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"Accidental" Download Sending 22-Year-Old Man To Prison 1127

An anonymous reader writes "Two years ago, Matthew White searched Limewire for porn. He was looking for 'College Girls Gone Wild,' but ended up downloading some images of child pornography. This was accidental, according to White, and he quickly deleted the images. A year later, the FBI showed up on his family's doorstep and asked to search the computer. After thorough sleuthing, the FBI found some images 'deep within the hard drive.' According to White, the investigators agreed that he himself could not have accessed the files anymore. Matthew now faces 20 years in jail for possession of child pornography. On advice from his lawyer, he intends to plead guilty so that he will 'hopefully' end up with 3.5 years in jail, 10 years probation and a registration as a sex offender. 'The FBI could not comment on this specific case, but said if child pornography is ever downloaded accidentally, the user needs to call authorities immediately. They may confiscate your computer, but it's better than the alternative.'"
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"Accidental" Download Sending 22-Year-Old Man To Prison

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  • the real lesson (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:30PM (#30335610)

    If the FBI shows up at your door and asks to search your computer, the correct answer is 'No.'

  • Re:Used drives (Score:4, Informative)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:35PM (#30335664)

    "I just wonder if i should ever buy/use a used HD again ?!?"

    DBAN it for a few days if that worries you. Electricity is cheap. []

  • No (Score:3, Informative)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:35PM (#30335668) Homepage

    Why wouldn't a jury believe you had no intention of downloading kiddie porn when you were the one who reported it to the cops? Calling the cops sends it up the line to who you got it from.

  • Re:Bad Ideas (Score:5, Informative)

    by Manip ( 656104 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:36PM (#30335680)

    I was thinking the same thing.

    I remember that story a few weeks ago... Someone found a shotgun in their back garden (this is the UK) and called the local police station to tell them he is bringing it in. Well anyway long story short because it was loaded and the box also had ammo he ended up getting a minimum of I believe three years.

    Yet another story, this time from the US.... Someone finds Meth, attempts to turn it into the police... Gets hit with possession of drugs. This anecdote was on a cops-like show no less.

    So too bad for us that common sense fails so often even in a legal system that is designed to have "common sense" designed into it at at least three levels (Police, Prosecutors Office, and Judge). They love to use the excuse that they enforce the laws as written (when in reality laws are meant to be interpreted so exactly this kind of thing doesn't happen!).

  • Re:Public Defender (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:44PM (#30335766) Homepage Journal
    There are trojans released and monitored on Limewire by the FBI. They are designed to ensnare people who search for certain keywords in the hopes that they will have downloaded other "objectionable content", which is why LEO usually waits for the marks to collect more "evidence" to be used against themselves. The trojan is designed to catch people who would download objectionable content and then immediately delete it, as TFA indicates.

    The trojans cannot be deleted. They cannot be seen, even if the user has full administrative access including the ability to see and modify hidden and system files. The trojans may be found accidentally when a wipe on a hitherto unknown file fails. The trojans run on Windows.

    tl;dr - Don't run Windows if you need horrific pornography to get your rocks off. And no, the above did not happen to me.
  • do the math (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalsushi ( 137809 ) <> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:52PM (#30335852) Journal

    Do the math. What's the most popular porn? Girls as close to 18 as possible. Combine that with user submitted porn. Combine that with typical porn viewing habits, i.e. way too much. Now do some stats. Who's leftover that doesn't have something illegal in their cache? No one who looks at lots of porn, that's for sure. Face it. If someone doesn't like you, they can mess your life up financially, politically, emotionally, really anything they fell like if they are malicious.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spatial ( 1235392 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:56PM (#30335892)
    Because the words "Child porn" deactivate the cerebral cortex.

    You can't expect thought on the subject. You can't expect a rational examination of the arguments, actions or context. People are stupid enough to begin with; when you bring this subject into the fold any trace of intelligence completely disappears.
  • My $.02 (Score:5, Informative)

    by sexybomber ( 740588 ) <> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:56PM (#30335906)
    I posted something similar to this in the comments to the article, but I thought I would start the discussion here too. For those of you who are inclined to rip on the public defender for letting this guy take the plea, bear in mind that the PD is probably handling about a thousand other cases (no exaggeration), not to mention that he barely makes a living wage. Public Defenders' offices are criminally underfunded compared to the DAs, who have the full backing of the State.

