everything coming to them, but yes, consulting with a lawyer would have been a no-brainer, and yes, he fucked up.

    Knee feel any better yet?
  • by siliconbunny ( 632740 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @06:20AM (#12959050)
    I think what's wrong is the election of judges. To any lawyer observer from another common law country (like me), it just seems unbelievably wrong.

    If you have to put yourself up for election, you will be deciding cases with a view to what potential voters -- really, just people mobilised by issue organisations, given how uninterested the average member of public is about voting --might think. This is either playing to mob mentality, or playing to vested interest groups. Either way is a recipe for bad judging.

    The whole point of judicial independence is that judges will only feel free to take courageous decisions, and to avoid knuckling under to the government in power at the time, in particular, if their jobs are secure. That is, they can't be fired, and they can't have their pay reduced so much that they have to quit. Having to be re-elected to office is very much a serious job insecurity.

    I would hate to have any of my legal rights determined by a judge with an eye on the opinion polls, the lobbysists and the millions of dollars in the bank accounts of sleazy, smoke-filled backroom operators itching to replace them if they decide cases in a way of which they disapprove.

    I know plenty of judges in a number of countries, and have been employed by one at a court. Invariably they are horrified by the system of election of judges. Basically: they cannot see how many elected judges would feel comfortable taking an unpopular decision. Unpopular decisions being ones that (i) are against the prevailing mob mentality at the time and (ii) invariably turn out to be correct when viewed after the event, when passion and emotion has cooled, and what is left is the objective facts.

    We've seen what playing to voters does to politicians. Why inflict it upon the judges too -- who are usually the ones who have to keep the politicians in check?

  • Additional comment:

    Note that outsourcing is the same kind of corruption as is thoroughly discussed in the book about corporate corruption mentioned above. Programmers in India can produce good work, that's not the issue.

    The issue is that the corrupt corporate manager wants to put a distance between himself and managing programming. Managing programming is time-consuming and requires serious concern and considerable technical knowledge and teamwork. If the programming department remains inside the company, the corrupt manager will be responsible. If the programming is outsourced, a level of deniability is introduced.

    That extra level of bureaucracy and distance has four results:
    1. Any serious project will be at least a partial failure, because no project plan defines everything. In serious progamming projects, there is a need for additional research and creative decision-making every few hours, and usually much more frequently.
    2. The corrupt manager can avoid responsibility, and can easily find a job at a new company by the time the low quality of the software becomes generally known.
    3. The contracting company has assured that they will have an Indian competitor (if the outsourcing is to India), because the outsourcing defines for another company what is needed for that particular application.
    4. The Indian company can be blamed.
  • by pzampino ( 868845 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @08:46AM (#12959637)
    +1 for ignorance; Do you think a cop or even a Judge knows what is typical/acceptable use of ssh and/or CVS?

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @08:57AM (#12959702)

    Many Americans don't want to know that their government has become corrupt, so you can expect hostile comments if you try to talk about corruption.

    Many Michael Moore fans don't want to know that he's a lying bastard. So I'll expect hostile comments when I post this [msn.com].

    See, ad hominem attacks are not too helpful are they?

    "Hey I'll just post my web page with my world view. If you agree then you're obviously a good person. If you disagree then it's because you don't want to know the truth, or have been paid off by big business, either way I don't need to listen to you"
  • by snorklewacker ( 836663 ) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:23AM (#12960452)
    You know, I'm not a big fan of the way lawyers are insinuating themselves into every crevice of modern life ... but this would have been good advice 50 years ago. Threatening legal action before you consult a lawyer is equivalent to going into battle unarmed. Your anti-lawyer rhetoric is really gratuitous here.

    Lawyers are expensive. Doing the right thing often is. What Chip is now having to defend against is much more expensive.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson