Message base NORCAL Subboard Msg #: 582 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard To: ALL Rcvd: 11-25-90

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Message base NORCAL Subboard Msg #: 582 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: WALLY SCHWARZ Sent: 11-20-90 19:51 To: ALL Rcvd: 11-25-90 02:00 Re: FBI & YOUR BBS The FBI Comes Rapping, Rapping At Your BBS Brock N. Meeks The dog-eared manila envelope spilled a coffee stained report onto my cluttered desk. The title, "The FBI and Your BBS" sounded a little too nefarious, even for this curmudgeon of the information age. But I figured the report was worth at least a quick read. After all, somebody had gone to the effort to track down my address and forward a copy of the report to me. That someone turns out to be the report's author, Glen L. Roberts, director of The FBI Project an organization which publishes a newsletter, Full Disclosure, under the self defined category "privacy/surveillance." The report is chilling, almost paranoid. And if more people had known about its existence, a lot of grief might have been saved. As I read I remembered an old, coffee-ringed file folder I'd squirreled away. I remembered something about it's containing information on what I'd off-handedly labeled "FBI Computer Hit Squad." When I found the file, Roberts' report didn't seem so paranoid and knew I was in for a long night of research and bunch of early morning wake up interviews. If you dig, you hit dirt In 1984 a short series of discreet advertisements, placed by the FBI, appeared in a few computer trade publications and in The Wall Street Journal~ The message was simple, and went something like: "We're looking for computer literate persons to join the Bureau." There was no mention of any special task force; however, it was clear that the Bureau wanted to upgrade their high-tech prowess. Although the FBI won't confirm the existence of a computerized "hit squad," an FBI public relations officer did confirm that they "have made an extraordinary effort to recruit more technically oriented personnel" since 1984. If you dig hard enough, you'll find substantial evidence that the FBI is most definitely working overtime in its efforts to monitor the electronic community. "They are desperately wary of the way information flows so freely in this medium," says Roberts. Indeed, one has only to recall this past May when some 150 Secret Service agents, assisted by local police (backed up with electronic "intelligence" gathered and provided by the FBI) served some 27 search warrants in a dozen cities across the U.S. The bust, code-named Operation Sun Devil, was patterned after the tactics used to take down suspected drug rings: simultaneous busts, synchronized arrests. All in an effort to preclude any "early warnings" reaching the West via grapevine information moving from the East. I was curious about all these high tech hit tactics and armed with my file folder and Roberts' report I called a number scrawled on the inside flap of my file folder. It was annotated "Former agent; possible source." I called the number, and got a story. "I was recruited in 1983 by the FBI for my computer skills," the former agent told me. Because he still does some consulting for the Bureau, he asked not to be identified, but he laid out a very specific plan by the FBI to increase their knowledge of the electronic communications world. He confided, "During my time the Bureau's monitoring of BBSs was extremely limited; we just didn't know how." In those days, he said, the FBI drew on the expertise of a small band of high-tech freelance snoops to augment their staff, "while we all honed our own skills." Tradition Certainly the FBI has a tradition of "investigating" groups of people it deems "unsavory" or threatening. In Roberts' The FBI and Your BBS, there's a brief history of the FBl's willingness to gather all known information on a target group. Pulling from the Final Report of the Select (Senate) Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, Book IV, Supplementary Reports on Intelligence Activities, Roberts includes this excerpt: "Detectives were sent to local radical publishing houses to take their books. In addition, they were to find every private collection or library in the possession of any radical, and to make the arrangements for obtaining them in their entirety. Thus, when the GID (General Intelligence Division) discovered an obscure Italian born philosopher who had a unique collection of books on the theory of anarchism, his lodgings were raided by the Bureau and his valuable collection become one more involuntary contribution to the huge and ever-growing library of the GID. [pages 87-88]." Change "any radical" to "any BBS" and "book" to "disk" and quite suddenly the electronic landscape turns into a winter still- life. Data collection Roberts, quoting from his report, says, "Unlike other communications media, information on a BBS does not get read by anyone before its instantancous publication. Therefore, the FBI has much less of a possibility of intimidating the owner of a BBS into not publishing certain inlormation. The FBI also acts as if BBSs have a monopoly