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This was an Internet staple when we first got online. We keep it as an important artifact. BELOW on this page: Chris Lamprecht AKA Minor Threat

The X-on CONGRESS: Indecent Comment on an Indecent Subject

SAN ANTONIO, TX -- You motherfuckers in Congress have dropped over the edge of the earth this time. I understand that very few of the swarm of high dollar lobbyists around the Telecommunications Bill had any interest in content regulation -- they were just trying to get their clients an opportunity to dip their buckets in the money stream that cyberspace may become -- but the public interest sometimes needs a little attention. Keeping your eyes on what big money wants, you have sold out the First Amendment.

First, some basics. If your children walked by a public park and heard some angry sumbitches referring to Congress as "the sorriest bunch of cocksuckers ever to sell out the First Amendment" or suggesting that "the only reason to run for Congress these days is to suck the lobbyists' dicks and fuck the people who sent you there," no law would be violated (assuming no violation of noise ordinances or incitement to breach the peace). If your children did not wish to hear that language, they could only walk away. Thanks to your heads-up-your-ass dereliction of duty, if they read the same words in cyberspace, they could call the FBI!

Cyberspace is the village green for the whole world. It is the same as the village green our Founders knew as the place to rouse the rabble who became Americans, but it is also different. Your blind acceptance of the dubious -- make that dogass dumb -- idea that children are harmed by hearing so-called dirty words has created some pretty stupid regulations without shutting down public debate, but those stupid regulations will not import to cyberspace without consequences that even the public relations whores in Congress should find unacceptable.

In cyberspace, there is no time. A posted message stays posted until it is wiped. Therefore, there is no way to indulge the fiction that children do not stay up late or cannot program a VCR.

In cyberspace, there is no place. The "community standards" are those of the whole world. An upload from Amsterdam can become a download in Idaho. By trying to regulate obscenity and indecency on the Internet, you have reduced the level of expression allowed consenting adults to that of the most anal retentive blueballed fuckhead U.S. attorney in the country. The Internet is everywhere you can plug in a modem. Call Senator Exon an "ignorant motherfucker" in Lincoln, Nebraska and find yourself prosecuted in Bibleburg, Mississippi.

In cyberspace, you cannot require the convenience store to sell Hustler in a white sleeve. The functional equivalent is gatekeeper software, to which no civil libertarian has voiced any objection. Gatekeeper software cannot be made foolproof, but can you pandering pissants not see that any kid smart enough to hack into a Website is also smart enough to get his hands on a hard copy of Hustler if he really wants one?

In cyberspace, there is the illusion of anonymity but no real privacy. It is theoretically possible for any Internet server to seine through all messages for key words (although it seems likely the resulting slowdown would be noticeable). Perhaps some of you read about America OnLine's attempt to keep children from reading the word "breast?" An apparently unforeseen consequence was the shutdown of a discussion group of breast cancer survivors. Don't you think more kids are aware of "teat" (pronounced "tit") than of "breast?" Can skirts on piano legs, er, limbs be far behind?

But silly shit like this is just a pimple on the ass of the long-term consequences for politics, art and education. You have passed a law that will get less respect than the 55 m.p.h. speed limit dead bang in the middle of the First Amendment. Indecency is nothing but a matter of fashion; obscenity is the same but on a longer timeline. This generation freely reads James Joyce and Henry Miller and the Republic still stands. The home of the late alleged pornographer D. H. Lawrence is now a beautiful writers' retreat in the mountains above Taos, managed by the University of New Mexico.

Universities all have Internet servers, and every English Department has at least one scholar who can read Chaucer's English -- but not on the Internet anymore. Comparative literature classes might read Boccaccio -- but not on the Internet anymore. What if some U. S. Attorney hears about Othello and Desdemona "making the beast with two backs" -- is interracial sex no longer indecent anywhere in the country, or is Shakespeare off the Internet?

Did you know you can download video and sound from the Internet? Yes, that means you can watch other people having sex if that is interesting to you, live or on tape. Technology can make such things hard to retrieve, but probably not impossible. And since you have swept right past obscenity and into indecency, the baby boomers had better keep their old rock 'n roll tapes off the Internet.

When the Jefferson Airplane sang "her heels rise for me," they were not referring to a dance step. And if some Brit explains the line about "finger pie" in Penny Lane, the Beatles will be gone. All of those school boards that used to ban "The Catcher in the Rye" over cussing and spreading the foul lie that kids masturbate can now go to federal court and get that nasty book kept out of cyberspace.

