Computer underground Digest Thu Jan 13 1994 Volume 6 : Issue 06 ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Tue, 11 Jan 94 12:43:51 PST From: hkhenson@CUP.PORTAL.COM Subject: File 1--Bay Area BBS bust. About two years ago I helped a guy from Milpitias (just north of San Jose) deal with a BBS bust at what he described as a "light" porn BBS. The San Jose cops realized shortly that they had really goofed by not considering the ECPA and related laws in their search & seizure. The result was that they gave his system back after five weeks, and stated in a written release that this guy's activities were within the scope of the law. The BBS is called Amateur Action, and the sysop's name is Robert Thomas (408-263-1079). Robert's lawyer, Richard Williams's phone number is 408-295-6336. Last night about 8 pm, Robert (who I have yet to meet in person) called. A search warrant was being served at that very moment by the US Postal Inspectors, who (with the help of San Jose cops) were packing up his equipment and carting it out--again. Robert managed to get one of these inspectors on the phone with me. This inspector seemed to be rather knowledgeable of such things as the ECPA, 2024aa, and the Steve Jackson case. He stated he was completely unconcerned about their lack of warrants for email! He piously stated that, because it was their intent to bring the system back within a "few days" and, as a result of the short interruption of user access, and their good intent "not to look at private email," they were completely safe from the provisions of the ECPA. This postal inspector gave his name as David Dirmeyer, from Tennessee (does this sound like Bible Belt prosecution for pron?) and gave me the name of the US Attorney he was working under, one Dan Newson with a phone of 901-544-4231 in TN (though he stated that the phone # would be of no use because Dan was at a conference for a week). For what it is worth, the postal inspector said they were using the San Jose cops on the bust because they did not have the expertise themselves to move the system and make copies. According to the investigator, they did not know that they could get a court order to have a backup of the system made on the spot. It may be that Robert is the target. (In spite of not meeting him, I suspect Richard may be the kind of smart alec who attracts the attention of cops.) Robert said there was a mystery package which came today in the mail today (which his son and wife picked up and she opened). The package turned out to be real honest-to-gosh kiddy porn. Robert claims not to have ordered it, and considering that his wife picked the (unexpected) package up and opened it, I think this is the actual case. Robert was busy with system problems that afternoon and had not gotten around to doing anything about the stuff. The guy who sent it is known as "Lance White," who Robert thinks is one of his BBS members. (As is postal inspector Dirmeyer.) They had Robert pull all postal correspondence with this guy (video porn orders) from his files and took it with them. Robert thinks the postal folks may be after this guy, and his BBS just got caught in the middle. An interesting side point is that while they asked for the package which came that day when they came in, they did not have a warrant for it, and said they would have drive over to SF to get one unless he volunteered to give it up. Robert signed off that they could take it, and they did. He noted this morning that the original warrant he has was neither signed nor dated, though a judge's name was typed in. I don't know if this is something of marginal concern to those of us concerned with government abuse of people's computers and communications or a major concern. I intend to find out more, but if the ECPA is applicable, this guy had about 3500 users, over 2k pieces of protected email on his system, plus (I think) agreements with his uses for him to represent them in an ECPA related legal action--two million dollars if I am multiplying right. (My "Warning to Law Enforcement Agents" was part of his signup screens.) Question for Mike Godwin. One aspect of this case gives me the shakes. *Anyone* with a grudge (and access to this kind of stuff) can send you a package in the mail and tip off the postal inspectors. Short of the obvious (don't make enemies!) how can you protect yourself from this kind of attack? My non-lawyer thoughts: Burn it at once! Call my lawyer. Call the cops. For a while this will be a very serious problem, because *any* of us with readily available morfing tools can make (what looks like) kiddy porn out of legal porn. Keith Henson 408-972-1132 ------------------------------ Computer underground Digest Sun Jan 16 1994 Volume 6 : Issue 07 Date: Sat, 15 Jan 94 14:10:42 PST From: hkhenson@CUP.PORTAL.COM Subject: File--Robert Thomas BBS Raid Update ((MODERATORS' NOTE: After reading Keith Hanson's summary of sysop Robert Thomas's recent raid by the U.S. postal service regarding BBS seizure and alleged pornography (see CuD 6.06, file 1), one reader cancelled his CuD sub, saying that he's "gettng *really* tired of reading about the latest porn purveyor to get busted." The inaccuracy of what CuD publishes and the reckless allegations of the current incident aside, the issues Keith raises extend beyond the content of adult files. Robert Thomas's Amateur Action was first raided by local (San Jose, Calif.) police in 1992 (see CuDs 4.09 and 4.10) for making accessible adult gifs on Amateur Action BBS. The result of