CRIME AND PUZZLEMENT
by John Perry Barlow
Desperados of the DataSphere
So me and my sidekick Howard, we was sitting out in front of the 40 Rod
Saloon one evening when he all of a sudden says, "Lookee here. What do
you reckon?" I look up and there's these two strangers riding into town.
They're young and got kind of a restless, bored way about 'em. A person
don't need both eyes to see they mean trouble...
Well, that wasn't quite how it went. Actually, Howard and I were
floating blind as cave fish in the electronic barrens of the WELL, so
the whole incident passed as words on a display screen:
Howard: Interesting couple of newusers just signed on. One calls himself
acid and the other's optik.
Barlow: Hmmm. What are their real names?
Howard: Check their finger files.
And so I typed !finger acid. Several seconds later the WELL's
Sequent computer sent the following message to my Macintosh in
Login name: acid In real life: Acid Phreak
By this, I knew that the WELL had a new resident and that his
corporeal analog was supposedly called Acid Phreak. Typing !finger
optik yielded results of similar insufficiency, including the claim that
someone, somewhere in the real world, was walking around calling
himself Phiber Optik. I doubted it.
However, associating these sparse data with the knowledge that the
WELL was about to host a conference on computers and security
rendered the conclusion that I had made my first sighting of genuine
computer crackers. As the arrival of an outlaw was a major event to
the settlements of the Old West, so was the appearance of crackers
cause for stir on the WELL.
The WELL (or Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) is an example of the
latest thing in frontier villages, the computer bulletin board. In this
kind of small town, Main Street is a central minicomputer to which
(in the case of the WELL) as many as 64 microcomputers may be
connected at one time by phone lines and little blinking boxes called
In this silent world, all conversation is typed. To enter it, one
forsakes both body and place and becomes a thing of words alone.
You can see what your neighbors are saying (or recently said), but
not what either they or their physical surroundings look like. Town
meetings are continuous and discussions rage on everything from
sexual kinks to depreciation schedules.
There are thousands of these nodes in the United States, ranging from
PC clone hamlets of a few users to mainframe metros like
CompuServe, with its 550,000 subscribers. They are used by
corporations to transmit memoranda and spreadsheets, universities
to disseminate research, and a multitude of factions, from apiarists to
Zoroastrians, for purposes unique to each.
Whether by one telephonic tendril or millions, they are all connected
to one another. Collectively, they form what their inhabitants call the
Net. It extends across that immense region of electron states,
microwaves, magnetic fields, light pulses and thought which sci-fi
writer William Gibson named Cyberspace.
Cyberspace, in its present condition, has a lot in common with the
19th Century West. It is vast, unmapped, culturally and legally
ambiguous, verbally terse (unless you happen to be a court
stenographer), hard to get around in, and up for grabs. Large
institutions already claim to own the place, but most of the actual
natives are solitary and independent, sometimes to the point of
sociopathy. It is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for both
outlaws and new ideas about liberty.
Recognizing this, Harper's Magazine decided in December, 1989 to
hold one of its periodic Forums on the complex of issues surrounding
computers, information, privacy, and electronic intrusion or
"cracking." Appropriately, they convened their conference in
Cyberspace, using the WELL as the "site."
Harper's invited an odd lot of about 40 participants. These included:
Clifford Stoll, whose book The Cuckoo's Egg details his cunning efforts
to nab a German cracker. John Draper or "Cap'n Crunch," the grand-
daddy of crackers whose blue boxes got Wozniak and Jobs into
consumer electronics. Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly of Whole Earth
fame. Steven Levy, who wrote the seminal Hackers. A retired Army
colonel named Dave Hughes. Lee Felsenstein, who designed the
Osborne computer and was once called the "Robespierre of
computing." A UNIX wizard and former hacker named Jeff
Poskanzer. There was also a score of aging techno-hippies, the
crackers, and me.
What I was doing there was not precisely clear since I've spent most
of my working years either pushing cows or song-mongering, but I at
least brought to the situation a vivid knowledge of actual cow-towns,
having lived in or around one most of my life.
That and a kind of innocence about both the technology and morality
of Cyberspace which was soon to pass into the confusion of
At first, I was inclined toward sympathy with Acid 'n' Optik as well
as their colleagues, Adelaide, Knight Lightning, Taran King, and
Emmanuel. I've always been more comfortable with outlaws than
Republicans, despite having more certain credentials in the latter
But as the Harper's Forum mushroomed into a boom-town of ASCII
text (the participants typing 110,000 words in 10 days), I began to
wonder. These kids were fractious, vulgar, immature, amoral,
insulting, and too damned good at their work.
Worse, they inducted a number of former kids like myself into
Middle Age. The long feared day had finally come when some
gunsel would yank my beard and call me, too accurately, an old fart.
Under ideal circumstances, the blind gropings of bulletin board
discourse force a kind of Noh drama stylization on human commerce.
Intemperate responses, or "flames" as they are called, are common
even among conference participants who understand one another,
which, it became immediately clear, the cyberpunks and techno-
hippies did not.
My own initial enthusiasm for the crackers wilted under a steady
barrage of typed testosterone. I quickly remembered I didn't know
much about who they were, what they did, or how they did it. I also
remembered stories about crackers working in league with the Mob,
ripping off credit card numbers and getting paid for them in (stolen)
And I remembered Kevin Mitnik. Mitnik, now 25, recently served
federal time for a variety of computer and telephone related crimes.
Prior to incarceration, Mitnik was, by all accounts, a dangerous guy
with a computer. He disrupted phone company operations and
arbitrarily disconnected the phones of celebrities. Like the kid in
Wargames, he broke into the North American Defense Command
computer in Colorado Springs.
Unlike the kid in Wargames, he is reputed to have made a practice of
destroying and altering data. There is even the (perhaps apocryphal)
story that he altered the credit information of his probation officer
and other enemies. Digital Equipment claimed that his depredations
cost them more than $4 million in computer downtime and file
rebuilding. Eventually, he was turned in by a friend who, after
careful observation, had decided he was "a menace to society."
His spectre began to hang over the conference. After several days of
strained diplomacy, the discussion settled into a moral debate on the
ethics of security and went critical.
The techno-hippies were of the unanimous opinion that, in Dylan's
words, one "must be honest to live outside the law." But these
young strangers apparently lived by no code save those with which
they unlocked forbidden regions of the Net.
