Professional Troublemaker

 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Advocate



Cancun Airport Attempts “Man-in-the-Middle Attack” On Web Connection

Warning: This post is technical.  The non-technical tl;dr is that the airport lounge network in Cancun attempted to hack my Internet connection to work.

Mera Business Lounge @ CUN AirportIf my flight is in the evening on a weekday, I’ll often show up at the airport early, work from the airport lounge, and catch my flight.  They tend to have reliable Internet, I get to spend the day eating and drinking for free, and I don’t have to worry about traffic or making my flight on time.

I sat down in the “Mera Business Lounge” in CUN’s Terminal 3 last week and went to log into my work server via “SSH” — a secure protocol commonly used to interact with Linux computers — and was somewhat surprised to see this:

$ ssh -i xxxxx jon@ (not the actual address)
Someone could be eavesdropping on you right now (man-in-the-middle attack)!
It is also possible that a host key has just been changed.
The fingerprint for the RSA key sent by the remote host is

No big deal — I assume someone at work has just changed around something on the server, like the message suggests after the scary warning part.  But, nonetheless, my standard practice is to connect to a VPN and repeat the attempt.  This mitigates any man-in-the-middle attack on the local side of the network, because although an attacker might be between Cancun and my work, if I have a VPN provider attempt the connection for me, the attacker no longer sits in the middle.  If the VPN attempt reports the same key mismatch, it’s probably not an attack.

Well, with VPN enganged…

$ ssh -i xxxxx jon@
Welcome to Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS…

I actually couldn’t believe it, so I disconnected from VPN, repeated, re-connected to VPN, repeated.  Same result: fingerprint mismatch, no fingerprint mismatch.

A lookup of the external IP address of the lounge showed the network was run by an ISP called “G TEL” —

% Joint Whois –
% This server accepts single ASN, IPv4 or IPv6 queries

inetnum: 148.243.37/24
status: reallocated
owner: G TEL Comunicacion, S.A.P.I. de C.V.
responsible: Sergio Antonio Bravo Garcia
address: DR. ATL, 2084, Int. 606, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana
address: 22010 – Tijuana – BC
country: MX

I attempted contacting their LACNIC point of contact and the standard “abuse” e-mail address, but received no reply as of the date of this article.  It’s unclear whether the attacker had access only to the airport lounge local network, or was at G TEL, or somewhere else on the Internet. I also have no reason to assume that I was targeted specifically (instead of, say, targeting everyone who was on the network). But it’s clear that my connection was indeed attacked.

Watch yourself out there!  While “sophisticated” attacks like MitM are uncommon for the everyday Internet user, they apparently happen.  If you ever see those “certificate not valid/trusted” warnings, take them seriously, and understand that if you proceed, any credentials that you’ve put into that Web site — in the future or in the past, as they’ll be taking your authentication cookies — are now in someone else’s hands.

Full session…

MitM Attack @ CUN

Turkey, Poland Compete To See Who Can Fuck Free Speech Harder in 2018

Let’s meet our contestants in this race to the bottom!

Only terrorists would use this!

Weighing in at 83 million residents, Turkey has decided to make the downloading of a messaging app illegal, with possession of it subjecting the thought criminal to prison time, loss of employment, and social scorn for being a terrorist.  The app is called ByLock, and it’s basically a watered-down version of WhatsApp that has now reached over a million downloads (wow, that’s a lot of terrorists!).  The reason this app earned contraband status was because an opposition political party movement called Gülen allegedly liked to use the app to communicate.

Weighing in at 38 million residents, Poland has a pet peeve.  You see, some people have been referring to Nazi concentration camps that existed in Poland during World War II as “Polish death camps.”  Poland takes umbrage at this depiction because, while there were indisputably death camps in Poland, they were not “Polish;” they were German.  So the correct way to handle this situation is not to educate the public but to criminalize the stringing of 3 words together.  Those who use the term “Polish death camps” instead of “death camps in Poland” will be subject to a 3 year term in a Polish death camp — er, I mean, prison.

