In 1990, the obscure, long-simmering struggle over the ownership and nature of cyberspace became loudly and irretrievably public. People from some of the oddest corners of American society suddenly found themselves public figures. Some of these people found this situation much more than they had ever bargained for. They backpedalled, and tried to retreat back to the mandarin obscurity of their cozy subcultural niches. This was generally to prove a mistake.
But the civil libertarians seized the day in 1990. They found themselves organizing, propagandizing, podium-pounding, persuading, touring, negotiating, posing for publicity photos, submitting to interviews, squinting in the limelight as they tried a tentative, but growingly sophisticated, buck-and-wing upon the public stage.
It's not hard to see why the civil libertarians should have this competitive advantage.
The hackers of the digital underground are an hermetic elite. They find it hard to make any remotely convincing case for their actions in front of the general public. Actually, hackers roundly despise the "ignorant" public, and have never trusted the judgement of "the system." Hackers do propagandize, but only among themselves, mostly in giddy, badly spelled manifestos of class warfare, youth rebellion or naive techie utopianism. Hackers must strut and boast in order to establish and preserve their underground reputations. But if they speak out too loudly and publicly, they will break the fragile surface-tension of the underground, and they will be harrassed or arrested. Over the longer term, most hackers stumble, get busted, get betrayed, or simply give up. As a political force, the digital underground is hamstrung.
The telcos, for their part, are an ivory tower under protracted seige. They have plenty of money with which to push their calculated public image, but they waste much energy and goodwill attacking one another with slanderous and demeaning ad campaigns. The telcos have suffered at the hands of politicians, and, like hackers, they don't trust the public's judgement. And this distrust may be well-founded. Should the general public of the high-tech 1990s come to understand its own best interests in telecommunications, that might well pose a grave threat to the specialized technical power and authority that the telcos have relished for over a century. The telcos do have strong advantages: loyal employees, specialized expertise, influence in the halls of power, tactical allies in law enforcement, and unbelievably vast amounts of money. But politically speaking, they lack genuine grassroots support; they simply don't seem to have many friends.
Cops know a lot of things other people don't know. But cops willingly reveal only those aspects of their knowledge that they feel will meet their institutional purposes and further public order. Cops have respect, they have responsibilities, they have power in the streets and even power in the home, but cops don't do particularly well in limelight. When pressed, they will step out in the public gaze to threaten bad guys, or to cajole prominent citizens, or perhaps to sternly lecture the naive and misguided. But then they go back within their time-honored fortress of the station-house, the courtroom and the rule-book.
The electronic civil libertarians, however, have proven to be born political animals. They seemed to grasp very early on the postmodern truism that communication is power. Publicity is power. Soundbites are power. The ability to shove one's issue onto the public agenda - and keep it there - is power. Fame is power. Simple personal fluency and eloquence can be power, if you can somehow catch the public's eye and ear.
The civil libertarians had no monopoly on "technical power" - though they all owned computers, most were not particularly advanced computer experts. They had a good deal of money, but nowhere near the earthshaking wealth and the galaxy of resources possessed by telcos or federal agencies. They had no ability to arrest people. They carried out no phreak and hacker covert dirty-tricks.
But they really knew how to network.
Unlike the other groups in this book, the civil libertarians have operated very much in the open, more or less right in the public hurly-burly. They have lectured audiences galore and talked to countless journalists, and have learned to refine their spiels. They've kept the cameras clicking, kept those faxes humming, swapped that email, run those photocopiers on overtime, licked envelopes and spent small fortunes on airfare and long-distance. In an information society, this open, overt, obvious activity has proven to be a profound advantage.
In 1990, the civil libertarians of cyberspace assembled out of nowhere in particular, at warp speed. This "group" (actually, a networking gaggle of interested parties which scarcely deserves even that loose term) has almost nothing in the way of formal organization. Those formal civil libertarian organizations which did take an interest in cyberspace issues, mainly the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and the American Civil Liberties Union, were carried along by events in 1990, and acted mostly as adjuncts, underwriters or launching-pads.
The civil libertarians nevertheless enjoyed the greatest success of any of the groups in the Crackdown of 1990. At this writing, their future looks rosy and the political initiative is firmly in their hands. This should be kept in mind as we study the highly unlikely lives and lifestyles of the people who actually made this happen.
But the "NuPrometheus League" wanted things otherwise. This person (or persons) made several illicit copies of this source code, perhaps as many as two dozen. He (or she, or they) then put those illicit floppy disks into envelopes and mailed them to people all over America: people in the computer industry who were associated with, but not directly employed by, Apple Computer.
The NuPrometheus caper was a complex, highly ideological, and very hacker-like crime. Prometheus, it will be recalled, stole the fire of the Gods and gave this potent gift to the general ranks of downtrodden mankind. A similar god-in-the-manger attitude was implied for the corporate elite of Apple Computer, while the "Nu" Prometheus had himself cast in the role of rebel demigod. The illicitly copied data was given away for free.
The new Prometheus, whoever he was, escaped the fate of the ancient Greek Prometheus, who was chained to a rock for centuries by the vengeful gods while an eagle tore and ate his liver. On the other hand, NuPrometheus chickened out somewhat by comparison with his role model. The small chunk of Color QuickDraw code he had filched and replicated was more or less useless to Apple's industrial rivals (or, in fact, to anyone else). Instead of giving fire to mankind, it was more as if NuPrometheus had photocopied the schematics for part of a Bic lighter. The act was not a genuine work of industrial espionage. It was best interpreted as a symbolic, deliberate slap in the face for the Apple corporate hierarchy.
Apple's internal struggles were well-known in the industry. Apple's founders, Jobs and Wozniak, had both taken their leave long since. Their raucous core of senior employees had been a barnstorming crew of 1960s Californians, many of them markedly less than happy with the new button-down multimillion dollar regime at Apple. Many of the programmers and developers who had invented the Macintosh model in the early 1980s had also taken their leave of the company. It was they, not the current masters of Apple's corporate fate, who had invented the stolen Color QuickDraw code. The NuPrometheus stunt was well-calculated to wound company morale.
Apple called the FBI. The Bureau takes an interest in high-profile intellectual-property theft cases, industrial espionage and theft of trade secrets. These were likely the right people to call, and rumor has it that the entities responsible were in fact discovered by the FBI, and then quietly squelched by Apple management. NuPrometheus was never publicly charged with a crime, or prosecuted, or jailed. But there were no further illicit releases of Macintosh internal software. Eventually the painful issue of NuPrometheus was allowed to fade.
In the meantime, however, a large number of puzzled bystanders found themselves entertaining surprise guests from the FBI.
One of these people was John Perry Barlow. Barlow is a most unusual man, difficult to describe in conventional terms. He is perhaps best known as a songwriter for the Grateful Dead, for he composed lyrics for "Hell in a Bucket," "Picasso Moon," "Mexicali Blues," "I Need a Miracle," and many more; he has been writing for the band since 1970.
Before we tackle the vexing question as to why a rock lyricist should be interviewed by the FBI in a computer crime case, it might be well to say a word or two about the Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead are perhaps the most successful and long-lasting of the numerous cultural emanations from the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, in the glory days of Movement politics and lysergic transcendance. The Grateful Dead are a nexus, a veritable whirlwind, of applique decals, psychedelic vans, tie-dyed T-shirts, earth-color denim, frenzied dancing and open and unashamed drug use. The symbols, and the realities, of Californian freak power surround the Grateful Dead like knotted macrame.
The Grateful Dead and their thousands of Deadhead devotees are radical Bohemians. This much is widely understood. Exactly what this implies in the 1990s is rather more problematic.
The Grateful Dead are among the world's most popular and wealthy entertainers: number 20, according to Forbes magazine, right between M.C. Hammer and Sean Connery. In 1990, this jeans-clad group of purported raffish outcasts earned seventeen million dollars. They have been earning sums much along this line for quite some time now.
And while the Dead are not investment bankers or three-piece-suit tax specialists - they are, in point of fact, hippie musicians - this money has not been squandered in senseless Bohemian excess. The Dead have been quietly active for many years, funding various worthy activities in their extensive and widespread cultural community.
The Grateful Dead are not conventional players in the American power establishment. They nevertheless are something of a force to be reckoned with. They have a lot of money and a lot of friends in many places, both likely and unlikely.
The Dead may be known for back-to-the-earth environmentalist rhetoric, but this hardly makes them anti-technological Luddites. On the contrary, like most rock musicians, the Grateful Dead have spent their entire adult lives in the company of complex electronic equipment. They have funds to burn on any sophisticated tool and toy that might happen to catch their fancy. And their fancy is quite extensive.
The Deadhead community boasts any number of recording engineers, lighting experts, rock video mavens, electronic technicians of all descriptions. And the drift goes both ways. Steve Wozniak, Apple's co-founder, used to throw rock festivals. Silicon Valley rocks out.
