The following is brought to you thanks, in part, to the kind assistance of CyberNews and the fine folks at Cornell University.

Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 7 Num. 97

("Quid coniuratio est?")


New York Times, NATIONAL, Sunday, Sept. 2, 1990 (p. 25)

"U.S. Mistakenly Sold a Prosecutor's Secret Data"

Pikeville, Ky., Sept. 1 (AP) -- A United States Attorney's secret computer files, including electronic copies of sealed indictments and information about pending F.B.I. inquiries, were mistakenly sold by the Government a month ago to a businessman who paid $45 for what he thought was only broken computer equipment.

The Justice Department now says the sale could compromise any number of criminal cases, and it has sued the businessman to get the data back.

The businessman, Charles Hayes, who resells Government surplus items, says that he would like to cooperate but that the equipment he bought, and various parts from it, have now been mixed with his previous inventory and so he is no longer sure which is which. He says he is trying to determine which of his customers may have bought some of the equipment, but he is resisting the Government's demand that he identify those customers, terming it an unwarranted intrusion into his business.

-+- A Search of His Business -+-

The Government finds Mr. Hayes's attitude insufficiently forthcoming. In addition to the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday, Federal marshals armed with a search warrant arrived Friday night at his establishment in Pulaski County, about 125 miles west of here. By the time they had left nine hours later, they had seized what Mr. Hayes described today as nine computer terminals, a computer memory device and assorted other equipment.

According to the Government's lawsuit, the case stems from a mistake made last January when a technician for the Harris-Lanier Corporation, the manufacturer of the system that Mr. Hayes would later buy, arrived at the office of the United States Attorney in Lexington, Louis DeFalaise. The system, in disrepair, was to be sold at auction, and the technician was supposed to erase the computer's memory.

In July, at an auction of the General Services Administration, Mr. Hayes made a successful bid of $45 for the system: 13 computer terminals, two central memory units, two cartridge module drives and nine printers. After Mr. Hayes picked up the equipment on Aug. 3, the Harris-Lanier technician told the Government that he had not erased the memory after all; A magnetic probe used to scramble the data had been too weak, and, because the equipment was broken, technicians had been unable to purge the memory through normal computer commands.

The Government's lawsuit says that the computer's memory and backup storage tapes almost certainly still contain sensitive details about informers who work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, about sealed indictments, about federally protected witnesses and about employees in Mr. DeFalaise's office.

-+- "Irreparable Injury" -+-

"The U.S. Attorney's office," the lawsuit says, "used some or all of the computer equipment to prepare and store virtually every document and record generated by both the civil and criminal divisions of the office from 1983 to 1989."

If made public, the suit goes on, the files could ruin criminal investigations and cause "great harm and irreparable injury" to the work of Federal prosecutors. "The seriousness of the injury to the United States of America cannot be understated," it says.

Within hours of the lawsuits filing, a Federal district judge, Eugene Siler Jr., ordered Mr. Hayes to return the computer system to the Government and not examine, copy or distribute the data. A hearing has been set for Tuesday.

Mr. Hayes said he had been told before he bought the equipment that the computer memory had been wiped out. He called the sale "the worst case of bureaucracy I have ever seen," and added, "If it is this loose, I wonder what else is missing up there" in the Office of the United States Attorney.

"What it amounts to," he said, "is I am being punished for the inefficiency" in the prosecutor's office.

I encourage distribution of "Conspiracy Nation."

If you would like "Conspiracy Nation" sent to your e-mail address, send a message in the form "subscribe cn-l My Name" to (Note: that is "CN-L" not "CN-1")

For information on how to receive the improved Conspiracy Nation Newsletter, send an e-mail message to

Want to know more about Whitewater, Oklahoma City bombing, etc? (1) telnet (2) logon as "visitor" (3) go citcom

See also:

See also: ftp pub/users/bigred

Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9