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Hacker Crackdown Part 7

Our lecturer informed us that the metal cylinder was a "wavelength division multiplexer." Apparently, what one did was to cut the fiber-optic cable, insert two of the legs into the cut to complete the network again, and then read any passing data on the line by hooking up the third leg to some kind of monitor. Sounded simple enough. I wondered why nobody had thought of it before. I also wondered whether this guy's son back at the workshop had any teenage friends.

We had a break. The guy sitting next to me was wearing a giveaway baseball cap advertising the Uzi submachine gun. We had a desultory chat about the merits of Uzis. Long a favorite of the Secret Service, it seems Uzis went out of fashion with the advent of the Persian Gulf War, our Arab allies taking some offense at Americans toting Israeli weapons. Besides, I was informed by another expert, Uzis jam. The equivalent weapon of choice today is the Heckler & Koch, manufactured in Germany.

The guy with the Uzi cap was a forensic photographer. He also did a lot of photographic surveillance work in computer crime cases. He used to, that is, until the firings in Phoenix. He was now a private investigator and, with his wife, ran a photography salon specializing in weddings and portrait photos. At--one must repeat--a considerable rise in income.

He was still FCIC. If you were FCIC, and you needed to talk to an expert about forensic photography, well, there he was, willing and able. If he hadn't shown up, people would have missed him.

Our lecturer had raised the point that preliminary investigation of a computer system is vital before any seizure is undertaken. It's vital to understand how many machines are in there, what kinds there are, what kind of operating system they use, how many people use them, where the actual data itself is stored. To simply barge into an office demanding "all the computers" is a recipe for swift disaster.

This entails some discreet inquiries beforehand. In fact, what it entails is basically undercover work. An intelligence operation. SPYING, not to put too fine a point on it.

In a chat after the lecture, I asked an attendee whether "trashing" might work.

I received a swift briefing on the theory and practice of "trash covers." Police "trash covers," like "mail covers" or like wiretaps, require the agreement of a judge. This obtained, the "trashing" work of cops is just like that of hackers, only more so and much better organized. So much so, I was informed, that mobsters in Phoenix make extensive use of locked garbage cans picked up by a specialty high-security trash company.

In one case, a tiger team of Arizona cops had trashed a local residence for four months. Every week they showed up on the municipal garbage truck, disguised as garbagemen, and carried the contents of the suspect cans off to a shade tree, where they combed through the garbage--a messy task, especially considering that one of the occupants was undergoing kidney dialysis. All useful documents were cleaned, dried and examined. A discarded typewriter-ribbon was an especially valuable source of data, as its long one-strike ribbon of film contained the contents of every letter mailed out of the house. The letters were neatly retyped by a police secretary equipped with a large desk-mounted magnifying glass.

There is something weirdly disquieting about the whole subject of "trashing"--an unsuspected and indeed rather disgusting mode of deep personal vulnerability. Things that we pass by every day, that we take utterly for granted, can be exploited with so little work. Once discovered, the knowledge of these vulnerabilities tend to spread.

Take the lowly subject of MANHOLE COVERS. The humble manhole cover reproduces many of the dilemmas of computer- security in miniature. Manhole covers are, of course, technological artifacts, access-points to our buried urban infrastructure. To the vast majority of us, manhole covers are invisible. They are also vulnerable. For many years now, the Secret Service has made a point of caulking manhole covers along all routes of the Presidential motorcade. This is, of course, to deter terrorists from leaping out of underground ambush or, more likely, planting remote-control car-smashing bombs beneath the street.

Lately, manhole covers have seen more and more criminal exploitation, especially in New York City. Recently, a telco in New York City discovered that a cable television service had been sneaking into telco manholes and installing cable service alongside the phone-lines--WITHOUT PAYING ROYALTIES. New York companies have also suffered a general plague of (a) underground copper cable theft; (b) dumping of garbage, including toxic waste, and (c) hasty dumping of murder victims.

