Silencing hackers only limits their usefulness

In February 1995, the government finally busted the notorious computer hacker Kevin Mitnick. After his recent release from prison, Mitnick has been speaking and writing about computer security, even though the U.S. Probation Office prohibits Mitnick from acting “as a consultant or adviser to individuals or groups engaged in any computer-related activity,” without permission as terms of his probation. The government has recently demanded that he refrain from public speaking and stop writing, but this attempt to silence Mitnick is pointless and possibly harmful.
Surely Mitnick understands the implications of lecturing on computer security. Rather than inviting the punishment of probation officers by instructing others in computer crime, he has used his expertise to counsel others on security issues. In fact, security officials frequently learn from expert hackers, and Mitnick can be a valuable source of information.
The computer hacking community thrives on upholding free speech and fighting a war against the oppression of one’s right to information. Frequently, hackers accuse “Big Brother” of oppressing this right. While the government does not want to glamorize Mitnick, making him the figurehead of the hacking subculture and using his probation to prevent him from speaking out about security issues will only elevate his celebrity status in the hacker subculture. Despite the harmful criminal activities of Mitnick, by denying him the freedom to lecture, the government is not preventing any criminal behavior. Rather, they are only inviting retaliation.