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            ((Editors Comments in double parentheses - Homer))

                           THE STORY OF ELECTRA

                                EXM - 29B
                              22 April 1994

                  Copyright (C) 1994 Homer Wilson Smith
        Redistribution rights granted for non commercial purposes.

      In August 1991 we had just come back from 100 hours of auditing
with Filbert.  I was still just barely able to crawl across the floor
from my bed to the bathroom, to puke in the toilet, but I was doing
better in life and looking around to see what I could salvage of my

      One of the things that happened was we bought a couple of personal
computers for our business and got connected to the internet sort of by
force of change at Cornell.

      One day I was 'surfing' the alt.groups and purely by accident I
came across alt.religion.scientology.  A jolt kind of went through my
spine, a mixture of fear, jealousy and excitement.  In trepidation I
signed on and began to read what was there.

      What I found was endless noise and bashing with hardly a defense by
the Church in sight.  I really wanted to post something in return but I
was terrified out of my wits, not only of the Church, but also that all
my wog contacts that I worked with would finally find out I was a
Scientologist.  I had managed to keep it a secret from them for 8 years,
and I was not prepared to ruin it now.

      So I kept quiet and eventually signed off the list in disgust.  It
was JUST bashers talking to each other.  How sad.

      A few months later, around November maybe, I signed back on to see
what was going on, and there was some discussion between bashers and
Churchies so at least someone was defending Scientology, but as usual
the Churchies were making greater asses of themselves than they were

      But I continued to read, always one keystroke away from telling
these bashers where they could put it.

      Then one day out of the blue came a posting from vfz at world.com or
some such thing, a clearly forged address.  It was signed Electra, and
to this day I remember what she said.

      She said (from memory),

      "There are 3 kinds of people in the world.

      Those that love Scientology and love the Church (Churchies).

      Those that love Scientology and hate the Church (Free Zoners).

      Those that hate Scientology and hate the Church (Bashers).

      Which are you?"

      I would add that there is a fourth group,

      Those that hate Scientology and love the Church (Upper management)

      Apparently Electra was posting anonymously via various 'outlaw'
backdoor methods that were well known to the internet community but were
sort of non trivial to implement.  Her posting and method of entrance
electrified the entire atmosphere on the group and things have never
been the same since.

      I want to go over just what Electra was doing in some detail
because it is important to the history of what happened and will also
give you some insight into the growth of more conventional anonymous
servers that everyone uses to this day.

      Both mail and usenet news use special protocols to convey their
messages from machine to machine.  Just like when you telnet to another
machine and logon using telnet protocols, machines can telnet to special
ports on other machines where rather than getting the familiar logon
prompt, they are presented with the mail or news server.

      Mail works with a protocol called SMTP (Simple Mail Transport
Protocol) and news works with NNTP (Network News Transport Protocol.)

      NNTP is not hard to use, the manuals documenting its various
commands and procedures are readily available and in fact any one can
telnet to various machines that take news and actually talk to that
machine's news server by hand if they know the right commands.

      This is not something you are not supposed to know, its not even
stuff you are not supposed to use, in fact there is a group called
alt.forgery that is openly devoted to how to use the SMTP and NNTP
protocols to send and receive anonymous mail.  It's called forgery in
the lingo because the usual way to send anonymous mail is to give the
receiving news server on the remote host a false header containing your
forged name and machine name including the message you want to send.

      Since the machines that hand news back and forth do not check the
accuracy of the headers, anyone who knows how to talk SMTP directly to a
receiving machine can essentially hand it any message with anyone's
address in the header, and in fact people often do this as pranks or
malicious mischief.  The most useful purpose it serves though is not to
come across as someone else to get them in trouble, but to create a
fictitious name and return address for yourself that no one can trace.

      As I said learning how to do all this is no small feat, but a
number of shell scripts have been written that do all the work for you,
you just hand the script your message, and it links up to the NNTP port
of your nearest machine, creates a false header of your choice and sends
it.  These are in common use in the alt.porn binaries groups where
people submit girlie (and not so girlie) pictures all the time using
anonymous headers.

      Apparently Electra was well versed in all this and she used
Electra at vfz.anonymous to identify herself.  I presume VFZ stood for A
Voice of the Free Zone.

      You got to remember that this was long before anonymous servers
came into being that made anonymous mail easy, painless and available to
the masses.

      Although anyone could 'forge' an address using a direct connection
to an NNTP site, very few knew how to do it, so it was kind of a big
deal when something like this came across the net.  It meant the person
posting anonymously was serious about what they were doing and probably
knowledgeable in the ways of the internet.