on the distribution of so-called 'illegal information.' The FBI often uses this 'danger' as justification to monitor the activities on these systems. In reality, however, BBSs transfer much less 'illegal information' than the [voice] phone system." Roberts statements are worth noting in light of the goverment's increased interest in the marriage of criminal activity and electronic communications. A 455-page report issued by the President's Commission on Organized Crime, dealing with drug abuse and trafficking cites that fact that crime has moved into the high-tech arena. The report states "To the extent that law eniorcement agencies' capabilities and equipment are inferior to those of drug traffickers, immediate steps should be taken to rectify the situation." The report then recommends that data-gathering efforts of several agencies (in- cluding the FBI) should be tied together in one "all-source intelligence and operations center." Any problem here? There are no laws prohibiting the FBI (or other agencies) from monitoring the public message traffic on a BBS; the Electronic Com- munications Privacy Act of 1986 protects private messages and privately stored files only. But what about an FBI agent monitoring a BBS solely for the purpose of gathering intormation on the board's users? Any problem here? The former FBI agent I spoke with raised the concern that such casual monitoring might be a violation of the 1968 Wiretap Act. "In order for a wire tap, you have to get a court order. Now if an FBI agent is monitoring a BBS to gather information, that becomes an interesting question, because there are very specific federal rules about a wire tap. My question to you about a BBS [being monitored] is: "At what point does monitoring turn into a wiretap-like act?" Good point. The reality is, however, that there are no rules. Unless that agent is asking for private message traffic, he can, without impunity, monitor, store, and otherwise manipulate your public messages as he sees fit. Roberts points out that a BBS with public access is fair game for any kind of governmental snooping. But there is a way to make such casual snooping by a federal agent a crime. "If you want your BBS readily accessible to the public but want to protect against unwarranted monitoring, you have to provide a warning to prospective users," says Roberts. "It should read: 'This BBS is a private system. Only private citizens who are not involved in government or law enforcement activities are authorized to use it. The users are not authorized to divulge any information gained from this system to any government or law enforcement agency or employee."' This does two things. It makes the entire board "private." Second, it makes any kind of monitoring by the FBl (or other agencies, such as the Secret Service) a criminal offense (because they are would be guilty of unauthorized access; it also forces them to use the established guidelines of gaining information via a court ordered search warrant. The warning also protects you in another way: it stops "freelancers" from doing the Bureau's work. Get real How real is the possibility of the FBI monitoring your BBS? Much more than I'd like to believe. Although details of Operation Sun Devil are still sketchy, it's clear that the FBI, working in tandem with the Secret Service, is monitoring several hundred "suspected" boards across the electronic landscape. What kind of board is a potential monitoring target? "Any board that advocates hacking," said a Secret Service spokesman. Yet when I asked for a definition of hacking, all I was told was "illegal activity." The information provided here bears out, if nothing else, an increased interest by the FBI in the hard ball practice of going after electronic criminals. But are the "good guys" getting caught up with the bad? How extensive is the FBl's actual fact gathering by monitoring BBSs? No one knows really knows. However, given the history of Bureau, and the hard facts that crime in the information age makes full use of all the technology it can get its hands on, it's a small leap to believe that at least specific monitoring, of certain target groups, is taking place. Where does that leave you and me in all this? Back to square one, watching carefully what we say online. If you're a member of a "controversial" BBS, you might pass the concerns of Roberts on to your sysop. If you are a sysop, you might want to consider adding a bit of protection to the board . . . for the rest of us. Brock Meeks is a Washington, D.C.