Industry complaints reached the ears of an innovative New England industrial-security company, and the result was a new product known as "the Intimidator," a thick titanium-steel bolt with a precisely machined head that requires a special device to unscrew. All these "keys" have registered serial numbers kept on file with the manufacturer. There are now some thousands of these "Intimidator" bolts being sunk into American pavements wherever our President passes, like some macabre parody of strewn roses. They are also spreading as fast as steel dandelions around US military bases and many centers of private industry.

Quite likely it has never occurred to you to peer under a manhole cover, perhaps climb down and walk around down there with a flashlight, just to see what it's like. Formally speaking, this might be trespassing, but if you didn't hurt anything, and didn't make an absolute habit of it, nobody would really care. The freedom to sneak under manholes was likely a freedom you never intended to exercise.

You now are rather less likely to have that freedom at all. You may never even have missed it until you read about it here, but if you're in New York City it's gone, and elsewhere it's likely going. This is one of the things that crime, and the reaction to crime, does to us.

The tenor of the meeting now changed as the Electronic Frontier Foundation arrived. The EFF, whose personnel and history will be examined in detail in the next chapter, are a pioneering civil liberties group who arose in direct response to the Hacker Crackdown of 1990.

Now Mitchell Kapor, the Foundation's president, and Michael Godwin, its chief attorney, were confronting federal law enforcement MANO A MANO for the first time ever. Ever alert to the manifold uses of publicity, Mitch Kapor and Mike Godwin had brought their own journalist in tow: Robert Draper, from Austin, whose recent well-received book about ROLLING STONE magazine was still on the stands. Draper was on assignment for TEXAS MONTHLY.

The Steve Jackson/EFF civil lawsuit against the Chicago Computer Fraud and Abuse Task Force was a matter of considerable regional interest in Texas. There were now two Austinite journalists here on the case. In fact, counting Godwin (a former Austinite and former journalist) there were three of us. Lunch was like Old Home Week.

Later, I took Draper up to my hotel room. We had a long frank talk about the case, networking earnestly like a miniature freelance-journo version of the FCIC: privately confessing the numerous blunders of journalists covering the story, and trying hard to figure out who was who and what the hell was really going on out there. I showed Draper everything I had dug out of the Hilton trashcan. We pondered the ethics of "trashing" for a while, and agreed that they were dismal. We also agreed that finding a SPRINT bill on your first time out was a heck of a coincidence.

First I'd "trashed"--and now, mere hours later, I'd bragged to someone else. Having entered the lifestyle of hackerdom, I was now, unsurprisingly, following its logic. Having discovered something remarkable through a surreptitious action, I of course HAD to "brag," and to drag the passing Draper into my iniquities. I felt I needed a witness. Otherwise nobody would have believed what I'd discovered....

Back at the meeting, Thackeray cordially, if rather tentatively, introduced Kapor and Godwin to her colleagues. Papers were distributed. Kapor took center stage. The brilliant Bostonian high-tech entrepreneur, normally the hawk in his own administration and quite an effective public speaker, seemed visibly nervous, and frankly admitted as much. He began by saying he consided computer-intrusion to be morally wrong, and that the EFF was not a "hacker defense fund," despite what had appeared in print. Kapor chatted a bit about the basic motivations of his group, emphasizing their good faith and willingness to listen and seek common ground with law enforcement--when, er, possible.

Then, at Godwin's urging, Kapor suddenly remarked that EFF's own Internet machine had been "hacked" recently, and that EFF did not consider this incident amusing.

After this surprising confession, things began to loosen up quite rapidly. Soon Kapor was fielding questions, parrying objections, challenging definitions, and juggling paradigms with something akin to his usual gusto.

