Computer underground Digest Wed Dec 2, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 62 ISSN 1066-632X Editors: Ji
Computer underground Digest Wed Dec 2, 1992 Volume 4 : Issue 62
Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET)
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth
Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
Cookie Editor: Etaion Shrdlu, Junior
CONTENTS, #4.62 (Dec 2, 1992)
File 1--Political Action and CPSR (Re: CuD 4.60)
File 2--More on Political Action (Re: CuD 4.60)
File 3--NASA Statement on Ames Raid
File 4--Local Civic Network in Wisconsin
File 5--Krol's Whole Internet User's Guide (Review #1)
File 6--Krol's Whole Internet User's Guide (Review #2)
File 7--Krol's Whole Internet User's Guide (Review #3)
File 8--Akron BBS trial update!
Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are
available at no cost from firstname.lastname@example.org. The editors may be
contacted by voice (815-753-6430), fax (815-753-6302) or U.S. mail at:
Jim Thomas, Department of Sociology, NIU, DeKalb, IL 60115.
Issues of CuD can also be found in the Usenet comp.society.cu-digest
news group; on CompuServe in DL0 and DL4 of the IBMBBS SIG, DL1 of
LAWSIG, and DL0 and DL12 of TELECOM; on Genie in the PF*NPC RT
libraries; from America Online in the PC Telecom forum under
"computing newsletters;" on the PC-EXEC BBS at (414) 789-4210; in
Europe from the ComNet in Luxembourg BBS (++352) 466893; and using
anonymous FTP on the Internet from ftp.eff.org (22.214.171.124) in
/pub/cud, red.css.itd.umich.edu (126.96.36.199) in /cud, halcyon.com
(188.8.131.52) in /pub/mirror/cud, and ftp.ee.mu.oz.au (184.108.40.206)
European readers can access the ftp site at: nic.funet.fi pub/doc/cud.
Back issues also may be obtained from the mail
server at email@example.com.
COMPUTER UNDERGROUND DIGEST is an open forum dedicated to sharing
information among computerists and to the presentation and debate of
diverse views. CuD material may be reprinted for non-profit as long
as the source is cited. Some authors do copyright their material, and
they should be contacted for reprint permission. It is assumed that
non-personal mail to the moderators may be reprinted unless otherwise
specified. Readers are encouraged to submit reasoned articles
relating to computer culture and communication. Articles are
preferred to short responses. Please avoid quoting previous posts
unless absolutely necessary.
DISCLAIMER: The views represented herein do not necessarily represent
the views of the moderators. Digest contributors assume all
responsibility for ensuring that articles submitted do not
violate copyright protections.
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1992 13:59:00 EDT
From: David Sobel
Subject: File 1--Political Action and CPSR (Re: CuD 4.60)
In Cu Digest 4.60, Lawrence Schilling notes
that "an effective response is needed as a corrective to abusive law
enforcement action against so-called computer crime" and asks whether
any organizations are monitoring law enforcement activities in this
area and collecting relevant information.
For the past two years, Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility (CPSR) has made frequent use of the Freedom of
Information Act in an effort to document government investigative
activities involving computer users. CPSR's first requests to the
Secret Service sought information concerning Operation Sun Devil; the
most recent requests seek information on the agency's possible
involvement in the 2600 incident in Arlington, Virginia. The Sun
Devil requests are the subject of pending litigation. CPSR is also
litigating FOIA cases against the FBI for documents relating to 1)
Bureau monitoring of computer bulletin boards and conferences; and 2)
the Bureau's "digital telephony" proposal to more easily facilitate
wiretapping of digital communications.
The 2600 incident is only the most recent indication that better
public oversight of computer crime investigations is needed. In
addition to the work being done by CPSR, EFF and other organizations,
Congress and the media can play important roles in assuring that
agencies such as the Secret Service and the FBI are held accountable
for the conduct of these investigations. The issues raised by these
cases are still relatively new, and they warrant an informed public
debate that can only occur if the scope and purpose of government
activities in this area are brought to light. Through its FOIA work,
CPSR is seeking to achieve that goal.
