Wired Strategies Email Alert

Latest Official McVeigh Alert Email Alert - January 25, 1998  

January 25, 1998
Washington, DC

***30 Reasons To Be Concerned About the McVeigh/AOL/Navy Case***

The following press clippings are not a smoking gun -- they are an exploding volcano.  If this much suspicion had been thrown on any *other* federal agency, Senior Chief McVeigh would be free, and the investigators would be in jail.  And these clippings are from only a small sampling of the press stories to date.

You'll recall that the US Military is trying to discharge Senior Chief Timothy McVeigh, no relation to the bomber, after Navy investigators illegally approached America Online to get confidential information about Tim's email account.  Using this key information, the Navy now claims Tim is gay and is therefore kicking him out shortly, possibly in the next few days.  The catch: legal experts and almost every newspaper worldwide is saying that the Navy broke federal wire-tapping law by illegally spying on Tim -- they didn't have a search warrant, court order, or Tim's permission to get his private account information from AOL, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) requires all of those.  Even America Online has publicly said that the Navy broke the law in this case.
If you're concerned about justice, about a man's highly-decorated 17-year career (they're even taking away his pension), about the future of the Internet, and about your safety from government investigators (FBI, IRS, CIA, etc.) who think the McVeigh case is a green light to use the Internet to spy on American citizens, then we ask for your help.

* Once you read the press clips below, please help Senior Chief McVeigh by:

1) Getting all your friends to call ALL of the following, and protest VERY loudly:
White House: 202-456-1111 | Defense Department Main Number 703-545-6700, and ask for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and then the Office of the Secretary of the Navy | Defense Department Public Affairs Office 703-697-5737 | Navy Department Public Affairs Office 703-697-5342.
2) Getting all your friends to call their US congressional representatives (202-224-3121, tell the operator what state you're from) and demand a congressional investigation as to whether the US government is breaking the law and using the Internet to spy on American citizens.

TELL EVERYONE YOU CALL: The Navy broke federal privacy law in investigating Senior Chief Timothy McVeigh, and his discharge should be dropped.  Even the man who wrote the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is calling the Navy "pigheaded" in going after McVeigh.  As American citizens we demand Legalman Kaiser and Lt. Morean -- the Navy investigators who broke the law in going after McVeigh -- be immediately prosecuted, and the Navy be investigated.  

Don't let them tell you they can't help you.  You are a taxpayer and a US citizen, and our government committed a crime -- demand to know what they're going to do about it.

3) Sharing these clipping with your friends and colleagues.

4) Visiting <http://www.hrc.org/mcveigh> in order to email the White House and Defense Department (DOD).  

5) Writing a letter-to-the-editor of your local paper.

6) Calling up or visiting your local military recruiting office and raising hell. 

7) Organizing your friends at college to launch an email/phone call campaign aimed at the White House and DOD.

8) Demanding your campus student government kick DOD's recruiters off your campus until the McVeigh case is dropped and he is fully re-instated.

Thanks, JOHN (Tim's online counsel)
Press Clippings
1. AOL Statement to the Press About the McVeigh Case, January 21, 1998
"The Navy deliberately ignored both Federal law and well-established procedures for handling government inquiries about AOL members."

2. AOL letter to Navy General Counsel, January 15, 1998
"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."

3. Dr. Charles Moskos, Author of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell,"  Sworn Testimony, January 20, 1998
"I am the author of the United States Armed Forces' current 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue' policy....The Navy violated the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy in the McVeigh case...To preserve the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy and send a suitable message to the military that investigations of this type will not be condoned, the case against Senior Chief McVeigh should be dropped."

4. Washington Post, Editorial, January 24, 1998
"There have been allegations that the investigator violated the Navy's own procedures or even federal law in not identifying himself."

5. Washington Post, January 22, 1998
"The investigator told him that he was McVeigh's buddy, his friend, and that, 'I just want to make sure he's the guy who sent me this e-mail,' " said Ann Brackbill, an AOL spokeswoman. "We believe the Navy deliberately ignored the law," Brackbill said. "We work with law enforcement all the time and there are standard procedures that are used when they want subscriber information. . . . This [investigator] did not identify himself properly." 

6. Washington Post, January 12, 1998
"Others suggest that the Navy's apparent success in obtaining the information from AOL without a court order will encourage investigators to operate in a similar fashion in the future. 'It's giving a green light for the government to start cyber-snooping on American citizens,' said John Aravosis, an Internet consultant in Washington."

7. New York Times, Op-Ed by Frank Rich, January 17, 1998
"If the Navy investigator did pursue Mr. McVeigh's cyberidentity without either identifying himself or obtaining a court order, it's a likely violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.... Mr. McVeigh is as clear-cut a victim of a witch hunt as could be imagined, and that witch hunt could expand exponentially if the military wants to add on-line fishing to its invasion of service members' privacy."

8. New York Times, January 22, 1998
"'There were no intentional violations of any Federal laws or regulation by Department of Navy personnel,' the [Navy's] statement said.  Asked if there might have been an unintentional violation of Federal privacy laws, a Navy spokesman declined comment."