They appeared to think that improperly secured systems deserved to
be violated and, by extension, that unlocked houses ought to be
robbed. This latter built particular heat in me since I refuse, on
philosophical grounds, to lock my house.
Civility broke down. We began to see exchanges like:
Dave Hughes: Clifford Stoll said a wise thing that no one has
commented on. That networks are built on trust. If they
aren't, they should be.
Acid Phreak: Yeah. Sure. And we should use the 'honor system' as a
first line of security against hack attempts.
Jef Poskanzer: This guy down the street from me sometimes leaves his
back door unlocked. I told him about it once, but he still
does it. If I had the chance to do it over, I would go in the
back door, shoot him, and take all his money and
consumer electronics. It's the only way to get through to him.
Acid Phreak: Jef Poskanker (Puss? Canker? yechh) Anyway, now
when did you first start having these delusions where
computer hacking was even *remotely* similar to murder?
Presented with such a terrifying amalgam of raw youth and apparent
power, we fluttered like a flock of indignant Babbitts around the
Status Quo, defending it heartily. One former hacker howled to the
Harper's editor in charge of the forum, "Do you or do you not have
names and addresses for these criminals?" Though they had
committed no obvious crimes, he was ready to call the police.
They finally got to me with:
Acid: Whoever said they'd leave the door open to their house...
where do you live? (the address) Leave it to me in mail
if you like.
I had never encountered anyone so apparently unworthy of my trust
as these little nihilists. They had me questioning a basic tenet,
namely that the greatest security lies in vulnerability. I decided it
was time to put that principal to the test...
Barlow: Acid. My house is at 372 North Franklin Street in
Pinedale, Wyoming. If you're heading north on Franklin,
you go about two blocks off the main drag before you run
into hay meadow on the left. I've got the last house before
the field. The computer is always on...
And is that really what you mean? Are you merely just
the kind of little sneak that goes around looking for easy
places to violate? You disappoint me, pal. For all your
James Dean-On-Silicon rhetoric, you're not a cyberpunk.
You're just a punk.
Acid Phreak: Mr. Barlow: Thank you for posting all I need to get your
credit information and a whole lot more! Now, who is to
blame? ME for getting it or YOU for being such an idiot?!
I think this should just about sum things up.
Barlow: Acid, if you've got a lesson to teach me, I hope it's not that
it's idiotic to trust one's fellow man. Life on those terms
would be endless and brutal. I'd try to tell you something
about conscience, but I'd sound like Father O'Flannigan
trying to reform the punk that's about to gutshoot him.
For no more reason that to watch him die.
But actually, if you take it upon yourself to destroy my
credit, you might do me a favor. I've been looking for
something to put the brakes on my burgeoning materialism.
I spent a day wondering whether I was dealing with another Kevin
Mitnik before the other shoe dropped:
Barlow: ... With crackers like acid and optik, the issue is less
intelligence than alienation. Trade their modems for
skateboards and only a slight conceptual shift would
Optik: You have some pair of balls comparing my talent with
that of a skateboarder. Hmmm... This was indeed boring,
At which point he downloaded my credit history.
Optik had hacked the core of TRW, an institution which has made
my business (and yours) their business, extracting from it an
abbreviated ( and incorrect) version of my personal financial life.
With this came the implication that he and Acid could and would
revise it to my disadvantage if I didn't back off.
I have since learned that while getting someone's TRW file is fairly
trivial, changing it is not. But at that time, my assessment of the
crackers' black skills was one of superstitious awe. They were digital
brujos about to zombify my economic soul.
To a middle-class American, one's credit rating has become nearly
identical to his freedom. It now appeared that I was dealing with
someone who had both the means and desire to hoodoo mine,
leaving me trapped in a life of wrinkled bills and money order
queues. Never again would I call the Sharper Image on a whim.
I've been in redneck bars wearing shoulder-length curls, police
custody while on acid, and Harlem after midnight, but no one has
ever put the spook in me quite as Phiber Optik did at that moment. I
realized that we had problems which exceeded the human conductivity of
the WELL's bandwidth. If someone were about to paralyze me with a spell,
I wanted a more visceral sense of him than could fit through a modem.
I e-mailed him asking him to give me a phone call. I told him I
wouldn't insult his skills by giving him my phone number and, with
the assurance conveyed by that challenge, I settled back and waited
for the phone to ring. Which, directly, it did.
In this conversation and the others that followed I encountered an
intelligent, civilized, and surprisingly principled kid of 18 who
sounded, and continues to sound, as though there's little harm in him
to man or data. His cracking impulses seemed purely exploratory,
and I've begun to wonder if we wouldn't also regard spelunkers as
desperate criminals if AT&T owned all the caves.
The terrifying poses which Optik and Acid had been striking on
screen were a media-amplified example of a human adaptation I'd
seen before: One becomes as he is beheld. They were simply living up to
what they thought we, and, more particularly, the editors of
Harper's, expected of them. Like the televised tears of disaster
victims, their snarls adapted easily to mass distribution.
Months later, Harper's took Optik, Acid and me to dinner at a
Manhattan restaurant which, though very fancy, was appropriately
Chinese. Acid and Optik, as material beings, were well-scrubbed and
fashionably-clad. They looked to be dangerous as ducks. But, as
Harper's and the rest of the media have discovered to their delight,
the boys had developed distinctly showier personae for their rambles
through the howling wilderness of Cyberspace.
Glittering with spikes of binary chrome, they strode past the kleig
lights and into the digital distance. There they would be outlaws. It
was only a matter of time before they started to believe themselves as
bad as they sounded. And no time at all before everyone else did.
In this, they were like another kid named Billy, many of whose feral
deeds in the pre-civilized West were encouraged by the same dime
novelist who chronicled them. And like Tom Horn, they seemed to
have some doubt as to which side of the law they were on. Acid even
expressed an ambition to work for the government someday, nabbing
"terrorists and code abusers."
There is also a frontier ambiguity to the "crimes" the crackers
commit. They are not exacdly stealing VCR's. Copying a text file
from TRW doesn't deprive its owner of anything except
informational exclusivity. (Though it may said that information has
monetary value only in proportion to its containment.)
There was no question that they were making unauthorized use of
data channels. The night I met them, they left our restaurant table
and disappeared into the phone booth for a long time. I didn't see
them marshalling quarters before they went.