David L. Sobel
CPSR Washington Office
>From jdav Sun Nov 29 13:07:10 1992
Date: Sun, 29 Nov 1992 13:06:56 -0800
Subject: File 2--More on Political Action (Re: CuD 4.60)
Richard Gautier asked the above question in C.U.D. 4.60, in response
to the CPSR/Berkeley _Computer & Information Technologies Platform_.
Since I was involved in helping to draft the platform, allow me to
suggest at least a first step:
Nothing happens without organization. So the obvious thing is to get
organized. Get involved with an organization that is doing important
work around these issues.
At the top of the list, I would say, is Computer Professionals for
CPSR, but please don't take what follows as strictly self-serving. I
wouldn't be involved with CPSR if I didn't think that it was who work
with computers, as users, programmers, writers, teachers, researchers,
etc. CPSR has an active ongoing effort on changing science and
technology R & D priorities (21st Century Project). CPSR is very
active on Civil Liberties and Privacy issues, and maintains a
Washington office to fight at the Federal level on these issues. (That
office's activities are frequently reported on in C.U.D.). CPSR's
"Computers in the Workplace" working group is active around
participatory design and other workplace issues. CPSR is a
member-driven group -- that is, members, through the 20+ chapters
around the country, identify computer-related issues of particular
concern to them, and initiate some activity either at the local level,
or nationally. For example, the Portland chapter pulled together a
Computers and the Environment conference; the Berkeley chapter
produced the platform and raised issues related to the Gulf War and
computer folks; and several chapters have worked in their respective
states for a responsible Caller-ID policy. CPSR has also recently set
up an e-mail discussion group around working in the computer industry
(firstname.lastname@example.org) To contact CPSR, e-mail
email@example.com; or write P.O. Box 717, Palo Alto, CA, 94302.
Other groups (in the order they would appear in the platform):
The American Library Association, and the local library associations
are on the front lines protecting access to information, and could
really, really use support. Public libraries represent a really
radical concept -- that everyone, regardless of income, should have
access to information. Public library funding is being gutted. Support
your local library!
"Computers & You" has some experience in trying to provide access to
equipment and computer training to a low-income community in San
Francisco; their efforts could be a model for other places. (330
Ellis St., SF, CA 94102).
Re: Privatization of public information, and access to government
info, the Taxpayers Assets Project is active on those issues.
The League for Programming Freedom has been doing probably the best
work around the "intellectual property" rights issues of user
interface copyright and software patents. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Re: Civil Liberties -- Besides CPSR, the Electronic Frontier
Foundation (email@example.com, I think).
Work, health and safety issues have been addressed by some unions,
especially ones that represent clerical workers. Toxics in the
workplace -- more info could probably be found through a state
university's Labor Studies Program, or a state OSHA (Occupational
Safety & Health Admin).
Computers and the Environment: the Campaign for Responsible Technology
(617-391-3866) has done work on cleaning up the semiconductor
industry. Also, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (408-287-6707).
Global cooperation and responsible use of technology: contact the 21st
Century Project (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I know I've left out lots of other groups that are doing excellent
work on these issues; hopefully other C.U.D. readers will send in
To find out what else is happening in your community around technology
issues, try the local CPSR chapter (no chapter? then start one!). They
usually know who else is working on similar issues.
Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to the political power it takes to
make things like the technology platform a reality --especially for
resolving involved in the struggle to solve these problems.
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1992 12:57:02 EDT
From: David Sobel
Subject: File 3--NASA Statement on Ames Raid
NASA Statement on Ames Raid
THE CPSR Washington Office has been monitoring developments concerning
the unannounced "security review" conducted at the Ames Research
Center this past summer. During the course of the review, desks were
searched, computers were opened, employees were locked out of their
offices, and nine employees (5 civil servants and 4 contractors) were
placed on administrative leave without
explanations. CPSR has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to
seeking information on the purpose and results of the review.
NASA announced on November 17 that certain matters growing out of the Ames
raid have been referred to the FBI for further investigation. The agency's
statement is reprinted below.
