Hacker Crackdown Part 3

And in publishing Prophet's E911 Document, PHRACK had provided law enforcement with what appeared to be a powerful legal weapon.

Foley confronted Knight Lightning about the E911 Document.

Knight Lightning was cowed. He immediately began "cooperating fully" in the usual tradition of the digital underground.

He gave Foley a complete run of PHRACK, printed out in a set of three-ring binders. He handed over his electronic mailing list of PHRACK subscribers. Knight Lightning was grilled for four hours by Foley and his cohorts. Knight Lightning admitted that Prophet had passed him the E911 Document, and he admitted that he had known it was stolen booty from a hacker raid on a telephone company. Knight Lightning signed a statement to this effect, and agreed, in writing, to cooperate with investigators.

Next day--January 19, 1990, a Friday--the Secret Service returned with a search warrant, and thoroughly searched Knight Lightning's upstairs room in the fraternity house. They took all his floppy disks, though, interestingly, they left Knight Lightning in possession of both his computer and his modem. (The computer had no hard disk, and in Foley's judgement was not a store of evidence.) But this was a very minor bright spot among Knight Lightning's rapidly multiplying troubles. By this time, Knight Lightning was in plenty of hot water, not only with federal police, prosecutors, telco investigators, and university security, but with the elders of his own campus fraternity, who were outraged to think that they had been unwittingly harboring a federal computer-criminal.

On Monday, Knight Lightning was summoned to Chicago, where he was further grilled by Foley and USSS veteran agent Barbara Golden, this time with an attorney present. And on Tuesday, he was formally indicted by a federal grand jury.

The trial of Knight Lightning, which occurred on July 24- 27, 1990, was the crucial show-trial of the Hacker Crackdown. We will examine the trial at some length in Part Four of this book.

In the meantime, we must continue our dogged pursuit of the E911 Document.

It must have been clear by January 1990 that the E911 Document, in the form PHRACK had published it back in February 1989, had gone off at the speed of light in at least a hundred and fifty different directions. To attempt to put this electronic genie back in the bottle was flatly impossible.

And yet, the E911 Document was STILL stolen property, formally and legally speaking. Any electronic transference of this document, by anyone unauthorized to have it, could be interpreted as an act of wire fraud. Interstate transfer of stolen property, including electronic property, was a federal crime.

The Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force had been assured that the E911 Document was worth a hefty sum of money. In fact, they had a precise estimate of its worth from BellSouth security personnel: $79,449. A sum of this scale seemed to warrant vigorous prosecution. Even if the damage could not be undone, at least this large sum offered a good legal pretext for stern punishment of the thieves. It seemed likely to impress judges and juries. And it could be used in court to mop up the Legion of Doom.

The Atlanta crowd was already in the bag, by the time the Chicago Task Force had gotten around to PHRACK. But the Legion was a hydra-headed thing. In late 89, a brand-new Legion of Doom board, "Phoenix Project," had gone up in Austin, Texas. Phoenix Project was sysoped by no less a man than the Mentor himself, ably assisted by University of Texas student and hardened Doomster "Erik Bloodaxe."

As we have seen from his PHRACK manifesto, the Mentor was a hacker zealot who regarded computer intrusion as something close to a moral duty. Phoenix Project was an ambitious effort, intended to revive the digital underground to what Mentor considered the full flower of the early 80s. The Phoenix board would also boldly bring elite hackers face-to-face with the telco "opposition." On "Phoenix," America's cleverest hackers would supposedly shame the telco squareheads out of their stick-in-the- mud attitudes, and perhaps convince them that the Legion of Doom elite were really an all-right crew. The premiere of "Phoenix Project" was heavily trumpeted by PHRACK, and "Phoenix Project" carried a complete run of PHRACK issues, including the E911 Document as PHRACK had published it.

