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The Courts Government News

The Feds' Ramsey Electronics Raid Blow by Blow 696

On November 10th 1999, Ramsey Electronics of Victor, New York, was raided by the United States Customs Service for allegedly manufacturing and distributing 'Electronic Surreptitious Intercept Devices' as defined by Title 18 USC, Section 2512. We spoke to both Ramsey Electronics President John Ramsey and Joel Violanti, the federal prosecutor on the case, to find out exactly what happened, and why. (Click below for more.)

The Raid

On the morning of November 10th, radio equipment manufacturer Ramsey Electronics was raided by the United States Customs Service by officers with a search warrant. In addition to building radio testing equipment, Ramsey Electronics is also a well-known vendor of electronic hobby kits used by organizations like the Boy Scouts of America. Like an action movie drug-bust, agents moved in at 10 a.m. to search and seize over $30,000 worth of Ramsey Electronics inventory. Company President John Ramsey offered this play-by-play of that morning's events:

They had already been here almost an hour when I walked in. I [had been] at the bank. When I came back in, I saw my controller, Ed VanVoorhis and his face was white as a ghost. There were these two guys wearing suits standing on each side of him. He told me that these guys were from the government and they were here with a search warrant. Then the agents took over; they pretty much bullied me down the hallway and into my office. I went to go sit at my desk, and they said 'No. you sit over here,' pointing to a couch in my office. The two of them proceeded to rattle off a lot of mumble jumble like Title 18 USC Section 2512 and other numbers, flashing badges and being surrealistically intimidating. I'm looking at my accountant. I have never seem him like this. The [agents] are verbally batting me back and forth, and I'm like, 'Hey, what's going on?' They proceeded to tell me that they were executing a search warrant to find goods that were in violation of section 2512, and they shove this four or five page search warrant in my face.

They said that they were here to find stuff that violated section 2512 and I said, 'Like our wireless FM mic kits?' The one [agent] gave me his card, and I noticed that he was from Buffalo, an hour and a half away. I said, 'you two guys came all the way here from Buffalo?' and he said, 'No. There's seven of us.' Then he said, 'If you don't cooperate with us, we'll shut you down. We'll lock the doors, send all the employees home, we'll go through all of your inventory, records, customer lists and computers. We'll go through your computers bit-by-bit. We have experts that do that, and we don't care if it takes months.' I was escorted out to the production and shipping areas, which they had pretty much commandeered. All the doors had 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper taped on them with a large handwritten letter on them - like A, B and C. There was a fellow wearing a photographers vest snapping pictures everywhere; we later counted 5 empty film cans in the trash!

About five hours after they arrived, they staged all of the official US government boxes near the back loading dock. They took a huge van and backed it up to my loading dock, and proceeded to load it with my goods. I walked over to the boxes to verify what they were taking; obviously, they would want me to confirm their counts and amounts. I was stunned! They wouldn't let me see what was in the boxes! I have no idea what they took. I went over to look in them, and they told me to get away. They told me they'd give me an inventory sheet. I said, 'That's my stuff and I should be able to check it.' Special Agent Craig Healy turned to me and said 'You can trust us.'"

After they had finished loading the van, they presented me with the inventory sheet, a simple handwritten sheet with no names, titles or signatures. There's nothing indicating who it was from on it. I looked at one of the sheets quickly and noticed the very first part number wasn't one of ours and the second item number listed was for a kit that had no function or bearing on their search warrant. They agreed to fish those two items out of the van and sure enough, neither item was correct. One of them said words to the effect of, 'gee, we must have picked up the wrong box from your shelf.' They corrected their mistakes, asked for a recommendation for a good local restaurant and were on their way...

After they left, employees told me that they surrounded the building, watching all the entrances while they entered along with a New York state trooper for back-up. This show of force, while maybe necessary for raiding an underground drug lab, was hardly necessary. Our building is located in a typical suburban office park and our showroom is open to all.

What's incredible is that two of the agents were here a week earlier, pretending to be customers! This 'recon' obviously would have shown them that no force would be needed, let alone seven agents on a three hour travel time round trip. What's especially aggravating was that during the earlier visit they tried to lead one of my technical people into saying something they wanted to hear. Questions were posed like 'if we placed one of these little kits across the street in that building - for instance - could we hear it over here?' Our technician assured them that although the units work great for model rockets, toy cars and such, they really weren't suited for transmitting out of a building. Steel construction, reinforcing rod and the like limits range. They then asked if they could boost the power to do the job. Our fellow once again reiterated that the kits were hobby stuff and that what they wanted couldn't be found here. After the raid, my technician told me that they were here last week, playing 'customer' and how they had left unsatisfied.

So, where do we sit now? I have a Federal Small Business Innovation Grant underway that uses our little FM-5 wireless mike to transmit muscle sensor data to a nearby computer system. The doctors who are partners in the grant specified the FM-5 due to its small size; present technology uses a six pound transmitter that straps to the back of a child. Tough to do on a forty pound kid. The research is on walking disorders on crippled kids. Now what? Shall we violate their interpretation of the law and work with the doctors and the SBIR people? How about all the schools, scout troops and hobbyists who use our kits? We're not talking big money here. The kits amount to a small portion of our business, but what will these folks do now?

I have personally received mail from many who say that they are now graduate engineers as a direct result of one of our little kits sparking their interest in electronics. I guess the mobsters, terrorists and kidnappers don't feel the need to write, huh?

The Aftermath - and the Feds

The raid on Ramsey Electronics has caused quite a stir online, in Ramsey's own discussion forum as well as the submission queue here at Slashdot. People have gotten into intense discussions about freedom of information, freedom of speech, and the importance of using modern electronics in the field of education. At first glance, the raid may look like a cavalcade of constitutional rights issues, but Joel Violanti, the attorney prosecuting this case for the United States Customs Service, disagrees. Here's his take on the Ramsey raid:

What happened, Joel?

On November 10th, there were approximately 13 search warrants issued in New York City and Rochester, New York and Austin, Texas against companies believed to be in the business of selling electronic surreptitious intercept devices, in violation of federal law. Ramsey Electronics was one of those companies.

Apparently, Ramsey's been selling this equipment for a very long time. Why did the raid occur last year?

If something's illegal, it's illegal.

Is there any reason that Ramsey Electronics wasn't raided earlier?

Sometimes you can only act upon things when you're informed of them. There's a task force in New York City that's been investigating this for a few years now. They've been shutting down companies or preventing companies from selling these things, and they've been taking several criminal pleas because of this. These people have been pleading guilty in Federal court. San Francisco now has a task force. Other cities are joining in, trying to stop the manufacture and distribution of this equipment.

Where does it stop? It seems like I could build something like this on my own, and then be just as guilty.

The statute prohibits people from manufacturing and distributing these devices, knowing they've been shipped through the mail.

Where does the government draw the line at surreptitious use, as opposed to educational use?

I don't know how to answer that. Use is use. If you place a device in a clock, and you put that clock on the wall, and you monitor someone's conversation that you're not a part of, I think that surreptitious use speaks for itself. Clock, smoke detector, or picture frame, you're taking that device out of its primary use in order to secretly intercept someone else's conversation. We're not necessarily looking for kits or components. We're looking for items like clocks, smoke detectors and picture frames.

Mr. Violanti made it clear that the US Customs Service was not in any way attempting to 'crack down' on the hobbyist or educational use of electronic devices. The emphasis remains on specific items that fall under the category of surreptitious use. The specific items the feds were apparently looking for in the Ramsey raid were things like microphones and video cameras mounted inside smoke detectors or alarm clocks, effectively masquerading as something they weren't.

Despite Mr. Violanti's reasuurances, the Ramsey Electronics raid still leaves questions for innocent geeks who like to tinker with assorted electronic parts. What if, for instance, you build an alarm clock that will sense motion when it goes off, and will keep going off if it doesn't sense you getting out of bed and stops when you do? What if you rig your smoke detector with a video or audio system so that rescue workers can make sure your family gets out of your house safely in the event of a fire?

There are many uses for 'surveillance technology' other than listening in on boring conversations.

But even if you made these devices with the most innocent purposes in mind, and sold them through the U.S. Mail to people as innocent as yourself, it looks like the Federal Government would feel justified in taking them away from you just in case one of your customers decided to use one of your gadgets to break the law in some way.

It's a scary thought, isn't it?

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US Custom Service Raids Ramsey Electronics

Comments Filter:
  • by Steve B ( 42864 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:06AM (#1401831)
    ...the government hates competition.
  • by hielo ( 65800 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:12AM (#1401836)
    ANyone in the gun culture already knows that we have become the "Jews of Germany in the 30's".

    We have raids on peoples house for the crime of owning a fully legal, registered firearm.

    We comply with stricter and stricter laws, only to find that they use the registration lists to confiscate our firearms.

    We in the firearms culture already see what other segments of US society are only beggining to see, America has become a police state.

    If they want your goods, they will come and take them, good luck getting them back. If they want your land, they will take it, if some podunk police department wants your car, they will confiscate it.

    Wake up already.
  • by Amphigory ( 2375 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:14AM (#1401837) Homepage
    Anyone else remember Mark Williams Games? They were basically shut down because one of their systems ran a BBS that was used to transfer a description of the 911 system in Georgia. (See "the hacker crackdown" for more information. Look in google.) The company was never charged with anything, and after all the equipment was obsolete and the game they were making was passe, was returned.

    The bottom line is that, under current law, federal law enforcement can seize your entire business with little or no judicial oversight, you have no right to appeal, and no right to due process. It happens all the time, and noone cares because it's just the drug-dealers and the hackers whining about it, right?

    You want an issue: this is it. Law & Order is not an excuse for unreasonable search and seizure. And the fact that this kind of nonsense is tolerated is wonderful evidence of just how downhill our courts have gone -- civil rights, RIP. Killed by judicial activism.

  • by radja ( 58949 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:15AM (#1401839) Homepage
    In dutch we have an expression for these kinds of things: Amerikaanse toestanden.
    This translates approximately to 'American situations' with strong negative connotations. Needless to say it's never used in a positive sense.

