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Podcast Episode: Antitrust/Pro-Internet

EFFector - Volume 3, Issue 3 - The EFF And The FBI: Two Letters


EFFector - Volume 3, Issue 3 - The EFF And The FBI: Two Letters

########## ########## ########## |  THE EFF AND THE FBI: Two Letters 
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########   ########   ########   |       ONE BBSCON REPORTS          
########   ########   ########   | At Play in the Field of the Boards
####       ####       ####       |        Dueling BBSCONS            
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EFFector Online             August 24, 1992                Issue  3.3
         A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation         
                           ISSN 1062-9424                            

                THE EFF AND THE FBI: An exchange of views

This is an exchange of letters in the Wall Street Journal between
the Director of the FBI, William Sessions and EFF's Staff Counsel, Mike 

                                                     August 4,1992

FBI Must Keep Up With Wonks & Hackers

Re your July 9 article about a very successful "computer hackers" 
investigation conducted by the FBI and the Secret Service ("Wiretap 
Inquiry Spurs Computer Hacker Charges"):  The article mentions that 
court-ordered electronic surveillance was a critical part of the 
investigation and that the FBI is seeking laws to make it easier to tap 
computer systems.  Mike Godwin, general counsel for the Electronic 
Frontier Foundation, said that "the success in this case 'undercuts' the 
argument that new laws are needed."  I believe the opposite to be the 
case.  This investigation clearly demonstrates why legislation is 
absolutely necessary.

What Mr. Godwin is referring to is a legislative proposal on behalf of 
law enforcement to ensure that as telecommunications technology 
advances, the ability of law enforcement to conduct court-ordered 
electronic surveillance is not lost.  Without the legislation, it is 
almost certain that will occur.  The proposal is not directed at 
computer systems, but pertains to telephone service providers and 
equipment manufacturers.

In 1968, Congress carefully considered and passed legislation setting 
forth the exacting procedure by which court authorization to conduct 
electronic surveillance can be obtained.  Since that time it has become 
an invaluable investigative tool in combating serious and often life-
threatening crimes such as terrorism, kidnapping, drugs and organized 
crime.  The 1968 law contemplates cooperation by the telecommunications 
service providers in implementing these court orders.  The proposed 
legislation only clarifies that responsibility by making it clearly 
applicable regardless of the technology deployed.

Absent legislation, the ability to conduct successful investigations 
such as the one mentioned in your article will certainly be jeopardized.
The deployment of digital telecommunications equipment that is not 
designed to meet the need for law enforcement to investigate crime and 
enforce the laws will have that effect.  No new authority is needed or 
requested.  All the legislation would do if enacted is ensure that the 
status quo is maintained and the ability granted by Congress in 1968 

William S. Sessions
Director, FBI, Department of Justice
Wall Street Journal, August 4, 1992

                                                  August 14, 1992

Letters to the Editor
The Wall Street Journal:
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281

In his Aug. 4 letter to the editor, FBI Director William Sessions
disagrees with my quoted opinion that the FBI's success in a
computer-wiretap case "'undercuts' the argument that new laws are 
needed." His disagreement doesn't disturb me too much; it's the kind of 
thing over which reasonable people can disagree.

What does disturb me, however, is Sessions's claim about the FBI's
initiative to require the phone companies (and other
communications-service providers, like CompuServe) to build wiretapping
capabilities into their systems. Says Sessions, apparently without 
"No new authority is needed or requested. All the legislation would if
enacted is ensure that the status quo is maintained and the ability [of
law enforcement to implement wiretaps] is preserved." Earlier, Sessions
says the proposed legislation "only clarifies [the phone companies']
responsibility" to cooperate with properly authorized law enforcement
under the 1968 Wiretap Act.

