Dick Cleek, Univ.of Wisconsin Centers (414) 335-5232   
James Lippard                   (602) 395-1010 ext:2110
Michael Maxfield
Cheryl Morris (Canada) 
Tilman Hausherr (Germany)
[affiliations are listed for identification only]


 -- 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.

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.

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
"," which is nonexistent.

Further forged cancels from "" 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

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

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.
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.


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

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.

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.

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