And, as I became less their adversary and more their scoutmaster, I
began to get "conference calls" in which six or eight of them would
crack pay phones all over New York and simultaneously land on my
line in Wyoming. These deft maneuvers made me think of skydiving
stunts where large groups convene geometrically in free fall.
In this case, the risk was largely legal.
Their other favorite risky business is the time-honored adolescent
sport of trespassing. They insist on going where they don't belong.
But then teen-age boys have been proceeding uninvited since the
dawn of human puberty. It seems hard-wired. The only innovation
is in the new form of the forbidden zone the means of getting in it.
In fact, like Kevin Mitnik, I broke into NORAD when I was 17. A
friend and I left a nearby "woodsie" (as rustic adolescent drunks
were called in Colorado) and tried to get inside the Cheyenne
Mountain. The chrome-helmeted Air Force MP's held us for about 2
hours before letting us go. They weren't much older than us and
knew exactly our level of national security threat. Had we come
cloaked in electronic mystery, their alert status certainly would have
Whence rises much of the anxiety. Everything is so ill-defined. How
can you guess what lies in their hearts when you can't see their eyes?
How can one be sure that, like Mitnik, they won't cross the line from
trespassing into another adolescent pastime, vandalism? And how
can you be sure they pose no threat when you don't know what a
threat might be?
And for the crackers some thrill is derived from the metamorphic
vagueness of the laws themselves. On the Net, their effects are
unpredictable. One never knows when they'll bite.
This is because most of the statutes invoked against the crackers were
designed in a very different world from the one they explore. For
example, can unauthorized electronic access can be regarded as the
ethical equivalent of old-fashioned trespass? Like open range, the
property boundaries of Cyberspace are hard to stake and harder still
Is transmission through an otherwise unused data channel really
theft? Is the track-less passage of a mind through TRW's mainframe
the same as the passage of a pickup through my Back 40? What is a
place if Cyberspace is everywhere? What are data and what is free
speech? How does one treat property which has no physical form
and can be infinitely reproduced? Is a computer the same as a
printing press? Can the history of my business affairs properly
belong to someone else? Can anyone morally claim to own knowledge itself?
If such questions were hard to answer precisely, there are those who
are ready to try. Based on their experience in the Virtual World, they
were about as qualified to enforce its mores as I am to write the Law
of the Sea. But if they lacked technical sophistication, they brought to
this task their usual conviction. And, of course, badges and guns.
Operation Sun Devil
"Recently, we have witnessed an alarming number of young people who, for
a variety of sociological and psychological reasons, have become attached to
their computers and are exploiting their potential in a criminal manner.
Often, a progression of criminal activity occurs which involves
telecommunications fraud (free long distance phone calls), unauthorized
access to other computers (whether for profit, fascination, ego, or the
intellectual challenge), credit card fraud (cash advances and unauthorized
purchases of goods), and then move on to other destructive activities like
"Our experience shows that many computer hacker suspects are no longer
misguided teenagers mischievously playing games with their computers in
their bedrooms. Some are now high tech computer operators using computers
to engage in unlawful conduct."
-- Excerpts from a statement by Garry M. Jenkins
Asst. Director, U. S. Secret Service
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,
and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, support by oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the
persons or things to be seized."
-- Amendment IV, United States Constitution
On January 24, 1990, a platoon of Secret Service agents entered the
apartment which Acid Phreak shares with his mother and 12 year-old
sister. The latter was the only person home when they burst through
the door with guns drawn. They managed to hold her at bay for
about half an hour until their quarry happened home.
By then, they were nearly done packing up Acid's worldly goods,
including his computer, his notes (both paper and magnetic), books,
and such dubiously dangerous tools as a telephone answering
machine, a ghetto blaster and his complete collection of audio tapes.
One agent asked him to define the real purpose of the answering
machine and was frankly skeptical when told that it answered the
phone. The audio tapes seemed to contain nothing but music, but
who knew what dark data Acid might have encoded between the notes...
When Acid's mother returned from work, she found her apartment a
scene of apprehended criminality. She asked what, exactly, her son
had done to deserve all this attention and was told that, among other
things, he had caused the AT&T system crash several days earlier.
(Previously AT&T had taken full responsibility.) Thus, the agent
explained, her darling boy was thought to have caused over a billion
dollars in damage to the economy of the United States.
This accusation was never turned into a formal charge. Indeed, no
charge of any sort of was filed against Mr. Phreak then and, although
the Secret Service maintained resolute possession of his hardware,
software, and data, no charge had been charged 4 months later.
Across town, similar scenes were being played out at the homes of
Phiber Optik and another colleague code-named Scorpion. Again,
equipment, notes, disks both hard and soft, and personal effects were
confiscated. Again no charges were filed.
Thus began the visible phase of Operation Sun Devil, a two-year
Secret Service investigation which involved 150 federal agents,
numerous local and state law enforcement agencies. and the
combined security resources of PacBell, AT&T, Bellcore, Bell South
MCI, U.S. Sprint, Mid-American, Southwestern Bell, NYNEX, U.S.
West and American Express.
The focus of this impressive institutional array was the Legion of
Doom, a group which never had any formal membership list but was
thought by the members with whom I spoke to number less than 20,
nearly all of them in their teens or early twenties.
I asked Acid why they'd chosen such a threatening name. "You wouldn't
want a fairy kind of thing like Legion of Flower Pickers or something.
But the media ate it up too. Probing the Legion of Doom like it was a gang
or something, when really it was just a bunch of geeks behind terminals."
Sometime in December 1988, a 21 year-old Atlanta-area Legion of
Doomster named The Prophet cracked a Bell South computer and
downloaded a three-page text file which outlined, in bureaucrat-ese
of surpassing opacity, the administrative procedures and responsibilities
for marketing, servicing, upgrading, and billing for Bell South's 911 system.
A dense thicket of acronyms, the document was filled with passages like:
"In accordance with the basic SSC/MAC strategy for provisioning, the
SSC/MAC will be Overall Control Office (OCO) for all Notes 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."
And other such.
At some risk, I too have a copy of this document. 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 has altered his
consciousness beyond the ability to ever again read Blake, Whitman, or
Tolstoy. It is, quite simply, the worst writing I have ever tried to read.