    Matt White's attorney probably had no choice but to take the plea and dispose of the case quickly. The system is designed so that the PDs can't take anything to trial on account of the sheer volume of cases they have to manage; they're forced to plead everything out and pray they get a good deal. (If they took even a small fraction of their cases to trial, their other clients would be waiting for years to have their cases heard, and there's this pesky little piece of paper that guarantees people the right to a speedy trial. (Of course, it also guarantees the right to effective counsel, but the bar for what constitutes "effective" is ridiculously low.)

    It's a win-win for the people who matter: the DA gets to scratch another kill mark into his desk, the prison system gets another warm body it can use to justify its budget, the politicians who depend on prisons to keep the headcounts in their districts high get another "constituent" who can't vote, plus they get to claim they're "tough on crime" and are "protecting the children".

    The fact that an (arguably) innocent man has his life ruined as a result doesn't even factor into the equation. He and the public defender are pawns. It's not that the $ystem hates them, it's that, to the people who run the show, they truly, truly do not matter.

    So the moral of the story is: if you accidentally download CP, pull the plug on the computer, rip out the hard drive, and destroy it immediately. (Okay, maybe you can leave it powered up for the time it takes to back up your documents, &c., but no longer. It's hammer time.)
  • by andrew554 ( 1649757 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:57PM (#30335910) to
    1. Delete all files
    2. Clear your browser cache
    3. Burn the hard-drive
    4. Move house
    5. Phone the FBI and tell them that you definitely haven’t downloaded anything.
  • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:00PM (#30335960)

    Yeah, the blurb says the guy did erase it. The investigators found it in a "deep" scan. Which means they just used a block editor.

    FWIW, there are loads of ways you could have this happen to you. Like this for instance [] I recall a story where a church bought a new computer and it was full of porn too, but I can't find the story.

    BTW, posting as AC to tell my story. This happened to me once and I wasn't even looking for porn. I've had two downloads through bittorrent that weren't what they claimed to be. One was a cd full of kiddie stuff claiming to be an engineering application. Terrified me! I deleted it and used bcwipe about a dozen times. []

  • Re:Prison Sentences (Score:5, Informative)

    by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:02PM (#30335984) Journal

    Politics drives it. In the US, no politician dares look soft on crime. Advocating ridiculously long sentences is a quick and easy way to bolster an image. And failing to be tough is an even quicker way to end a political career. Huckabee is getting flak because one man he let out early has shot and killed 4 police officers. Type "Dukakis" into a search engine and one of the first things that shows up is Willie Horton.

  • Re:Bad Ideas (Score:4, Informative)

    by pbhj ( 607776 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:05PM (#30336000) Homepage Journal [] (sic) appears to be the story.

    He claims to have found the gun and ammunition whilst preparing his brothers garden for a party. He apparently then says he hid the gun at home "intending to hand it to police later".

    The guy was then arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary (which I think is burglary where he acted violently against a person) and the police found the gun .. then this story came out.

    If it's a different story you're referring to can you cite a reference.

    Tip: if you find a shotgun and ammunition don't touch it, stand there and call the police. If you don't have a phone then get someone to call the police for you or have a trusted person watch the weapon whilst you go to get the police. Moving the item is probably going to disturb evidence.

  • by norton_I ( 64015 ) <> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:05PM (#30336002)

    He is represented by a public defender, which means he can't afford a new lawyer, and his current lawyer can't afford to put together a respectable case.

  • by ericbg05 ( 808406 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:13PM (#30336086)

    "Matt is pleading guilty on the advice of his public defender in hopes of getting a three and a half year sentence."

    In other words, he doesn't have the money to actually fight this.

    ... where by "he" you mean the PD himself.

    Look, public defenders almost *always* encourage their clients to settle, because their compensation structure incentivizes them that way. PDs barely make ends meet, and they get compensated by the number of cases they take on, with very little marginal compensation for taking a case to trial. So they wind up taking on 50, 100 cases at a time. The faster they can get rid of you, the faster they can take on another case.

    Notice that the merits of your case didn't appear in the above reasoning chain.

    Of course if the client insists on going to trial, the PD is legally obliged to do so--but how many criminal defendants know enough AND have the cojones to argue with their lawyer when their liberty is at stake?

    The PD compensation system is b0rkd, and innocent people are in jail because of it.

  • More to it... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ArcCoyote ( 634356 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:15PM (#30336118)

    First of all, the CBS13 article is utterly fact free. The only CP "boogeyman" is the one the news manufactures.

    Limewire? A year ago? As a fake "College Girls Gone Wild"? Anyone who downloaded that would be getting it from many sources and would have no idea what it was. The FBI simply wouldn't be able to track the download, and over that kind of time, NTFS (I assume) would have completely destroyed any evidence. I've done data recovery, it takes a lot less than a year for deleted files to degrade.

