Computer underground Digest Sun Jan 23 1994 Volume 6 : Issue 09
Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET)
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe (Improving each day)
Acting Archivist: Stanton McCandlish
Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth
Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
Coppice Editor: P. Bunyan
CONTENTS, #6.09 (Jan 23 1994)
File 1--Brendan's mom thanks the Net
File 2--"The Prisoner: Phiber Optik Goes Directly to Jail"
File 3--Letter of Concern in Amateur Action BBS Procedures
File 4--Some thoughts on censorship (Re Am. Action "Porn" Raid)
File 5--Lobby the Feds via PC
File 6--More on "The Rating Game" (Re:CuD 6.03, 6.04)
File 7--PUB.RCDS #1: online polit disclosures + leg.online (AB1624)
File 8--GOV-ACCESS #2 interests; radio chat; joining this list
Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are
available at no cost electronically from email@example.com. The
editors may be contacted by voice (815-753-0303), fax (815-753-6302)
or U.S. mail at: Jim Thomas, Department of Sociology, NIU, DeKalb, IL
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 DL1 of TELECOM; on GEnie in the PF*NPC RT
libraries and in the VIRUS/SECURITY library; from America Online in
the PC Telecom forum under "computing newsletters;"
On Delphi in the General Discussion database of the Internet SIG;
on the PC-EXEC BBS at (414) 789-4210; and on: Rune Stone BBS (IIRG
WHQ) (203) 832-8441 NUP:Conspiracy; RIPCO BBS (312) 528-5020
CuD is also available via Fidonet File Request from 1:11/70; unlisted
nodes and points welcome.
EUROPE: from the ComNet in LUXEMBOURG BBS (++352) 466893;
In ITALY: Bits against the Empire BBS: +39-461-980493
ANONYMOUS FTP SITES:
AUSTRALIA: ftp.ee.mu.oz.au (188.8.131.52) in /pub/text/CuD.
EUROPE: ftp.funet.fi in pub/doc/cud. (Finland)
aql.gatech.edu (184.108.40.206) in /pub/eff/cud
etext.archive.umich.edu (220.127.116.11) in /pub/CuD/cud
ftp.eff.org (18.104.22.168) in /pub/Publications/CuD
halcyon.com( 22.214.171.124) in mirror2/cud
ftp.warwick.ac.uk in pub/cud (United Kingdom)
KOREA: ftp: cair.kaist.ac.kr in /doc/eff/cud
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. Authors hold a presumptive copyright, 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, 19 Jan 1994 13:38:42 -0800
From: Jeffrey L. Needleman
Subject: File 1--Brendan's mom thanks the Net
((MODERATORS' NOTE: Brendan's recovery has been described as
"miraculous." We received a short, but "typically Brenan" note from
him Thursday evening, and he's progressing far better than expected.
Those wishing to contribute to his medical fund or send a card can do
c/o Brendan's Friends
One Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
A few weeks before his accident, Brendan Kehoe was named the Board Leader
of the Internet Bulletin Board on the PRODIGY Information Service, a
national service which is a joint venture of IBM and Sears.
Alice Kehoe has an account on PRODIGY and posted the message that follows:
> INTERNET BB
>TIME: 01/16 7:34 PM
>FROM: ALICE KEHOE (EMGX48C)
>Hi, I'm Brendan's mom -
>Since I can't get to the Net right now, thought this might
>be one way, at least, of reaching some of the wonderful
>folks who've so generously sent along masses of cards, mes-
>sages, and letters since word of Brendan's accident made its
>way through Cyberspace. Your thoughtful kindness means such
>a very great deal to all of us ...
>Although there is still a very, very long way to go, and
>months of rehab in the offing, Brendan is progressing at a
>far faster rate than his doctors had ever anticipated. He is
>able to feed himself; can walk with assistance; and, has
>even managed a few words now and again, often more or less
>He is still at Philadelphia's Hospital of the University of
>Pennsylvania, but we (his brother, Derry, and I) anticipate
>moving him to a Boston long-term rehab facility in about a
>week or two. (We live in Maine, but Boston's about as close
>as we can get for the type of care he needs.)
>Your thoughts, good wishes, and most importantly, prayers
>have been an immeasurable support and life-line to all three
>of us. Thank you, so VERY much!
>Regards and God bless,
>PS: Would someone who can link into the Net be kind enough
>to convey our gratitude Out There?? Thanks!
Jeff Needleman, DMVR98B@prodigy.com
(I'm the MemRep for the Computer Bulletin Board on PRODIGY.)