Since the document contains little of interest to anyone who is not a
student of advanced organizational sclerosis...that is, no access codes,
trade secrets, or proprietary information...I assume The Prophet only
copied this file as a kind of hunting trophy. He had been to the heart
of the forest and had returned with this coonskin to nail to the barn door.
Furthermore, he was proud of his accomplishment, and since such
trophies are infinitely replicable, he wasn't content to nail it to his
door alone. Among the places he copied it was a UNIX bulletin
board (rather like the WELL) in Lockport, Illinois called Jolnet.
It was downloaded from there by a 20 year-old hacker and pre-law
student (whom I had met in the Harper's Forum) who called himself
Knight Lightning. Though not a member of the Legion of Doom,
Knight Lightning and a friend, Taran King, also published from St.
Louis and his fraternity house at the University of Missouri a
worldwide hacker's magazine called Phrack. (From phone phreak and hack.)
Phrack was an unusual publication in that it was entirely virtual. The
only time its articles hit paper was when one of its subscribers
decided to print out a hard copy. Otherwise, its editions existed in
Cyberspace and took no physical form.
When Knight Lightning got hold of the Bell South document, he
thought it would amuse his readers and reproduced it in the next
issue of Phrack. He had little reason to think that he was doing
something illegal. There is nothing in it to indicate that it contains
proprietary or even sensitive information. Indeed, it closely
resembles telco reference documents which have long been publicly available.
However, Rich Andrews, the systems operator who oversaw the operation of
Jolnet, thought there might be something funny about the document when he
first ran across it in his system. To be on the safe side, he forwarded a
copy of it to AT&T officials. He was subsequently contacted by the
authorities, and he cooperated with them fully. He would regret that later.
On the basis of the forgoing, a Grand Jury in Lockport was persuaded
by the Secret Service in early February to hand down a seven count
indictment against The Prophet and Knight Lightning, charging
them, among other things, with interstate transfer of stolen property
worth more than $5,000. When The Prophet and two of his Georgia
colleagues were arrested on February 7, 1990, the Atlanta papers
reported they faced 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine. Knight
Lightning was arrested on February 15.
The property in question was the affore-mentioned blot on the
history of prose whose full title was A Bell South Standard Practice
(BSP) 660-225-104SV-Control Office Administration of Enhanced 911
Services for Special Services and Major Account Centers, March, 1988.
And not only was this item worth more than $5,000.00, it was worth,
according to the indictment and Bell South, precisely $79,449.00. And
not a penny less. 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...
In addition to charging Knight Lightning with crimes for which he
could go to jail 30 years and be fined $122,000.00, they seized his
publication, Phrack, along with all related equipment, software and
data, including his list of subscribers, many of whom would soon lose
their computers and data for the crime of appearing on it.
I talked to Emmanuel Goldstein, the editor of 2600, another hacker
publication which has been known to publish purloined documents.
If they could shut down Phrack, couldn't they as easily shut down 2600?
He said, "I've got one advantage. I come out on paper and the
Constitution knows how to deal with paper."
In fact, nearly all publications are now electronic at some point in
their creation. In a modern newspaper, stories written at the scene
are typed to screens and then sent by modem to a central computer.
This computer composes the layout in electronic type and the entire
product transmitted electronically to the presses. There, finally, the
bytes become ink.
Phrack merely omitted the last step in a long line of virtual events.
However, that omission, and its insignificant circulation, left it
vulnerable to seizure based on content. If the 911 document had been
the Pentagon Papers (another proprietary document) and Phrack the
New York Times, a completion of the analogy would have seen the
government stopping publication of the Times and seizing its every
material possession, from notepads to presses.
Not that anyone in the newspaper business seemed particularly
worried about such implications. They, and the rest of the media
who bothered to report Knight Lightning's arrest were too obsessed
by what they portrayed as actual disruptions of emergency service
and with marvelling at the sociopathy of it. One report expressed
relief that no one appeared to have died as a result of the "intrusions."
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the 911 dragnet snared Leonard Rose, aka
Terminus. A professional computer consultant who specialized in
UNIX, Rose got a visit from the government early in February. The
G-men forcibly detained his wife and children for six hours while
they interrogated Rose about the 911 document and ransacked his system.
Rose had no knowledge of the 911 matter. Indeed, his only
connection had been occasional contact with Knight Lightning over
several years...and admitted membership in the Legion of Doom.
However, when searching his hard disk for 911 evidence, they found
something else. Like many UNIX consultants, Rose did have some
UNIX source code in his possession. Furthermore, there was
evidence that he had transmitted some of it to Jolnet and left it there
for another consultant.
UNIX is a ubiquitous operating system, and though its main virtue is
its openness to amendment at the source level, it is nevertheless the
property of AT&T. What had been widely distributed within businesses and
universities for years was suddenly, in Rose's hands, a felonious possession.
Finally, the Secret Service rewarded the good citizenship of Rich
Andrews by confiscating the computer where Jolnet had dwelt, along
with all the e-mail, read and un-read, which his subscribers had left
there. Like the many others whose equipment and data were taken
by the Secret Service subsequently, he wasn't charged with anything.
Nor is he likely to be. They have already inflicted on him the worst
punishment a nerd can suffer: data death.
Andrews was baffled. "I'm the one that found it, I'm the one that
turned it in...And I'm the one that's suffering," he said.
One wonders what will happen when they find such documents on
the hard disks of CompuServe. Maybe I'll just upload my copy of
Bell South Standard Practice (BSP) 660-225-104SV and see...
In any case, association with stolen data is all the guilt you need. It's
quite as if the government could seize your house simply because a
guest left a stolen VCR in an upstairs bedroom closet. Or confiscate
all the mail in a post office upon finding a stolen package there. The
first concept of modern jurisprudence to have arrived in Cyberspace
seems to have been Zero Tolerance.
Rich Andrews was not the last to learn about the Secret Service's
debonair new attitude toward the 4th Amendment's protection
against unreasonable seizure.
Early on March 1, 1990, the offices of a role-playing game publisher in
Austin, Texas called Steve Jackson Games were visited by agents of
the United States Secret Service. They ransacked the premises, broke
into several locked filing cabinets (damaging them irreparably in the
process) and eventually left carrying 3 computers, 2 laser printers,
several hard disks, and many boxes of paper and floppy disks.
