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Podcast Episode: Chronicling Online Communities

EFFector - Volume 5, Issue 10 - Accessing the Federal Government


EFFector - Volume 5, Issue 10 - Accessing the Federal Government

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EFFector Online Volume 5 No. 10       6/11/1993
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation   ISSN 1062-9424

                        In this issue:
             Accessing the Federal Government

Over the past two weeks, the White House and the U.S. House of
Representatives each announced that they had set up systems for receiving
electronic mail through the Internet.  These official announcements, as
well as other reference materials for accessing federal government
information online, are included in this issue of EFFector Online.


Office of Presidential Correspondence

For Immediate Release
June 1, 1993  


Dear Friends:

Part of our commitment to change is to keep the White House in step with
today's changing technology.  As we move ahead into the twenty-first
century, we must have a government that can show the way and lead by
example.  Today, we are pleased to announce that for the first time in
history, the White House will be connected to you via electronic mail. 
Electronic mail will bring the Presidency and this Administration closer
and make it more accessible to the people.

The White House will be connected to the Internet as well as several
on-line commercial vendors, thus making us more accessible and more in
touch with people across this country.  We will not be alone in this
venture.  Congress is also getting involved, and an exciting announcement
regarding electronic mail is expected to come from the House of
Representatives tomorrow.

Various government agencies also will be taking part in the near future. 
Americans Communicating Electronically is a project developed by several
government agencies to coordinate and improve access to the nation's
educational and information assets and resources.  This will be done
through interactive communications such as electronic mail, and brought to
people who do not have ready access to a computer.

However, we must be realistic about the limitations and expectations of the
White House electronic mail system.  This experiment is the first-ever
e-mail project done on such a large  scale.  As we work to reinvent
government and streamline our processes, the e-mail project can help to put
us on the leading edge of progress.

Initially, your e-mail message will be read and receipt immediately
acknowledged.  A careful count will be taken on the number received as well
as the subject of each message.  However, the White House is not yet
capable of sending back a tailored response via electronic mail.  We are
hoping this will happen by the end of the year.

A number of response-based programs which allow technology to help us read
your message more effectively, and, eventually respond to you
electronically in a timely fashion will be tried out as well.  These
programs will change periodically as we experiment with the best way to
handle electronic mail from the public.  Since this has never been tried
before, it is important to allow for some flexibility in the system in
these first stages.  We welcome your suggestions.

This is an historic moment in the White House and we look forward to your
participation and enthusiasm for this milestone event.  We eagerly
anticipate the day when electronic mail from the public is an integral and
normal part of the White House communications system.

President Clinton              Vice President Gore




Chairman Charlie Rose and Ranking Minority Member Bill Thomas of the
Committee on House Administration announced today the pilot program of the
Constituent Electronic Mail System.

This groundbreaking new service will allow citizens to communicate directly
with their Member of Congress by electronic mail.  The House of
Representatives has established an electronic gateway to the Internet, the
vast computer network that is used currently by over 12 million people
worldwide.  Participating Members of the House have been assigned public
mailboxes which may be accessed by their constituents from their home
computers.  In addition, many libraries, schools and other public
institutions now provide, or soon will provide, public access to the

The Members of the House of Representatives who have agreed to participate
in this pilot program are:  Rep. Jay Dickey (AR-07), Rep. Sam Gejdenson
(CT-02), Rep. Newt Gingrich (GA-06), Rep. George Miller (CA-07), Rep.
Charlie Rose (NC-07), Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (CA-13), and Rep. Melvin Watt
(NC-12).  These Members will be making announcements in their congressional
districts within the next few weeks to make their constituents aware of the
new service.

The Constituent Electronic Mail System represents a significant effort by
the House of Representatives to expand communication with constituents. 
With the tremendous growth of electronic mail over the past several years,
and the increasingly inter-connected nature of computer networks, the new
service is a natural addition to the current methods of communication
available to constituents.  At the present time, House Members involved in
the pilot program will largely respond to electronic mail messages from
their constituents by postal mail, to ensure confidentiality.

Constituents of House Members participating in the pilot program who wish
to communicate with those Members will be asked to send a letter or
postcard stating their interest to the Member's office.  The request will
include the constituent's Internet ``address,'' as well as that
constituent's name and postal address.  This process will allow Members to
identify an electronic mail user as his or her constituent.

