1996-03-28 - Councilman/Usenet porn case…

Header Data

From: Bruce Zambini <jlasser@rwd.goucher.edu>
To: cypherpunks <kelli@zeus.towson.edu>
Message Hash: 1f47b3c56169cf002ec42cbd52c78c20e78eb647f0235a37cfaf0022196a70ea
Message ID: <Pine.SUN.3.91.960327121637.17983A-100000@rwd.goucher.edu>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1996-03-28 00:52:42 UTC
Raw Date: Thu, 28 Mar 1996 08:52:42 +0800

Raw message

From: Bruce Zambini <jlasser@rwd.goucher.edu>
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 1996 08:52:42 +0800
To: cypherpunks <kelli@zeus.towson.edu>
Subject: Councilman/Usenet porn case...
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.91.960327121637.17983A-100000@rwd.goucher.edu>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

What's most interesting about this is that whoever forged the email 
headers forged anon.penet.fi in there...

Other than that, I'm not sure what the point is.... but that caught my eye.
Jon Lasser
Jon Lasser (410)494-3072                         - Obscenity  is a crutch  for
jlasser@rwd.goucher.edu                            inarticulate motherfuckers.
Finger for PGP key (1024/EC001E4D)               - Fuck the CDA.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 1996 12:16:01 -0500
From: Bruce Zambini <jlasser@rwd.goucher.edu>
To: jlasser@goucher.edu
Subject: web.html

   TIME Magazine
   April 1, 1996 Volume 147, No. 14
   Return to Contents page

   This is a tale about how an online prank grows into an international
   incident. It also goes a long way toward explaining the fear many
   non-Internet people have about this out-of-control thing called
   Our story begins on the banks of Lake Erie, in Willowick, Ohio (pop.
   15,469). It is the last Monday night in January, about 9 o'clock. City
   councilman Frank Suponcic is home with his wife Linda when the phone
   rings. Linda answers. "Hi, this is Mike," says the man at the other
   end, politely enough. Linda chats with Mike, figuring he must be a
   constituent. (As Willowick's longest-serving ward councilman, Suponcic
   has lots of voters calling him at home.) After a while, Mike asks for
   Annette. Linda tells him he has the wrong number. Mike apologizes and
   hangs up.
   The phone rings again at 11:30 p.m. And again. And again. Wrong
   numbers until 4:30 a.m. A weary Suponcic wonders what's up and checks
   the Caller-ID logs on his phone. The first call was from British
   Columbia. The next was from Connecticut. There was one from
   Indianapolis and a few from California. Clearly these are not
   constituents. But who are they?
   Suponcic calls the Canadian back--it is now 5:30 a.m. in that time
   zone, and he is only too happy to wake the dude up--and he demands to
   know what is going on. The guy explains, vaguely, that he was merely
   answering an "ad on the Internet. You know, the one about horny
   So now we have a problem. Suponcic, like a lot of people, has a new
   computer. But like most people, he hardly knows what the Internet is.
   Now, somewhere there's an ad on it. For horny housewives. With his
   home phone number.
   That night, when the next wrong number came in, Suponcic interrogated
   the caller and learned that the councilman's phone number was printed
   at the bottom of some pictures of naked women that had been posted to
   a Usenet newsgroup called alt.binaries.pictures.erotica, which,
   naturally, Suponcic had never heard of. But he had a friend in
   Cleveland who was something of a computer buff. So the next day the
   two of them jacked into Usenet and spent three hours sifting through
   about 7,400 files on alt. binaries.etc.
   Eventually, they found two with Suponcic's phone number. One featured
   a topless brunet wearing only a string of pearls and offering phone
   calls for "as low as 87 [cents] per minute." The other showed a blond
   woman advertising "hot amateur wives ready for you from there [sic]
   own bed." Yikes.
   Over the next week, Suponcic received more than 75 calls a day from
   lusty Netizens. "You just could not make phone calls," says the
   exasperated councilman. "And when you went to bed, you had to take
   your phone off the hook."
   It was the sorcerer's apprentice scenario, and there was no way to
   stop it.
   Suponcic, being a public official, knew his way around the local
   police department, and soon a detective started pounding the Net. By
   tracing the header information on the Usenet postings, the detective
   determined--O.K., this part is murky, we admit--that the messages had
   originated in Ohio, passed through Florida Online, an Internet
   provider in the Sunshine State, and then through anon.penet.fi, a free
   E-mail remailer service based in Finland that allows Internet users to
   post messages anonymously.
   The identity of the poster was, and is, unknown, though Suponcic has
   his suspicions. "It's my personal belief that the root of this is
   political," says the councilman, who had to get an unlisted telephone
   number and whose wife now wants to move.
   On Feb. 6, at Suponcic's urging, the Willowick city council passed a
   resolution asking the state and federal governments to close the
   "loopholes" that allowed anonymous remailers to operate outside the
   authority of U.S. law-enforcement officials. "Once you've achieved one
   of these anonymous identities, you're dangerous, and there's no way
   law enforcement can track it," Suponcic says. "The animal's out of
   Still not content, Suponcic contacted Steven LaTourette, the U.S.
   Congressman who represents his district. LaTourette's staff suspects
   that the problem lies with Julf Helsingius, the Finn who runs the
   anonymous remailer. They wrote a letter to the Finnish ambassador and
   sent copies to the Secretary of State and the chairman of the House
   Committee on International Relations. The State Department agreed last
   week to look into the complaint.
   But here's a reality check. The Finnish remailer could not have been
   used, since anon.penet.fi no longer transmits binary image files.
   Jerry Russell, who runs Florida Online and who looked into the case,
   says he figures the whole thing was a relatively simple prank called a
   sendmail spoof, in which the prankster posts a message with a phony
   return address. He says the Willowick police never produced a copy of
   the posting for him so that he could unravel the tangle for them.
   Indeed, when the policeman called, "he didn't really understand what
   he was trying to tell me," says Russell. "The average Joe Blow police
   detective doesn't know flip about the Internet."
   Neither does the average public official. And that, friends, is why
   stuff like the Communications Decency Act--the Christian Coalition's
   attempt to remove pornography from the Internet--sails through
   --With reporting by Noah Robischon/New York
   Text Only