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Here is my growing file of info. on FBI and other govt. agencies messing with BBSes. If you got any more info. please upload it!

  1. Big Boy's BBS, Denver, 303-458-3832
           Colonel guilty of sending porn over computer

Associated Press

SAN ANGELO – The former commander of Goodfellow Air Force Base was convicted in a court martial Monday of sending obscene material via his home computer.

A jury of four men and one woman, all Air Force colonels, deliberated about two hours before returning guilty verdicts on all counts again Col. James Maxwell.

He was convicted of transmitting obscene material via home computer, of transmitting child pornography through his computer and using indecent language with a junior Air Force officer.

Maxwell, a 26-year Air Force veteran, now faces a possible 16-year prison sentence and loss of his military retirement benefits.

Charges were filed against Maxwell after the FBI found his name among users of an on-line computer network who accessed computer-generated pornographic images of children.

Maxwell also was said to have used the computer network to inquire about the location of homosexual meeting places.

Maxwell's attorney had sought to have the charges dropped on grounds his transmissions on the computer from the privacy of his home were protected under the constitution.

But the trial judge, Col. Donald Weir of Randolph Air Force Base, allowed the charges to stand last week, ruling that freedom of speech can be limited when it involves conduct unbecoming an officer.

"That the writings were private between consenting adults, that they may have been welcome doesn't place them under the judicial umbrella of a constitutional protected condition," Weir had ruled.

Weir dismissed a count alleging Maxwell had disgraced the Air Force by allegedly using electronic mail to ask about homosexual bars and child pornography.

Maxwell, 48, was removed from command at the Goodfellow Air Force Base training center last summer after the charges were filed.


COMMENT: Looks to me like this thing is full of red flags. Isn't it coincidental that the story breaks just as there's a flap over gays in the military?!

And where it says "the FBI found his name among users of an on-line computer network who accessed computer-generated pornographic images of children", one might ask what network? what was the FBI doing there? how did the images get there? how did the FBI think to track them? who else is getting snared? civilians? were the images really "computer-generated" or just scanned?

