This page created by Ron Newman.
Last revised on September 30, 1996; a few links updated on March 23, 1997. Skip forward for latest news as of September 30, 1996.
The Church of Scientology has made two separate legal attacks on the confidentiality of user names on the popular Finnish anonymous remailer anon.penet.fi -- once in 1995, and again in 1996.
In early February, 1995, lawyers for the Church of Scientology somehow used Interpol and the Finnish police to demand the True Name of a user of anon.penet.fi, an anonymous remailer in Finland. Julf Helsingius, the administrator of anon.penet.fi, announced this in a Usenet message to many newsgroups on February 18, 1995. He followed this with a press release on February 21. The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat covered the story on February 18; this was soon followed by the Associated Press, Time magazine, and a "Postcard from Cyberspace" column from Dan Akst in the February 22 Los Angeles Times.
The user whose name the Church sought from anon.penet.fi used
the nickname "
-AB-" and the anonymous ID firstname.lastname@example.org.
On February 8, under duress from a search warrant, Julf revealed to Finnish police
that this anonymous ID actually belonged to
to the account email@example.com, an alumni account at
the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California.
Armed with this information, the Church immediately sent private investigators to Caltech that same day, greatly annoying a Caltech administrator, who told his story in this message. Among the PIs was one "Ben Shaw" from "Talon Security". The Church's infamous lawyer Helena Kobrin also repeatedly telephoned and visited Caltech. To Caltech's credit, the school refused to give the Church and its PIs the user's True Name or any of the other information they were seeking. However, Caltech did give the True Name to detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department who subsequently contacted the school. The LAPD promised Caltech that they would not divulge this information to anyone else, but later events seem to show that the Church contacted the user shortly afterwards.
In July 1995, Helsinki police officer Kaj Malmberg posted a message giving his agency's side of the story, in which he explained that a Finnish lawyer representing Scientology had approached Helsinki police claiming that an anon.penet.fi user had stolen a file from an internal Scientology computer in California. On this authority, the Helsinki police issued a search warrant demanding the name of the anonymous user.
Malmberg concluded his message by announcing that the police investigation was now ended, and therefore all police documents were now public. Several Netizens obtained these documents and placed them online. Here are some of the documents in the original Finnish, as well as a more complete set translated into English. Pages 2 through 6 of these documents are a letter from a Church of Scientology lawyer to the Finnish police; you'll notice several references to Scientology's notorious private investigator Eugene Ingram.
It appears that the "stolen file" that so concerned the Church
was this January 23 posting by
-AB- to the
Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology.
The posting told one side of a confusing story that has become known
as the "Miss Blood Incident". Since I don't understand the "Miss Blood" story
very well, I won't go into details here, but other writers are busy
preparing their own web pages about it. Meanwhile, you can read more
about the "Miss Blood" story in
and Jeff Jacobsen's June 1995 Skeptic magazine article, as well
as Jon Noring's
compilation of messages about
-AB- and the anon.penet.fi raid.
The British Broadcasting Corporation interviewed Julf about this raid, and other subjects, on the July 3rd edition of their TV show "The Net". A transcript of this show is available at the BBC's web site. This was the second time in eight weeks that they devoted part of their program to the controversy between Scientology and the Net! (The first show, on May 15, concerned the raid on Dennis Erlich.)
In the spring of 1996, Scientology sued Grady Ward and subjected him to nearly 11 hours of deposition by Scientology attorneys. Grady reported, in a series of e-mail messages to me (reproduced here by permission), that Scientology was pressing the Finnish police for access to anon.penet.fi's records, to determine whether Grady ever used this remailer. In addition, Grady believed Scientology was likely to subpoena the records of all US anonymous remailers.
Finnish police officer Kaj Malmberg contacted Julf Helsingius in June, demanding that he turn over the names of two users, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, who had posted issues of Scamizdat to Usenet in February and March, using the handle "DarkDemonStalker". Julf asked the Finnish court for a delay, and the court granted one until August 22nd.
At the August 22nd hearing, the Helsinki District Court decided against Julf, issuing an order that Julf turn over the names. Three days later, the formerly reputable British newspaper The Observer published a wildly inaccurate and libelous article accusing Julf of facilitating the distribution of child pornography on the Net. (For more information, including the full text of the Observer article, see the Scallywag web site and Sherilyn's The Observer Observed page.) On August 30, Julf decided to close down his remailer, while appealing the August 22 decision to a higher court. Julf claims that his decision was entirely the result of the court decision, and was not related to the Observer article. The closing of Penet sent a shockwave through much of the Internet, and was covered extensively in major media such as the New York Times and Time magazine. (I'll try to add links to some of these articles soon.)
On September 20, the Finnish Court of Appeals temporarily stayed the lower court's decision against Penet. But Julf does not plan to reopen his remailer until the status of online anonymity is clarified in Finnish law.
For Julf's official statements on this case, please visit the Penet home page.
Follow this link to learn about Scientology attacks on other anonymous remailers.
Return to The Church of Scientology vs. the Net main page.