Kapor seemed to score quite an effect with his shrewd and skeptical analysis of the merits of telco "Caller-ID" services. (On this topic, FCIC and EFF have never been at loggerheads, and have no particular established earthworks to defend.) Caller-ID has generally been promoted as a privacy service for consumers, a presentation Kapor described as a "smokescreen," the real point of Caller-ID being to ALLOW CORPORATE CUSTOMERS TO BUILD EXTENSIVE COMMERCIAL DATABASES ON EVERYBODY WHO PHONES OR FAXES THEM. Clearly, few people in the room had considered this possibility, except perhaps for two late-arrivals from US WEST RBOC security, who chuckled nervously.

Mike Godwin then made an extensive presentation on "Civil Liberties Implications of Computer Searches and Seizures." Now, at last, we were getting to the real nitty-gritty here, real political horse-trading. The audience listened with close attention, angry mutters rising occasionally: "He's trying to teach us our jobs!" "We've been thinking about this for years! We think about these issues every day!" "If I didn't seize the works, I'd be sued by the guy's victims!" "I'm violating the law if I leave ten thousand disks full of illegal PIRATED SOFTWARE and STOLEN CODES!" "It's our job to make sure people don't trash the Constitution--we're the DEFENDERS of the Constitution!" "We seize stuff when we know it will be forfeited anyway as restitution for the victim!"

"If it's forfeitable, then don't get a search warrant, get a forfeiture warrant," Godwin suggested coolly. He further remarked that most suspects in computer crime don't WANT to see their computers vanish out the door, headed God knew where, for who knows how long. They might not mind a search, even an extensive search, but they want their machines searched on-site.

"Are they gonna feed us?" somebody asked sourly.

"How about if you take copies of the data?" Godwin parried.

"That'll never stand up in court."

"Okay, you make copies, give THEM the copies, and take the originals."

Hmmm.

Godwin championed bulletin-board systems as repositories of First Amendment protected free speech. He complained that federal computer-crime training manuals gave boards a bad press, suggesting that they are hotbeds of crime haunted by pedophiles and crooks, whereas the vast majority of the nation's thousands of boards are completely innocuous, and nowhere near so romantically suspicious.

People who run boards violently resent it when their systems are seized, and their dozens (or hundreds) of users look on in abject horror. Their rights of free expression are cut short. Their right to associate with other people is infringed. And their privacy is violated as their private electronic mail becomes police property.

Not a soul spoke up to defend the practice of seizing boards. The issue passed in chastened silence. Legal principles aside--(and those principles cannot be settled without laws passed or court precedents)--seizing bulletin boards has become public-relations poison for American computer police.

And anyway, it's not entirely necessary. If you're a cop, you can get 'most everything you need from a pirate board, just by using an inside informant. Plenty of vigilantes--well, CONCERNED CITIZENS--will inform police the moment they see a pirate board hit their area (and will tell the police all about it, in such technical detail, actually, that you kinda wish they'd shut up). They will happily supply police with extensive downloads or printouts. It's IMPOSSIBLE to keep this fluid electronic information out of the hands of police.

Some people in the electronic community become enraged at the prospect of cops "monitoring" bulletin boards. This does have touchy aspects, as Secret Service people in particular examine bulletin boards with some regularity. But to expect electronic police to be deaf dumb and blind in regard to this particular medium rather flies in the face of common sense. Police watch television, listen to radio, read newspapers and magazines; why should the new medium of boards be different? Cops can exercise the same access to electronic information as everybody else. As we have seen, quite a few computer police maintain THEIR OWN bulletin boards, including anti-hacker "sting" boards, which have generally proven quite effective.

As a final clincher, their Mountie friends in Canada (and colleagues in Ireland and Taiwan) don't have First Amendment or American constitutional restrictions, but they do have phone lines, and can call any bulletin board in America whenever they please. The same technological determinants that play into the hands of hackers, phone phreaks and software pirates can play into the hands of police. "Technological determinants" don't have ANY human allegiances. They're not black or white, or Establishment or Underground, or pro-or-anti anything.