-based columnist whose articles have appeared in several publications including Byte Magazine. His favorite radical BBS is ... well...private. --- TMail v1.19 * Origin: Wally World 415/349-6969 (1:204/6969) Msg #: 589 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: BRIAN MAVROGEORGE Sent: 11-22-90 10:00 To: WALLY SCHWARZ Rcvd: -NO- Re: (R)FBI & YOUR BBS The essence of the message seems to be that while it is ok for "private" citizen to call and read public messages it is not ok for a government agent to do the same. No particular reason given other than the supposition that the agent might do the same thing any other user might do namely extract, collate, manipulate, store the information found. I do not accept that computer vandals are to be protected nor that drug use is benign or that sysops are innocent third parties who act as some impartial entity "outside" the community - who merely provide a service and are not accountable. I found the message similar to those dealing with conspiracy theorists. My board is open to the public and the public is welcome to take messages and do as they wish. If in so doing it has helped limit the pervasiveness of crime all the better. Then perhaps someone else will be saved the trauma of personal assault or losing their household goods (bbs!) to a burglary or a loved one to a robbery. On this one guess we can agree on what access may be taking place and agree to disagree on the positive/negative conclusions. --- * Origin: ROOTS-BBS San Francisco (415) 584-0697 (Opus 1:125/30) Msg #: 593 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: LESTER GARRETT Sent: 11-24-90 18:23 To: BRIAN MAVROGEORGE Rcvd: -NO- Re: (R)FBI & YOUR BBS On Nov 22 90 Brian Mavrogeorge (1:125/30) wrote to Wally Schwarz: Re. Brock Meeks Column: BM> The essence of the message seems to be that while it is ok BM> for "private" citizen to call and read public messages it is BM> not ok for a government agent to do the same. No particular BM> reason given other than the supposition that the agent might BM> do the same thing any other user might do namely extract, BM> collate, manipulate, store the information found. I do not BM> accept that computer vandals are to be protected nor that BM> drug use is benign or that sysops are innocent third parties BM> who act as some impartial entity "outside" the community - BM> who merely provide a service and are not accountable. Brian, this is the same intellectual midget who, in a column which appeared in the 5/18/89 issue of MicroTimes (a San Francisco bay area PC magazine), advocated that freedom of speech should restrict SysOps from interfering with what users may post on their BBSs. This is the same Brock Meeks who, in essence, considers BBSs to be public property. FYI, I wrote a reply to that column ("BBSs And Free Speech") which I still have available. Best Regards, -={lsg}=- --- msged 2.00 * Origin: -={The Lyceum}=- San Francisco, CA (1:125/101) or (8:914/213) Msg #: 594 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: SYSOP Sent: 11-25-90 02:50 To: LESTER GARRETT Rcvd: -NO- Re: (R)FBI & YOUR BBS > Brian, this is the same intellectual midget who, in a column > which appeared in the 5/18/89 issue of MicroTimes (a San > Francisco bay area PC magazine), advocated that freedom of speech > should restrict SysOps from interfering with what users may post > on their BBSs. This is the same Brock Meeks who, in essence, > considers BBSs to be public property. > > FYI, I wrote a reply to that column ("BBSs And Free Speech") > which I still have available. Lester -- Maybe you even recall my satirical letter to the MicroTimes editor, in which I mentioned that I thought it was an _odd argument_ for Meeks to make (that sysops should not have the right to decide what messages should stay posted on their boards), considering that he was a _Chronicle_ reporter, but that I'd accept with gratitude his support when I attempted to force the Chron to print my series of articles on monopolistic newspaper companies. (Surely he couldn't maintain that the Chron is more "private" than my BBS!) I have to admit I had fun beating up on this guy. Best Regards, Rick M. Msg #: 597 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: EDWARD WINTERS Sent: 11-23-90 14:42 To: WALLY SCHWARZ Rcvd: -NO- Re: (R)FBI & YOUR BBS > The information provided here bears out, > if nothing else, an increased interest by the FBI in the hard ball > practice of going after electronic criminals. But are the "good > guys" getting caught up with the bad? DaJaVo- Recent article about 2 weeks ago in PC-Week Magazine was about "FBI Seizes PC's in Crackdown on ILLEGAL Software Distribution" The FBI, US Attorney's Office, SPA (Software Publishers Association) and Novell, Microsoft, and Mustang Software where all involved. Basically they operated a undercover sting, logged on and joined several BBS's in NashVille. They where able to join "pay BBS's" and access illegal software. Once complete, they raided the houses, confinscated all equipment and software and Have charges pending on the sysops. "The FBI and US Secret Service, in conjunction with SPA are expected to conduct similar searches and equipment seizures at numerous locations across the U.S. withen the next month as part of a national effort to curtain the growing problem of illegal software..." While yes, they do need to clean up illegal software distribution, do other sysops come under scrutiny? Do they access our BBS systems to gain info on other users? --- OPMED 3.00 * Origin: -=| Solano PC-Club BBS - Parched in NORCAL |=- (1:212/101) Msg #: 599 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: DOUGLAS SMITH Sent: 11-23-90 13:36 To: BRIAN MAVROGEORGE Rcvd: -NO- Re: (R)FBI & YOUR BBS > The essence of the message seems to be that while it is ok for > "private" citizen to call and read public messages