FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 1995 --------------------------------------------------------------- AD-HOC COMMITTEE AGAINST INTERNET CENSORSHIP/"Rabbit Hunters" CONTACT: Dick Cleek, Univ.of Wisconsin Centers [email protected] (414) 335-5232 James Lippard (602) 395-1010 ext:2110 Deirdre [email protected] Michael Maxfield [email protected] Cheryl Morris (Canada) [email protected] Tilman Hausherr (Germany) [email protected] [affiliations are listed for identification only] INTERNET USERS CRITICAL OF SCIENTOLOGY SYSTEMATICALLY CENSORED BY MEANS OF FORGERY AND MANIPULATION OF COMPUTER SYSTEMS -- Users worldwide affected when their messages were erased without their consent and without any legal authority -- Methods used may constitute a Federal crime -- Discussion of materials from open court documents recently seized in raid of Virginia man's home suppressed without due process The USENET newsgroup "alt.religion.scientology" has recently been the target of an apparently systematic censorship effort, in a manner that appears to violate the Federal laws of the United States of America, and which may violate laws in other jurisdictions as well. This newsgroup, like thousands of other such groups available via the Internet and other computer networks, is a forum for the free discussion of ideas. It is more like a soapbox in the village square than a newspaper -- anyone can have their say. Millions of people can read and contribute to these groups. "alt.religion.scientology" (a.r.s) is an "unmoderated" group, where no control is exerted over which articles get "published" and which do not. The group's charter is the discussion of the Church of Scientology, and it was created by a person who is critical of the Church. Both Scientologists and non-Scientologists post to the group. MESSAGES ERASED Since December, 1994, the freedom to speak one's mind on a.r.s has been inhibited by one or more people who have used "forged cancel messages" to censor other's writings. On USENET newsgroups, one can send a message through the network requesting that one's message be deleted. It is generally accepted that only the original author of a "post," the author's system administrators, and the moderator of the newsgroup (if any) have the authority to cancel a message. It is technically possible, however, to forge such a message in order to cancel someone else's posts. Such forged cancel messages carry false information about their origin and the way they were inserted into the USENET system. ONGOING HISTORY OF FRAUDULENT MESSAGE CANCELLATIONS In January 1995, several accounts at Netcom, Inc., a major Internet service provider, were terminated when it was discovered that users of those accounts were forging cancel messages in order to censor messages posted in a.r.s which were critical of Scientology. Soon thereafter, more such cancel messages were posted from accounts at Deltanet, another provider. Those accounts were likewise terminated by the provider. The Deltanet forgeries were made to appear as if they were issued by a user with the electronic mail address "[email protected]," which is nonexistent. Further forged cancels from "[email protected]" appeared in March and July of this year. Detective work by concerned Internet users tracked down the point at which the forger was inserting the messages into the USENET system, a site at the University College in Dublin, Ireland. Officials at the University quickly took measures to prevent further insertions at their site. However, the cancels from "noman" have not stopped. Until recently, cancels from "noman" were being inserted into a news server at the University of Delaware. We have worked with the administrator at Delaware, and we have determined that the messages were probably being inserted by users at two service providers in southern California: Kaiwan and Directnet. We have strong circumstantial evidence that point to specific usernames, one on each system, as probable sources of these forged cancels. This evidence comes from information which is available to any Internet user through established protocols. It shows a close temporal correlation between certain users' activity and the receipt of the forged cancel messages at the University of Delaware. POSSIBLE IDENTITY OF CENSOR KNOWN As of Monday, August 7, the University of Delaware closed the security hole in their news server which permitted the introduction of the forged cancel messages. At that time, a user on Kaiwan was able to track the usage of one of the suspicious accounts, again using publicly-available commands. The monitoring indicated that the suspected canceler was apparently trying desperately to find a USENET news server which would accept a fraudulent news connection of the sort necessary to insert forged cancels. Additionally, forged cancels by "noman" since Monday appear to have been inserted into USENET at Kaiwan's news server. Since this news server is only open to Kaiwan's customers, it indicates that the forger is probably a client of Kaiwan. FBI, OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AWARE OF FORGED CANCELS We have contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation about this matter, since tampering with stored electronic communications is a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in the United States of America, and we believe that other Federal laws may be applicable as well. We have been in contact