Later in the day, callers to the Illuminati BBS (which Steve Jackson
Games operated to keep in touch with roll-players around the
country) encountered the following message:
"So far we have not received a clear explanation of what the Secret Service
was looking for, what they expected to find, or much of anything else. We are
fairly certain that Steve Jackson Games is not the target of whatever
investigation is being conducted; in any case, we have done nothing illegal
and have nothing whatsoever to hide. However, the equipment that was
seized is apparently considered to be evidence in whatever they're
investigating, so we aren't likely to get it back any time soon. It could be a
month, it could be never."
It's been three months as I write this and, not only has nothing been
returned to them, but, according to Steve Jackson, the Secret Service
will no longer take his calls. He figures that, in the months since the
raid, his little company has lost an estimated $125,000. With such a
fiscal hemorrhage, he can't afford a lawyer to take after the Secret
Service. Both the state and national offices of the ACLU told him to
"run along" when he solicited their help.
He tried to go to the press. As in most other cases, they were
unwilling to raise the alarm. Jackson theorized, "The conservative
press is taking the attitude that the suppression of evil hackers is a
good thing and that anyone who happens to be put out of business in
the meantime...well, that's just their tough luck."
In fact, Newsweek did run a story about the event, portraying it from
Jackson's perspective, but they were almost alone in dealing with it.
What had he done to deserve this nightmare? Role-playing games, of
which Dungeons and Dragons is the most famous, have been accused
of creating obsessive involvement in their nerdy young players, but
no one before had found it necessary to prevent their publication.
It seems that Steve Jackson had hired the wrong writer. The
managing editor of Steve Jackson Games is a former cracker, known
by his fellows in the Legion of Doom as The Mentor. At the time of
the raid, he and the rest of Jackson staff had been working for over a
year on a game called GURPS Cyberpunk, High-Tech Low-Life Role-Playing.
At the time of the Secret Service raids, the game resided entirely on
the hard disks they confiscated. Indeed, it was their target. They told
Jackson that, based on its author's background, they had reason to
believe it was a "handbook on computer crime." It was therefore
inappropriate for publication, 1st Amendment or no 1st Amendment.
I got a copy of the game from the trunk of The Mentor's car in an
Austin parking lot. Like the Bell South document, it seemed pretty
innocuous to me, if a little inscrutable. Borrowing its flavor from the
works of William Gibson and Austin sci-fi author Bruce Sterling, it is
filled with silicon brain implants, holodecks, and gauss guns.
It is, as the cover copy puts it, "a fusion of the dystopian visions of
George Orwell and Timothy Leary." Actually, without the gizmos, it
describes a future kind of like the present its publisher is
experiencing at the hands of the Secret Service.
An unbelievably Byzantine world resides within its 120 large pages
of small print. (These roll-players must be some kind of idiots
savants...) Indeed, it's a thing of such complexity that I can't swear
there's no criminal information in there, but then I can't swear that
Grateful Dead records don't have satanic messages if played backwards.
Anything's possible, especially inside something as remarkable as Cyberpunk.
The most remarkable thing about Cyberpunk is the fact that it was
printed at all. After much negotiation, Jackson was able to get the
Secret Service to let him have some of his data back. However, they
told him that he would be limited to an hour and a half with only one
of his three computers. Also, according to Jackson, "They insisted
that all the copies be made by a Secret Service agent who was a two-
finger typist. So we didn't get much. "
In the end, Jackson and his staff had to reconstruct most of the game
from neural rather than magnetic memory. They did have a few very
old backups, and they retrieved some scraps which had been passed
around to game testers. They also had the determination of the enraged.
Despite government efforts to impose censorship by prior restraint,
Cyberpunk is now on the market. Presumably, advertising it as "The
book that was seized by the U.S. Secret Service" will invigorate sales.
But Steve Jackson Games, the heretofore prosperous publisher of
more than a hundred role-playing games, has been forced to lay off
more than half of its employees and may well be mortally wounded.
Any employer who has heard this tale will think hard before he hires
a computer cracker. Which may be, of course, among the effects the
Secret Service desires.
On May 8, 1990, Operation Sun Devil, heretofore an apparently
random and nameless trickle of Secret Service actions, swept down
on the Legion of Doom and its ilk like a bureaucratic tsunami. On
that day, the Secret Service served 27 search warrants in 14 cities from
Plano, Texas to New York, New York.
The law had come to Cyberspace. When the day was over, transit
through the wide open spaces of the Virtual World would be a lot trickier.
In a press release following the sweep, the Secret Service boasted
having shut down numerous computer bulletin boards, confiscated
40 computers, and seized 23,000 disks. They noted in their statement
that "the conceivable criminal violations of this operation have
serious implications for the health and welfare of all individuals,
corporations, and United States Government agencies relying on
computers and telephones to communicate."
It was unclear from their statement whether "this operation" meant
the Legion of Doom or Operation Sun Devil. There was room to
interpret it either way.
Because the deliciously ironic truth is that, aside from the 3 page Bell
South document, the hackers had neither removed nor damaged
anyone's data. Operation Sun Devil, on the other hand, had "serious
implications" for a number of folks who relied on "computers and
telephones to communicate." They lost the equivalent of about 5.4
million pages of information. Not to mention a few computers and telephones.
And the welfare of the individuals behind those figures was surely in
jeopardy. Like the story of the single mother and computer
consultant in Baltimore whose sole means of supporting herself and
her 18 year old son was stripped away early one morning. Secret
Service agents broke down her door with sledge hammers, entered
with guns drawn, and seized all her computer equipment.
Apparently her son had also been using it...
Or the father in New York who opened the door at 6:00 AM and
found a shotgun at his nose. A dozen agents entered. While one of
the kept the man's wife in a choke-hold, the rest made ready to shoot
and entered the bedroom of their sleeping 14 year-old. Before
leaving, they confiscated every piece of electronic equipment in the
house, including all the telephones.
It was enough to suggest that the insurance companies should start
writing policies against capricious governmental seizure of circuitry.
In fairness, one can imagine the government's problem. This is all
pretty magical stuff to them. If I were trying to terminate the
operations of a witch coven, I'd probably seize everything in sight.
How would I tell the ordinary household brooms from the getaway vehicles?
