Computer underground Digest Wed Sep 23, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 45 Editors: Jim Thomas and G
Computer underground Digest Wed Sep 23, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 45
Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET)
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
Shadow-Archivist: Dan Carosone
Copy Editor: Etaion Shrdleau, Srr.
CONTENTS, #4.45 (Sep 23, 1992)
File 1--XmasCon Problems: HoHo's from HoJo's
File 2--The Background on HoJo's/Xmascon
File 3--How to Talk to the Press
File 4--CPSR Sues FBI for Wiretap Proposal Information
File 5--News Blurbs (INSLAW & CITIBANK)
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Date: Thu, 17 Sep 92 01:08:27 CDT
From: Jim Thomas
Subject: File 1--XmasCon Problems: HoHo's from HoJo's
For the past few years, a conference called "XmasCon" (or HoHoCon) has
been held in Texas in December. As reported previously (CuD #4.40), it
will be held again this year from 18-21 December. For those unfamiliar
with it, XmasCon is a national meeting of curious computer
afficianados, journalists, scholars, computer professionals, and
others, who meet for three days and do what people do at other
conferences: Discuss common interests and relax.
XmasCon is approaching in a few months, so I called down to the
Houston Airport Howard Johnson's where conference arrangements
apparently had been made to check out reservations. I encountered the
most bizarre and crude interactions I have ever experienced with
reservation-making. The bottom line, it seems, is that XmasCon will
not be at HoJos this December. It will be located elsewhere. But,
we're getting ahead of the story.
My call to the HoJo receptionist began routinely. I indicated that I
would like to make reservations for a December conference. The
receptionist asked for some preliminary information, including my
name, phone number, dates, how long I would be staying, and what type
of room I wanted. I asked her what the conference rates were, and she
asked which conference I would be attending. I said, "XmasCon." Her
tone changed, and the mood dramatically shifted. She paused for a few
seconds, and said: "We don't take no reservations for XmasCon." Her
initially polite behavior (and attention to grammatical conventions)
had changed. Aha, I thought, what an odd response. So, I mustered up
the only intelligent question I could think of to a double negative:
"What?" "That conference has been cancelled," she replied.
Her response surprised me, because I had heard nothing of a
cancellation. "Cancelled?" I asked? "Yes," she repeated, "That
conference has been cancelled." I asked if she meant that the
conference had been cancelled or whether it was being held elsewhere.
She said she didn't know, and she wasn't allowed to give out any
information about it. A most unusual twist of phrase and a rather odd
turn of events, I thought. So, suspecting something was not quite
right, I thought it wise to obtain additional information. So, I
asked if I could talk to a supervisor. I was connected to "Gloria"
(who refused to provide a last name). The encounter began politely. I
gave her my name and affiliation and explained that the receptionist
had informed me that XmasCon was cancelled, but would give out no
further information. Gloria said that the receptionist was correct,
the conference was cancelled. I asked (the conversation was still
routine and polite) whether she knew if it was cancelled or simply
being held elsewhere. She said it that it would not be held at Howard
Johnsons; it was cancelled. Now, there's a rather substantial
difference between cancelling a conference and holding it elsewhere.
The conversation was still polite and routine, and I asked whether she
meant that the conference itself was cancelled or simply that the
original arrangements with HoJos were cancelled. The fit hit the shan!
"WHY DO YOU PEOPLE KEEP DOING THIS?!??" she screamed!
Uh oh. This was no longer a normal routine conversation. Either I
was dealing with a psychotic terrorist who had taken over the office,
or else something was going on that I didn't know about. I suspected
the former, so I thought tact the best approach. I asked "what people"
she thought I was, and what it was that "we people" kept doing. She
never did explain what "we people" she thought I was. I explained that
if by "we people," she meant criminology professors, we normally to
"this" to reserve a room in exchange for our money. She seemed to
care little who or what I was, and angrily explained that she was
instructed not to talk about XmasCon because "you people" had lawyers
calling. Uh, lawyers? What *is* going on, I began to wonder. So I
asked. She repeated that she couldn't talk about it. Actually, I
wasn't given the opportunity to ask much, because she talked over me
and cut me off whenever I tried to ask a question. Gloria tersely
informed me that if I wanted any information, I would have to obtain
it from the manager, James Marx, on Monday. Thank you Gloria.