      I am going to present a few more technical points for history's
sake and then we will get on with the rest of the story.

      Most machines that act as NNTP sites, which means they are running
news servers and are available to receive news from other machines, also
have a list that details exactly which machines in the surrounding world
are allowed to give them news.  This limits the number of machines that
can connect to them to feed them news.  Most machines don't want to get
news from just anyone.  So they have a list of who is allowed to connect
to them and if your machine isn't on that list it won't accept your
connection attempt.

      As usual in the unix world, such things are often left in a default
state when the operating software is first installed and unless the
system administrator explicitly sets it to what he wants he will find
himself operating under the default state of the software.

      The default state for NNTP software is to allow EVERYONE to post
news to your machine.  ((This is not true with innd)).  The system
administrator has to know about a special control file that NNTP uses to
limit who it is willing to receive news from, and he must set it up to
limit who can send his machine news.  A lot of admins either do not know
about the file or they choose to ignore it figuring it will never be any
trouble to them.

      Thus if you are a person who wants to post anonymously you have to
find a machine that will accept your effort to connect to its NNTP port.
Since MOST machines have their special files set up to limit who can
talk to them, it can be hard to find a machine whose NNTP ports are
still open to the whole world.

      This kind of knowledge is so valuable in fact that those on
alt.forgery jealously guard this data in secret files that they only
share with others that they trust not to be a jerk about it.  This is
because if too many people start to use an open NNTP site, they may
increase the load on the machine or otherwise piss off the sys admin
with inappropriate or even illegal postings and thus get that site's
NNTP port shut down to general use.

      Now most of the time people don't complain about anonymous
postings, they WANT their porn to come on through on alt.porn, they WANT
the latest dirt on the Clinton's to come down on alt.dirt, so in fact
many machines have anonymous postings going through them all the time
and the sys admin never notices and never takes action to close down the
NNTP port.  As long as people don't abuse the port, no one cares.

      Other sys admins know damn well that anonymous postings are going
through their system and they leave the NNTP port open on purpose,
either because they believe in the principles of anonymous postings or
they want the porn too.  THESE systems are the most valuable, because
even if someone complains to such a sys admin about anonymous postings
going through their system, he is likely to say "So what?" and tell them
to take a walk.

      On the other hand a sys admin that is seriously worried about 'who
is posting what' through his site, can take steps to trace anon postings
coming through his machine once he knows to look for them, assuming that
more come through once he is alerted.

      Each posting that comes across has a Path: line in its header that
shows the names of all the machines the posting has traversed to get to
you.  Anyone reading a posting can check the Path: line to see where
that posting came from and how it got to your site.

      The very last name in the line is the machine the posting was
originally sent FROM.  The next to last name is the machine the posting
was sent TO, and the rest of the names convey the further machines the
posting was passed on to before it got to you.  Since each machine that
gets a posting adds its name to the BEGINNING of the list, your own site
where you are reading the posting will be the first name in the Path:

      There is no way to forge the path line except for the very last
item which of course is the machine you are posting FROM.  The machine
you are posting TO assumes that the person doing the posting is honest
and takes whatever name is handed it as the name of the machine being
posted FROM.  So people make sure to hand over some non existent name,
and that way the original posting machine can not be traced.

      However the machine that the person is posting TO puts its name
right there on the path line and that can't be changed or forged.  So if
a forged posting comes in that they don't like, the first thing people
do is contact the sys admin at the machine that was posted TO and tell
him to start looking out for anon postings coming into his system.

      If he chooses to pursue the matter he will get himself involved in
quite a lot of work.

      He has to turn on special logging software that logs every
transaction coming into his machine, which often numbers in the tens of
thousands, and he has to search the postings one by one for the
anonymous name that the person is using assuming he isn't changing it
wildly every time.

      If the sys admin catches the posting, he can easily see what
machine the person is SAYING they are posting from which is a forgery,
but he can also look at the exact packet data that will tell him the
actual machine it really is coming from.  This all takes an enormous
amount of time and effort.  He still won't know WHO is sending the data
though because that information is not contained in the packet data.

      Once the posting has been fully received by his machine, the
original packet data is lost and the opportunity for finding the name of
the real machine it was posted from is lost, so this really has to be
done in real time.

      In any case, he may never find out exactly WHO is sending the
posting, but if he can catch a posting coming in AS IT IS BEING POSTED,
he can know which machine it is being posted FROM, and then by
communicating with the sys admin of that machine he can find out who was
on at that time and who might be making such postings.  If the complaint
against the anonymous poster is serious enough, the sys admin of the
posting machine can be talked into searching through all the files of
all users who were on at the time to see if he can find the posting that
was posted, which of course would locate who posted it.  There are also
posting logs on the machine the posting was posted from, and if the
times in those logs match the times the posting was received at the
other machine, then it can be assumed that that was the person who sent
the posting.

