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Financial disclosure panic?

--- begin forwarded text

X-Sender: [email protected]
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Date:         Sat, 5 Dec 1998 21:16:35 -0500
Reply-To: Law & Policy of Computer Communications
              <[email protected]>
Sender: Law & Policy of Computer Communications
              <[email protected]>
From: Kerry Zero <[email protected]>
Subject:      Financial disclosure panic?
To: [email protected]

I am the webmaster for kevinmitnick.com, the internet source of
information on the legal and media injustices that have been committed
against Kevin Mitnick (a computer hacker arrested in 1995 who has remained
in prison, pre-trial, with no chance at bail for nearly 4 years now,
despite the fact that the charges against him are relatively mild in
comparison to some other convicted hackers).

In a hearing Wednesday my name was brought up by the judge, Mariana
Pfaelzer, because she had received notification that I had requested her
financial disclosure reports, a request I had assumed logical, considering
the large number of companies that are claimed as victims in Mitnick's
case.  I have been doing a lot of research on the Mitnick case during the
past few months, and this was one part of that research, ordering what I
thought were publicly available records, and which I understood were not
meant for dissemination -- I never published them or disclosed them to the
public (above all, I would never have published this information on the
web, although that was not even the issue, as the judge had no idea who I
was, and she was not even aware on Wednesday that I am also Kevin's site
webmaster).  Apparently the judge was not at all happy simply that someone
on Mitnick's side of the fence had even researched this.  I suppose she'd
have been happier if it had been the prosecution, although obviously that
wouldn't have helped me find the facts I needed to know :)

I was told by different sources (present in the courtroom) that the judge
reacted as though infuriated at my request, and she put the government on
notice that "if anything happened" -- and left the sentence uncompleted.

Now I am left wondering what the potential legal ramifications of this
incident could possibly be.  I did nothing illegal, although in the
judge's eyes, apparently it was immoral or otherwise not right.  I can't
understand why -- my only guess is that she (Judge Pfaelzer) has so firmly
bought the belief that Kevin Mitnick is an extremely dangerous hacker
(though nothing he has done, and nothing in the charges, indicates this)
that she simply fears any actions those of us innocently researching his
case might take.

The information I requested, as I understood it, was private, and not for
publication, but it is openly available to the public by request; one does
not have to be a lawyer to request it. I am not a lawyer; far from it; and
I'm not a computer-cracker either -- I'm a female programmer in my 20s and
I write online course software for a university. This seemingly (to me)
bizarre incident has me blown away completely.

The financial disclosure information is not even detailed enough as to
allow one to estimate income or any other personal information about the
judge, and so I'm having trouble understanding what any possible misuses
of this information could be (and I don't really want to know, at this
point! :)  although obviously I never intended anything to come of the
information in any way, unless it was directly relevant to the case.  If
there had been a conflict of interest with Judge Pfalezer, it would be
very significant to Mitnick's case.  At any rate, I'm uncertain as to what
I should fear from the government -- if anything.  If one of the
corporations listed in the judge's statement happens to go bankrupt, will
I be investigated?  It seems ridiculous to me, but I have been warned that
I may be investigated, and the government prosecutor now has a copy of the
request I made, which apparently so infuriated the judge.

To me, it seems that this court may believe everyone involved in Mitnick's
"cause" is dangerous, although even Kevin himself has never been accused
of committing harm to a person or to a computer -- he is basically accused
of copying software.  There have, however, been several particularly
damaging false "facts" printed in the media about him, such as that he
stole credit card numbers and that he broke into NORAD as a teenager --
neither of which ever appeared in any charges against Kevin, and both were
proven to be untrue, but not before being printed on the front page of the
NY Times, unfortunately.

I suppose it's not my place to speculate, but I wonder how Kevin can
possibly get a fair case with this type of paranoia against him and his
supporters, if indeed it is paranoia... perhaps it is only my own
ignorance of the law, and this happens all the time.

I just wondered if any of you had any thoughts.  I've been following this
list for a while and have found it very educational.

[email protected]

--- end forwarded text

Robert A. Hettinga <mailto: [email protected]>
Philodox Financial Technology Evangelism <http://www.philodox.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'