Having seen no reports of psychotic terrorists in the Houston area on
the news, I can only conclude that Gloria was, sadly, a representative
of HoJos. Normally, receptionists and supervisors don't freak-out on
callers, especially when no ostensible behavior triggered the assault.
In my substantial experience with conference hotels, the policy of
reputable sites when conference venue has been changed (especially by
the original hotel) is to inform an inquirer that the conference will
be held elsewhere and identify that location. If the original site
does not know the location, they so-state and suggest that the caller
inquire with the organizers. In this case, however, I was informed
that the conference was cancelled. Even though Gloria ultimately
indicated that she did not know if the conference was cancelled or
not, and finally indicated that she only knew that it would not be
held there, it took the entire conversation to obtain this nugget of
information and only after considerable verbal abuse.
Now, I'm not one to fall back on professional status. But, even though
I *politely* explained that I was a criminal justice professor at
Northern Illinois University and was simply trying to obtain routine
information, she continued to subject me to discourtesy. Not even an
"I apologize" at the end. Not even a softening. Odd. Very odd, I say
to myself. Something, however, is going on, so my next step was
calling James Marx.
I again called the airport HoJos (713-644-1261) and asked to speak to
Mr. James Marx. I was connected to his office. The call to James
Marx was less than satisfactory. The conversation began:
JM: "This is James."
JT: "Mr. Marx, my name is Jim Thomas, a criminal justice
professor at Northern Illinois University. I'm calling in regards
to XmasCon, about which I have a few questions and what I
consider a serious complaint."
JM: XmasCon will not be held here.
JT: I understand that, sir, but I have several questions and I
have a complaint about my treatment by one of your employees.
JM: What are your questions?
JT: I understand the conference was cancelled....
JM: They cancelled it.
JT: *They* cancelled it?
JM: Uh, no.
JT: May I ask, sir, the circumstances of the cancellation?
JM: No, you may not.
The conversation was downhill from there. I **POLITELY** attempted
several times to inquire about the nature of the cancellation. He
indicated that he would not give me any information, and that I would
have to ask the conference organizers. Although indicating that "the
hotel decided to cancel it," he offered nothing further. He indicated
that the conference organizers did not inform him of the new site, so
HoJos could not direct callers elsewhere, and were therefore telling
callers that the conference was cancelled. I attempted to ask why they
used that choice of words, rather than indicate to callers that the
conference was not, in fact, cancelled. Why not say that it was
elsewhere and they simply didn't know where it was. I suggested that
the phrasing of the response was misleading to people like myself. He
said, "I told you. *No more questions*!"