CPSR Washington Office
NASA RELEASES FINDINGS OF REVIEW TEAM ON SECURITY CONCERNS
In July 1992, a Management Review Team (MRT) was established,
after a classified briefing was presented to NASA Headquarters
management by Ames Research Center (ARC) management located at
Mountain View, Calif. The briefing identified potential national
NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin determined that the
situation at ARC warranted a special one-time review to determine
whether the issues and problems existed and, if so, what type of
corrective action should be taken. The Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice and the Department of
Defense were consulted on the national security and foreign
counterintelligence aspects of the problems identified.
"Upon learning about the potential security problems, I
immediately ordered a review of the situation," Goldin said. "Based
on the review, information has been forwarded to proper authorities.
The recommendations of the review are being taken very seriously and I
intend to promptly implement them."
Based upon the review and discussions with senior management,
the MRT does not believe that the problems encountered at ARC are
occuring at other NASA centers.
Findings of Review
ARC is considered "high risk" for hostile intelligence
operations. ARC exacerbated a marginally effective security posture
by not focusing appropriate management attention on the handling of
Structural and functional weaknesses existed in the way the
ARC security office worked in relation to other center operations. In
addition to security concerns, processes and practices in the areas of
personnel, legal, procurement, and data and technology protection are
contributing to the potential risk rather than serving as controls
over the risk.
The ARC culture and environment were found to be the
underlying cause of NASA's vulnerability; the culture is strongly
biased toward maintaining an academic reputation, rather than meeting
U.S.industry and national needs.
Generally accepted management controls, as well as security,
legal, personnel, and procurement policies, are often viewed as
impediments and are sometimes sidetracked or avoided. Lax procedures
and attitudes were identified that set the stage for widespread
dissemination of commercially valuable applied technology being
developed by ARC personnel.
ARC's credibility with the U.S. aerospace industry has been
damaged as a result of these problems. Some of NASA's customers and
partners are reluctant to share important data with NASA for fear it
will be disseminated with little or no regard for its sensitivity. In
order to regain credibility, specific processes for the identification
and handling of sensitive and commercially valuable technologies at
ARC must be developed and fully implemented by ARC employees.
To resolve the conflict between NASA's desire to share
technology internationally and the need to place U.S. interests first,
an environment and culture must be developed at ARC and elsewhere at
NASA, which focuses NASA's attention on the needs and expectations of
U.S. industry and the taxpayer.
Basic science efforts actively involve and will continue to
involve the international community but applied technology, developed
at U.S. taxpayer expense, must be protected for U.S. industry use in
accordance with applicable laws and regulations. NASA must work
internally, and externally with appropriate members of the
Administration and Congress to address the problems and develop
Information Referred to OIG and FBI
The MRT found a number of specific discrepancies in the areas
of procurement, misuse of government equipment and apparent violations
of the law and/or NASA policy.
The MRT referred this information, as appropriate, to the NASA
Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the FBI, which has jurisdiction
over foreign counter intelligence issues resulting from the review.
Cases were opened up by both the OIG and the FBI.
It is anticipated that the OIG effort will be completed in
Review of the MRT Team
Because the review was unexpected by the ARC workforce and
employees of Asian-Pacific ancestry appeared to be disproportionately
affected, there was a significant adverse reaction to the review among
some of the ARC workforce. The NASA Administrator took immediate
action to address employees' concerns. He met with representatives of
the ARC Asian Pacific Island Advisory Group to discuss their concerns.
The Administrator also appointed an Assessment Panel on Aug.
26, 1992, to assess the approach and process used by the MRT. The
assessment panel was charged with examining the concerns that could
have unnecessarily increased the levels of employee discomfort or
organizational disruption flowing from the review.
It was also tasked to make recommendations that would
alleviate employee concern about the process, and minimize
difficulties, should a similar review be required in the future.
The Assessment Panel concluded that "the scope and objective
of the management review were legal and that individuals were not
selected for interview and search of their workplaces based upon their
race or national origin."
The Panel further concluded that there was a confluence of
factors prior to, during and after the management review, some of
which were avoidable and some not, which caused negative reactions
within the workforce.