    If something could be recovered in an intact enough state to satisfy forensics, I'm convinced this guy intentionally downloaded CP, got caught, and deleted it not too long before the FBI showed up. He's making excuses.

    The FBI without a doubt does set up sting sites and baits CP downloaders, but why would they disguise it as fake adult porn? They want to catch people who are actually trying to download CP.

    As others have pointed out, this shit shows up on 4chan and the like all the time. Lots of us have probably seen it be accident, has the FBI knocked on your door yet?

  • by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:23PM (#30336182)

    The feds often have super-powers when it comes to plea bargaining.

    They can make the threat: Plead to three years or face twenty.

    When that power is in the wrong hands it can force innocent or very mitigated people to plead guilty.

    More importantly--much more importantly--they can use this leverage to FORCE a person to agree to their sentence recommendation. This means that they don't get to plead for mercy from the judge.

    This power when used in the right hands, is excellent for hammering bad guys. When used in the wrong hands (for ambition or to avoid embarrassment), it can be downright evil.

    We place a lot of trust in our federal prosecutors.

  • Re:The FBI is lying. (Score:3, Informative)

    by eosp ( 885380 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:38PM (#30336320) Homepage
    Note that many modern file systems use journaling or copy-on-write, both of which have the effect that writing to the same file does not necessarily write to the same block. DBAN [] takes care of this problem, though.
  • Re:Call the cops (Score:5, Informative)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:39PM (#30336338)

    "Its just like buying a used car from a drug dealer and going across a border checkpoint.."

    You can have your local K-9 unit run the dog through any car you buy if you ask nicely. The military will do so too, and when I was in the USAF I
    had them do one car I bought as a precaution.

  • However, I think it is great advice to call the FBI when you see something like that, get it on record that you accidentally downloaded kiddy porn and you want to know what the FBI is doing to catch the bastards who make and distribute it.

    The FBI is *not* there to give you legal advice, or act in your best interests. Their job is to throw your ass in jail if you possess kiddie pr0n. They will say they have no discretion.

    The truth is your best defense. They admit you couldn't access it - didn't even know it was still there - then it wasn't "in his possession" - because legally in this case, possession means CONTROL OVER. The case is shit, and he'll walk. Even a dumb jury will "get it." Reconstituting the bits means that, before they were reconstituted, he didn't have them either. It's like a glass of reconstituted orange juice - until you add water, you don't have orange juice, just frozen concentrate.

  • Re:Public Defender (Score:3, Informative)

    by Entropy98 ( 1340659 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:43PM (#30336366) Homepage

    link? citation?

  • Re:Public Defender (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:52PM (#30336472)

    because [] all [] antivirus [] software [] is [] made [] by [] people [] who [] are [] governed [] by [] the [] laws [] of [] the [] united [] states []...

  • Re:Bad Ideas (Score:3, Informative)

    by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:57PM (#30336526) Homepage Journal

    In the UK possession of a firearm is a crime.

    Lies lies and more lies. Hand guns are banned, anybody can get a shotgun if they get a licence. If being an idiot was a crime, you'd be locked up.

  • Re:Prison Sentences (Score:2, Informative)

    by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @02:30PM (#30336870)

    Huckabee is getting flak because one man he let out early has shot and killed 4 police officers.

    And what you said there that I bolded is a big part of his problem. He didn't "let him out". The Arkansas governor doesn't even have the power to just let someone out of prison. He commuted the sentence from 100+ years to forty-something years. That made him eligible for parole, which let someone else let him out due to assorted fuckups (and nobody opposing his parole hearings).

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @02:31PM (#30336890)

    Interesting - it sounds like what the judge did was correct - he instructed the jury on what the law was, that is that possession of the drug made the defendant guilty. What came out of the jury room was jury nullification (nullification of the law), that is the jury declared innocence despite the law. Supposedly this is quite a rare event.

    There is a long history of jury nullification, some of it quite ugly during periods where racial discrimination was the way things were.

    This one of the most controversial areas of law, and an area that all citizens who go to serve on juries should be aware of because it WONT be brought up in the courtroom. However the roots of it go very deep into English Common Law, and because the court cannot punish the jury for its verdicts and we have protection against double jeopardy, jury nullification is in fact a power of any jury.

  • Re:FBI bait? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ankur Dave ( 929048 ) <> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:32PM (#30337432) Homepage
    FBI linkbait was actually covered on Slashdot itself [] last year.
  • by Tacvek ( 948259 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:45PM (#30337526) Journal

    Interesting tale of jury nullification.

