I’ve a lot of mixed feelings about Doug Hughes, the Florida mailman who flew his gyrocopter through restricted air space to land on the front lawn of the US Capitol this week. He carried letters to Congress demanding campaign finance reform and getting money out of government.
He could have been carrying something much worse.
In a way I admire the ingenuity, planning, and courage it took to do what he did. But it seemed a foolhardy — not to mention illegal — way to protest, of all things, corruption in politics. I’d have expected something about FAA regulations, terrorism, lax security in Washington, etc. Or just the simple revelation that some overstressed worker had gone a little bonkers.
But no, during interviews Hughes appeared to be serious, thoughtful, and intelligent. Someone who spent about two years planning for his big day, buying a gyrocopter, learning to flying it, calculating the best approach to avoid detection, etc. Yet all that was just to bring attention to the need for campaign finance reform? Not that we don’t desperately need it and not that I don’t personally see it as possibly the end of government as we know it. But it just seemed so … unrelated.
I haven’t heard what will happen to Hughes. No one got hurt and he was taken into custody. The same was true of the man who crashed his drone on the White House grounds and the man who jumped the fence and got into the White House. I don’t recall hearing what ultimately happened to any of them. Charges? Convictions? (Rendition? …)
It has occurred to me, though, that however reluctantly, we owe these creative citizens a thank you. They saw and exploited holes in our vaunted security systems in Washington. And luckily for us, they did it before some terrorist did it. Now, hopefully, the holes they found will be closed. The same could be said of all the American hackers who keep poking at weaknesses in our cyber defenses.
It’s unnerving that ingenious (or perhaps just lucky) everyday citizens keep finding holes in what are supposedly the world’s best security systems established by “the most powerful government on earth.”
But better to close the barn door before the horse is out. And better us than “them.”