The pilot e-mail program will continue until sufficient feedback from
participating offices has been collected to allow improvements and
modifications to the system.  When House Information Systems and the
Committee on House Administration are satisfied that the system is
sufficiently error-free, other Members of the House will be allowed to add
this new service as technical, budgetary and staffing concerns allow.

For more information, Internet users are encouraged to contact the House of
Representative's new on-line information service.  Please send a request
for information to CONGRESS@HR.HOUSE.GOV.



We welcome your inquiry to the House of Representatives Constituent
Electronic Mail System.  Currently, seven Members of the U.S. House of
Representatives have been assigned public electronic mailboxes that may be
accessed by their constituents.  This effort represents a pilot program
that will be used to assess the impact of electronic mail on Congressional
offices and their mission of serving the residents of a Congressional
District.  This initial project will be expanded to other Members of
Congress, as technical, budgetary and staffing constraints allow.

Please review the list of participating Representatives below, and if the
Congressional District in which you reside is listed, follow the
instructions below to begin communicating by electronic mail with your
Representative.  If your Representative is not yet on-line, please be


Hon. Jay Dickey
4th Congressional District, Arkansas
Rm. 1338, Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. Sam Gejdenson
2nd Congressional District, Connecticut
Rm. 2416, Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. Newton Gingrich
6th Congressional District, Georgia
Rm. 2428, Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. George Miller
7th Congressional District, California
Rm. 2205, Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. Charlie Rose
7th Congressional District, North Carolina
Rm. 2230, Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. 'Pete' Stark
13th Congressional District, California
Rm.  239, Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Hon. Mel Watt
12th Congressional District, North Carolina
Rm. 1232, Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515


If your Representative is taking part in the pilot project, we encourage
you to send a letter or postcard by U.S.Mail to that Representative at the
address listed above requesting electronic mail access.  In your
correspondence, please print your name and INTERNET ADDRESS, followed by
your postal (geographical) address.  When your Representative receives the
letter or postcard, you will receive a reply by electronic mail that will
include the Representative's Internet address.  After you receive this
initial message, you will be able to write your Member of Congress at any
time, provided you follow certain guidelines that will be included in that
initial message.

We are aware that it is an inconvenience for electronic mail users to be
required to send a post card in order to begin communicating with their
Representative.  However, the primary goal of this pilot program is to
allow Members to better serve their CONSTITUENTS, and this initial postal
request is the only sure method currently available of verifying that a
user is a resident of a particular congressional district.

In addition, constituents who communicate with their Representative by
electronic mail should be aware that Members will respond to their messages
in the same manner that they respond to most communications from
constituents.  That is, Members will generally respond to messages by way
of the U.S. Postal Service.  This method of reply will help to ensure
confidentiality, a concern that is of utmost importance to the House of


Please feel free to send electronic mail comments about our new service to
the Congressional Comment Desk, at


We will make every effort to integrate suggestions into forthcoming updates
of our system.

Thank you again for contacting the House of Representatives' Constituent
Electronic Mail System.  We are excited about the possibilities that e-mail
has to offer, and will be working hard to bring more Members on-line and to
expand our services.  We feel that this pilot program is an important first
step, and we urge your cooperation and continued interest to make the
program a success.

This message will be updated as necessary.

Honorable Charlie Rose (D-NC)
Committee on House Administration



Updated April 7, 1993

Table Of Contents

I.  Signing up for Daily Electronic Publications.
       A.  Widely Available Sources.
       B.  Notes on Widely Available Sources.
       C.  Direct Email Distribution

II. Searching and Retrieving White House documents.
       -  WAIS
       -  GOPHER
       -  FedWorld BBS

III.  Sending email to the White House.
       -  CompuServe
       -  America OnLine
       -  MCI
       -  Fidonet
       -  Internet


The White House Communications office is distributing press releases over
an experimental system developed during the campaign at the MIT Artificial
Intelligence Laboratory.

You can obtain copies of all the press releases from a wide variety of
on-line services or discussion groups devoted to either national politics
in general or President Clinton in particular.  These are listed in
sections I and II.