    I think the fact that the average jury is generally considered to consists of 12 people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty to be the real problem. Then combined with the fact that the jury selection process is generally designed to weed out anybody with any level of technical expertise that might be able to contradict an expert witness, and the system is clearly broken.

    I know for a fact that if I am every on a jury, the other jurors will hate me. I will insist on being the foreman, and work from there. Except in the case of jury nullification, the process will then proceed by looking at the jury instructions to determine the facts in dispute.

    Choosing the order carefully such that the minimum number of facts need to be considered, and for each fact we will determine the truth and the level of uncertainty. A guilt verdict will be rendered if and only if there is a sequence of facts found true beyond reasonable doubt such that these facts indicate that the person is indeed guilty.

    If necessary combined facts will be considered. For example there might be a reasonable level of doubt about facts A and B, but it might be clear beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one of the two is true. If it is the case that either being true may allow for a guilt verdict then such a combined fact may be considered. The final result will be a list of all facts that we have found to be true or false beyond a reasonable doubt in the course of attempting to find a path a facts that lead to guilt, or show that no such path exists.

    Very organized, very methodical, would drive the average apathetic jury nuts if there are a significant number of possible facts to consider.

    Of course, determining if the rest of the jury is at all sympathetic to jury nullification should probably come before of all that, as in that case, a less rigidly logical, and more emotional approach to determine if there is a good reason to ignore the law may be needed or desirable.

  • by PinkyGigglebrain ( 730753 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:51PM (#30337586)
    Google "Jury Nullification" (sorry not to link, my html is weak and I still need my first cup of coffee)

    In a nut shell, the Jury has the responsibility and right to disregard the law, the judge, the evidence and vote their conscious.

    Time was when this was part of the instructions the Jury were given but the judges stopped talking about it during Prohibition because the Jury would acquit rum runners and bartenders who served alcohol.

    Of course the DA and Judges hate this and do everything they can to keep the jury from invoking this Constitutional Right.

    Kudos to you for standing your ground and not joining the sheeple because you wanted to go home.
  • by halln ( 1180165 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:51PM (#30337588)
    Sounds like a good example where the Fully Informed Jury Association website should have been reviewed. From their site []:

    "The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government. The Constitution guarantees you the right to trial by jury. This means that government must bring its case before a jury of The People if government wants to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property. Jurors can say no to government tyranny by refusing to convict."
  • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:53PM (#30337620)

    We don't need to wake up to police state insanity. We *ARE* in police state insanity.

    One example:

    Every company I have worked for quietly checks *arrest* records. Not *conviction* records. Big difference. A conviction needs a judge, two juries (petit and grand), an DA to press the case. What does an arrest require? Reasonable suspicion.

    Arrest records, even though someone might be completely innocent are permanent. One might be able to get it expunged, but because the matters are of public record, they get immediately propagated into a number of private databases, none of which people have any access to. In the town I live in, a local comic book shop has photos of whomever is dragged into the county jail last night and has a game of guess the charges to win prizes.

    Of course, the places I've worked at who do the arrest record check do not say a word about it. They just mark the resume as not qualified and shitcan it just like they do any resume that doesn't have the right keywords. This is completely automated too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:11PM (#30337798)

    If you're innocent and your lawyer says "cop a plea" your next words should always be "you're fired". Same with any plea bargain. Don't even consider it.

    Congratulations. You just got 99% of those who follow this advice a longer, harsher sentence.

    It's great to sit at your desk in some suburban room and say "fire your attorney. Don't even look at plea bargains" when you've never been there and aren't aware of the circumstances.

    Public defenders amass a huge amount of experience in a short time. They are outgunned by the DA's office (often by 2:1 or more in attorneys, to say nothing of the fact that the DA's office essentially has an unlimited budget whereas the PD has to go to the court, hat in hand, any time it wants to spend money), and they are stretched far too thin. But they know the courts, they know juries, and they know the prosecutors.

    They can use those resources to get better deals and to make better predictions. I'm not aware of any jurisdictions with a conviction rate below about 90%. So if you've been charged, the odds are already against you. If your attorney comes to you with a deal, you have to consider it. You must also consider whether they're advising you in your best interests or because they need to get rid of the case, but your advice is flat-out moronic.

    You can pontificate all day long about refusing to admit to something you didn't do, but you're assuming there's a realistic chance at victory. 90% conviction rate, even on circumstantial cases. If an experienced attorney says you've only got a 5% or less chance at victory, and that the cost of losing is expected to be 20 years, but a plea right now would get you two years, it's in your best interests to take the two years. You can't fix the system by throwing yourself into it.