Phoenix Project was only one of many--possibly hundreds-- of nodes and boards all over America that were in guilty possession of the E911 Document. But Phoenix was an outright, unashamed Legion of Doom board. Under Mentor's guidance, it was flaunting itself in the face of telco security personnel. Worse yet, it was actively trying to WIN THEM OVER as sympathizers for the digital underground elite. "Phoenix" had no cards or codes on it. Its hacker elite considered Phoenix at least technically legal. But Phoenix was a corrupting influence, where hacker anarchy was eating away like digital acid at the underbelly of corporate propriety.

The Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force now prepared to descend upon Austin, Texas.

Oddly, not one but TWO trails of the Task Force's investigation led toward Austin. The city of Austin, like Atlanta, had made itself a bulwark of the Sunbelt's Information Age, with a strong university research presence, and a number of cutting-edge electronics companies, including Motorola, Dell, CompuAdd, IBM, Sematech and MCC.

Where computing machinery went, hackers generally followed. Austin boasted not only "Phoenix Project," currently LoD's most flagrant underground board, but a number of UNIX nodes.

One of these nodes was "Elephant," run by a UNIX consultant named Robert Izenberg. Izenberg, in search of a relaxed Southern lifestyle and a lowered cost-of-living, had recently migrated to Austin from New Jersey. In New Jersey, Izenberg had worked for an independent contracting company, programming UNIX code for AT&T itself. "Terminus" had been a frequent user on Izenberg's privately owned Elephant node.

Having interviewed Terminus and examined the records on Netsys, the Chicago Task Force were now convinced that they had discovered an underground gang of UNIX software pirates, who were demonstrably guilty of interstate trafficking in illicitly copied AT&T source code. Izenberg was swept into the dragnet around Terminus, the self-proclaimed ultimate UNIX hacker.

Izenberg, in Austin, had settled down into a UNIX job with a Texan branch of IBM. Izenberg was no longer working as a contractor for AT&T, but he had friends in New Jersey, and he still logged on to AT&T UNIX computers back in New Jersey, more or less whenever it pleased him. Izenberg's activities appeared highly suspicious to the Task Force. Izenberg might well be breaking into AT&T computers, swiping AT&T software, and passing it to Terminus and other possible confederates, through the UNIX node network. And this data was worth, not merely $79,499, but hundreds of thousands of dollars!

On February 21, 1990, Robert Izenberg arrived home from work at IBM to find that all the computers had mysteriously vanished from his Austin apartment. Naturally he assumed that he had been robbed. His "Elephant" node, his other machines, his notebooks, his disks, his tapes, all gone! However, nothing much else seemed disturbed--the place had not been ransacked.

The puzzle becaming much stranger some five minutes later. Austin U. S. Secret Service Agent Al Soliz, accompanied by University of Texas campus-security officer Larry Coutorie and the ubiquitous Tim Foley, made their appearance at Izenberg's door. They were in plain clothes: slacks, polo shirts. They came in, and Tim Foley accused Izenberg of belonging to the Legion of Doom.

Izenberg told them that he had never heard of the "Legion of Doom." And what about a certain stolen E911 Document, that posed a direct threat to the police emergency lines? Izenberg claimed that he'd never heard of that, either.

His interrogators found this difficult to believe. Didn't he know Terminus?


They gave him Terminus's real name. Oh yes, said Izenberg. He knew THAT guy all right--he was leading discussions on the Internet about AT&T computers, especially the AT&T 3B2.

AT&T had thrust this machine into the marketplace, but, like many of AT&T's ambitious attempts to enter the computing arena, the 3B2 project had something less than a glittering success. Izenberg himself had been a contractor for the division of AT&T that supported the 3B2. The entire division had been shut down.

Nowadays, the cheapest and quickest way to get help with this fractious piece of machinery was to join one of Terminus's discussion groups on the Internet, where friendly and knowledgeable hackers would help you for free. Naturally the remarks within this group were less than flattering about the Death Star.... was THAT the problem?

Foley told Izenberg that Terminus had been acquiring hot software through his, Izenberg's, machine.

Izenberg shrugged this off. A good eight megabytes of data flowed through his UUCP site every day. UUCP nodes spewed data like fire hoses. Elephant had been directly linked to Netsys--not surprising, since Terminus was a 3B2 expert and Izenberg had been a 3B2 contractor. Izenberg was also linked to "attctc" and the University of Texas. Terminus was a well-known UNIX expert, and might have been up to all manner of hijinks on Elephant. Nothing Izenberg could do about that. That was physically impossible. Needle in a haystack.