What Sessions does not mention, however, is that his legislation would,
among other things, allow the government to impose upon those phone
companies and communications-service providers who do not build
wiretapping into their systems "a civil penalty of $10,000 per day for
each day in violation." By any standards other than those of Sessions 
and the FBI, this constitutes "new authority." If this proposal "only
clarifies" providers' obligations under the 1968 Act, one shudders to
imagine what Sessions would call an "expansion" of law-enforcement

Staff Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Cambridge, Massachusetts


         At Play in the Field of the Boards: Report on ONE BBSCON
                         August 13-16, 1992. 
                   by Steve Cisler (

                   Validating the BBS Ticket

Our plane punched down through the low clouds a half hour late into 
Denver. A short shuttle ride and you're at the Stouffer Concourse Hotel 
the site of the Online Networking Exposition and BBS Convention ONE 
BBSCon. This was to be the first ecumenical gathering of bulletin board 
system operators (sysops), hardware and software vendors, and 
programmers that spanned the DOS, Unix, and Macintosh worlds. There had 
once been annual meetings of Fidonet sysops, but the parent organization 
had folded even as the number of BBS systems continued to explode.

Jack Rickard, President of ONE, Inc. and publisher of Boardwatch 
Magazine  had partnered up with Phil 
Becker, author of TBBS software, to organize a trade show for BBS 
operators that would be inexpensive enough to attract those running 
their boards as hobbies but featured tutorials and panels with subjects 
attractive to entrepreneurs who have mounted and maintained successful 
business systems with four, eight, on up to 64 phone lines for their 

Most of us in the online world are stratified in our interests when it 
comes to networking and communications. There are MIS shops depending on 
minis and mainframes; there are the academic and research networks where 
NREN and the Internet dominate; there are consumer services, a 
continuing, failure when promoted and maintained by the regional phone 
companies and successful in different ways at Prodigy, GEnie, 
CompuServe, and America Online. But then there are the BBS systems.

BBS systems, users, and sysops have never been validated by many of the 
mainstream opinion makers. Most of the operators and users have been 
outsiders, socially, politically, and even economically. Of these, a 
significant subset are proud of this status, but others yearn to make 
their "hobby" into a full-fledged industry. Indeed, if some of the 
reports of BBS size heard in the panels and in the halls are even 
remotely accurate, there are many "machete and loincloth BBSs that rival 
commercial services. ONE BBSCON brought nearly 1000 of these outsiders 
together for the first time. It also attracted mainstream users who have 
found BBSs to be cost effective, easy to maintain (compared to other 
sorts of electronic systems), and extremely useful. ONE BBSCON put the 
spotlight on the "Industry" as Rickard and Becker hope it will become. 

BBS System vendors were on the organizing board, and there were tracks 
for the major DOS/Intel systems: Wildcat!, TBBS, PCBoard, MAJOR, and 
Searchlight as well as other operating systems such as UNIX and 
Macintosh (the latter comprised less than 5% of the attendees). Other 
tracks were for legal and social issues, corporate and business 
applications, how to make money with a BBS, the Internet/NREN, Mail 
networks, and a technical track. 

                       Few Ties and Big Skies

The opening reception included a sprinkling of ties, making me feel 
over-dressed in a sport coat. With the dress code set for the rest of 
the days ahead, I thumbed through the program and spoke with BBS and 
networking folks whom I had met online or at other conferences. Dave 
Hughes of Old Colorado City Communications  and 
Frank Odasz of Big Sky Telegraph  noted the 
lack of education tracks in the program, but with their participation in 
the program it became an important sub-theme. 

The range of activities in the BBS world indicates the potential power 
and freedom to experiment that goes with cheap hardware, BBS software, 
and a reasonably priced public telephone network. A journalist from 
Albuquerque is running his newspaper's 16 line system, which provides 
news to callers at no charge. A BBS team had just returned from Russia 
where they were helping set up a country-wide system using low-orbiting 
satellites for data transmission. An entrepreneur who had been sued by 
Playboy enterprises for vending GIF images of Playmates (and using that 
trademarked name in his BBS menus) without much thought of copyright was 
present and seeking advice and solace. 