  • They usually have such things like cameras hidden in clocks and radios in their catalogs. A wuick serach of their web page didn't show any, so maybe they've already been hit.

    They do still mention their b&w surviellance cameras.

  • by Randy Rathbun ( 18851 ) <> on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:20AM (#1401847) Homepage
    I just love being guilty until proven innocent....

    So, I can't buy chemistry lab equipment because I might make drugs....

    I can't buy small video cameras because I might put them in a clock....

    I can't watch DVDs on Linux because I might make copies....

    I can't duplicate a digital audio tape I made of my late grandmother because I might copy N*SYNC's latest album....

  • You're right... Guess I took a GPF on the brain.
  • by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:24AM (#1401858)
    I'm an amateur radio operator and Ramsey makes kits for that hobby. As far as I know, Ramsey is a hobbyist-oriented radio electronics company. Most of the employees are probably radio amateurs who are just happy to be making a living tinkering with transceivers.

    I'm not familiar with the product in question, but my guess is that it complies with all FCC regulations and is intended for use as a small, short range transmitter. I can think of thousands of legitimate uses, from baby monitors to short range telemetry.

    I wonder if their device has been showing up in cases of bugging like that State Department conference room incident in the news a few weeks ago.

    Low power VHF/UHF radio is a tricky thing. If the transmitter and the receiver are in the right place and the weather is just so such a device might be heard from miles away. At the same time, a receiver 50 feet away might be totally unable to hear the signal from the transmitter.

    As I said, I'd like to know more. I really doubt Rmasey made this thing with the intent (or even the inkling) that it would be used for illegal purposes. The DA (or was it a Federal Attorney?) could probably have contacted the company and told them about misuse of the product and I'd be willing to bet they would have discontinued or made modifications to the design to address those concerns.

    I would only go after a company like this if I could find that they were owned or operated by persons directly engaged in the illegal uses of the devices (like finding out the KGB was a shareholder or somesuch).

    Law enforcement should have the power to search and sieze. They can only do so with a warrant, which means they had to convince a judge that this was a good idea. I'd like to know how the judge arrived at his or her decision to grant this warrant.

    An aside: I find some of the Slashdot response interesting. We're a bit schizophrenic. We are bananas about privacy issues and here is the state taking aciton against a company that makes a device that is used to illegally violate privacy and we, er, go bananas!

    How can we get more information?
  • by Thag ( 8436 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:25AM (#1401859) Homepage
    This sounds like the Steve Jackson Games raid all over again. Most likely Mr. Ramsey will have to sue to get his inventory back, and from the sound of things, most likely he'll win, but it will probably drag on for years in the courts.

    I recommend he talk to Steve Jackson, try getting a contact from Steve Jacson Games' website [].

    You know, it's sad that a woman can spill coffee in her lap and get millions of dollars, but someone like this will be lucky to get their legal expenses covered.

  • Naw, that would interfere with their ability to be total assholes. We couldn't hire government employees for dirt-cheap salaries if we didn't give them the right to be total assholes and persecute people. Let's face it, people don't go to work for the government for the salary (which sucks). They go to work for the government so that they can lord it over other people, so that they can arbitrarily deny disability benefits to autistic children, stage bullshit raids on people who have "unauthorized" technology, stop people for the crime of driving black (or Hispanic, here in the Southwest).

    The idea that government exists to protect people from other people has become a total laugh. Government's job today is to protect big business at the expense of small business or individuals. And government is one of the big businesses that government protects.


  • by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:33AM (#1401869) Homepage
    I hear a knock at my door. I look through the peep hole, and there is a guy dressed like someone from the movie "Men in Black." How he got in the building, I don't know, it's a University dorm, and there's card access to the doors, and breakfast hasn't even opened yet (aka no awake students), so I don't think a student let him in. I asked who it was, and all he did was flash his badge at the peep hole and say something like "Federal Agent, Open Up" (I was still mostly asleep, and I'm not entirely sure what time it was, but it was still dark out).

    Ok, so the feds, er, just one fed is standing outside my door, I guess I should open it. Just a warning: when opening the door to a fed, stand back, they come in like a bullet with out being invited in.

    Basically, what he wanted was to let me know that my port scanning of their servers in California wasn't going to be permitted (I've never port scanned anyone but people I know). At school, we have dedicated IP addresses, and apparently there had been a lot of activity from my IP address checking out the ports on their computers. Only thing I can think of is that someone spoofed my IP and was portscanning them. I pleaded ignorance to him, but he wouldn't have any of it. He threatened me with obtaining a search warrant and siezing my electronic equipment.

    Well, what do you do when you're staring at a guy who's probably packing heat, and knows how to use it, and who's in your face. You melt, that's what. I probably only got in about ten words for the fifteen minutes or so that he was there (oh, and a whole bunch of first syllables to words before being cut off by him).

    About a week later, the school revoked my IP address, telling me that the government had requested it!!! According to the school, they knew about the episode in my room, and that I had been warned about scanning, and that the scans had actually continued after the guy in my room.

    While my IP was revoked (the school placed a filter on the routers, so noone on campus could use my IP address, not even spoof it, the routers simply wouldn't forward it, the portscans continued. There was no way for me to have perpetrated the scans. The government was back in contact with my school, warning that there would soon be legal action against the school if they didn't stop me, but the school responded that there was no way it could have been me, and suggested the possibility of a IP spoofing. The feds apparently concurred, my school appologized to me for the hassle, returned my IP, and I never heard from the feds again.

    Scarry, huh? True story.
  • I dunno about anyone else...but I am once again
    truely disgusted by this. It never ceases
    to shock me what this government will do to its

    Of course, being a person who reads drug
    decriminilization mailing lists, I have heard
    about worst than this, many times over.

    At least electronics manafacturers do not have
    police in military gear raiding their houses
    and fireing at anyone who moves too fast.
    (case a coupla years back police raided a house
    and killed him - no drugs were found)

    check out:
    for a nice list (the one I am refering to is on
    that page named: Pedro Oregon Navarro
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This really shouldn't surprise anyone. For some time technology has been making the transmission of information, be it sound, video, or whatever, easier and easier. However, people with power want this flow of information to be a one way street. It is trivial to attach a microphone to a wireless transmitter, but note they are going after hobby shops and not Apple computer. The wireless transmission capabilities of the iMAc portable are good enough to meet the federal definition, but Apple is too big a company to bury in this fashion. They want successful prosecutions, not solutions to the problem. Fear is required, and not sanity. This is hardly a surprise, the laws currently on the books make many people federal criminals unknowingly. For example, if you have a note on your car, and drive it across a state line without explicit permission from the lender, you can be successfully charged and prosecuted for felony theft across state lines. Your only protection from prosecution, increasingly, is the good will of law enforcement. Incidents like this make that good will suspect at best. The current judicial system in the US is largely immune from peer review. The people involved are legally silenced, the court records sealed, and anyone who talks may be prosecuted. Hopefully cases like this will wake people up, but I don't think it's gotten bad enough yet.
  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:41AM (#1401886) Homepage
    The bottom line is that, under current law, federal law enforcement can seize your entire business with little or no judicial oversight, you have no right to appeal, and no right to due process.

    While this is a travesty, it is also why companies should always have a couple of backups, and at least one off-site.

    For instance, I can see the feds raiding one of my clients, but I can't see them also raiding the President's home computer (which has encrypted data backups sent to it via a dedicated line each night) and a storage locker in the name of the president's wife (which has a locked file cabinet filled with backup tapes).

    Remember, kids: The feds aren't omnipotent. If you squirrel away enough backups, they won't be able to grab them all and you can get back into business with a few emergency sub-$1000 computers from Best Buy. The feds almost never look for off-site backups.

    Of course, the issue here is that the devices being sold were illegal under US law. If you don't like the law, that's one thing, but criticising law enforcement is like criticising fire for burning down your house after you left those candles burning. I also find it amusing that all the geeks who routinely rail against Big Brother also run to protect the people who make their tools (where do you think corporate security buys their gear?)...


  • by ctimes2 ( 38940 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:43AM (#1401891) Homepage
    While I tend to suspect the "hobbiest" nature of what they are selling, the way raids are conducted are out of hand. From Ramsey's description of what happened, it was unprofessional and indicitive of the nature of raids.

    While I'm sure the 'feds' will get the majority of /. attention, bear in mind that they are doing their jobs as defined by law and doing raids as defined & requested by the investigators - who are doing their investigations at the request of private citizens who feel violated by one thing or another. They don't leave names because it would open them to retalliation (imagine having a whole group of 'experts' in survellance having it out for you...).

    Basically, before you all start screaming holy hell and damn the government, try to bear in mind that the mentality and state of law enforcement and government has been set and continues to be set by private citizens (AKA individuals) with the motivation to change something they don't like. You don't want the government to be allowed to do raids, start a political action group and change the law. Just don't go crying to the police when your car stereo is in your neighbor kid's garage - and he won't give it back.


  • by JasonVergo ( 101331 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:44AM (#1401893)
    "I would like to talk to my lawyer" Memorize this!!
  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @06:44AM (#1401894) Homepage
    It has a lot to do with gun "control". In many places in the USA, the police will seize all firearms when they execute a search warrant, whether or not it is relevant to the warrant. They will refuse to return the firearms unless forced by a court order. Guns are "bad" so they feel justified in ignoring the Constitution and Bill of Rights. This sets a pattern for ignoring the law in other situations, such as the "War on Some Drugs". Similar abuses are seen when the Feds seize computers and hold them for years as possible evidence in prosecutions that may never happen.
  • Funny... I'm thinking that the government needs regulated here. If the government is going to be conducting raids, they need to be more accountable for their actions. Specifically, if they take items, they should fully document the items taken. In an example like this, the company can be damaged if it does not know what inventory is taken. Such poor documentation does not speak well for the FBI.

    As for their intimidation tactics... if they had a good case, they really wouldn't need them.
  • > The "feds" were perfectly within their right to
    > act the way that they did

    I happen to disagree. Just because the law says
    they were right, doesn't mean that they are right

    > I'm tired, DAMN tired, of people blaming the
    > feds for doing their job... enforcing the law

    Its not my fault. I just did what the law said.
    They stationed me at Auchwitz and I just did what
    I was suposed to do.

    im sorry, when the law is wrong, it is wrong
    to enforce the law.

