Fact Check: Was Beto O’Rourke A Hacker?
Beto O’Rourke just ended months of speculation by confirming that he does plan to run in next year’s presidential election. That ends the relatively easy ride he’s had so far, from both the media and the most vicious, underhanded opponents he’ll face in the fight for the Oval Office — his Democrat rivals. Over the next 20 months, a lot of people are going to be leaving no stone unturned in the search for dirt on O’Rourke. In fact, as we saw this week, that process is already starting.
- A report issued by the Reuters news agency sensationally revealed that Beto O’Rourke, former Democratic congressman for Texas’s 16th District, used to be a member of one of the world’s oldest and most notorious hacker groups.
- O’Rourke, interviewed by Reuters, admitted that he had been a member of the infamous Cult of the Dead Cow (known to hackers as cDc) as a teenager. He says he became involved in rebellious bulletin boards as a form of resistance to the conservative society of Texas and quickly started talking to others who shared his ideas. One of them was Kevin Wheeler, a teen from Ohio who was struggling to adapt to life in Texas.
- One of the things Wheeler did was start a loose network of hackers from among a group of teens he knew from a creepy local hangout — a derelict slaughterhouse in Lubbock. This building gave the group its name — Cult of the Dead Cow.
- O’Rourke, whose family had an Apple IIe computer and a modem, was quickly drawn into the new group. He’s happy to admit this now, saying “There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it. I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”
- What’s not clear is exactly what he did as a member of the group. cDc is a “hacktivist” group, which uses technology to push its social agenda, but it also has a long track record of more traditional hacking — specifically creating tools that let people manipulate or attack Microsoft systems.
- It’s almost certain that O’Rourke would have done at least some low-level hacking — if only to save his parents’ phone bill. At the time, all internet access was through dial-up modems and monthly charges could be hundreds of dollars a month, cDc members got around this by hacking the phone company, or someone else’s credit card, to give themselves free calls. That isn’t a teenage prank; it’s a crime.
- So, was Beto O’Rourke a hacker? Yes — he admits it himself.