Polish Death Camp
This is a Polish death camp

The scoreboard stands as follows:

Turkey’s measure is specifically intended to stifle political dissent, which earns them 12 points.  They also earn 5 points for futility, since there’s no special technology behind ByLock and dissidents could simply switch to virtually any messaging app.  They earn 3 more points for accidentally arresting over a thousand people who were mistakenly thought to have downloaded the app.  They earn 1 more point for being ignored by the mainstream media until they accidentally arrested the wrong people (apparently it wasn’t enough of a story when they arrested actual users of an innocent messaging app to silence political dissidents).  And they earn 2 more points because Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, smells of bad döner.

Poland gets 6 points for the stiff prison sentence for such a subtle linguistic nuance.  They get 2 points for criminalizing the saying of something for no other reason than that it embarrasses them.  They get 5 points for using the Holocaust as an excuse to be authoritarian.  They get 2 more points for criminalizing something Barack Obama once did.  And, I give them 3 points for being a secular, democratic nation from which we should be able to expect better.  But, I deduct 2 points for pissing off Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who puzzlingly equates this with Holocaust denial (no Ben, it’s not Holocaust denial, it’s just stupidity and thuggery).

That’s 23 points for Turkey and 16 points for Poland so far.  Let’s see if Poland can catch up, or perhaps another country will join the battle, which is traditionally initiated by having the country’s leader get on Twitter and announce their candidacy using the hashtag #HoldMyBeer.

Rich People Skip TSA Body Scanner, Get PreCheck Access at JFK Thanks to AA “Flagship First” Entrance

AA Flagship First Dining
The menu I received for the “free” restaurant access with AA Flagship First

I don’t often purchase full-fare first class tickets, and at the beginning of the year I switched loyalty programs from American to Delta after merging with US Airways caused AA’s service to plummet (hey, who could have predicted that merger would hurt consumers?!).  So I’ve never had access to AA’s Flagship First program before, which entitles guests to ultra-premium lounge access, including no-charge “fine dining,” and a special airport entrance, for those flying in first class direct between JFK and either LAX or SFO.  But, I had some AA miles to burn and booked the flight for today.

You’ll imagine my surprise when I walked through the VIP entrance and was immediately placed in the PreCheck queue.

TSA PreCheck is designed to allow people to submit to a background check and thereafter skip the most invasive of the security the TSA imposes upon us — including the nude body scanners and full-body pat-down.  The idea is that passengers can be pre-screened to ensure that they are less of a security risk and thus it becomes unnecessary to use normal security practices.

The wisdom of PreCheck not withstanding (it relies on the premise that the government can predict who is a terrorist and who is not, a premise that I’m not sure is founded), the program is entirely undercut if one can get PreCheck benefits by splurging about $1K (or 50,000 AAdvantage miles, in my case) on a premium ticket.  American Airlines and the TSA are literally allowing flyers to buy their way out of security procedures.

In the meantime, your 80-year-old grandmother is still getting rubbed down for weapons and your 2-year-old’s baby bottle is still being tested for explosive residue.

Anything for our profits safety, right?


Twitter to Ban Users Who “Affiliate” With Organizations That “Promote Violence”

Twitter is a private company that has a right to allow and to ban whatever speech they would like on their platform.  But its users also have the right to call them out on using that power to silence debate.

Twitter has announced that starting December 18th, they will not allow users who “affiliate with organizations that … use or promote violence.”  They make clear that it matters not whether the organization is allegedly violent “on [or] off the platform,” and do not define “affiliate” or “violence:”

Twitter's New Policy

Source: Twitter

This leaves open a lot of important questions:

  1. What counts as a “violent” organization?  Does Black Lives Matter fit?  What about “alt-right” protesters?  Does the group need to be “illegal?”  (Under which jurisdiction’s laws?)  What about groups fighting for active revolutions (and does it matter if they are oppressed peoples fighting against an abusive government)?  They do say the ban is limited to “violence against civilians,” so maybe it’s ok to call for the death of U.S. soldiers?  What about violent governments?  Are we taking a side on the Israel-Palestine issue?  What about violent individuals who don’t really have an organization — or are in a loose, decentralized group like “Anonymous” — but want to see the world burn?
  2. What does it mean to “affiliate?”  Do I need to be a card-carrying member?  A leader of the organization?  Or is just posting, “I support X” somewhere on the Internet good enough?  What about mere sympathy, even if I expressly state that I am not a part of the group?  What if I support their philosophy, but not their violent means?  Will promising that I don’t — or no longer — belong to the group get me un-banned?
  3. How will Twitter be tracking affiliations assuming users don’t announce them overtly on the Twitter platform?  Will it be looking through other social media platforms?  Will it use tracking cookies to ban people who visit certain Web sites?  If I “Like” or “Re-Tweet” something verboten, is that enough?