the first raid led only to embarrassment for local law enforcment. CuD has been told that 1) Thomas's equipment was returned; 2) No charges were ever filed; 3) He was issued a letter stating that nothing on his BBS was in violation of the law. The latest raids raise questions about entrapment, seizure procedures, and the scope of the ECPA in protecting private e-mail on BBSes. Below, keith summarizes the latest events following last week's raid)). ================================ Update Saturday noon. Back from seeing Robert's sons and friend pick up his computer equipment and a 10 minute chat with Postal Inspector Dirmeyer, and a San Jose Police officer by the name of Weidner. At least one point is clear, David Dirmeyer and Lance White are the same person, I simply asked him, and he admitted it. I also found out why he was willing to talk to me during the search. He figured that anybody who starts quoting chapter and section from the Federal Code is a lawyer. [Dirmeyer reminds me somewhat of one of my cousins when he was about 18. My cousin was tall and gangly, and given to putting on a hick act.] Dirmeyer/White seemed completely unconcerned with having generated any liability for the government under the ECPA or the Newspaper Privacy Protection Act (2000aa). He backed this up by being very proud of getting the system (well, most of it anyway) back to the sysop in under a week. [The EFF *has* had a positive effect, this is the first time I ever heard of any LEA's caring how long they take to return a computer.] He was very confident that a judge would dismiss any civil lawsuit brought by the users because of what he perceived as criminal obscenity activities by the sysop. How actions, criminal or not, of one person (the sysop) cancels the rights of others (email customers) to recover from those who block access to their email is beyond me. If that did not get them off the hook, they would get out of civil liability claims because they interrupted people's email access for such a short time, as opposed to the lengthy time the Secret Service kept Steve Jackson's BBS. I can almost quote the relevant sections of the ECPA, and *I* don't remember any time limits under which the civil penalties of law do not apply, "But Judge, I only exceeded the speed limit for a *few* miles!" I wonder how the Postal Service would react to locking *their* patrons out of a local office and away from their mail boxes for a week? I expressed my hope (as a San Jose resident and taxpayer) to Officer Weidner that the Post Office had agreed to take responsibility for any civil liability arising out of the case. He was close to uncivil in stating that I had no standing in the case, and it was none of my concern. He advised me to butt out of being involved in any way. He asked if I had ever *seen* the material on that BBS, (my answer was no) and expressed the opinion that I would be smeared by it and greatly regret getting involved. Back to Dirmeyer, I asked him about the warrant. He said what he did is ordinary investigation practice, including sending people unsolicited material and then picking it up under a warrant. I asked him if the Judge knew, and he assured me the Judge was fully aware that the person getting a warrant for "Lance White's" correspondence was also Lance White. He also said the Judge was aware of the 2024aa and ECPA issues, and that they were under orders not to look at anything labeled email. For some reason, this did not reassure me. Robert's sons and a friend got the last pieces of the computer down to the lobby and we parted company with a few comments on my part about Postal Service agents legally sending kiddy porn through the mail, like the Nebraska case recently ruled entrapment by the Supreme Court. Just one minor thing to add. Because of a persistent back injury, I am on crutches most of the time. I was making my way across the lobby of the old Post office nearing the doors. Dirmeyer and Weidner passed me, opened the doors, went through and let them swing shut in my face. I guess scum like me is below their notice. Keith Henson ------------------------------ From: mc/G=Brad/S=Hicks/OU1=0205925@MHS.ATTMAIL.COM Date: 14 Jan 94 18:16:14 GMT Subject: File--Re- Bay Area BBS bust. Date: 1/14/94 11:19 AM Subj: Re: Bay Area BBS bust. > Robert said there was a mystery package which came today in the mail > today (which his son and wife picked up and she opened). The package > turned out to be real honest-to-gosh kiddy porn. ... > The guy who sent it is known as "Lance White," who Robert thinks is one > of his BBS members. ... Robert thinks the postal folks may be after this > guy, and his BBS just got caught in the middle. What charming innocence. --Bzzzt!