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 1994 21:25:21 -0500 (EST)
From: Julian Dibbell
Subject: File 2--"The Prisoner: Phiber Optik Goes Directly to Jail"
The Prisoner: Phiber Optik Goes Directly to Jail
By Julian Dibbell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(From The Village Voice, January 12, 1994)
Phiber Optik is going to prison this week and if you ask me and
a whole lot of other people, that's just a goddamn shame.
To some folks, of course, it's just deserts. Talk to phone-company
executives, most computer-security experts, any number of U.S.
attorneys and law-enforcement agents, or Justice Louis Stanton of the
Southern District of New York (who handed Phiber his year-and-a-day in
the federal joint at Minorsville, Pennsylvania), and they'll tell you
the sentence is nothing more than what the young hacker had coming to
him. They'll tell you Phiber Optik is a remorseless, malicious invader
of other people's computers, a drain on the economic lifeblood of our
national telecommunications infrastructure, and/or a dangerous role
model for the technoliterate youth of today.
The rest of us will tell you he's some kind of hero. Just ask.
Ask the journalists like me who have come to know this 21-year-old
high-school dropout from Queens over the course of his legal travails.
We'll describe a principled and gruffly plain-talking spokesdude whose
bravado, street-smart style, and remarkably unmanipulative
accessibility have made him the object of more media attention than
any hacker since Robert Morris nearly brought down the Internet. Or
ask the on-line civil libertarians who felt that Phiber's commitment
to nondestructive hacking and to dialogue with the straight world made
him an ideal poster boy for their campaign against the repressive
excesses of the government's war on hackers. You might even ask the
small subset of government warriors who have arrived at a grudging
respect for Phiber's expertise and the purity of his obsession with
the workings of the modern computerized phone system (a respect that
has at times bordered on parental concern as it grew clear that a 1991
conviction on state charges of computer trespass had failed to curb
Phiber's reckless explorations of the system).
But for a truly convincing glimpse of the high regard in which
Phiber Optik is held in some quarters, you'd have to pay an on-line
visit to ECHO, the liberal-minded but hardly cyberpunk New York
bulletin-board system where Phiber has worked as resident technical
maven since last spring. Forsaking the glories of phonephreaking for
the workaday pleasures of hooking the system up to the Internet and
helping users navigate its intricacies, he moved swiftly into the
heart of ECHO's virtual community (which took to referring to him by
the name his mother gave him -- Mark -- as often as by his nom de
hack). So that when he was indicted again, this time on federal
charges of unauthorized access to phone-company computers and
conspiracy to commit further computer crimes, ECHO too was drawn into
the nerve-racking drama of his case.
As the "coconspirators" named in the indictment (a group of
Phiber's friends and government-friendly ex-friends) pleaded guilty
one by one, there remained brave smiles and high hopes for Phiber's
jury trial in July. By the time the trial date arrived, however,
Phiber had made an agonizing calculus of risks and decided to plead
guilty to one count each of computer intrusion and conspiracy. ECHO
was left on tenterhooks waiting for the day of the sentencing. Given
Mark's newfound enthusiasm for more legitimate means of working with
computers and his undisputed insistence at the time of his plea that
he had never damaged or intended to damage any of the systems he broke
into, it seemed reasonable to wish for something lenient. A long
probation, maybe, or at worst a couple months' jail time. After all,
the infamous Morris had done considerably greater harm, and he got off
with no jail time at all.
When the news arrived, therefore, of Phiber's 12-month prison sentence
(plus three years' probation and 600 hours of service), it hit like a
slap in the face, and ECHO responded with a massive outburst of dismay
and sympathy. ECHO's director, Stacy Horn, posted the information at 3
p.m. on November 3 in the system's main conference area, and within 24
hours the place was flooded with over 100 messages offering
condolences, advice on penitentiary life, and curses on Judge Stanton.
Not all the messages were what you'd want to call articulate
("shit," read the first one in its entirety; quoth another:
nor was all the advice exactly comforting ("Try not to get killed,"
a sincere and apparently quite prison-savvy Echoid suggested; "Skip
the country," proposed one user who connects from abroad, inviting
Phiber to join him in sunny South Africa). But the sentiment
throughout was unmistakably heartfelt, and when Phiber Optik finally
checked in, his brief response was even more so:
"I just finished reading all this and...I'm speechless. I
couldn't say enough to thank all of you."
He didn't have to thank anybody, of course. Motivated by genuine
fellow feeling as this electronic lovefest was, it was also the last
step in the long-running canonization of Phiber Optik as the digital
age's first full-fledged outlaw hero, and making somebody else a hero
is not necessarily the most generous of acts. For one thing, we tend
to get more from our heroes than they get from us, and for another, we
tend to be heedless of (when not morbidly fascinated by) the very high
psychic overhead often involved in becoming a hero -- especially the
outlaw kind. To their credit, though, the Echoids proved themselves
sensitive to the weight of the burden Phiber had been asked to take
on. As one of them put it: "Sorry Mark. You've obviously been made a
martyr for our generation."