Godwin complained at length about what he called "the Clever Hobbyist hypothesis"--the assumption that the "hacker" you're busting is clearly a technical genius, and must therefore by searched with extreme thoroughness. So: from the law's point of view, why risk missing anything? Take the works. Take the guy's computer. Take his books. Take his notebooks. Take the electronic drafts of his love letters. Take his Walkman. Take his wife's computer. Take his dad's computer. Take his kid sister's computer. Take his employer's computer. Take his compact disks--they MIGHT be CD-ROM disks, cunningly disguised as pop music. Take his laser printer--he might have hidden something vital in the printer's 5 meg of memory. Take his software manuals and hardware documentation. Take his science- fiction novels and his simulation-gaming books. Take his Nintendo Game-Boy and his Pac-Man arcade game. Take his answering machine, take his telephone out of the wall. Take anything remotely suspicious.

Godwin pointed out that most "hackers" are not, in fact, clever genius hobbyists. Quite a few are crooks and grifters who don't have much in the way of technical sophistication; just some rule-of-thumb rip-off techniques. The same goes for most fifteen-year-olds who've downloaded a code-scanning program from a pirate board. There's no real need to seize everything in sight. It doesn't require an entire computer system and ten thousand disks to prove a case in court.

What if the computer is the instrumentality of a crime? someone demanded.

Godwin admitted quietly that the doctrine of seizing the instrumentality of a crime was pretty well established in the American legal system.

The meeting broke up. Godwin and Kapor had to leave. Kapor was testifying next morning before the Massachusetts Department Of Public Utility, about ISDN narrowband wide-area networking.

As soon as they were gone, Thackeray seemed elated. She had taken a great risk with this. Her colleagues had not, in fact, torn Kapor and Godwin's heads off. She was very proud of them, and told them so.

"Did you hear what Godwin said about INSTRUMENTALITY OF A CRIME?" she exulted, to nobody in particular. "Wow, that means MITCH ISN'T GOING TO SUE ME."

America's computer police are an interesting group. As a social phenomenon they are far more interesting, and far more important, than teenage phone phreaks and computer hackers. First, they're older and wiser; not dizzy hobbyists with leaky morals, but seasoned adult professionals with all the responsibilities of public service. And, unlike hackers, they possess not merely TECHNICAL power alone, but heavy-duty legal and social authority.

And, very interestingly, they are just as much at sea in cyberspace as everyone else. They are not happy about this. Police are authoritarian by nature, and prefer to obey rules and precedents. (Even those police who secretly enjoy a fast ride in rough territory will soberly disclaim any "cowboy" attitude.) But in cyberspace there ARE no rules and precedents. They are groundbreaking pioneers, Cyberspace Rangers, whether they like it or not.

In my opinion, any teenager enthralled by computers, fascinated by the ins and outs of computer security, and attracted by the lure of specialized forms of knowledge and power, would do well to forget all about "hacking" and set his (or her) sights on becoming a fed. Feds can trump hackers at almost every single thing hackers do, including gathering intelligence, undercover disguise, trashing, phone-tapping, building dossiers, networking, and infiltrating computer systems- -CRIMINAL computer systems. Secret Service agents know more about phreaking, coding and carding than most phreaks can find out in years, and when it comes to viruses, break-ins, software bombs and trojan horses, Feds have direct access to red-hot confidential information that is only vague rumor in the underground.

And if it's an impressive public rep you're after, there are few people in the world who can be so chillingly impressive as a well-trained, well-armed United States Secret Service agent.

Of course, a few personal sacrifices are necessary in order to obtain that power and knowledge. First, you'll have the galling discipline of belonging to a large organization; but the world of computer crime is still so small, and so amazingly fast- moving, that it will remain spectacularly fluid for years to come. The second sacrifice is that you'll have to give up ripping people off. This is not a great loss. Abstaining from the use of illegal drugs, also necessary, will be a boon to your health.

A career in computer security is not a bad choice for a young man or woman today. The field will almost certainly expand drastically in years to come. If you are a teenager today, by the time you become a professional, the pioneers you have read about in this book will be the grand old men and women of the field, swamped by their many disciples and successors. Of course, some of them, like William P. Wood of the 1865 Secret Service, may well be mangled in the whirring machinery of legal controversy; but by the time you enter the computer-crime field, it may have stabilized somewhat, while remaining entertainingly challenging.

