TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: kiddie.txt

Are U.S. Postal inspectors framing legitimate Adult BBSes by mailing them child porn? Shocking allegations! A must-read!

About two years ago I helped a guy from Milpitas (just north of San 
Jose) deal with a BBS bust at what he described as a legal porn BBS. 
The San Jose police (who had gone out of district) and the DA realized 
shortly that they had really goofed by not considering the ECPA and 
related laws in their search & seizure.  The result was that they gave 
his system back after five weeks, and stated in a written release that 
this guy's activities were within the scope of the law.  The BBS is 
called Amateur Action, and the sysop's name is Robert Thomas 
(408-263-1079).  Robert's lawyer, Richard Williams's phone number is 

Monday night about 8 pm, Robert called (at that time I had not met him 
in person).  A search warrant was being served at that very moment by 
the US Postal Inspectors, who (with the help of San Jose cops) were 
packing up his equipment and carting it out--again.  Robert managed to 
get the postal inspector on the phone with me.  This inspector seemed 
to be rather knowledgeable of such things as the ECPA, 2000aa, and the 
Steve Jackson case.  He stated he was completely unconcerned about 
their lack of warrants for email!  He piously stated that, because it 
was their intent to bring the system back within a "few days" and, as 
a result of the short interruption of user access, and their good 
intent "not to look at private email," they were completely safe from 
the provisions of the ECPA.  This postal inspector gave his name as 
David Dirmeyer, from Tennessee (does this sound like Bible Belt 
prosecution for pron?) and gave me the name of the US Attorney he was 
working under, one Dan Newsom with a phone of 901-544-4231 in TN 
(though he stated that the phone # would be of no use because Dan was 
at a conference for a week).  

For what it is worth, the postal inspector said they were using the 
San Jose cops on the bust because they did not have the expertise 
themselves to move the system and make copies.  According to the 
investigator, they did not know that they could get a court order to 
have a backup of the system made on the spot.  It may be that Robert 
is the target.  (In spite of not meeting him, I suspect Richard may be 
the kind of smart alec who attracts the attention of cops.) 

Robert said there was a mystery package which came today in the mail 
(which his son and wife picked up and she opened).  The package 
turned out to be real honest-to-gosh kiddy porn.  

Robert claims not to have ordered it, and considering that his wife 
picked the (unexpected) package up and opened it, I think this is the 
actual case.  Robert was busy with system problems that afternoon and 
had not gotten around to doing anything about the stuff, though he did 
call his lawyer for advice.  The guy who sent it is known as "Lance 
White," who Robert thinks is one of his BBS members. (As is postal 
inspector Dirmeyer.)  They had Robert pull all postal correspondence 
with this guy (video porn orders) from his files and took it with 

Robert thinks the postal folks may be after this guy, and his BBS just 
got caught in the middle.  An interesting side point is that while they 
asked for the package which came that day when they came in, they did 
not have a warrant for it, and said they would have to drive over to 
SF to get one unless he volunteered to give it up.  Robert signed off 
that they could take it, and they did.  He noted this morning that the 
original warrant he has was neither signed nor dated, though a judge's 
name was typed in. 

I don't know if this is something of marginal concern to those of us 
concerned with government abuse of people's computers and 
communications or a major concern.  I intend to find out more, but if 
the ECPA is applicable, this guy had about 3500 users, over 2k pieces 
of protected email on his system, plus (I think) agreements with his 
users for him to represent them in an ECPA-related legal action--two 
million dollars if I am multiplying right.  (My "Warning to Law 
Enforcement Agents" was part of his signup screens.) 

Question for Mike Godwin (of EFF).  One aspect of this case gives me 
the shakes. *Anyone* with a grudge (and access to this kind of stuff) 
can send you a package in the mail and tip off the postal inspectors.  
Short of the obvious (don't make enemies!) how can you protect 
yourself from this kind of attack? 

My non-lawyer thoughts:

              Burn it at once! 
              Call my lawyer.
              Call the cops.

For a while this will be a very serious problem, because *any* of us 
with readily available morphing tools can make (what looks like) kiddy 
porn out of legal porn.

[After finding out where this came from, I think burning it might get 
you charged with "Destruction of Government Property"!]

