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Published in TidBITS 22.
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Telepolitics

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A few months back Mitch Kapor and others started the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help educate both government employees and the general public to the realities of computer use and abuse. The EFF claimed it was going to immediately step in and work on various ongoing trials, including the case of a programmer whose machines were confiscated supposedly because he was writing a manual on how to perform electronic espionage. In addition, Steven Levy, author of "Hackers," wrote about the complete computer ignorance displayed by several FBI agents who visited him in relation to the nuPrometheus investigation. Luckily Levy sat down and explained things to the agents he talked to - a small help but a help nonetheless.

In light of these troubling occurrences, we received an interesting note. A candidate for governor in the state of Nevada (for the benefit of our international readers, this state is located on the lower left hand corner of the United States map) is and has been deeply involved in the computer and telecommunications industries. Jim Gallaway, the Republican candidate, outlined the following positions, which we reprint for accuracy's sake (an odd thought considering we are merely copying and pasting).

These are my positions, relative to some of the recent law enforcement practices by some government agents:

  1. Government responses to alleged misdemeanors and crimes must be no more than comparable to the seriousness of the wrong-doings.

  2. Simple electronic trespass without harm must be treated as any other simple trespass. It does not justify armed raids on teenagers, forced entry of private homes, nor seizure of telephone handsets, answering machines, computer printers, published documentation, audio tapes and the like.

  3. The notion that equipment can be "arrested" and held inaccessible to its owner, without promptly charging the owner with a crime, is absolutely unacceptable. The practice of holding seized equipment and data for months or years is a serious penalty that must be imposed only by a court of law and only after a fair and public hearing and judicial finding of guilt.

  4. Teleconferencing and BBS systems must have the same protections against suppression, prior restraint, search or seizure as do newspapers, printing presses and public meeting places.

  5. The contents of electronic-mail and of confidential or closed teleconferencing exchanges must have the same protections against surveillance or seizure as does First Class Mail in a U.S. Post Office, and private discussions among a group in a home or boardroom.

As Governor of the State of Nevada I will vigorously support all of these positions - both statewide and nationally.

-Jim Gallaway, candidate for the Governor of Nevada"

We know nothing more about this man or his other campaign positions other than a personal reference from Jim Warren, who originally posted the article on the Well. Since we don't know Jim Warren, we can't expound on the details. However, we do find it encouraging that a candidate for a major governmental position feels that his views on electronic freedom are an important part of his campaign. As Mitch Kapor has stated, the level of ignorance regarding computers and telecommunications at the governmental level is astounding. We even heard second hand that President Bush has joked that he uses a typewriter because he doesn't know how to use a computer at all. Such ignorance is dangerous because of the level of regulation being proposed by these people, people who think every teenager with a personal computer and a modem is probably capable of duplicating the events of the movie "War Games." If you are curious about this, feel free to contact either Jim Warren or Jim Gallaway himself at the phone numbers or addresses below.

The concept of regulation is also often a problem because telecommunications in general is the sort of act which is either private or with a limited group. Admittedly, there are many thousands of people who participate on Usenet, but even still, the group is limited to those with the ability to get connected one way or another. Many people on Usenet pride themselves on the anarchic way Usenet runs. But run it does in spite of (or perhaps because of in part) the flames and the pettiness. Usenet runs because it somehow brings out the best and worst in people while avoiding all physical ramifications. Perhaps the distinction I'm trying to elucidate is that Usenet is direct whereas the United States government is representative and indirect. A representative organization will never truly understand a direct organization, and until government positions are held by people who understand the direct governing of telecommunication groups by their members, there is great danger for governmental abuse.

Jim Gallaway -- 702/255-2828
Jim Warren -- 415/851-7075

Information from:
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Jim Warren -- jwarren@well.sf.ca.us
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