There was some melodrama in that statement, to be sure, but not
too much exaggeration. For ironically enough, Judge Stanton himself
seemed to have endorsed its basic premise in his remarks upon passing
sentence. Not unmoved by the stacks of letters sent him in support of
Phiber Optik's character and motivations, the judge allowed as how a
less celebrated Phiber Optik convicted of the same crimes might not
deserve the severity of the discipline he was about to prescribe (and
in Phiber's case it could be argued that 12 months locked up without a
computer is severe enough to rate as cruel and unusual). But since
Phiber had made of himself a very public advertisement for the ethic
of the digital underground, the judge insisted he would have to make
of the sentence an equally public countermessage. "The
defendant...stands as a symbol here today," said Stanton, making it
clear that the defendant would therefore be punished as one too.
The judge did not make it clear when exactly it was that the
judicial system had abandoned the principle that the punishment fits
the crime and not the status of the criminal, though I suppose that
happened too long ago to be of much interest. More frustratingly, he
also didn't go into much detail as to what it was that Phiber Optik
was to stand as a symbol _of_. In at least one of his remarks,
however, he did provide an ample enough clue:
"Hacking crimes," said Judge Stanton, "constitute a real threat
to the expanding information highway."
That "real threat" bit was a nice dramatic touch, but anyone
well-versed in the issues of the case could see that at this point the
judge was speaking symbolically. For one thing, even as practiced by
the least scrupulous joyriders among Phiber Optik's subcultural peers,
hacking represents about as much of a threat to the newly rampant
telecommunications juggernaut as shoplifting does to the future of
world capitalism. But more to the point, everybody recognizes by now
that all references to information highways, super or otherwise, are
increasingly just code for the corporate wet dream of a pay-as-you-go
telecom turnpike, owned by the same megabusinesses that own our phone
and cable systems today and off-limits to anyone with a slender wallet
or a bad credit rating. And _that_, symbolically speaking, is what
Phiber Optik's transgressions threaten.
For what did his crimes consist of after all? He picked the locks
on computers owned by large corporations, and he shared the knowledge
of how to do it with his friends (they had given themselves the
meaningless name MOD, more for the thrill of sounding like a
conspiracy than for the purpose of actually acting like one). In
themselves the offenses are trivial, but raised to the level of a
social principle, they do spell doom for the locks some people want to
put on our cyberspatial future. And I'm tempted, therefore, to close
with a rousing celebration of Phiber Optik as the symbol of a spirit
of anarchic resistance to the corporate Haussmannization of our
increasingly information-based lives, and to cheer Phiber's hero
status in places like ECHO as a sign that that spirit is thriving.
But I think I'll pass for now. Phiber Optik has suffered enough
for having become a symbol, and in any case his symbolic power will
always be available to us, no matter where he is. Right now, though,
the man himself is going away for far too long, and like I said,
that's nothing but a goddamn shame.
Julian Dibbell email@example.com
Subject: File 3--Letter of Concern in Amateur Action BBS Procedures
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 94 23:30:28 PST
H. Keith Henson
799 Coffey Ct.
San Jose, CA 95123
Hon. Wayne D. Brazil
450 Golden Gate Ave.
15th Floor, Courtroom A
San Francisco, CA 94102
January 19, 1994
Dear Judge Brazil:
This letter is to express my concerns about search warrant
3.94.3005.WDB you issued on January 6 of this year to David
H. Dirmeyer. (I am assuming you issued it; the copy of the
warrant persented at the time of the search did not have a
signature on it, but did have your name typed in.)
Under "PROPERTY TO BE SEIZED," point A refered to a computer
system used for publishing, and thus protected from warrants
under Title 42, Section 2000aa. (The "Newspaper Privacy
Protection Act" requires supenas except very limited cases.)
This computer also contained electronic communications
between many of the 3500 people who used this system. Title
18, Setion 2703 (Electronic Communication Privacy Act)
requires specific warrants to seize, or even block access to
such electronic communications.
In conversation with Postal Inspector Dirmeyer at the time
of the search, I asked if he was aware of the these laws.
He told me that he was. In an additional conversation last
Saturday morning with him and a police officer he stated
that he had discussed the ECPA and 2000aa issues as well as
the Steve Jackson Games type of liability issues with you
before the warrant was issued.