It makes sense that Twitter doesn’t want to be a platform for terrorists to spread their message (even though promoting foreign interference into U.S. elections is no problem for them).  So why not say that, and do that, instead of changing your terms to something entirely amorphous with vague insinuations of an intent to play Big Brother?

YouTube Removes Gun Videos Showing Legal “Bump Stocks” After Vegas Shooting

I wouldn’t call myself a gun expert, but I am pretty familiar with gun laws and what may be legal to own in the United States versus what isn’t going to fly anywhere in the country.  After watching a couple of videos from the saddening incident in Las Vegas last week, I hypothesized on a Facebook post that the shooter probably had a “bump stock,” along with a YouTube video I found demonstrating the device:

The Bump Stock Hypothesis

My hypothesis — based on the rate of fire I could hear in the videos and knowledge of the difficulty any civilian in this country would have obtaining a real machine gun — was confirmed after photos leaked from the shooter’s hotel room.

If you’ve not yet become familiar, the “bump stock” is a legal rifle modification that is just two pieces of plastic with a spring between them.  The spring allows the trigger to release itself using the kinetic energy of the gun, allowing for the firing of the next round far faster than would be possible by manually releasing the trigger.  They are sold for as little as $100, and some gun enthusiasts have pointed out that with practice, you can use your shoulder like the spring and get faster rate of fire even without the $100 mod.

But when I went back to the video that I had posted, I got the following message:

YouTube Gun Censorship

YouTube, it seems, has now decided that videos showing perfectly legal guns in perfectly legal ways are “harmful or dangerous content” that violates its content policy.  People shooting real machine guns can still be found all over the site, and indeed, they haven’t gotten around to banning all the videos yet, but several of the videos that had been around for years have now disappeared.

I’m apparently not the only one who noticed.

I must assume that reason behind this is to make a political statement in favor of gun control, but why?  Watching videos of bump fire in action is pretty shocking when you’ve never seen it before, and if anything, I’d expect it would prompt the public to call for their immediate ban.  Google has, quite simply, taken it upon itself to impose its morals on all of us and to deprive the public of information.  Given the control over the Internet that Google has, I think we have a right to demand some objectivity rather than moderation practices based on emotions and feelings.


What Are My Rights at Large Festivals? (Am I Going to Jail for Weed & Prescriptions at Burning Man?)

Burning Man LoveKnowing that I’ve been in civil rights advocacy for 7 years and I’m now finishing law school, I get a ton of questions from friends about legal issues.  Being that Burning Man festival happens in 2 weeks, this month I’m inundated with, “Will the cops on the Playa care about x, y, z,” and reading a ton of material from other sources misstating the law (sadly, sometimes even the official correspondence from Burning Man gives inaccurate advice).   The answers to these questions mostly apply to many kinds of festivals, so rather than respond individually, allow me to share my collective thoughts regarding the common themes here:

