Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Martin Gottesfeld's defense

Why I Knocked Boston Children’s Hospital Off The Internet

The answer is simpler than you might think: The defense of an innocent, learning disabled, 15-year-old girl. In the criminal complaint, she’s called “Patient A,” but to me, she has a name, Justina Pelletier. Boston Children’s Hospital disagreed with her diagnosis. They said her symptoms were psychological. They made misleading statements on an affidavit, went to court, and had Justina’s parents stripped of custody.
They stopped her painkillers, leaving her in agony. They stopped her heart medication, leaving her tachycardic. They said she was a danger to herself, and locked her in a psych ward. They said her family was part of the problem, so they limited, monitored, and censored her contact with them.
Justina resorted to sneaking notes, hidden in origami, to tell her family what she wasn’t allowed to say around eavesdroppers. Hospital staff pushed her to do things she was physically incapable of, due to the physical condition they refused to acknowledge she has. They laughed at her as she struggled futilely. They left her on a toilet for hours when she couldn’t void her bowels. They left her secluded in a bare room, or alone in the hallway, sometimes for days when she couldn’t wheel herself elsewhere.
When they did move her, they ripped her toe nails, dragging her feet on the floor. They bruised her. Her legs swelled, her gums receded, and her hair fell out. This went on for 11 months at BCH.
Her parents went to the media, and a gag order was issued specifically prohibiting them from speaking to journalists. When she finally left the hospital (in large part thanks to the negative publicity,) she still wasn’t allowed home and her ordeal wasn’t over. BCH was still in charge and her suffering continued, though the most culpable had successfully manipulated the spotlight onto others.
At her new treatment center, aptly named “Wayside,” Justina was verbally assaulted while nude in the shower. She continued to be denied her medications and treated according to the BCH plan.
Her father broke the gag order, publicly stating her life was in danger. The story made big news, but there was no indication when Justina would be returned to her family and receive the long delayed treatment she desperately needed. A former BCH nurse called what Justina was enduring its proper term: torture. According to international humanitarian law, she was right.
I had heard many, too many, such horror stories of institutionalized children who were killed or took their own lives in the so-called “troubled teen industry.” I never imagined a renowned hospital would be capable of such brutality and no amount of other good work could justify torturing Justina. She wasn’t alone either. BCH calls what it did to her a “parentectomy,” and there had been others over at least the past 20 years.
I knew that BCH’s big donation day was coming up, and that most donors give online. I felt that to have sufficient influence to save Justina from grievous bodily harm and possible death, as well as dissuade BCH from continuing its well established pattern of such harmful “parentectomies,” I’d have to hit BCH where they appear to care the most, the pocket book and reputation. All other efforts to protect Justina weren’t succeeding and time was of the essence. Almost unbelievably, they kept their donation page on the same public network as the rest of their stuff. Rookie mistake. To take it down, I’d have to knock the whole hospital off the Internet.
I also knew from my career experience as a biotech professional that no patients should be harmed if Boston Children’s was knocked offline. There’s no such thing as an outage-proof network, so hospitals have to be able to function without the Internet. It’s required by federal law, and for accreditation. The only effects would be financial and on BCH’s reputation.
The network was strong, well-funded, but especially vulnerable to a specific attack. Apparently BCH was unwilling to architect around the problem. I see such laziness often in my work, and it leaves our nation vulnerable.
I had spent my career building cyber-defenses. For the first time, I was on the offensive. I coded around the clock for two weeks to perfect the attack. Small test runs were made. BCH bragged to the media that they were withstanding the onslaught and hadn’t been taken down. They had no idea what was to come.
I finished the code just in time. It ran. BCH’s donation page went down. As they were down, I was nervous. I left it running for a few hours.
Then, with some donation time still let, I issued the command to stop the attacks—the point had been made. Justina wasn’t defenseless. Under the banner of Anonymous, she and other institutionalized children could and would be protected. There have been no such egregious parentectomies published at BCH since.
In 2016, Justina’s family announced they were suing Boston Children’s. The civil claim reads like a medical horror novel.
In the spring of 2014, the hacker collective Anonymous took credit for hitting a number of health care and treatment facilities in the Boston area in defense of a patient there named Justina Pelletier. For background on her controversial case, which became the focus of national attention, read here or here.

The attacks became somewhat less anonymous when a man named Martin Gottesfeld was arrested in connection with them in February of this year, after his sailboat ran into difficulty off the coast of Cuba. A Disney cruise ship picked up Gottesfeld and his wife, and Gottesfeld was arrested when the ship docked in Miami. He has been in detention ever since. An indictment is expected any day.


  1. Human rights activist Martin “Marty” Gottesfeld faces felony charges brought by Carmen Ortiz’s office under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act. The same prosecutors who caused the death of Internet pioneer and activist Aaron Swartz now allege that Gottesfeld conspired with members of Anonymous to organize an online protest of Boston Children’s Hospital to stop the torture and save the life of Justina Pelletier of West Hartford. Gottesfeld faces up to 5 years in prison and $380,000 in restitution.

    Gottesfeld, 32, is a human rights advocate and Senior Systems Engineer born and raised in Andover, Massachusetts. He was rescued at sea by a Disney cruise ship and arrested on Feb. 17. His bond hearing was held on April 27 at the John Moakley Courthouse in Boston and on July 8, five months after his arrest, Gottesfeld was denied bond. His next court date to appeal the decision has not been scheduled yet...