Agent Dirmeyer admitted to me Saturday that he was the
"Lance White" whose records were being sought under points H
and I of the search warrant, and that you were aware of, and
approved, the deception involved. Dirmeyer/White also
stated in writing that he sent an unsolicited package of
child pornography to the person at the address of the search
warrant, and (verbally to me) that this was "normal
I realize that Judges are not much concerned with warrants
after they are issued. However, I was so astounded by the
statements of Agent Dirmeyer, that I decided to at least let
you know about them.
H. Keith Henson
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 1994 23:19:17 CST
From: "AMERICAN EAGLE PUBLICATION INC." <0005847161@MCIMAIL.COM>
Subject: File 4--Some thoughts on censorship (Re Am. Action "Porn" Raid)
From--Mark Ludwig, firstname.lastname@example.org
After reading about the latest porno-BBS raids, and the fact that one
reader cancelled his sub to CUD because he was sick of hearing about
it, I wanted to make a few comments. It seems like pornography is
always and forever a 1st amendment/freedom of speech issue, but I
don't think it is a very good test of the 1st amendment.
I've been writing and publishing technical literature about computer
viruses for a few years now--as well as arguing that viruses are not
something that should be suppressed because (a) people need good,
solid technical information if they want to defend themselves against
viruses, and (b) because viruses are not simply totally evil.
Obviously, some are pretty bad, but at the same time, you have
arguably beneficial ones like Cruncher and Potassium Hydroxide.
Likewise, they may provide valuable insights into other disciplines,
as discussed in my recent book, Computer Viruses, Artificial Life and
My work has been subject to an incredible amount of censorship. But
not government-sponsored censorship. I've been censored by the
press--those who were once the vanguard of freedom of the press have
become its worst enemy in my eyes. Let me explain . . .
Around about December 7 I received a call from ___, sales
representative at the Computer Shopper. She informed me that they were
not going to allow us to advertise in their magazine anymore.
Evidently they had received complaints about our advertisement and
decided, like so many other journals, that their readers are too
immature and irresponsible to handle such things and, for the good of
society, they'd better deprive them of such information.
Did they review our materials prior to their decision? No.
Did they give us an opportunity to answer the complaints they
In fact, Ziff Davis' high and mighty legal department proved totally
unwilling to even speak to me, preferring to hide behind a sales rep
instead. And no one at Ziff would put anything in writing.
This may sound preposterous to you, but it's happened to me time and
time again. A fair number of magazines have terminated our advertising
without ever reviewing our materials or discussing the matter with us.
These include Dr. Dobbs, Computer Language (who didn't even bother to
inform us they had dropped our ad), Computer Craft, and Nuts and Volts
(who reconsidered and reinstated us after about a year).
What sets the Computer Shopper apart is that they are the porn king of
computer magazines. In the context of a dozen pages of ads which sell
everything from Seymour Butts, Erotic Fantasies, Porkware and Deep
Throat to the gay Man Power, the decision to pull our ad came as a
real surprise. Evidently the omniscient legal department at Ziff has
come to the inspired realization that our materials are much worse
than blatant pornography--without ever looking at anything we sell!
Personally, I find it difficult to understand what a porno CD has to
do with computers, except that it goes in a CD ROM reader in your
computer. But that's kind of like selling x-rated videos in a
technical magazine about TVs. The only logic I can see to it is the
idea that perhaps the techies who read magazines like the Shopper are
sexually unfulfilled people who must fantasize to satisfy their animal
lusts. At least, I suppose that's what Ziff's pundits think, and
that's why they run the ads. It makes their customers happy.
On the other hand, technical information about computer viruses makes
a lot of sense in a computer magazine. After all, they are a
phenomenon that most computer users are going to have to deal with
sooner or later, and they are something that some of us find
interesting for purely technical reasons.
Pornography has long been a point of contention in the battle over
free speech simply because--in the Supreme Court's words--it has no
"socially redeeming value." And if one is free to appeal to only the
basest human lusts, so the argument goes, then any more noble ideas
will also be protected.
These kinds of arguments are fallacious though. The whole idea of
freedom of speech was born in the reformation, not with an eye to
protecting pornographers, but with an eye to protecting thinkers--and
specifically religious reformers--people who saw the corruption of the
state-church and who spoke out to condemn it and change it.
Good ideas can often be far more dangerous to those in power than bad
ideas. And porn is at best a bad idea. It won't threaten anyone in
power, and it acts like an opiate to society. It is a diversion. So to
suffer its existence isn't a good test of the freedom of speech. On
the other hand, what happens when somebody has a really good idea that
sets to naught the ideas which those in power use to remain in power?
