Unbiased columnism, day 3
Magnusson becomes helpful
Stockholm, January 22, 2001
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.
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.
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 them - 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
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.
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 provided the court with
my reports. Thank you, Mr Magnusson; you were most
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
10:30 - The court announce their decision: Ms
Alexandersson's testimony will be partly open, and
partly under secrecy, just like McShane's
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
N: There is some room for falsification, but not
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
Z: If you dial in and post to a newsgroup, are
your actions then logged, under normal
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
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
Z: So you can look at these logs and then find out
who it was?
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 travelled.
Z: And the dial-up?
N: You can tell that he's from e.g. Tele2 and
Z: Within which limits can you be certain about
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
Z: But if you had no clue about its origin and
were just presented with this message, would you
N: I can't be sure. We know that this one is
Z: How can you falsify a news message?
N: Usually, this is done by injecting it into a
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
N: Well, if you are a system administrator,
basically, you sit with your hands in the cookie
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
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?
Z: Can an individual do it?
Z: And an organisation?
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
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
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
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?
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?
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
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 court reports on the proceedings of Scientology versus Zenon Panoussis. This series covers the Jan 2001 sessions:
- Day 0, January 17: Poor guy versus multinational cult
- Day 1, January 18: Mangled material
- Day 2, January 19: McShane compliments Zenon
- Day 3, January 22: Magnusson becomes helpful
- (Next:) Day 4, January 23: Children's games
- Day 5 & 6, January 24-25: Unacceptable truths
- Day 7 & 8, January 26-27: Carrying water from the desert to the sea.
This series was preceeded by the May 1998 hearings in Zenon's case.
Copyright Karin Spaink.
This text is offered for private use only. Any
other use requires the author's written permission.