      People can and have been traced in this fashion, but its a LOT of
work for both sys admins and you really have to piss someone off to get
that kind of attention.

      However tracing efforts do happen and if you are posting important
or controversial material you can get kind of worried about who is
trying to track you down.

      For this reason people who are posting serious material often take
to changing, every couple of postings, which machine they are posting
TO, which makes it real hard for any particular sys admin to catch
postings coming in, because by the time they are alerted to watch for
them, the poster is already posting to another machine.  The problem
however is FINDING such machines with open NNTP sites willing to take
postings from just anyone, because they are rare and far between.  So
constantly changing the machine you are posting TO is a real pain.

      Thus people who are worried about being traced usually don't get
into long winded communications with people, as every posting they make
opens the door to be traced if some sys admin is on the alert for them.
They post what they need, and they get the hell out of there and let
things cool off.

      So it was within this highly charged atmosphere that Electra was
posting into a hot bed of natter and criticism from really vile, crass
and mindless folks most of whom have left never to be heard from again,
thank God.

      A few of these bashers however were incensed at Electra's
anonymity, they apparently considered it a threat to their personal
freedom.  Electra explained in great detail, as you have seen, why she
was posting anonymously, she explained the dangers involved in
criticizing the Church and her experiences with it, but these few
bashers just wouldn't have any of that, and they insisted that she show
herself or be branded a coward.

      One of them went a bit further.

      Somewhere just after Electra posted EXM-29, the following letter
arrived on a.r.s from one Nick Papadakis at MIT.  He was the news admin
for a small site called mintaka at MIT university, and he had received a
private e-mail from one Scott Goehring, one of the more vocal bashers
attacking Electra.

      Scott in fact seemed, from the tone of his attacks on Electra, to
be almost hysterically driven to distraction by Electra's postings and
anonymity.  He just couldn't stand the fact that he couldn't shut her
up, and so he wrote all the news admins of the various sites that
Electra had used to post anonymously to, telling them their news site
was being abused by Electra's anonymous 'forgeries' and if they were of
a mind, they should do something about it.

      You might ask how did Scott find out which machines Electra was
posting to?

      Although no one ever found out where Electra was posting FROM, it
was easy to tell where she was posting TO because that was contained as
the next to last machine named in the Path: header in the postings

      A typical path line would say

      Path: lots of stuff .....  !mintaka!world.com

      Electra was posting FROM world.com TO mintaka, which then passed it
on to endless numbers of other machines to get to the rest of the world.
World.com was a forgery and didn't exist, mintaka was quite real.

      So anyone reading the posting could tell where she had posted TO,
and in fact some people originally thought that world.com was real too.
No doubt they tried to finger Electra at world.com to see who Electra
really was, and of course found out that world.com didn't exist.

      They then complained about how they had been 'fooled' and how
cowardly, dishonest and deceitful Electra had been to use a pretend
name.  There was a lot of indignant complaints about Electra's 'forged'
name and how she was trying to fool everyone etc.  So she changed her
name to simply Electra at vfz.anonymous so that at least no one could
complain about the treachery.

      Electra explained very calmly that she had no intention of fooling
people or making them think her address was real, she explained very
carefully that she didn't want to 'forge' anyone else's name, or fool
anyone, but only to use an anonymous pen name for her own protection.

      It turns out that the people who screamed and yelled the most
bitterly about how deceitful and underhanded Electra's anonymous
postings were, were the very people who had the most knowledge of
anonymous postings through their own involvement in alt.forgery!  This I
checked out for myself.

      Anyhow, Nick worked as the news admin at mintaka and received
Scott's letter.  He saw fit to respond to the letter and repost his
response plus Scott's letter to the a.r.s.  newsgroup publicly.

      Now you have all read most of what Electra had posted to a.r.s,
because I have reposted it as EXM-1 through EXM-29.  There may have been
some small exchanges that Electra chose to not send me for reposting,
but what I have reposted is pretty much what she originally put on the
net.  You can judge for yourself whether Scott Goehring's description of
her material fits it well.

      Anyhow, Electra took all this in stride and a few weeks later she
posted 9 more postings in one day, probably to avoid giving the tracers
any time to catch her act.  She posted them through mintaka as before
probably figuring that since Nick had stood up for her before it was
safe to continue posting through that site.  She wrote a letter to Nick
thanking him for his strong stand for freedom of speech, which you will
read in EXM-30, and she called for the creation of a new news group
devoted to the Free Zone.