Ok, fine. Now to voice my complaint about "Gloria." So: "I would also
like to discuss with you my complaint." "What is it?" he grumbled. I
explained that, in the middle of a routine conversation, Gloria,
without provocation, screamed at me: "Why do you people keep doing
this?" Says he, interrupting, "I told you, I'm *not* going to answer
any questions!" He threatened to hangup. Uh, Mr. Marx, I tried to
explain, I'm not asking you a question, I'm describing an event. You
just asked me a question, says he. Hmmm, this gets stranger. "Sir," I
said, realizing that the normal conventions of communication had
disintegrated, "That's not *my* question. That's the question Gloria
screamed at me! I'm not really the type to tolerate this kind of
unprovoked rudeness, and I'm simply telling you what happened. I'm a
criminal justice professional, and not used to being treated so
shabbily without provocation when discussing reservations in good
Wrong thing to say. "Sounds like you're threatening me," says he. Uh
oh. "Mr. Marx, what have I said to threaten you?" I was genuinely
surprised. "You people" (ah, that term again) "have threatened us with
law suits." Hmmm....attempting to describe the discourteous behavior
of an employee to the manager in polite, matter-of-fact discourse is
threatening a lawsuit? Did I miss something somewhere? Before I could
respond, I was cut off with: "You'll have to talk with the conference
organizers. I told you! No more questions!" But, how could the
conference organizers tell me why Mr. Marx thought I was threatening
him? Ooops---that's a question. "You'll just have to talk to them, I
told you." Still curious about why he thought I was threatening him,
it turns out that the fact that I identified myself as a criminal
justice professor was the threat. Now, it's generally my habit to
identify myself so the people at the other end know who they're
talking to. This is the first time in 13 years as a crim justice type
that anybody ever was threatened by my occupation. Why was that
threatening and how did he infer a lawsuit from my mentioning on
introduction that I was a CJ prof and a second time, during explaining
the complaint, making an off-handed reference that I was a CJ
professional who found rudeness unacceptable? Turns out, it seems,
that "you people" (another reference to "us") keep calling and
identifying "yourselves" with the legal profession and threatening
suits. In a rather nifty bit of paralogia, he explained that criminal
justice has something to do with law, right? "And you can't tell me
that it doesn't!" Uh, right. Guess he's got me there. Criminals break
the law, I study criminals, so guess that means I'm threatening a law
He then indicated that I should put whatever complaints I had about
his employees in writing and send them to the owner, Mr. Henry Woo, at
the HoJo airport address, and that he was going to terminate the
conversation. Ok, 10 minutes of weirdness is about all I can take in a
day, so it seemed best to say, "Thank you for your time" and end it.
Had I been in set: snippy mode, I could better understand the HoJo
response to me. However, I had donned my politest professional
persona. I do not know what the background is to the cancellation,
but it is clear that the hotel "decided not to have it." But I do know
that something went awry at HoJos instigation, and I do know that
neither Gloria or Mr. James Marx are people to whom I want to give my
money. I'm not sure what their problem is, but I'll sleep in my car
before I ever patronize another Howard Johnson's hotel, in Houston or
If I could ask a few questions of Howard Johnson's in Houston, I would
be especially interested to learn:
1) Why did the hotel cancel arrangements after they were already made?
2) Why not have a standard and courteous reply to callers, rather than
put them through a ritual of abuse when they attempted to obtain
3) Why did Gloria "freak out" for no explicable reason?
4) What "people" am I, and what is it "we keep doing?" If they have a
thing against criminology professors, it would be useful to know for
5) What possible rationale could justify abusive behavior to strangers
attempting routine inquiries?
6) Why could not James Marx listen to my original complaint of abusive
behavior without himself becoming abusive?
7) Why is it necessary for the hotel manager to belittle and criticize
my profession without cause or provocation?
8) What's with the Airport Howard Johnson's in Houston?
I am hoping that Mr. Henry Woo, the owner of the Airport Howard
Johnson's Lodge and the home office in Phoenix can provide some
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 92 01:41 CDT
From: dfx@NUCHAT.SCCSI.COM(dFx International Digest)
Subject: File 2--The Background on HoJo's/Xmascon
Date--September 15, 1992
Some of you may have read about this year's HoHoCon conference in CuD
4.40. Some of you may also know that since the announcement ran in
that issue, conference details have changed under somewhat
"mysterious" circumstances. Unfortunately, not everyone knows of these
changes and they've yet to be presented in the public forum. There
seems to be a lot of people, including myself, who are eager to
receive the new conference details as well as an explanation of why
things changed so suddenly.
After talking with a few of the conference organizers and realizing
how busy they were, I asked if they needed any help and they mentioned
possibly writing something up to tell everyone what's going on and
shooting it over to CuD. Rather than have me try to remember what they
told me and put it in my own words, we agreed on transcribing a brief
(KW = Me)
(DF = Drunkfux)
KW: What exactly is HoHoCon?
