On Friday, Reuters revealed that Beto O’Rourke was part of a group of hackers when he was a teenager. While speaking with a group of reporters in Iowa, the former Texas congressman admitted that he was in fact part of a “hacktivist” group, but says that he wasn’t proud of his participation in it.
According to the report, O’Rourke was a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow, a group that releases tools to ordinary people that allows them to hack into machines running Microsoft Windows. The author of a new book called Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World spoke to numerous members of the group who admitted that O’Rourke was a part of the team at one point. Prior to this, the group had kept the presidential hopeful’s role in the hacker group secret.
Reuters says that it doesn’t appear that O’Rourke ever broke into any computers or wrote code that enabled other people to do so, but the news organization says that his participation in the group is an indicator of how he approaches government.
“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,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”
But even though he thinks that there is some value in a group like the Cult of the Dead Cow, he says that he isn’t proud of his participation in the group, according to The Hill. He admitted to reporters that he was part of the group as a teenager, but that it’s “not anything that I’m proud of today. That’s the long and short of it.”
O’Rourke says that he was active in the online community from an early age because it was a good way to find a like-minded community.
“When Dad bought an Apple IIe and a 300-baud modem and I started to get on boards, it was the Facebook of its day. You just wanted to be part of a community.”
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 15, 2019
O’Rourke also admitted that he used to get cracked games off the internet, but decided he couldn’t defend the behavior and stopped. He also says that he stole long distance services so that he could use his modem to communicate online without running up a large bill.
O’Rourke says that he believes in the democratizing power of the internet and credits it for transforming his life, despite the fact that he may have misused its power from time to time.