9. Wall Street Journal, January 14, 1998
"Mr. McVeigh's case....marks a rare exmample of an alleged violation of electronic privacy leading to tangible injury....'What's next?  Can your boss call and get information about what you're doing on line?' asks Mr. Mcveigh."

10. USA Today, January 16, 1998
"Did the government bend the law to get sensitive information about a citizen from an Internet access company?"

11. Philadephia Daily News, Editorial, January 17, 1998
"The Navy violated McVeigh's privacy and the Clinton administration's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy by going to AOL to delve into the sailor's on-line account....The Navy should simply drop the matter."

12. Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1998
"The witch hunt conducted against this highly decorated 17-year Navy veteran with an exemplary record violates the military's own guidelines as well as the federal law governing Internet privacy....the real culprits here are the Navy investigators who went to such lengths to destroy the honor of a seaman who never had given a moment of legitimate cause for concern that he violated any military regulations. In all of his years of service, no one has ever suggested that McVeigh ever committed or solicited a homosexual act, or in any other way indicated that he might be gay.  Described as 'an outstanding role model' and the 'embodiment of Navy core values' in his last performance appraisal, McVeigh has received four major service decorations."

13. MSNBC, January 20, 1998
"It's a tale that justifies every paranoid statement you've ever heard about cyber-snooping by the feds and the dangers of data collection online.... the Navy should drop its case against McVeigh on the basis that it conducted an illegal investigation. The naval investigator never identified himself as such and should have gone through the proper procedure of getting a court order."

14. CNN, January 22, 1998
"A key issue is whether the Navy, in getting information from AOL, violated a 1988 electronic privacy law that forbids disclosure of confidential information to government officials without a warrant or court order."

16. ABC News, January 13, 1998
"The Navy, Sobel said, may have obtained evidence about McVeigh illegally when the officer that phoned AOL failed to say he was calling from the Navy."

17. San Francisco Chronicle, January 10, 1998
"Internet industry experts allege that the Navy violated the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act because, according to the testimony from a Navy paralegal, the service obtained McVeigh's name by a simple phone call to AOL -- not through a court order, warrant or subpoena."

18. San Francisco Chronicle, January 20, 1998
"While AOL profiles can be read by anyone with AOL access, the online service says government agencies can only obtain members' real names with a warrant, subpoena or court order."

19. Reuters, January 21, 1998
"...the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  The law bars Internet service providers from knowingly releasing confidential information gathered online to law enforcement officers without a court order."

20. Honolulu Advertiser, Editorial, January 14, 1998 "If the Navy had no particular reason -- it hasn't mentioned one -- to investigate this particular sailor, might we not assume that Navy is in fact spying in a similar fashioin on many or even all of its members?"

21. BBC, January 13, 1998
"Civil rights campaigners say the American government should not have been allowed access to private subscription details....Those campaigning for privacy on the Internet say this incident should concern every subscriber to America Online, a service which allows around 10 million computer users access to the World Wide Web."

22. The Des Moines Register, January 23, 1998
"It's disturbing to hear that the Navy was recently able to obtain confidential account information from AOL without a warrant or a court order as required by federal law."

23. CNet, January 9, 1998
"Deidre Mulligan, a staff attorney at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said that when the Navy investigator called AOL seeking to connect the screen name with McVeigh, it also violated a federal law: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which requires that a government agency seeking information about an individual's online communication or subscriber information must go through an 'appropriate legal process in which, at the very least, they seek an administrative subpoena.  The military clearly violated the law,' she said."

24. Chicago Sun Times, January 21, 1998
"AOL's policy forbids company representatives from giving out names of the authors of these profile pages, and a 1986 federal electronic privacy law forbids disclosure of that information to the government without a warrant or court order."

25. The Times of London, January 21, 1998
"By revealing the man's real name, AOL may have violated the US's two-year-old law that requires government authorities to obtain a wiretap-style subpoena if they feel the need to 'eavesdrop' on someone's electronic messages."

26. Seattle Times, Editorial, January 21, 1998
"McVeigh serves as the most recent example of privacy rights being violated and of harm resulting from unauthorized disclosure.  Current law should have protected McVeigh."

27. Arizona Republic, January 20, 1998
"The military and the world's largest online service will have some explaining to do - because the case also suggests a giant and quite possibly illegal breach of privacy....The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act says online services can turn information about their customers over to the government only when the customer agrees ahead of time or the government gets a warrant or court order. If McVeigh's claims are true, the Navy broke the law, according to David Sobel at the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center."

28. Dow Jones Newswire, January 20, 1998
"Legal experts argue that AOL and the Navy may have violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which prohibits on-line service companies from releasing customer information without permission or a court order.  According to testimony at McVeigh's discharge hearing, the investigator never obtained a court order and failed to identify himself as a government agent to the AOL employee."

29. Computer World, January 26, 1998
"'The implication [of the Navy policy] is chilling for all users of the Internet,' said Christopher Wolf, McVeigh's lawyer. 'Imagine if it was the IRS or the FBI or another government agency,' and they were 'free to snoop and get information protected by federal law.'

30. ZDNet, January 23, 1998
"If you're one of AOL's 11M members concerned about privacy, be afraid. This is a company that gives lip service to a privacy promise -- until they forget, or can make money off your name."


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