These are the 1990s, not the 1960s. Today, for a surprising number of people all over America, the supposed dividing line between Bohemian and technician simply no longer exists. People of this sort may have a set of windchimes and a dog with a knotted kerchief 'round its neck, but they're also quite likely to own a multimegabyte Macintosh running MIDI synthesizer software and trippy fractal simulations. These days, even Timothy Leary himself, prophet of LSD, does virtual-reality computer-graphics demos in his lecture tours.
John Perry Barlow is not a member of the Grateful Dead. He is, however, a ranking Deadhead.
Barlow describes himself as a "techno-crank." A vague term like "social activist" might not be far from the mark, either. But Barlow might be better described as a "poet" - if one keeps in mind Percy Shelley's archaic definition of poets as "unacknowledged legislators of the world."
Barlow once made a stab at acknowledged legislator status. In 1987, he narrowly missed the Republican nomination for a seat in the Wyoming State Senate. Barlow is a Wyoming native, the third-generation scion of a well-to-do cattle-ranching family. He is in his early forties, married and the father of three daughters.
Barlow is not much troubled by other people's narrow notions of consistency. In the late 1980s, this Republican rock lyricist cattle rancher sold his ranch and became a computer telecommunications devotee.
The free-spirited Barlow made this transition with ease. He genuinely enjoyed computers. With a beep of his modem, he leapt from small-town Pinedale, Wyoming, into electronic contact with a large and lively crowd of bright, inventive, technological sophisticates from all over the world. Barlow found the social milieu of computing attractive: its fast-lane pace, its blue-sky rhetoric, its open-endedness. Barlow began dabbling in computer journalism, with marked success, as he was a quick study, and both shrewd and eloquent. He frequently travelled to San Francisco to network with Deadhead friends. There Barlow made extensive contacts throughout the Californian computer community, including friendships among the wilder spirits at Apple.
In May 1990, Barlow received a visit from a local Wyoming agent of the FBI. The NuPrometheus case had reached Wyoming.
Barlow was troubled to find himself under investigation in an area of his interests once quite free of federal attention. He had to struggle to explain the very nature of computer crime to a headscratching local FBI man who specialized in cattle-rustling. Barlow, chatting helpfully and demonstrating the wonders of his modem to the puzzled fed, was alarmed to find all "hackers" generally under FBI suspicion as an evil influence in the electronic community. The FBI, in pursuit of a hacker called "NuPrometheus," were tracing attendees of a suspect group called the Hackers Conference.
The Hackers Conference, which had been started in 1984, was a yearly Californian meeting of digital pioneers and enthusiasts. The hackers of the Hackers Conference had little if anything to do with the hackers of the digital underground. On the contrary, the hackers of this conference were mostly well-to-do Californian high-tech CEOs, consultants, journalists and entrepreneurs. (This group of hackers were the exact sort of "hackers" most likely to react with militant fury at any criminal degradation of the term "hacker.")
Barlow, though he was not arrested or accused of a crime, and though his computer had certainly not gone out the door, was very troubled by this anomaly. He carried the word to the Well.
Like the Hackers Conference, "the Well" was an emanation of the Point Foundation. Point Foundation, the inspiration of a wealthy Californian 60s radical named Stewart Brand, was to be a major launch-pad of the civil libertarian effort.
Point Foundation's cultural efforts, like those of their fellow Bay Area Californians the Grateful Dead, were multifaceted and multitudinous. Rigid ideological consistency had never been a strong suit of the Whole Earth Catalog. This Point publication had enjoyed a strong vogue during the late 60s and early 70s, when it offered hundreds of practical (and not so practical) tips on communitarian living, environmentalism, and getting back-to-the-land. The Whole Earth Catalog, and its sequels, sold two and half million copies and won a National Book Award.
With the slow collapse of American radical dissent, the Whole Earth Catalog had slipped to a more modest corner of the cultural radar; but in its magazine incarnation, CoEvolution Quarterly, the Point Foundation continued to offer a magpie potpourri of "access to tools and ideas."
CoEvolution Quarterly,which started in 1974, was never a widely popular magazine. Despite periodic outbreaks of millenarian fervor, CoEvolution Quarterly failed to revolutionize Western civilization and replace leaden centuries of history with bright new Californian paradigms. Instead, this propaganda arm of Point Foundation cakewalked a fine line between impressive brilliance and New Age flakiness. CoEvolution Quarterly carried no advertising, cost a lot, and came out on cheap newsprint with modest black-and-white graphics. It was poorly distributed, and spread mostly by subscription and word of mouth.
It could not seem to grow beyond 30,000 subscribers. And yet - it never seemed to shrink much, either. Year in, year out, decade in, decade out, some strange demographic minority accreted to support the magazine. The enthusiastic readership did not seem to have much in the way of coherent politics or ideals. It was sometimes hard to understand what held them together (if the often bitter debate in the letter-columns could be described as "togetherness").
But if the magazine did not flourish, it was resilient; it got by. Then, in 1984, the birth-year of the Macintosh computer, CoEvolution Quarterly suddenly hit the rapids. Point Foundation had discovered the computer revolution. Out came the Whole Earth Software Catalog of 1984, arousing headscratching doubts among the tie-dyed faithful, and rabid enthusiasm among the nascent "cyberpunk" milieu, present company included. Point Foundation started its yearly Hackers Conference, and began to take an extensive interest in the strange new possibilities of digital counterculture. CoEvolution Quarterly folded its teepee, replaced by Whole Earth Software Review and eventually by Whole Earth Review (the magazine's present incarnation, currently under the editorship of virtual-reality maven Howard Rheingold).
1985 saw the birth of the "WELL" - the "Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link." The Well was Point Foundation's bulletin board system.
As boards went, the Well was an anomaly from the beginning, and remained one. It was local to San Francisco. It was huge, with multiple phonelines and enormous files of commentary. Its complex UNIX-based software might be most charitably described as "user-opaque." It was run on a mainframe out of the rambling offices of a non-profit cultural foundation in Sausalito. And it was crammed with fans of the Grateful Dead.
Though the Well was peopled by chattering hipsters of the Bay Area counterculture, it was by no means a "digital underground" board. Teenagers were fairly scarce; most Well users (known as "Wellbeings") were thirty- and forty-something Baby Boomers. They tended to work in the information industry: hardware, software, telecommunications, media, entertainment. Librarians, academics, and journalists were especially common on the Well, attracted by Point Foundation's open-handed distribution of "tools and ideas."
There were no anarchy files on the Well, scarcely a dropped hint about access codes or credit card theft. No one used handles. Vicious "flame-wars" were held to a comparatively civilized rumble. Debates were sometimes sharp, but no Wellbeing ever claimed that a rival had disconnected his phone, trashed his house, or posted his credit card numbers.
The Well grew slowly as the 1980s advanced. It charged a modest sum for access and storage, and lost money for years - but not enough to hamper the Point Foundation, which was nonprofit anyway. By 1990, the Well had about five thousand users. These users wandered about a gigantic cyberspace smorgasbord of "Conferences", each conference itself consisting of a welter of "topics," each topic containing dozens, sometimes hundreds of comments, in a tumbling, multiperson debate that could last for months or years on end.