But you can't just have a badge. You have to win it. First, there's the federal law enforcement training. And it's hard--it's a challenge. A real challenge--not for wimps and rodents.

Every Secret Service agent must complete gruelling courses at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. (In fact, Secret Service agents are periodically re-trained during their entire careers.) In order to get a glimpse of what this might be like, I myself travelled to FLETC.

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center is a 1500- acre facility on Georgia's Atlantic coast. It's a milieu of marshgrass, seabirds, damp, clinging sea-breezes, palmettos, mosquitos, and bats. Until 1974, it was a Navy Air Base, and still features a working runway, and some WWII vintage blockhouses and officers' quarters. The Center has since benefitted by a forty-million-dollar retrofit, but there's still enough forest and swamp on the facility for the Border Patrol to put in tracking practice.

As a town, "Glynco" scarcely exists. The nearest real town is Brunswick, a few miles down Highway 17, where I stayed at the aptly named Marshview Holiday Inn. I had Sunday dinner at a seafood restaurant called "Jinright's," where I feasted on deep- fried alligator tail. This local favorite was a heaped basket of bite-sized chunks of white, tender, almost fluffy reptile meat, steaming in a peppered batter crust. Alligator makes a culinary experience that's hard to forget, especially when liberally basted with homemade cocktail sauce from a Jinright squeeze- bottle.

The crowded clientele were tourists, fishermen, local black folks in their Sunday best, and white Georgian locals who all seemed to bear an uncanny resemblance to Georgia humorist Lewis Grizzard.

The 2,400 students from 75 federal agencies who make up the FLETC population scarcely seem to make a dent in the low-key local scene. The students look like tourists, and the teachers seem to have taken on much of the relaxed air of the Deep South. My host was Mr. Carlton Fitzpatrick, the Program Coordinator of the Financial Fraud Institute. Carlton Fitzpatrick is a mustached, sinewy, well-tanned Alabama native somewhere near his late forties, with a fondness for chewing tobacco, powerful computers, and salty, down-home homilies. We'd met before, at FCIC in Arizona.

The Financial Fraud Institute is one of the nine divisions at FLETC. Besides Financial Fraud, there's Driver & Marine, Firearms, and Physical Training. These are specialized pursuits. There are also five general training divisions: Basic Training, Operations, Enforcement Techniques, Legal Division, and Behavioral Science.

Somewhere in this curriculum is everything necessary to turn green college graduates into federal agents. First they're given ID cards. Then they get the rather miserable-looking blue coveralls known as "smurf suits." The trainees are assigned a barracks and a cafeteria, and immediately set on FLETC's bone- grinding physical training routine. Besides the obligatory daily jogging--(the trainers run up danger flags beside the track when the humidity rises high enough to threaten heat stroke)--there's the Nautilus machines, the martial arts, the survival skills....

The eighteen federal agencies who maintain on-site academies at FLETC employ a wide variety of specialized law enforcement units, some of them rather arcane. There's Border Patrol, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Park Service, Fish and Wildlife, Customs, Immigration, Secret Service and the Treasury's uniformed subdivisions.... If you're a federal cop and you don't work for the FBI, you train at FLETC. This includes people as apparently obscure as the agents of the Railroad Retirement Board Inspector General. Or the Tennessee Valley Authority Police, who are in fact federal police officers, and can and do arrest criminals on the federal property of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

And then there are the computer-crime people. All sorts, all backgrounds. Mr. Fitzpatrick is not jealous of his specialized knowledge. Cops all over, in every branch of service, may feel a need to learn what he can teach. Backgrounds don't matter much. Fitzpatrick himself was originally a Border Patrol veteran, then became a Border Patrol instructor at FLETC. His Spanish is still fluent--but he found himself strangely fascinated when the first computers showed up at the Training Center. Fitzpatrick did have a background in electrical engineering, and though he never considered himself a computer hacker, he somehow found himself writing useful little programs for this new and promising gizmo.

