Unbiased columnism # 2.4

Magnusson becomes helpful

Stockholm, January 22, 2001

[Previous installment: McShane compliments Zenon.] WHEN ZENON AND I ENTER the hall after the weekend, Magnusson’s aide is the first person that we meet. While he usually ignores us, he now makes a show of flashing me a big grin. He must have read my previous report, I gather, and is doing his best to disprove my published assessment that he is a Scientologist. As I will soon discover, I am only partially right. There is a bit more to this smile.

9:30

THE COURT RESUMES. Magnusson starts by protesting my presence during last Friday’s closed door sessions. I wrote about these closed-door sessions, he informs the court, and published my notes on alt.religion.scientology. Thus, I broke the confidentiality that RTC tried to maintain with such difficulty, and apart from that, my reports constitute contempt of and defiance to the court that ordered me to maintain secrecy. Hence, Magnusson wants me out in all future closed sessions (such as today’s, when Birgitta Alexandersson, the notary public, will be heard).

Magnusson’s aide, who flashed me a huge smile only minutes ago, gets up and hands copies of my court reports as found on DejaNews to the court and to Zenon. Zenon replies that secrecy is only limited to actual parts of the scriptures discovered within these closed-door sessions, not to anything else, and I did not reveal any of that.

Magnusson sustains his protest. Zenon asks him to what passages exactly he and RTC object. One of them turns out to be the five-liner that Magnusson prevented Zenon from uttering Friday afternoon and which I later quoted as a planned part of Zenon’s plea, but most of all Magnusson protests the defiance that he discerns in the closing sentence of that paragraph: “That’s secrecy for you.” Aren’t I ridiculing the court here?

Zenon explains that this certainly was not information that I learned in a closed session: Magnusson did not allow Zenon to utter these lines and I got them at home, from Zenon himself, from his notes. And what does Magnusson mean by ‘contempt’? I simply pointed out the consequences of Magnusson’s own stance: if Magnusson will not allow Zenon to say something while they are discussing evidence and grounds, he will bring up that same issue in his plea – perhaps even with more vehemence.

It slowly dawns upon me that Magnusson has actually been demanding that I be thrown out of the court room completely, even when the doors are not closed and no secrecy is required. I must no longer be allowed to be here. I have shown gross contempt of court, and have proven myself to be utterly unsuitable and unworthy.

The court tackles the question in slices. They are not sure whether my use of the term “body thetan” in the previous report is justified. There is indeed some secrecy to be maintained, isn’t there? Zenon argues that far before he ever got into a dispute with Scientology in 1996, that word was already being used by other people in public discussions about Scientology. (Actually, he could have informed the court that there even is a Dutch Body Thetan Society, and that the UK can boast an Association to Prevent Cruelty Against Body Thetans.) The court can’t very well prohibit us from using words from the scriptures, can they? If it did, half the English vocabulary would be covered by secrecy. As for Magnusson’s wish that I be dismissed: Zenon needs me; while he is interrogating people he can’t make notes, and he has no other assistance than mine.

The court adjourns. They need to reach a formal decision on Magnusson’s request.

9:50

DURING THE BREAK, Zenon and I discuss the consequences of a negative decision. “I need to have somebody who can make notes and who can shove information at me,” Zenon says. “If the court refuses you any further entrance, I am afraid that I must ask the court to adjourn and reschedule the whole case. Fuck, I can’t do this totally by myself, can I?”

Then again, we understand why Magnusson is doing this. First of all, McShane suddenly finds a rather detailed transcript of his testimony on the net – and as we all know, transcripts such as these are often terribly useful in other people’s court cases. McShane would rather not have them around, especially not where it concerns a closed session. He’d rather not be held accountable elsewhere for what he is saying here. Secondly, there is probably an element of revenge involved. So there I was, not a party in this court case at all, yet allowed to see the OTs and NOTs; probably I am the second non-Scientologist, non-lawyer in the position to officially lay their eyes upon Scientology’s scriptures – Zenon being the first. And thirdly, Magnusson might hope to hamper or cripple Zenon. He is simply being pusillanimous.