CONFERENCES ON THE WELL WELL ``Screenzine'' Digest (g zine) Best of the WELL - vintage material - (g best) Index listing of new topics in all conferences - (g newtops) Business - Education ---------------------- Apple Library Users Group(g alug) Agriculture (g agri) Brainstorming (g brain) Classifieds (g cla) Computer Journalism (g cj) Consultants (g consult) Consumers (g cons) Design (g design) Desktop Publishing (g desk) Disability (g disability) Education (g ed) Energy (g energy91) Entrepreneurs (g entre) Homeowners (g home) Indexing (g indexing) Investments (g invest) Kids91 (g kids) Legal (g legal) One Person Business (g one) Periodical/newsletter (g per) Telecomm Law (g tcl) The Future (g fut) Translators (g trans) Travel (g tra) Work (g work) Electronic Frontier Foundation (g eff) Computers, Freedom & Privacy (g cfp) Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (g cpsr) Social - Political - Humanities --------------------------------- Aging (g gray) AIDS (g aids) Amnesty International (g amnesty) Archives (g arc) Berkeley (g berk) Buddhist (g wonderland) Christian (g cross) Couples (g couples) Current Events (g curr) Dreams (g dream) Drugs (g dru) East Coast (g east) Emotional Health**** (g private) Erotica (g eros) Environment (g env) Firearms (g firearms) First Amendment (g first) Fringes of Reason (g fringes) Gay (g gay) Gay (Private)# (g gaypriv) Geography (g geo) German (g german) Gulf War (g gulf) Hawaii (g aloha) Health (g heal) History (g hist) Holistic (g holi) Interview (g inter) Italian (g ital) Jewish (g jew) Liberty (g liberty) Mind (g mind) Miscellaneous (g misc) Men on the WELL** (g mow) Network Integration (g origin) Nonprofits (g non) North Bay (g north) Northwest (g nw) Pacific Rim (g pacrim) Parenting (g par) Peace (g pea) Peninsula (g pen) Poetry (g poetry) Philosophy (g phi) Politics (g pol) Psychology (g psy) Psychotherapy (g therapy) Recovery## (g recovery) San Francisco (g sanfran) Scams (g scam) Sexuality (g sex) Singles (g singles) Southern (g south) Spanish (g spanish) Spirituality (g spirit) Tibet (g tibet) Transportation (g transport) True Confessions (g tru) Unclear (g unclear) WELL Writer's Workshop***(g www) Whole Earth (g we) Women on the WELL*(g wow) Words (g words) Writers (g wri) **** Private Conference - mail wooly for entry *** Private conference - mail sonia for entry ** Private conference - mail flash for entry * Private conference - mail reva for entry # Private Conference - mail hudu for entry ## Private Conference - mail dhawk for entry Arts - Recreation - Entertainment ----------------------------------- ArtCom Electronic Net (g acen) Audio-Videophilia (g aud) Bicycles (g bike) Bay Area Tonight**(g bat) Boating (g wet) Books (g books) CD's (g cd) Comics (g comics) Cooking (g cook) Flying (g flying) Fun (g fun) Games (g games) Gardening (g gard) Kids (g kids) Nightowls* (g owl) Jokes (g jokes) MIDI (g midi) Movies (g movies) Motorcycling (g ride) Motoring (g car) Music (g mus) On Stage (g onstage) Pets (g pets) Radio (g rad) Restaurant (g rest) Science Fiction (g sf) Sports (g spo) Star Trek (g trek) Television (g tv) Theater (g theater) Weird (g weird) Zines/Factsheet Five(g f5) * Open from midnight to 6am ** Updated daily Grateful Dead --------------- Grateful Dead (g gd) Deadplan* (g dp) Deadlit (g deadlit) Feedback (g feedback) GD Hour (g gdh) Tapes (g tapes) Tickets (g tix) Tours (g tours) * Private conference - mail tnf for entry Computers ----------- AI/Forth/Realtime (g realtime) Amiga (g amiga) Apple (g app) Computer Books (g cbook) Art & Graphics (g gra) Hacking (g hack) HyperCard (g hype) IBM PC (g ibm) LANs (g lan) Laptop (g lap) Macintosh (g mac) Mactech (g mactech) Microtimes (g microx) Muchomedia (g mucho) NeXt (g next) OS/2 (g os2) Printers (g print) Programmer's Net (g net) Siggraph (g siggraph) Software Design (g sdc) Software/Programming (g software) Software Support (g ssc) Unix (g unix) Windows (g windows) Word Processing (g word) Technical - Communications ---------------------------- Bioinfo (g bioinfo) Info (g boing) Media (g media) NAPLPS (g naplps) Netweaver (g netweaver) Networld (g networld) Packet Radio (g packet) Photography (g pho) Radio (g rad) Science (g science) Technical Writers (g tec) Telecommunications(g tele) Usenet (g usenet) Video (g vid) Virtual Reality (g vr) The WELL Itself --------------- Deeper (g deeper) Entry (g ent) General (g gentech) Help (g help) Hosts (g hosts) Policy (g policy) System News (g news) Test (g test)
The list itself is dazzling, bringing to the untutored eye a dizzying impression of a bizarre milieu of mountain-climbing Hawaiian holistic photographers trading true-life confessions with bisexual word-processing Tibetans.
But this confusion is more apparent than real. Each of these conferences was a little cyberspace world in itself, comprising dozens and perhaps hundreds of sub-topics. Each conference was commonly frequented by a fairly small, fairly like-minded community of perhaps a few dozen people. It was humanly impossible to encompass the entire Well (especially since access to the Well's mainframe computer was billed by the hour). Most long-time users contented themselves with a few favorite topical neighborhoods, with the occasional foray elsewhere for a taste of exotica. But especially important news items, and hot topical debates, could catch the attention of the entire Well community.
Like any community, the Well had its celebrities, and John Perry Barlow, the silver-tongued and silver-modemed lyricist of the Grateful Dead, ranked prominently among them. It was here on the Well that Barlow posted his true-life tale of computer crime encounter with the FBI.
The story, as might be expected, created a great stir. The Well was already primed for hacker controversy. In December 1989, Harper's magazine had hosted a debate on the Well about the ethics of illicit computer intrusion. While over forty various computer-mavens took part, Barlow proved a star in the debate. So did "Acid Phreak" and "Phiber Optik," a pair of young New York hacker-phreaks whose skills at telco switching-station intrusion were matched only by their apparently limitless hunger for fame. The advent of these two boldly swaggering outlaws in the precincts of the Well created a sensation akin to that of Black Panthers at a cocktail party for the radically chic.
Phiber Optik in particular was to seize the day in 1990. A devotee of the 2600 circle and stalwart of the New York hackers' group "Masters of Deception," Phiber Optik was a splendid exemplar of the computer intruder as committed dissident. The eighteen-year-old Optik, a high-school dropout and part-time computer repairman, was young, smart, and ruthlessly obsessive, a sharp-dressing, sharp-talking digital dude who was utterly and airily contemptuous of anyone's rules but his own. By late 1991, Phiber Optik had appeared in Harper's, Esquire, The New York Times, in countless public debates and conventions, even on a television show hosted by Geraldo Rivera.
Treated with gingerly respect by Barlow and other Well mavens, Phiber Optik swiftly became a Well celebrity. Strangely, despite his thorny attitude and utter single-mindedness, Phiber Optik seemed to arouse strong protective instincts in most of the people who met him. He was great copy for journalists, always fearlessly ready to swagger, and, better yet, to actually demonstrate some off-the-wall digital stunt. He was a born media darling.
Even cops seemed to recognize that there was something peculiarly unworldly and uncriminal about this particular troublemaker. He was so bold, so flagrant, so young, and so obviously doomed, that even those who strongly disapproved of his actions grew anxious for his welfare, and began to flutter about him as if he were an endangered seal pup.
In January 24, 1990 (nine days after the Martin Luther King Day Crash), Phiber Optik, Acid Phreak, and a third NYC scofflaw named Scorpion were raided by the Secret Service. Their computers went out the door, along with the usual blizzard of papers, notebooks, compact disks, answering machines, Sony Walkmans, etc. Both Acid Phreak and Phiber Optik were accused of having caused the Crash.
The mills of justice ground slowly. The case eventually fell into the hands of the New York State Police. Phiber had lost his machinery in the raid, but there were no charges filed against him for over a year. His predicament was extensively publicized on the Well, where it caused much resentment for police tactics. It's one thing to merely hear about a hacker raided or busted; it's another to see the police attacking someone you've come to know personally, and who has explained his motives at length. Through the Harper's debate on the Well, it had become clear to the Wellbeings that Phiber Optik was not in fact going to "hurt anything." In their own salad days, many Wellbeings had tasted tear-gas in pitched street-battles with police. They were inclined to indulgence for acts of civil disobedience.
Wellbeings were also startled to learn of the draconian thoroughness of a typical hacker search-and-seizure. It took no great stretch of imagination for them to envision themselves suffering much the same treatment.
As early as January 1990, sentiment on the Well had already begun to sour, and people had begun to grumble that "hackers" were getting a raw deal from the ham-handed powers-that-be. The resultant issue of Harper's magazine posed the question as to whether computer-intrusion was a "crime" at all. As Barlow put it later: "I've begun to wonder if we wouldn't also regard spelunkers as desperate criminals if AT&T owned all the caves."
In February 1991, more than a year after the raid on his home, Phiber Optik was finally arrested, and was charged with first-degree Computer Tampering and Computer Trespass, New York state offenses. He was also charged with a theft-of-service misdemeanor, involving a complex free-call scam to a 900 number. Phiber Optik pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge, and was sentenced to 35 hours of community service.
This passing harassment from the unfathomable world of straight people seemed to bother Optik himself little if at all. Deprived of his computer by the January search-and-seizure, he simply bought himself a portable computer so the cops could no longer monitor the phone where he lived with his Mom, and he went right on with his depredations, sometimes on live radio or in front of television cameras.
The crackdown raid may have done little to dissuade Phiber Optik, but its galling affect on the Wellbeings was profound. As 1990 rolled on, the slings and arrows mounted: the Knight Lightning raid, the Steve Jackson raid, the nation-spanning Operation Sundevil. The rhetoric of law enforcement made it clear that there was, in fact, a concerted crackdown on hackers in progress.
The hackers of the Hackers Conference, the Wellbeings, and their ilk, did not really mind the occasional public misapprehension of "hacking"; if anything, this membrane of differentiation from straight society made the "computer community" feel different, smarter, better. They had never before been confronted, however, by a concerted vilification campaign.
Barlow's central role in the counter-struggle was one of the major anomalies of 1990. Journalists investigating the controversy often stumbled over the truth about Barlow, but they commonly dusted themselves off and hurried on as if nothing had happened. It was as if it were too much to believe that a 1960s freak from the Grateful Dead had taken on a federal law enforcement operation head-to-head and actually seemed to be winning!