It's enough to restore one's healthy paranoia… Offworld BBS Busted St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tuesday, January 19, 1993 Pages 1A, 10A COMPUTER OPERATOR DENIES PORN MENU By Christine Bertelson Of the Post-Dispatch Staff The owner of a St. Louis computer bulletin board that was shut down by the FBI last week denied Monday that he is responsible for the pornographic images seen by some users. On Friday night, the FBI confiscated more than $40,000 worth of computer equipment at Offworld, a computer company owned and operated by Joey Jay. Jay, 28, ran the business from his residence in the basement of his father's house on Tecumseh Drive in Chesterfield. Jay was not arrested, and no charges have been filed against him. Jay said his father threw him out of the house after the raid. "Everyone assumes we are some kiddie porn ring," Jay said. "We are not. We are a nonprofit community service." A spokesman for the FBI said that someone had reported that Offworld had images available showing bestiality, as well as child pornography. It is a federal offense to have child pornography, and any property used to promote it is subject to being seized and forfeited to law enforcement authorities, an FBI spokesman said. "We get all kinds of files across the system, and one or two at most showed up in terms of a private conversation," Jay said. "When I found them, I deleted them immediately." Offworld began operating in St. Louis last June, and is free to its 4,300 users. Jay said it cost him $1,800 a month to operate the system, using money from family inheritance. About 100 people showed up Monday morning in Chesterfield at a rally in support of Offworld, Jay said. He said he was soliciting contributions of computer hardware, or cash, to get his system up and running again. Computer bulletin board systems, or BBSs, as they are known, allow users to chat electronically, and share information on a variety of subjects. Offworld has bulletin boards that feature job listings, book and movie reviews, restaurants and clubs, and discussion groups for people with "diverse lifestyles." Jay said that any time illegal material appears on a bulletin board –whether it is child pornography, offers of sex for sale, or drugs –it is purged and the people who posted such messages are kicked off the system. "Unfortunately, that doesn't prevent them from coming back and using another fictitious name," Jay said. FBI seizures of electronic bulletin board systems are "quite common," said Mike Godwin, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The foundation is a civil liberties group based in Washington for those in computer communications. Godwin said that pornography is widely available on the thousands of electronic bulletin boards in use across the country. New computer users often use their scanners to recreate sexy pictures, much the same as children who delight in using a newly acquired dirty word. "Usually the novelty wears off," Godwin said. Child pornography is relatively rare, Godwin said. When it shows up, the operator of the system is faced with a choice: delete it immediately, or keep it on the system and report it to the police. The FBI finds raids effective because they are punitive in and of themselves, whether or not a computer systems operator is ever charged with a crime. But even the most conscientious systems operator cannot keep all pornography off a bulletin board, Godwin agreed. Jay had previous conversations with the St. Louis County Police about his system, he said. "I told them I would simply try to use responsibility and common sense and … keep the system legal," Jay said. "I extend the First Amendment right to all aspects of the system, unless it violates the law." Jay said he was seeking legal advice to help him get his computer equipment back. +++++++++++++++ St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tuesday, January 19, 1993 Page 10A GIF GETS BULLETIN BOARD IN A JIFF 'We Celebrate Human As Art Forum,' One Manager Says of Nude Issue By Daniel R. Browning (Of the Post-Dispatch Staff) Dirty pictures transmitted over the telephone to your home computer? It had to happen. Computer bulletin board systems, called BBSs, proliferate not only locally, but nationally and internationally. The biggest ones call themselves "information services," and the granddaddy is CompuServe. It has nearly 1.2 million members from China to Chile. St. Louis Computing, a free monthly computing newspaper, publishes a list of local bulletin boards and their phone numbers. Within these bulletin boards people interested in particular topics go to chat, share information, and yes, show their favorite slides. The pictures are transmitted in a special computer code called GIF (pronounced jif), which is short for Graphics Interchange Format. To see them, you need the special "viewers" included in some communications software. To capture an image, you have your computer's modem dial the bulletin board, then search for whatever you find interesting. In the giant databases, that means logging on to a special-interest section within the information service or bulletin board. CompuServe calls these "forums." A forum exists for just about any professional interest or hobby. Journalists, lawyers, doctors, aerospace workers, artists, photographers, beer and wine enthusiasts, automobile buffs – you'll find them all in the forums. Within these, you can find thousands of pictures ranging from NASA space shots, to great works of art, to travel photos, to The Girl (or Boy) Next Door in a birthday suit. A wary technician overseeing the forum warns members that they had to be older than 18 to get nude images. But practically speaking, there's no way to prevent a minor from capturing a nude photo on CompuServe, said Dave Kishler, a company spokesman. The Federal Communications Commission does not regulate BBSs, he said. So the BBSs have worked up their own sets of rules and regulations. Dave Shaver, operations manager of CompuServe's Fine Arts Forum, said all the images are screened for content before they are made available to the members. That's why you'll find hundreds of nudes under a category called "Plain Brown Wrapper," but no XXX-rated pictures, he said. "We celebrate the human as an art form." Some bulletin boards are free. The big ones charge a flat monthly fee of $5 to $8. Certain activities within the databases may also include hourly surcharges, which vary in price to about $15 an hour. Joining a special interest forum and capturing pictures would fit in that category on most information services. That cost – and the requirement that members have a credit card or a checking account – helps limit memberships to adults, Shaver said. 