  1. Can I get arrested for smoking weed on the Playa?  Yes.  Nevada made recreational marijuana legal effective July 1st, 2017, but federal law still prohibits possession or use of the same.  So, state cops are not going to be citing you if you’re in compliance with the law.  So what’s the problem?  Two things.  First, Burning Man is held on federal land.  There are federal law enforcement — Bureau of Land Management Rangers — all over, and although some might look the other way, it’s no guarantee.  Second, smoking marijuana in public in Nevada is still illegal.  Whether being in a tent qualifies as being in your home for the purpose of Nevada’s marijuana laws is not a question that has yet been answered, but you definitely do not want to be caught walking around with a lit joint.  You should be especially careful if there are children around, as there are at Burning Man during the day — it is unlikely a cop will “look the other way” if you’re getting high next to a kid.
  2. I heard that if one person is doing drugs, they can search the whole camp!  No.  An officer needs probable cause to conduct a search, a standard which means that a person of reasonable prudence would believe that you were committing a crime.  Case law is quite clear that standing next to a person committing a crime — let alone owning a tent 100 feet from them — is not, by itself, probable cause.  But, know that law enforcement is known to coerce consent to search.  How do you respond to, “I just caught your campmate smoking weed, now open your tent or I’m bringing the dogs!”  Easy: “I’m sorry but I don’t consent to a search.”  Let them bring the dogs if they must (they will probably get bored before that time, and your defense attorney would much rather challenge a dog search than your consent), but do not ever consent to a search, whether you are doing something illegal or not.  Likewise, if you’re cited or arrested out on the Playa, you have no obligation to tell them where you’re camping, and I suspect your campmates may prefer if you don’t.  Do not lie to the police on the Playa — if they are federal law enforcement, lying to them is a felony! — but why invite them back to your house?  Instead, “I’m going to exercise my right to remain silent” is a good response (and then do the remaining silent part!).
  3. What about prescription pills?  They’re fine.  And despite what this morning’s e-mail from the Burning Man said (“If you use prescription drugs, they must be in the prescription bottle or container you receive from the pharmacist at all times”), I was able to find no part of Nevada’s Controlled Substances Act that requires you to do this, and at least one state that has tried to legislate a “must be in Rx bottle” requirement has found their law declared unconstitutional.  But, here’s the thing: having a baggie full of pills may be evidence that you intended to distribute them.  It’s not enough on its own, but I would not recommend getting 10 little baggies, putting 4 oxycodone pills in each of them, and carrying all 10 baggies with you while walking around the Playa.  You’ll look like a drug dealer, and at the least give them reasonable suspicion to question you.  But, if they are legitimately prescribed to you, in the end, you’ve committed no crime, and carrying one of your Xanax in your pocket in case you need it is, as best I can tell, fully legal in Nevada.
  4. Anything else I should worry about?  Yep.  Here’s where people most frequently get in trouble:
    • You won’t get in with: stowaways, fireworks, lasers, styrofoam coolers, pets, plants, and guns (lol at this morning’s e-mail stating there are no “weapons” allowed… anything from knives to flamethrowers is not a problem; the only prohibition is firearms).  The Burning Man staff (not the police) will ask to do a quick look in your car for any of the above on the way in, and you’ll be turned away from the gate if you refuse.
    • Don’t drive like an asshole (don’t drive on open Playa without a mutant vehicle permit, don’t exceed the speed limit, don’t drive while drunk, don’t drive during a dust storm).  It’s weird driving for miles at 10 MPH on gate road, but do it.  Going faster will also screw up your car and create massive dust clouds for everyone else.
    • Use intoxicants responsibly.  Drugs are bad, I hear, but doing them out in the open is just plain stupid, and the police have binoculars and night vision goggles.  They’re also known to go undercover and ask for drugs, so don’t think it’s cool to “gift” them to the cute girl you just met — she may (seriously) be a cop.  Know your limits and don’t get so obliterated that you need medical attention.
    • Mind the children.  Keep anything adult-themed away from the daytime view  of passers-by.  Drinking age is 21 (yes, there are undercovers for that too).  Age of consent is 16.  Most law enforcement on the Playa most (but not all) of the time is fairly relaxed, but if you screw up anything in this section, you’re gonna have a bad time.
    • Ask for consent.  Boobs do not mean “yes.”  And same goes for women… don’t think you get a pass because you’re a girl.  People verbally asking “Can I touch your ___?” or “Can I kiss you?” is common and appreciated by most.  Take the opportunity to go the extra mile to ensure that you’re respectful of people, and also take the opportunity to respectfully educate those who don’t get it.

Have fun out there, guys!