Barlow had no easily detectable power-base for a political struggle of this kind. He had no formal legal or technical credentials. Barlow was, however, a computer networker of truly stellar brilliance. He had a poet's gift of concise, colorful phrasing. He also had a journalist's shrewdness, an off-the-wall, self-deprecating wit, and a phenomenal wealth of simple personal charm.
The kind of influence Barlow possessed is fairly common currency in literary, artistic, or musical circles. A gifted critic can wield great artistic influence simply through defining the temper of the times, by coining the catch-phrases and the terms of debate that become the common currency of the period. (And as it happened, Barlow was a part-time art critic, with a special fondness for the Western art of Frederic Remington.)
Barlow was the first commentator to adopt William Gibson's striking science-fictional term "cyberspace" as a synonym for the present-day nexus of computer and telecommunications networks. Barlow was insistent that cyberspace should be regarded as a qualitatively new world, a "frontier." According to Barlow, the world of electronic communications, now made visible through the computer screen, could no longer be usefully regarded as just a tangle of high-tech wiring. Instead, it had become a place, cyberspace, which demanded a new set of metaphors, a new set of rules and behaviors. The term, as Barlow employed it, struck a useful chord, and this concept of cyberspace was picked up by Time, Scientific American, computer police, hackers, and even Constitutional scholars. "Cyberspace" now seems likely to become a permanent fixture of the language.
Barlow was very striking in person: a tall, craggy-faced, bearded, deep-voiced Wyomingan in a dashing Western ensemble of jeans, jacket, cowboy boots, a knotted throat-kerchief and an ever-present Grateful Dead cloisonne lapel pin.
Armed with a modem, however, Barlow was truly in his element. Formal hierarchies were not Barlow's strong suit; he rarely missed a chance to belittle the "large organizations and their drones," with their uptight, institutional mindset. Barlow was very much of the free-spirit persuasion, deeply unimpressed by brass-hats and jacks-in-office. But when it came to the digital grapevine, Barlow was a cyberspace ad-hocrat par excellence.
There was not a mighty army of Barlows. There was only one Barlow, and he was a fairly anomolous individual. However, the situation only seemed to require a single Barlow. In fact, after 1990, many people must have concluded that a single Barlow was far more than they'd ever bargained for.
Barlow's querulous mini-essay about his encounter with the FBI struck a strong chord on the Well. A number of other free spirits on the fringes of Apple Computing had come under suspicion, and they liked it not one whit better than he did.
One of these was Mitchell Kapor, the co-inventor of the spreadsheet program "Lotus 1-2-3" and the founder of Lotus Development Corporation. Kapor had written-off the passing indignity of being fingerprinted down at his own local Boston FBI headquarters, but Barlow's post made the full national scope of the FBI's dragnet clear to Kapor. The issue now had Kapor's full attention. As the Secret Service swung into anti-hacker operation nationwide in 1990, Kapor watched every move with deep skepticism and growing alarm.
As it happened, Kapor had already met Barlow, who had interviewed Kapor for a California computer journal. Like most people who met Barlow, Kapor had been very taken with him. Now Kapor took it upon himself to drop in on Barlow for a heart-to-heart talk about the situation.
Kapor was a regular on the Well. Kapor had been a devotee of the Whole Earth Catalog since the beginning, and treasured a complete run of the magazine. And Kapor not only had a modem, but a private jet. In pursuit of the scattered high-tech investments of Kapor Enterprises Inc., his personal, multi-million dollar holding company, Kapor commonly crossed state lines with about as much thought as one might give to faxing a letter.
The Kapor-Barlow council of June 1990, in Pinedale, Wyoming, was the start of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Barlow swiftly wrote a manifesto, "Crime and Puzzlement," which announced his, and Kapor's, intention to form a political organization to "raise and disburse funds for education, lobbying, and litigation in the areas relating to digital speech and the extension of the Constitution into Cyberspace."
Furthermore, proclaimed the manifesto, the foundation would "fund, conduct, and support legal efforts to demonstrate that the Secret Service has exercised prior restraint on publications, limited free speech, conducted improper seizure of equipment and data, used undue force, and generally conducted itself in a fashion which is arbitrary, oppressive, and unconstitutional."
"Crime and Puzzlement" was distributed far and wide through computer networking channels, and also printed in the Whole Earth Review. The sudden declaration of a coherent, politicized counter-strike from the ranks of hackerdom electrified the community. Steve Wozniak (perhaps a bit stung by the NuPrometheus scandal) swiftly offered to match any funds Kapor offered the Foundation.
John Gilmore, one of the pioneers of Sun Microsystems, immediately offered his own extensive financial and personal support. Gilmore, an ardent libertarian, was to prove an eloquent advocate of electronic privacy issues, especially freedom from governmental and corporate computer-assisted surveillance of private citizens.
A second meeting in San Francisco rounded up further allies: Stewart Brand of the Point Foundation, virtual-reality pioneers Jaron Lanier and Chuck Blanchard, network entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nat Goldhaber. At this dinner meeting, the activists settled on a formal title: the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Incorporated. Kapor became its president. A new EFF Conference was opened on the Point Foundation's Well, and the Well was declared "the home of the Electronic Frontier Foundation."
Press coverage was immediate and intense. Like their nineteenth-century spiritual ancestors, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson, the high-tech computer entrepreneurs of the 1970s and 1980s - people such as Wozniak, Jobs, Kapor, Gates, and H. Ross Perot, who had raised themselves by their bootstraps to dominate a glittering new industry - had always made very good copy.
But while the Wellbeings rejoiced, the press in general seemed nonplussed by the self-declared "civilizers of cyberspace." EFF's insistence that the war against "hackers" involved grave Constitutional civil liberties issues seemed somewhat farfetched, especially since none of EFF's organizers were lawyers or established politicians. The business press in particular found it easier to seize on the apparent core of the story - that high-tech entrepreneur Mitchell Kapor had established a "defense fund for hackers." Was EFF a genuinely important political development - or merely a clique of wealthy eccentrics, dabbling in matters better left to the proper authorities? The jury was still out.
But the stage was now set for open confrontation. And the first and the most critical battle was the hacker show-trial of "Knight Lightning."
But the trial of Knight Lightning on July 24-27, 1990, made this particular "hacker" a nationally known public figure. It can do no particular harm to himself or his family if I repeat the long-established fact that his name is Craig Neidorf (pronounced NYE-dorf).
Neidorf's jury trial took place in the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, with the Honorable Nicholas J. Bua presiding. The United States of America was the plaintiff, the defendant Mr. Neidorf. The defendant's attorney was Sheldon T. Zenner of the Chicago firm of Katten, Muchin and Zavis.
The prosecution was led by the stalwarts of the Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force: William J. Cook, Colleen D. Coughlin, and David A. Glockner, all Assistant United States Attorneys. The Secret Service Case Agent was Timothy M. Foley.
It will be recalled that Neidorf was the co-editor of an underground hacker "magazine" called Phrack. Phrack was an entirely electronic publication, distributed through bulletin boards and over electronic networks. It was amateur publication given away for free. Neidorf had never made any money for his work in Phrack. Neither had his unindicted co-editor "Taran King" or any of the numerous Phrack contributors.
The Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force, however, had decided to prosecute Neidorf as a fraudster. To formally admit that Phrack was a "magazine" and Neidorf a "publisher" was to open a prosecutorial Pandora's Box of First Amendment issues. To do this was to play into the hands of Zenner and his EFF advisers, which now included a phalanx of prominent New York civil rights lawyers as well as the formidable legal staff of Katten, Muchin and Zavis. Instead, the prosecution relied heavily on the issue of access device fraud: Section 1029 of Title 18, the section from which the Secret Service drew its most direct jurisdiction over computer crime.
Neidorf's alleged crimes centered around the E911 Document. He was accused of having entered into a fraudulent scheme with the Prophet, who, it will be recalled, was the Atlanta LoD member who had illicitly copied the E911 Document from the BellSouth AIMSX system.
The Prophet himself was also a co-defendant in the Neidorf case, part-and-parcel of the alleged "fraud scheme" to "steal" BellSouth's E911 Document (and to pass the Document across state lines, which helped establish the Neidorf trial as a federal case). The Prophet, in the spirit of full co-operation, had agreed to testify against Neidorf.
In fact, all three of the Atlanta crew stood ready to testify against Neidorf. Their own federal prosecutors in Atlanta had charged the Atlanta Three with: (a) conspiracy, (b) computer fraud, (c) wire fraud, (d) access device fraud, and (e) interstate transportation of stolen property (Title 18, Sections 371, 1030, 1343, 1029, and 2314).
Faced with this blizzard of trouble, Prophet and Leftist had ducked any public trial and had pled guilty to reduced charges - one conspiracy count apiece. Urvile had pled guilty to that odd bit of Section 1029 which makes it illegal to possess "fifteen or more" illegal access devices (in his case, computer passwords). And their sentences were scheduled for September 14, 1990 - well after the Neidorf trial. As witnesses, they could presumably be relied upon to behave.
