The following article was written by David Harvey, a member of Hamilton's think|haus.
People accused of murder get bail.
Accused rapists get bail.
Senior members of the Mafia facing weapons charges get bail.
But Byron Sonne, who set out to embarrass the authorities by pointing out the deficiencies in their very expensive G20 security apparatus, has been held without bail for nearly a year. He has not been convicted of anything.
Byron is a computer security consultant. His job is to protect computer networks. And the way you do that job is to find holes - you figure out how to break in. Then you tell your clients how to plug the holes.
I've never met Byron, but we have mutual friends. Friends I trust, who vouch for him.
Byron became increasingly frustrated at the "security theatre" during the build up to the G20 summit. He saw massive amounts of public money being spent on security systems with obvious holes. So he set out to draw attention to the problem, by making the weaknesses public. The point of this is simple: if he could figure it out, so could the real bad guys. He wanted to draw attention to what he saw as a wasted money and incompetent security, and to the intrusions on civil liberties the authorities were perpetrating in the name of security.
Byron did get attention. Four days before summit began, the police massively overreacted, arresting Byron and his wife, searching their home and the cottages of both of their parents. The crown vastly over-charged, as shown by the fact 5 of the six original charges were dismissed at the preliminary inquiry. He was treated as a dangerous terrorist, even though the most dangerous weapon they could find was a potato gun at his parents' cottage.
The authorities were embarrassed and angered by Byron, because he was right.
The charges that remain are thin: explosives charges based on his possession of common household chemicals, and a charge added after most of the original charges had been dismissed, the rare and somewhat bizarre counselling the commission of an offence which was not committed.
Byron was put in jail because he angered and embarrassed those with power. He remains there because they have no way to save face. They must continue to insist that he is a dangerous criminal, because to admit the truth is to admit what Byron, and others, have been saying all along: hosting the G20 in downtown Toronto was ridiculous, the security expenditures were outrageous, and the actual security provided had obvious flaws. So Byron becomes the leading example of the most disturbing aspect of G20 security - the suspension of and disregard for civil rights.
Byron has paid a great price to reinforce Benjamin Franklin's famous quote: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
If only the authorities could have had the wisdom and grace to follow one of Franklin's other quotes: "Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults."
Byron had another bail hearing today. Let's hope everyone comes to their senses, and he is soon released. He is not a terrorist, and never was.
For more on Byron's case, read the cover story in Toronto Life.
To follow the progress of his case, see FreeByron.org.
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