Unfortunately, they did not draw the same distinction I did between replaying messages and inserting false messages. Both were interfering with electronic banking transmissions, a federal offense. Furthermore, they reminded me that I had a history of tinkering with banking protocols, including the early check bouncing incidents, and suggested that forged messages fit my pattern perfectly. I remained steadfast in my position: I did not deny that I had engaged in some illegal activity, but I had not stolen, nor did I ever intend to steal, any money from any individual or institution.
I stiffened in my chair, startled. It was the agent sitting on the left that had slammed his palm onto the table and leaped from his chair. He was a young man with very short blonde hair, a square jaw, and a lightweight but athletic build. He walked across the room and stood facing the bare white wall with his back to me. Then, abruptly, he spun around and strode over to where I sat.
“Listen,” he hissed, “all of you hackers are the same. You think that every computer is your playground, every phone message your toy. You think that every bank and company is your opponent in some high-tech game of wits. You all claim that you aren’t criminals because there are no victims to your crimes.
“What about the hard-working employees at those companies? The ones who have to clean up after the mess you leave in your wake? Huh? They have to work overtime to reproduce the data you destroy.
“What about the talented programmers that can’t produce challenging and innovative programs because no company will pay a salary for software that will be pirated, driving the market value down to zero.”
“I’m not a hacker,” I said sullenly.
“No?” he cried, his voice rising an octave. “What do you call yourself then? A security analyst?” he sneered. “Let me guess, you probably think you are doing the banks a big favor by pointing out weaknesses in the system. Well I got news for you buddy, if the banks wanted that service they would hire you. But you can’t get a job can you? Huh?”
He turned away in disgust. “Geek,” he muttered. Then, suddenly he was back upon me. “Who are you working for right now?”
This was getting personal and insulting. I remained silent. He was leaning over me now, his face only a few feet from mine. The veins at his temples bulging visibly, as were those running down the sides of his neck. His chin jutted outward. Every muscle in his svelte frame was taunt. He reached out and grabbed my wrist, pulling my arm so that I faced him squarely.
“The bureau has years of experience prosecuting organized crime for protection rackets. I can recognize a protection racket when I see one,” he hissed.
“I’m not running a protection racket,” I said quietly.
The agent stood up straight. He cracked the knuckles in his hands but said nothing immediately. Nobody moved; the room was silent. Then, quietly and levelly, he asked, “do you deny that you illegally falsified EFT messages on July 11th?”
“Yes?!” he shot back shrilly, having lost all of the self-control he had regained just moments before. “Earlier you confessed to recording and replaying EFT’s. You labeled it as illegal activity yourself!”
“Right,” I replied quietly, “I replayed EFT’s; I didn’t falsify them.”
He looked at me. He looked at the other three agents. He threw up his hands in exasperation. He walked across the room and back. Then…