Neidorf, however, was pleading innocent. Most everyone else caught up in the crackdown had "cooperated fully" and pled guilty in hope of reduced sentences. (Steve Jackson was a notable exception, of course, and had strongly protested his innocence from the very beginning. But Steve Jackson could not get a day in court - Steve Jackson had never been charged with any crime in the first place.)
Neidorf had been urged to plead guilty. But Neidorf was a political science major and was disinclined to go to jail for "fraud" when he had not made any money, had not broken into any computer, and had been publishing a magazine that he considered protected under the First Amendment.
Neidorf's trial was the only legal action of the entire Crackdown that actually involved bringing the issues at hand out for a public test in front of a jury of American citizens.
Neidorf, too, had cooperated with investigators. He had voluntarily handed over much of the evidence that had led to his own indictment. He had already admitted in writing that he knew that the E911 Document had been stolen before he had "published" it in Phrack - or, from the prosecution's point of view, illegally transported stolen property by wire in something purporting to be a "publication."
But even if the "publication" of the E911 Document was not held to be a crime, that wouldn't let Neidorf off the hook. Neidorf had still received the E911 Document when Prophet had transferred it to him from Rich Andrews' Jolnet node. On that occasion, it certainly hadn't been "published" - it was hacker booty, pure and simple, transported across state lines.
The Chicago Task Force led a Chicago grand jury to indict Neidorf on a set of charges that could have put him in jail for thirty years. When some of these charges were successfully challenged before Neidorf actually went to trial, the Chicago Task Force rearranged his indictment so that he faced a possible jail term of over sixty years! As a first offender, it was very unlikely that Neidorf would in fact receive a sentence so drastic; but the Chicago Task Force clearly intended to see Neidorf put in prison, and his conspiratorial "magazine" put permanently out of commission. This was a federal case, and Neidorf was charged with the fraudulent theft of property worth almost eighty thousand dollars.
William Cook was a strong believer in high-profile prosecutions with symbolic overtones. He often published articles on his work in the security trade press, arguing that "a clear message had to be sent to the public at large and the computer community in particular that unauthorized attacks on computers and the theft of computerized information would not be tolerated by the courts."
The issues were complex, the prosecution's tactics somewhat unorthodox, but the Chicago Task Force had proved sure-footed to date. "Shadowhawk" had been bagged on the wing in 1989 by the Task Force, and sentenced to nine months in prison, and a $10,000 fine. The Shadowhawk case involved charges under Section 1030, the "federal interest computer" section.
Shadowhawk had not in fact been a devotee of "federal interest" computers per se. On the contrary, Shadowhawk, who owned an AT&T home computer, seemed to cherish a special aggression toward AT&T. He had bragged on the underground boards "Phreak Klass 2600" and "Dr. Ripco" of his skills at raiding AT&T, and of his intention to crash AT&T's national phone system. Shadowhawk's brags were noticed by Henry Kluepfel of Bellcore Security, scourge of the outlaw boards, whose relations with the Chicago Task Force were long and intimate.
The Task Force successfully established that Section 1030 applied to the teenage Shadowhawk, despite the objections of his defense attorney. Shadowhawk had entered a computer "owned" by U.S. Missile Command and merely "managed" by AT&T. He had also entered an AT&T computer located at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia. Attacking AT&T was of "federal interest" whether Shadowhawk had intended it or not.
The Task Force also convinced the court that a piece of AT&T software that Shadowhawk had illicitly copied from Bell Labs, the "Artificial Intelligence C5 Expert System," was worth a cool one million dollars. Shadowhawk's attorney had argued that Shadowhawk had not sold the program and had made no profit from the illicit copying. And in point of fact, the C5 Expert System was experimental software, and had no established market value because it had never been on the market in the first place. AT&T's own assessment of a "one million dollar" figure for its own intangible property was accepted without challenge by the court, however. And the court concurred with the government prosecutors that Shadowhawk showed clear "intent to defraud" whether he'd gotten any money or not. Shadowhawk went to jail.
The Task Force's other best-known triumph had been the conviction and jailing of "Kyrie." Kyrie, a true denizen of the digital criminal underground, was a 36-year-old Canadian woman, convicted and jailed for telecommunications fraud in Canada. After her release from prison, she had fled the wrath of Canada Bell and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and eventually settled, very unwisely, in Chicago.
"Kyrie," who also called herself "Long Distance Information," specialized in voice-mail abuse. She assembled large numbers of hot long-distance codes, then read them aloud into a series of corporate voice-mail systems. Kyrie and her friends were electronic squatters in corporate voice-mail systems, using them much as if they were pirate bulletin boards, then moving on when their vocal chatter clogged the system and the owners necessarily wised up. Kyrie's camp followers were a loose tribe of some hundred and fifty phone-phreaks, who followed her trail of piracy from machine to machine, ardently begging for her services and expertise.
Kyrie's disciples passed her stolen credit card numbers, in exchange for her stolen "long distance information." Some of Kyrie's clients paid her off in cash, by scamming credit card cash advances from Western Union.
Kyrie travelled incessantly, mostly through airline tickets and hotel rooms that she scammed through stolen credit cards. Tiring of this, she found refuge with a fellow female phone phreak in Chicago. Kyrie's hostess, like a surprising number of phone phreaks, was blind. She was also physically disabled. Kyrie allegedly made the best of her new situation by applying for, and receiving, state welfare funds under a false identity as a qualified caretaker for the handicapped.
Sadly, Kyrie's two children by a former marriage had also vanished underground with her; these pre-teen digital refugees had no legal American identity, and had never spent a day in school.
Kyrie was addicted to technical mastery and enthralled by her own cleverness and the ardent worship of her teenage followers. This foolishly led her to phone up Gail Thackeray in Arizona, to boast, brag, strut, and offer to play informant. Thackeray, however, had already learned far more than enough about Kyrie, whom she roundly despised as an adult criminal corrupting minors, a "female Fagin." Thackeray passed her tapes of Kyrie's boasts to the Secret Service.
Kyrie was raided and arrested in Chicago in May 1989. She confessed at great length and pled guilty.
In August 1990, Cook and his Task Force colleague Colleen Coughlin sent Kyrie to jail for 27 months, for computer and telecommunications fraud. This was a markedly severe sentence by the usual wrist-slapping standards of "hacker" busts. Seven of Kyrie's foremost teenage disciples were also indicted and convicted. The Kyrie "high-tech street gang," as Cook described it, had been crushed. Cook and his colleagues had been the first ever to put someone in prison for voice-mail abuse. Their pioneering efforts had won them attention and kudos.
In his article on Kyrie, Cook drove the message home to the readers of Security Management magazine, a trade journal for corporate security professionals. The case, Cook said, and Kyrie's stiff sentence, "reflect a new reality for hackers and computer crime victims in the '90s... Individuals and corporations who report computer and telecommunications crimes can now expect that their cooperation with federal law enforcement will result in meaningful punishment. Companies and the public at large must report computer-enhanced crimes if they want prosecutors and the course to protect their rights to the tangible and intangible property developed and stored on computers."
Cook had made it his business to construct this "new reality for hackers." He'd also made it his business to police corporate property rights to the intangible.
Had the Electronic Frontier Foundation been a "hacker defense fund" as that term was generally understood, they presumably would have stood up for Kyrie. Her 1990 sentence did indeed send a "message" that federal heat was coming down on "hackers." But Kyrie found no defenders at EFF, or anywhere else, for that matter. EFF was not a bail-out fund for electronic crooks.
The Neidorf case paralleled the Shadowhawk case in certain ways. The victim once again was allowed to set the value of the "stolen" property. Once again Kluepfel was both investigator and technical advisor. Once again no money had changed hands, but the "intent to defraud" was central.
The prosecution's case showed signs of weakness early on. The Task Force had originally hoped to prove Neidorf the center of a nationwide Legion of Doom criminal conspiracy. The Phrack editors threw physical get-togethers every summer, which attracted hackers from across the country; generally two dozen or so of the magazine's favorite contributors and readers. (Such conventions were common in the hacker community; 2600 Magazine, for instance, held public meetings of hackers in New York, every month.) LoD heavy-dudes were always a strong presence at these Phrack-sponsored "Summercons."
In July 1988, an Arizona hacker named "Dictator" attended Summercon in Neidorf's home town of St. Louis. Dictator was one of Gail Thackeray's underground informants; Dictator's underground board in Phoenix was a sting operation for the Secret Service. Dictator brought an undercover crew of Secret Service agents to Summercon. The agents bored spyholes through the wall of Dictator's hotel room in St Louis, and videotaped the frolicking hackers through a one-way mirror. As it happened, however, nothing illegal had occurred on videotape, other than the guzzling of beer by a couple of minors. Summercons were social events, not sinister cabals. The tapes showed fifteen hours of raucous laughter, pizza-gobbling, in-jokes and back-slapping.
