Tuesday, November 15, 2016
CEO in San Diego resigns after online threat to shoot Trump...will he face the same kind of criminal scrutiny a conservative would have had he threatened Obama?
The chief executive of San Diego cybersecurity start-up PacketSled has resigned after election night posts on social media about assassinating President-Elect Donald Trump.
Matt Harrigan, who founded PacketSled in 2013, wrote the comments on his Facebook account as election night unfolded. The account has since been deleted, but his comments were copied and posted on Reddit, another social media site.
On Monday, PacketSled issued a statement on its website saying Harrigan had been placed on administrative leave. The company announced today that it had accepted Harrigan’s resignation and is searching for a replacement.
“PacketSled takes recent comments made by our CEO seriously. Once we were made aware of these comments, we immediately reported this information to the Secret Service and will cooperate fully with any inquiries.
“These comments do not reflect the views or opinions of PacketSled, its employees, investors or partners.”
Harrigan posted "I'm going to kill the president. Elect," according to the Reddit copy of his Facebook comments..
When a friend responded “You just need to get high,” Harrigan wrote “Nope, getting a sniper rifle and perching myself where it counts. Find a bedroom in the White House that suits you, (expletive.) I'll find you."
When warned by a Facebook friend that he might get a visit from federal authorities, Harrigan replied “Bring it secret service.”
On Sunday, Harrigan turned to Twitter to apologize, saying his comments were meant as a joke.
“My humble apologies that a flawed joke has become public/out of context,” he said. “My poor judgement (sic) does not represent the views of @packetsled.”
He followed with a second tweet. “Customers, investors or the officers of PacketSled, I have no malicious intention toward the #POTUS and apologize to all for my lack of judgement (sic) and offensive commentary. I wish you all well.”
The U.S. Secret Service is aware of Harrigan’s social media posts but otherwise declined to comment, said David Murray, special agent in charge in San Diego.
Efforts to reach Harrigan and PacketSled were unsuccessful. Harrigan’s Facebook account is no longer available.
Harrigan is well known in the cybersecurity community. He is credited with inventing the practice of network penetration testing in Kevin Poulsen’s New York Times best selling book “Kingpin.”
Harrigan was named to the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence board of directors in October. On Monday, the non-profit group cut ties with him and the company.
“The San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence is no longer affiliated with Matthew Harrigan and PacketSled.” said a spokesman. “His views expressed recently on social media do not reflect those of our diverse organization.”
Making threats to a presidential candidate can result in prosecution, as a La Mesa man found out in 2009.
Walter Bagdasarian was convicted of two charges of threatening then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in an online message board on Oct. 22, 2008. He used a racial epithet when referring to Obama and then wrote, “He will have a .50 cal in the head soon.” About 20 minutes later he wrote, “shoot the (epithet).”
Others on the message board were alarmed and contacted the Secret Service, which investigated. Agents searched his home and found a half-dozen weapons. At his trial, his lawyer said that Bagdasarian did not intend for the online rants – which included emails and other postings – to be taken seriously. The lawyer also contended the writings were protected by the First Amendment and noted that Bagdasarian later apologized on the same website.
But prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office countered that simply making the threats made him guilty, and that they should be taken seriously because they were so specific.
Bagdasarian was eventually sentenced to two months in a halfway house.
However, in 2011, a divided panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the conviction. The majority ruled that there was insufficient evidence for someone to conclude Bagdasarian meant to kill Obama, or that he intended the statements to be taken as threats. Both elements are needed to prove the charge of making a threat against a presidential candidate.
PacketSled makes root-cause cybersecurity software that detects where a cyberattack is coming from, what files are being targeted and which devices are being impacted, among other things.
The city of San Diego, which provides a test-bed for local cyber security start-ups, has used PacketSled for about two years.
“The personal comments recently posted by PacketSled CEO Matt Harrigan on a social media site will be handled by PacketSled internally,” said a city spokesman in a statement. “Meanwhile, the city will continue to work with PacketSled, and we trust that they will continue to provide exceptional service as they resolve their issues.”
The company raised $5 million in a first round of venture capital funding in July, led by San Diego’s Keshif Ventures, with Blu Ventures and JHS Ventures participating. Efforts to reach lead investor Keshif Ventures were unsuccessful.