Section I.C. explains how you can sign up to receive press releases
directly from the experimental MIT system by using an automated email
server.  The present system was not designed to handle high levels of
message traffic.  A more powerful system will become available in due
course, and in the meantime, it would be appreciated if you used this
service sparingly.  One appropriate current use is secondary redistribution
and archiving. If you use it, you will be carried forward when the more
powerful system that replaces it.


1.  On USENET/NETNEWS, electronic publications are found on a variety of groups:

    Direct Distribution


    Indirect Distribution

2.  On CompuServe: GO WHITEHOUSE

3.  On America Online: keyword WHITEHOUSE or THE WHITEHOUSE or CLINTON

4.  On The WELL: type whitehouse


6.  On Fidonet: See Echomail WHITEHOUSE

7.  On Peacenet or Econet: See pol.govinfo.usa.


[Editor's note:  #1 seems to be missing from the original file]

2.  CompuServe's White House Forum (GO WHITEHOUSE) is devoted to discussion
of the Clinton administration's policies and activities.  The forum's
library consists of news releases and twice daily media briefings from the
White House Office of Media Affairs.  CompuServe members can exchange
information and opinions with each other in the 17 sections in the forum's
message area.  The message board spans a broad range of topics, including
international and United Nations activities, defense, health care, the
economy and the deficit, housing and urban development, the environment,
and education and national service.

3.  On America Online the posts are sent to the White House Forum, located
in the News & Finance department of the service and accessible via keywords
"white house" and "clinton."  The White House Forum on America Online
contains the press releases from the White House, divided into the
categories "Press Briefings," "Meetings & Speeches," "Foreign Policy," "The
Economy," "Technology," "Health Care," and "Appointments."  The area
features a message board so you can discuss the releases with other AOL
members, and a searchable database for easy retrieval of releases in the
topic that interests you.

4.  MCI Mail users can access daily information on the administration's
programs provided by the White House through MCI Mail bulletin boards.  The
these boards can also be obtained by simply typing VIEW WHITE HOUSE at the
COMMAND prompt.


If you don't have access to the these accounts or if you would prefer to
receive the releases via email, then the next section details how to sign
up for this service.  The server is not set up to answer email letters,
comments or requests for specific information.  To reach this MIT server,
send email:

      To: Clinton-Info@Campaign92.Org       Subject: Help

The server works by reading the subject line of the incoming message and
taking whatever action that line calls for. If you want to sign up to
automatically receive press releases, then your subject line would begin
with the word RECEIVE.  You can then specify what kind of information you
are interested in receiving.  The categories of information are:

ECONOMIC POLICY -- Get releases related to the economy such as budget news,
technology policy review, etc.

FOREIGN POLICY -- Get releases related to foreign policy such as statements
on Bosnian airdrop, Haitian refugee status, etc.

SOCIAL POLICY -- Get releases related to social issues like National
Service (Student Loan) program, abortion, welfare reform, etc.

SPEECHES -- All speeches made by the President and important speeches made
by other Administration officials.

NEWS -- Transcripts of press conferences released by the White House
Communications office, as well as the President's remarks in photo ops and
other Q&A sessions.

ALL -- All of the above.

So, if you wanted to sign up to get releases related to the economy your
email message would look like this:

    To: Clinton-Info@Campaign92.Org   Subject: RECEIVE ECONOMY

When you send a signup message to the clinton-info server, it sends you
back a status message letting you know what distribution streams you are
signed up for.  If you ever want to check on what groups you are signed up
for send the following message:

    To: Clinton-Info@Campaign92.Org   Subject: STATUS

You can stop receiving email releases by sending a REMOVE message to the
clinton-info server. The word REMOVE would be followed by whatever
distribution stream you wanted to drop. If you wanted to stop receiving
message about the ECONOMY then your mail would look like this:

    To: Clinton-Info@Campaign92.Org   Subject: REMOVE ECONOMY

You could substitute SOCIAL, FOREIGN, SPEECHES, NEWS or ALL for ECONOMY in
the above message and you would be dropped from that distribution list.  If
you send the subject line REMOVE ALL, then you will be taken off the email
distribution system all together and will not receive further releases of
any kind.