In a four-hour grilling, Foley urged Izenberg to come clean and admit that he was in conspiracy with Terminus, and a member of the Legion of Doom.

Izenberg denied this. He was no weirdo teenage hacker-- he was thirty-two years old, and didn't even have a "handle." Izenberg was a former TV technician and electronics specialist who had drifted into UNIX consulting as a full-grown adult. Izenberg had never met Terminus, physically. He'd once bought a cheap high-speed modem from him, though.

Foley told him that this modem (a Telenet T2500 which ran at 19.2 kilobaud, and which had just gone out Izenberg's door in Secret Service custody) was likely hot property. Izenberg was taken aback to hear this; but then again, most of Izenberg's equipment, like that of most freelance professionals in the industry, was discounted, passed hand-to-hand through various kinds of barter and gray-market. There was no proof that the modem was stolen, and even if it was, Izenberg hardly saw how that gave them the right to take every electronic item in his house.

Still, if the United States Secret Service figured they needed his computer for national security reasons--or whatever-- then Izenberg would not kick. He figured he would somehow make the sacrifice of his twenty thousand dollars' worth of professional equipment, in the spirit of full cooperation and good citizenship.

Robert Izenberg was not arrested. Izenberg was not charged with any crime. His UUCP node--full of some 140 megabytes of the files, mail, and data of himself and his dozen or so entirely innocent users--went out the door as "evidence." Along with the disks and tapes, Izenberg had lost about 800 megabytes of data.

Six months would pass before Izenberg decided to phone the Secret Service and ask how the case was going. That was the first time that Robert Izenberg would ever hear the name of William Cook. As of January 1992, a full two years after the seizure, Izenberg, still not charged with any crime, would be struggling through the morass of the courts, in hope of recovering his thousands of dollars' worth of seized equipment.

In the meantime, the Izenberg case received absolutely no press coverage. The Secret Service had walked into an Austin home, removed a UNIX bulletin-board system, and met with no operational difficulties whatsoever.

Except that word of a crackdown had percolated through the Legion of Doom. "The Mentor" voluntarily shut down "The Phoenix Project." It seemed a pity, especially as telco security employees had, in fact, shown up on Phoenix, just as he had hoped--along with the usual motley crowd of LoD heavies, hangers- on, phreaks, hackers and wannabes. There was "Sandy" Sandquist from US SPRINT security, and some guy named Henry Kluepfel, from Bellcore itself! Kluepfel had been trading friendly banter with hackers on Phoenix since January 30th (two weeks after the Martin Luther King Day Crash). The presence of such a stellar telco official seemed quite the coup for Phoenix Project.

Still, Mentor could judge the climate. Atlanta in ruins, PHRACK in deep trouble, something weird going on with UNIX nodes--discretion was advisable. Phoenix Project went off-line.

Kluepfel, of course, had been monitoring this LoD bulletin board for his own purposes--and those of the Chicago unit. As far back as June 1987, Kluepfel had logged on to a Texas underground board called "Phreak Klass 2600." There he'd discovered an Chicago youngster named "Shadowhawk," strutting and boasting about rifling AT&T computer files, and bragging of his ambitions to riddle AT&T's Bellcore computers with trojan horse programs. Kluepfel had passed the news to Cook in Chicago, Shadowhawk's computers had gone out the door in Secret Service custody, and Shadowhawk himself had gone to jail.

Now it was Phoenix Project's turn. Phoenix Project postured about "legality" and "merely intellectual interest," but it reeked of the underground. It had PHRACK on it. It had the E911 Document. It had a lot of dicey talk about breaking into systems, including some bold and reckless stuff about a supposed "decryption service" that Mentor and friends were planning to run, to help crack encrypted passwords off of hacked systems.

Mentor was an adult. There was a bulletin board at his place of work, as well. Kleupfel logged onto this board, too, and discovered it to be called "Illuminati." It was run by some company called Steve Jackson Games.