But enough about the past. What about rap music? No, I do not care much for it either -- any more than I care for the language you shitheads have forced me to use in this essay -- but can you not see the immediate differential impact of this law by class and race? What is your defense -- that there are no African-Americans on the Internet, since they are too busy pimping and dealing crack? If our educational establishment has any sense at all, they will be trying to see more teens of all colors on the Internet, because there is a lot to be learned in cyberspace that has nothing to do with sex.

There are plenty of young people in this country who have legitimate political complaints. When you dickheads get done with Social Security, they will be lucky if the retirement age is still in double digits. But thanks to the wonderful job the public schools have done keeping sex and violence out, we have a lot of intelligent kids who cannot express themselves without indecent language. I have watched lawyers in open court digging their young clients in the ribs every time the word "fuck" slipped out.

Let's talk about this fucking indecent language bullshit. Joe Shea, my editor, does not want it in his newspaper, and I respect that position. He might even be almost as upset about publishing this as I am about writing it. I do use salty language in my writing, but sparingly, only as a bighammer. Use the fucking shit too fucking much and it loses its fucking impact -- see what I mean? Fiction follows different rules, and if you confine your fiction writing to how the swell people want to see themselves using language, you not only preclude literary depiction of most people but you are probably false to the people you purport to depict

Do you remember how real language used by real people got on the air and in the newspapers? Richard Nixon, while he was president, speaking in the White House about official matters. A law professor and a nominee for Supreme Court Justice arguing about pubic hairs and porno movies during Senate hearings.

Are these matters now too indecent for the Internet? How much cleansing will be required of the online news services? Answer: Enough cleansing to meet the standard of what is appropriate for a child in the most restrictive federal judicial district.

This is bullshit -- unconstitutional bullshit and also bad policy bullshit. To violate your ban on indecency, I have been forced to use and overuse so-called indecent language. But if I called you a bunch of goddam motherfucking cocksucking cunt-eating blue-balled bastards with the morals of muggers and the intelligence of pond scum, that would be nothing compared to this indictment, to wit: you have sold the First Amendment, your birthright and that of your children. The Founders turn in their graves. You have spit on the grave of every warrior who fought under the Stars and Stripes.

And what mess of pottage have you acquired in exchange for the rights of a free people? Have you cleansed the Internet of even the rawest pornography? No, because it is a worldwide system. You have, however, handed the government a powerful new tool to harass its critics: a prosecution for indecent commentary in any district in the country.

Have you protected one child from reading dirty words? Probably not, if you understand what the economists call "substitution" -- but you have leveled the standards of political debate to a point where a history buff would not dare to upload some of the Federalist v. Anti-Federalist election rhetoric to a Website.

Since the lobby reporting requirements were not law when the censorship discussion was happening, I hope you got some substantial reward for what you gave up. Thirty pieces of silver doesn't go far these days.


Minor Threat - The Real Story

Chris Lamprecht's story is one which anyone concerned with free speech should be aware of. At issue is this: Should a person's free speech rights be removed from them as a punishment for a crime which has nothing to do with expression? See also Online Journalism Review

Chris Lamprecht

During 1992 and 1993, Minor Threat had been breaking into several Southwestern Bell central offices and other similar business. He was obtaining stolen AT&T 5ESS and System 75 circuit packs and selling them to vendors.

In February 1994, his apartment was searched and evidence was found linking him to these crimes. In January 1995, Minor Threat turned himself into the U.S. Marshals after learning that they had an arrest warrant for him for Money Laundering in violation of Title 18 USC § 1956(a)(1).

In February 1995, Minor Threat pled guilty to the single count of money laundering. His lawyer, Joe James Sawyer, told him that he would get a 14-month sentence. His sentencing date was set for March 31, 1995 and was later reset to May 5, 1995.

On May 5, at the sentencing hearing, Minor Threat was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison with no parole. The United States Attorney (the prosecutor) cited Lamprecht's refusal to cooperate pursuant to the plea agreement for the increase in his offense level and sentence increase. In addition, the government claimed that he had threatened to ruin one of the police officer's credit ratings, which increased his sentence by 13 months.

In addition, the judge sentenced Minor Threat to three years of supervised release after he completes his sentence. The judge also imposed the following conditions of release:

  • He cannot be employed as a computer programmer, troubleshooter or installer
  • He cannot use the Internet or any other computer network
  • He cannot own a computer that uses a modem

If these restrictions seem ridiculous, that's because they are. Banning someone from using the Internet is a Free Speech violation and prohibiting Minor Threat from his career of computer programming certainly doesn't help to rehabilitate him. He is currently looking for a lawyer to help him fight these conditions in court.