Neidorf's lawyer, Sheldon Zenner, saw the Secret Service tapes before the trial. Zenner was shocked by the complete harmlessness of this meeting, which Cook had earlier characterized as a sinister interstate conspiracy to commit fraud. Zenner wanted to show the Summercon tapes to the jury. It took protracted maneuverings by the Task Force to keep the tapes from the jury as "irrelevant."
The E911 Document was also proving a weak reed. It had originally been valued at $79,449. Unlike Shadowhawk's arcane Artificial Intelligence booty, the E911 Document was not software - it was written in English. Computer-knowledgeable people found this value - for a twelve-page bureaucratic document - frankly incredible. In his "Crime and Puzzlement" manifesto for EFF, Barlow commented: "We will probably never know how this figure was reached or by whom, though I like to imagine an appraisal team consisting of Franz Kafka, Joseph Heller, and Thomas Pynchon."
As it happened, Barlow was unduly pessimistic. The EFF did, in fact, eventually discover exactly how this figure was reached, and by whom - but only in 1991, long after the Neidorf trial was over.
Kim Megahee, a Southern Bell security manager, had arrived at the document's value by simply adding up the "costs associated with the production" of the E911 Document. Those "costs" were as follows:
Bureaucratic overhead alone, therefore, was alleged to have cost a whopping $17,099. According to Mr. Megahee, the typing of a twelve-page document had taken a full week. Writing it had taken five weeks, including an overseer who apparently did nothing else but watch the author for five weeks. Editing twelve pages had taken two days. Printing and mailing an electronic document (which was already available on the Southern Bell Data Network to any telco employee who needed it), had cost over a thousand dollars.
But this was just the beginning. There were also the hardware expenses. Eight hundred fifty dollars for a VT220 computer monitor. Thirty-one thousand dollars for a sophisticated VAXstation II computer. Six thousand dollars for a computer printer. Twenty-two thousand dollars for a copy of "Interleaf" software. Two thousand five hundred dollars for VMS software. All this to create the twelve-page Document.
Plus ten percent of the cost of the software and the hardware, for maintenance. (Actually, the ten percent maintenance costs, though mentioned, had been left off the final $79,449 total, apparently through a merciful oversight).
Mr. Megahee's letter had been mailed directly to William Cook himself, at the office of the Chicago federal attorneys. The United States Government accepted these telco figures without question.
As incredulity mounted, the value of the E911 Document was officially revised downward. This time, Robert Kibler of BellSouth Security estimated the value of the twelve pages as a mere $24,639.05 - based, purportedly, on "R&D costs." But this specific estimate, right down to the nickel, did not move the skeptics at all; in fact it provoked open scorn and a torrent of sarcasm.
The financial issues concerning theft of proprietary information have always been peculiar. It could be argued that BellSouth had not "lost" its E911 Document at all in the first place, and therefore had not suffered any monetary damage from this "theft." And Sheldon Zenner did in fact argue this at Neidorf's trial - that Prophet's raid had not been "theft," but was better understood as illicit copying.
The money, however, was not central to anyone's true purposes in this trial. It was not Cook's strategy to convince the jury that the E911 Document was a major act of theft and should be punished for that reason alone. His strategy was to argue that the E911 Document was dangerous. It was his intention to establish that the E911 Document was "a road-map" to the Enhanced 911 System. Neidorf had deliberately and recklessly distributed a dangerous weapon. Neidorf and the Prophet did not care (or perhaps even gloated at the sinister idea) that the E911 Document could be used by hackers to disrupt 911 service, "a life line for every person certainly in the Southern Bell region of the United States, and indeed, in many communities throughout the United States," in Cook's own words. Neidorf had put people's lives in danger.
In pre-trial maneuverings, Cook had established that the E911 Document was too hot to appear in the public proceedings of the Neidorf trial. The jury itself would not be allowed to ever see this Document, lest it slip into the official court records, and thus into the hands of the general public, and, thus, somehow, to malicious hackers who might lethally abuse it.
Hiding the E911 Document from the jury may have been a clever legal maneuver, but it had a severe flaw. There were, in point of fact, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people, already in possession of the E911 Document, just as Phrack had published it. Its true nature was already obvious to a wide section of the interested public (all of whom, by the way, were, at least theoretically, party to a gigantic wire-fraud conspiracy). Most everyone in the electronic community who had a modem and any interest in the Neidorf case already had a copy of the Document. It had already been available in Phrack for over a year.
People, even quite normal people without any particular prurient interest in forbidden knowledge, did not shut their eyes in terror at the thought of beholding a "dangerous" document from a telephone company. On the contrary, they tended to trust their own judgement and simply read the Document for themselves. And they were not impressed.
One such person was John Nagle. Nagle was a forty-one-year-old professional programmer with a masters' degree in computer science from Stanford. He had worked for Ford Aerospace, where he had invented a computer-networking technique known as the "Nagle Algorithm," and for the prominent Californian computer-graphics firm "Autodesk," where he was a major stockholder.
Nagle was also a prominent figure on the Well, much respected for his technical knowledgeability.
Nagle had followed the civil-liberties debate closely, for he was an ardent telecommunicator. He was no particular friend of computer intruders, but he believed electronic publishing had a great deal to offer society at large, and attempts to restrain its growth, or to censor free electronic expression, strongly roused his ire.
The Neidorf case, and the E911 Document, were both being discussed in detail on the Internet, in an electronic publication called Telecom Digest. Nagle, a longtime Internet maven, was a regular reader of Telecom Digest. Nagle had never seen a copy of Phrack, but the implications of the case disturbed him.
While in a Stanford bookstore hunting books on robotics, Nagle happened across a book called The Intelligent Network. Thumbing through it at random, Nagle came across an entire chapter meticulously detailing the workings of E911 police emergency systems. This extensive text was being sold openly, and yet in Illinois a young man was in danger of going to prison for publishing a thin six-page document about 911 service.
Nagle made an ironic comment to this effect in Telecom Digest. From there, Nagle was put in touch with Mitch Kapor, and then with Neidorf's lawyers.
Sheldon Zenner was delighted to find a computer telecommunications expert willing to speak up for Neidorf, one who was not a wacky teenage "hacker." Nagle was fluent, mature, and respectable; he'd once had a federal security clearance.
Nagle was asked to fly to Illinois to join the defense team.
Having joined the defense as an expert witness, Nagle read the entire E911 Document for himself. He made his own judgement about its potential for menace.
The time has now come for you yourself, the reader, to have a look at the E911 Document. This six-page piece of work was the pretext for a federal prosecution that could have sent an electronic publisher to prison for thirty, or even sixty, years. It was the pretext for the search and seizure of Steve Jackson Games, a legitimate publisher of printed books. It was also the formal pretext for the search and seizure of the Mentor's bulletin board, "Phoenix Project," and for the raid on the home of Erik Bloodaxe. It also had much to do with the seizure of Richard Andrews' Jolnet node and the shutdown of Charles Boykin's AT&T node. The E911 Document was the single most important piece of evidence in the Hacker Crackdown. There can be no real and legitimate substitute for the Document itself.