He began looking into the general subject of computers and crime, reading Donn Parker's books and articles, keeping an ear cocked for war stories, useful insights from the field, the up-and-coming people of the local computer-crime and high- technology units.... Soon he got a reputation around FLETC as the resident "computer expert," and that reputation alone brought him more exposure, more experience--until one day he looked around, and sure enough he WAS a federal computer-crime expert.

In fact, this unassuming, genial man may be THE federal computer-crime expert. There are plenty of very good computer people, and plenty of very good federal investigators, but the area where these worlds of expertise overlap is very slim. And Carlton Fitzpatrick has been right at the center of that since 1985, the first year of the Colluquy, a group which owes much to his influence.

He seems quite at home in his modest, acoustic-tiled office, with its Ansel Adams-style Western photographic art, a gold-framed Senior Instructor Certificate, and a towering bookcase crammed with three-ring binders with ominous titles such as DATAPRO REPORTS ON INFORMATION SECURITY and CFCA TELECOM SECURITY '90.

The phone rings every ten minutes; colleagues show up at the door to chat about new developments in locksmithing or to shake their heads over the latest dismal developments in the BCCI global banking scandal.

Carlton Fitzpatrick is a fount of computer-crime war- stories, related in an acerbic drawl. He tells me the colorful tale of a hacker caught in California some years back. He'd been raiding systems, typing code without a detectable break, for twenty, twenty-four, thirty-six hours straight. Not just logged on--TYPING. Investigators were baffled. Nobody could do that. Didn't he have to go to the bathroom? Was it some kind of automatic keyboard-whacking device that could actually type code?

A raid on the suspect's home revealed a situation of astonishing squalor. The hacker turned out to be a Pakistani computer-science student who had flunked out of a California university. He'd gone completely underground as an illegal electronic immigrant, and was selling stolen phone-service to stay alive. The place was not merely messy and dirty, but in a state of psychotic disorder. Powered by some weird mix of culture shock, computer addiction, and amphetamines, the suspect had in fact been sitting in front of his computer for a day and a half straight, with snacks and drugs at hand on the edge of his desk and a chamber-pot under his chair.

Word about stuff like this gets around in the hacker- tracker community.

Carlton Fitzpatrick takes me for a guided tour by car around the FLETC grounds. One of our first sights is the biggest indoor firing range in the world. There are federal trainees in there, Fitzpatrick assures me politely, blasting away with a wide variety of automatic weapons: Uzis, Glocks, AK-47s.... He's willing to take me inside. I tell him I'm sure that's really interesting, but I'd rather see his computers. Carlton Fitzpatrick seems quite surprised and pleased. I'm apparently the first journalist he's ever seen who has turned down the shooting gallery in favor of microchips.

Our next stop is a favorite with touring Congressmen: the three-mile long FLETC driving range. Here trainees of the Driver & Marine Division are taught high-speed pursuit skills, setting and breaking road-blocks, diplomatic security driving for VIP limousines.... A favorite FLETC pastime is to strap a passing Senator into the passenger seat beside a Driver & Marine trainer, hit a hundred miles an hour, then take it right into "the skid-pan," a section of greased track where two tons of Detroit iron can whip and spin like a hockey puck.

Cars don't fare well at FLETC. First they're rifled again and again for search practice. Then they do 25,000 miles of high-speed pursuit training; they get about seventy miles per set of steel-belted radials. Then it's off to the skid pan, where sometimes they roll and tumble headlong in the grease. When they're sufficiently grease-stained, dented, and creaky, they're sent to the roadblock unit, where they're battered without pity. And finally then they're sacrificed to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, whose trainees learn the ins and outs of car-bomb work by blowing them into smoking wreckage.