On March 1, 1990, the Austin crackdown went into high gear.

On the morning of March 1--a Thursday--21-year-old University of Texas student "Erik Bloodaxe," co-sysop of Phoenix Project and an avowed member of the Legion of Doom, was wakened by a police revolver levelled at his head.

Bloodaxe watched, jittery, as Secret Service agents appropriated his 300 baud terminal and, rifling his files, discovered his treasured source-code for Robert Morris's notorious Internet Worm. But Bloodaxe, a wily operator, had suspected that something of the like might be coming. All his best equipment had been hidden away elsewhere. The raiders took everything electronic, however, including his telephone. They were stymied by his hefty arcade-style Pac-Man game, and left it in place, as it was simply too heavy to move.

Bloodaxe was not arrested. He was not charged with any crime. A good two years later, the police still had what they had taken from him, however.

The Mentor was less wary. The dawn raid rousted him and his wife from bed in their underwear, and six Secret Service agents, accompanied by an Austin policeman and Henry Kluepfel himself, made a rich haul. Off went the works, into the agents' white Chevrolet minivan: an IBM PC-AT clone with 4 meg of RAM and a 120-meg hard disk; a Hewlett-Packard LaserJet II printer; a completely legitimate and highly expensive SCO-Xenix 286 operating system; Pagemaker disks and documentation; and the Microsoft Word word-processing program. Mentor's wife had her incomplete academic thesis stored on the hard-disk; that went, too, and so did the couple's telephone. As of two years later, all this property remained in police custody.

Mentor remained under guard in his apartment as agents prepared to raid Steve Jackson Games. The fact that this was a business headquarters and not a private residence did not deter the agents. It was still very early; no one was at work yet. The agents prepared to break down the door, but Mentor, eavesdropping on the Secret Service walkie-talkie traffic, begged them not to do it, and offered his key to the building.

The exact details of the next events are unclear. The agents would not let anyone else into the building. Their search warrant, when produced, was unsigned. Apparently they breakfasted from the local "Whataburger," as the litter from hamburgers was later found inside. They also extensively sampled a bag of jellybeans kept by an SJG employee. Someone tore a "Dukakis for President" sticker from the wall.

SJG employees, diligently showing up for the day's work, were met at the door and briefly questioned by U.S. Secret Service agents. The employees watched in astonishment as agents wielding crowbars and screwdrivers emerged with captive machines. They attacked outdoor storage units with boltcutters. The agents wore blue nylon windbreakers with "SECRET SERVICE" stencilled across the back, with running-shoes and jeans.

Jackson's company lost three computers, several hard- disks, hundred of floppy disks, two monitors, three modems, a laser printer, various powercords, cables, and adapters (and, oddly, a small bag of screws, bolts and nuts). The seizure of Illuminati BBS deprived SJG of all the programs, text files, and private e-mail on the board. The loss of two other SJG computers was a severe blow as well, since it caused the loss of electronically stored contracts, financial projections, address directories, mailing lists, personnel files, business correspondence, and, not least, the drafts of forthcoming games and gaming books.

No one at Steve Jackson Games was arrested. No one was accused of any crime. No charges were filed. Everything appropriated was officially kept as "evidence" of crimes never specified.

After the PHRACK show-trial, the Steve Jackson Games scandal was the most bizarre and aggravating incident of the Hacker Crackdown of 1990. This raid by the Chicago Task Force on a science-fiction gaming publisher was to rouse a swarming host of civil liberties issues, and gave rise to an enduring controversy that was still re-complicating itself, and growing in the scope of its implications, a full two years later.

The pursuit of the E911 Document stopped with the Steve Jackson Games raid. As we have seen, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of computer users in America with the E911 Document in their possession. Theoretically, Chicago had a perfect legal right to raid any of these people, and could have legally seized the machines of anybody who subscribed to PHRACK. However, there was no copy of the E911 Document on Jackson's Illuminati board. And there the Chicago raiders stopped dead; they have not raided anyone since.