(e.g. "taxation without representation is wrong") That is truly
threatening. Will the idea be suppressed by legal means? Will it be
buried under a flood of propaganda? This is the REAL testing ground. A
society which permits porn, but suppresses real ideas isn't free at
The whole issue of cryptography is case and point. In this age, the
dissemination or withholding of information has become a real tool of
power. In the past century, government secrets have multiplied without
number, while government has steadily demanded more and more
information about its citizens, and access to more information on
demand. Good cryptography is a threat to the ability to gather
information, and a stumbling block on the road to total control. So it
is being suppressed.
Now, when we see flagrant intrusions into our freedom by
government--such as in cryptography--our tendency is to point the
finger at government--"those guys." But--at least here in America--we
are the government. We voted it into power. And, no matter where, all
governments exist only with the consent of the governed. Perhaps it is
grudging consent, or fearful consent, but it is consent none the less.
The only one who really may not consent is probably in solitary
confinement or a slave-labor camp being whipped. So when we see
government intruding on freedom of speech or some such thing, we can
only rightly see it as a sickness in all of society. And it should be
no surprise to find the press--which has traditionally been thought of
as the vanguard of the freedom of speech--suppressing it. The Computer
Shopper, Dr. Dobbs, etc., etc., just have the same sickness as the
government and everyone else.
Frankly, I think we live in a generation where a majority of people
prefer security to freedom. You can see it everywhere. Clinton is no
dummy, and I think his new theme is not just a stupid idea, but the
result of research. He knows what Americans--for the most part--have
come to expect, and he's going to at least promise it to them (even
though he cannot possibly deliver the reality of it, even if he has
spoken of a "new covenant"). I think it's a shrewd move. Every
president since Carter in 1976 has been elected on the basis of the
economy. Financial security has proven to be more important to the
average american than freedom, election after election. In short,
freedom isn't really an issue of national importance anymore, though
some of us still value it deeply. Security is the issue that gathers
the crowds and wins the votes.
There is an important idea here: freedom or security? The America of
200 years ago was founded on the idea of freedom under God. That
doesn't mean unrestrained freedom, but freedom within a given moral
code. It meant you were free to follow the profession of your choice,
go (or not go) to the church of your choice, to speak respectable
opinions, and free to live where you wanted, and keep what you earned.
It did not mean you were free to loot your neighbor or sell your
daughter as a prostitute. Now in a state ruled by this paradigm of
freedom, there are always questions about how far those freedoms go.
Today, however, there has been a paradigm shift in our society. The
question is no longer how far we can go with freedom without
endangering society. Rather, the question which government and the
people seem concerned about is how to maximize security--e.g. how to
assure an ever growing abundance of material possessions, and reduce
the risk of losing them. That's why the economy is such a big issue in
government. If freedom were our objective, we'd try to get the
government out of the economy, rather than trying to get government to
manipulate it more effectively.
Now the paradigm of security leads directly to 1984--a totally
controlled, totalitarian society. If you keep pushing the idea of
security, that's where you end up. A totally controlled society is
very secure, and no one in power ever makes a mistake. And that's
where I think America is headed.
Some kind of revolution or civil war isn't going to help things a bit
either. At best, such a cataclysm will be only the event which brings
the full totalitarianism upon us. That's because this love affair
with security is in the people's hearts. It's not government vs. the
people. It's still government of the people by the people. And if the
people want security, then they'll install the government which best
promises them that. This is and always has been a totalitarian regime.
And if revolution won't work, it's hard to put your faith in some
milder type of reform.
I say all of this because it's the only way I can understand the
censorship I've faced. It's the only way you can twist your mind to
believe that what I do is worse than pornography. Even though there
are such things as beneficial viruses, even though viruses might give
us some valuable insights into other scientific disciplines, even
though they have military value, they are a potential threat to the
general security. And to have people walking around who know how to
create them is a threat to the general security. So as long as you are
operating under the paradigm of security, you cannot tolerate virus
writing. Thus, the press censors the press. Computer Shopper censors
American Eagle Publications, and throws their contract out the window
without ever even evaluating their materials.
If the government steps into the picture and enforces some kind of
official censorship against viruses through legislation, it will only
be because the private sector has chosen it already. It will be
because there are a lot of well-heeled businesses pushing it, and a
lot of magazines that won't address the issue honestly in editorials,
and won't let anyone else do it in advertising. That's the age old
formula for totalitarianism.
For these reasons I honestly don't think pornography is the issue
that's pushing the limits of the 1st amendment. The real hot issue
that those of us who value freedom should be giving our attention to
is security vs. freedom. That's where the paradigm shift is taking
place, and where the future will be won or lost. Right now, it would
seem that security is winning out by default.