But as I heard more and more about the vile injustices being heaped
on my young pals in the Legion of Doom, not to mention the
unfortunate folks nearby, the less I was inclined toward such
temperate thoughts as these. I drifted back into a 60's-style sense of
the government, thinking it a thing of monolithic and evil efficiency
and adopting an up-against-the-wall willingness to spit words like
"pig" or "fascist" into my descriptions.
In doing so, I endowed the Secret Service with a clarity of intent
which no agency of government will ever possess. Despite almost
every experience I've ever had with federal authority, I keep
imagining its competence.
For some reason, it was easier to invest the Keystone Kapers of
Operation Sun Devil with malign purpose rather than confront their
absurdity straight-on. There is, after all, a twisted kind of comfort in
political paranoia. It provides one such a sense of orderliness to think
that the government is neither crazy nor stupid and that its plots,
though wicked, are succinct.
I was about to have an experience which would restore both my
natural sense of unreality and my unwillingness to demean the
motives of others. I was about to see first hand the disorientation of
the law in the featureless vastness of Cyberspace.
In Search of NuPrometheus
"I pity the poor immigrant..."
-- Bob Dylan
Sometime last June, an angry hacker got hold of a chunk of the highly
secret source code which drives the Apple Macintosh. He then
distributed it to a variety of addresses, claiming responsibility for this
act of information terrorism in the name of the NuPrometheus League.
Apple freaked. NuPrometheus had stolen, if not the Apple crown
jewels, at least a stone from them. Worse, NuPrometheus had then
given this prize away. Repeatedly.
All Apple really has to offer the world is the software which lies
encoded in silicon on the ROM chip of every Macintosh. This set of
instructions is the cyber-DNA which makes a Macintosh a Macintosh.
Worse, much of the magic in this code was put there by people who
not only do not work for Apple any longer, but might only do so
again if encouraged with cattle prods. Apple's attitude toward its
ROM code is a little like that of a rich kid toward his inheritance. Not
actually knowing how to create wealth himself, he guards what he
has with hysterical fervor.
Time passed, and I forgot about the incident. But one recent May
morning, I leaned that others had not. The tireless search for the
spectral heart of NuPrometheus finally reached Pinedale, Wyoming,
where I was the object of a two hour interview by Special Agent
Richard Baxter, Jr. of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Poor Agent Baxter didn't know a ROM chip from a Vise-grip when
he arrived, so much of that time was spent trying to educate him on
the nature of the thing which had been stolen. Or whether "stolen"
was the right term for what had happened to it.
You know things have rather jumped the groove when potential suspects
must explain to law enforcers the nature of their alleged perpetrations.
I wouldn't swear Agent Baxter ever got it quite right. After I showed
him some actual source code, gave a demonstration of e-mail in
action, and downloaded a file from the WELL, he took to rubbing his
face with both hands, peering up over his finger tips and saying, "It
sure is something, isn't it" Or, "Whooo-ee."
Or "my eight year-old knows more about these things than I do." He
didn't say this with a father's pride so much as an immigrant's fear of
a strange new land into which he will be forcibly moved and in
which his own child is a native. He looked across my keyboard into
Cyberspace and didn't like what he saw.
We could have made it harder for one another, but I think we each
sensed that the other occupied a world which was as bizarre and
nonsensical as it could be. We did our mutual best to suppress
immune response at the border.
You'd have thought his world might have been a little more
recognizable to me. Not so, it turns out. Because in his world, I
found several unfamiliar features, including these:
1. The Hacker's Conference is an underground organization of
computer outlaws with likely connections to, and almost certainly
sympathy with, the NuPrometheus League. (Or as Agent Baxter
repeatedly put it, the "New Prosthesis League.")
2. John Draper, the affore-mentioned Cap'n Crunch, in addition to
being a known member of the Hacker's Conference, is also CEO
and president of Autodesk, Inc. This is of particular concern to
the FBI because Autodesk has many top-secret contracts with the
government to supply Star Wars graphics imaging and "hyperspace"
technology. Worse, Draper is thought to have Soviet contacts.
He wasn't making this up. He had lengthy documents from the San
Francisco office to prove it. And in which Autodesk's address was
On the other hand, I know John Draper. While, as I say, he may have
once distinguished himself as a cracker during the Pleistocene, he is
not now, never has been, and never will be CEO of Autodesk. He did
work there for awhile last year, but he was let go long before he got
in a position to take over.
Nor is Autodesk, in my experience with it, the Star Wars skunk
works which Agent Baxter's documents indicated. One could hang
out there a long time without ever seeing any gold braid.
Their primary product is something called AutoCAD, by far the most
popular computer-aided design software but generally lacking in
lethal potential. They do have a small development program in
Cyberspace, which is what they call Virtual Reality. (This, I assume is
the "hyperspace" to which Agent Baxter's documents referred.)
However, Autodesk had reduced its Cyberspace program to a couple
of programmers. I imagined Randy Walser and Carl Tollander toiling
away in the dark and lonely service of their country. Didn't work.
Then I tried to describe Virtual Reality to Agent Baxter, but that
didn't work either. In fact, he tilted. I took several runs at it, but I
could tell I was violating our border agreements. These seemed to
include a requirement that neither of us try to drag the other across
into his conceptual zone.
I fared a little better on the Hacker's Conference. Hardly a
conspiracy, the Hacker's Conference is an annual convention
originated in 1984 by the Point Foundation and the editors of Whole
Earth Review. Each year it invites about a hundred of the most gifted
and accomplished of digital creators. Indeed, they are the very people
who have conducted the personal computer revolution. Agent Baxter
looked at my list of Hacker's Conference attendees and read their bios.
"These are the people who actually design this stuff, aren't they?" He
was incredulous. Their corporate addresses didn't fit his model of
outlaws at all well.
Why had he come all the way to Pinedale to investigate a crime he
didn't understand which had taken place (sort of) in 5 different
places, none of which was within 500 miles?
Well, it seems Apple has told the FBI that they can expect little
cooperation from Hackers in and around the Silicon Valley, owing to
virulent anti-Apple sentiment there. They claim this is due to the
Hacker belief that software should be free combined with festering
resentment of Apple's commercial success. They advised the FBI to
question only those Hackers who were as far as possible from the
twisted heart of the subculture.
They did have their eye on some local people though. These
included a couple of former Apple employees, Grady Ward and
Water Horat, Chuck Farnham (who has made a living out of
harassing Apple), Glenn Tenney (the purported leader of the
Hackers), and, of course, the purported CEO of Autodesk.
