"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 17 February 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run CCXV



Christopher Petro is the

prankster who briefly

impersonated President Clinton

in a CNN chat room on Monday. He

spoke with us from his home in



Have you had any trouble with cops or lawyers since the incident?

No, nobody's talked to me. I've tried to contact CNN and kind of formally apologize and offer to tell them how they can fix the problem in the future. The admins on their chat server were completely disinterested; they told me to call information and said, "Operators are standing by."

When you did contact CNN, "Candyce," the person in charge of the chat room, didn't seem to believe that you were the real prankster. How can I be sure?

Honestly, the only way you can prove it is to look at CNN's logs and my logs and see if the addresses match up. They're the only ones who have the information on where I was connected from and what machine I was using.

That sounds too complicated. Do I have your word that you're the real deal?

It was definitely me. For better or for worse.

Do you expect any legal troubles?

I've heard rumors from people who are consultants at CNN that some of the upper IT people would like to see me arrested, but all the people under them are telling them they're out of their minds, because I didn't actually do anything.

On what grounds would they arrest you?

That I pissed them off. Other than that I can't really think of anything.

How about an impersonation charge?

You can't impersonate a federal official, but implicit in that [law] is the idea that you're attempting to modify someone's behavior, such as if you impersonate an FBI official in order to get someone to give you information they wouldn't normally give you. As a parody, pretending to be an official is not illegal.

Do you think the Secret Service has you on its watch list?

I'm sure I've got an FBI file. I've already got an NSA file.

What's the NSA file for?

I have an account on one of their public access machines, so they did a background check.

What do you do?

Internet security consulting. My biggest gig right now is acting as a CTO for an Internet startup, doing some voiceover IP projects.

What company is that?

Actually, they'd prefer I not mention them anymore. The company has already been mentioned, but I told them I wouldn't mention the name anymore.

Speaking of being discreet, you might expect news organizations to pass over the actual contents of your post, calling it "an off-color post" or something like that.

So far nobody has.

That's my point. They've all quoted it in full. Don't you think that's because they're always looking for a chance to use "Clinton" and "porn" in the same sentence?

Honestly, I don't know. Everybody I talk to has a hard time not laughing. I was on Good Morning America this morning and watched Charlie [Gibson] read the thing off the TelePrompTer. He got this horrible smirk on his face. Everybody seems to think the whole thing is hilarious. But I didn't think it would spread beyond the 500 or 600 people on the server.

How many news organizations have been getting in contact with you?

I'm lined up for four shows on the Fox News Channel. I did Good Morning America. I did 1010 WINS, ABC News in New York, the local Fox affiliate, Channel 11.... I'm not sure what Channel 11 is an affiliate of.

I don't know. I stopped watching Channel 11 when it stopped being the "Pix! Pix! Pix!" channel.

Whoever they are, they're sending a camera crew over today.

How much of a bounce do you expect to get out of this?

I have no idea. I'm hoping everybody will get over it soon. It's about to kill me; I slept two hours last night. But I figure the more good press I get out there the less chance somebody's going to blow this out of proportion and make it look like I did something wrong.

Don't you think Fox News could better use its resources by, for example, calling Robert Mugabe to ask if he'll comply with Zimbabwe's recent constitutional referendum than by putting you on four different shows?

I originally called them because they incorrectly reported that this was a hack. But they saw the daily news, and the four shows separately called me.

I don't think this is a big news item at all. It's a silly prank; everybody should have a good laugh and forget about it. It's ridiculous how far the media has taken this.

Well, when you get that ride on the comet...

Yeah, that's what I'm figuring.

You indicated in your description of the event that the joke you came up with wasn't the best, and that if you'd had more time you would have made timely comments on US politics and foreign affairs. What would you have posted if you'd had more time to think about it?

I would have tried to go with something relevant to the chat, which was discussing a lot of Internet issues. I'd probably have made some comments on encryption export policies and the way the government is restricting the growth of the Internet with outrageous export laws and things like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which makes it illegal to reverse engineer things.

If you could spoof John McCain, what funny statement would you come up with?