Chris Lamprecht

After Minor Threat was sentenced, he talked to his lawyers about getting a sentence reduction of approximately one year by consulting the victims of his crimes so they could prevent future incidents. The prosecutor agreed that if he would talk to the victims and the military, the prosecutor would file a motion for reduction of sentence.

Minor Threat talked to several corporations and even to the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI). He also talked to two security agents at GTE Southwest, who considered his advice on physical and computer security to be very helpful. Later he talked to a representative from Bellcore in New Jersey named Steve Branigan as well as Jeff Thorpe from the U.S. Air Force OSI. They talked to him mostly about computer security, cellular phones, telephone switch security, etc. The AFOSI man asked him about several other hackers, most of whom Minor Threat did not know. The few he did recognize, he had talked to only once or not at all. The two names he remembers them asking about are JSZ and Wing. Part of the agreement was that Minor Threat not disclose the fact that he had been interviewed by the USAF or Bellcore. So why is all this being made public?

Because the government has already violated the agreement. After Minor Threat completed his end of the deal, the prosecutor decided he didn't want to hold up the government's end so Minor Threat never got the sentencing reduction he was promised. This could be because the U.S. Attorney never intended to give Minor Threat the reduction or because of a letter the U.S. Attorney received from the United States Sentencing Commission about Minor Threat's case. (Read on for an explanation of this.)

Remember, Minor Threat was charged with money laundering even though he wasn't really "money laundering", but simply selling stolen equipment. Well there's a reason why the U.S. Attorney decided to charge Minor Threat with money laundering instead of interstate transport of stolen property -- because there is a sentencing disparity in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that allows prosecutors to get defendants a longer sentence than their true underlying crime would get. The guideline for money laundering begins at offence level 20, while the guideline for interstate transport begins at 6! If Minor Threat had been charged with his true crime, he would have gotten approximately 46 months instead of 70 -- a 2 year difference. The government also did this to Kevin Poulsen, another computer hacker.

The point of all this is: The United States Sentencing Commission has recognized this sentencing disparity and the fact that U.S. prosecutors are abusing it as was done in Minor Threat's case. In 1995, they proposed an amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that would fix this disparity by setting the offense level for money laundering to reflect the true underlying crime. If this bill had been passed, it could have reduced Minor Threat's sentence by up to 24 months. Minor Threat wrote a letter to the U.S. Sentencing Commission expressing his support for the amendment and showing how the U.S. Attorney in his case abused the disparity to get a longer sentence. The Sentencing Commission apparently thought the letter had merit because they wrote a letter to Minor Threat's prosecutor, formally requesting why he chose to charge Minor Threat with money laundering instead of the appropriate charge of interstate transport of stolen property. When the prosecutor got this letter, he told Minor Threat's lawyer that he was now reluctant to file the motion to reduce Minor Threat's sentence due to his consultation with the USAF and other corporations.

This proposed amendment did not pass in 1995, probably because it was bundled with the crack cocaine amendment. The amendment is still on the books, but won't be considered again until 1997 because of elections this year. If you want to help get this amendment passed, you should write to your state senator. There is an organization called Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) that is dedicated to making the sentencing laws more fair. Contact them for more information.

So for now, Minor Threat's release date is March 5, 2000.

Update:
The judge who placed the computer and Internet restrictions in Chris Lamprecht's case revisited the case himself. He said he believed that he had made several errors in sentencing and strongly urged Chris to appeal himself because it was likely that a higher judge would overturn the case.

A New Hope?

The funny thing is, Judge Sam Sparks isn't so sure Lamprecht's cause is hopeless.

In an order issued last December, the very same judge who banished Lamprecht into electronic exile, and who is now reviewing the hacker's petition, wrote: "The petitioner further argues that the Court's restrictions on his use of the Internet constitute a prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment. This is a novel legal claim and the Court orders the government to file a brief responding to this point of error."

"I'm always pretty impressed when a federal judge encourages any defendant to pursue a particular point... he knows there's something there," says Kuhn.

"It's kind of interesting that all the legal scholars didn't pick up on it, and now he has."

It's a long shot, to be sure. But the lone efforts of a hacker turned thief, who, but for an expeditious stomach-pump, would be dead and buried, might ultimately lead to a binding legal precedent barring the government from arbitrarily keeping any American off the Internet.

And we'll have only one solitary person, working alone and ignored, to thank when they read us our Lamprecht Rights.--from ZDNet