    Friends, family and supporters of Gottesfeld are launching the #FreeMartyG campaign at www.FreeMartyG.com to help raise awareness of Gottesfeld’s case and to ensure that the tragedy that resulted from Ortiz’s prosecution of Aaron Swartz is never repeated.

    The #FreeMartyG campaign is seeking support by asking people to contact POTUS and the elected officials that cosponsored Justina’s Law, and asking them to remind Ortiz that there is organized crime, human trafficking, and other serious crimes being committed, and she should stop spending her resources prosecuting activists...

    The CFAA has been cited by digital rights group EFF as being overly broad: “Creative prosecutors have taken advantage of this confusion to bring criminal charges that aren’t really about hacking a computer, but instead target other behavior prosecutors dislike [...] Compounding this problem is the CFAA’s disproportionately harsh penalty scheme. Even first-time offenses for accessing a protected computer without sufficient ‘authorization’ can be punishable by up to five years in prison each (ten years for repeat offenses), plus fines. Violations of other parts of the CFAA are punishable by up to ten years, 20 years, and even life in prison.” The ACLU agrees and filed suit stating CFAA violates everyone’s first amendment rights.


  2. Martin Gottesfeld’s hunger strike on behalf of children abused in American institutions, and adults being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for political reasons has entered its fifth week. Gottesfeld reports losing 28 pounds so far. He has been in federal prison since his arrest in February, following a rescue at sea by Disney Cruises.

    The government alleges that Gottesfeld coordinated a massive cyber attack against Boston Children’s Hospital, bringing down its online donation site and preventing hundreds of thousands of dollars through annual giving, in response to the hospital’s alleged abuse of patient Justina Pelletier. In 2016, Pelletier’s family sued the hospital for gross negligence, medical malpractice, and civil rights violations. No patients are alleged to have been harmed and no internal hospital systems are claimed to have been affected as a result of Gottesfeld’s alleged actions. Justina Pelletier remains in a wheelchair more than 2 years after returning home in 2014. In September, Gottesfeld broke his silence in a HuffPost exclusive, answering the charges by reiterating the allegations against the hospital and asserting that he acted to defend Pelletier from possible death...

    Gottesfeld is currently on day 32 of his hunger strike, and said “The suffering endured by many of these kids is far worse than a hunger strike,” over the phone from prison. “This abuse has gone unchecked for decades. The hunger strike will go on as long as it takes.”...

    Now in his fifth week, he reports his pulse is normal, but that could drop as reduced heart rate is possible after two weeks. Last week, unsurprisingly, Gottesfeld collapsed in court. Difficultly standing, sluggishness, weakness, trouble with coordination, or any combination thereof are all normal and can onset quickly without warning. Gottesfeld is also at risk of serious neurological problems; hunger strikers that make it this far can encounter cognitive impairment and vision loss.

    Soon, he will have lost more than 18 percent of his body weight and be at risk of severe and permanent medical complications. After a month, he may suffer hearing loss and have difficulty swallowing water. Breathing may become labored and organ failure could start to set in...

    The Boston U.S. attorney office has issued a statement alluding to the possibility that it will seek to have Gottesfeld force fed if he does not end his hunger strike voluntarily.

    The U.S. Attorney is aware of Mr. Gottesfeld’s status in jail, where he has been since fleeing the country to avoid facing charges for launching an attack against the Boston Children’s Hospital computer network, potentially putting patient care and patient records at risk. Ultimately, it will be up to a jury of his peers to determine Mr. Gottesfeld’s guilt or innocence. Since the case is pending trial, we will not be able to comment any further.
    Such feeding against his will would present serious ethical issues for any attending physician.


    Article written by Martin Gottesfeld’s wife.

  3. The case has also attracted the attention of prominent voices, including Jim Jamitis at the popular conservative-leaning website RedState.com. “The stink of cronyism was already strong with regard to this case simply because elements within the city government and a prestigious medical school aren’t being investigated for their own wrongdoing,” he wrote on March 29. “That the presiding judge is connected to the medical school in question only makes it stink more.”

    Before that, Jamitis described the entire case as “unjust selective prosecution” of a human-rights activist. “I’m no lawyer but I’m sure that bringing down someone’s website is against the law, just as violating a court gag order is, and just as locking a child away from her parents and denying her medical treatment SHOULD be,” he said. “The reason I’m writing this is not to gloss over any violations of the law. I’m writing this in order to argue that justice is not being served.”

    “It is utter hypocrisy that prosecutors want to put a man behind bars for something he did trying to help save Justina Pelletier’s life, while doing nothing to the people who put her in danger in the first place,” Jamitis continued, arguing that Gottesfeld may have broken the law, but it was done to prevent an even greater crime. “Boston Children’s Hospital and the Boston Department of Children and Families violated Justina’s human rights. They violated her parents’ human rights. Yet no one from Boston Children’s Hospital or the city government is even facing criminal investigation.”

    Jamitis was clear that he was not condoning criminal action or vigilantism. However, the prosecution is wrong, he argued. “Selectively prosecuting Gottesfeld while doing nothing to the Harvard institution that imprisoned Justine Pelletier or to the city government who abetted the violation of the Pelletier’s rights smacks of cronyism, corruption, and frankly, tyranny,” he said, echoing the concerns of other activists outraged about the prosecution. “It doesn’t even come close to resembling justice.”