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1992 08:43:39 -0500
From: "(Gary Chapman)"
Subject: File 4--Local Civic Network in Wisconsin
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility is trying to help
promote Local Civic Networks around the country. There are projects
going on in Washington, D.C., Boston, Seattle, Vermont, Portland, and
Madison, Wisconsin. The following is a call for participation and
help for the Madison project.
For more information about CPSR, the nation's first public interest
organization of people in the computing field, write for more
information at email@example.com or call (415) 322-3778.
For more information on CPSR's Local Civic Networks activity, write
CPSR staff member Richard Civille at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A team of people based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is
developing a Public Communication System (PCS), a non-profit network
which will be available to the academic community and to the general
public, and which will operate over the Internet. We would welcome
any comments or suggestions which you might have, and we would like
to invite anyone who's interested in this project and would like to
get involved. The goal is to develop a large public forum
where people can present information, ideas, and questions, and
where it will be easy for people to read and respond. The hardware
will consist of a central server, PCS computers at universities with
connections to the Internet, and PCS computers in public libraries.
The public will be able to get access by dialing in from home or via
the PCS computers at public libraries. People will be able to read
for free. The system will be supported by subscription fees and by
fees charged to SIGs for publishing articles and newsletters,
conducting conferences,etc. For software, we're modifying Gopher (a
program developed at the University of Minnesota) to have enhanced
interactive capabilities and security. We hope to be ready to test a
prototype by this coming summer.
We've already gotten a lot of valuable help from CPSR members. We hope
the PCS will be another example of a public-access network which
develops up from the grass-roots. Let us know if you have any
suggestions, if you'd like more detailed information, and if you'd
like to get involved.
PCS Project Director
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 92 11:21:21 CDT
From: Jim Thomas
Subject: File 5--Krol's Whole Internet User's Guide (Review #1)
The Whole Internet: User's Guide and Catalogue. By Ed Krol. 1992:
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. 376 pp. $24.95 (paper). ISBN:
I'm sitting at my computer trying to figure out how to telnet into a
west coast UNIX system then back into a VMS on the east-coast and use
the nn mail reader and get access to a WAIS site to find some
information on locating internet user addresses when I spill coffee
over the desk. I pick up The Whole Internet (TWI), and although it
can't do much about the spilled coffee (other than direct me to
sources of information that can), its index, appendices, and
info-laden chapters guide me through the rest of the problems.
The Whole Internet is a step-by-step how-to guide that takes the
reader on a grand tour of some of simplest to the most complex
UNIX/VMS internet features. Whether a first-time user or an
experienced explorer, Krol provides tricks and identifies traps in
accessing telnet, ftp, remote systems' (varieties of DOS, VMS, or
UNIX) different and occasionally conflicting commands, and the
intricacies of Inter-relay Chat, file transfer, tricks for compression
and faster file exchange, and much more.
Krol begins by reminding readers that the Internet is a fairly
standardized collection of systems and networks with a council of
guiding elders, but no significant chain of command or authority. He
also reminds readers that any clear definition or description of
Internet is of necessity vague, because it changes as both technology
changes and as access spreads. For non-technical readers, the third
chapter, "How the Internet Works," provides an analogy-filled,
figure-laden description of the technology easily understood by the
most techno-illiterate reader. For those unsure of how to access
internet or how to figure out mailing addresses, chapter three
summarizes domains and explains how they can be found. Not sure how
to act when entering new terrain where strangers may seem threatening?
Chapter four explains all you need to know about ethics, courtesy, and
basic norms of communication. Krol recognizes that everything cannot
be explained in a single volume, and where more detail is needed, he
identifies the source and details how to access it.
Experienced net-roamers know that, although ftp file transfer in most
cases is simple, they also know that not all systems respond as
requested. One of the most valuable features of TWI is the explicit,
comprehensible, and example-filled chapters on accessing remote
systems and transferring files. Each chapter provides screen displays
that a user confronts on log-in, and clearly illustrates the proper
commands to be used. Krol provides commands for browsing remote
machines and explains how to set remote commands to save time. For
those who are too impatient to list the remote help screen, Krol
provides summary descriptions of basic ftp commands and how (and when)
they should be used. Especially helpful is the suggestion that, when
retrieving a large number of files or an entire directory, users
should invoke the tar program that combines the files, and a
compression program, such as Z, to speed up the transfer.
