Wired Strategies Email Update

AOL's Letter to the Navy January 21, 1998

   
January 16, 1998


Steve S. Honigman
Department of the Navy
Office of the General Counsel
1000 Navy Pentagon
Room 4E724
Washington, DC  20350-1000
VIA FACSIMILE:  703/693-7560


Dear Mr. Honigan:
 
America Online has been carefully following the administrative discharge
proceedings brought by the United States Navy against Senior Petty Officer
Timothy McVeigh.  As you know, the transcript of Senior Petty Officer
McVeigh's discharge hearing (without exhibits) was filed yesterday in
connection with his complaint against the Secretaries of Defense and of
the Navy filed in United States District Court for the District of
Columbia. 
 
America Online is deeply concerned that the United States Navy, according
to the sworn testimony of its personnel in Senior Petty Officer McVeigh's
hearing, may have utilized improper, and perhaps unlawful, procedures in
seeking to confirm certain information about a person the Navy believed to
be one of our members. 
 
Federal law provides, as you no doubt are aware, that America Online may
not knowingly release information pertaining to a subscriber to a
governmental entity without legal process.  As a consequence, America
Online has well-established policies in place for dealing with information
requests from government agencies, including law enforcement agencies. 
Indeed, America Online has designated as liaison a lawyer, known to the
Navy, precisely for such purposes. 

America Online requires any government official who is seeking information
about one of its members to follow the procedures outlined above.  These
procedures require that government officials identify themselves and
produce valid legal process seeking the release of private information
about the member in question.  This policy is well known and has been
communicated many times to the Department of Defense. 

By their own account, the Navy investigative personnel assigned to this
case did not obtain any legal process in making their inquiry to America
Online, and, in fact, did not even disclose that they were government
officials.  Indeed, America Online believes that Navy personnel may have
misrepresented themselves and their purpose in their attempt to confirm
information they apparently already had obtained in their investigation. 
For these reasons, America Online is quite concerned about the practices
of Navy personnel in this matter, and most respectfully requests that the
United States Navy make clear to its personnel that they comply with the
procedures outlined above before private information from America Online
concerning its members. 

Please contact me at your earliest opportunity to confirm your agreement
with the above. 
 
Very truly yours,
George Vradenburg, III
cc: Judith A. Miller 
      Admiral Kendell Pease   

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