    > I can't speak for customs officials, but I
    > know for damn sure that every raid an FBI or DEA
    > agent takes part in, no matter how "safe" it
    > appears on the outside, can end in bloody
    > disaster. Leave 'em alone, and let them do their
    > jobs. But yeah, the laws are a bit too broad,
    > and should probably be looked into...

    Yes This I agree with. ANY raid can end in
    disaster. Take the raide where an elderly
    woman answered the door of police. They stuck
    guns in her face and told her to step back.

    She screamed "Don't shoot me"...and her husband,
    hearing this, ran out of the bedroom with his
    revolver. He died because he thought his wifes
    life was in danger and came to help her.

    No drugs were found at their estate. All on the
    word of a paid informant.
  • The following passage was buried in the interview with the U.S. Atty:

    We're not necessarily looking for kits or components. We're looking for items like clocks, smoke detectors and picture frames.

    What exactly was seized? Were they phony smoke detectors with hidden microphones and transmitters or were they just kits? The article never says explicitly.

    If Ramsey was selling pre-disguised transmitters, I am sympathetic with the FBI. If they were just kits, I'm more inclined to see Ramsey's point of view.

    So what's the full story?

  • by jd ( 1658 )
    I'm one of the people who submitted this story. To be honest, I'm glad that Slashdot actually took the time to research this thoroughly and do a bit of investigative journalism of their own, rather than just print a few lines by me or someone else. This is an amazing piece of work, on the part of the Slashdot crew. Hats off, and bottles of distlled essence of kudos all round!

    Now, back to the story. This was serious over-gunning, by the authorities. For this part, it's irrelevent as to who was guilty and who wasn't. Rule by intimidation is no rule at all. It wasn't necessary to charge in there with a small army of heavily-armed agents. As the owner of the store pointed out on his web site, a polite phone call would have been just as effective, from the Fed's perspective, been a damn sight cheaper, and kept up the good relations.

    Second, there are some details in this story which are disturbing, to say the least. I am fairly sure it's illegal to seize goods without proper notification as to who is doing the seizing. If it isn't, it should be. Anyone can get a cop outfit at the local fancy-dress store, print out a believable warrant and get someone to sign it. If you can't go to the proper authorities with documentation showing EXACTLY who took what, when and how, they are entirely capable of denying all knowledge, and you would have NOTHING to confront them with.

    Another disturbing aspect is that some reports show Ramsey Electronics had dealings with various branches of the Government, assisting them with classified projects to do with terrorism. Let's assume this is true. I've no means of verifying if it is or not. This would mean that terrorists and hostile countries would have plenty of incentive to make up false allegations, to dissuade companies from being too involved in such work. In fact, other companies involved in such work would also have an incentive to remove Ramsey from the picture. More of the contract for them.

    Is this scenario likely? The agents acted in a manner which is unprofessional and untracable, reacting to unstated and unrevealed allegations made at an unknown time by unknown sources, covering goods which could not remotely be used for clandestine purposes.

    The idea that the Government would cripple it's own contractors seems unlikely. They're paying money for work done, so they're not likely to pay yet more money to go and destroy that work. Big Government may actually be innocent, here.

    On the other hand, there's a LONG list of people who have the motive, means, money and manpower to cripple anyone who could even potentially stand in their way. I think these are much more worthy of being looked at.

  • I'm another ham radio operator (albeit inactive for many years now) and Ramsey Electronics is well known among hams as making some of the most fun, excellent radio kits in the hobby. It's particularly irksome that this is happening to folks who have done so much to educate and entertain so many. They're a wonderful little company.

    Why didn't these agents bust Radio Shack, which sells walkie-talkies that could also be used for surveillance? Oh right, the bully rule: only bully people much weaker so that there will be no chance of their effectively fighting back. It's good to see that the government has the keen grasp of bullying that was available to some of the seven-year-olds I remember growing up with. Gee, I hope the IRS operates at or above this level of maturity.

    Besides, isn't this the same government that promotes surveillance at every possible opportunity, and erodes the privacy of private citizens whenver possible? Aren't these the same guys who read 1984 and drool? When the heck would they have decided that surveillance ought to be a crime?

  • Actually...godwins law only states that as the
    length of a discussion increases, the probablity
    of a comparison to Hitler or the Nazi Partys
    actions aproaches one.

    Usually a person has lost all semblance of
    usefull argument at this point...however thats
    mnot always true.
  • Jeez,

    From the headline, I thought this article was going to be about RAID disks[?] [] !!!!


  • The bottom line is that, under current law, federal law enforcement can seize your entire business with little or no judicial oversight, you have no right to appeal, and no right to due process. It happens all the time, and noone cares because it's just the drug-dealers and the hackers whining about it, right?

    Wrong. SJG did successfully sue the US Secret Service for the raid. As I remember the award was pitifully small -- I would have like to have seen damages on the order of seven or eight digits, just as a warning to other Luddite law enforcement agents to think twice before doing it again -- but it was enough to morph the Illuminati BBS into Illuminati Online (

    I won't say it wasn't painful, because it was, and there was some doubt as to whether the company would survive. It does, however, serve as an example or how the little guy (we were pretty small potatoes at the time), once in a while and when he's in the right, can stand up to the government and win. I'd like to think this would help Ramsey, and maybe it will, but the circumstances were somewhat different -- Ramsey is an electronics manufacturer, and SJG is a publisher, and the rules change dramatically when you're contemplating executing search warrants on a publisher. Freedom of the press and all that.

    Anyway, I just thought I'd pass that along.

    Creede Lambard
    Former sjsop, Illuminati BBS
    (yes, I was there when the raid happened)
  • Its not just the government, its the media and anyone else that wants to ride them.

    It seems like media outlets like CNN in quests of higher ratings are going to bed with these agencies, unloading us with sensationalist "news" of dubious references. I see without proper references stories describing raids of "suspects" backed up by "sources say..." "the FBI uncovered..." "authorities disclosed..." Seems like no one individual is responsible these days for anything. Its those damn three letter agencies.

    The government is being taken for a ride and we are the ultimate victims. Patents. Zoning. Taxes. Those who have money will leverage the government to favor them and control the FBI, IRS, CNN, MSNBC, etc. Very few take responsibility in these super organisations anymore and promote growth like cancer.
  • According to the ACLU, enforcing gun control requires search-and-seizure. Check out

    Search-and-seizure is exactly what happened here - it's breaking the same rights. And yes, I agree, anyone who mentions WWII *should* be spanked. Search-and-seizure is bad, but it isn't the same as death camps.
  • I'm going off memory here (and it's been awhile), but I Godwin's law has nothing to do with winning or losing. It merely states that the probability of Hitler being mentioned in a thread is proportional to the nubmer of messges in the thread; as the thread grows, the probability of Hitler being mentioned approaches 1.
  • Of course, the Feds in this case went a little bit beyond the call of duty. Let's examine the points where the Feds acted more like the goon squad:

    'You can trust us.': Of course, no good cop would ever want to expose themselves to this sort of liability. Nothing would have been harmed by letting the business verify the gear being confiscated ; I would have refused to sign off on it. What Ramsey should have done was run home and grab a camcorder so he could prove that they tried to get away with this.

    'If you don't cooperate with us, we'll shut you down': Again, federal agents acting like thugs. Not acceptible; again, if Ramsey could prove this, it would be another problem for the Feds (gee, I wonder if they bugged their own offices....) This is actually probably the worst offense -- it's a slap in the face to due process.

    '[They] asked for a recommendation for a good local restaurant and were on their way': I would have sent them to the local grease-hole; none of the agents would have survived if they'd finished their meals... They'd all be dead of heart failure.

    That said, blaming the Feds for raiding this place is like blaming fire for buring down your house after you fell asleep smoking. The devices made here did violate US law -- deviced to bug phones and otherwise spy on people. I'm a bit shocked that the Slashdotters are defending the very people who make the gear to strip away our privacy.


  • Of course, the issue here is that the devices being sold were illegal under US law. If you don't like the law, that's one thing, but criticising law enforcement is like criticising fire for burning down your house after you left those candles burning. I also find it amusing that all the geeks who routinely rail against Big Brother also run to protect the people who make their tools (where do you think corporate security buys their gear?)...

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but the devices are not illegal under US law. They are only illegal if they are used as surveillance equipment and/or hidden in everyday objects like clocks and smoke alarms. The devices the agents confiscated are used for medical, recreation, and educational purposes every day and are legal in that use. They only become illegal when a customer does something illegal with them. Hence this company is innocent of wrong doing and will be proven so in court, but that will take 5 or 10 years and by that time they will likely have been forced out of business by the government.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Advice: 1. First ask "may I see your badge?" If you have the presence of mind, wirte the name and badge # and name down. 2. Then ask "Do you have a warrent?". If not, then say, "I'm sorry - I'm not going to talk to you or let you in" 3. If they do have a warrent, you have to let them in. Repeat after me "I'm not going to talk to you until after I've spoken to my lawyer" 4. When done, donate a little $$ to the ACLU. Thank them
  • Uhh, last time I checked, the government has guns enough and legal loopholes enough to do whatever it wants without justification. The law might say "no" to something, but the forty-two layers of agencies and regulations that are used to enforce these laws leave enough room for _anything_ to happen.

    Many have been on the receiving end of these technically illegal actions by the government, and without millions of dollars up-front to pay a good lawyer, or a good media angle that can be exploited by groups such as the ACLU, they just can't be defended against effectively.

  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @07:01AM (#1401929) Homepage Journal
    why is this such a big deal? Because it was an "electronics" company? The feds have been overzealous in enforcement of certain laws in the past, especially in the months before an ELECTION YEAR.

    Federal agents have done things as low as shooting a naked man in his bathtub, awakened a woman at 4 a.m. and shot her when she tried to protect herself, slammed pregnant women into walls; abdomen first, stomped kittens to death, shot a 14 year old boy in the back with a 9mm submachinegun as he ran away, shot an unarmed woman in the face as she held her baby in her arms, and I could go on for hours about this.