At the opening session it was immediately evident ONE BBSCON was going 
to be a successful conference. It was also clear how BBSs would become 
an industry that would overshadow but not eliminate hobby uses of such 
systems: cheap 9600 bps modems, inexpensive 486 servers, and telephone 
systems that are not charging by measured use (as is done in many other 
countries). Boardwatch estimates that there are 44,000 public systems 
(and many more private and corporate ones) in the U.S. The four vendors 
sitting on ONE, Inc. board claim to have an installed base of 50,000, 
and this excludes Fido, the most popular of all systems. Phil Becker 
made a strong pitch for the BBS as a business tool for mainstream 
activities and belittled what he called the 'stupid niches' like Keith 
Wade's THE ANARCHIST GUIDE TO BBS. Clearly, Becker wanted to encourage 
mainstream business uses of this technology. They were impressive and 
diverse. Others like Tom Jennings (author of the extremely cheap and 
popular Fido software) sees the technology benefiting the outsiders: the 
fat, the handicapped, the socially inept, the disenfranchised, the 
radical, the non-mainstream. And of course, BBS technology can fill both 
Becker's and Jennings' very different visions, but Becker's was the one 
in the ascendent at ONE BBSCon 

The keynote speech was given by John Dvorak, who writes for many 
computer magazines, has co-authored a successful book on telecomms, and 
is often on the public speaker circuit. His columns are entertaining, 
opinionated and as Art Kleiner said in an old S.F. Bay Guardian article, 
he is a "curmudgeon without a cause." 

People who like to rattle cages can be good speakers and warm the crowd 
up for the ensuing events. However, Dvorak devoted so much time to self 
advertisements and plugging his books that it seemed he must have spent 
about 10 minutes thinking about some of the issues that needed 
addressing with regards to BBSes. A sprinkling of Dvorak comments: "get 
a fan for your 486 machines... OS/2 is fun! (Windows is not)...the BBS 
community needs a lobbyist in each state; it's embarrassingly naive and 
should examine how it operates on different levels...Al Gore is the Dan 
Quayle of the Democratic Party...The porno boards are always under 
scrutiny by the government. one way or another... Playboy images on a 
BBS has to be called fair use... BBSes cannot continue to allow slander 
on the boards. You have to clean up your act by self-policing. 

Dvorak also called for a constitutional amendment to protect electronic 
rights, apparently unaware that constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe 
had proposed this in his keynote at Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 1 
some eighteen months ago, a proposal that received national publicity. 
On the one hand Dvorak pandered to anti-Congress sentiments in the crowd 
and then urged involvement in politics; on the other hand he found the 
Perot candidacy a sham, including the electronic element. 

                Panels: Social and Technical

I attended the Electronic Frontier Foundation program which filled up 
with an overflow from the Legal track where Lance Rose addressed many 
questions about the rights and responsibilities of sysops in an 
increasingly litigious and regulated environment. Shari Steele, a lawyer 
in the EFF Washington office, explained their activities and then 
answered questions. The questions revealed the strong anti-Washington, 
anti-lawyer, anti-regulation sentiments in the audience. It is evident 
that many sysops value the control they believe they have when they set 
up and run a bulletin board. Hearing about the FCC and Congressional 
efforts to change 'their' world made some people angry and others want 
to organize. 

Midway through the conference a group of software developers decided to 
organize to try and learn about existing standards before setting ones 
that would benefit their own developers and users. The three main areas 
include interface, messaging and document structure, and graphics. 
Surprisingly, some did not want to give up the diversity that is so 
evident in the many interfaces and message protocols, but most agreed to 
try and set an agenda via electronic mail and plan for other actions at 
the next conference. The Internet Engineering Task Force use of RFCs 
(Request for Comment) was held up as a model they would emulate. 

Jim Warren moderated the panel on electronic democracy where most 
members were excited about the power of the tools. Gary Stryker of 
Galacticom proposed a system called SuperDemocracy which would include 
continuous electronic voting on issues in a hierarchy by geographical 
region. Shari Steele reminded the group that many did not have computers 
or modems, and that electronic democracy would exclude many potential 
voters. Gary Nakarado, a PUC commissioner in Colorado recounted how he 
started a BBS to learn more about the medium and to be in touch with the 
interesting people in his community. Unfortunately, they have not been 
logging in. PUC activities attract very little attention and he has very 
few calls and questions from the general public. He is interested in 
having more input on issues such as ISDN service, BBSes, and other 
issues affecting Colorado utility users. 

Bernard Aboba, author of BBSes and Beyond , talked about the software 
for connecting Macs to the global mail networks (RIME, Fido, Internet, 
uucp) and it was evident that the Mac is a terrific front end for many 
systems, but as a server it needs more power and more tools from third 
parties. Developers from ResNova 714 840 6082 showed how their Mac BBS 
software could fill the gaps, as did a rep. from SoftArc 416 299 4723. 
SoftArc's FirstClass server and client software looked very powerful and 
full of features that would allow a FirstClass BBS to serve many 
concurrent users on LAN, dialup and TCP/IP access. 

