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John Perry Barlow
[email protected]

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) 
computer equipment. 

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 

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 	

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 

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	

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, 
		but nonetheless:
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 exactly 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 sky-
diving 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 
been higher.

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 
to defend.  

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 
computer  viruses."  

"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 

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 c harge 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 

"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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 d  istributed 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-

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 

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 

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 

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 

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 Nu  Prometheus 

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 

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 
certainly correct.  

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 
"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 

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 finally 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 
trust chance. 

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 

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 
unassailable hive.  

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 
opinionated nerds.  

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 

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, 
and Scorpion.

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
[email protected]
Friday, June 8, 1990