Not all remote systems are UNIX based, and Krol includes a substantial
discussion on accessing VMS and other sites that often create problems
because of unusual commands or system incompatibility.
Krol's chapters on electronic mail and network news include the basic
summaries found elsewhere. However, especially helpful for new or
intermediate users, he includes a number of suggestions for building
.newsrc and mailer "profile" files, aliases, and other shortcuts to
simplify tasks. The tutorial on the nn mail reader includes
instructions both on how to set it up and how to use it.
Unfortunately, he (intentionally) ignores rn, which users on systems
which it is the only available reader might find objectionable.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of ftp is cruising the nets
searching for and playing with software. TWI includes substantial and
thorough instructions on where to look for software (or where to look
for information on how to look for it), how to obtain it, and tricks
for using it once obtained. Those who have yet to try Archie, WAIS or
Gopher because they seemed complicated and intimidating, several
chapters provide more than sufficient information that explains what
they are, how they function, and how their power can be used. Archie,
a system of indexes that directs users other public files, is one of
the most useful services for finding particular programs or texts that
would otherwise take mega-hours of hit-and-miss searching through
various systems. Gopher's handy menu-driven autopilot for exploring
is as nicely detailed as a London tour guide, and the WAIS
(pronounced, Krol reminds us, "wayz") utility for text searches
throughout files on the Internet is made almost too simple.
Krol provides far more information than can be detailed here. He
describes accessible games, illustrates how to use various "white
pages" utilities for finding information about other users, tells us
how to engage in on-line talk/chat, and in nearly all cases attempts
to identify and overcome many of the idiosyncratic problems that occur
on systems that might disrupt full use or enjoyment of the internet.
Despite the technological descriptions, the volume is written with
considerable humor and occasional levity. Like Brendan Behan's Zen and
the Art of the Internet (ZAI), TWI illustrates that technologically
detailed volumes (and their authors) need not be staid or boring.
As a bonus, he inlcudes a substantial appendix that lists by topic and
address special-interest groups or systems that attract, for example,
users with academic interests, hobbies, sports, or technology. TWI is
valuable because it is handy--very, very handy. But, it is also
valuable because it is likely to expand awareness of and proficiency
with using the Internet. This volume does not replace other such
helpful works as Quarterman's technologically-dense The Matrix or
Kehoe's more underground oriented ZAI. Rather, it supplements them.
It, like the others, should have it on the bookshelf.
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 92 06:33 CDT
Subject: File 6--Krol's Whole Internet User's Guide (Review #2)
The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog: A DICEy Proposition
In his first book _The Macintosh Way_, Guy Kawasaki writes about a
principle of good product design he calls DICE. A great product should
be Deep, Indulgent, Complete, and Elegant. In being DICEy, a product
manages to appeal to "both passengers and sailors," delights the
senses, (in the case of a book) informs and teaches, and is easily
accessible. _The Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog_, by Ed Krol,
brings forth the DICE ideal onto the printed page in a superbly
designed, well-organized volume.
Krol covers all the bases you'd expect in a book on the Internet:
e-mail, ftp, Archie, Usenet, whois and all the rest. But instead of
providing us with a flat explanation of, say, ftp, he gives us a short
background on ftp, then takes us through a standard UNIX-to-UNIX ftp
session. An annotated line-by-line record of the session is included,
and it is extremely clear and easy to understand. He then goes on to
explain what source files and destination files are and how to
interpret the messages produced by ftp. That simple example out of the
way, the author then warns us of some common problems.
Following the DICE principle, Krol next walks us through sample ftp
sessions on VMS, MS-DOS, IBM/VM, and Macintosh systems. Each OS's ftp
peculiarities are carefully explained (and it is amusing here to
discern the author's impatience with some of them) and elaborated
upon. This is another example of the "passengers and sailors" appeal
of this book. Most ftp implementations are similar enough that a
demonstration of only one flavor the program would enable the casual
user to get by, but Krol makes no such assumptions about his readers.