DF: It's our big yearly anarchistic get-together where we worship the
'SpamGod' and slaughter cows in his honor. Oh, and we trade codes
too. Most of all, it's really el8. Spell that with an 8 please.
KW: Seriously now.
DF: Oh, all right. I honestly don't know really. The best way to describe
it is probably what it says in the announcement. Basically, it's a
three day gathering of people associated with what is commonly
referred to as the computer underground, the majority of which are
just people who are currently active in the "scene", whether they be
actual hackers or crackers (choose your preferred definition),
journalists, security professionals, or those who are just plain
KW: Does the conference actually last three days?
DF: Oh, no. The conference itself is held on Saturday. The rest of the
time, everyone does their own thing, although that generally is the
same thing. This is one of the few times each year when all us
compu-nerds can actually see each other face to face and sit around
and laugh at one another. Usually, the attendees break off into
groups and within time, there's a few dozen things happening at
once. Like last year, every few feet there was something different
going on. Sort of the Lollapalooza of hacking.
KW: What happens at the conference on Saturday?
DF: Everyone piles into the conference room, we say a few introductory
words, get things settled and proceed to let the speakers take over.
A general outline would be: introduction, speaker speaks then
answers questions from the audience, speaker shows any materials
he/she may have brought with him/her, including videos and the such,
speaker ends his speech, people clap, other people wake up, next
speaker gets on the mic and rocks the house. At both the beginning
and ending of the conference, journalist/editor type people pass out
reading materials and budding entrepreneurs sell everything from
t-shirts to back issues of magazines to sushi on a stick.
KW: What about Friday and Sunday? Do you have anything planned for then?
DF: Nope, not at all. That's the beauty of it. You really have to attend
one of these things to understand it. It's totally free form,
everyone does whatever they want to. It's not like your typical
stuffy, big room, security suit fest. All you have to do is be
yourself, unless you really feel like kissing someone's "booty".
KW: Does much happen during the non-conference times, like on Friday and
DF: Definitely. In fact, that's when people seem to have the most fun.
The conference is cool and all, no doubt, but it's more of a learning
and listening experience. You kinda have to sit there for a while.
Again, like I said before, everyone does their own thing. Some folks
sit around and talk about whatever or watch videos, others venture
off and "explore" the city and its establishments, some do actual
computing, and some try to do it all.
KW: Sounds good. Let's move on to the details of what happened with the
hotel this year. Can you tell us exactly what's been going on?
DF: No, because I don't know it all myself. I'll do my best to briefly
tell what I know. Here's the just of it -
We had been planning the conference for a while before we had even
found a hotel, which is always the hardest part. After deciding on
dates and the such, we proceeded to hunt down a conference site.
Howard Johnson's was definitely NOT our first choice. The name alone
was a turn off and we didn't know how people would take to it, but
they seemed nice and were semi-helpful as far as room pricing and
organizing went. Because not all of us have a lot of free time to fly
around and inspect hotels, we agreed to go with HoJo's mainly due to
the fact that almost every other hotel in town was booked conference
wise for that weekend. They agreed to take the conference in over
the phone and roughly 3 weeks later, a few of the conference
planners went to the hotel and were given the "grand tour" by a lady
named Shirley, who is believed to be the sales director. She showed
everyone the whole hotel, including the restaurant, bar, conference
room, pool, and the building which housed the rooms where, in her
own words, "we would be staying." Everyone agrees that she obviously
had the intention that we would be staying there. She had already
picked which building we would be in, as well as which conference
room. She also said things like, "this is where you'll be staying,"
"this is where we're gonna put you for your conference," etc.
After the tour, she brought everyone into her office and in the
people's opinion that were there, proceeded to ask some
semi-personal questions that seemed fairly unnecessary. Whether she
was being nosy or just trying to make conversation, it's not known.