You can also ask for help from the automated server.  Send an email query
as follows:

    To: Clinton-Info@Campaign92.Org   Subject: HELP

The server will respond by sending you a detailed form that will guide you
through the process of signing up for the various distribution streams.  As
you will quickly discover, there is a automatic form processing interface
that parallels the quick and easy subject line commands discussed here. 
More detailed help is available by sending an email query as follows:

    To: Clinton-Info@Campaign92.Org   Subject: Please Help!

Finally, if you want to search and retrieve documents, but you do not have
access to the retrieval methods discussed in section II, you can do this
via email through the MIT server.  You can obtain the WAIS query form by
sending an email query as follows:

    To: Clinton-Info@Campaign92.Org   Subject: WAIS

Once you have identified the documents that you want, be careful not to
request them all at once, because you may be sent a message containing all
the documents and this message may be too big for some mail delivery
systems between the email server and you.


Various sites are archiving the press releases distributed .  What follows
is an incomplete list of some of the sites containing the documents that
have been released to date.  This FAQ will be updated to reflect new sites
as they become known.

   SITE                          DIRECTORY

4. CPSR.ORG                     /CPSR/CLINTON
5. FedWorld BBS                 703-321-8020  8-N-1

Notes:  The following are notes on how to log in and get information from
the above sites.

1.  Office for Information Technology at University of North Carolina
maintains the full collection of White House electronic releases available
for search with WAIS and also accessible via Gopher.

1.a   WAIS (:source :version 3 :database-name
"/home3/wais/White-House-Papers" :ip-address "" :ip-name
"" :tcp-port 210 :cost 0.00 :cost-unit :free :maintainer
"" :description "Server created with WAIS release 8
b5 on Feb 27 15:16:16 1993 by  These are the White
House Press Briefings and other postings dealing with William Jefferson
Clinton and Albert Gore as well as members of the President's Cabinet and
the first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chelsea, Socks and others in
Washington DC.  Dee Dee Meyers and George Stephanopoulos.  Other good
words:  United States of America, Bill Al Tipper Democrats USA US  These
files are also available via anonymous ftp from  The files
of type filename used in the index were: 
/home3/ftp/pub/academic/political-science/whitehouse-papers/1993 ")

Folks without WAIS clients or gophers that act as WAIS clients may telnet
to and login as swais to access this information via WAIS.

1.b   GOPHER is a distributed menuing system for information access on the
Internet developed at the University of Minnesota.  Gophers are
client-server implementations and various gopher clients are available for
nearly any computing platform.  You may now use gopher clients to assess
the White House Papers and other political information on's
new gopher server.  You may also add links from your local gopher server to
SunSITE for access to the White House Papers.

For gopher server keepers and adventurous clients to access SunSITE you
need only know that we use the standard gopher port 70 and that our
internet address is (  Point there and you'll
see the references to the Politics areas.

For folks without gopher clients but with access to telnet:  telnet login: gopher  The rest is very straightforward.  Browsing
options end with a directory mark (/), searching options end with an
question mark (?).  There's plenty of on-line help available.

2.  No special instructions.

3.  The CLINTON@MARIST log files which contain all the official
administration releases distributed through the MIT servers are available
via anonymous FTP.  These logs contain in addition to the official
releases, the posts that comprise the ongoing discussion conducted by the
list subscribers.  To obtain the logs:  FTP MARISTB.MARIST.EDU - the logs
are in the CLINTON directory and are named CLINTON LOG9208 thru CLINTON
LOGyymm where yymm stands for the current year and month.  Problems should
be directed to my attention: URLS@MARISTC.BITNET or URLS@VM.MARIST.EDU. 
Posted by Lee Sakkas - owner, CLINTON@MARIST

4.  Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility is providing all
Clinton documents on technology and privacy at the CPSR Internet Library,
available via FTP/WAIS/Gopher at /cpsr/clinton (and in other
folders as relevant).  For email access, send a message with the word
"help" at the 1st line of text to

5.  The FedWorld Computer System, operated by the National Technical
Information Service, archives White House papers in a traditional BBS type
file library.  Connect to FedWorld by calling (703) 321- 8020.  No parity,
eight data bits and one stop bit (N-8-1).  FedWorld accommodates baud
speeds of up to 9,600.  White House papers are located in the W-House
library of files.  To access this library from the main FedWorld menu,

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