      Nothing ever came of that call for the new group, and Electra was
never heard from again.

      I personally checked the NNTP port at mintaka after Goehring's
letter was posted to the net and it was still open which meant that Nick
had decided to leave it open.  And Electra did use it one more time in
her last 9 postings.  But then I checked that same port again many
months later and it was closed.  It is possible that the tracers had
gone above Nick's head to his bosses and gotten THEM to get Nick to
close the port.

      The pressures towards silence in this universe are tremendous.

      So that is Electra's story as I remember it and have been able to
piece it together.  I kept Nick's letter for posterity, hoping someday
to be able to live up to what he had done for me.  As I said Electra's
postings meant a lot to me, and Scott Goehring's attitude and actions
incensed me no end, but there was little I could or was willing to do
about it at the time.

      It was only a LONG time later that this little dream of Electra's
started to foment in my mind as I began to regain my strength and nerve
from my auditing, mostly of her material.

      I remember making my first postings to a.r.s., practically scared
out of my wits, kind of pretending to not be myself, but using my own
name.  When I lived through the week, my car didn't blow up, my house
wasn't bombed, I became more confident and started to post more on what
my real feelings were.

      One day I received a disk in the mail without a return address.  I
opened it up and plugged it into my computer.  It had the Electra
Material on it.  There was no note, no instructions, no explanation, no
nothing, just the postings.

      To my unconstrained joy I found that Electra HAD continued to write
after she had left off at EXM-38, (I thought she had been taken out by
the Church) and she had seen fit to send the whole series to me.  I have
spent the time since reading and rereading them, studying them in every
detail, and auditing the hell out of the processes and concepts that she
gave me.  The entire series called ADO-1 through ADO-10 came directly
from her material as I gradually made her material 'my own'.

      After that though the little red disk sat on my desk for a LONG
time while I considered long and hard what the future of a chicken might
look like.

      When I finally saw what was at the end of that trail, I saw I had a
job to do, and I did it.

      The rest is history.

      I couldn't have done it if the material hadn't worked.


  Article 1359 of alt.religion.scientology
  Newsgroups alt.religion.scientology
  Path batcomputer!rpi!zaphod.mps.ohio-
  From nick at ghoti.lcs.mit.edu (Nick Papadakis)
  Subject An open letter to Electra, Scott Goehring, and the readers of
this newsgroup
  In-Reply-To Electra at vfz.anonymous's message of 27 Jan 92 231634 GMT
  Message-ID <NICK.92Jan27214102 at ghoti.lcs.mit.edu>
  Followup-To alt.religion.scientology
  Sender news at mintaka.lcs.mit.edu
  Organization MIT Laboratory for Computer Science
  References <27jan92-83791 at vfz.anonymous>
  Date Tue, 28 Jan 1992 024102 GMT
  Lines 42

      Hello.  I am the system manager for the Laboratory for Computer
Science at MIT.  I recently received the following message

> To usenet at mintaka.lcs.mit.edu
> Subject forged postings originating at your site
> Date Mon, 27 Jan 92 091624 -0500
> From Scott Goehring <goehring at mentor.cc.purdue.edu>

>     There has been a recent spate of forged postings to
>alt.religion.scientology originating from your site.  The poster in
>question is being belligerent and harassing.  Since this same poster
>has also been forging postings from several other sites on the USENET,
>I thought I would bring the probably unauthorized use of your news
>system to your attention.
>     I shall include the headers of the most recent article which
>appears to have been forged at your site for your reference.
>     Thank you for your time.
>     Scott Goehring

      Mr.  Goehring, I believe you need a short lesson in the operation
of free speech.  I have no particular opinions on the subject of this
newsgroup, but I took the trouble to read some of the "belligerent and
harassing" postings of which you speak, and, frankly, they weren't.

      It seems to me that your attempt to characterize them as such stems
from a desire to stifle ideas with which you disagree.  I have no
intention of cooperating with you in this.  The remedy for speech with
which you disagree is more speech, not a silencing (the rather low
signal-to-noise ratio on usenet notwithstanding).

      If these postings offend you, I suggest you find out how "kill
files" work, rather than wasting the time of overworked system
administrators who aren't being underpaid to deal with this sort of

      - nick

Homer Wilson Smith           This file may be found at
homer at lightlink.com          ftp.lightlink.com/pub/homer/act/EXM29B.MEMO

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Therefore, Learning with Certainty implies Learning, but 
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