Anyway, after all this chit-chat, she got back to discussing the
conference details and this is where she said things like "ok,
you'll have the conference room on Saturday from 10am until 5pm.",
and "I have you down for the one building that holds 40 rooms for
now, and if we need more later, it won't be a problem." She also
quoted room and tax rates, restaurant hours, reservation information
which included pointing out the 800 number that "you can start
giving to your people so they can make reservations", check in/out
times, and other assorted items. The last thing she said was
something close to "Well, everything is fine, I'll go ahead and
write you in here for December 18th through the 20th and we'll plan
on seeing you then." She also handed over a large stack of hotel
brochures to be distributed with advertisements for the conference.
Now, you tell me, doesn't it sound like agreed and confirmed that we
would be staying there?
KW: That's exactly what it sounds like to me.
DF: We thought so too. Everyone breathed a big sigh of relief knowing
that everything with the hotel was finally out of the way and we
could move on to the actual conference planning and advertising, as
in letting people know what the deal was. A number of people wrote
up announcements regarding the con as well as called around to let
people know the details. I put up the money to have one version of
the announcement printed out and duplicated a very large number of
times, and it was then bulk mailed out to people on a certain
collective mailing list. Oh, I mean snail mail too, not e-mail.
Chris Goggans also printed and mailed announcements, to a great
number of people. That same announcement was published in CuD and
also, somehow or other, appeared in comp.dcom.telecom. Needless to
say, by now, a lot of people knew about the conference and started
making plans to attend, which included making hotel reservations and
purchasing plane tickets.
KW: Wait. Did the hotel accept reservations for HoHoCon?
DF: Yep. More than 15 of them. Quoted them the room rate and the whole
deal and kept all their names together. One guy I spoke with
recently told me that he actually sent money to the hotel to
guarantee a room.
KW: Hell, it sounds like they must have been planning on having the
conference there. Did the guy get his money back?
DF: I don't know. He told me he had called the hotel and they said they
would send him back his money. Whether or not they did, I'm not
KW: What happened next?
DF: Well, I had ventured off to the west coast with my band for a few
weeks and upon returning, I received some beautiful news from Howard
Johnson's. It appears that there is a certain someone out there that
owns a Howard Johnson's up "north" we'll say. That someone also
happens to read CuD (or ordered an LoD t-shirt). After seeing the
announcement, he took it upon himself to fax it to the HoJo's down
here as well as call them and tell some sort of warped tale of how
everyone associated with the "computer underground" were nothing more
than raving, chaotic, unintelligent code maniacs who only lived to
destroy hotels. Unfortunately, the people down here believed this and
with the added factor of seeing "Cult Of The Dead Cow" as a
conference presenter, decided to breach their oral contract and
inform us that we could not stay at their hotel.
KW: Just like that?
DF: You got it.
KW: Do you know who the person was that faxed them the announcement?
DF: Yes, for the most part.
KW: Can I ask who it was?
DF: No. Not yet at least.
KW: How did you find out who it was?
DF: Let's just say some people don't cover their tracks too well. The
HoJo's employees down here are no wizards at keeping private things
private either. I found that out when they started giving our
studio's office number out to people who were trying to make HoHoCon
reservations after they decided to pull the plug.
KW: That's unbelievable. Those people really don't have their act
together, do they? Did you tell them to stop?
DF: We tried. After receiving about eight calls from different people all
telling us they got our name and number from HoJo's, I called them up
to politely ask them to stop and got nowhere. The lady I spoke with
was just some idiotic uneducated receptionist who kept telling me,
"Nobody's here, I don't know what to do! Can you call back?" So, the
next day, our attorney called and tried to explain the situation in a
very legal manner. The receptionist obviously freaked out and
transferred the call over to a lady named Gloria, who we thought must
have been the manager on duty or something close. Why else would they
transfer the call to her? Anyway.. Gloria was nothing less than a
unprofessional rude joke. After our attorney started explaining the
situation and asking that something be done to insure it didn't
continue to happen, she just started spewing out senseless sentences
that all basically said the same thing - I'm old and stupid and don't
want to take responsibility for any of this, call back tomorrow and
talk to someone else. We were recording the conversation and our
attorney told her and proceeded to try to say things for the record
and Gloria, who must have been smarter than she sounded, would
constantly say things really loud making it near impossible to get
things he needed to on tape. He would ask her to stay quiet for 5
seconds so he could ask us questions, and she'd say ok, and two
seconds later start belching out, "You'll have to call back tomorrow
and talk with somebody else besides me." It was kinda funny because
it really pissed off the attorney. So much so that I doubt he'll
forget about it for a long time.
