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Judge refuses to rule on Mitnick's probation status

Catch-22: Probation officer had asked for guidance

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US District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer has refused to step between Kevin Mitnick and his probation officer, who has denied the legendary phreaker's request to take a job writing a column for "Contentville," an e-zine scheduled for rollout next month.

Mitnick is forbidden to use mobile phones or computers, or work in a computing-related field as a condition of his release. His probation officer, Larry Hawley, nixed the job even though Mitnick says he would willingly write his columns on a typewriter, assuming he can borrow one from a museum.

According to court documents filed by Mitnick's lawyer, Officer Hawley appears willing to re-visit the job offer, but said he would "appreciate the filing of an application in order to clarify the court's intentions."

Mitnick lawyer Sherman Ellison said he had been given to understand that the probation office would not object to Mitnick's "working in the capacity of a technology journalist, commentator, media spokesman, information security consultant or the like if the court had no objection."

"Hawley essentially commented that the broad, undefined language in the Judgment and Probation/Commitment Order regarding acting as a 'consultant or advisor to individuals or groups engaged in any computer related activity' would seem to prevent Mr. Mitnick from speaking and/or communicating to such entities about computer security and information/computer technology," the document states.

But the judge has declined to give any clarification of her intentions, saying that Mitnick should instead submit additional details of the job offer to Hawley for further consideration. The judge did ask the probation officer to discuss the issue again with Mitnick's lawyers.

"I'm not interested in hacking any more," Mitnick told the court. "I'm trying to make lemonade out of lemons. I'm just trying to turn myself around."

But the judge was unmoved. "We've had a terrible, terrible time with this defendant," she said. "And [Officer Hawley] has a right to be concerned about [Mitnick's] travel. We couldn't find Mr. Mitnick for a very long time."

It is unclear whether Pfaelzer meant to encourage the probation office to use their own judgement in the matter, or whether she was hoping that withholding guidance would put a chill on their further consideration of it. ®

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