It might be assumed that Rich Andrews and Charlie Boykin, who had brought the E911 Document to the attention of telco security, might be spared any official suspicion. But as we have seen, the willingness to "cooperate fully" offers little, if any, assurance against federal anti-hacker prosecution.

Richard Andrews found himself in deep trouble, thanks to the E911 Document. Andrews lived in Illinois, the native stomping grounds of the Chicago Task Force. On February 3 and 6, both his home and his place of work were raided by USSS. His machines went out the door, too, and he was grilled at length (though not arrested). Andrews proved to be in purportedly guilty possession of: UNIX SVR 3.2; UNIX SVR 3.1; UUCP; PMON; WWB; IWB; DWB; NROFF; KORN SHELL '88; C++; and QUEST, among other items. Andrews had received this proprietary code--which AT&T officially valued at well over $250,000--through the UNIX network, much of it supplied to him as a personal favor by Terminus. Perhaps worse yet, Andrews admitted to returning the favor, by passing Terminus a copy of AT&T proprietary STARLAN source code.

Even Charles Boykin, himself an AT&T employee, entered some very hot water. By 1990, he'd almost forgotten about the E911 problem he'd reported in September 88; in fact, since that date, he'd passed two more security alerts to Jerry Dalton, concerning matters that Boykin considered far worse than the E911 Document.

But by 1990, year of the crackdown, AT&T Corporate Information Security was fed up with "Killer." This machine offered no direct income to AT&T, and was providing aid and comfort to a cloud of suspicious yokels from outside the company, some of them actively malicious toward AT&T, its property, and its corporate interests. Whatever goodwill and publicity had been won among Killer's 1,500 devoted users was considered no longer worth the security risk. On February 20, 1990, Jerry Dalton arrived in Dallas and simply unplugged the phone jacks, to the puzzled alarm of Killer's many Texan users. Killer went permanently off-line, with the loss of vast archives of programs and huge quantities of electronic mail; it was never restored to service. AT&T showed no particular regard for the "property" of these 1,500 people. Whatever "property" the users had been storing on AT&T's computer simply vanished completely.

Boykin, who had himself reported the E911 problem, now found himself under a cloud of suspicion. In a weird private- security replay of the Secret Service seizures, Boykin's own home was visited by AT&T Security and his own machines were carried out the door.

However, there were marked special features in the Boykin case. Boykin's disks and his personal computers were swiftly examined by his corporate employers and returned politely in just two days--(unlike Secret Service seizures, which commonly take months or years). Boykin was not charged with any crime or wrongdoing, and he kept his job with AT&T (though he did retire from AT&T in September 1991, at the age of 52).

It's interesting to note that the US Secret Service somehow failed to seize Boykin's "Killer" node and carry AT&T's own computer out the door. Nor did they raid Boykin's home. They seemed perfectly willing to take the word of AT&T Security that AT&T's employee, and AT&T's "Killer" node, were free of hacker contraband and on the up-and-up.

It's digital water-under-the-bridge at this point, as Killer's 3,200 megabytes of Texan electronic community were erased in 1990, and "Killer" itself was shipped out of the state.

But the experiences of Andrews and Boykin, and the users of their systems, remained side issues. They did not begin to assume the social, political, and legal importance that gathered, slowly but inexorably, around the issue of the raid on Steve Jackson Games.

We must now turn our attention to Steve Jackson Games itself, and explain what SJG was, what it really did, and how it had managed to attract this particularly odd and virulent kind of trouble. The reader may recall that this is not the first but the second time that the company has appeared in this narrative; a Steve Jackson game called GURPS was a favorite pastime of Atlanta hacker Urvile, and Urvile's science-fictional gaming notes had been mixed up promiscuously with notes about his actual computer intrusions.

First, Steve Jackson Games, Inc., was NOT a publisher of "computer games." SJG published "simulation games," parlor games that were played on paper, with pencils, and dice, and printed guidebooks full of rules and statistics tables. There were no computers involved in the games themselves. When you bought a Steve Jackson Game, you did not receive any software disks. What you got was a plastic bag with some cardboard game tokens, maybe a few maps or a deck of cards. Most of their products were books.