with high-ranking officials in the FBI's Computer Crimes Squad. It is the FBI's policy to not discuss pending cases. Because it is not difficult to get an Internet account, even under an assumed name, we do not believe that it will be effective if Kaiwan or Directnet simply terminate the accounts of anyone found to be forging cancel messages. History has shown that the forger simply moves on to a new service provider and begins again. We believe that only criminal proceedings will suffice to prevent this attack upon international free speech. CONTACTS FOR CENSORSHIP VICTIMS We recommend that any concerned citizens contact appropriate law enforcement agencies about this matter, particularly if their words have been censored in this fashion. In the United States, victims should call their local branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the number is listed in the front of most phone books. Also, most states have computer crime squads in their state police force. In Canada, victims should contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are also investigating this matter. RELATED INFORMATION Recently, the cancel messages have contained variations on the phrase "COPYRIGHT / TRADE SECRET VIOLATIONS," a reference to the various legal claims made by the Church of Scientology about its scriptures. Some of the posts which have been fraudulently canceled contained brief quotations of about four sentences from Scientology materials, which the posters claim was used legally under the doctrine of Fair Use. This doctrine permits the usage of portions of copyrighted material in order to further criticism, debate, or education, where such use does not cause direct financial harm. A message which simply pointed out the location of fraudulently canceled material was also canceled. "LEGAL" THREATS Some authors who have had their messages canceled have also received messages from a user at Netcom who claims to be the Church's attorney, Helena Kobrin. These messages, apparently a form letter, threaten the recipient with legal action if they do not immediately cease their usage of the Church's secret materials and destroy any copies of such materials in their possession. We have been unable to verify that these messages are in fact genuine, and there is some evidence that they are forgeries as well. HOMES OF CRITICS RAIDED; PROPERTY SEIZED; SUITS FILED The Church is currently suing critic Dennis Erlich, as well as Mr. Erlich's service provider Tom Klemesrud and Mr. Klemesrud's service provider, Netcom, on the grounds that Mr. Erlich violated the Church's copyrights and trade secrets by publishing portions of Scientology scriptures on a.r.s. The service providers are named as co-defendants on the grounds that they did not prevent Mr. Erlich from publishing the material. A Federal court decision on the Church's claims is expected soon. The Church has alleged that Arnaldo Lerma, a resident of Alexandria, Virginia, violated their copyrights by publishing a series of documents on the Internet in the newsgroup a.r.s. On Saturday, August 12, U.S. Marshals accompanied by Church lawyers Helena Kobrin and Earle Cooley as well as a Religious Technology Center executive raided Mr. Lerma's house, seizing his computer equipment and more than 400 computer disks. Some of these disks contained unrelated personal and business data. Mr. Lerma's posts contained material which is available to anyone as part of a U.S. Federal circuit court record, as described below. As in the Erlich case, Mr. Lerma's Internet service provider, Digital Gateway Systems, was also included in the suit filed by the Church. In view of the recent raids and litigation against Mr. Erlich and Mr. Lerma, the spectre of these fraudulent and suppressive cancel messages is foreboding. We believe that a clear and present danger to the free speech of Internet users exists so long as people's words may be erased from existence without their approval and without due process of law. Although we have no evidence that these cancels are sanctioned by the Church,it is disturbing that the recent flurry of cancels and the raids occurred contemporaneously and that they aim to suppress discussion of the same material. ALLEGEDLY SECRET MATERIALS ARE PART OF OPEN COURT RECORD Notably, the scriptures in question are part of a public court record in California. By law, such records must be made available to anyone who desires them for the cost of copying seemingly making it extremely difficult to assert "trade secret" status. There would appear to be some doubts about the Church's claims that Mr. Lerma violated copyright law, as the materials they seized as allegedly infringing the Church's copyrights were legally obtained as part of an open, public court record. Any person wishing a copy of these materials named in the search warrant for Mr. Lerma's home may obtain them by calling the Correspondence Clerk at the Federal Courthouse, Central District of California, at +1 213 894 3533. The materials are part of case CV-91-6426 HLH(Tx), "Church of Scientology International v. Fishman and Geertz," specifically the Fishman declaration dated April 9, 1993. For less than $40, the court will photocopy the relevant sections and mail them to you. Readers requiring more information are invited to take part in the discussion on alt.religion.scientology or to point their web browsers at "http://www.xs4all.nl/~kspaink/rnewman/scientology/home.html"