==Phrack Inc.== Volume Two, Issue 24, File 5 of 13 Control Office Administration Of Enhanced 911 Services For Special Services and Account Centers by the Eavesdropper March, 1988 Description of Service ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The control office for Emergency 911 service is assigned in accordance with the existing standard guidelines to one of the following centers: o Special Services Center (SSC) o Major Accounts Center (MAC) o Serving Test Center (STC) o Toll Control Center (TCC) The SSC/MAC designation is used in this document interchangeably for any of these four centers. The Special Services Centers (SSCs) or Major Account Centers (MACs) have been designated as the trouble reporting contact for all E911 customer (PSAP) reported troubles. Subscribers who have trouble on an E911 call will continue to contact local repair service (CRSAB) who will refer the trouble to the SSC/MAC, when appropriate. Due to the critical nature of E911 service, the control and timely repair of troubles is demanded. As the primary E911 customer contact, the SSC/MAC is in the unique position to monitor the status of the trouble and insure its resolution. System Overview ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The number 911 is intended as a nationwide universal telephone number which provides the public with direct access to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). A PSAP is also referred to as an Emergency Service Bureau (ESB). A PSAP is an agency or facility which is authorized by a municipality to receive and respond to police, fire and/or ambulance services. One or more attendants are located at the PSAP facilities to receive and handle calls of an emergency nature in accordance with the local municipal requirements. An important advantage of E911 emergency service is improved (reduced) response times for emergency services. Also close coordination among agencies providing various emergency services is a valuable capability provided by E911 service. 1A ESS is used as the tandem office for the E911 network to route all 911 calls to the correct (primary) PSAP designated to serve the calling station. The E911 feature was developed primarily to provide routing to the correct PSAP for all 911 calls. Selective routing allows a 911 call originated from a particular station located in a particular district, zone, or town, to be routed to the primary PSAP designated to serve that customer station regardless of wire center boundaries. Thus, selective routing eliminates the problem of wire center boundaries not coinciding with district or other political boundaries. The services available with the E911 feature include: Forced Disconnect Default Routing Alternative Routing Night Service Selective Routing Automatic Number Identification (ANI) Selective Transfer Automatic Location Identification (ALI) Preservice/Installation Guidelines ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ When a contract for an E911 system has been signed, it is the responsibility of Network Marketing to establish an implementation/cutover committee which should include a representative from the SSC/MAC. Duties of the E911 Implementation Team include coordination of all phases of the E911 system deployment and the formation of an on-going E911 maintenance subcommittee. Marketing is responsible for providing the following customer specific information to the SSC/MAC prior to the start of call through testing: o All PSAP's (name, address, local contact) o All PSAP circuit ID's o 1004 911 service request including PSAP details on each PSAP (1004 Section K, L, M) o Network configuration o Any vendor information (name, telephone number, equipment) The SSC/MAC needs to know if the equipment and sets at the PSAP are maintained by the BOCs, an independent company, or an outside vendor, or any combination. This information is then entered on the PSAP profile sheets and reviewed quarterly for changes, additions and deletions. Marketing will secure the Major Account Number (MAN) and provide this number to Corporate Communications so that the initial issue of the service orders carry the MAN and can be tracked by the SSC/MAC via CORDNET. PSAP circuits are official services by definition. All service orders required for the installation of the E911 system should include the MAN assigned to the city/county which has purchased the system. In accordance with the basic SSC/MAC strategy for provisioning, the SSC/MAC will be Overall Control Office (OCO) for all Node to PSAP circuits (official services) and any other services for this customer. Training must be scheduled for all SSC/MAC involved personnel during the pre-service stage of the project. The E911 Implementation Team will form the on-going maintenance subcommittee prior to the initial implementation of the E911 system. This sub-committee will establish post implementation quality assurance procedures to ensure that the E911 system continues to provide quality service to the customer. Customer/Company training, trouble reporting interfaces for the customer, telephone company and any involved independent telephone companies needs to be addressed and implemented prior to E911 cutover. These functions can be best addressed by the formation of a sub-committee of the E911 Implementation Team to set up guidelines for and to secure service commitments of interfacing organizations. A SSC/MAC supervisor should chair this subcommittee and include the following organizations: 1) Switching Control Center - E911 translations - Trunking - End office and Tandem office hardware/software 2) Recent Change Memory Administration Center - Daily RC update activity for TN/ESN translations - Processes validity errors and rejects 3) Line and Number Administration - Verification of TN/ESN translations 4) Special Service Center/Major Account Center - Single point of contact for all PSAP and Node to host troubles - Logs, tracks & statusing of all trouble reports - Trouble referral, follow up, and escalation - Customer notification of status and restoration - Analyzation of ``chronic'' troubles - Testing, installation and maintenance of E911 circuits 5) Installation and Maintenance (SSIM/I&M) - Repair and maintenance of PSAP equipment and Telco owned sets 6) Minicomputer Maintenance Operations Center - E911 circuit maintenance (where applicable) 7) Area Maintenance Engineer - Technical assistance on voice (CO-PSAP) network related E911 troubles Maintenance Guidelines ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The CCNC will test the Node circuit from the 202T at the Host site to the 202T at the Node site. Since Host to Node (CCNC to MMOC) circuits are official company services, the CCNC will refer all Node circuit troubles to the SSC/MAC. The SSC/MAC is responsible for the testing and follow up to restoration of these circuit troubles. Although Node to PSAP circuit are official services, the MMOC will refer PSAP circuit troubles to the appropriate SSC/MAC. The SSC/MAC is responsible for testing and follow up to restoration of PSAP circuit troubles. The SSC/MAC will also receive reports from CRSAB/IMC(s) on subscriber 911 troubles when they are not line troubles. The SSC/MAC is responsible for testing and restoration of these troubles. Maintenance responsibilities are as follows: SCC* Voice Network (ANI to PSAP) *SCC responsible for tandem switch SSIM/I&M PSAP Equipment (Modems, CIU's, sets) Vendor PSAP Equipment (when CPE) SSC/MAC PSAP to Node circuits, and tandem to PSAP voice circuits (EMNT) MMOC Node site (Modems, cables, etc) Note: All above work groups are required to resolve troubles by interfacing with appropriate work groups for resolution. The Switching Control Center (SCC) is responsible for E911/1AESS translations in tandem central offices. These translations route E911 calls, selective transfer, default routing, speed calling, etc., for each PSAP. The SCC is also responsible for troubleshooting on the voice network (call originating to end office tandem equipment). For example, ANI failures in the originating offices would be a responsibility of the SCC. Recent Change Memory Administration Center (RCMAC) performs the daily tandem translation updates (recent change) for routing of individual telephone numbers. Recent changes are generated from service order activity (new service, address changes, etc.) and compiled into a daily file by the E911 Center (ALI/DMS E911 Computer). SSIM/I&M is responsible for the installation and repair of PSAP equipment. PSAP equipment includes ANI Controller, ALI Controller, data sets, cables, sets, and other peripheral equipment that is not vendor owned. SSIM/I&M is responsible for establishing maintenance test kits, complete with spare parts for PSAP maintenance. This includes test gear, data sets, and ANI/ALI Controller parts. Special Services Center (SSC) or Major Account Center (MAC) serves as the trouble reporting contact for all (PSAP) troubles reported by customer. The SSC/MAC refers troubles to proper organizations for handling and tracks status of troubles, escalating when necessary. The SSC/MAC will close out troubles with customer. The SSC/MAC will analyze all troubles and tracks ``chronic'' PSAP troubles. Corporate Communications Network Center (CCNC) will test and refer troubles on all node to host circuits. All E911 circuits are classified as official company property. The Minicomputer Maintenance Operations Center (MMOC) maintains the E911 (ALI/DMS) computer hardware at the Host site. This MMOC is also responsible for monitoring the system and reporting certain PSAP and system problems to the local MMOC's, SCC's or SSC/MAC's. The MMOC personnel also operate software programs that maintain the TN data base under the direction of the E911 Center. The maintenance of the NODE computer (the interface between the PSAP and the ALI/DMS computer) is a function of the MMOC at the NODE site. The MMOC's at the NODE sites may also be involved in the testing of NODE to Host circuits. The MMOC will also assist on Host to PSAP and data network related troubles not resolved through standard trouble clearing procedures. Installation And Maintenance Center (IMC) is responsible for referral of E911 subscriber troubles that are not subscriber line problems. E911 Center - Performs the role of System Administration and is responsible for overall operation of the E911 computer software. The E911 Center does A-Z trouble analysis and provides statistical information on the performance of the system. This analysis includes processing PSAP inquiries (trouble reports) and referral of network troubles. The E911 Center also performs daily processing of tandem recent change and provides information to the RCMAC for tandem input. The E911 Center is responsible for daily processing of the ALI/DMS computer data base and provides error files, etc. to the Customer Services department for investigation and correction. The E911 Center participates in all system implementations and on-going maintenance effort and assists in the development of procedures, training and education of information to all groups. Any group receiving a 911 trouble from the SSC/MAC should close out the trouble with the SSC/MAC or provide a status if the trouble has been referred to another group. This will allow the SSC/MAC to provide a status back to the customer or escalate as appropriate. Any group receiving a trouble from the Host site (MMOC or CCNC) should close the trouble back to that group. The MMOC should notify the appropriate SSC/MAC when the Host, Node, or all Node circuits are down so that the SSC/MAC can reply to customer reports that may be called in by the PSAPs. This will eliminate duplicate reporting of troubles. On complete outages the MMOC will follow escalation procedures for a Node after two (2) hours and for a PSAP after four (4) hours. Additionally the MMOC will notify the appropriate SSC/MAC when the Host, Node, or all Node circuits are down. The PSAP will call the SSC/MAC to report E911 troubles. The person reporting the E911 trouble may not have a circuit I.D. and will therefore report the PSAP name and address. Many PSAP troubles are not circuit specific. In those instances where the caller cannot provide a circuit I.D., the SSC/MAC will be required to determine the circuit I.D. using the PSAP profile. Under no circumstances will the SSC/MAC Center