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Justice Department trumpets victory in cypherpunk case

Background on the case, in which I testified:



Date: Tue, 4 May 1999 12:47:03 -0700
To: cypherpunks@cyberpass.net, ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk
From: Dave Del Torto <ddt@cryptorights.org>
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, Washington.

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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