I really haven't even been following the race yet. I've seen the little sound bites. I'll read their platforms when it's time to vote.

Alan Keyes?

I think he has a reasonably firm grasp on what the Constitution says the federal government should be doing, which is pretty rare for anybody in the two top parties. I don't see any chance of him really winning, so I probably won't vote for him. But he does seem to understand that the federal government was only supposed to do a couple of minor tasks and the states were supposed to do everything else.

Al Gore?

I can't even imagine what question I'd ask him. He pops up so rarely and everything he does seem so trivial that I can't think of anything characteristic of Al Gore.

What about his invention of the Internet?

Oh, right, that would probably be what I'd mention. But the only thing he ever talks about are his environmentalist tendencies, and his actions on that seem so trivial.

George Dubya?

Everybody's making a huge issue out of the drug issue with him. So that would be the obvious target.

Bill Bradley?

I'm not planning on voting Democrat so I'm not even watching him.

But you're a New Yorker. Or a Brooklynite.

Well, the deal he and McCain have on campaign finance reform would make it interesting if they ended up going against each other. But everybody knows they're not going to be the two up there. At least one of them won't.

Any last statement?

I'd like people to take the events of the last couple of weeks as a reasonably gentle warning that things could be a lot worse than they really are. Corporations and educational institutions have to really lock things down and not put these completely insecure machines on high bandwidth connections. The Internet is still a community. In the same way you become part of a community when you rent office space in a building, you become responsible for the common areas. When you put a machine on the Internet, you need to make sure it's secure because it's a risk not only to you but to everybody else as well.

Do you think you're going to get your full 15 minutes of fame?

I hope that I'll be known for something more remarkable in the future. So when people know my name it'll be for something less trivial.



Microsoft is telling everyone

who will listen how Windows

2000, its fifth attempt at

knocking off Unix, is "a new

standard of reliability, online

or off." What it's not saying is

that the new standard is a low

one, and you should plan on

being offline more than you're

on. So what? In the

post-Seinfeld era of computing,

you can expect your software to

have issues too. With 63,000

bugs, Windows 2000 will offer

something for everyone. What's

next out of Redmond? An update

of Visual Basic for the Web.

Funny, didn't Microsoft call

that ActiveX once upon a time?



Savvy surfers know that the only

thing stupider than laying your

heart on the line is doing it

with geeks whose idea of a

social life is mingling with

strangers on the Internet. The

Net is populated mostly by

lonely psychotics who believe

that nothing says love like the

Hamster Dance. Yet adapting

holiday hype to their technology

sections, countless reporters

gushed Valentine's Day parables

about inanities like the online

marriage proposal of a

love-struck Canadian, while

suspiciously failing to

recognize the holiday as the

seductive branding opportunity

that it really is. Online

Valentines simply represented

the coupling of one gimmick with

another — and the only thing

"uniquely Internet" about 14

February was the spam trying to

get us to bid on NudeCD.com.

Corporate entertainment mongers

replaced overloaded postal

workers with a GIF of Mickey

Mouse, who early Wednesday was

arguing that "a record number of

requests" had overloaded his

capacity to generate any more

Disney-themed valentines online.

But the Internet ultimately

found its own uses for

interactivity. CapnWacky.com

offered us a selection of those

effeminate valentine models of

yesteryear. ("What with the

salmon hat, polka-dot scarf,

blush, and hearts on the gloves,

we're guessin' ol' Bill here

wasn't often allowed around the

campfire with the other

cowboys.") And after watching

Business Week fawn over the "CEO of

Love" — the guy who heads

AOL's Love@AOL area —

pranksters posted a fake ad

there, posing as the

loser-baiting "MetalChick."

Stocking their come-on with key

phrases like "i get crazy when

i'm drunk!", they lured

mullet-headed Ozzy Osbourne

fans into revealing their

pathetic ideas of romance ("did

i mention i'm hung like tommy

lee?"). The preening only served

as a reminder that the holiday's

truest tradition is tackiness,

and the more things change, the

more they stay the same.

courtesy of theSucksters