We wait for twenty-five minutes for the court to announce its decision. Judging by the amount of time that it takes, and by the no-nonsense behaviour of this court, we assume that the court is carefully reading my two reports and weighing my words.

It’s a rather weird thought that by now three of my articles have made it into this court case: my summary of OT3 has been part of the case for a few years already (in attachment 126), and by now two new pieces have been officially filed.

10:15

THE COURT RESUMES. We are called in to hear their decision. Although I walked a tight line, the court states, they found me neither incapable nor unsuitable to be Zenon’s biträde. There was no contempt of court. I can stay.

I breathe relief. Zenon will not be forced to ask to reschedule. Moreover, while I was vehemently hoping that the court would come across my reports – they do after all not only comment upon McShane’s glitches (oh, how I now wish that I had incorporated all previous known and established security breaches concerning the OTs in my last report; it would have been so edifying), they also present a more social, subjective point of entry than any legal assessment can provide one with – Magnusson has dutifully fulfilled that task for me and has himself formally provided the court with my reports. Thank you, Mr Magnusson; you were most kind.

Then again, I’m quite sure that Magnusson will put the fee for the copies of my a.r.s. reports on Zenon’s legal bill.

10:18 – A procedural discussion starts.

Zenon would like to have the deposition of Ms Alexandersson, the notary public who compared Zenon’s postings and his webpage to RTC’s originals in an open session: he assumes that the procedure of her comparison will be discussed, not the actual contents of the material. The court needs to make another decision. It takes them ten minutes.

10:30 – The court announce their decision: Ms Alexandersson’s testimony will be partly open, and partly under secrecy, just like McShane’s testimony.

10:33 – Birgitta Alexandersson’s deposition

MS ALEXANDERSSON SEATS herself. She is reminded – like McShane was previously – that she is still under oath. She starts by explaining that she is not working as a notary public anymore, and is by now living abroad.

Magnusson: What method did you employ to make the comparison?

Birgitta Alexandersson: 3 steps. We – I and my aide, who is a lawyer – sat down with the material I got the originals from the church, both OT2 and OT3 and NOTs. We compared those to attachment 30, 37, and 126, the diskettes from the bailiff, the material from Panoussis’ hard disk and the documents handed in to the various authorities. With respect to attachment 126 [the monkey OTs], I made a ransom selection and compared those to the originals. They were exact copies.

M: How did you get the originals?

BA: A church official brought them to my office.

10:38 – Start of closed session

Zenon comments that Alexandersson’s aide stays in the court room. Alexandersson says that he helped her to make the comparison and that he knows her notes. Zenon asks why he should be allowed to stay during this closed session. Can’t Alexandersson read from her notes by herself? Does she need help or a souffleur?

The court has a small discussion amongst themselves. In the meanwhile Alexandersson gets quite annoyed and says that she doesn’t care if her aide leaves, so the aide does so before the court reaches a decision. Magnusson tries to retaliate by reminding the court that I am here and am making notes. The court assures Magnusson that I am still bound by secrecy.

Alexandersson produces her notes and from those, she reads what differences and similarities she assessed existed between Zenon’s OT2, OT3 and NOTs and the originals that RTC supplied her with. It takes an hour and a half to do so.

12:17-13:15 – Lunch break.

Zenon questions Alexandersson. He wishes to know how much of OT2 and OT3 was not quoted in the documents that he posted or filed. Alexandersson goes through her notes, but can’t find the answer in them; she exclaims that these notes are old and that she doesn’t remember. She only has her notes to go by. Zenon insists, the answer is quite important to him; Alexandersson gets quite irritated: she has no knowledge apart from what is comprised in her notes, and she doesn’t see why Zenon insists. I, however, understand why he does so: Zenon is trying to show that Alexandersson only compared texts that match and is not telling or does not know how much of the original text was not at all in Zenon’s copies. This is important with regard to the right to quote. Alexandersson finally states that she received the full binders from RTC, the same ones that the court has seen. Taking this into consideration, her account of how big parts were copied doesn’t seem to match the length of the respective materials. End of closed session.