VMS is treated in as much detail as MS-DOS or UNIX.
It's hard to remember a better-organized guidebook? catalog? handbook?
Chapters begin with an overview of their contents and a brief
cross-reference to other chapters that have related material. Even if
the reader doesn't find exactly what he needs where he first looks, he
should have no trouble locating it. The back of the book has a very
complete index and a series of appendices full of practical
information, such as Internet service providers, an Internet resource
catalog, a glossary, and the acceptable use policy.
Beyond all that, Krol addresses important concerns that anyone who
uses the Internet should be aware of, such as privacy and common sense
advice about protecting the Internet. There is a particular page in
Chapter 3 that I wish could be made mandatory reading for any person
requesting an account.
For me, a large part of enjoying a book is enjoying looking at the
book itself. Here's where the indulgent part of _The Whole Internet_
comes in. The typography is excellent, and the little illustrations at
the start of each chapter are charming. As in all Nutshell books, a
colophon at the end explains what's what and who did it. Truly, a nice
piece of design: coherent, easy to understand, straightforward.
Everything one could want.
The book itself was produced over the net, and Krol says that the
Internet resource catalog was created from information gleaned by
reading listservs, newsgroups, gophering, and doing Archie searches.
This is part of the key to the book's richness and usefulness to such
a variety of readers. It's obvious from the writing style and choice
of content that the author was attuned to the net community and what
is important to its citizens.
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1992 09:01:30 MST
From: Dan Lester
Subject: File 7--Krol's Whole Internet User's Guide (Review #3)
A number of guides to the Internet have been published recently, and
others have been announced for the near future. As of this writing
there is a new, undisputed champion that is available at a reasonable
Yesterday FedEx delivered our copy of Ed Krol's _The Whole Internet
User's Guide & Catalog_ direct from the publisher, O'Reilly &
Associates, Inc. This latest publication in their renowned Nutshell
Handbook series is worth every penny of the $24.95 list price. The
ISBN is 1-56592-025-2. O'Reilly can be reached at 103 Morris St, Ste.
A, Sebastopol, CA 95472, or 800-998-9938.
Many are familiar with the Nutshell Handbooks that O'Reilly has
published, mostly for the Unix and X Window environments. This book
is a high quality paperback of 376 pages that is printed on acid-free
paper (not that it will need to last that long, considering the rate
of change of the Internet). Those not familiar with O'Reilly's
publications will be familiar with Krol's RFC 1118, "The Hitchhiker's
Guide to the Internet," which this new book updates and obsoletes.
To indicate how comprehensive and current the book is, I'll take the
liberty of listing the chapter titles:
1. What is this book about?
2. What is the Internet?
3. How the Internet works.
4. What's allowed on the Internet?
5. Remote login.
6. Moving files: FTP
7. Electronic mail
8. Network News
9. Finding software [all about Archie]
10. Finding someone
11. Tunneling through the Internet: Gopher
12. Searching Indexed databases: WAIS
13. Hypertext spanning the Internet: WWW
14. Other applications [fax, chatting, games, etc.]
15. Dealing with problems [error msgs, dealing with operations folks, etc.]
There are also appendices covering resources on the nets, how to get
connected, international connectivity, acceptable use, and other
matters. The glossary is adequate, but does not try to compare to the
_The New Hacker's Dictionary_. The index is very good.
In conclusion, I recommend this very highly. Although there are many
other competing works out there, this one covers almost everything
anyone could want to know, is well written for both the novice and the
experienced user, and is available now at a very reasonable price.
All who are reading this review should have a copy on their desk, and
a copy in their public, academic, or special library for reference by
other potential users.
Obligatory disclaimer: I do not know the author and have no business
or other connections with the author or publisher. I'm just a very
Date: 02 Dec 92 11:49:08 EST
From: David Lehrer <71756.2116@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Subject: File 8--Akron BBS trial update!
