Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

FC: Justice Department trumpets victory in cypherpun

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Tue, 04 May 1999 19:55:32 -0400
From:          Declan McCullagh <>
Subject:       FC: Justice Department trumpets victory in cypherpunk case

Background on the case, in which I testified:



Date: Tue, 4 May 1999 12:47:03 -0700
From: Dave Del Torto <>
Subject: DoJ's "Assassination Politics" Conviction

FYI, it has come to my attention that federal law enforcement 
officials consider the conviction of Carl Johnson to be a 
"ground-breaking" case and are "congratulating" the federal 
investigators. I have no comment right now, I'm just reporting the
facts as I received them from someone in the LE community.

One does have to wonder exactly what "ground" this breaks, and why the
pre-compromise of the signature key and the lack of security on the
mailing list and its archive seem to have been ignored in the
adjudication of this case.

I suspect that a jury of cryptographers would have found reasonable
doubt existed: perhaps the defense could have better refuted the
"technical" data.


................................. cut here
................................. U.S. Department of Justice United
States Attorney Western District of Washington

3600 Seafirst Fifth Avenue Plaza
800 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104-3190
Tel: (206) 553-7970
Fax: (206) 553-0882

April 21, 1999


Katrina C. Pflaumer, United States Attorney for the Western District
of Washington, announced that CARL EDWARD JOHNSON, 49, of Bienfait,
Saskatchewan, Canada, has been convicted on four felony counts of
sending threatening e-mail messages via the Internet to federal judges
and others. The convictions were announced following a seven-day trial
before United States District Judge Robert J. Bryan, in Tacoma,

JOHNSON was convicted of one count of Retaliating Against a Judicial
Officer, one count of Obstructing Justice by Making a Death Threat
Against a Judicial Officer, and two counts of Transmitting Threatening
Communications in Foreign Commerce. The first three charges were based
on death threats posted to the Internet naming two federal judges
based in Tacoma and Seattle. The fourth charge was based on an e-mail
threat sent directly to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. JOHNSON was
acquitted on one count of Obstructing Justice.

In announcing his verdict on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Judge Bryan
stated that he had "no doubt" JOHNSON was the author of three
threatening messages sent over the Internet. Although JOHNSON had used
anonymous remailers and forged e-mail address information in an
attempt to disguise his identity, Judge Bryan found that the
Government's technical evidence proved JOHNSON's authorship. In
response to the defense contention that the statements constituted
"free speech" protected by the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution, Judge Bryan ruled that the messages were "serious
expressions of intention to do harm," and thus "clearly over the line"
of protected speech.

The guilty verdicts are the culmination of a two-year investigation by
U.S. Treasury agents into anonymous threats posted on the Internet and
a scheme to assassinate government officials known as "Assassination
Politics." As the testimony and evidence at trial showed, the
assassination scheme was first promoted by James Dalton Bell, of
Vancouver, Washington, who had proposed to murder IRS employees, had
gathered a list of IRS agents' names and home addresses, had
contaminated an IRS office with a noxious chemical, and had
experimented with other toxic and dangerous chemicals, including nerve
agents. JOHNSON had corresponded with Bell about Bell's "Assassination
Politics" concept via Internet e-mail. After Bell's arrest, JOHNSON
vowed in an Internet e-mail message to take "personal action" in
support of Bell.

On June 23, 1997, JOHNSON anonymously posted a message on the 
Internet suggesting that specific sums of money would be paid, in the
form of electronic cash, for the deaths of a Federal Magistrate Judge
in Tacoma, Washington, and Treasury agents involved in the Bell
investigation. Additional threatening messages linked to JOHNSON
continued to appear on the Internet in the months that followed, and
JOHNSON set up a World Wide Web page with a partial prototype of the
"Assassination Politics" scheme. JOHNSON also issued a death threat to
several Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit, again through an anonymous e-mail message. The Government was
able to identify JOHNSON as the author of the threatening messages and
the Internet assassination web page through a variety of technical
means. In the case of the Ninth Circuit Judges death threat, Treasury
agents were able to link the unique characteristics of an encrypted
digital signature on the threatening message to encryption "keys"
found on JOHNSON's computer.

Treasury investigators received assistance in the case from Canadian
law enforcement agencies who were investigating JOHNSON for his
Internet activities and an unexploded gasoline bomb found in a
courthouse in Estevan, Saskatchewan. The trial featured testimony from
officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Customs, as
well as the Canadian Internet Service Provider Sympatico and Canadian
telephone company Sasktel. Computer experts from the Treasury
Department and Portland Police Bureau also testified.

Sentencing is scheduled before Judge Bryan for June 11, 1999. The
retaliation and threatening communication counts each carry a maximum
penalty of five years in prison. The obstruction of justice count
carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. JOHNSON is currently
being held without bail at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac,
Washington. JOHNSON also faces additional charges in Canada in
connection with the bomb found in the Canadian courthouse.

The case was investigated by the United States Treasury Inspector
General for Tax Administration. In making today's announcement, U.S.
Attorney Pflaumer credited the outstanding investigative work of
Special Agent Jeffrey Gordon, particularly for his technical work in
proving the identity of the threats' author. U.S. Attorney Pflaumer
also expressed appreciation for the assistance of the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police, United States Secret Service, Portland Police Bureau,
and Canadian Customs. Assistant United States Attorneys Robb London
and Floyd G. Short prosecuted the case. For further information please
contact Robb London or Floyd G. Short at (206) 553-7970, or Thomas C.
Wales, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, at (206) 553-4495.


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