Zenon wants to know how Alexandersson made her selection of the works within attachment 126 that she then compared to RTC’s original NOTs pack. Did she make a random selection? Yes. No. She started at the top of Attachment 126 and then compared each individual Monkey NOT to the NOTs Pack. Since by then she was well acquainted with the originals, she could decide rather quickly which works within Attachment 126 was infringing and which one wasn’t. No, she didn’t go through the whole of Attachment 126; it contained 200 individual texts, she was dead tired and she had agreed with Magnusson that she would hand in her assessment the next morning. Yes, she started at the top and ignored the ones that were fakes. Yes, that is how she assessed that the seven works that she compared were originals. No, the ones that she threw aside she didn’t count. No, she doesn’t remember, it’s too long ago. Yes, she worked her way from the top down.

In the hearings of 1998, Alexandersson twice stated under oath that she had made a random selection from within attachment 126 and that each of those randomly selected works that she compared to he originals, was infringing. According to the investigation protocol she said the same to the prosecutor in the penal investigation case against Zenon. Now she says that she did not select randomly, that everything that at first glance did not appear infringing was cast aside, and that she defined the result of her selection to be her random selection. The court frowns. Alexandersson denies that she ever stated that she made a random selection. The court secretary intervenes: Alexandersson has indeed stated that.

Zenon asks for Alexandersson’s testimony in primary court to be re-heard from the tapes.

13:55 – Mikael Nyström’s testimony.

NYSTRÖM IS THE internet and computer expert who in primary court stated under oath that a series of NOTs postings to a.r.s. – dated May 2, 1996, postings that Zenon disputes he ever made – could not, or could almost not have been falsified. Meanwhile, it has been proven that such a message can be falsified: a few weeks ago a message was posted to a.r.s. having the exact same headers (host name, NTTP-posting host, NTTP-posting user, user, sender, what have you; all from Zenon’s old dodo.pp.se account which has long been closed) and that message was purportedly written by Mikael Nyström. Zenon questions Nyström.

Zenon: can you explain to the court how one identifies a Usenet message?
Nyström: By the IP address (you check whether it exists), the message ID, the NNTP posting host, NNTP posting user, the news server used. You can falsify a few things but not all.

Z: Can you falsify the sender’s address?
N: Yes.

Z: The message ID?
N: That is more difficult, but not impossible. The message ID in part serves as a guarantee for authenticity: it is unique for each message.

Z: Where is such a message ID created?
N: That depends upon the operating system used, and upon the program used. Almost always the message-ID is created by the server.

Z: Do you know if Netscape generates a message ID?
N: I’m not sure with Netscape, but in any case the news server checks the message ID and might modify it.

Z: Which headers are generated from within Netscape, that is: at the client side?
N: The sender name and e-mail address.

Z: What about NNTP posting user and NTTP posting host?
N: These are always generated by the server. Even if the client would add them to a message, the server would strip them off and re-generate them.

Z: Can you falsify NNTP posting user and NTTP posting host?
N: There is some room for falsification, but not much.

Z: So how do you tell where a message come from?
N: By looking at the dial-up and at the posting host, the IP address for the computer, that is: the name for the computer to which you are connected and via which you post.

Z: What does ‘dial-up’ and ‘posting-user’ mean?
N: It tells you which particular user is logged in at this particular moment from which particular dial-up.

Z: If you dial in and post to a newsgroup, are your actions then logged, under normal circumstances?
N: Yes, certainly when you pay per minute of usage at your provider. Paid providers do extensive logging. With free providers, it’s a tad different.

Z: How normal is logging for normal providers?
N: It is even expected of them. When a client for instance abuses the net you must be able to trace him.