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 compression. 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 far. 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 use." 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: Mark Lehrer CompuServe: 71756,2116 InterNet: Modem: (216) 688-6383 USPO: P.O. Box 275 Munroe Falls, OH 44262 ———————————————————————- The Sysops' Sig received this letter from the Lehrer defense people, with a request that their side of the story be made available to Free-net users. DISCLAIMER: The Sysops' Sig takes no position on this case, since each Free-net sysop speaks for himself/herself. ———————————————————————- FOOTNOTE: The above says the framers of the Constitution weren't aware of BBSs when drafting the Constitution….to this I say-THEN WHAT IS FREEDOM? The Constitution's 1st Amendment and the 9th Amendment clearly addresses this issue. This case is another case of the actual "police power" against Americans. There is NO crime here! There is NO property damaged and there is NO human victim here. Then there should be NO crime but our present system has the power to invent a crime which is exactly what is going on here. PLEASE contribute monetarily or at least in writing to Mark Lehrer at the above address. Send proof of such contribution and a 3 months FREE access will be granted by "HOME" BBS at (909) 735-2573. * FBI raids major Ohio computer bulletin board; action follows joint investigation with SPA The Federation Bureau of Investigation on Saturday, Jan. 30, 1993, raided "Rusty & Edie's," a computer bulletin board located in Boardman, Ohio, which has allegedly been illegally distributing copyrighted software programs. Seized in the raid on the Rusty & Edie's bulletin board were computers, hard disk drives and telecommunications equipment, as well as financial and subscriber records. For the past several months, the Software Publishers Association ("SPA") has been working with the FBI in investigating the Rusty & Edie's bulletin board, and as part of that investigation has downloaded numerous copyrighted business and entertainment programs from the board. The SPA investigation was initiated following the receipt of complaints from a number of SPA members that their software was being illegally distributed on the Rusty & Edie's BBS. The Rusty & Edie's bulletin board was one of the largest private bulletin boards in the country. It had 124 nodes available to callers and over 14,000 subscribers throughout the United States and several foreign countries. To date, the board has logged in excess of 3.4 million phone calls, with new calls coming in at the rate of over 4,000 per day. It was established in 1987 and had expanded to include over 19 gigabytes of storage housing over 100,000 files available to subscribers for downloading. It had paid subscribers throughout the United States and several foreign countries, including Canada, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. A computer bulletin board allows personal computer users to access a host computer by a modem-equipped telephone to exchange information, including messages, files, and computer programs. The systems operator (Sysop) is generally responsible for the operation of the bulletin board and determines who is allowed to access the bulletin board and under what conditions. For a fee of $89.00 per year, subscribers to the Rusty & Edie's bulletin board were given access to the board's contents including many popular copyrighted business and entertainment packages. Subscribers could "download" or receive these files for use on their own computers without having to pay the copyrighted owner anything for them. "The SPA applauds the FBI's action today," said Ilene Rosenthal, general counsel for the SPA. "This shows that the FBI recognizes the harm that theft of intellectual property causes to one of the U.S.'s most vibrant industries. It clearly demonstrates a trend that the government understands the seriousness of software piracy." The SPA is actively working with the FBI in the investigation of computer bulletin boards, and similar raids on other boards are expected shortly. Whether it's copied from a program purchased at a neighborhood computer store or downloaded from a bulletin board thousands of miles away, pirated software adds to the cost of computing. According to the SPA, in 1991, the software industry lost $1.2 billion in the U.S. alone. Losses internationally are several billion dollars more. "Many people may not realize that software pirates cause prices to be higher, in part, to make up for publisher losses from piracy," says Ken Wasch, executive director of the SPA. In addition, they ruin the reputation of the hundreds of legitimate bulletin boards that serve an important function for computer users." The Software Publishers Association is the principal trade association of the personal computer software industry. It's over 1,000 members represent the leading publishers in the business, consumer and education software markets. The SPA has offices in Washington DC, and Paris, France. CONTACT: Software Publishers Association, Washington Ilene Rosenthal, 202/452-1600 Ext. 318 Terri Childs, 202/452-1600 Ext. 320 **