There's a railroad box-car on the FLETC grounds, and a large grounded boat, and a propless plane; all training-grounds for searches. The plane sits forlornly on a patch of weedy tarmac next to an eerie blockhouse known as the "ninja compound," where anti-terrorism specialists practice hostage rescues. As I gaze on this creepy paragon of modern low-intensity warfare, my nerves are jangled by a sudden staccato outburst of automatic weapons fire, somewhere in the woods to my right. "Nine- millimeter," Fitzpatrick judges calmly.

Even the eldritch ninja compound pales somewhat compared to the truly surreal area known as "the raid-houses." This is a street lined on both sides with nondescript concrete-block houses with flat pebbled roofs. They were once officers' quarters. Now they are training grounds. The first one to our left, Fitzpatrick tells me, has been specially adapted for computer search-and-seizure practice. Inside it has been wired for video from top to bottom, with eighteen pan-and-tilt remotely controlled videocams mounted on walls and in corners. Every movement of the trainee agent is recorded live by teachers, for later taped analysis. Wasted movements, hesitations, possibly lethal tactical mistakes--all are gone over in detail.

Perhaps the weirdest single aspect of this building is its front door, scarred and scuffed all along the bottom, from the repeated impact, day after day, of federal shoe-leather.

Down at the far end of the row of raid-houses some people are practicing a murder. We drive by slowly as some very young and rather nervous-looking federal trainees interview a heavyset bald man on the raid-house lawn. Dealing with murder takes a lot of practice; first you have to learn to control your own instinctive disgust and panic, then you have to learn to control the reactions of a nerve-shredded crowd of civilians, some of whom may have just lost a loved one, some of whom may be murderers--quite possibly both at once.

A dummy plays the corpse. The roles of the bereaved, the morbidly curious, and the homicidal are played, for pay, by local Georgians: waitresses, musicians, most anybody who needs to moonlight and can learn a script. These people, some of whom are FLETC regulars year after year, must surely have one of the strangest jobs in the world.

Something about the scene: "normal" people in a weird situation, standing around talking in bright Georgia sunshine, unsuccessfully pretending that something dreadful has gone on, while a dummy lies inside on faked bloodstains.... While behind this weird masquerade, like a nested set of Russian dolls, are grim future realities of real death, real violence, real murders of real people, that these young agents will really investigate, many times during their careers.... Over and over.... Will those anticipated murders look like this, feel like this--not as "real" as these amateur actors are trying to make it seem, but both as "real," and as numbingly unreal, as watching fake people standing around on a fake lawn? Something about this scene unhinges me. It seems nightmarish to me, Kafkaesque. I simply don't know how to take it; my head is turned around; I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or just shudder.

When the tour is over, Carlton Fitzpatrick and I talk about computers. For the first time cyberspace seems like quite a comfortable place. It seems very real to me suddenly, a place where I know what I'm talking about, a place I'm used to. It's real. "Real." Whatever.

Carlton Fitzpatrick is the only person I've met in cyberspace circles who is happy with his present equipment. He's got a 5 Meg RAM PC with a 112 meg hard disk; a 660 meg's on the way. He's got a Compaq 386 desktop, and a Zenith 386 laptop with 120 meg. Down the hall is a NEC Multi-Sync 2A with a CD-ROM drive and a 9600 baud modem with four com-lines. There's a training minicomputer, and a 10-meg local mini just for the Center, and a lab-full of student PC clones and half-a-dozen Macs or so. There's a Data General MV 2500 with 8 meg on board and a 370 meg disk.

Fitzpatrick plans to run a UNIX board on the Data General when he's finished beta-testing the software for it, which he wrote himself. It'll have E-mail features, massive files on all manner of computer-crime and investigation procedures, and will follow the computer-security specifics of the Department of Defense "Orange Book." He thinks it will be the biggest BBS in the federal government.

Will it have PHRACK on it? I ask wryly.

Sure, he tells me. PHRACK, TAP, COMPUTER UNDERGROUND DIGESTM, all that stuff. With proper disclaimers, of course.