refuse to take the trouble. The E911 trouble should be handled as quickly as possible, with the SSC/MAC providing as much assistance as possible while taking the trouble report from the caller. The SSC/MAC will screen/test the trouble to determine the appropriate handoff organization based on the following criteria: PSAP equipment problem: SSIM/I&M Circuit problem: SSC/MAC Voice network problem: SCC (report trunk group number) Problem affecting multiple PSAPs (No ALI report from all PSAPs): Contact the MMOC to check for NODE or Host computer problems before further testing. The SSC/MAC will track the status of reported troubles and escalate as appropriate. The SSC/MAC will close out customer/company reports with the initiating contact. Groups with specific maintenance responsibilities, defined above, will investigate ``chronic'' troubles upon request from the SSC/MAC and the ongoing maintenance subcommittee. All ``out of service'' E911 troubles are priority one type reports. One link down to a PSAP is considered a priority one trouble and should be handled as if the PSAP was isolated. The PSAP will report troubles with the ANI controller, ALI controller or set equipment to the SSC/MAC. NO ANI: Where the PSAP reports NO ANI (digital display screen is blank) ask if this condition exists on all screens and on all calls. It is important to differentiate between blank screens and screens displaying 911-00XX, or all zeroes. When the PSAP reports all screens on all calls, ask if there is any voice contact with callers. If there is no voice contact the trouble should be referred to the SCC immediately since 911 calls are not getting through which may require alternate routing of calls to another PSAP. When the PSAP reports this condition on all screens but not all calls and has voice contact with callers, the report should be referred to SSIM/I&M for dispatch. The SSC/MAC should verify with the SCC that ANI is pulsing before dispatching SSIM. When the PSAP reports this condition on one screen for all calls (others work fine) the trouble should be referred to SSIM/I&M for dispatch, because the trouble is isolated to one piece of equipment at the customer premise. An ANI failure (i.e. all zeroes) indicates that the ANI has not been received by the PSAP from the tandem office or was lost by the PSAP ANI controller. The PSAP may receive ``02'' alarms which can be caused by the ANI controller logging more than three all zero failures on the same trunk. The PSAP has been instructed to report this condition to the SSC/MAC since it could indicate an equipment trouble at the PSAP which might be affecting all subscribers calling into the PSAP. When all zeroes are being received on all calls or ``02'' alarms continue, a tester should analyze the condition to determine the appropriate action to be taken. The tester must perform cooperative testing with the SCC when there appears to be a problem on the Tandem-PSAP trunks before requesting dispatch. When an occasional all zero condition is reported, the SSC/MAC should dispatch SSIM/I&M to routine equipment on a ``chronic'' troublesweep. The PSAPs are instructed to report incidental ANI failures to the BOC on a PSAP inquiry trouble ticket (paper) that is sent to the Customer Services E911 group and forwarded to E911 center when required. This usually involves only a particular telephone number and is not a condition that would require a report to the SSC/MAC. Multiple ANI failures which our from the same end office (XX denotes end office), indicate a hard trouble condition may exist in the end office or end office tandem trunks. The PSAP will report this type of condition to the SSC/MAC and the SSC/MAC should refer the report to the SCC responsible for the tandem office. NOTE: XX is the ESCO (Emergency Service Number) associated with the incoming 911 trunks into the tandem. It is important that the C/MAC tell the SCC what is displayed at the PSAP (i.e. 911-0011) which indicates to the SCC which end office is in trouble. Note: It is essential that the PSAP fill out inquiry form on every ANI failure. The PSAP will report a trouble any time an address is not received on an address display (screen blank) E911 call. (If a record is not in the 911 data base or an ANI failure is encountered, the screen will provide a display noticing such condition). The SSC/MAC should verify with the PSAP whether the NO ALI condition is on one screen or all screens. When the condition is on one screen (other screens receive ALI information) the SSC/MAC will request SSIM/I&M to dispatch. If no screens are receiving ALI information, there is usually a circuit trouble between the PSAP and the Host computer. The SSC/MAC should test the trouble and refer for restoral. Note: If the SSC/MAC receives calls from multiple PSAP's, all of which are receiving NO ALI, there is a problem with the Node or Node to Host circuits or the Host computer itself. Before referring the trouble the SSC/MAC should call the MMOC to inquire if the Node or Host is in trouble. Alarm conditions on the ANI controller digital display at the PSAP are to be reported by the PSAP's. These alarms can indicate various trouble conditions so the SSC/MAC should ask the PSAP if any portion of the E911 system is not functioning properly. The SSC/MAC should verify with the PSAP attendant that the equipment's primary function is answering E911 calls. If it is, the SSC/MAC should request a dispatch SSIM/I&M. If the equipment is not primarily used for E911, then the SSC/MAC should advise PSAP to contact their CPE vendor. Note: These troubles can be quite confusing when the PSAP has vendor equipment mixed in with equipment that the BOC maintains. The Marketing representative should provide the SSC/MAC information concerning any unusual or exception items where the PSAP should contact their vendor. This information should be included in the PSAP profile sheets. ANI or ALI controller down: When the host computer sees the PSAP equipment down and it does not come back up, the MMOC will report the trouble to the SSC/MAC; the equipment is down at the PSAP, a dispatch will be required. PSAP link (circuit) down: The MMOC will provide the SSC/MAC with the circuit ID that the Host computer indicates in trouble. Although each PSAP has two circuits, when either circuit is down the condition must be treated as an emergency since failure of the second circuit will cause the PSAP to be isolated. Any problems that the MMOC identifies from the Node location to the Host computer will be handled directly with the appropriate MMOC(s)/CCNC. Note: The customer will call only when a problem is apparent to the PSAP. When only one circuit is down to the PSAP, the customer may not be aware there is a trouble, even though there is one link down, notification should appear on the PSAP screen. Troubles called into the SSC/MAC from the MMOC or other company employee should not be closed out by calling the PSAP since it may result in the customer responding that they do not have a trouble. These reports can only be closed out by receiving information that the trouble was fixed and by checking with the company employee that reported the trouble. The MMOC personnel will be able to verify that the trouble has cleared by reviewing a printout from the host. When the CRSAB receives a subscriber complaint (i.e., cannot dial 911) the RSA should obtain as much information as possible while the customer is on the line. For example, what happened when the subscriber dialed 911? The report is automatically directed to the IMC for subscriber line testing. When no line trouble is found, the IMC will refer the trouble condition to the SSC/MAC. The SSC/MAC will contact Customer Services E911 Group and verify that the subscriber should be able to call 911 and obtain the ESN. The SSC/MAC will verify the ESN via 2SCCS. When both verifications match, the SSC/MAC will refer the report to the SCC responsible for the 911 tandem office for investigation and resolution. The MAC is responsible for tracking the trouble and informing the IMC when it is resolved. For more information, please refer to E911 Glossary of Terms. End of Phrack File
The reader is forgiven if he or she was entirely unable to read this document. John Perry Barlow had a great deal of fun at its expense, in "Crime and Puzzlement:" "Bureaucrat-ese of surpassing opacity... To read the whole thing straight through without entering coma requires either a machine or a human who has too much practice thinking like one. Anyone who can understand it fully and fluidly had altered his consciousness beyone the ability to ever again read Blake, Whitman, or Tolstoy... the document contains little of interest to anyone who is not a student of advanced organizational sclerosis."
With the Document itself to hand, however, exactly as it was published (in its six-page edited form) in Phrack, the reader may be able to verify a few statements of fact about its nature. First, there is no software, no computer code, in the Document. It is not computer-programming language like FORTRAN or C++, it is English; all the sentences have nouns and verbs and punctuation. It does not explain how to break into the E911 system. It does not suggest ways to destroy or damage the E911 system.
There are no access codes in the Document. There are no computer passwords. It does not explain how to steal long distance service. It does not explain how to break in to telco switching stations. There is nothing in it about using a personal computer or a modem for any purpose at all, good or bad.
Close study will reveal that this document is not about machinery. The E911 Document is about administration. It describes how one creates and administers certain units of telco bureaucracy: Special Service Centers and Major Account Centers (SSC/MAC). It describes how these centers should distribute responsibility for the E911 service, to other units of telco bureaucracy, in a chain of command, a formal hierarchy. It describes who answers customer complaints, who screens calls, who reports equipment failures, who answers those reports, who handles maintenance, who chairs subcommittees, who gives orders, who follows orders, who tells whom what to do. The Document is not a "roadmap" to computers. The Document is a roadmap to people.
As an aid to breaking into computer systems, the Document is useless. As an aid to harassing and deceiving telco people, however, the Document might prove handy (especially with its Glossary, which I have not included). An intense and protracted study of this Document and its Glossary, combined with many other such documents, might teach one to speak like a telco employee. And telco people live by speech - they live by phone communication. If you can mimic their language over the phone, you can "social-engineer" them. If you can con telco people, you can wreak havoc among them. You can force them to no longer trust one another; you can break the telephonic ties that bind their community; you can make them paranoid. And people will fight harder to defend their community than they will fight to defend their individual selves.
This was the genuine, gut-level threat posed by Phrack magazine. The real struggle was over the control of telco language, the control of telco knowledge. It was a struggle to defend the social "membrane of differentiation" that forms the walls of the telco community's ivory tower - the special jargon that allows telco professionals to recognize one another, and to exclude charlatans, thieves, and upstarts. And the prosecution brought out this fact. They repeatedly made reference to the threat posed to telco professionals by hackers using "social engineering."
However, Craig Neidorf was not on trial for learning to speak like a professional telecommunications expert. Craig Neidorf was on trial for access device fraud and transportation of stolen property. He was on trial for stealing a document that was purportedly highly sensitive and purportedly worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Copyright (c) 1992, 1994 Bruce Sterling - firstname.lastname@example.org.
This HTML version was converted by David Hedbor <email@example.com> in November 1994, based on the text edition verison 1.2.
The original plain ASCII files are available electronically by Gopher from tic.com.
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