    Why does this case warrant our interest? Because their kits sparked interest in people to become engineers? So what? These guys have to investigate every legitimate claim that they get. What are the supposed to do, walk up to the front door and say "Hey, are you guys doing anything illegal in there? Oh, ok, we'll be leaving then." No, the purpose of the warrant is so that they can examine private proterty to determine if there is something illegal going on.

    If it turns out that they did nothing wrong, then they'll get their equipment back. If not, then they sue.

    Feds intimidating someone and in general being dickheads is not a reason for all of this outrage. Were they smashing the joint up? Were they pushing people around?

    Relax, haven't you people ever dealt with law enforcement types before?

  • Uhh, last time I checked, the government had to compensate private citizens for confiscation of property, such as land taken to build highways.

    Yes, in emanent domain(sp?) cases, although that apparantly gets abused as well.

    But, in the Ramsey Electronics case (and in the Steve Jackson Games case before), the gov't is not "confiscating" or "seizing" the property. They're "simply" (ha!) taking possession of evidence for a criminal trial.

    Of course, this is quite as effective as a judicial "cease and desist" order at closing down a legitimate business. And the beauty of it all is that, when the charges never get filed and the investigation gets dropped N months or years later, the Feds owe NOTHING in compensation, as they return the now-useless items to a nearly bankrupted business. But after all, they didn't actually confiscate the property, just kept it in protective custody for a while. So the requirement to compensate for a "taking" doesn't kick in.

    "I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, two are called a law firm, and three or more become a Congress."
    -- John Adams, 1776 []
  • by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @07:07AM (#1401937) Homepage
    Sorry; you're wrong. It is legal - and this has been upheld by the Supreme Court - for law enforcement to seize property which has been used in the commission of a crime, regardless of the involvement of the property owner. This has been used most frequently in connection with drug laws. So you're driving down the street with a friend, you're pulled over for speeding, and a joint falls out of your friends pocket. Your car can be seized; you lose it and are not compensated. You host a party, a guy crashes the party and sells crack to a couple of party-goers. He's busted by a plain-clothes cop who also crashed the party. Law enforcement authorities can seize the house - you lose it with no compensation.

    The Supreme Court ruled that this is a civil action against property, not a criminal action against property-owners, and is therefore not subject to a whole boatload of civil-rights protections. I know of one case where a 70-year-old woman lost her home because her son was making crystal meth in the basement. "How could she not know about it?" you ask. She had no sense of smell, she couldn't use stairs, she was half deaf, and half blind. Her son moved in (as far as she knew) to take care of her. A more cognizant question might be "How COULD she know about it?" This was a neighbor of my grandfather, and I have no idea how the story ended - she lost the house and we never heard from her (or her son) again.
  • While this is a travesty, it is also why companies should always have a couple of backups, and at least one off-site.

    Still, the point is that one shouldn't have to create backups for the sole purpose of avoiding getting screwed by overzealous feds.

    Remember, kids: The feds aren't omnipotent. If you squirrel away enough backups, they won't be able to grab them all and you can get back into business with a few emergency sub-$1000 computers from Best Buy. The feds almost never look for off-site backups.

    But still, they might look.

    Of course, the issue here is that the devices being sold were illegal under US law. If you don't like the law, that's one thing, but criticising law enforcement is like criticising fire for burning down your house after you left those candles burning.

    It has not been established that Ramsey et al. were selling any illegal devices, merely that the Feds *suspect* they were, and seized various items. The criticism is not for the agents' carrying out of the law, but, as I see it, for two things. The first problem is the inappropriate manner in which they handled the situation, and the second is the law itself. The agents are at fault for the first, but clearly not the second.

    It's ridiculous that they would not allow the proprietor of Ramsey to tally what was being seized at the time. There is no legitimate reason for the feds to refuse that basic request. Allowing it does no harm to the fed's case, nor does it interfere with the seizure. It does, however, allow the business to know what was taken, and to have documentation of the event. The only reason the feds would have to deny this request is if they knew they were acting improperly and wished to deny the accused evidence that could be used in a subsequent lawsuit against the feds. That, or the agents were just being assholes.

    I also think that for such seizures, the judge who issues the search warrant ought to appoint an attorney, who will accompany the agents to the location to be searched. Said attorney is then responsible for informing the accused of their rights and acting on their behalf during this process (since clearly the agents are not acting in the accused's interests, and since chances are the accused doesn't have a lawyer on hand at the time of the raid). This might help prevent some of the abuses.
  • At work, I was reading some of the major industrial engineering catalogs and most had a section on security. Stealth clocks, pinholes, etc. We even had a hidden camera in a thermostat here last year in the receiving department. It wasn't hard to trace where that cable went too either. Needless to say, that manager isn't very popular these days. So, we could have got the FBI on his ass?
  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @07:11AM (#1401944) Homepage
    They stationed me at Auchwitz and I just did what I was suposed to do.

    Yeah. Confiscating little electronic spy devices built to look like smoke detectors is exactly the same thing as tearing babies in half, forcing slave labor and exterminating people because of their religion. It's the same as tearing apart families, starving people to death and subjecting them to horrifying medical experiments. Taking a few phone bugs as evidence is exactly the same as treating people like roaches.

    im sorry, when the law is wrong, it is wrong to enforce the law.

    But the law isn't wrong in this case. Maybe you think that devices which allow people to spy on each other ought to be legal, but I know I don't want *my* employer putting a spy camera over my desk. I know I don't want *my* disgruntled roommate bugging my phone. I know I don't want someone putting a hidden camera in the locker room and selling pictures of *my* girlfriend changing. You can't tell me that a camera built to look like a wall clock is for "hobbyists".

    Jesus, think before you start railing in support of the very people who would help others rob you of your rights just to make a buck.


  • >>There is strong gun control all over EU and this kind of event as reported here would seem unacceptable here too. Thank you.

    What is legal in the EU, and what is tolerable in the EU has NOTHING to do with that is legal and tolerable in the US. Whether or not you think it should be there, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" is included in the US constitution.

    Whether or not it should be repealed is another issue.

    Besides, you missed his point. His point is that law abiding citizens here in the US have had to face this sort of thing for YEARS, why does it mae /. headlines not because it's an electronics company?

  • I also see nothing wrong with allowing police to confiscate cars when needed to perform their duties, as long as the owner is compensated for the loss.
    We're not talking about a cop borrowing a car to chase down a bad guy. We're talking about civil forfeiture [], whereby the state can just take your stuff at gunpoint in the name of stopping drug use, prostitution, or some other "threat to our children", without even charging you with a crime. You can sue them to try to get it back if you like - good luck. The legal fiction is that the property itself is guilty of a crime, and as property has no rights due process does not apply.

    Civil forfeiture is one of the most monsterous manifestations of the growing American police state.

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @07:15AM (#1401957) Homepage
    Hello? Did you look at their web site?

    They *did* sell v/a bugs made to look like clocks and smoke alarms. They also made phone bugs, small mics which could be "easily hidden"...

    I'm sorry, but I looked at their catalog yesterday, and they're guilty as sin. You arguement is like saying "They shouldn't have taken the opium when they raided that drug lab; it could have been used for making demerol..."


  • in Europe, people aren't allowed to own guns (mostly), and very few see that as a threat to their rights.

    Yeah, strange that, innit?
    People in Europe don't HAVE a right to own guns, so how can we see that as a threat to our rights? Not everyone lives under the US constitution.

    1. There is no real point in his post, since it's a troll, as it is Godwin-compliant. It is an insult to the people who have actually suffered in WWII to compare it to the gun-control issue. For once, having a right to guns might at best be considered as a MEAN to achieve other rights, such as freedom and security, not an END. In itself, owning a gun isn't a human need.
    2. I reiterate AGAIN: this shocking seizure would be as schocking in Europe where guns are disallowed. Few people (except the fascistic conservative minorities) here want guns. It's just not part of the culture. HOWEVER in any democratic country people want and need protection from police violence.
  • >>What were you drinking when you typed this? How many Jews HAD guns to confiscate?

    The jews of the Warsaw ghetto had approx. 10 pistols. Those pistols kept the Nazis at bay for nearly 2 weeks, they had to burn the Warsaw ghetto to the ground to get them out. Not too shabby huh?

  • by Stradivarius ( 7490 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @07:23AM (#1401970)
    An aside: I find some of the Slashdot response interesting. We're a bit schizophrenic. We are bananas about privacy issues and here is the state taking aciton against a company that makes a device that is used to illegally violate privacy and we, er, go bananas!

    I don't think it's schizophrenic at all. Slashdotters are "bananas" about privacy issues, and also about the state raiding a legitimate store. I think the reason is that the two issues are but different facets of the same coin: freedom. Privacy is a form of freedom - freedom to communicate with whoever you wish in private, and freedom to conduct personal matters without intrusion from the state or others.

    Similarly, there is a feeling that people should have the freedom to conduct a legitimate business without having to worry about the government raiding them, totally disrupting their business, on the *suspicion* of misconduct (and since there has been no evidence presented to the /. readers of any wrongdoing by Ramsey, merely a claim by the government, the assumption is that little or no real evidence exists).

    And not simply that, but that the state is under no legal obligation to make amends to you for lost business if the state turns out to be wrong. They simply return the seized items years later, when they are useless, and you, who have committed no crime, are most definitely screwed. There is a certain fairness issue here. At least when the goverment seizes property to say, build a highway, they are required to give you fair compensation. With these search and seizures, there is no such thing. And I think that's what bothers a lot of people, is that innocent people have no recourse when they find themselves in these situations.
  • The problem is when agencies start "re-interpreting" laws and regulations. I've seen wireless microphones on sale in magazines for decades and nobody cared. (does Radio Shack still carry its wireless microphone kit?)

    Suddenly, they might be used for "surreptitious intercept", suddenly there are armed raids on honest businesses. No notice. No warning. No "these devices are illegal per Title 18 USC, Section 2512, please remove them from your catalog".

    I have no objection with the Feds enforcing the law, I do object to a lack of due process and common sense.