-- Sorry, wrong answer, but thank you for playing and here's a copy of the home game. Keith, I'd bet you, dollars to doughnuts, that "Lance White" is a postal employee. And people think I'm kidding when I say that I do, in fact, read _Playboy_ for the articles. Folks, this is not the first time that something like this has happened; it may not even be the first time it's happened to a BBS. The US Postal Service has been doing this for =years=, to =anyone= suspected for =any= reason of being even =slightly= interested in child pornography; _Playboy_ averages a news article on it a year, at some length. Go to a good library and look it up; the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature will help you find them. What's worse, if (as happened to your friend) you accept one of these packages and they find it in your house, opened, then most juries will convict you for possession. Entrapment defense has not worked terribly often for the US Postal Service's past victims. If you think the postal inspectors have =any= reason to suspect you have =any= interest in child pornography, then based on case histories to date, there is only one way to keep your @ss out of jail. If you receive a package in the mail, and do not recognize the return address, take the =unopened= package, =immediately=, straight to the counter at your local post office. Treat this as a life-or-death emergency; it cannot wait, because if this =is= a sting package, possession for even a single day may be enough to convict. When you get to the post office, inform the clerk at the counter that you did not order this package, and ask the clerk to open it for you. If it turns out to be a mistake on your part and it's legal material, actually addressed to you, then they'll give it to you. If it is illegal material (illegal drugs, child porn or other obscene* materials, smart drug literature, Canadian anti-acid-rain documenataries**) they will ask you if you want it. The correct answer is left as an excercise for the reader. If you or a family member mistakenly open such a package, the =only= way to save your @ss (if it can be done at all) is to =immediately= jump in the car, run it down to the post office, and turn it in. If the post office is closed and they catch you before it opens, or if you get pulled over for speeding en route and the cop finds it, or if (as apparently happened here) they're waiting for you and bust in a few minutes after it's delivered, then may all the Gods intervene for you. > An interesting side point is that while they asked for the package > which came that day when they came in, ... Which more-or-less proves that they knew it was there, doesn't it? That's why I'm =sure= that "Lance White" is a postal employee, and this is a sting. > they did not have a warrant for it, and said they would have drive over > to SF to get one unless he volunteered to give it up. Robert signed off > that they could take it, and they did. This =may= have saved him. Had he fought the seizure, they would have told a jury that this proved that he wanted to keep it. Good luck in court! Entirely personal opinion: Based on the cases I've seen written up, the following groups of people have particular reaons to fear child porn entrapment: naturists (especially naturist photographers or anyone else who subscribes to naturist magazines); adult-oriented BBS operators, especially those distributing non-copyrighted amateur material, and =triply= especially any photos depicting gay or lesbian sex, BDSM, or anything that a postal inspector would consider obscene; anyone who uses commercial film processors who has ever photographed their own child or someone else's child while the child was unclothed (yes, baby pictures are dangerous); and especially anyone who fulminates against child porn entrapment in widely published material. And then, of course, there's angry neighbors who think that because of your religion, appearance, or lifestyle that you =must= be some kind of dangerous pervert. (Yes, in fact, I =am= taking such precautions.) As _Playboy_ has pointed out in each article covering the history of this sleazy tactic, so far =no= case has resulted in a conviction, or even an indictment, for professionally producing and distributing child pornography. In other words, the =only= professional producer and distributer of child pornography in the United States is the US Postal Service; which mails out hundreds of pieces a year, unsolicited, in hopes that the people who keep it will lead them to another professional producer. * Footnote: So far, US law does not forbid owning obscene materials, merely producing or selling them. (Local and state law may, however; if you challenge such a law, good luck.) On the other hand, postal inspectors seem to assume that anyone who they notice ordering lots of materials that they think are obscene is probably a distributor or a producer as well. And of course, BBS operators with "obscene" GIFs and JPGs are by definition distributors, as far as they're concerned. But obscenity busts are tiresome, so if they have any doubt about winning, isn't it just =so= easy to entrap you for something =really= juicy, something no civil libertarians will intervene for? Historically, it seems that the kind of material that immediately attracts postal inspector and/or police attention is any photograph that depicts gay sex, BDSM, or animals. (Interracial sex, lesbian sex, and group sex used to set off the same alarms, but they don't seem to get the same immediate attention the other three do. And in addition, a long-standing postal regulation bars snail-mailing anything that actually shows penetration.) ** Footnote 2: OK, I was being slightly sardonic about the second two examples. Those are banned by US Customs Service regulations, not postal regulations, so they =may= not get you into trouble. But don't be surprised if they get seized, either. What, you thought you were still living in the Land of the Free? Listen, the Bill of Rights has its flaws -- but it's better than what we have now. (Obvious extra disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer; this is personal, not legal advice; if you get caught in this mess or think you might, you need the services of a real lawyer, not crummy email advice from an amateur like me.)