Other folks Agent Baxter asked me about included Mitch Kapor, who
wrote Lotus 1-2-3 and was known to have received some this
mysterious source code. Or whatever. But I had also met Mitch
Kapor, both on the WELL and in person. A less likely computer
terrorist would be hard to come by.
Actually, the question of the source code was another area where
worlds but shadow-boxed. Although Agent Baxter didn't know
source code from Tuesday, he did know that Apple Computer had
told his agency that what had been stolen and disseminated was the
complete recipe for a Macintosh computer. The distribution of this
secret formula might result in the creation of millions of Macintoshes
not made by Apple. And, of course, the ruination of Apple Computer.
In my world, NuPrometheus (whoever they, or more likely, he might
be) had distributed a small portion of the code which related
specifically to Color QuickDraw. QuickDraw is Apple's name for the
software which controls the Mac's on-screen graphics. But this was
another detail which Agent Baxter could not capture. For all he
knew, you could grow Macintoshes from floppy disks.
I explained to him that Apple was alleging something like the ability
to assemble an entire human being from the recipe for a foot, but
even he know the analogy was inexact. And trying to get him to
accept the idea that a corporation could go mad with suspicion was
quite futile. He had a far different perception of the emotional
reliability of institutions.
When he fnally left, we were both dazzled and disturbed. I spent
some time thinking about Lewis Carroll and tried to return to writing
about the legal persecution of the Legion of Doom. But my heart
wasn't in it. I found myself suddenly too much in sympathy with
Agent Baxter and his struggling colleagues from Operation Sun Devil
to get back into a proper sort of pig-bashing mode.
Given what had happened to other innocent bystanders like Steve
Jackson, I gave some thought to getting scared. But this was Kafka in
a clown suit. It wasn't precisely frightening. I also took some
comfort in a phrase once applied to the administration of Frederick
the Great: "Despotism tempered by incompetence."
Of course, incompetence is a double-edged banana. While we may
know this new territory better than the authorities, they have us
literally out-gunned. One should pause before making well-armed
paranoids feel foolish, no matter how foolish they seem.
The Fear of White Noise
"Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity."
-- Sigmund Freud, appearing to me in a dream
I'm a member of that half of the human race which is inclined to
divide the human race into two kinds of people. My dividing line
runs between the people who crave certainty and the people who
You can draw this one a number of ways, of course, like Control vs.
Serendipity, Order vs. Chaos, Hard answers vs. Silly questions, or Newton,
Descartes & Aquinas vs. Heisenberg, Mandelbrot & the Dalai Lama. Etc.
Large organizations and their drones huddle on one end of my scale,
busily trying to impose predictable homogeneity on messy
circumstance. On the other end, free-lancers and ne'er-do-wells
cavort about, getting by on luck if they get by at all.
However you cast these poles, it comes down to the difference
between those who see life as a struggle against cosmic peril and
human infamy and those who believe, without any hard evidence,
that the universe is actually on our side. Fear vs. Faith.
I am of the latter group. Along with Gandhi and Rebecca of
Sunnybrook Farm, I believe that other human beings will quite
consistently merit my trust if I'm not doing something which scares
them or makes them feel bad about themselves. In other words, the
best defense is a good way to get hurt.
In spite of the fact that this system works very reliably for me and my
kind, I find we are increasingly in the minority. More and more of
our neighbors live in armed compounds. Alarms blare continuously.
Potentially happy people give their lives over to the corporate state as
though the world were so dangerous outside its veil of collective
immunity that they have no choice.
I have a number of theories as to why this is happening. One has to
do with the opening of Cyberspace. As a result of this development,
humanity is now undergoing the most profound transformation of its
history. Coming into the Virtual World, we inhabit Information.
Indeed, we become Information. Thought is embodied and the Flesh
is made Word. It's weird as hell.
Beginning with the invention of the telegraph and extending through
television into Virtual Reality, we have been, for a over a century,
experiencing a terrifying erosion in our sense of both body and place.
As we begin to realize the enormity of what is happening to us, all
but the most courageous have gotten scared.
And everyone, regardless of his psychic resilience, feels this
overwhelming sense of strangeness. The world, once so certain and
tangible and legally precise, has become an infinite layering of
opinions, perceptions, litigation, camera-angles, data, white noise,
and, most of all, ambiguities. Those of us who are of the fearful
persuasion do not like ambiguities.
Indeed, if one were a little jumpy to start with, he may now be fairly
humming with nameless dread. Since no one likes his dread to be
nameless, the first order of business is to find it some names.
For a long time here in the United States, Communism provided a
kind of catch-all bogeyman. Marx, Stalin and Mao summoned forth
such a spectre that, to many Americans, annihilation of all life was
preferable to the human portion's becoming Communist. But as Big
Red wizened and lost his teeth, we began to cast about for a replacement.
Finding none of sufficient individual horror, we have draped a
number of objects with the old black bunting which once shrouded
the Kremlin. Our current spooks are terrorists, child abductors,
AIDS, and the underclass. I would say drugs, but anyone who thinks
that the War on Drugs is not actually the War on the Underclass
hasn't been paying close enough attention.
There are a couple of problems with these Four Horsemen. For one
thing, they aren't actually very dangerous. For example, only 7
Americans died in worldwide terrorist attacks in 1987. Fewer than 10
(out of about 70 million) children are abducted by strangers in the
U.S. each year. Your chances of getting AIDS if you are neither gay
nor a hemophiliac nor a junkie are considerably less than your
chances of getting killed by lightning while golfing. The underclass is
dangerous, of course, but only, with very few exceptions, if you are a
member of it.
The other problem with these perils is that they are all physical. If we
are entering into a world in which no one has a body, physical threats
begin to lose their sting.
And now I come to the point of this screed: The perfect bogeyman
for Modern Times is the Cyberpunk! He is so smart he makes you
feel even more stupid than you usually do. He knows this complex
country in which you're perpetually lost. He understands the value
of things you can't conceptualize long enough to cash in on. He is the
one-eyed man in the Country of the Blind.
In a world where you and your wealth consist of nothing but beeps
and boops of micro-voltage, he can steal all your assets in
nanoseconds and then make you disappear.