Did Google Break the Law By Firing Employee Who Questioned Diversity Groupthink?

women_in_techLast week, a Google employee wrote a document entitled, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” and posted it to an internal discussion group promoted as a place for Google employees to advocate for internal changes.  (Full text including sources and hyperlinks present in original.)  I encourage you to read the full 3,000 word document, but I think a fair summary of the author’s position is as follows:

  1. There have been studies that show that, statistically, there are some psychological traits that are more likely to occur in men than in women, and others more likely to occur in women than men.
  2. These psychological differences may be at least partially the reason for the disparity between the number of men and women in the tech field, which has been dominated by men for decades.
  3. Google’s corporate culture pretends to solicit diverse viewpoints from its employees, but a viewpoint that reflects the points above would be frowned upon.
  4. Some of Google’s diversity programs are not the best approach, specifically including: a) training for women and minorities to the exclusion of white men, and b) a requirement that team composition include a quota of women and minorities regardless of whether the composition of the available qualified resources matches that quota are not.

The document was promptly leaked to the media by employees who were offended by its contents, and the author was subsequently fired for “perpetuating genders stereotypes” — perhaps proving point #3.

As a man who has spent much of his life working in tech, I have had occasion to notice that there aren’t as many women, e.g., in the Comp Sci classroom, on the IT helpdesk, or a part of the remote software development team, as there are men.  Frankly, I’m not sufficiently educated on the subject to have an opinion worth sharing as to why that is.  Sexism is certainly a real thing that still happens, although I suspect that the full explanation is a nuanced issue with more to it than any brief explanation can offer.  But, I am also troubled that the media reporting on the document in question immediately labeled it an “anti-diversity manifesto,” despite the author literally saying “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity” as one of his key points, and I am troubled that Google would create a forum for people to express constructive criticism and then fire an employee for doing so in a way that doesn’t match Google’s (and Silicon Valley in general’s) political ideology.

Anyway, you came to this post because I do happen to be educated on the law.  Having made national attention, this guy now has lawyers knocking down his door to take the case because doing so is good publicity for them, win or lose.  Assuming he retains one of them, will he win in largely at-will California?

Some arguments he can make:

  1. California prohibits companies from “[c]ontrolling or directing, or tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees.”  Cal. Lab. Code § 1101(b).  I think there’s no doubt that the subject matter of the memo was a “political issue.”  Google has a reasonable argument that they didn’t fire him for his position on this political issue, but for expressing it at the workplace when it violates their code of conduct.  But, the counterargument for that is that Google created this forum for its employees to speak freely, and then punished him for what he said.  If he can show that others have posted political opinions from a different viewpoint that have gone unpunished, it can very much be argued that Google at least tended to control political activities or affiliations.
  2. California prohibits companies from retaliating against an employee who publishes information that he or she “has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute,” so long as he does so to the government or to a supervisor.  Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.5(b).  Among many other things, the memo alleges that Google’s diversity programs “incentivize illegal discrimination,” which would violate both state and federal law if true.  Let’s assume he has reasonable cause to believe that.  Google will argue that: 1) his 3,000 word memo said many things, and he was not fired for the small comment about incentivizing discrimination, but rather for his hypothesis that biological gender differences, and not sexism, are responsible for the gender gap in tech.  They may also argue that publishing to this forum doesn’t count as disclosing to a supervisor.  I think Google would fail on the first argument, but prevail on the second.  He can reasonably argue that the other 2,997 words were background to his claim of discrimination, but cannot reasonably argue that submitting his feedback to the entire company, rather than to his boss, was the right way to provide that feedback.  But, I will note that the law provides that “the employer shall have the burden of proof.”  Perhaps not a risk worth taking.
  3. Federal law allows employees to complain to each other about workplace conditions without fear of retribution, as long as it is a “concerted activity” for “mutual aid or protection.”  29 U.S.C. § 157.  What do these vague terms mean?  Well, the agency in charge of enforcing this statute, the National Labor Relations Board, takes a broad view: “Examples include: talking with one or more co-workers about your wages and benefits or other working conditions…”  This clearly applies to the situation, and it matters not whether the state is at-will or the employees are in a union.  There’s just one catch: “However, you can lose protection by saying or doing something egregiously offensive…”  Google will obviously argue that the employee’s memo was egregiously offensive, but given the civil tone of the memo, even if some (even many) people found the memo to be offensive, I don’t think a court will find it to be “egregiously” so.

