Wired Strategies Press Release

Email Press Release January 15, 1998    

Contacts:  John Aravosis, 202/328-5707
Thursday, January 15, 1998        

Barbara Bode, 202/588-9598

Navy Retreats on McVeigh Discharge
Advocates Vow Fight Only Beginning

In a last minute surprise, the Navy agreed to delay Senior Chief Timothy McVeigh’s discharge today after McVeigh sued the Secretary of Defense Cohen and the Secretary of the Navy Dalton this afternoon, in an attempt to stop his imminent discharge from the Navy, set for midnight tonight.  McVeigh’s discharge is based on evidence that privacy experts say the Navy illegally obtained from America Online (AOL), the nation’s largest Internet provider.  Online advocates vow that the fight against the Navy and AOL has only just begun.

Lawyers for McVeigh made a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Defense Department and the Navy early this afternoon in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.  The TRO would prohibit the Navy from discharging McVeigh pending a full investigation of the Navy’s and AOL’s feared violations of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and the Navy’s repeated and consistent violations of the President’s anti-gay "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy.  As government lawyers immediately offered to hold off on the McVeigh discharge until next Wednesday, the court did not rule on the McVeigh TRO.

"This is an important test case that will determine whether the government can violate our privacy on the Internet with impunity," said David Sobel, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
"What did the Navy know and when did they know it?  And why won’t the Administration investigate this obvious violation of federal law by a government agency?" asked John Aravosis, an Internet consultant assisting McVeigh’s online Public Relations strategy.  "This case screams cover-up."

McVeigh motion is based on the contention that the Navy solicited and obtained personal information from America Online without a warrant, court order, or McVeigh’s consent – one of which is required under federal law and AOL’s own Terms of Service.  

Online advocates warn of a much larger battle looming, with potentially serious consequences for the Administration, the Navy, and America Online.  "This lawsuit is the opening salvo of a multi-front war on the US Navy – the Administration had better get ready for more suits, congressional investigations, and online campaigns," said Aravosis.   "AOL had also better watch out.  If the Navy gets away with a cover up, AOL may be the only one left to blame."


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