He can even reach back out of his haunted mists and kill you
physically. Among the justifications for Operation Sun Devil was
this chilling tidbit:
"Hackers had the ability to access and review the files of hospital patients.
Furthermore, they could have added, deleted, or altered vital patient
information, possibly causing life- threatening situations."
Perhaps the most frightening thing about the Cyberpunk is the
danger he presents to The Institution, whether corporate or
governmental. If you are frightened you have almost certainly taken
shelter by now in one of these collective organisms, so the very last
thing you want is something which can endanger your heretofore
And make no mistake, crackers will become to bureaucratic bodies
what viruses presently are to human bodies. Thus, Operation Sun
Devil can be seen as the first of many waves of organizational
immune response to this new antigen. Agent Baxter was a T-cell.
Fortunately, he didn't know that himself and I was very careful not to
show him my own antigenic tendencies.
I think that herein lies the way out of what might otherwise become
an Armageddon between the control freaks and the neo-hip. Those
who are comfortable with these disorienting changes must do
everything in our power to convey that comfort to others. In other
words, we must share our sense of hope and opportunity with those
who feel that in Cyberspace they will be obsolete eunuchs for sure.
It's a tall order. But, my silicon brothers, our self-interest is strong.
If we come on as witches, they will burn us. If we volunteer to guide
them gently into its new lands, the Virtual World might be a more
amiable place for all of us than this one has been.
Of course, we may also have to fight.
Defining the conceptual and legal map of Cyberspace before the
ambiguophobes do it for us (with punitive over-precision) is going to
require some effort. We can't expect the Constitution to take care of
itself. Indeed, the precedent for mitigating the Constitutional
protection of a new medium has already been established. Consider
what happened to radio in the early part of this century.
Under the pretext of allocating limited bandwidth, the government
established an early right of censorship over broadcast content which
still seems directly unconstitutional to me. Except that it stuck. And
now, owing to a large body of case law, looks to go on sticking.
New media, like any chaotic system, are highly sensitive to initial
conditions. Today's heuristical answers of the moment become
tomorrow's permanent institutions of both law and expectation.
Thus, they bear examination with that destiny in mind.
Earlier in this article, I asked a number of tough questions relating to
the nature of property, privacy, and speech in the digital domain.
Questions like: "What are data and what is free speech?" or "How
does one treat property which has no physical form and can be
infinitely reproduced?" or "Is a computer the same as a printing
press." The events of Operation Sun Devil were nothing less than an
effort to provide answers to these questions. Answers which would
greatly enhance governmental ability to silence the future's
In over-reaching as extravagantly as they did, the Secret Service may
actually have done a service for those of us who love liberty. They
have provided us with a devil. And devils, among their other
galvanizing virtues, are just great for clarifying the issues and putting
iron in your spine. In the presence of a devil, it's always easier to
figure out where you stand.
While I previously had felt no stake in the obscure conundra of free
telecommunication, I was, thanks to Operation Sun Devil, suddenly
able to plot a trajectory from the current plight of the Legion of Doom
to an eventual constraint on opinions much dearer to me. I remembered
Martin Neimoeller, who said:
"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't
speak up because I wasn't a Jew. They came for the trade unionists, and I
didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the
Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came
for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
I decided it was time for me to speak up.
The evening of my visit from Agent Baxter, I wrote an account of it
which I placed on the WELL. Several days later, Mitch Kapor
literally dropped by for a chat.
Also a WELL denizen, he had read about Agent Baxter and had
begun to meditate on the inappropriateness of leaving our civil
liberties to be defined by the technologically benighted. A man who
places great emphasis on face-to-face contact, he wanted to discuss
this issue with me in person. He had been flying his Canadair bizjet
to a meeting in California when he realized his route took him
directly over Pinedale.
We talked for a couple of hours in my office while a spring
snowstorm swirled outside. When I recounted for him what I had learned
about Operation Sun Devil, he decided it was time for him to speak up too.
He called a few days later with the phone number of a civil
libertarian named Harvey Silverglate, who, as evidence of his
conviction that everyone deserves due process, is currently
defending Leona Helmsley. Mitch asked me to tell Harvey what I
knew, with the inference that he would help support the costs which
are liable to arise whenever you tell a lawyer anything.
I found Harvey in New York at the offices of that city's most
distinguished constitutional law firm, Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard,
Krinsky, and Lieberman. These are the folks who made it possible
for the New York Times to print the Pentagon Papers. (Not to dwell
on the unwilling notoriety which partner Leonard Boudin achieved
back in 1970 when his Weathergirl daughter blew up the family home...)
In the conference call which followed, I could almost hear the skeletal
click as their jaws dropped. The next day, Eric Lieberman and Terry
Gross of Rabinowitz, Boudin met with Acid Phreak, Phiber Optik,
The maddening trouble with writing this account is that Whole Earth
Review, unlike, say, Phrack, doesn't publish instantaneously. Events
are boiling up at such a frothy pace that anything I say about current
occurrences surely will not obtain by the time you read this. The
road from here is certain to fork many times. The printed version of
this will seem downright quaint before it's dry.
But as of today (in early June of 1990), Mitch and I are legally
constituting the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a two (or possibly
three) man organization which will raise and disburse funds for
education, lobbying, and litigation in the areas relating to digital
speech and the extension of the Constitution into Cyberspace.
Already, on the strength of preliminary stories about our efforts in
the Washington Post and the New York Times, Mitch has received an
offer from Steve Wozniak to match whatever funds he dedicates to
this effort. (As well as a fair amount of abuse from the more
institutionalized precincts of the computer industry.)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation will 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
In addition, we will work with the Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility and other organizations to convey to both the public
and the policy-makers metaphors which will illuminate the more
general stake in liberating Cyberspace.
Not everyone will agree. Crackers are, after all, generally beyond
public sympathy. Actions on their behalf are not going to be popular
no matter who else might benefit from them in the long run.
Nevertheless, in the litigations and political debates which are certain
to follow, we will endeavor to assure that their electronic speech is
protected as certainly as any opinions which are printed or, for that
matter, screamed. We will make an effort to clarify issues
surrounding the distribution of intellectual property. And we will
help to create for America a future which is as blessed by the Bill of
Rights as its past has been.
John Perry Barlow firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, June 8, 1990
Steve Jackson Games | SJ Games vs. the Secret Service