    If I were a cynic, I might point out that budget time is coming up in Washington, and it doesn't hurt to show effective your agency is with a few high-profile raids. (and it's much safer if you can be sure your targets are unarmed)
  • I wonder if their device has been showing up in cases of bugging like that State Department conference room incident in the news a few weeks ago.

    Doubtful. That device operated used automatic frequency switching and other real fancy stuff to avoid detection. In fact, the thing which tipped the investigators off wasn't a bug sweep, but rather the regular weekly stops by a Russian agent to "pick up the groceries."

    As for conspiracy theories, I've heard people say that this is due to the Clinton adminstration getting medieval on the whole tape-recording thing in the aftermath of the Linda Tripp case.


  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @07:25AM (#1401978) Homepage
    Ramsey made gear to spy on people.

    Look at their fsck'ing catalog -- cameras built to look like smoke detectors and wall clocks. Bugs built to hide inside a handset and power themselves from the phone line. "FM Mics" which can be "hidden behind a stamp". These people didn't even pretend that a lot of this gear had legitimate uses!

    What shocks me the most is that Slashdotters are supporting the very people who would help employers spy on employees. How much sense does it make to rail against Big Brother and then leap to the defense of his supplier?

    Ramsey might have made legal products with legitimate uses, but they also made illegal products to be used for violating people's basic human right to privacy. The feds might have acted like the goon squad (remember, we only have the owner's account), but that's still no excuse for what this company did!

    Ask yourself: do you want your employer hiding a camera next to your workstation? Do you want your roommate bugging your phone to see what you say about them? Di you want the competition bugging your water cooler to see what your company is up to?

    Do you value your privacy? Ramsey Electronics doesn't.


  • That said, the original poster failed to give specific details to back up the claims made -- THAT, not the 'Godwin's Law' bullshit was his failing.

    As any law, Godwin's has exception. That being said, it applies 99% of the time. And 99.9999999% when it's about Gun Control.

  • I'm sorry you were wrongfully accused.

    That being said, I work for a .gov site. In the past 48 hours we've been scanned 30+ times by NMAP in stealth mode, plus probes for SunRPC vulnerabilities and Back Orifice installations. Over the holiday break we had at least two machines compromised and used as scanners and denial-of-service generators. Indications are that this originated at a .edu site.

    Based on the amount of time and frustration that this has caused me and my colleagues, I would definitely like to see some strong words told to the owner of the IP that scanned, and then exchanged (not just sent) traffic with these hosts.

    So you say my hosts should have been protected against intrusion? Well, sure. Have you ever tried to get researchers on a tight budget and absolutely hard deadlines to do anything? And to keep doing it--like keeping up with the security patch of the week? What about if the security patch requires a reboot, but this researcher is running a task that requires weeks of continuous operation?

    Like I said, I'm sorry you, personally, were wrongfully accused. But I think it's reasonable for a representative of the government to sternly warn people to stop doing such things. At the very least.
  • I'm tired, DAMN tired, of people blaming the feds for doing their job... enforcing the law. If you don't agree with the laws, blame the people who MADE them, not those that enforce them.
    At the risk of bringing Godwin's Law down upon my head...

    "I was only following orders" didn't cut it at Nuremburg and doesn't cut it now when police and federal agents go about enforcing irrational, immoral, and unconstitutional laws. They choose their careers and their actions as much as any of us do, and bear fully moral responsibility.

  • I recognize this pattern from a series of raids in San Antonio [] and elsewhere.

    I found some interesting case law here [], if you can stand such legal drivel, and and interesting commentary [] on this enforcement trend from back in '95.

    I don't know how to answer that. Use is use. If you place a device in a clock ...

    Such are the great legal minds enforcing this: blindly speculating that someone might be using for surreptitious purposes.

    The only thing they left out of this violation of common sense was the usual line about how someone can use this technology to abuse children.

  • by w3woody ( 44457 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @07:36AM (#1401994) Homepage
    Uhh, last time I checked, the government had to compensate private citizens for confiscation of property, such as land taken to build highways.

    Turns out that this is not strictly true. While it is true that if a government agency asserts emenate domain, they have to compensate you for the property that was confiscated. But there are other ways you can lose property, such as during part of a criminal proceeding, and the government doesn't have to compensate you one thin dime.

    Actually, this should concern /. readers a lot, given that a lot of the hype around "hackers" about a half-dozen years ago involved local municipalities who were confiscating people's home computers on flimsy evidence in order to put those computers to work in under-funded police stations. (Child pornography was the other excuse dujoir used by local police to add computer equipment to their property inventory from hapless folks, until child pornography became a public issue.)

    The agents who raided Ramsey will probably not return the equipment they confiscated. And they probably will not compensate Ramsey for the equipment. That's because the government is protected against such claims: if the government weren't, then every jail-house "lawyer" would be flooding the legal system with lawsuits asking for the return of property that was confiscated when they were taken to jail.

    It sucks. And it's not as pat as you think it is.
  • Uh, why was this moderated as "Flamebait"? Personally, I find it interesting that there is a common dutch expression for this sort of idiotic behavior by US authorities.
  • I would say there seems to be some truth to the Feds comments. Check the web page, there are at least two items that are clearly described as disguised. There are also pictures and yes they are disguised.

    I don't think the feds are right. I feel that if something has some legal use it should be legal. Hidden cameras are a common security tool and should not be in and of themselves a violation of this law. I could also see them used in scientific research (under an exceptable protocol).

    I think that the company should have put clear warnings on there web-site about what it is legal to use these devices for. They don't. A lot of a case like this is about intent and I think the company could have gone a long way with a few words in avoiding the intent problem.
  • An aside: I find some of the Slashdot response interesting. We're a bit schizophrenic. We are bananas about privacy issues and here is the state taking aciton against a company that makes a device that is used to illegally violate privacy and we, er, go bananas!
    It's not schizophrenic at all. I am very much opposed to someone illegally beating another person's brains out with a baseball bat, but that doesn't justify the state taking action against the Louisville Slugger company.

    Tools - be they microphones, cameras, guns, baseball bats, lockpicks, computers, frequency scanners, or EPROM burners - do not get up and go about violating the rights of others by themselves. It is the operator who determines the use of the tool and who bears responsibility.

  • What about X10--were they raided? We've all seen the banners advertising their micro-mini camera with all these softcore pictures of girls. I can't imagine a device more aimed at 'surreptitious interception', and marketed that way, than that thing
  • People are getting a lot of issues confused, and Ramsey doesn't seem to be clarifying it. The federal prosecutor make it more clear but there's more to it. If you look at Ramsey's page federal restrictions (sorry I can't seem to link straight to it), you see descriptions like "Disguised Clock w/audio ". A hobbyist experimenting with FM transmitters does not need to disguise it. Ramsey is making it sound like all small, wireless transmitters are illegal and that's just not true. Some of these kits appear to be sold specifically as disguised listening devices which are illegal (unless you're a cop and have a warrant).

    As for disguised video cameras, in most parts of the country these are NOT illegal! Those nanny nabber teddy bears and the like are legal in most states if they have no audio capability.

    So, it seems like the issued warrant was reasonable. That doesn't make Ramsey guilty, it just means the Feds aren't crazy to be working on the case. As for coming from Buffalo, that's the closest border crossing so I'm sure that's the closest Customs office.

    The real problem is how the warrant was carried out. The show of force and disrespectful treatment was totally unjustifiable as was their unprofessional handling of evidence.

  • We are NOT guaranteed privacy in our constitution. We ARE however, guaranteed a couple things, including FREEDOM and security from illegal search and seizure.

    Someone can video tape you or record you and even though you may feel violated, they haven't taken away your freedom. Once government is able to come in to your PRIVATE place of business and harass you (without impunity) you have lost your freedom.

    I agree that Ramsey's products are very bad for privacy, but privacy is not the most important issue here.

  • Search-and-seizure is bad, but it isn't the same as death camps.

    Do you think the Nazi's just up and started shipping jews to death camps? NO! First, they implemented full gun registration, and increased the power that government had over the people. The military and law enforcement (the Gestapo [sp?]) could do almost anything they wanted. It got to the point where they didn't need any approval to search and seize someone's property. This was Germany in the 1930's and 1940's. Eventually, it led to the mass murder of "undesirables" and the genocide of minorities, not only jews. Gypsies, people born deformed, people who disagreed openly, etc. Why didn't they fight back? Because they had been disarmed in the name of progress, saftey, and security.

    Now, fast forward to the United State in the 1990's and 2000. Police can and routely do search vehicles, seize them as being suspected "drug assets", even in no drugs are found in the car. Have any amount of cash on you? That can be seized too as drug assets. Did you do some shopping? Maybe bought a new stereo, or some nice clothes, or anything of value? If that in your car, it's gone too since it's "suspected drug assets." *YOU* have to prove that these items are NOT.

    No, the United States is not Nazi Germany. It's just a pretty good way down the same slippery slope. Death Camps are not the same things as unlimited government power over people, and gun control: they are the end result. Ask any holocaust survivor.

  • Sheesh. What an idealist you are, thinking that the "Constitution" means anything. Police officers regularly seize property without any criminal charges being filed or any compensation. It's even legal for them to do so, under the RICO act, and unless you can PROVE in a civil court that the property involved was not purchased with the proceeds of criminal acts and has never been used for criminal acts, you're SOL. Your property is gone. Period.

    There was a parish (county) in South Louisiana that regularly did this and got a national expose'. But you know what? I have a relative who lives there, and he says that they *STILL* do it -- need a pickup truck? Stop somebody driving by on the Interstate, seize their truck as "drug trafficking related", and make them prove they didn't buy it with drug money! It keeps the local police departments in unmarked cars, so the locals don't care (the sheriff's department doesn't do that to locals, unless it's somebody that they want to run out of town).

    But hey, we live in a free country, here in these United States of Self Delusion. Why, my legislators even tell me so!


  • I'm going to shoot myself later for refering to a tv show here but f' it.
    There was an episode of law and order last season where a gun manufacturer was brought to court because the gun they manufactured made it easy to file down a blot and make it an automatic weapon. Thus the guns were in high demand by criminals. The case against the company was weather they had a resposibility to make sure it was as difficult as possible to modify the gun for that purpose. Is there any REAL legal reality to this type of corporate responsibility?
  • The raid sounded pretty reasonable to me, in the sense that there is really no reasonable way in which to conduct one. The very nature of a raid is a rude and sudden imposition. There is a place for this, just like there is a place for private gun ownership in America and there is a place monitoring and control of private gun ownership.

    Contradictions. I love 'em.

    The comparison to Jews in Nazi Germany is definately lame, however. Quit whining and throw in another deer hunting video.

  • I don't mean to downplay the emotional impact of the 'raid' you suffered, but when the truth of the situation came out, the feds backed off and the school apologized. What more can you ask? They HAVE to investigate, and for all intents and purposes, YOU appeared the most likely perpetrator.

    Besides, think of the geek chic status you've attained!

    ; )

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you're responsible for admin of such crucial systems and you didn't make the effort to get them secure in the *first* place.... plus you had the stupidity to place them *directly* on the Internet, then you are an absolute freaking MORON, lazy and incompetant and should be fired immediately. I'm a govt systems admin (posting A/C for good reason) and it was not too hard at all to secure my critical machines. I run AIX, HP-UX, Solaris and FreeBSD boxes and survive about 200 crack, scan and dos attempts every month... all unsuccessful, mostly due to a *properly* configured multi-firewalling system based on FreeBSD boxes. Gawd, I love FreeBSD, it's great if you know how to use it. I suggest you learn.
  • The movie industry wanted the Sony BetaMax stopped, since people could make illegal copies of movies.

    The SUPREME COURT said, "Selling a staple article of commerce - e. g., a typewriter, a recorder, a camera, a photocopying machine - technically contributes to any infringing use subsequently made thereof, but this kind of `contribution,' if deemed sufficient as a basis for liability, would expand the theory beyond precedent and arguably beyond judicial management."

    SONY CORP. v. UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS, INC., 464 U.S. 417 (1984)

    Granted, this is a copyright case, but if the items in the electronics store can be used for a perfectly valid use, then they are allowed to be sold. Stores commonly use these items to cut down on shoplifting and it was recently determined that a person may do surveilance in their own home on others, (kids, spouses, baby-sitters...).


  • by Eric Green ( 627 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:02AM (#1402049) Homepage
    The U.S. military is very reluctant to engage in a police action on American soil because the last time they did so, in the 1860's and 1870's, was a complete and utter disaster.

    After the fall of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, U.S. military officials were terrified that there would be guerilla warfare in the occupied territories. For the most part there wasn't -- people went home, went back to work, went about the task of trying to make a living in a world that had turned upside down for them.

    But eventually, guerilla warfare DID arise. Not against federal troops -- nobody was that stupid. But, rather, against the instruments of government installed by those troops. Mayors of cities who were seen as pro-Federal were tarred and feathered and shipped out of town. Anti-Federal politicians were installed in their place in rigged "elections" that saw blacks and known pro-Federal whites turned away from polling places by armed partisans. In areas where pro-Federal politicians amassed a power structure, such as in New Orleans, armed partisans had to first defeat the local police forces in pitched battle before they could tar and feather the pro-Federal politicians. They did so with ease in most cases (amazing, how possession of large amounts of military weapons make it easy to defeat policemen armed with batons and handguns!). These "riots" are commemorated on plaques and statues all over the South.

    In many of these "riots", the local postings of the federal troops were paralyzed by the fact that they were outnumbered. The partisans had gathered forces and concentrated them (this prior to the ability of forces to move rapidly via motorized convoy and airlift, of course), while the federal troops had to be spread out throughout the state in order to maintain federal control. In addition, there was the fear that if they opened fire on the "rioters" there WOULD be widespread guerilla warfare against federal troops, and they could see the casualty figures mounting if that ever happened. So an uneasy truce arose between the commanders of the federal troops and the partisans -- if the federal troops did not open fire upon the partisans, then the partisans would not open fire upon the federal troops.

    Eventually, the North gave up. They withdrew the federal troops (which didn't seem to be doing much good anyhow). Armed partisans installed anti-Federal governments, the South installed a system of apartheid which lasted for almost a hundred years, and the U.S. military has ever since had a blinding fear of ever being put into that situation again (that is, the situation of enforcing a military government over large areas containing armed civilians). These lessons are still taught in the military academies today, and form a major cornerstone of military philosophy in this country.


  • Here's what, pretty much verbatim, I submitted to Ramsey Electronics; I've been looking for a compact wireless A/V link for R/C flight:


    I've just started getting involved in electric R/C aircraft and was looking for something light enough to fit in the cockpit, to let me "fly the plane from the inside." I wanted something with the audio channel (low bandwidth) so I could easily transmit raw accelerometer data and other telemetry back to ground, you know, like a modem over telephone lines?

    How else am I supposed to do this? Strap a camcorder and a cellphone to the wings and hope that gravity will magically turn itself off when I'm flying?

    Looks like I'll have to wait for your government to get it's head out of the sand before I can buy the kit.

    Thoughts on the other items. If I want to have a security system that won't be disabled the moment a burglar breaks into my home, wouldn't I want something that doesn't look like a camera and doesn't have obvious wires that can be traced and/or cut? If people can already see onto my porch or into my back-yard, then transmitting that same picture will have little if any impact on my privacy; the primary purpose of a hidden camera is to not be easily disabled in the event of a burglary or similar such event. That's why stores and other commercial establishments use them; to witness shoplifting.


    If stores can hide cameras on their premises, why can't we hide them in our own homes?

    ...that's my two cents.

  • Thanks for the link, it describes perfectly what you did earlier in this thread...

    See below...

    To the feebleminded, if there is a NAME used as a label for IT, then it must be wrong, even if it isn't. The NAME, now a "proof" of sorts, can be used as a "sledgehammer" if IT comes up again.

    "The case you just made was first made by Edgar Sullivan in the late 1800s and was quickly disproved. The 'Sullivan Error' inevitably occurs to people when they first start studying the subject."

    "Your line of reasoning is called the MacGregor Phenomenon."

    "Why, that's Calvinism!"

  • by Bearpaw ( 13080 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:06AM (#1402056)
    You know, it's sad that a woman can spill coffee in her lap and get millions of dollars, but someone like this will be lucky to get their legal expenses covered.

    [sigh] There are plenty of questionable court decisions ... you might want to use one of them to illustrate your point instead of this one.

    The McDonalds coffee was not just hot, it was literally scalding. Contrary to the popular myth, the woman was in the passenger seat and the vehicle was not in motion -- the coffee spilled when she tried to remove the top to add milk and sugar. She suffered third-degree burns over 6% of her body, and initially asked for only $20,000. McDonalds refused. Dumb move, because it was then shown that McDonalds had received hundreds of prior complaints, including more cases involving third-degree burns.

    The award was only initially "millions" -- the awards were reduced to $160,000 in compensatory damages and $480,000 in punitive damages.

    Sorry, I know this is sorta off-topic, but this kind of intellectual sloppiness bothers me sometimes. Not that I'm always very tidy myself.

  • Then you can buy any laws you want.

    Gosh, you mean you believe the law should protect small business owners and individuals too? How naive could you be!


  • Ever hear of Tasers, pepper spray or ammonia spray? Ever hear of karate, judo, ju-jitsu or ninjitsu?

    Methinks that there are plenty of ways to protect oneself other than by mowing down every living thing in a five-mile radius.

    Even if you insist on a weapon, what's wrong with a hiking stick? (Can be used as a quarter-staff, staff, or an aid in mobility.) You've less chance of killing anyone, but you've a very good chance of fending off 3 or 4 attackers simultaneously indefinitely.

    As for food, ever hear of mushrooms, fruit, nuts, rice, wheat, barley, corn, potatos, carrots, beetroot, peas, beans, sugar beat, samphur (if you're on a mudflat), rhubarb (not the leaves!), cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, etc?

    I seem to remember there being more food sources than meat alone. Maybe I'm wrong, and it's all meat. Maybe everything is really made of sheep's stomach (as with Haggis), or dried blood (Black Pudding). Or maybe there's more to life than dead animal.

  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:08AM (#1402063)
    Of course, IANAL, but as rediculous as it sounds, if you read the statute, it clearly states that it is illegal to manufacture and distribute devices who's main purpose is to eavesdrop on conversations.

    So. Here we go. Perhaps they *ARE* in violation of the law, though certainly not intentionally.
    Did this require armed officers and intimidating tactics? Probably not. Is this kind of tactic good for the country? Probably not. A simple letter from a lawyer/government agency explaining the particular aspects of the law and why they are in violation would have done the trick. Why was a search warrant needed.. was it not clear that the company *was* making these things and *was* selling them? Would the company have denied this? No.. they would have said 'of COURSE we do that, that's what we DO! What's the big deal?'

    But hey.. if you make laws.. you gotta deal with the reprecussions.
    Remember that next time you want congress to 'protect' you by law.
  • If you've been following the treatment of amateur radio operators by the Feds lately, you'll see that the Feds wish that amateur radio operators would just go away (except in the case of disasters). Open exchange of information is NOT something that the Feds particularly like. It makes their job of squashing threats to big businesses harder. That's why the Internet is their worst nightmare.


  • But the law isn't wrong in this case. Maybe you think that devices which allow people to spy on each other ought to be legal, but I know I don't want *my* employer putting a spy camera over my desk. You can't tell me that a camera built to look like a wall clock is for "hobbyists".
    Maybe you want the spy camera over your desk because you want to find out who's been stealing your granola bars and loose change. Maybe you want the camera in the wall clock because you want to be the next Allen Funt; you do improv comedy with unsuspecting people, and offer them a release form which gives them royalties if their stuff ever makes money.

    The equipment is not criminal in any way; it is the use of that equipment which may (repeat, may) be a crime. And until you find that equipment in use, you have no business declaring that a crime has been committed.

    I know I don't want *my* disgruntled roommate bugging my phone. I know I don't want someone putting a hidden camera in the locker room and selling pictures of *my* girlfriend changing.
    Maybe you want to bug your own phone to record a conversation to give as evidence to the police (someone harassing or threatening you, for example) or you want a hidden camera aimed at the driveway to catch pictures of thieves and vandals. It's not the device, it's the use to which the device is put.
  • They will get their stuff back.

    Yes, but when? History shows that computers and electronics seized as evidence stick to the government's fingers for several years at least.

    "Mr.Ramsey? You remember that stuff we seized from you six years ago? We have some crates in a federal warehouse in Montana that seem to be yours. You can pick them up at your convenience".

  • The discussion here is not pissed off enough! Is it because of that bit by the lawyer in the article? Who cares if they have made this search legal.. it should be illegal. Shure, the feds have been doing related things to all sorts of non-electronics type people for a while now, but we should still be pissed off!

    If this was an article about a company messing with someone there would have been 50 posts talking about was to help get them to stop. I have not seen ONE such post about this article. We should be fucking slashdoting the agency that did this with complaints!

    Here is a list of contact related information from The RAMSEY Discussion board []: Send an e-mail to your newspaper from []. Send an e-mail to your representatives from []. [] has phones, faxes,addresses.

    What else can we do? What is the most effective way to slashdot these people. It seems we first need to know who they are, but I have not seen any information posted about exactly which parts of the Dept. of Justic / FBI were involved in this. We should start a web site to collect the names of the agents and officials involved in this.. to make shure that their crimes are not forgoten.. and that they are remembered as the tyrants which they are. I would love to hear from people about the preacticality / legality of such a site.

    Thomas Jefferson said "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants" and I think it is time to spill the blood of these specific tyrants the slashdot style.

  • by ( 2573 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:14AM (#1402076) Homepage
    It is not Ramsey's responsibility to make sure every customer uses their products in a legal way. Of course, looking at America today you'd think it is. A perfect example is the many citys currently suing gun makers because of high murder rates. Are they also going to sue automobile manufacturers because cars are able to speed, be driven by drunks, used in drive-bys, used a getaway vehicles or be freely driven through open air drug markets?

    There are perfectly acceptable uses for hidden cameras in the home. I'm sure many of you have seen the videotapes of nanny's/babysitters beating the children they are supposed to be caring for. A law-abiding citizen has every right to have access to that equipment. They should only lose that right when it has been proven that they have broken the law.

    Remember, innocent until proven guilty.
  • by the_argent ( 28326 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:15AM (#1402077) Homepage
    If you take a look at thier catalog, They offer clocks and smoke detectors with hidden cameras in them.
    And I would use these for.....what exactly? I agree, most of thier other stuff is basic electronic kits, but a clock with a hidden camera?
    That's like a hunting store stocking armor piercing bullets.
  • by Nafai7 ( 53671 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:16AM (#1402078)
    Slashdotters this, slashdotters that.

    So you are not a slashdotter? You just posted a comment on /., got modertated up (to 5 at this point) on /., and obviously you read /.

    The point is, with the number of people that read slashdot every day, you will ALWAYS find people that will support anything. Don't bash slashdot because of this. /. didn't do ANYTHING. They just posted the story.

    Next time you (and those of your ilk) think in terms of "slashdotters", just remember there are thousands or very intelligent people all posting from their own unique viewpoints. When you say "slashdotters do this" or "slashdotters do that", you are making no useful statement at all.

  • by Jburkholder ( 28127 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:23AM (#1402091)
    >The illegality of such devices is questionable-- they most likely *aren't* used for interception of conversations and such. They're used by kiddies who want to learn how a crystal set AM receiver works.

    While I want to agree with you and I question the heavy-handed tactics of the g-men, I can't quite get past these little items available for sale:

    Telephone Transmitter
    Disguised Clock w/audio

    MicroEye Camera/Transmitter
    Disguised Smoke w/audio

    Now, I'm not legal expert by any means, but if your product is listed as being disguised as something other than it's primary purpose, I think you may be on shaky ground!

  • If this isn't a intercept device nothing is.
    (Directly out of their catalog)

    Also known as "Phone Bug"

    Will transmit both sides of telephone conversation up to 1/4 mile! Very small size fits anywhere in phone or on phone line. Connects in series and draws its power from the phone system - no battery needed. Great for roomful listening or seeing what the kids are up to! Output tunable from 88 to 108 MHz. Can be received on either a standard FM receiver, or for secrecy, use our FR-1 Broadcast Band Receiver (page 11). Size: 2"w x 7/8"h x 5/8"h.
    Needs no battery - Powered by phone line
    Transmits both sides of the telephone conversation

    I don't know how anyone here can in good faith support this company! They sell phone bugs. It's not too difficult to see that they are breaking the law.

    I say good job to the US Customs Service.

  • Complex systems cannot be optimal in every respect: designers get to make choices of what kind of problems will exist.

    The US Constitution, as intended, was a deliberate choice of social problems rather than government tyranny. That is, the gov had nothing to do with poverty, education, ... but can't infringe on freedom.

    Socialism chooses to 'solve' social problems. The implicit choice is tyranny. The laws which are intended to work 'for the good of society' are easily mis-directed for political ends.

    No socialist society has remained dynamic and functional. All have degenerated socially and economically.

    We in the US aren't ready to give up our socialist ways, and so we will continue to have Wacos and these small scale tyrannies. People in electronics are just the latest targets. Gun dealers have been subject to this kind of stupidity for a long time. Murders have occured with the last couple of years on raids like this.

  • Man, cutlery manufacturers better watch out now that there is a precedent. I mean, Ginsu, by making it's wedge devices, is causing people to stab each other.


    Seriously, though, there are MANY objects that can be used in an illegal fashion. Blaming the object manufacturer is sort of stupid. It is the person /committing/ the crime that is in the wrong. If I bash someone over the head with a pan, /I'm/ in the wrong, not the pan manufacturer. If I illegally hack into systems and destroy stuff, /I'm/ in the wrong, not the computer manufacturer.
    Am I the only one who thinks this is incredibly stupid? - the Java Mozilla []
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:28AM (#1402098) Homepage Journal

    Just because the Feds didn't stomp a kitten to death or blow a kid's head off THIS TIME doesn't make what they did any more acceptable.

    Feds intimidating someone and in general being dickheads is not a reason for all of this outrage.

    Sure it is! Supposedly, they work for us, not the other way around. While the job requires doing things to people that they won't like, it also requires accountability, common sense, and discression. That's what was missing here.

  • and take a look at this []

    "Check out our smoke detector! Uses our popular "Cube" video transmitter and one of our quality B&W CCD cameras, all expertly and cleverly hidden in the everyday object. Units run on a standard 9VDC battery. Please note, the smoke detector does not function as a operable smoke detector! Use this for your video projects, but get a real smoke detector so your house doesn't burn down! All units transmit on cable channel 59, easily received on any cable-ready TV set. Completely assembled, wired, tested, and ready to hang."

    Screams "Surreptitious Surviellance Device" as far as I see.

  • by B.T. ( 118268 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @08:33AM (#1402103)
    You want an issue: this is it. Law & Order is not an excuse for unreasonable search and seizure.

    This is the issue. Okay, under the law this stuff may be illegal & maybe the law should be rewritten (for clarity if nothing else). Maybe the federal police will take good care of the stuff, maybe not. Maybe not! That's the point!

    A handwritten inventory sheet without identifiers, signatures, et cetera, and without the owner of the properties even being allowed to check them against the list? I'm absolutely astonished that Mr. Violanti considers this adequate documentation; apart from the missed opportunity to establish chain of custody, it is an open invitation to corruption on the part of the seizing officials.

    Note that I'm not saying these officers, or indeed any officers in particular, are corrupt; I'm saying that if this is the way they conduct raids then there is no accountability. The police have enormous powers; without accountability how can we rely on those powers being used with commensurate responsibility?

  • Yeah, I see the McDonalds case brought up a lot. When I first heard about it I couldn't believe how idiotic a jury could be to give her $1 million for spilling hot coffee on herself...

    It was only later that I actually got clued into less obvious details of the case. Bearpaw does a decent job of clearing some of it up in a paragraph. I'd just like to warn anyone who gets the urge to use the case as an example of a frivolous lawsuit, do yourself a favor and find out the details. Kinda like reading the article before posting.

    and yeah, i've been guilty too...


  • They will get their stuff back.

    They shouldn't have to get their stuff back. Ramsey isn't some sort of back alley black market operation, they are a legitimate business. If something they were selling was illegal, an official notification would have put an end to it. It would also have saved the taxpayer a good bit of money.

    The courts, DAs and law enforcement claim that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but there are now so many laws that even judges and lawyers have to research on a case by case basis. That means that anyone else is necessarily ignorant of the law.

  • Mark Williams Company made a version of Unix, Coherent I believe.

    Steve Jackson Ganes is the company that made the RPG that came under scrutiny in The Hacker Crackdown. See EFF [] for more info on that case.

    1. Ignore offensive AC's. However much they know, they clearly don't know enough to be civil. As civility is easier than Sys Admining, I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine the likly skill level.
    2. Scan your own machines, using Saint, Nessus and Vetescan. If anything turns up as vulnerable, update or remove, depending on need.
    3. Give ALL of your computers non-routable addresses. (eg: 10.x.y.z) Set up a virtual network with the same IP's as your existing network has. Use a proxy server to masquerade your real network so that you don't leave it open to attack. Oh, and disable ICMP on the proxy server. Finally, have the proxy automatically block all hosts that access the virtual network from accessing anything.
    4. If you want to be -ultra- secure, install IPSec, with host authentication, on all hosts on the network. Use the proxy server above to forward packets in an unsecure fashion.

    You now have a guarantee against direct host attacks. Any attacker -has- to go through the proxy server, and -has- to correctly identify the concealed network, rather than the fake one, first-time. One slip, and you're booted from that segment.

    Sure, this is a bit of effort, but it's something that you won't have to continuously update, with every patch that comes out. The structure means that it'll be adequately secure against even unknown attacks. Further, if you ever do need to upgrade, the chances are it'll be the proxy, not the main computers, so your users won't experience unwholesome downtime, just a brief pause in extranet or internet access.

  • Likewise if your equipment has a possible use in surruptitious surveillance you damn well better know it and act accordingly.
    And the techs from Ramsey told the government snoops that they were in the wrong place if they wanted bugging equipment. They refused to volunteer any information which might have helped anyone use their kits for illegal purposes. Isn't that the definition of "acting accordingly"?
  • Hey badguys, we're on to you, and looking to bust you. So here's ample notice to move your operation elsewhere so that next week when we show up, you can have all the equipment out of there.

    That would make sense if Ramsey was dealing out of back alleys and anonymous mail drops. Legitimate businesses can't afford to pull up stakes and run (and will simply cease the activity in question to stay in business). A little investigation is all that's needed to differentiate.

  • Not to mention that alienating .edu people is bad karma cuz after being falsely accused, they're most likely NEVER going to want to work for you.

    In the late 80's, early 90's, when I was studying EE at the University of Illinois, nearly all of the decent EE jobs were for contractors or subcontractors of the defense industry. Not all, mind you, but the majority of them. Fortunately for me, my interests took me to Computer Hardware Engineering, then on to Computer Science, where opportunities abounded in numerous, shall we say, less ethically suspect areas of endeavor. Though I made the decision to never work for the government or a company beholden to them in such a way at a time when I thought it would carry with it a significant cost to my carrier, I was fortunate enough not to have had to pay the price I thought I would. Still, I doubt I would have regretted the decision for a moment had it had the negative impact on my carrier I expected at the time -- some things (like personal ethics and being able to sleep at night) are more important than the bottom line financially.

    This decision was made long before such Brazil-esque (the movie, not the country) visits from the Feds had become so commonplace. One doesn't have to be directly affected by jack-booted (or black-suited) thugs to decide never to put their talents to work for the government. Reading about such events from a safe distance suffices. For me, seeing Reagan and Busch's foreign policies of the 1980's was a sufficient motivation. Alas though, for every technically savvy person who does chose not to serve such entities there is generally at least one misguided soul who mistakes love of government for love of countryt. And even when there aren't enough misguided people to fill all the job slots, there's always at least one cynical sellout who will do the job (however unsavory) with full knowledge of what they are doing and absolutely no compunction about it.

    It is sometimes discouraging to think our hesitation or unwillingness to work for such entities doesn't translate into hiring difficulties for such organizations, but it is important to remember that we make these decisions, or should be making them, for our own peace of mind, and that while we can influence what others do, we cannot force anyone else to necessarilly make the same decisions we have, no matter how strongly we may feel about it. We can, however, at least look at ourselves in the mirror without self loathing and sleep soundly at night -- at least until the jack-booted thugs show up. I suspect if more of us took that approach to our careers, entities like the Feds might actually find themselves with a few recruiting challenges, without our even having given it a second thought, much less organized anything so formal as a "boycott."
  • last time I checked, the government had to compensate private citizens for confiscation of property

    With due respect, when was the last time you checked, 1965? The government does indeed have to compensate landowners for land taken under eminent domain laws--think of it as you selling it against your will. However, if a government suspects that property has been used as part of a criminal act or enterprise, in many cases they can simply seize it. And what passes for justification for seizure is getting more and more ludicrous all the time.

    Go to your nearest state court building and look on the announcements board at some of the "lawsuits" being prosecuted. I'll give you two examples posted in front of the Fulton County State Superior Court here in Atlanta, Georgia, back in 1997: State of Georgia vs. Brown 1973 Ford Torino Sedan and State of Georgia vs. $19,420. One Saturday a restaurant owner in Atlanta asked one of his employees to take his car and drive down to the bank to deposit the week's receipts. The employee put on his warmup jacket, took the cash and a firearm, got in his boss's car and started driving to the bank. He then got pulled over for an improper lane change or running a green light or some damned thing. The officer, seeing the gun in the car's center console (which in Georgia is where you're supposed to keep it if you don't have a CCW), arrested the driver on suspicion of being black and armed after 1AM and upon searching his person discovered the butt of a marijuana cigaratte in his jacket. He arrested the employee for possession of marijuana and possession of a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance. The state then decided that the car was involved in a drug felony (the gun thing) because the drug felony occurred inside the car, and that the contents of the deposit bag were tied in somehow as well, so they seized them.

    Needless to say the restauranteur wanted his stuff back. But meanwhile in Ohio a man made the unfortunate decision to borrow his wife's car and seek the services of a prostitute. When the police arrested him, they seized the car. When his wife went to the state and pointed out that it wasn't his car, that it was hers, and that she did not give her husband consent to use it to solicit a prostitute, the state essentially told her that if she'd learn to suck her husband off properly, maybe he wouldn't have done this, and fuck you, lady, it's our car now. Then the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the police about the wife's car, which quite frankly terrifies me, but setting my personal feelings aside, yeah, when the state of Georgia found out about the Ohio thing they told the restauranteur he could go and fuck himself as well. The really, really fantastic part of the whole thing was that without the $19,420 the owner had to choose between paying his employees and paying his creditors, and when he chose to pay his employees, his creditors went to sue him and when he filed for bankruptcy, the loss of $19,420 was disallowed because it was legally confiscated by the government. So he lost the restaurant as well, because of somebody else's half-smoked joint.

    So the next time you think the fourth amendment means anything at all in America, and that you don't have to worry about having your stuff taken away because you're not some evil drug kingpin, think about the restauranteur, and wait until the government seizes your house for possession of a fucking microphone.


  • > Yeah. Confiscating little electronic spy
    > devices built to look like smoke detectors is
    > exactly the same thing as tearing babies in
    > half, forcing slave labor and exterminating
    > people because of their religion.

    Never said it was the same. However, the
    "Just doing my job" mentality is exaxtly what
    lead to those autrocities happening. It is
    frightening what people are capable of when they
    are willing to set their own morality asside
    because a "higher power" is telling them "just
    do it". Afterall...they arn't responsible...they
    were just carring out an order.

    > But the law isn't wrong in this case.

    A statement of your belief. I differ on this
    point. I think it *IS* wrong.

    > Maybe you think that devices which allow people
    > to spy on each other ought to be legal

    They are legal. Police forces use such devices
    in investigations. How about "Undercover
    reporters" who hide cameras on their bodies
    to catch people in the act of ripping
    consumers off? Why shouldn't *I* be able to
    have one too?

    > but I know I don't want *my* employer putting a
    > spy camera over my desk

    Well then perhaps you don't want them taping
    and listening to all of your phone calls
    on your desk phone? Perfectly legal you know.
    They don't even have to tell you. Oh...and
    reading your email thats on their servers?
    well..its a work adress...sorry no privacy is

    > You can't tell me that a camera built to look
    > like a wall clock is for "hobbyists".

    Which, AFAIK is NOT what they are selling. They
    sell small kits and cameras. You could buy one
    and build it into a phone or clock, however
    thats not how they are sold. You could just as
    easily (well not just as easily since it requires
    knowledge of electronics) build this camera onto
    a small robot or RC car - I guess that would make
    you a real criminal huh?

  • I hate to be pedantic in the face of your pedantry, but "schizophrenic" is a word that does not mean "having schizophrenia." The word came from the mental illness of the same name, and does represent a misunderstanding of the nature of schizophrenia, but the word has moved beyond its medical meaning. It is not an error to describe something that logically contradictory as "schizophrenic."

    As someone whose family contains a victim of schizophrenia (and, while we are at it, manic depression) I am well aware of what schizophrenia is not. When no more mean when we say something is "schizophrenic" that it has schizophrenia than we mean when we say someone is "quixotic" that that person is mentioned in Cervantes' book.
  • This isn't about your privacy or mine. The Feds, the Spy agencies for our own and foreign governments, even many industrial "security" arms (I suspect) will not have their access to such tools hampered in the least by closing down hobby shops like this. Nor, I suspect, will so-called terrorists have much trouble locating such equipment on the black market, perhaps at a price less competive than one pays on the web.

    This is about keeping the individual from violating the "privacy" of the government. Imagine their horror if individuals or reporters were to listen in on private city council meetings, committee meetings in congress, or congressmen in their offices obtaining campaign contributions. This is about covering up the dirty laundry of those who purport to be serving us in public office, not about stopping crime, terrorism, or protecting our civil liberties in the least.
  • by Bjarke Roune ( 107212 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2000 @01:29PM (#1402349) Homepage
    I find it rather sad that someone would moderate this as "funny" or as "flamebait", as this correctly identifies the emotions alot of people have about the USA, which the moderators somehow find "funny".

    This is completely serious, and we have a phrase alot like it in Denmark.

    A moderation of "interesting" or "informative" would be alot more appropiate, I think.

    In Denmark, it's called "amerikanske tilstande", which directly translates to "American conditions".

    It's used primarily to refer to these things:

    1) Not caring about/helping the poor or otherwise disadvantaged people (basically, in Denmark, we have none to very few homeless people (it's hard to do something about the homelesness of people being on drugs and the like...), and all people without jobs are given enough money that they should be able to live reasonably comfortably (actually, people get enough money of off this that taking some very low-paying jobs will result in the jobless person getting *less* money). They may be forced by the state to take a job after a certain period of inactivity, though)

    2) The state not providing free healtcare for everyone (you are entitled to treatment in Denmark payed by the state, nomatter who you are and nomatter the cost (you sometimes have to wait a while to get this treatment, though)).

    3) People going amok and shooting alot of people, terrorism, high crime rates and generally any very brutal crime (we haven't had terrorism in denmark for, hmm, as long as I've lived, I believe. I actually don't know how the crime rates compare USA/Denmark, so I don't know if there's any basis there)

    4) Things being extremely big, as in big corporations, big cars, big hotels etc. etc. + any physical thing taken completely out of proportion (Denmark is alot smaller than the USA, so naturally, we will also tend to have smaller corporations etc.)

    If you think after reading this that Denmark must be a very good country, well... I can't say I disagree, but you should know that it's really easy to get to pay 50+% of your income in taxes, and our cars, gasoline (anything polluting) is ALOT more expensive here (like double/triple the cost).

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.