DAVID ROSMAN: Computer hacking and plausible deniability

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

I have been uncomfortable with laws allowing concealed weapons since 1987 when Florida opened the gate of states reversing long standing laws prohibiting carrying a concealed weapon.

However, this is not about what constitutes an “infringement to bear arms.” It concerns the two controversies surrounding access to the information about and revealing of the names of those issued Missouri conceal and carry permits.

This story has two parts. The first is the State Patrol's and the Department of Revenue's possible (and probable) mishandling of the more than 100,000 names when providing them to the federal government. (State legislation in 2004 put the Department of Revenue in charge of the issuing of such permits.) I cannot count how many new and unfounded conspiracy theories I have read in the last two months using the slippery slope argument, “If there is a list, there will be confiscation.”

Yes, such disclosure would violate the intent of Missouri law and I believe it is appropriate for an investigation of what happened, why it happened and who was really responsible. But not before the current session ends next week and limiting the review to the Department of Revenue. More about this in a moment.

The second part concerns someone on the GOP side of the H0use’s attempt to break into the Department of Revenue’s list of conceal and carry permit holders. This attempt is equal weight to the former, but is being dismissed by House Speaker Tim Jones. He told The Associated Press that it was not an illegal act, but “an appropriate action” to see if the system could be hacked. Twenty-three unsuccessful attempts within one hour occurred May 2. Of course no one was told about this beforehand, not the Department of Revenue, State Patrol or anyone else.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Jones has not called for an investigation of the attempted hacking, as he has against the governor, the Revenue Department and State Patrol. Why not?

This leads me to believe that Mr. Jones and the Republican-held super-majority do not feel that the law should apply equally to equal infractions. There is a strong possibility that the Department of Revenue and the governor’s office misled the public as to their knowledge of the incident. This is a major infraction and should not be set aside just because it was the governor. That is “argument by authority,” something we learned about with Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. “I am the President therefore what I say is the truth.” Gov. Jay Nixon may be doing the same.

But to deny plausibility because the Speaker says the attempted break-in to the Revenue Department’s computers was an “appropriate action” is also wrong. “Plausible deniability” is the newest political catch phrase, as in, “Don’t tell me what you are going to do. That gives me plausibly deniability.”

No it doesn’t. In both cases, it appears that the respective political leaders knew more than they are telling the public. Or each other. Maybe we should break out Harry S. Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here” desk plaque. In fact, that is the first rule of good leadership — praise the person who has a good idea and take full responsibility when that idea screws up.

If Mr. Jones is demanding hearings concerning and busy spreading so far unsubstantiated rumors about the governor and the Revenue Department, he also needs to set up an independent panel to investigate his own House and take appropriate actions and responsibility.

The 2013 legislative session will prove to be another unproductive and wasted four months of arguing under the Gray Dome. The introduction of bills that would nullify federal law, to argue against the health and welfare of Missouri’s lower income citizens, and to kill income taxes simply to keep up with the Jay Birds, are among the many silly and stupid ideas that have taken too much valuable time and energy.

To demand these hearings now will take legislators away from their real appointed job, to run the government, and do nothing more than create headlines that make a mockery of our legislative system.

“No man's life, liberty or fortune is safe while our legislature is in session,” Benjamin Franklin said. For Missouri, so true.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Questions? Contact opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Michael Williams May 8, 2013 | 3:46 p.m.

I'm in agreement with you that the attempted "hacking" should be investigated.

But, I'm amazed that you've spent an ENTIRE article and not mentioned, even once, the letter received by Nixon from the Feds congratulating him on his REAL ID implementation...something publicly denied by the governor and forbidden by state law.

In fact, that letter has been dismissed as a routine "form letter" of no consequence at all.

Say what? Are you kidding me? A letter is sent by the Feds to governor and it was a "never mind" letter?????

Where is Dave Rosman on this?

He lay low. Too difficult to write about, I guess.

What would have been your response if the governor was Republican. Why, I'd have to use ear plugs from all the hue and cry!

Instead, in ALL this mess, the only thing you can think to write about is the hacking incident??? Not a word about the rest???

Just sayin'............

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 8, 2013 | 5:34 p.m.

This article reminds me that I wanted to respond to someone's comment last week that wondered if the motive for folks wishing to conceal on their person was "nefarious" given that open carry was legal in this state.

Speaking for me, it's not. Here's my reason:

Unlike many progressive activists, I have no desire to alarm or offend other folks while exercising my legal rights. I am not an "in your face" kind of guy. I have recognition that gun-o-phobes exist and understand that many of them have fears, even when those fears are unsupported by the data. I have no desire to see folks take their families and move to the other side of the street or out of the restaurant when they see me coming. I also have no desire to (repeatedly) answer questions from an officer called by someone with those fears.

Nefarious? No.

Considerate? Yep.

But, "in your face" folks won't believe me.....why should they believe folks would behave any differently than their own behavior?

PS: In light of recent events, I must admit.....I'm starting to change my attitude.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz May 8, 2013 | 9:38 p.m.

Michael is absolutely right about what happens with open carry advocates. Some "concerned citizen" calls the cops on someone legally carrying a firearm openly and the best result is two folks having their time wasted. Sometimes the encounter doesn't end that pleasantly.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz May 8, 2013 | 9:43 p.m.

Why should the investigation be limited to the Department of Revenue? The list was requested via the Highway Patrol. I've seen the fed/state MIAC fusion agency mentioned in one of the released documents (probably is in more, but I've been busy). We third party/Ron Paul folks still haven't forgiven their "political extremism" report of several years ago, and I trust them about as far as I can spit.

(Report Comment)

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