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Congress has already asked the Office of Technology Assessment to gauge the effect of burgeoning computer data base and telecommunications systems on our civil liberties. Can law keep up with technology?

"Technology leaps ahead, and the law stands still," observes Senator Patrick J. Leahy. "Technology eats away at what we assume are our protections in the Constitution.... Within a decade, our privacy is going to be as rare commodity as the old hand-cranked telephone."

Perhaps not, but it will take some creativity to come up with the solutions.

Writing in the programmer's monthly Dr. Dobb's Journal, Dean Gengle warns computer users: "It's important that, in the discussion of what is and is not 'computer crime,' we not let high-priced 'security consultants' or politicians with their own axes to grind make our laws for us."

Genge, author of "The Netweaver's Sourcebook," adds, "It is especially important that we not let the rare occurrence of a 'hacker break-in' distract us from the larger potentially more serious issues at hand."

Good advice.


      "Congress shall make no law . . .
      abridging the freedom of speech, or of
      the press; or the right of the people
      peaceably to assemble
      and to petition the Government
      for a redress of grievances."

          First Amendment to the
          U.S. Constitutio


Thanks to Paul Bernstein and George Trubow for taking the time to answer so many questions. The interviews, in other forms, have appeared in the office automation section of the Chicago Lawyer monthly newspaper. They are used with permission of the editor, Rob Warden, who has encouraged my investigation into issues surrounding computers and privacy law.

Harry M. Goodman and Donna Hall, coordinators of the Legal Conference on California's WELL BBS, assumed the task of encouraging the discussion of Bulletin Boards and Law held on that conference during the first two weeks of June, 1985. They and other SYSOPS deserve more thanks than this for their serious discussion of these matters and their educational campaign regarding privacy and computers.

Robert Jacobson, consultant to California Assembly Representative Gwuen Moore, provided answers and copies of materials, as did Ted Blanchard from California State Senator John Doolittle's office.

Portions of the material on the LEIU came from an article in the Public Eye magazine.

The staff and attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Unions of Northern and Southern California provided much useful material.

David Kaplan of the Center for Investigative Reporting in California generously extended permission to quote extensively from his exceptionally-detailed study of government information gathering systems.

Material from Richard Criley was extracted from a brochure on First Amendment Rights published by the Bill of Rights Foundation in Chicago.

About the author:

Chip Berlet is a staff researcher at Chicago's Midwest Research, a privately-funded independent tax-exempt organization. He is secretary of the National Lawyers Guild Civil Liberties Committee and edits the Public Eye Magazine, which is associated with the Committee.

As a journalist he has written numerous articles on civil liberties and related topics appearing in diverse publications ranging from the Chicago Sun-Times to Alternative Media magazine. He spent three years as a paralegal investigator at Chicago's Better Government Association conducting pre-trial research on illegal government surveillance abuse for the ACLU's "Red Squad" lawsuit.

As managing SYSOP of AMNET-1 BBS in Chicago, he is working with a group of computer hobbyists and political activists to establish a network of Bulletin Boards to assist the movement for social change by providing textbased computerized information retrieval systems.

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