THE TOP TEN MEDIA ERRORS ABOUT THE SJ GAMES RAID updated 2-12-92
As this story has developed, occasional errors creep into news stories--
and many of them have taken on a life of their own. Some reporters, working
from their clipping files, have turned out stories that are almost 100%
free of facts. There are a lot of those floating around . . . but here are
our Top Ten.
10. Steve Jackson Games is a computer game company.
No we're not. None of our games are computer games. We use computers
to WRITE the games, like every other publisher in the '90s. And the
game that was seized, GURPS CYBERPUNK, was about computers. But we're
not a computer game company any more than George Bush is a gardener.
9. GURPS Cyberpunk is a computer game.
No it's not. Aieeeeee! It's a roleplaying game. It is not played
on a computer. It's played on a table, with dice.
8. We're out of business.
No we're not. It's been reported that we are bankrupt, or filing for
bankruptcy. It was very close, and we're not out of the woods by any
means - we did have to lay off half our staff after the raid
. . . but we're not dead yet.
7. We were raided by the FBI.
No we weren't. We were raided by the US Secret Service. The FBI had
nothing to do with it. (In fact, when Bill Cook, the assistant US
attorney named in our suit, was doing his "research," he talked to the
FBI. They told him he didn't have a case. We have this from FBI sources!)
6. Some of our staff members were arrested by the Secret Service and
charged with hacking.
No they weren't. No member of our staff was arrested, indicted, or
charged. Nobody was even QUESTIONED after the day of the raid.
5. This was part of Operation Sun Devil.
No it wasn't. Sun Devil was a totally separate project, aimed at
credit card fraud. Because it had a neat name, it got a lot of headlines.
Since computers were involved, some reporters got the two confused. The
Secret Service helped the confusion along by refusing to comment on what
was, or wasn't part of Sun Devil. Sun Devil was not a "hacker"
investigation. So says Gail Thackeray, who was its spearhead.
4. The raid was after GURPS Cyberpunk.
No it wasn't. The Secret Service suspected one of our staffers of
wrongdoing, using his computer at home. They had nothing connecting his
alleged misdeeds with our office, but they raided us anyway, and took a
lot of things. One of the things they took was the GURPS Cyberpunk
manuscript. Their agents were very critical of it, and on March 2 in
their office, one of them called it a "handbook for computer crime."
Since their warrant was sealed, and they wouldn't comment, our best guess
was that they were trying to suppress the book. They did suppress it, but
apparently it was through bureaucratic inertia and stonewalling rather
than because it was a target of the raid. Unfortunately, they let us
believe for 7 months (until their warrant affidavit was unsealed)
that they had been after the book.
3. There was a hacker threat to sabotage the 911 system.
No there wasn't. This story has been cynically spread by phone company
employees (who know better) and by Secret Service spokesmen (who probably
believe it, because they still don't understand any of this). They're
using this story to panic the media, to try to justify the illegal things
they've done and the huge amount of money they've spent.
What happened was this: A student got access to a phone company
computer and copied a text file - not a program. This file was nothing
but administrative information, and was publicly available elsewhere.
Bell South tried to value it at $79,000, but in court they admitted that
they sold copies for under $20. There was no way this file could be used
to hurt the 911 system, even if anybody had wanted to. To say otherwise
shows an incredible ignorance of the facts. It's as though a banker
claimed "This criminal made an illegal copy of the list of our Board of
Directors. He can use that to break into our vault."
2. GURPS Cyberpunk was written by Lloyd Blankenship.
He spells his name Loyd, with one L.
And the Number One "false fact" ever reported about this story . . .
1. Steve Jackson Games is the second largest game company in the USA.
Don't we wish!