Akron BBS trial update: Dangerous precedents in sysop prosecution
You may already know about the BBS 'sting' six months ago in Munroe
Falls, OH for "disseminating matter harmful to juveniles." Those
charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Now a trial date of 1/4/93
has been set after new felony charges were filed, although the
pretrial hearing revealed no proof that *any* illegal content ever
went out over the BBS, nor was *any* found on it.
For those unfamiliar with the case, here's a brief summary to date.
In May 1992 someone told Munroe Falls police they *thought* minors
could have been getting access to adult materials over the AKRON
ANOMALY BBS. Police began a 2-month investigation. They found a small
number of adult files in the non-adult area.
The sysop says he made a clerical error, causing those files to be
overlooked. Normally adult files were moved to a limited-access area
with proof of age required (i.e. photostat of a drivers license).
Police had no proof that any minor had actually accessed those files
so police logged onto the BBS using a fictitious account, started a
download, and borrowed a 15-year old boy just long enough to press the
return key. The boy had no knowledge of what was going on.
Police then obtained a search warrant and seized Lehrer's BBS system.
Eleven days later police arrested and charged sysop Mark Lehrer with
"disseminating matter harmful to juveniles," a misdemeanor usually
used on bookstore owners who sell the wrong book to a minor. However,
since the case involved a computer, police added a *felony* charge of
"possession of criminal tools" (i.e. "one computer system").
Note that "criminal tool" statutes were originally intended for
specialized tools such as burglar's tools or hacking paraphenalia used
by criminal 'specialists'. The word "tool" implies deliberate use to
commit a crime, whereas the evidence shows (at most) an oversight.
This raises the Constitutional issue of equal protection under the law
(14'th Amendment). Why should a computer hobbyist be charged with a
felony when anyone else would be charged with a misdemeanor?
At the pretrial hearing, the judge warned the prosecutor that they'd
need "a lot more evidence than this" to convict. However the judge
allowed the case to be referred to a Summit County grand jury, though
there was no proof the sysop had actually "disseminated", or even
intended to disseminate any adult material "recklessly, with knowledge
of its character or content", as the statute requires. Indeed, the
sysop had a long history of *removing* such content from the non-adult
area whenever he became aware of it. This came out at the hearing.
The prosecution then went on a fishing expedition. According to the
Cleveland Plain Dealer (7/21/92)
"[Police chief] Stahl said computer experts with the Ohio Bureau
of Criminal Identification and Investigation are reviewing the
hundreds of computer files seized from Lehrer's home. Stahl said it's
possible that some of the games and movies are being accessed in
violation of copyright laws."
Obviously the police believe they have carte blanche to search
unrelated personal files, simply by lumping all the floppies and files
in with the computer as a "criminal tool." That raises Constitutional
issues of whether the search and seizure was legal. That's a
precedent which, if not challenged, has far-reaching implications for
*every* computer owner.
Also, BBS access was *not* sold for money, as the Cleveland Plain
Dealer reports. The BBS wasn't a business, but rather a free community
service, running on Lehrer's own computer, although extra time on the
system could be had for a donation to help offset some of the
operating costs. 98% of data on the BBS consists of shareware
programs, utilities, E-mail, etc.
The police chief also stated:
"I'm not saying it's obscene because I'm not getting into that
battle, but it's certainly not appropriate for kids, especially
without parental permission," Stahl said.
Note the police chief's admission that obscenity wasn't an issue at
the time the warrant was issued.
Here the case *radically* changes direction. The charges above were
dropped. However, while searching the 600 floppy disks seized along
with the BBS, police found five picture files they think *could* be
depictions of borderline underage women; although poor picture quality
makes it difficult to tell.
The sysop had *removed* these unsolicited files from the BBS hard
drive after a user uploaded them. However the sysop didn't think to
destroy the floppy disk backup, which was tossed into a cardboard box
with hundreds of others. This backup was made before he erased the
files off the hard drive.
The prosecution, lacking any other charges that would stick, is using
these several floppy disks to charge the sysop with two new
second-degree felonies, "Pandering Obscenity Involving A Minor", and
"Pandering Sexually Oriented Matter Involving A Minor" (i.e. kiddie
porn, prison sentence of up to 25 years).
