Justice la Modem

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Poor Makaveli and TooShort. The 15- and 16-year-old hackers from Cloverdale, Calif., who once boasted of cracking hundreds of military and government systems, pleaded guilty to sealed federal charges Wednesday. Now they face the ultimate hacker humiliation: Having their modems taken away. "Each juvenile will be able to access a remote computer system only under the supervision of a schoolteacher, librarian, employer," said U.S. Attorney Michael Yamaguchi of the pair's probation plea bargain.

Although the duo will no doubt consider that a fate worse than death, it's an extremely generous sentence considering they owned up to what a Defense Department official called "the most organized and systematic attack the Pentagon has seen to date" -- setting "sniffer" programs to intercept passwords on computers owned by the Air Force and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, among others. Neither got a whiff of classified information, but it was enough to give the FBI the jitters and launch a full-scale manhunt. What they got was a pair of terrified teens who copped a plea. How the mighty threat has fallen.