However, computers WERE deeply involved in the Steve Jackson Games business. Like almost all modern publishers, Steve Jackson and his fifteen employees used computers to write text, to keep accounts, and to run the business generally. They also used a computer to run their official bulletin board system for Steve Jackson Games, a board called Illuminati. On Illuminati, simulation gamers who happened to own computers and modems could associate, trade mail, debate the theory and practice of gaming, and keep up with the company's news and its product announcements.

Illuminati was a modestly popular board, run on a small computer with limited storage, only one phone-line, and no ties to large-scale computer networks. It did, however, have hundreds of users, many of them dedicated gamers willing to call from out- of-state.

Illuminati was NOT an "underground" board. It did not feature hints on computer intrusion, or "anarchy files," or illicitly posted credit card numbers, or long-distance access codes. Some of Illuminati's users, however, were members of the Legion of Doom. And so was one of Steve Jackson's senior employees--the Mentor. The Mentor wrote for PHRACK, and also ran an underground board, Phoenix Project--but the Mentor was not a computer professional. The Mentor was the managing editor of Steve Jackson Games and a professional game designer by trade. These LoD members did not use Illuminati to help their HACKING activities. They used it to help their GAME-PLAYING activities-- and they were even more dedicated to simulation gaming than they were to hacking.

"Illuminati" got its name from a card-game that Steve Jackson himself, the company's founder and sole owner, had invented. This multi-player card-game was one of Mr Jackson's best-known, most successful, most technically innovative products. "Illuminati" was a game of paranoiac conspiracy in which various antisocial cults warred covertly to dominate the world. "Illuminati" was hilarious, and great fun to play, involving flying saucers, the CIA, the KGB, the phone companies, the Ku Klux Klan, the South American Nazis, the cocaine cartels, the Boy Scouts, and dozens of other splinter groups from the twisted depths of Mr. Jackson's professionally fervid imagination. For the uninitiated, any public discussion of the "Illuminati" card-game sounded, by turns, utterly menacing or completely insane.

And then there was SJG's "Car Wars," in which souped-up armored hot-rods with rocket-launchers and heavy machine-guns did battle on the American highways of the future. The lively Car Wars discussion on the Illuminati board featured many meticulous, painstaking discussions of the effects of grenades, land-mines, flamethrowers and napalm. It sounded like hacker anarchy files run amuck.

Mr. Jackson and his co-workers earned their daily bread by supplying people with make-believe adventures and weird ideas. The more far-out, the better.

Simulation gaming is an unusual pastime, but gamers have not generally had to beg the permission of the Secret Service to exist. Wargames and role-playing adventures are an old and honored pastime, much favored by professional military strategists. Once little-known, these games are now played by hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts throughout North America, Europe and Japan. Gaming-books, once restricted to hobby outlets, now commonly appear in chain-stores like B. Dalton's and Waldenbooks, and sell vigorously.

Steve Jackson Games, Inc., of Austin, Texas, was a games company of the middle rank. In 1989, SJG grossed about a million dollars. Jackson himself had a good reputation in his industry as a talented and innovative designer of rather unconventional games, but his company was something less than a titan of the field--certainly not like the multimillion-dollar TSR Inc., or Britain's gigantic "Games Workshop."

SJG's Austin headquarters was a modest two-story brick office-suite, cluttered with phones, photocopiers, fax machines and computers. It bustled with semi-organized activity and was littered with glossy promotional brochures and dog-eared science- fiction novels. Attached to the offices was a large tin-roofed warehouse piled twenty feet high with cardboard boxes of games and books. Despite the weird imaginings that went on within it, the SJG headquarters was quite a quotidian, everyday sort of place. It looked like what it was: a publishers' digs.

