Wired Strategies Press Pitch

One Pager for Press Pitch on McVeigh  January 9, 1998    

Subject: One-pager for press pitch on McVeigh
Date: Fri, 09 Jan 1998 12:31:39 -0500
From: John Aravosis <john@wiredstrategies.com>
To: (Recipient list suppressed)

Friday, January 9, 1998

Summary: Did America Online – with over 50% of the email market --
illegally share confidential information with the US military, getting one
of its subscribers fired? 

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t AOL

Did America Online – with over 50% of the email market -- illegally share
confidential information with the US military, getting one of its
subscribers fired?  That’s the question millions of AOL subscribers are
asking after the Navy testified under oath at a recent hearing that AOL
divulged confidential subscriber information to the US military, costing
submariner Timothy R. McVeigh (no relation to the Oklahoma City McVeigh)
his 17-year career. 

The Navy believed McVeigh to be the owner of an AOL "member profile" that
they thought looked "gay" – but had no concrete proof that is was
McVeigh’s.  Navy legal staff testified that they called AOL, and without
meeting any of the explicit exceptions detailed in AOL’s written terms of
service, were told by a Tech Services staffer that the profile in question
belonged to Timothy R. McVeigh of Hawaii.  The military is discharging
McVeigh the end of next week for "sodomy," based exclusively on his AOL
profile.  In a new twist to the case, cyber civil liberties lawyers are
today crying foul, calling this a clear violation of federal privacy law
on the part of both the Navy and AOL.  Federal law explicitly limits the
manner in which the government can obtain information on citizens from
private companies.  Reportedly, the law’s requirements were not met by
either AOL or the Navy in this case. 

McVeigh was until recently the top enlisted man on board the nuclear
attack submarine, USS Chicago, stationed out of Hawaii.  He is a
highly-decorated veteran, having earned the Navy Commendation Medal, three
Navy Achievement medals, four Good Conduct medals, three Battle E’s, four
sea service ribbons, and recognition for his service in Southeast Asia and
the Arctic. 

Internet industry experts fear the imminent discharge of McVeigh would set
a dangerous precedent for cyber civil liberties.  "If the US Navy is
allowed to fire someone based on information illegally obtained from AOL,
then who’s next?  Can a private company call AOL to investigate an
employee, and then fire her?" asked John Aravosis, founder of Wired
Strategies, a political Internet consulting firm in Washington, DC.  "I
use AOL every day," said Aravosis, "but I’m going to think twice before I
risk getting mugged by the thought police in what I thought was a safe
online environment." 

Contact Information:
1)  Timothy R. McVeigh - 17-year and highly decorated Navy veteran being
discharged - email < navypress@aol.com >.
2)  John Aravosis - Internet policy expert with Wired Strategies in
Washington DC <202/328-5707>, < www.wiredstrategies.com >,
<john@wiredstrategies.com> - online advocacy adviser to Timothy McVeigh,
and commenting on the case's online privacy angle and implications for AOL
and the online community at large.
3)  Kirk Childress - one of McVeigh's attorneys with the Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network in Wash DC, a non-profit organization assisting
servicemembers caught up in the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy <202/328-3244>.
4)  Derek Cole - McVeigh's military lawyer in Hawaii <808/474-6014 x303>.
5)  Deirdre Mulligan - Center for Democracy and Technology - legal expert
on online privacy, will confirm that Navy’s and AOL’s actions violated
federal law <202/637-9800>.
6)  David Sobel - Electronic Policy Information Center - online privacy
expert <202/544-9240>.


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