Subject: Steve Jackson Games and the Secret Service
Date: 26 Mar 90 20:34:50 GMT
Organization: Univ. of Pittsburgh, Comp & Info Services
I wrote an article for a newspaper class about the SJG/SS
business (my instructor found the intial premise amusing - sounded
more like a 50s pulp serial with a hefty dose of postmodernism thrown
in). In the course of writing the article, I gave SJG a call, and
they put Steve Jackson on the line (evidently I caught him in a
"lull," so to speak). Here is some of what he told me.
By the way, I called the Secret Service too. They had one (1)
number listed (their local office, that is). No address. The lady
who answered the phone said she couldn't give out any information on
the case over the phone. I asked if there was some sort of public
information number or something I could call (since the number I *had*
called was simply listed as "Secret Service," right there between
Secor International and Secret Whispers). "I'm sorry, we cannot give
out that information over the phone." Well, fine, then where do I go
to get the information in person, since the address isn't listed?
"I'm sorry, we cannot give out that information over the phone."
It isn't as obnoxious as it sounds. A helpful Treasury Dept.
official whom I called later told me that I'd probably reached their
On with the comments from Steve Jackson
Is the BBS going to be back up?
"We've been trying to get one and set it up, but we're having
software trouble. The Secret Service people have been promising that
the software would be returned...every day they say 'It's in the mail,
Federal Express will have it to you within 24 hours.' but so far we
haven't gotten a copy."
What did the search warrant say the Secret Service was looking for?
"It took two paragraphs to say it, but what it boiled down to
was 'computer hardware and software, and records relating to computer
hardware and software.'"
How did you find out about the search?
"When the staff showed up, the Secret Service was already
here, and they wouldn't let anybody in. They cut or broke their way
in to filing cabinets and boxes ... we would have been happy to unlock
things if they'd let us in."
Was the GURPS Cyberpunk Rulebook related to the cause of the search?
"We're not sure on that - maybe in a roundabout way. When
they were reading the handbook in my presence they were getting very
upset and saying 'This is just a handbook for computer crime.'"
What is the status of the GURPS Cyberpunk book?
The Secret Service confiscated all of the GURPS Cyberpunk
materials, including the copies uploaded on the BBS. "We're
recreating the text" from material downloaded by users, material sent
out play testers, and old rough drafts. "Estimated losses are roughly
$10,000 a week, for three or four weeks." This was excaberated by
initial delays while the SJG folks waited for the promised return of
the document instead of trying to recreate it themselves.
Why did the Secret Service search SJG?
All they will say is that it is in connection with a
nationwide data piracy case. We have learned that it is in connection
with the 911 emergency computer system, which is more than the Secret
Service will tell us.
What about the author of the GURPS Cyberpunk book? Was he searched as well?
"Loyd Blankenship ... his home was searched earlier that day.
They evidently was something of a sore point with the folks at SJG
itself. "They descended on a desk being used as a repair bench" by
the SJG staffer in charge of computer maintenance "it had about 2 or 3
half-assembled computers and other junk on it. They took everything."
The staffer in charge of computer maintenance was particularly irked
that the Secret Service even took a bag of nuts and bolts.
And the sysop of the Illuminati BBS?
Creede Lambard, aka Fearless Leader, they didn't bother him at
all. They "ate some of the candy of his desk, but that's it."
Can you tell me anything about the relation between the GURPS
Cyberpunk book and the search?
"In the course of writing the Cyberpunk book, Loyd made lots
and lots of connections with the computer underground. He was also
researching a mainstream book on the computer underworld at the time."
Jackson conjectured that contacts made in this research may have led
the Secret Service to suspect that there was a link between the
computer pirates they are tracking and Loyd, and even Steve Jackson
Was the Legion of Doom on the SJG BBS?
"It's possible that they were, but unlikely. I know of
several people, who have that kind of background, who were on the
board, but no active hackers." Of course, he pointed out, the board
did allow aliases, so it's impossible to be certain...
I gave Loyd Blankenship a call to see if he could answer any
of the several questions raised by this information and by things I'd
heard on comp.dcom.telecom. His only comment was that he had no
comment at this time (which, I suppose, might mean that he actually
has something going on with the SS, or that his lawyer is a bit more
paranoid than Jackson's lawyer and told him to answer all queries with
"no comment", or that Jackson decided that PR was more important than
By the way, I'm still working on that article (re-write of it)
so if anybody wants to comment and has some sort of important sounding
"credentials" that I can quote, please drop me a line :-)
(phone# is 412-885-2532, but you're unlikely to find me there - except
maybe Tuesday and Thursday morning & early afternoon.)
Steven J. Owens | Scratch@Pittvms | Scratch@unix.cis.pittsburgh.edu
"Well, that's one of the differences between life and fiction,
after all. Fiction is supposed to make sense."
_Telling_Lies_For_Fun_&_Profit_, Lawrence Block