In the long run, an unearthly security is a false hope. But I'd far
rather see it exposed for what it is by intelligent people using their
brains effectively in my generation, than having it exposed by a
government whip over several generations.
In short, porn isn't the real 1st amendment issue it's cracked up to
be. More often than not, its technical knowledge that really ruffles
the feathers today.
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 94 21:54:54 PST
From: David.Batterson@F290.N105.Z1.FIDONET.ORG(David Batterson)
Subject: File 5--Lobby the Feds via PC
Lobby The Feds Via PC
by David Batterson
Here's another one of those programs to let "We The People" [at
least those with PCs] tell those lame-brained, no-account lazy
politicians and bureaucrats in Washington who's the boss.
A while back Parsons Technology offered us Personal Advocate (now
sold for $29, DOS), and Symantec has Write Your Congressman! (also in
a DOS version for $29.95). [Symantec uses a rather sexist,
politically incorrect title, doesn't it? Well, they actually bought
the program (along with ACT!) from a Texas company.]
A tiny company in San Rafael, CA [where this reporter used to
live] got on its soapbox, and decided to do it even better. Or at
least they've tried to.
Soapbox Software offers Federal SoapBox (FSB) Ver. 1.2 that
"brings you the power and know how of Washington insiders by combining
a graphic flow chart of the Federal Government, detailed listings of
policy makers, powerful search functions and easy-to-use
communications tools, allowing you to contact the right people in
Washington at the right time." OK, so much for marketing hype.
After testing out this software, I really don't think it has
Artificial Intelligence capability (so it knows if you contacted the
correct person in a timely fashion). I didn't just fall off a turnip
truck. Nor does it search very well for every person you want to
For example, I did a "Search by Person" for Dee Dee Myers. It
found her OK, since she is the current Press Secretary. But when I
tried to search for former PR whiz George Stephanopoulos, ol' lonesome
George could not be located (even though I knew he was in the White
House chain of command somewhere.
So I looked under Executive Office of the President, where I
found some guy named Clinton. I clicked on "Data," and following data
on the Big Guy, there was the "Office Staff" listed. In that group
was listed "George Stephanopoulos, Sr. Advisor."
Now is there any good reason why FSB's search capability can't
also locate a staff member by name? Cheesch! I think the only reason
must be "bad programming."
The software does have some useful features, such as being able
to create customized mailing lists, exporting data for use in your
database program, federal documents, biographies, legislative
committee assignments, text editor, an online glossary, federal BBSs,
and so on.
The program now has an interface to MCI Mail, but only works if
you want to send PAPER mail or a fax. Note: you CANNOT send e-mail,
for instance, to the MCI Mail ID: WHITE HOUSE, or send Internet
e-mail. Boo! I hope that future versions of FSB fix this oversight.
FSB is sold as a subscription. The rather hefty price of $129
gets you the DOS software plus three quarterly updates; additional
years are $49. Windows and Mac versions are on the way, the company
Info: SoapBox Software, 10 Golden Gate Drive, San Rafael, CA
94901; 415-258-0292, FAX: 415-258-0294, 800-989-7627 (orders),
Internet: email@example.com, CompuServe: 71614,2373, MCI Mail:
Computer reporter/reviewer David Batterson looks forward to the day
when most federal, state, county and city officials are online, so we
can zap 'em with e-mail. [Will he live so long?] You may contact him
via The Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org, or:
* Evaluation copy of Silver Xpress. Day # 50
--- via Silver Xpress V4.00 [NR]
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 1994 19:52:04 -0500
From: Bryce Eustace Wilcox
Subject: File 6--More on "The Rating Game" (Re:CuD 6.03, 6.04)
THE RATING GAME (In re CuD 6.03, 6.04)
Stephen Williams (email@example.com) has proposed one of THOSE ideas. An
idea that is simple in design but stunning in potential function. I
heartily congratulate him and add my own two bits:
>Basically, I suggested that special messages be standardized that
>would endorse messages for certain distributions. Old (existing...)
>news software would just pass the messages like others, but news
>systems that wanted to rate or hide improper messages could pay
>attention to them. My software would probably take the form of
>patches to INN and tin, etc. There would be positive and negative
>endorsements, of course with the possibility of signature keys, etc.
This last possibility intrigues me the most. A "majority vote" to
indicate "value" or "content" of a message wwould simply emulate the
current media paradigm: "lowest common denominator". If instead of
simply tallying yay and nay votes, I can tailor my own software to
recognize specific signatures and give them added weight ( I
just realized that if this were to happen there might be people whose
names I would include with a negative weight factor...) then we would
have a really nice system going. I see several problems right off the
bat, some practical and some hypothetical.
Prob 1: authentification. We must prevent forgery of signatures.