Keith Henson 

A Very Weird Turn of Events

To recap:  Last Monday (Jan 10) Robert Thomas, Sysop of Amateur 
Action, an erotic BBS, got a call to pick up a priority postal 
package.  His wife picked it up and opened it.  It turned out to have 
*real* child pornography in it, and was sent (unsolicited) by one 
Lance White.  This was not the first odd thing sent in by some of the 
people on the BBS, but it was certainly of no use to Robert.  He runs 
a scrupulous *business*.  He is so careful that he will not permit gif 
uploads from the AA members at all.  But Robert was busy with the 
computers and perhaps not paranoid enough.  (He takes, scans in, and 
edits hundreds of erotic photos a week--there is always new stuff on 

Early that evening, a person by the name of David H. Dirmeyer and 
identifying himself as a postal inspector showed up with an unsigned 
and undated warrant, which says on the face of it that it was issued 
by Hon. Wayne D. Brazil, U.S. Magistrate-Judge at San Francisco, CA.  
(The case number is 3.94.3005 and what might be WDB.)  By itself, a 
copy lacking date and signature may be ok, but both the local police 
and a newspaper reporter were quite surprised that they were missing. 

Attachment A is just a description of the house where the BBS was 

I may type in all of Attachment B at some point, but not now.

Point A was for all the hardware, manual, etc.

Point B was for a list of video tapes (which AA sells).  

Point C was for gif from these tapes.  

Point D was a list of gifs from a description file designed to 
generate maximum curiosity--if you want to see people making it with 
barnyard animals, or are into "water sports." 

Point E asked for records on the origin etc. of the tapes and gifs.

Point F asked for ads or any other kind of pointer to these.

[verbatim from here, modulo typos.]

      G.   "Cardboard boxes, envelopes, and other shipping container 
bearing United Parcel Service (UPS) logo and or shipping numbers."

      H.  Any and all records showing business transactions with
Lance White, 1770 North Germantown Pkwy., Suite 166, Cordova,
Tennessee  38018, including, but not limited to: books, records,
receipts, bank statements, canceled checks, wire transfer records,
passbooks, payment journals, and other documentation, whether stored
in any of the storage devices listed in Paragraph A above.

      I.  Any and all records showing or bearing indicia of the
use, ownership, possession, or control of the abovesaid
residential/business premises, of the obscene material, of the
databases described above, or of such records, whether stored on
paper, in files, invoices, bills, leases, deeds, permits, licenses,
telephone bills, tax receipts, or other documentation, or on
magnetic media such as tape, cassette, disk, diskettes, or on memory 
storage devices such as optical disks, or other storage media.

[As you might note in passing, no mention about email in the warrant, 
and none that AA may be protected as a *publisher* under 2000aa.] 

Sounds like they are *really after this Lance White dude--right? 

Perhaps postal inspectors opened this package of kiddy porn on the way 
and got a search warrant to go after him?  They ask something to the 
effect has AA received any packages today?.  The package is lying 
where it was left when opened, they must know about it, so Robert 
shows it to them.  The inspector wants it, but Robert will not give it 
up without something saying *he* sure as heck did not order it.  After 
some argument about taking its taking two hours or more to get an 
added warrant from San Francisco, they come to an agreement.  The 
inspector pulls out a PERMISSION TO SEARCH form and modifies it.  It 

  "I, *Robert Thomas*, have been informed by *Postal Inspector 
  Dirmeyer* and [blank] who made proper identification as (an) 
  authorized law enforcement officers(s) of the *United States Postal 
  Inspection Service* of my CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT not to have a search 
  made of the premises and property owned by me and/or under my care, 
  custody and control, without a search warrant. 

  "Knowing of my lawful right to refuse to consent to such a search, I 
   willing give my permission to the above named officer(s) to conduct 
   a compete search of [premises scratched out] property 
   priority mail package from Lance White addressed to Robert Thomas sent 
   without his knowledge.*    ^^^^^^^^^^^

[The rest is boilerplate, time (5:29), and date.  Dirmeyer and one of 
the San Jose police sign as witnesses, and (strangely) a home phone 
(901-576-2077) for Dirmeyer, not an office phone like the SJPD officer 
used.  The material between the *s is block printed by Dirmeyer.] 