Z: So you can look at these logs and then find out who it was?
N: Yes.

Z: Let’s look more closely at this particular message. Can you tell from where it was posted?
N: Yes, by looking at the path, the posting host, the news server.

Z: The path lists all the computers through which this message passed?
N: Yes. Each message passes lots of machines; and here you can see which ones. At news servers, a replication process takes place: news servers check what they have and what they miss, and then exchange on a peer-to-peer basis with one another in order to get a full feed. That is where the message IDs comes in, these are used to check what you have and what you have not.

Z: So, is it correct to say that from this path you can tell…
N: Yes, you can see which way it traveled.

Z: And the dial-up?
N: You can tell that he’s from e.g. Tele2 and dialed in.

Z: Within which limits can you be certain about that?
N: To quite some degree.

Z: [shows Nyström the falsified message]
N: This one says that it came from Swipnet. We know that it is false, the account does no longer exist.

Z: But if you had no clue about its origin and were just presented with this message, would you still say…
N: I can’t be sure. We know that this one is falsified.

Z: How can you falsify a news message?
N: Usually, this is done by injecting it into a news server.

Chair: How do you do that?
N: You contact a news server directly, and you fake a sender and a message ID.

Z: How do you recognise a faked message?
N: You look at the sender, at the message ID and check whether that is plausible, then at the posting host and user, and you look at the path and check whether it is reasonable.

Z: As a system administrator, you can log in everywhere, can’t you, and can’t you inject any message then?
N: Well, if you are a system administrator, basically, you sit with your hands in the cookie jar.

Z: You spoke about news servers pooling their messages and exchanging them. How many news servers are there?
N: Tens of thousands.

Z: If you inject a message in any of them, will that message circulate normally?
N: More or less.

Z: So sysadmins have full possibility to falsify messages?
N: Yes.

Z: In tingsrätt you said that you were 99% sure that this message could not have been falsified. Now you say that it is possible.
N: Erm, it is not impossible.

Z: Can a system administrator inject a Usenet message via his own news server?
N: Yes.

Z: Can an individual do it?
N: Yes.

Z: And an organisation?
N: Yes.

Chair: So it is technically possible?
N: Yes. It can be done. However, the information about how it can be done is now more readily available than it was in 1996. If the court would search the net, I am sure that within five minutes, they would find a course on the net teaching them “How to make a fake posting”.

Z: How can you ensure that a posting is real?
N: By checking the logs that the provider keeps, by checking the telephone numbers that were used for dial-up, by checking who was logged in from where. You would need to have all log files.

Z: Having Tele2’s logs would give you a good chance of proving this?
N: Sure. I would first of all check the dial-up and then see from which telephone line the user phoned in.

Z: Can you fake that?
N: That is very, very difficult. You need to manipulate a really big system, but perhaps when you have lots of money…

15:00 done. Magnusson’s turn.

M: At your Tingsrätt deposition, you said that you had informed yourself about the possibilities to make false postings.
N: I spoke with experts and with Tele2.

M: Can you manipulate posting host and posting user?
N: Sitting at home it is more complicated, but it can be done.

M: And you say that this is easier for a sysadmin to do?
N: Yes, the discussions that I had show that it is possible.

M: Does a firewall make such things more easy?
N: A firewall is meant to bar unwanted requests. It blocks them. We have a few attacks each day on our own systems.

M: Can you fake a posting host or posting user via a firewall?
N: No, you must manipulate them at the server. The firewall is just a guarantee that things don’t get in.

M: Was it easy in 1996 to fake the posting host?
N: The information on how they to do that was less generally available.

M: [speaks about moving copies from the one place to the other; cached copies etc; previously, in primary court, Magnusson had tried to stamp each virtual copy that Zenon’s computer created as a separate instance of infringement]
N: That’s just a technical thing. When you have a file on a medium and you want to move it, you create a copy first and then delete the original. You must always first copy a file when you move it, even if both actions are accomplished with one single command.