KW: Did they stop giving out your information?
DF: Yeah, it looks that way. But now they tell people the conference has
been canceled, which is nothing more than a lie.
KW: Has anything else happened with the hotel?
DF: Yeah, but too much to get into and nothing extremely important to
anybody else. At this point, we're just trying to get everything
worked out with the new location.
KW: Which is?
DF: Well, I can't say as of yet because we haven't received the written
confirmation. As soon as we do, we'll release all the new
KW: So the conference hasn't been cancelled?
DF: Definitely not. It'll be happening in Houston on December 18th
through the 20th no matter what. Even if we have to hold it at the
Squeaky Springs motel, it'll happen.
KW: Will the new hotel be near the old one?
DF: If we go with the one we're counting on, then no. Here's where some
of the changes come up. Some good, most bad.
First, one of the good things, if we get this hotel, it'll be a hell
of a lot nicer than HoBlo's. It is not located next to an airport,
but there is shuttle transportation to and from both airports, which
is good in case people have to fly in to Intercontinental.
Unfortunately, the shuttle isn't free, but we're trying to get
something worked out. The room rates are also going to be a bit
higher, around $49.
KW: Is everything going ok with the planning?
DF: I guess so. It's just been a bitch and a half to find a new hotel and
get all the details worked out. Plus, one of the main problems now is
the money thing. One of the downfalls for us is the fact that the
conference room rental at the new hotel is quite a bit more than it
was at BloJo's and I'm the one who gets to prepay it. So, we've been
discussing asking for small monetary contributions, like under five
bucks, at the conference door. But that's not something I really want
to do. We'll have to see what happens. That's not the only cost
related to this whole deal either, far from it. Last year, between
Judge Dredd of NIA and myself, we managed to rack up some nice phone
and postage bills getting the information out to people, which
included faxing the announcement out to the media and mailing hotel
brochures to those who asked for them.
The other problem is keeping in touch with people. The address that
people have been corresponding with - firstname.lastname@example.org - the one
that appeared in the announcements may not make it past September 30
because the site is fixing to start charging at a rate that would
make it quite hard to afford with the amount of time we have to spend
online. Hopefully, at the worst, we can get the admins to keep the
account active with a mail forward and not have to shell out mongo
dollars to do so. One of the things we could use now is a new account
somewhere else where we don't have to worry about how long we take to
reply to someone's mail when they're asking for information. I guess
the account would have to be in Houston also. I'm sure we'll figure
out a way to get the announcements and updates out to people even if
something doesn't turn up.
Luckily, we do have a slug-mail address that people can write to -
Fennec Information Systems
11504 Hughes Road
The only other thing I can think of that we would need as far as
communications go, is some fresh virgin codes. Just kidding. We could
use a vmb of some sort, and not one that was hacked out and will die
2 weeks down the line. Something that will stay up until the
conference happens so that people can just call and get all the
updated information. It's a long shot, but if someone is willing to
donate one, we're willing to accept one.
KW: Do you have anything lined up for the conference yet?
DF: You mean along the lines of speakers?
KW: Speakers or activities. Whatever you have planned.
DF: Yeah, we've got a few speakers lined up so far. We'll announce them a
little later on when they give a definite attendance confirmation. As
far as activities go, I don't really know of anything yet but I'm
sure there'll be some video viewing happening at some point.
KW: Are you expecting a lot of people to show up?
DF: At first, I didn't really know what to expect. I honestly didn't
think as many people were going to show as last year, just because so
many of them did. That was a total surprise. But after the response
we've received, it looks as if there'll be even more this year. I
think the word getting out early and the stories still lingering from
last year as well as the support from people like CuD has helped a
KW: I can't think of too much more. Is there anything else you think
people should know or that you wanted to say?