I ask him if he plans to be the sysop. Running a system that size is very time-consuming, and Fitzpatrick teaches two three-hour courses every day.

No, he says seriously, FLETC has to get its money worth out of the instructors. He thinks he can get a local volunteer to do it, a high-school student.

He says a bit more, something I think about an Eagle Scout law-enforcement liaison program, but my mind has rocketed off in disbelief.

"You're going to put a TEENAGER in charge of a federal security BBS?" I'm speechless. It hasn't escaped my notice that the FLETC Financial Fraud Institute is the ULTIMATE hacker- trashing target; there is stuff in here, stuff of such utter and consummate cool by every standard of the digital underground.... I imagine the hackers of my acquaintance, fainting dead-away from forbidden-knowledge greed-fits, at the mere prospect of cracking the superultra top-secret computers used to train the Secret Service in computer-crime....

"Uhm, Carlton," I babble, "I'm sure he's a really nice kid and all, but that's a terrible temptation to set in front of somebody who's, you know, into computers and just starting out..."

"Yeah," he says, "that did occur to me." For the first time I begin to suspect that he's pulling my leg.

He seems proudest when he shows me an ongoing project called JICC, Joint Intelligence Control Council. It's based on the services provided by EPIC, the El Paso Intelligence Center, which supplies data and intelligence to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, and the state police of the four southern border states. Certain EPIC files can now be accessed by drug-enforcement police of Central America, South America and the Caribbean, who can also trade information among themselves. Using a telecom program called "White Hat," written by two brothers named Lopez from the Dominican Republic, police can now network internationally on inexpensive PCs. Carlton Fitzpatrick is teaching a class of drug-war agents from the Third World, and he's very proud of their progress. Perhaps soon the sophisticated smuggling networks of the Medellin Cartel will be matched by a sophisticated computer network of the Medellin Cartel's sworn enemies. They'll track boats, track contraband, track the international drug-lords who now leap over borders with great ease, defeating the police through the clever use of fragmented national jurisdictions.

JICC and EPIC must remain beyond the scope of this book. They seem to me to be very large topics fraught with complications that I am not fit to judge. I do know, however, that the international, computer-assisted networking of police, across national boundaries, is something that Carlton Fitzpatrick considers very important, a harbinger of a desirable future. I also know that networks by their nature ignore physical boundaries. And I also know that where you put communications you put a community, and that when those communities become self- aware they will fight to preserve themselves and to expand their influence. I make no judgements whether this is good or bad. It's just cyberspace; it's just the way things are.

I asked Carlton Fitzpatrick what advice he would have for a twenty-year-old who wanted to shine someday in the world of electronic law enforcement.

He told me that the number one rule was simply not to be scared of computers. You don't need to be an obsessive "computer weenie," but you mustn't be buffaloed just because some machine looks fancy. The advantages computers give smart crooks are matched by the advantages they give smart cops. Cops in the future will have to enforce the law "with their heads, not their holsters." Today you can make good cases without ever leaving your office. In the future, cops who resist the computer revolution will never get far beyond walking a beat.

I asked Carlton Fitzpatrick if he had some single message for the public; some single thing that he would most like the American public to know about his work.

He thought about it while. "Yes," he said finally. "TELL me the rules, and I'll TEACH those rules!" He looked me straight in the eye. "I do the best that I can."

PART FOUR: THE CIVIL LIBERTARIANS.

The story of the Hacker Crackdown, as we have followed it thus far, has been technological, subcultural, criminal and legal. The story of the Civil Libertarians, though it partakes of all those other aspects, is profoundly and thoroughly POLITICAL.

In 1990, the obscure, long-simmering struggle over the ownership and nature of cyberspace became loudly and irretrievably public. People from some of the oddest corners of American society suddenly found themselves public figures. Some of these people found this situation much more than they had ever bargained for. They backpedalled, and tried to retreat back to the mandarin obscurity of their cozy subcultural niches. This was generally to prove a mistake.

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