it is not ok > for a government agent to do the same. Exactly. Disturbing, since I work for a police department. Are sysops next ? Maybe the demise of /911 systems? > I found the message similar to those dealing with > conspiracy theorists. My board is open to the public and the public > is welcome to take messages and do as they wish. Mine too! And you know Brian, I modeled my operating philosophy, in part, on yours. Open systems with a narrow interest are OPEN, easy to use, and frequently not busy. My small bunch of users is happy and so am I. Granted the snooping is a little weird, but then having been in the business for 11 years I'm inclined to think that the snooping begins when attention is attracted. Not to say that this isn't always the case. What I've read seems pretty convincing -- on the surface. I'm not really worried to tell you the truth. --- QM v1.00 * Origin: NNY-G BBS "Read the B.A.G." Pleasant Hill, CA (1:161/911.0) Msg #: 602 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: LESTER GARRETT Sent: 11-25-90 06:06 To: SYSOP Rcvd: 11-26-90 17:53 Re: (R)FBI & YOUR BBS On Nov 25 90 Rick Moen (8:914/207@rbbsnet) wrote to Lester Garrett: RM> Lester -- RM> Maybe you even recall my satirical letter to the MicroTimes editor, in RM> which I mentioned that I thought it was an _odd argument_ for Meeks to RM> make (that sysops should not have the right to decide what messages RM> should stay posted on their boards), considering that he was a RM> _Chronicle_ reporter, but that I'd accept with gratitude his support RM> when I attempted to force the Chron to print my series of articles on RM> monopolistic newspaper companies. (Surely he couldn't maintain that the RM> Chron is more "private" than my BBS!) RM> I have to admit I had fun beating up on this guy. ===================================================================== Msg #: 18 From: RICK MOEN Sent: 06-08-89 20:07 To: LESTER GARRETT Rcvd: -NO- Re: BBSS & FREE SPEECH - PT 1 Thank YOU, Lester! I was just about to send off a blast aimed at the MicroTimes letters column on that point (and I DO own a BBS). Meeks is a little vulnerable on the "You're tromping on my 1sts Amendment rights" bit, working as he does for a newspaper that is hardly a prime voice of dissent. I intend to zing him but good for his simplistic, self-righteous posture. Watch for it (if I don't get lost in the crowd). ==================================================================== Hi, Rick. Yup, I think you can say I remember {very wide grin}. That one is a year and a half old. I believe it came from LEVIATHAN. Hell, I'm also a packrat. I have a hunch that you missed the war I got into with Navas over this one. Whew, he did get testy! Best regards & fond memories, Lester --- msged 2.00 * Origin: -={The Lyceum}=- San Francisco, CA (1:125/101) or (8:914/213) Msg #: 611 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: WALLY SCHWARZ Sent: 11-24-90 22:54 To: EDWARD WINTERS Rcvd: -NO- Re: (R)FBI & YOUR BBS Edward, To the best of my knowledge, no law enforcement person has gained access to my system. I merely posted that information for others to be able to read/view. One just has to be aware of possible actions to their system as possible. I take no position on the article. Wally --- TMail v1.19 * Origin: Wally World 415/349-6969 (1:204/6969) Msg #: 617 Security: 1 NORCAL Subboard From: SYSOP Sent: 11-16-90 18:32 To: LESTER GARRETT Rcvd: -NO- Re: (R)FBI & YOUR BBS > Hi, Rick. Yup, I think you can say I remember {very wide grin}. > That one is a year and a half old. I believe it came from > LEVIATHAN. Hell, I'm also a packrat. > I have a hunch that you missed the war I got into with Navas over > this one. Whew, he did get testy! Lester -- Nobody actually asked, but here's the text of my letter, published in "MicroTimes" on about May 31, 1989: Dear Editor: Brock Meeks's attitude towards free speech on BBSs is interesting, if nothing else. He's unhappy that sysops can set the rules concerning content and access, and edgy over the idea that BBSs are "private". That's remarkable coming from a "Chronicle" reporter, but I'm grateful. I know I can count on his support when I try to force the "Chron" to print my series on monopolistic newspaper companies. Surely he won't argue that the "Chron" is any more "private" than my BBS. Here's where I personally drew the line on my own system recently: "Dear X, If you think you can tell sysops what messages they must keep on their boards, you've a heck of a surprise coming to you. Try putting public messages, with false statements attacking the sysops' characters, in their main message areas, as you have here, and see how long your messages last." "Just where do you get off demanding that I create, on my time, money, and painstakingly-created resources, a forum for you to run amok on topics of YOUR choosing? I'll give you a choice: 1) We have an extremely fundamental difference of opinion, or 2) You're nuts. Take your pick." Rick Moen Sysop, The Skeptic's Board I'm not familiar with your run-in with "Navas", by the way, but it sounds intriguing. Rest Regards, Rick M. --- Via Silver Xpress V2.28

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