Both "Car Wars" and "Illuminati" were well-known, popular games. But the mainstay of the Jackson organization was their Generic Universal Role-Playing System, "G.U.R.P.S." The GURPS system was considered solid and well-designed, an asset for players. But perhaps the most popular feature of the GURPS system was that it allowed gaming-masters to design scenarios that closely resembled well-known books, movies, and other works of fantasy. Jackson had licensed and adapted works from many science fiction and fantasy authors. There was GURPS CONAN, GURPS RIVERWORLD, GURPS HORSECLANS, GURPS WITCH WORLD, names eminently familiar to science-fiction readers. And there was GURPS SPECIAL OPS, from the world of espionage fantasy and unconventional warfare.

And then there was GURPS CYBERPUNK.

"Cyberpunk" was a term given to certain science fiction writers who had entered the genre in the 1980s. "Cyberpunk," as the label implies, had two general distinguishing features. First, its writers had a compelling interest in information technology, an interest closely akin to science fiction's earlier fascination with space travel. And second, these writers were "punks," with all the distinguishing features that that implies: Bohemian artiness, youth run wild, an air of deliberate rebellion, funny clothes and hair, odd politics, a fondness for abrasive rock and roll; in a word, trouble.

The "cyberpunk" SF writers were a small group of mostly college-educated white middle-class litterateurs, scattered through the US and Canada. Only one, Rudy Rucker, a professor of computer science in Silicon Valley, could rank with even the humblest computer hacker. But, except for Professor Rucker, the "cyberpunk" authors were not programmers or hardware experts; they considered themselves artists (as, indeed, did Professor Rucker). However, these writers all owned computers, and took an intense and public interest in the social ramifications of the information industry.

The cyberpunks had a strong following among the global generation that had grown up in a world of computers, multinational networks, and cable television. Their outlook was considered somewhat morbid, cynical, and dark, but then again, so was the outlook of their generational peers. As that generation matured and increased in strength and influence, so did the cyberpunks. As science-fiction writers went, they were doing fairly well for themselves. By the late 1980s, their work had attracted attention from gaming companies, including Steve Jackson Games, which was planning a cyberpunk simulation for the flourishing GURPS gaming-system.

The time seemed ripe for such a product, which had already been proven in the marketplace. The first games-company out of the gate, with a product boldly called "Cyberpunk" in defiance of possible infringement-of-copyright suits, had been an upstart group called R. Talsorian. Talsorian's Cyberpunk was a fairly decent game, but the mechanics of the simulation system left a lot to be desired. Commercially, however, the game did very well.

The next cyberpunk game had been the even more successful SHADOWRUN by FASA Corporation. The mechanics of this game were fine, but the scenario was rendered moronic by sappy fantasy elements like elves, trolls, wizards, and dragons--all highly ideologically-incorrect, according to the hard-edged, high-tech standards of cyberpunk science fiction.

Other game designers were champing at the bit. Prominent among them was the Mentor, a gentleman who, like most of his friends in the Legion of Doom, was quite the cyberpunk devotee. Mentor reasoned that the time had come for a REAL cyberpunk gaming-book--one that the princes of computer-mischief in the Legion of Doom could play without laughing themselves sick. This book, GURPS CYBERPUNK, would reek of culturally on-line authenticity.

Mentor was particularly well-qualified for this task. Naturally, he knew far more about computer-intrusion and digital skullduggery than any previously published cyberpunk author. Not only that, but he was good at his work. A vivid imagination, combined with an instinctive feeling for the working of systems and, especially, the loopholes within them, are excellent qualities for a professional game designer.

By March 1st, GURPS CYBERPUNK was almost complete, ready to print and ship. Steve Jackson expected vigorous sales for this item, which, he hoped, would keep the company financially afloat for several months. GURPS CYBERPUNK, like the other GURPS "modules," was not a "game" like a Monopoly set, but a BOOK: a bound paperback book the size of a glossy magazine, with a slick color cover, and pages full of text, illustrations, tables and footnotes. It was advertised as a game, and was used as an aid to game-playing, but it was a book, with an ISBN number, published in Texas, copyrighted, and sold in bookstores.

And now, that book, stored on a computer, had gone out the door in the custody of the Secret Service.