From: WALLY SCHWARZ of Wally World 415/349-6969 (1:204/6969)

 To:  ALL                       Date: 11-25-90 02:00

The FBI Comes Rapping, Rapping At Your BBS Brock N. Meeks

The dog-eared manila envelope spilled a coffee stained report onto my cluttered desk. The title, "The FBI and Your BBS" sounded a little too nefarious, even for this curmudgeon of the information age. But I figured the report was worth at least a quick read. After all, somebody had gone to the effort to track down my address and forward a copy of the report to me. That someone turns out to be the report's author, Glen L. Roberts, director of The FBI Project an organization which publishes a newsletter, Full Disclosure, under the self defined category "privacy/surveillance."

The report is chilling, almost paranoid. And if more people had known about its existence, a lot of grief might have been saved. As I read I remembered an old, coffee-ringed file folder I'd squirreled away. I remembered something about it's containing information on what I'd off-handedly labeled "FBI Computer Hit Squad." When I found the file, Roberts' report didn't seem so paranoid and knew I was in for a long night of research and bunch of early morning wake up interviews.

If you dig, you hit dirt

   In 1984 a short series of discreet advertisements, placed by

the FBI, appeared in a few computer trade publications and in The Wall Street Journal~ The message was simple, and went something like: "We're looking for computer literate persons to join the Bureau." There was no mention of any special task force; however, it was clear that the Bureau wanted to upgrade their high-tech prowess.

   Although the FBI won't confirm the existence of a computerized

"hit squad," an FBI public relations officer did confirm that they "have made an extraordinary effort to recruit more technically oriented personnel" since 1984.

   If you dig hard enough, you'll find substantial evidence that

the FBI is most definitely working overtime in its efforts to monitor the electronic community. "They are desperately wary of the way information flows so freely in this medium," says Roberts. Indeed, one has only to recall this past May when some 150 Secret Service agents, assisted by local police (backed up with electronic "intelligence" gathered and provided by the FBI) served some 27 search warrants in a dozen cities across the U.S.

   The bust, code-named Operation Sun Devil, was patterned after

the tactics used to take down suspected drug rings: simultaneous busts, synchronized arrests. All in an effort to preclude any "early warnings" reaching the West via grapevine information moving from the East.

   I was curious about all these high tech hit tactics and armed

with my file folder and Roberts' report I called a number scrawled on the inside flap of my file folder. It was annotated "Former agent; possible source." I called the number, and got a story.

   "I was recruited in 1983 by the FBI for my computer skills,"

the former agent told me. Because he still does some consulting for the Bureau, he asked not to be identified, but he laid out a very specific plan by the FBI to increase their knowledge of the electronic communications world. He confided, "During my time the Bureau's monitoring of BBSs was extremely limited; we just didn't know how." In those days, he said, the FBI drew on the expertise of a small band of high-tech freelance snoops to augment their staff, "while we all honed our own skills."


   Certainly the FBI has a tradition of "investigating" groups of

people it deems "unsavory" or threatening.

   In Roberts' The FBI and Your BBS, there's a brief history of

the FBl's willingness to gather all known information on a target group. Pulling from the Final Report of the Select (Senate) Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, Book IV, Supplementary Reports on Intelligence Activities, Roberts includes this excerpt:

   "Detectives were sent to local radical publishing houses to

take their books. In addition, they were to find every private collection or library in the possession of any radical, and to make the arrangements for obtaining them in their entirety. Thus, when the GID (General Intelligence Division) discovered an obscure Italian born philosopher who had a unique collection of books on the theory of anarchism, his lodgings were raided by the Bureau and his valuable collection become one more involuntary contribution to the huge and ever-growing library of the GID. [pages 87-88]."

   Change "any radical" to "any BBS" and "book" to "disk" and

quite suddenly the electronic landscape turns into a winter still- life.