In short, there is no open-and-shut case here.  But there is a case, and given that this former employee will have strong legal representation, I expect Google will rapidly settle the matter with a 6- or 7-figure payout to avoid having to publicly defend its diversity programs and its politically homogeneous work environment.

Trump: OK For Police to Rough Up Suspects

Disclaimer: I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I’m a civil rights advocate.  I will call out each and every person in power who violates, or promotes the violation of, our rights, regardless of whether there is an (R) or a (D) following his or her name.

On this blog, the subject of police abuse comes up regularly.  I’ve personally sued the police for stop-and-frisk, for helping the TSA detain me, for attempting to implement “street body scanners,” and for refusing to issue gun licenses to ordinary citizens.  I’ve called out Texas cops for abusive searches, Miami cops for arresting photographers, London police for thinking they’re a spy agency, New York cops for saying that it’s okay to “get a few punches” in during an arrest, and so forth.

Needless to say, I think that there is a massive issue with policing in this country.  I think that’s something that most of us can more-or-less agree on: it would be nice if we could get rid of bad cops, because they threaten our freedom and embarrass our country.

So when the President of the United States gets up in front of a crowd, on camera, and says that cops should feel free to rough up illegal immigrants as they are arrested, I take exception:

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head? I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?'”

~~Donald J. Trump

Now, obviously, few of us feel bad if a murder is injured in his capture, but the problem is that most immigration arrestees are not murderers, and even the ones who are suspected of the same have not been convicted.  We have a court system to ensure that those who commit crimes are punished and those who have not are set free.  It is not up to the police to begin that punishment at the time of arrest.

I’m apparently not the only one who takes exception.

Los Angeles:

Long Island:


Mr. Trump’s remarks last week were disturbing.  He should take them back.  But we all know he won’t.

Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC? (Part IV — An Appeal Amid Massive Corruption Scandal)

This is the fourth installment of a series documenting an ordinary New Yorker attempting to exercise his Second Amendment rights: Part I (license application), Part II (application rejected), Part III (the lawsuit).

After one hundred years of New Yorkers receiving gun licenses if and only if they gain the favor of the NYPD – often through cash payments – it is well past time for the courts of this state to step in and declare the NYPD’s implementation of the “proper cause” requirement to be unconstitutional…

gun-license-app-div-coverWe left off last fall with in Part III, where I filed suit against the NYPD for: 1) requiring that I provide them a “good reason” as to why I should be allowed to bear arms, 2) requiring that I answer entirely irrelevant questions (Have I ever been fired?  Have I ever been prescribed a prescription painkiller?), and 3) refusing to fulfill a public records request that would shed light on their supposed process for deciding on license applications.

After receiving service of the complaint, the NYPD filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that: 1) it’s totally constitutional to require a reason before allowing a citizen to exercise his or her rights, 2) that these questions are totally rational to ask of one seeking a gun license, and 3) that releasing records would “interfere with a law enforcement investigation.”  Judge Carol R. Edmead of the New York County Supreme Court granted this motion on February 7th, 2017, essentially rubber-stamping the NYPD’s arguments.  Judge Edmead required the NYPD to make no showing, for example, as to why they needed to know answers to any of their obviously irrelevant questions, and required the NYPD to present no evidence — not even a sworn declaration — that releasing records would cause legitimate interference with law enforcement.

The most glaring of Judge Edmead’s errors were in 2 parts:

  1. She conceded that gun restrictions must be subject to “intermediate scrutiny” — that is, they must address an “important” governmental objective by means “substantially” related to that.  She then went on to say that she was approving the NYPD’s actions because they were “rational.”  But a finding of “rationality” is not the test that she just stated was appropriate.  The NYPD’s tomfoolery must not be merely “rational” but be a substantially tight fit — asking not significantly more than is actually required to fulfill the “important” governmental objective of public safety.
  2. I’m actually somewhat shocked that she granted a motion to dismiss on the public records request given that, in deciding a motion to dismiss (the first opportunity a defendant has to get a case tossed out of court), a judge cannot yet weigh evidence because the plaintiff has not yet had a chance to present evidence.  Yet she had no problem finding that releasing the records would definitely interfere with a law enforcement investigation, just because an attorney for the NYPD said so.  In doing this, she cut off the case before allowing me a chance to argue the other side.