The prosecution produced no evidence the files were ever "pandered".
There's no solid expert testimony that the pictures depict minors. All
they've got is the opinion of a local pediatrician. All five pictures
have such poor resolution that there's no way to tell for sure to what
extent makeup or retouching was used. A digitized image doesn't have
the fine shadings or dot density of a photograph, which means there's
very little detail on which to base an expert opinion. The
digitization process also modifies and distorts the image during
The prosecutor has offered to plea-bargain these charges down to
"possession" of child porn, a 4'th degree felony sex crime punishable
by one year in prison. The sysop refuses to plead guilty to a sex
crime. Mark Lehrer had discarded the images for which the City of
Munroe Falls adamantly demands a felony conviction. This means the
first "pandering" case involving a BBS is going to trial in *one*
month, Jan 4th.
The child porn statutes named in the charges contain a special
exemption for libraries, as does the original "dissemination to
juveniles" statute (ORC # 2907.321 & 2). The exemption presumably
includes public and privately owned libraries available to the public,
and their disk collections. This protects library owners when an adult
item is misplaced or loaned to a minor. (i.e. 8 year olds can rent
R-rated movies from a public library).
Yet although this sysop was running a file library larger than a small
public library, he did not receive equal protection under the law, as
guaranteed by the 14'th Amendment. Neither will any other BBS, if this
becomes precedent. The 'library defense' was allowed for large
systems in Cubby versus CompuServe, based on a previous obscenity case
(Smith vs. California), in which the Supreme Court ruled it generally
unconstitutional to hold bookstore owners liable for content, because
that would place an undue burden on bookstores to review every book
they carry, thereby 'chilling' the distribution of books and
infringing the First Amendment.
If the sysop beats the bogus "pandering" charge, there's still
"possession", even though he was *totally unaware* of what was on an
old backup floppy, unsolicited in the first place, found unused in a
cardboard box. "Possession" does not require knowledge that the person
depicted is underage. The law presumes anyone in possession of such
files must be a pedophile. The framers of the law never anticipated
sysops,or that a sysop would routinely be receiving over 10,000 files
from over 1,000 users.
The case could set a far ranging statewide and nationwide precedent
whether or not the sysop is innocent or guilty, since he and his
family might lack the funds to fight this--after battling to get this
These kinds of issues are normally resolved in the higher courts--and
*need* to be resolved, lest this becomes commonplace anytime the
police or a prosecutor want to intimidate a BBS, snoop through users'
electronic mail, or "just appropriate someone's computer for their own
You, the reader, probably know a sysop like Mark Lehrer. You and your
family have probably enjoyed the benefits of BBS'ing. You may even
have put one over on a busy sysop now and then.
In this case; the sysop is a sober and responsible college student,
studying computer science and working to put himself through school.
He kept his board a lot cleaner than could be reasonably expected, so
much so that the prosecution can find very little to fault him for.
*Important* Please consider a small contribution to ensure a fair
trial and precedent, with standards of evidence upheld, so that mere
possession of a computer is not grounds for a witch hunt.
These issues must not be decided by the tactics of a 'war of
attrition'; *however far* in the court system this needs to go. For
this reason, an independent, legal defense trust fund has been set up
by concerned area computer users, CPA's, attorneys,etc.
Mark Lehrer First Amendment Legal Defense Fund
(or just: MLFALDF)
Lockbox No. 901287
Cleveland, OH 44190-1287
*All* unused defense funds go to the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a nonprofit, 501c3 organization, to defend BBS's and
First Amendment rights.
Help get the word out. If you're not sure about all this, ask your
local sysops what this precedent could mean, who the EFF is--and ask
them to keep you informed of further developments in this case.
Please copy this file and send it to whoever may be interested. This
case *needs* to be watchdogged.
Please send any questions, ideas or comments directly to the sysop:
CompuServe: 71756,2116 InterNet: email@example.com
Modem: (216) 688-6383 USPO: P.O. Box 275
Munroe Falls, OH 44262
End of Computer Underground Digest #4.62
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank