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EFFector - Volume 5, Issue 2 - Update on the Steve Jackson Games Case


EFFector - Volume 5, Issue 2 - Update on the Steve Jackson Games Case

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EFFector Online Volume 5 No. 2       2/19/1993
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation   ISSN 1062-9424
326 lines

                          In this issue:
             Update on the Steve Jackson Games Case
  Contact information for Local and Regional Groups Supporting the 
                         Online Community

Happy Anniversary ;-) Steve Jackson Games Case!!

March 1st marks the three-year anniversary of the Secret Service 
raid on Steve Jackson Games.  As we await Judge Sam Sparks's 
decision in this precedent-setting case, EFF would like to remind 
everyone of what has happened so far.

In May of 1991, EFF reported about the case in issue #1.04 of 
EFFector Online:

    On March 1, 1990, the United States Secret Service nearly
    destroyed Steve Jackson Games (SJG), an award-winning
    publishing business in Austin, Texas.

    In an early morning raid with an unlawful and unconstitutional
    warrant, agents of the Secret Service conducted a search of the
    SJG office.  When they left they took a manuscript being prepared
    for publication, private electronic mail, and several computers,
    including the hardware and software of the SJG Computer Bulletin
    Board System.  Yet Jackson and his business were not only
    innocent of any crime, but never suspects in the first place.
    The raid had been staged on the unfounded suspicion that
    somewhere in Jackson's office there "might be" a document
    compromising the security of the 911 telephone system.

    In the months that followed, Jackson saw the business he had
    built up over many years dragged to the edge of bankruptcy. SJG
    was a successful and prestigious publisher of books and other
    materials used in adventure role-playing games.  Jackson also
    operated a computer bulletin board system (BBS) to communicate
    with his customers and writers and obtain feedback and
    suggestions on new gaming ideas.  The bulletin board was also the
    repository of private electronic mail belonging to several of its
    users.  This private mail was seized in the raid.  Despite
    repeated requests for the return of his manuscripts and
    equipment, the Secret Service has refused to comply fully.

    Today, more than a year after that raid, The Electronic Frontier
    Foundation, acting with SJG owner Steve Jackson, has filed a
    precedent setting civil suit against the United States Secret
    Service, Secret Service Agents Timothy Foley and Barbara Golden,
    Assistant United States Attorney William Cook, and Henry

    "This is the most important case brought to date," said EFF
    general counsel Mike Godwin, "to vindicate the Constitutional
    rights of the users of computer-based communications technology.
    It will establish the Constitutional dimension of electronic
    expression.  It also will be one of the first cases that invokes
    the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act as a shield and not
    as a sword -- an act that guarantees users of this digital medium
    the same privacy protections enjoyed by those who use the
    telephone and the U.S. Mail."

As the case proceeded, the attorneys from George, Donaldson and 
Ford, who represented Steve Jackson, Steve Jackson Games, and 
Illuminati BBS users Elizabeth McCoy, Steffan O'Sullivan and Walter 
Milliken, decided to drop charges against all defendants except the 
United States Secret Service.  (This was a strategic decision made to 
ensure that the trial would proceed in a timely manner.)  The case 
went to trial in the United States District Court in Austin, Texas, from 
January 26 - 28, 1993.  The plaintiffs presented their case first with 
testimony from all of the plaintiffs themselves, Secret Service Special 
Agents Timothy Foley and Barbara Golden, former U.S. District 
Attorney William J. Cook, Bellcore security expert Henry Kluepfel, 
University of Texas security guard Larry Coutorie, WWIV BBS 
software creator Wayne Bell and a financial expert who testified to 
the amount of damages.  By the end of the second day, the plaintiffs 
rested their case.

On Thursday morning, the defense put Special Agent Timothy Foley 
back on the witness stand.  After he testified that he did not know 
that Steve Jackson Games was a publisher, that the seized computer 
equipment (3 computers, 5 hard disks, and more than 300 floppies) 
had not been accessed by Secret Service investigators after March 
27, 1990, but was not returned to Steve Jackson until late June, and 
that no copy of the information contained on the seized disks 
(including a manuscript for an upcoming publication and the 
company's business records) was ever provided to Steve Jackson, 
Agent Foley sat through a solid 15-minute reprimand from the judge 
on the unacceptability of the government's behavior.  The defense 
attorneys were so shaken by the judge's admonishments that they 
decided not to call any other witnesses.

While Judge Sparks made it clear that he found the Secret Service's 
behavior to be reprehensible, it is not clear how he will rule in this 
case.  The case was based on two rarely-construed federal statutes -- 
the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Privacy 
Protection Act (PPA).  ECPA says that government officials may not 
read private electronic mail unless they have a warrant specific to 
that mail.  No search warrant specified that Elizabeth McCoy, Steffan 
O'Sullivan or Walter Milliken had done any wrong, yet it appears that 
their mail -- in fact, ALL of the electronic mail contained on the 
system that ran the Illuminati BBS -- had been read and deleted by 
agents conducting the search at Secret Service headquarters in 
Chicago.  PPA requires that law enforcement officers follow special 
procedures when the entity to be searched is a publisher, in order to 
protect the First Amendment freedom of the press.  No special 
procedures were followed in this case.  So even if the judge finds that 
Secret Service behavior was inappropriate, it is not so clear that he 
will find that the behavior was actually in violation of these statutes.

We expect Judge Sparks will hand down his decision any time now.  
When it is issued, we will be sure to print the written opinion in an 
upcoming issue of EFFector Online.


Local and Regional Groups Supporting the Online Community 

Many of our members have expressed interest in joining with others 
in activities that support the online community. Below is a list of 
regional groups that are organized to work on projects to improve 
online communications. Feel free to contact any of the folks listed 
below with your ideas and to learn more about how you can get 

We are constantly looking to update this list, so if you know of other 
groups that we should add, or if you are trying to form a group in 
your local area, please forward the name of the group and contact 
information to Shari Steele at

Electronic Frontier Foundation
Shari Steele -
Cliff Figallo -

Electronic Frontier Foundation
666 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, #303
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: (202)544-9237 (voice)

Huntsville Group
Matt Midboe	-

San Francisco Bay Area:
Mitch Ratcliffe - or
Glenn Tenney -
Judi Clark	-

Washington, DC, Area:
"Group 2600" and some public access operators 
Bob Stratton -
Mikki Barry	-

EF128 (Electronic Frontier Route 128)
Lar Kaufman	-

Ann Arbor:
Ann Arbor Computer Society & others
Ed Vielmetti -
msen gopher	-
msen mail list - "info aacs" 

Kansas City:
Greater Kansas City Sysop Association
Scott Lent	-

P.O. Box 14480
Parkville, MO 64152
Phone: (816)734-2949 (voice)
(816)734-4732 (data)

FreeNet! and Noise in the Void
Stanton McCandlish	-

Stanton McCandlish
8020 Central SE #405
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: (505)246-8515 (data - 24hr, 1200-14400 v32bis, N-8-1) 

Genesee Community College Group
Thomas J. Klotzbach	-

Thomas J. Klotzbach
Genesee Community College
Batavia, NY 14020
Phone: (716)343-0055 x358 (voice - work) 

New York City:
general -
Simona Nass -
Alexis Rosen -

general -
directors -
Jon Lebkowsky -
P.O. Box 18957
Austin, TX 78760
Phone: (512)465-7871 (voice)


     EFFector Online is published by
     The Electronic Frontier Foundation
     666 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20003
     Phone: +1 202 544-9237 FAX: +1 202 547 5481
     Internet Address:
     Articles by Shari Steele, EFF Staff Attorney (
     Coordination, production and shipping by Cliff Figallo, EFF 
     Online Communications Coordinator (
 Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged.
 Signed articles do not necessarily represent the view of the EFF.
 To reproduce signed articles individually, please contact the authors
 for their express permission.

      *This newsletter is printed on 100% recycled electrons*


In order to continue the work already begun and to expand our 
efforts and activities into other realms of the electronic frontier, we 
need the financial support of individuals and organizations.

If you support our goals and our work, you can show that support by
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