All of the companies are quite small, and the wish lists of new features 
grows faster than the staff to work on them. Still I was amazed at the 
power and sophistication of the DOS and Mac BBS systems. Event Horizons, 
the BBS vending adult GIF images south of Portland, Oregon, has a 64 
line 80486 system running on TBBS! Other systems running multiple cpus 
have a hundred or more lines coming in. Clearly, these are not basement 
run, part time operations. 

                       The BBS Bulletin Board

One morning I went down to comb the literature tables and read the cork 
bulletin board where a variety of fascinating notes had been posted. 
They will give you a sense of the diversity in this community: 

    -Monterey Gaming System 408 655 5555 (free) 

    -Black Cat Information Service in Rochester NY 716 262 3680 (Visa/MC 
accepted!) Games, Society for Creative Anachronism files and Adult Info 

    -the electric safari. your tour guide: Chuck 2. 312 907 
1831 to 1839. 

    -The OU BBS, University of Oklahoma (telnet 

    -Power Windows! BBS (also for OS/2 users) Huntsville, AL 205 881 

    -The Invention Factory, (NY, NY) 212 274 8110 

    -The Online Diver (Brooklyn Center, MN) 566 5267 No area code must 
indicate that it's for local Minnesota divers primarily. 

    -Nautilus Commercial Data System with 250,000 public domain files, 
200 incoming data lines (!), 28 gigabytes of storage, satellite weather 
images, hourly news updates, games, dBase templates, GIF images---all 
out of Iola, Kansas  316 365 7631. 

    -Infinity Complex "a wickedly addictive Science Fiction game for 
MAJOR BBS systems. Infinity Complex puts your users in a bizarre arena 
of the future, where they must battle for their very lives...and use up 
a lot of online hours in the process!" 403 476 8369 (voice) 

    -an ad for the first annual Puget Sound (WA) BBS convention (no 
phone contact) 

    -ads for serial port boards, new BBS software, consulting services, 
and calls for source code for data compression. 

    -BAWIT Bay Area Women in Telecom for working women in 
telecommunications in the San Francisco area. Contact 

    -Make your own custom CD-ROM for $199. Up to 640 mb. ISO 9660. 800 

                     Internet and NREN 

There was a lot of interest in Internet/NREN issues, but only a few 
people knew much about them. The panels on Internet connectivity, 
legislation, and interfaces drew good sized crowds but needed more basic 
information in a standard presentation format before having Q&A. BBSes 
can be a good interface for people going on to the Internet. It provides 
a way of formatting and filtering the anarchy of the Internet, even as 
it offers occasion for excess control of what a caller can see and use. 
I spent more time showing resources using Mac-based interfaces than 
talking about the intricacies of the growth of NREN in my session which 
was included in the small Macintosh track rather than the larger 
Internet track. I also participated in a graphics discussion where the 
panelists discussed GIF (the CompuServe standard so popular on BBSes and 
the Internet), NAPLPS (which is good for multi-lingual communications 
and small vector-based images), JPEG (the compression du jour that may 
displace GIF and the one that the Smithsonian and Apple are touting for 
Project Chapman), and FIF (fractal image format which is a more 
efficient proprietary algorithm than JPEG but which takes a long time to 


The BBS world is changing, growing, exploding. Jack Rickard has provided 
good coverage in his magazine. His conference was a big success (and a 
very good value considering the amount of fine food that was included 
with the conference activities). If you are not in the BBS world, and 
even if you are, it's hard to be aware of the all activity because it is 
so distributed. This conference helped immensely. 

I think that Rickard will have to face a problem of success: will he 
continue to be the lively and opinionated journalist when his magazine 
and his conference become the focus of the whole industry and a possible 
industry association? He may have to defend actions when he should be 
exposing them, but that is looking a couple of years ahead. Right now, 
there is no way to go but up and out because of the growing interest in 
this medium of information dissemination and of personal communication. 