Robert thought the name was familiar, but he has about 3500 members 
signed up.  Robert runs the BBS from home but has an office as well.  
To turn over what the search warrant demands, he and the agents go 
there (after? before?) the computer setup is seized.  They find some 
Lance White orders and such in the files and the officers take them, 
but White's original signup form is missing. 
Robert called me while the agents were carrying out the seizure, and 
(to my surprise, it is not usual practice) David Dirmeyer talked to 
me.  He has a slightly nasal Tennessee accent--distinctive.  I ask him 
about ECPA, Secret Service, 2000aa, Steve Jackson case, and proper 
warrants.  He says none of these laws apply but promises to get the 
hardware back ASAP; when pressed he says a week.  I am skeptical.  As 
he is leaving, he tells Robert something to the effect that "it will 
go worse for you if you mention Lance White on the board when you gets 
it back." 

Tuesday I wrote the first report on AA for computer network 
distribution.  Wednesday and Thursday I put in some time on bringing a 
lawyer up to speed on the ECPA, related laws, and such case law as 
came out of the Steve Jackson Games suit. 

Mid afternoon Friday I am about to go meet Robert (first time ever in 
person), and discuss filing a claim with San Jose in preparation for a 
2000aa lawsuit. 

Robert calls me.  His wife found the original "Lance White" signup. 

The sloppy block printing of "Lance White" on the "Membership and 
Registration form" dated 2/93 and the "Lance White" block printed on 
the PERMISSION TO SEARCH look *identical*.  It is possible that a 
regular handwriting expert might find them different, but all seven 
people, including two cops, who have looked at them by now think they 
were written by the same person.  

The registration form has an address, 1770 Germantown Parkway, #166, 
Cordova, TN 38018.  This is really close to the warrant, except someone 
is trying to make what I expect is a box look like an apartment. 
Perhaps a reader knows someone who lives near there and could check.  

There is also a phone number (901-685-2206) on it.  Robert tries it, 
and asked me to try.  Again, an expert might disagree, but to my ear, 
the answering machine's message which says it is Lance White's phone, 
and the person I talked to who said he was Dirmeyer are the same 
person.  *If* I can believe my ear and eye, it looks like David H. 
Dirmeyer, Postal Inspector and Lance White "Sender of Unsolicited 
Child Pornography" are the same person.  

*If* this is the case, (not exactly impossible, because the postal 
inspectors have been in the news lately *for* sending child porn), 
then what the heck is going on here? 

When Robert figured out the strange connections, he called the local 
(Milpitas) police.  They said he should talk to the San Jose Police, 
since they were the ones who came out and took the computer. 

Late this evening I talked to the San Jose Police who were on duty 
"down at the station."  Just for the record, they are Lera and 
Morales.  I mentioned that San Jose may be liable in this odd 
business, but they felt it was purely a post office problem. 

Not long after Robert called the Milpitas Police (coincidence I hope) 
Dirmeyer called and told Robert they were finished with his machines, 
that he had to get down to a postal facility in San Jose (1st and 
St John) at 8:30 am Saturday and pick them up or he couldn't get his 
system back till Tuesday, and that he (Dirmeyer) was leaving Saturday
morning to go back to TN.  Robert told Dirmeyer he wants the system back, 
but how about *they* bring it back, since Robert is sick, and not up 
to moving the hardware, and may not be able to round up enough friends 
to move it. I don't know what is going to happen, but I plan to be 
down there in a few hours to see what goes down, and get a look at the 
Dirmeyer.  (*I* can't help, I am on crutches at the moment.) 

I made a few more calls myself this evening.  Unfortunately the 
holiday has the US government shut down until Tuesday.  The few people 
I could reach, a Postal Officer in SF named Bishop, and an FBI agent 
who only gave his shift and title, were of limited help.  The FBI 
agent said that a Federal Agent should give a *local* contact when you 
ask who his supervisor is even if he is working out of his district.
(He was kind of boggled by the idea of an out-of-area supervisor who 
couldn't be contacted anyway because he was at a conference.  Where's 
his *deputy*?)  The Postal Officer was originally quite concerned, but 
(in a call back to me after about 10 minutes) said he was unable to 
contact any agents at this hour of the night, and that I should take 
it up Tuesday. 

If Dirmeyer and White are distinct, I am going to be doing some heavy-
duty apologizing.  If they are not, it raises some really odd 

What is an officer of the law doing asking a Federal Judge for a 
warrant for the seizure of records when (assuming he was making 
copies) he must *have* records of whatever correspondence he had with 
AA?  Was "Lance White" included in the affidavit to cover another 
reason for the warrant?  For example, could they have been trying to 
conduct an illegal sweep of email on the AA board?  Was the Judge 
informed of how easy this would be? 