I immediately filed a notice of appeal, and today I “perfect” the appeal, as they say here in New York, by filing the “record” (a copy of everything that happened in the court below) and my appellate brief — given the requirement of 10 copies of everything (8 for the court and 2 for the opposing party), well over 2,000 pages had to be printed, bound, and delivered to make this happen (links to digital copies below).  In it, I detail for the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division the history of corruption in the NYPD’s licensing division.  Some highlights from the last few decades, although the corruption goes back 100 years:

  • In 1973, NYPD Capt. Salvatore Salmieri was suspended for issuing a gun license to a mafia chauffer. Exhibit C – Narvaez, Alfonzo.  “Captain Suspended in Gun Authorization.”  New York Times (Nov. 17th, 1973).
  • In 1997, the head of the licensing division, Henry Krantz, was disciplined for, again, picking out individuals for whom the usual process did not apply: “Krantz was charged with providing ‘preferential treatment to individuals or entities,’ as well as ‘wrongfully directing’ other cops to grant the favors and failing to supervise his staff.” Exhibit D – Marzuli, John.  “Gun Licensing Boss Suspended by NYPD.”  Y. Daily News (Jan. 23rd, 1997).
  • In 2002, a former head of the licensing division, D.I. Benjamin Petrofsky, was accused of (and later demoted for) helping famous rock-and-roll musicians receive a pistol permit in exchange for VIP concert tickets and after-party admission.  Exhibit E – Messing, Philip.  “NYPD Under Fire in Aerosmith ‘Got a Gun’ Scandal.”  New York Post (Nov. 24th, 2002).  He allegedly went as far as to fingerprint the musicians inside Madison Square Garden.  Wiederhorn, Jon.  “Janie’s Got A Gun Permit? Aerosmith Flap Lands Cop in Hot Water.”  MTV (2002).

But of course, you’ve all probably heard of the more recent scandal that former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was investigating before Trump fired him:

According to court papers, the trading of gun licenses for bribes stretched from at least 2010 to 2016.  Exhibit H – Neumeister, Larry.  “Former NYC police, lawyer arrested in gun licensing probe.”  Associated Press (Apr. 25th, 2017).  In return for approval of gun licenses without meeting New York’s qualifications, D.I. Endall’s officers “solicited and accepted food, alcohol, parties, dancers and prostitutes.”  Id. Several of the gun licenses bought through the corrupt members of D.I. Endall’s office caught in this sting went to street vigilantes who were known for beating a man on the street so badly he is permanently blind in one eye.  In the meantime, the application by Corbett, who the NYPD concedes had no character issues, was denied.

Deputy Inspector Endall was, of course, the NYPD licensing division commander who denied my application not 3 weeks before being transferred to desk duty — err, lower desk duty — because several of his subordinates were arrested for literally taking hookers and cash for gun licenses.

I do hope the Appellate Division takes to heart that they are literally taking a blind eye to corruption if they do not take action.  From here, I expect it to take several months to get an opinion from them.  If it’s unfavorable, I can then ask the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, to hear the case, before moving onto the federal courts.

So “Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC?”  Not sure yet, but so far:

  • Money Spent: $1,365
  • Time Spent: ~80 hours

Will look forward to updating with Part V as the Appellate Division takes a stand.

Corbett v. City of New York IV – Appellate Brief (.pdf – 7MB)

Corbett v. City of New York IV – Record on Appeal (.pdf – 38MB)

UPDATE: Mere hours before I was to file this brief, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated D.C.’s “good reason” requirement for carrying firearms.  This is a major win, and so I updated my brief and re-printed it.  The above documents now reflect that change.

“Jon Corbett is a civil rights advocate known for filing the first lawsuit against the deployment of TSA nude body scanners, as well as defeating the body scanners live in ‘How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners.’  Presently a law student, he continues to advocate for travel and privacy rights.  Twitter: @_JonCorbett, Web:

Fighting for civil rights in court is expensive!  Want to contribute to the fight against government assholery? Donate via PayPal, Venmo, Chace QuickPay, Bitcoin, or check.

Blog at

Up ↑