DF: Not really. This is dragging on a bit anyway. Boycott Howard
Johnson's as well as it's manager, James Marx, and owner, Henry Woo.
The conference is still happening, December 18, 19, and 20. See CuD
4.40 for details, excluding location. Come to the conference,
everyone's gonna be there. It'll be swell. Eat spam. Code it up. Call
d.r.u. Don't count your chips before they're all cashed in. Traxster
for president. Donate to the cause. Eighteen on the fairway and when
the dog is gone, the cat will play. Monday, Tuesday, Happy Days...
KW: Ok, ok. I think that's enough.
DF: Use the force jedi master. Yeah Ocean. New lime flavor...
KW: Alright, end of discussion. I'm hanging up now.
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 92 19:30:08 EDT
From: Mike Godwin
Subject: File 3--How to Talk to the Press
((It was rumored that, immediately after his appearance on
an NBC news show, that John (Cap'n Crunch) Draper was
released from his job for reasons of fiscal expediency.
Whether true or not, this seems like a good time to reprint
Mike Godwin's advice on "How to Talk to the Press" for those
who are in the rolodexes of media folk)).
This is a file I posted to an Austin BBS back when I gave the SJG
story to the local papers.
104: Talking to Media, part 1
By: Johnny Mnemonic 
Date: 11:07 3/18/90
As I've promised on another message base, here's the beginning of
discussion of how to bring stories to the media.
Since I keep thinking of different things people ought to know about
how to take a story to the media, I'm going to make this a multi-post
1) TRY TO THINK LIKE THE REPORTER YOU'RE TALKING TO.
One of the things that happens when people know about an event or
series of events that may make a good news story is that they assume
the importance of the story will be obvious to anyone.
Sometimes this is true (when the tipster knows about a murder, for
example). Often it's not.
So, when I tell a reporter about a story I think she should want to
cover, I make sure to stress the aspects of the story that are likely
to interest that reporter and/or the readers of her publication. For
example, when I spoke to Kyle Pope about the Illuminati seizure, I
stressed the following:
a) Steve Jackson Games is an Austin business that may end up being
damaged by the seizure.
b) Nobody has given this story anything like major coverage in the
national media, or (so far as I knew) in other geographic areas. (I
was telling him he had a major "scoop" opportunity.)
c) There are some very dramatic aspects to this story. (I told him
about the 20-year-old LoD member who woke up on the morning of March 1
with a gun pointed at him by a Secret Service agent.)
2) IF YOU'RE GOING TO MEET THE REPORTER IN PERSON, TRY TO BRING
SOMETHING ON PAPER.
There are lots of good reasons to follow this rule:
a) Believe it or not, but people take stuff on paper a little more
seriously than the spoken word. It's nice to give the reporter
something that lends substance to what you're saying, even if the
substance is printouts from your own computer.
b) It makes life easier for the reporter, who doesn't have to write
down every single thing you tell her. Reporters like to have materials
they can use for reference as they research and write their stories.
c) It helps you remember to say everything you want to say. Nothing is
more frustrating than trying to get a reporter interested in your
story, getting inconclusive results, and then realizing later that you
should have told the reporter about something. (E.g., "Damn! I forgot
to tell him what 'cyberpunk' means, so he won't know how the federal
agents misinterpreted the manual.")
When I went to the Statesman, I took edited printouts of discussions
from Flight, from SMOF, and from comp.dcom.telecom on Usenet. I also
took some private Email I had received, with the names of the senders
deleted. And I took my copy of the WHOLE EARTH REVIEW with the article
on Usenet. My object was to convey to him the scale of concern about
the seizures, plus give him enough background to be able to ask
reasonably informed questions of the people he talked to.
3) GIVE THE REPORTER OTHER PEOPLE TO TALK TO, IF POSSIBLE.