    You can do your two years and then write about your innocence and the insanity of the criminal justice system. Or you can spend several months or a year in jail waiting for your trial, and then spend twenty before you can tell your story. Which is really better for you? People aren't going to believe a conviction is false any less than a plea, especially when the sentence imposed is long.

    Here, if there is no evidence of innocence and a sufficient amount of evidence of guilt, it would be idiotic from a self-interest perspective not to take the 3.5 years. Jurors turn off their brains when they hear "child porn". You're advising him to play Russian roulette with 99 chambers of a two decade plus sentence and one of no sentence (but the media has already damaged this guy's life almost as much as a three-year sentence would), when he could skip the loaded gun altogether and save himself more than 16 years.

    The FBI makes mistakes, but they typically only turn these over to prosecutors when they're confident they can make the case. He may not have done anything wrong. You can stand on principle in a hurricane, but you really can't complain that it comes and destroys you anyway.

    It's a decision you have to make. Maybe it's important for him to take that 1% chance because he won't sign his name to a crime he doesn't believe he committed. But your advice is asinine to anyone who has ever been charged with a crime.

  • by BountyX ( 1227176 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:16PM (#30337846)
    Forgot link. Here it is []. Another interesting thing to note about Japan, possession of child porn is not illegal.
  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:42PM (#30338082) Journal

    >>>He claims it was done by accident, that the files magically got buried deep within the system. Yeah, because that stuff happens. Not.

    Actually it does. I suspect the FBI used an "undelete" program to scour the whole drive, and piece together various sectors to form an illegal image. As the FBI admitted, the user would have not been able to do that under normal circumstances. ----- Who kows what crap is on my or Your hard drive, just waiting to be uncovered. Just because you "delete" something doesn't mean it can't be recovered later on

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:47PM (#30338118) Journal

    >>>I smell an excuse. "oh it wasn't me, it was scary computers that did it"...... Smell the bullshit.

    I smell someone who doesn't understand computers, and naively believes that when he deletes files, they are gone. I hope someday YOU get caught when the FBI digs-up 2 or 3 year old files from your HDD. Maybe I'll call them now and give thema tip that SmallFurryCreature downloaded some illegal stuff. Are you SURE you're computer is clean, and you haven't broken any laws? I bet you have. We all have.

  • Re:He isn't innocent (Score:3, Informative)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:53PM (#30338156) Journal
    He wasn't in possession of kiddie porn. The FBI reconstituted the data (which was in 4k blocks on the drive and totally inaccessible to him) and re-created the kiddie porn.

    Accidental possession isn't "strict liability". It's strict liability ONLY if you KNOWINGLY make, distribute, or possess kiddie porn. If you did it knowingly, then your intent is irrelevant. If you knew the kid was under-age, your "intent" to "make a harmless art film" is irrelevant. [] Possession of less than 3 items is an affirmative defense. Making a good-faith attempt to destroy the material in question is an affirmative defense. they don't have to report it if they've deleted the images.

    Also, 18 2252a uses the term "knowingly", and subsection d 2 a again says that if the recipient then destroys it, that is sufficient.

    The law is clear - if someone sends you kiddie porn, or you are tricked into downloading some, you only have to immediately delete it.

  • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:3, Informative)

    by MtlDty ( 711230 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @08:35PM (#30339824)

    Be aware that if you have Windows 'system restore' enabled, then no matter how many times you securely erase - the file could still be in the shadow copy (which is completely untouchable). []

  • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:3, Informative)

    by eggoeater ( 704775 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @09:40PM (#30340248) Journal
    or... []

  • Re:From TFA (Score:3, Informative)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:59PM (#30340962) Homepage

    If they ask for consent to search, it means they likely don't have probable cause for a search and probably can't get a warrant.

    NEVER NEVER NEVER give consent to a police search. Ever.

    NEVER NEVER NEVER talk to the police voluntarily. Ever.

    Repeat this over, and over, and OVER AGAIN until it soaks in.

    If you think you've got nothing to hide, etc... I suggest you go and watch the following YouTube link: []>Don't Talk to the Police

    This is the now quite famous lecture given by Professor James Duanes and gives you a frank explanation of WHY you don't talk to the police unless you have to. IF they ask for consent, refuse. IF they ask for a voluntary statement or similar on something, refuse. You will breach your Fifth Amendment rights out of the gate almost every time. Once you do, you can and most likely will have your words twisted on you. Once you do, you open yourself up to all sorts of potential problems.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.