A BBS provides both sysops and users an enormous amount of leverage, and 
the library world should take notice more than it does. One prominent 
public librarian who is quite involved in electronic dissemination of 
information remarked to me a few years ago that it would be great if 
BBSes just went away. I have heard other dismissive or even snobbish 
comments about BBSes, but the four librarians whom I met at ONE BBSCON 
all realized this is foolish. It's not the only tool to use, but it can 
be a very important one. 

Contacts mentioned in the text: 
       Gary Nakarado, Colorado Public Utilities commissioner 
 303 526 5505 is his BBS number. 
       NAPLPS: North American Presentation Level Protocol Syntax. 
       Dave Hughes  
       Fractal compression: Fracterm, Inc. in Richmond, BC 
       GIF: CompuServe Art Gallery and various browsers at ftp sites 
       JPEG: mail or contact 
       Boardwatch : 303 973 6038 or 
       TBBS software: eSoft 303 699 6565 
       SuperDemocracy Foundation: 305 583 5990 
       Bernard Aboba: BMUG, Inc., 510 547 0345  
       Jim Warren (electronic democracy): 
       Electronic Frontier Foundation: 
       Lance Rose (legal issues):  author of Syslaw a legal guide to the 
rights and responsibilities of sysops. 
       Laurence H. Tribe, "The Constitution in Cyberspace" anonymous ftp 
from in the /ftp/alug/rights directory 49 kb. 

Copyright 1992 by Steve Cisler, Apple Library. All or part of this 
document may be redistributed free of charge in electronic format (disk, 
CD-ROM, online) by any party. Print re-distribution is allowed for 
personal use as well as  non-profit. educational and government 
newsletters and journals. Please send email to the author when you do 
reprint or repost or quote from this report. Internet: 


                             Dueling BBScons:
                          The View From The Booth
                       by Rita Rouvalis (

Last week, Denver was the host of not one, but two BBS conferences.  
Most people didn't know that -- especially those attending ONE BBSCON.

At some point, last year's FidoCon split -- spinning off into The ONE 
BBScon and IBECC (International BBSing and Electronic Commuications 
Conference). Who split first is hotly debated. Why they split in 
the first place was never addressed.  Neither conference benefitted.

IBECC, focused primarily upon hobbyist and other non-profit boards, took 
the worse hit.  Hampered by the absence of an adequate publicity 
machine, attendance was extremely low.  On the afternoon I spent at that 
conference, the EFF's panel was the best attended class -- with 
around ten people in the audience.  These individuals were 
intensely interested in the social implications of the growth 
of BBS networks, questioning EFF staff attorney Shari Steele and myself 
about everything from the Open Platform proposal to what the EFF plans 
to do about the harassment of pagan BBS'ers in heavy fundamentalist 

Although the hit didn't come in the pocketbook for ONE BBScon, it did 
suffer from the split. Without the presence of the educational and non-
profit interests of IBECC, much of the conference came off as crass 
commercialism at its worst.  I found it odd that a conference professing 
to be "it" for the BBS world would intentionally excluded such a large
faction  of the BBS community. The emphasis was placed squarely on 
making money from your BBS.  Phil Becker even went so far as to ridicule 
a book entitled The Anarchist's Guide to the BBS -- summarily dismissing 
one of the most valuable functions of BBS's -- the distribution of 
information not easily had in other places. 

Just previous and during the conference rumors and accusations were 
flying about unfair methods on the behalf of ONE to lure IBECC attendees 
to ONE BBSCon.  Some individuals claimed that when they called the 
Stouffer Concourse, where ONE BBSCon was being held, hotel staff told 
them that it was the hotel for IBECC (IBECC was held in the Sheraton on 
the other side of Denver).  Another claimed that ONE intentionally 
designed a sign in the lobby on the first day to look like IBECC.  Some 
ONE attendees, unaware that IBECC was happening across town, recalled 
hearing about it and assumed that ONE was the same conference.

ONE BBSCon was a far better publicized and organized conference than 
IBECC, which goes a lot farther in accounting for its success than any 
alleged underhanded practices. What I fail to understand, however,
is why these two conferences split off in the first place, and why their
organizers are wasting our time with petty politics when it is obvious 
that the BBS community needs and wants to become more unified.


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