M: Newsgroups, can you explain what they are and compare them to homepages?
N: A website is fixed in one place, you copy your files directly to that. Newsgroups get their information from many sources, and the messages jump from server to server to server.

M: If I want to copy text from my computer to a newsgroup?
N: [explains how to do that]

M: Thus, many virtual copies are made of my posting?
N: That is the nature of newsgroups. The Usenet system is not located in one place, it is copied around.

M: How many copies exactly are made of news postings?
N: That depends on how popular a newsgroup is and how often a particular message is requested. They just go to a news server and get replicated from there.

Zenon’s turn again. From now on, Magnusson and Zenon each pose a few question to the witness. It’s almost like a bidding contest.

Zenon: Do you know whether Tele2 demanded authentication on the news server in 1996?
N: I don’t think that they did.

Zenon: As for copies when files are moved: would you say that it is impossible to do without them, that the technical process demands them?
N: Yes.

Magnusson: In primary court, you said that you were 99% sure that it was not possible to falsify a newsgroup message. On what did you base this statement?
N: On talks, discussions, my general knowledge.

Zenon: Have you ever heard of the spamming of newsgroups?
N: Yes.

Z: In May 1996, there was a whole flood of false postings to a.r.s. Do you know that?
N: I know about spam attacks on newsgroups, but I do not know about this one.

15:45 – End of Nyström’s deposition.

The remaining 45 minutes of today’s session are taken up by procedural matters: evidence is listed and compared, and tomorrow’s schedule is decided.

*

ZENON AND I LEAVE court rather happy. Today’s session went well: we have caught Alexandersson with errors, and Nyström by now has admitted that it is not at all as difficult to fake a posting as he previously stated. Also, we note that Magnusson seems increasingly nervous. Today, we saw him smoking outside. He has never done so before.

When we have our cigarette just at the court’s door, a couple approaches us. The man, fifty-ish, asks who we are. He is looking for Zenon Panoussis. You see, he explains, his grandson has joined Scientology and now he is looking for information about them, and then his lover – he points at the young blonde who is accompanying him – found out about this court case on the net, and since he doesn’t know anybody who is familiar with Scientology, he thought that he had better come to court and ask us to impart our knowledge.

After a few minutes we decide to go to a café to talk.

Once there, we launch upon a one-hour explanation about Scientology, while warning the couple that our information is coloured and that they should check for themselves. They are increasingly unsettled at what we tell them. All your money? Space Opera? Reincarnation? Discipline? Intelligence division? Scientology has been convicted for theft, fraud, infiltration?

Five minutes after we entered, a guy comes in and takes the table next to us. He orders food and a glass of water and consistently stares at the television at the other end of the café. It is right behind us. He stares over our heads and our conversation seems to totally evade him.

I get uncomfortable. We are after all discussing rather weird and outrageous matters in a loud voice, and I know that if I had been sitting next to a table where such a conversation would be conducted, I would listen in a bit, and that my reaction would be visible on my face. Not this guy. He doesn’t bat an eye. Actually, he seems so impervious to our conversation that it becomes suspicious.

I have the feeling that the guy is a Scientology tail.

So does Zenon, as it turns out. The moment the guy gets up to have a leak, Zenon brings him up. And once he says so, the young woman says she has been wondering about his behaviour as well. We decide that once we all leave the café, Zenon and I will dash into a taxi and that the couple will keep an open eye. They might be tailed now as well.

THE NEXT DAY, after court is done and we leave the building, the man with the grandson in Scientology is waiting for us. He wants to tell us that not only did he go to the local Scientology org – to inform himself, as we advised him to do, and to get the other side of the story – but most of all that when he was about to enter the Org, he saw the guy who had been sitting next to us in the café exit the Scientology building.

We are being tailed.

[Unbiased columnism is a series of seven court reports on the proceedings of Scientology versus Zenon Panoussis. This series covers the Jan 2001 sessions. Next: Child games.]

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