The day after the raid, Steve Jackson visited the local Secret Service headquarters with a lawyer in tow. There he confronted Tim Foley (still in Austin at that time) and demanded his book back. But there was trouble. GURPS CYBERPUNK, alleged a Secret Service agent to astonished businessman Steve Jackson, was "a manual for computer crime."

"It's science fiction," Jackson said.

"No, this is real." This statement was repeated several times, by several agents. Jackson's ominously accurate game had passed from pure, obscure, small-scale fantasy into the impure, highly publicized, large-scale fantasy of the Hacker Crackdown.

No mention was made of the real reason for the search. According to their search warrant, the raiders had expected to find the E911 Document stored on Jackson's bulletin board system. But that warrant was sealed; a procedure that most law enforcement agencies will use only when lives are demonstrably in danger. The raiders' true motives were not discovered until the Jackson search-warrant was unsealed by his lawyers, many months later. The Secret Service, and the Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force, said absolutely nothing to Steve Jackson about any threat to the police 911 System. They said nothing about the Atlanta Three, nothing about PHRACK or Knight Lightning, nothing about Terminus.

Jackson was left to believe that his computers had been seized because he intended to publish a science fiction book that law enforcement considered too dangerous to see print.

This misconception was repeated again and again, for months, to an ever-widening public audience. It was not the truth of the case; but as months passed, and this misconception was publicly printed again and again, it became one of the few publicly known "facts" about the mysterious Hacker Crackdown. The Secret Service had seized a computer to stop the publication of a cyberpunk science fiction book.

The second section of this book, "The Digital Underground," is almost finished now. We have become acquainted with all the major figures of this case who actually belong to the underground milieu of computer intrusion. We have some idea of their history, their motives, their general modus operandi. We now know, I hope, who they are, where they came from, and more or less what they want. In the next section of this book, "Law and Order," we will leave this milieu and directly enter the world of America's computer-crime police.

At this point, however, I have another figure to introduce: myself.

My name is Bruce Sterling. I live in Austin, Texas, where I am a science fiction writer by trade: specifically, a CYBERPUNK science fiction writer.

Like my "cyberpunk" colleagues in the U.S. and Canada, I've never been entirely happy with this literary label-- especially after it became a synonym for computer criminal. But I did once edit a book of stories by my colleagues, called MIRRORSHADES: THE CYBERPUNK ANTHOLOGY, and I've long been a writer of literary-critical cyberpunk manifestos. I am not a "hacker" of any description, though I do have readers in the digital underground.

When the Steve Jackson Games seizure occurred, I naturally took an intense interest. If "cyberpunk" books were being banned by federal police in my own home town, I reasonably wondered whether I myself might be next. Would my computer be seized by the Secret Service? At the time, I was in possession of an aging Apple IIe without so much as a hard disk. If I were to be raided as an author of computer-crime manuals, the loss of my feeble word-processor would likely provoke more snickers than sympathy.

I'd known Steve Jackson for many years. We knew one another as colleagues, for we frequented the same local science- fiction conventions. I'd played Jackson games, and recognized his cleverness; but he certainly had never struck me as a potential mastermind of computer crime.

I also knew a little about computer bulletin-board systems. In the mid-1980s I had taken an active role in an Austin board called "SMOF-BBS," one of the first boards dedicated to science fiction. I had a modem, and on occasion I'd logged on to Illuminati, which always looked entertainly wacky, but certainly harmless enough.

At the time of the Jackson seizure, I had no experience whatsoever with underground boards. But I knew that no one on Illuminati talked about breaking into systems illegally, or about robbing phone companies. Illuminati didn't even offer pirated computer games. Steve Jackson, like many creative artists, was markedly touchy about theft of intellectual property.

It seemed to me that Jackson was either seriously suspected of some crime--in which case, he would be charged soon, and would have his day in court--or else he was innocent, in which case the Secret Service would quickly return his equipment, and everyone would have a good laugh. I rather expected the good laugh. The situation was not without its comic side. The raid, known as the "Cyberpunk Bust" in the science fiction community, was winning a great deal of free national publicity both for Jackson himself and the "cyberpunk" science fiction writers generally.

Chapter end

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