Apparently (according to Phil Zimmerman's PGP doc file), public key
Prob 1a: Public key encryption. Are we ever going to have
widely-used public key encryption available? Insert the whole patent
Prob 1b: bandwidth (numerous apologies and requests for correction
if I misuse any technical term in my enthusiastic ignorance). PGP
keys are 32, 64, or 128 bytes long. Multiply that by the number of
endorsements tacked onto any given message and multiply *that* by the
number of messages and notice a major technical problem.
Prob 2: the end results. will this kind of consensual
discrimination lead to a polarizing/tribalizing effect on society?
Whatever the mass media's faults (and I think they are legion), it
*has* served to give people a common culture. But with the technology
and the society changing the way that it is I really can't imagine a
return to the mass media paradigm nor the "messy Internet" paradigm.
I think Stephen William's anarchic, organic paradigm is definitely the
way to go.
[Though this message is getting a bit long, I think I should pause to
defend/ explain my use of the word "anarchy". I am using the simple
definition "absence of control or regulation". (Of course I do *not*
mean absence of self-control or self-regulation!) The "anarchy" that
I envision in the informational realm is a state in which it is
impossible or at least socially unacceptable for any entity to delete
or substantially alter information without the permission of the
author. Of course some other mechanism will be needed to sort, sift
and organize information and that is why I am so excited about Stephen
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 1994 05:32:39 -0800
From: Jim Warren
Subject: File 7--PUB.RCDS #1: online polit disclosures + leg.online (AB1624)
Jan. 18, 1994
This starts a new series of online Updates and occasional panic-mode
Action Alerts regarding specific legislative and regulatory efforts to
assure modern [online, computer-assisted] access to public government
records -- legislative, executive and judicial; federal, state and local.
Most of these postings will fit on one or two printed pages; some will be
** Any time you wish to NOT receive further postings, just lemmie know
and I'll delete you from the distribution list. **
NEWS TO YOU?
As I begin this series, I am adding a large number of eaddrs for folks
who have either explicitly requested information in the last several
months about online state legislation, or have otherwise been suggested as
likely-interested in computer-assisted access to public records.
Reiterating: Yer on the list until you ask to be off the list.
PROPOSAL FOR COMPUTER-ASSISTED ACCESS TO POLITICAL DISCLOSURES NOW ONLINE
I have finally found time to upload my 28-page [printed], Jan. 1st
implementation proposal that has been circulating in state and local
political circles since ~Jan. 4th:
"Computerized Political Disclosures:
Doing It with Minimal Cost and Maximum Utility."
This details how to conveniently and economically computerize the filing
of and computer-assisted public access to state and local campaign-finance
disclosures, officials' statements of economic interests, and state
lobbyists' disclosures. Local-government Clerks and Voter Registrars can
implement it for a one-time cost of ~$10,000 (if they don't already have a
spare PC). Filings and statewide public access for state offices can be
implemented for as little as $12,000 for a minimal adequate system, plus
perhaps $200/month for statewide access too all disclosures within hours of
them being filed. (It is likely, however, that they may spend 3 to 5 times
the minimum capital amount -- but will incur significant other savings in
staff and resources and provide wildly-improved statewide services.)
Copies in MacWord5 and/or RTF format are available by anonymous-ftp, WAIS,
gopher, Veronica, etc. from:
In directory: /cpsr/states/california/polidisclos
[If you are on the WELL, you can copy them directly from my home directory.]
On Jan. 11th, I met with Deputy Chief Secretary of State Tony Miller and
his staff, who had reviewed the proposal. They were enthusiastic about it,
and projected that they will need little or *no* additional budget allocation
to do it.
It will, however, require some legislative authorizations and mandates.
It appears likely that State Senator Tom Hayden will amend the needed
language into his campaign-reform bill, SB758. I should know more within
two weeks or less.
FOUR BILLS INTRODUCED TO OPEN UP ALREADY-COMPUTERIZED PUBLIC RECORDS
Assembly Members Debra Bowen (D, Marina del Rey) and Tom Bates (D, Oakland-
Berkeley) have introduced a total of four bills seeking modern access to
California's computerized public records. Call their offices for copies:
Bowen: 916-445-8528, Mary Winkley Bates: 916-445-7554, Rachel Richman
More in future updates. Privacy advocates, please note: A "public" record,
by definition, does NOT include personal information that is not public.
SON OF AB1624 [Or "OFFSPRING OF ...", for the politically-correct :-) ]
These notices are a follow-on to 34+ online notices regarding the 1993
California Legislature's Assembly Bill 1624 (by Bowen).
