Chapter 4-7
Hacker Crackdown

Go to Table of Contents

There were many stellar figures in the civil libertarian community.
There's no question, however, that its single most influential figure
was Mitchell D. Kapor.  Other people might have formal titles,
or governmental positions, have more experience with crime,
or with the law, or with the arcanities of computer security
or constitutional theory.  But by 1991 Kapor had transcended
any such narrow role.  Kapor had become "Mitch."

Mitch had become the central civil-libertarian ad-hocrat.
Mitch had stood up first, he had spoken out loudly, directly,
vigorously and angrily, he had put his own reputation,
and his very considerable personal fortune, on the line.
By mid-'91 Kapor was the best-known advocate of his cause
and was known PERSONALLY by almost every single human being in America
with any direct influence on the question of civil liberties in cyberspace.
Mitch had built bridges, crossed voids, changed paradigms, forged metaphors,
made phone-calls and swapped business cards to such spectacular effect
that it had become impossible for anyone to take any action in the
"hacker question" without wondering what Mitch might think--
and say--and tell his friends.

The EFF had simply NETWORKED the situation into an entirely new status quo.
And in fact this had been EFF's deliberate strategy from the beginning.
Both Barlow and Kapor loathed bureaucracies and had deliberately
chosen to work almost entirely through the electronic spiderweb of
"valuable personal contacts."

After a year of EFF, both Barlow and Kapor had every reason
to look back with satisfaction.  EFF had established its own Internet node,
"eff.org," with a well-stocked electronic archive of documents on
electronic civil rights, privacy issues, and academic freedom.
EFF was also publishing EFFector, a quarterly printed journal,
as well as EFFector Online, an electronic newsletter with
over 1,200 subscribers.  And EFF was thriving on the Well.

EFF had a national headquarters in Cambridge and a full-time staff.
It had become a membership organization and was attracting
grass-roots support.  It had also attracted the support
of some thirty civil-rights lawyers, ready and eager
to do pro bono work in defense of the Constitution in Cyberspace.

EFF had lobbied successfully in Washington and in Massachusetts
to change state and federal legislation on computer networking.
Kapor in particular had become a veteran expert witness,
and had joined the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board
of the National Academy of Science and Engineering.

EFF had sponsored meetings such as "Computers, Freedom and Privacy"
and the CPSR Roundtable.  It had carried out a press offensive that,
in the words of EFFector, "has affected the climate of opinion about
computer networking and begun to reverse the slide into
`hacker hysteria' that was beginning to grip the nation."

It had helped Craig Neidorf avoid prison.

And, last but certainly not least, the Electronic Frontier Foundation
had filed a federal lawsuit in the name of Steve Jackson,
Steve Jackson Games Inc., and three users of the Illuminati
bulletin board system.  The defendants were, and are,
the United States Secret Service, William Cook, Tim Foley,
Barbara Golden and Henry Kleupfel.

The case, which is in pre-trial procedures in an Austin federal court
as of this writing, is a civil action for damages to redress
alleged violations of the First and Fourth Amendments to the
United States Constitution, as well as the Privacy Protection Act
of 1980 (42 USC 2000aa et seq.), and the Electronic Communications
Privacy Act (18 USC 2510 et seq and 2701 et seq).

EFF had established that it had credibility.  It had also established
that it had teeth.

In the fall of 1991 I travelled to Massachusetts to speak personally
with Mitch Kapor.  It was my final interview for this book.