Data collection

   Roberts, quoting from his report, says, "Unlike other

communications media, information on a BBS does not get read by anyone before its instantancous publication. Therefore, the FBI has much less of a possibility of intimidating the owner of a BBS into not publishing certain inlormation. The FBI also acts as if BBSs have a monopoly on the distribution of so-called 'illegal information.' The FBI often uses this 'danger' as justification to monitor the activities on these systems. In reality, however, BBSs transfer much less 'illegal information' than the [voice] phone system."

   Roberts statements are worth noting in light of the

goverment's increased interest in the marriage of criminal activity and electronic communications.

   A 455-page report issued by the President's Commission on

Organized Crime, dealing with drug abuse and trafficking cites that fact that crime has moved into the high-tech arena. The report states "To the extent that law eniorcement agencies' capabilities and equipment are inferior to those of drug traffickers, immediate steps should be taken to rectify the situation." The report then recommends that data-gathering efforts of several agencies (in- cluding the FBI) should be tied together in one "all-source intelligence and operations center."

Any problem here?

   There are no laws prohibiting the FBI (or other agencies) from

monitoring the public message traffic on a BBS; the Electronic Com- munications Privacy Act of 1986 protects private messages and privately stored files only. But what about an FBI agent monitoring a BBS solely for the purpose of gathering intormation on the board's users? Any problem here?

   The former FBI agent I spoke with raised the concern that such

casual monitoring might be a violation of the 1968 Wiretap Act. "In order for a wire tap, you have to get a court order. Now if an FBI agent is monitoring a BBS to gather information, that becomes an interesting question, because there are very specific federal rules about a wire tap. My question to you about a BBS [being monitored] is: "At what point does monitoring turn into a wiretap-like act?"

   Good point. The reality is, however, that there are no rules.

Unless that agent is asking for private message traffic, he can, without impunity, monitor, store, and otherwise manipulate your public messages as he sees fit.

   Roberts points out that a BBS with public access is fair game

for any kind of governmental snooping. But there is a way to make such casual snooping by a federal agent a crime.

"If you want your BBS readily accessible to the public but want to protect against unwarranted monitoring, you have to provide a warning to prospective users," says Roberts. "It should read: 'This BBS is a private system. Only private citizens who are not involved in government or law enforcement activities are authorized to use it. The users are not authorized to divulge any information gained from this system to any government or law enforcement agency or employee."'

   This does two things. It makes the entire board "private."

Second, it makes any kind of monitoring by the FBl (or other agencies, such as the Secret Service) a criminal offense (because they are would be guilty of unauthorized access; it also forces them to use the established guidelines of gaining information via a court ordered search warrant. The warning also protects you in another way: it stops "freelancers" from doing the Bureau's work.

Get real

   How real is the possibility of the FBI monitoring your BBS?

Much more than I'd like to believe. Although details of Operation Sun Devil are still sketchy, it's clear that the FBI, working in tandem with the Secret Service, is monitoring several hundred "suspected" boards across the electronic landscape. What kind of board is a potential monitoring target? "Any board that advocates hacking," said a Secret Service spokesman. Yet when I asked for a definition of hacking, all I was told was "illegal activity."

   The information provided here bears out, if nothing else, an

increased interest by the FBI in the hard ball practice of going after electronic criminals. But are the "good guys" getting caught up with the bad?

   How extensive is the FBl's actual fact gathering by monitoring

BBSs? No one knows really knows. However, given the history of Bureau, and the hard facts that crime in the information age makes full use of all the technology it can get its hands on, it's a small leap to believe that at least specific monitoring, of certain target groups, is taking place.

   Where does that leave you and me in all this? Back to square

one, watching carefully what we say online. If you're a member of a "controversial" BBS, you might pass the concerns of Roberts on to your sysop. If you are a sysop, you might want to consider adding a bit of protection to the board . . . for the rest of us.

Brock Meeks is a Washington, D.C.-based columnist whose articles have appeared in several publications including Byte Magazine. His favorite radical BBS is … well…private.

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