Did Inspector Dirmeyer *tell* Judge Brazil that he was also "Lance 
White"?  Would a Judge sign a warrant this misleading? 

*Did* a Judge sign the warrant?  For that matter, is "Dirmeyer" really 
a postal inspector?  He gave me a number for his boss, but said his 
boss was out of contact for the week.  I tried tonight, and the number 
I gave in a previous note does not answer, no voice mail or anything; 
not definite, but most Federal offices have *something*. 

I am distributing this at 5 am in kind of a rough form to the CP list 
and some other groups.  Please let me update it before it goes too 
far.  I will do my best to update by early afternoon. 

Keith Henson

Update Saturday noon.  Back from seeing Robert's sons and friend pick 
up his computer equipment, and a 10-minute chat with Postal Inspector
Dirmeyer, and a San Jose Police officer by the name of Weidner.  At 
least one point is clear, David Dirmeyer and Lance White are the same 
person:  I simply asked him, and he admitted it. I also found out why 
he was willing to talk to me during the search.  He figured that 
anybody who starts quoting chapter and section from the Federal Code 
must be his target's lawyer. [Dirmeyer reminds me somewhat of one of 
my cousins when he was about 18.  My cousin was tall and gangly, and 
given to putting on a hick act.] 

Dirmeyer/White seemed completely unconcerned with having generated any 
liability for the government under the ECPA or the Newspaper Privacy 
Protection Act (2000aa).  He backed this up by being very proud of 
getting the system (well, most of it anyway) back to the sysop in 
under a week.  [The Electronic Frontier Foundation *has* had a 
positive effect:  this is the first time I ever heard of any LEA's 
caring how long they take to return a computer.]  He was very 
confident that a judge would dismiss any civil lawsuit brought by the 
users because of what he perceived as criminal obscenity activities by 
the sysop.  How actions, criminal or not, of one person (the sysop) 
cancels the rights of others (email customers) to civil recovery from 
those who block access to their email is beyond me.  If that did not 
get them off the hook, Dirmeyer figured they would get out of civil 
liability claims because they interrupted people's email access for 
such a short time, as opposed to the lengthy time the Secret Service 
kept Steve Jackson's BBS.  

I can almost quote from memory the relevant sections of the ECPA, and 
*I* don't remember any time limits under which the civil penalties of 
law do not apply ("But Judge, I only exceeded the speed limit for a 
*few* miles!"). I wonder how the Postal Service would react to someone 
locking *their* patrons out of a local office and away from their mail 
boxes for a week? 

I expressed my hope (as a San Jose resident and taxpayer) to Officer 
Weidner that the Post Office had agreed to take responsibility for any 
civil liability arising out of the case.  He was close to uncivil in 
stating that I had no standing in the case, and it was none of my 
concern.  He advised me to butt out of being involved in any way.  He 
asked if I had ever *seen* the material on that BBS (my answer was 
no), and expressed the opinion that I would be smeared by it and 
greatly regret getting involved. 

Back to Dirmeyer, I asked him about the warrant.  He said that what he 
did is ordinary investigation practice, including sending people 
unsolicited material and then picking it up under a warrant.  I asked 
him if the Judge knew, and he assured me the Judge was fully aware 
that the person getting a warrant for "Lance White's" correspondence 
was also Lance White.  He also said the Judge was aware of the 2000aa 
and ECPA issues, and that they were under orders not to look at 
anything labeled email.  For some reason, this did not reassure me. 

I also asked them why they did not just get a court order and back the 
material up in the field?  They said it would take far to long.  I 
know this to be untrue.  They certainly spent more time at Robert's 
house taking the system appart and moving it than a backup to tape 
would have taken. 

Robert's sons and a friend got the last pieces of the computer down to 
the lobby and we parted company with a few comments on my part about 
Postal Service agents legally sending kiddy porn through the mail, 
like the Nebraska case recently ruled entrapment by the Supreme Court. 

Just one minor thing to add.  Because of a persistent back injury, I 
am on crutches most of the time.  I was making my way across the lobby 
of the old Post office nearing the doors.  Dirmeyer and Weidner passed 
me, opened the doors, went through and let them swing shut in my face.  
I guess scum like me is below their notice. 

Keith Henson


TUCoPS is optimized to look best in Firefox® on a widescreen monitor (1440x900 or better).
Site design & layout copyright © 1986-2024 AOH