Now Calif. Govt. Code 10248, AB1624 mandates that all California state
legislation-in-progress, state statutes and the state Constitution be
available via the Internet, without charge by the state.
For antiquitarians' interest, those online notices plus other related
postings are available by anonymous-ftp, WAIS, gopher, Veronica, etc. from:
In directory: /cpsr/states/california/AB1624.
STATE LEGISLATION ONLINE: AB1624 WHEN?
AB1624 was signed into law on Oct. 11th and took effect Jan. 1, 1994.
At the end of December, bill-author Bowen's office said the Legislative
Counsel - which operates the Legislative Data Center (LDC)- had estimated
they would be online and operational by Jan. 10th. Last week, Bowen's
office reported that Legis.Counsel was then estimating they would be online
and publicly operational by Friday, Jan. 21st.
It continues to be my sincere belief that the LDC staff *are* *diligently*
trying to get the system operational. Don't blame them; I honestly believe
they are doing the best they can with the time and resources allotted to them
by their management.
However, I find it arrogant disregard by the Chief Legislative Counsel,
that he ignores requests for progress details - especially amazing in that
the entire issue in AB1624 is the public's right to know what their/our
government is doing. All the worse, his lack of a public statement causes
his computer staff unjustified ill-repute among the public, and that ain't
If they're not online by about the 23rd, I will send another update
giving the name, address, phone number and fax number of the responsible
party, the Chief Legislative Counsel, and folks can explore his responsive-
When I know more, you'll know more.
Mo' as it Is.
Jim Warren, columnist for MicroTimes, Government Technology, BoardWatch, etc.
firstname.lastname@example.org -or- email@example.com
345 Swett Rd., Woodside CA 94062; voice/415-851-7075; fax/415-851-2814
[organizer & Chair, First Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy (1991);
InfoWorld founder (1978); PBS's "Computer Chronicles" first host; blah blah]
>>Permission herewith granted for unlimited reposting and recirculation.<<
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 1994 15:06:18 -0800
From: Jim Warren
Subject: File 8--GOV-ACCESS #2 interests; radio chat; joining this list
Jan. 19, 1994
SOME DIMENSIONS OF THE GOV-ACCESS/PUB-RCDS TURF
Note: Access to public records is one component of a broader issue -- the
input side (from the public's perspective, the perspective of this list).
Functionality in which citizens may be interested:
access to information, online feedback to officials & agencies
online access, offline bulk-data access, info services (not just data)
personal use, nonprofit-organization use, commercial/tax-paying use
public dissemination, community discussion (town-sized to Village Earth)
Level(s) of government in which citizens may be interested:
city/town, county/parrish, state, federal, multi-national
Types of public government information in which citizens may be
interested: political disclosures, legislative, judicial/courts,
all public records
If yer willin', it would be nice to know your interests -- which will
*not* be disclosed to anyone else, unless your identifying specifics
are removed. **If you respond, please be SURE to indicate whether you
are already on this distribution list -- i.e., you received this,
directly to your eaddr.**
SF BAY AREA TALK-SHOW ABOUT COMPUTER-AIDED PUBLIC ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT
I have been invited to have an hour-long radio talk-show chat about
computer-assisted access to government -- legislative information,
political disclosures, computerized public records, etc. (and I hope
to include privacy concerns in the discussion, too, e.g. commercial
abuse of driver lic info).
More importantly, it's on one of the biggest stations in the San
Francisco Bay Area, and it's in radio's *prime* time -- the weekday
p.m. commute hours!
The Peter B. Collins Show
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., Monday, January 24th
[ If you are knowedgeable computer-aided gov-access issues, why not
contact *your* area's radio talk-show producers (ask for the producer;
not the host), and see if they will have you and/or knowledgable
collegues discuss them? ]
TO BE ADDED TO THIS GOV-ACCESS INFORMATION-DISTRIBUTION LIST
Several people pointed out that I neglected, in posting #1, to state how
new-comers can be added to this distribution list. Tsk!
(This list has been growing for about 9 months; originally focused only on
one specific California bill mandating free online legislative access.)
Email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
At a minimum, state the email address you wish added to the list.
If you are willing, please also include your traditional contact info:
name, work, organization, snailmail address, voice phone, fax.
Please note: So far, this is an information distribution list; not a
discussion list. However, several of us are planning moderated and
unmoderated USENET news-groups on these topics -- that will *not*
conflict with existant news-groups and lists. Yes, as soon as there
are coherent draft-plans, this list will hear of them.
Jim Warren, columnist for MicroTimes, Government Technology, BoardWatch, etc.
>>Permission herewith granted for unlimited reposting and recirculation.<<
End of Computer Underground Digest #6.09