Two basic justifications for this rule: First, it'll help your
credibility (especially if you don't already know the reporter
personally). Second, multiple sources or witnesses usually enable the
reporter to filter out what is mere opinion or speculation from what
everybody actually knows for a fact.
4) DON'T ASSUME THAT THE REPORTER WILL COVER THE STORY THE WAY YOU'D
LIKE HER TO.
Reporters' accuracy and focus in a story are constrained by several
a) The amount of available time. Reporters have to be quick studies,
and often have to assimilate a complex story in a hurry. This
necessarily increases the risk of inaccuracy in a story, and gives you
an even greater reason to follow Rules 1 through 3.
2) The reporters' obligation to be fair. This means they have to talk
to people on the other side of the issues from you. This in turn means
that you're unlikely to get a story that represents or promotes your
point of view at the expense of those who oppose you.
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1992 10:41:55 EDT
From: Dave Banisar
Subject: File 4--CPSR Sues FBI for Wiretap Proposal Information
CPSR Sues FBI For Information About Wiretap Proposal:
Seeks Reasons for New Plan
September 17, 1992
Marc Rotenberg, CPSR Director (202/544-9240)
David Sobel, CPSR Legal Counsel (202/544-9240)
Washington, DC - Computer Professional for Social Responsibility
filed suit today against the FBI for information about a new wiretap
proposal. The proposal would expand FBI wiretap power and give the
Bureau authority to set technical standards for the computer and
The suit was filed after the FBI failed to make the information
public. In April, CPSR requested documents from the Bureau about the
reasons for the proposal. The FBI denied that any information existed.
But when CPSR pursued the matter with the Department of Justice, the
Bureau conceded that it had the information. Now CPSR is trying to
force the Bureau to disclose the
The proposal expands the FBI's ability to intercept communications.
It would mandate that every communication system in the United States
have a built-in "remote monitoring" capability to make wiretap easier.
The proposal covers all communication equipment from office phone
systems to advanced computer networks. Companies that do not comply
face fines of $10,000 per day.
The proposal is opposed by leading phone companies and computer
manufacturers, including AT&T, IBM, and Digital Equipment Corporation.
Many charge that the FBI has not been adequately forthcoming about the
need for the legislation.
According to CPSR Washington Office director Marc Rotenberg, "A full
disclosure of the reasons for this proposal is necessary. The FBI
simply cannot put forward such a sweeping recommendation, keep
important documents secret, and expect the public to sign off."
In a related effort, a 1989 CPSR FOIA suit uncovered evidence that
the FBI established procedures to monitor computer bulletin boards in
CPSR is a national membership organization of computer professionals
with over 2,500 members based in Palo Alto, California with offices in
Washington, DC and Cambridge, Massachusetts and chapters in over a
dozen metropolitan areas across the nation. For membership
information, please contact CPSR, P.O. Box 717, Palo Alto, CA 94303,
(415) 322-3778, email@example.com.
Date: 17 Sep 92 19:48:32 EDT
From: Gordon Meyer <72307.1502@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: File 5--News Blurbs (INSLAW & CITIBANK)
As reported in Information Week 9/14/92 pg 8
The House Judiciary Committee is still looking into whether the
Justice Department stole and illegally copied a database management
program from Inslaw. Last week 20 Democrats on the committee asked
the US Attorney General thirty days to appoint a special prosecutor or
explain why one isn't needed.
A New Zealand computer dealer, Paul White, tried to extort over
$90,000 dollars from Citibank by threatening to release confidential
files stored on 88 floppy disks. White had obtained the disks after
purchasing some used computer equipment that Citibank had sold to a
clearinghouse. Citibank obtained a court order against that release
of the data, and police seized 86 of the disks. White turned over the
other two disks as part of a nearly $30,000 settlement. The day after
turning over the remaining disks White died in a traffic accident.
News stories about the case indicated that the disks contained
incriminating information on Citibank customers, but Citibank claims
is was merely outdated administrative data.
End of Computer Underground Digest #4.45
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