History of L.Detweiler

First cyberspatial sightings

L.Detweiler began posting to the cypherpunks list at about the beginning of 1993. He was obviously immediately enthralled with the list and the philosophy of promoting privacy espoused on it, and sent articles to the list with an increasing frequency and enthusiasm. One of his early articles proposed the idea of creating cheap, toy "cryptophones" for kids to play with to advance the idea of encryption and privacy to the world in a nonthreatening, fun way.

Despite the existence of the E.Hughes soda.berkeley.edu FTP site he lamented a lack of consolodated information about the cypherpunk movement and goals, i.e. in a FAQ form. Something as simple as a list of the cypherpunk remailers was not even available. He built up a list of the remailers and this formed the basis of one of his early FAQs, Identity, Privacy and Anonymity on the Internet, and a later one, Anonymity on the Internet. The latter branched out of his interest in promoting the Helsingius server (anon.penet.fi) that had just been established. (This server has almost been too successful for its own good, after the initial lightning hostility it become popularized around the entire Internet and while still alive is burdened by massive traffic.)

It became clear that Detweiler's flashy posting style offended the California cypherpunk founders. His frequent and elaborate articles tended to eclipse other members, and Detweiler had a small tolerance for what he perceived as ego-assuagement, pretension, or hypocrisy. Frequently he was in the middle of massive flamewars on the list with a now infamous "no holds barred" inflammatory style. But he also posted many neutral and creative posts on the core Cypherpunk topics of cryptography, remailers, politics, governments, digital cash, PGP, the NSA, etc., as well as minute analyses of current events involving cyberspatial developments. He was enraged at the introduction of the Clipper chip and immediately posted extremely hostile letters attacking D.Denning, and lobbied long and publicly against the key escrow scheme.

The "California Clique" clash

Detweiler went through many phases of posting but the most critical personal crisis began in about October of 1993. He posted what he called an "introspective note" wandering aloud why he was flamed so hotly despite his best attempts to serve the Cypherpunks and the "Movement". This led to some amazing epiphanies witnessed as a wrenching anguish in his messages over the next few months.

Detweiler seemed at first to come to the conclusion that the list politics was dominated by the "CA Clique" factor: the California posters and founders of the list, at the same time inviting people from around the world to join the "public" list, simultaneously ridiculed the outsiders when their opinions conflicted with the leaders'. Detweiler felt that this was extremely dishonest and troublesome, and highly destructive to group spirit, morale, and unity.

The Joy of Pseudospoofing

After observing a nagging disharmony in the cypherpunks list, Detweiler began to "slip" further. He claimed to have found an even more sinister pattern where the key participants and even the leaders of the list promoted deceit under the guise of "privacy". That is, rooted in their rhetoric about privacy, they were actually advancing a different agenda. He claimed that when the various CA cypherpunks talked about the books "Enders Game" by Orson Scott Card and "True Names" by Vernor Vinge, they were actually living out the scenarios in the books. He claimed they were posting covertly under semi-anonymous aliases that no one was aware of to influence public opinion. He used this as a mechanism to explain why there was so much hostility to his opinions: a few people could create the illusion that his ideas were ridiculed by many on the list by posting under different names, and that on the surface this might appear to be a "clique" but was actually something more systematic and "depraved".

Detweiler called the practice "pseudospoofing" and said that it was "close to the number one crime by cypherpunk standards" because it involved deception in identity, and the integrity of identity was essential to the privacy the cypherpunks advocated through encryption. (Roughly speaking, the term "spoof" in the cryptographic vocabulary is the situation where an "attacker" deceives a "sender" about his identity and thereby gains access to secret messages). A key, subtle component of his arguments claimed that the cypherpunks are actually interested in a kind of clandestine pseudonymity, a sort of "pseudoanonymity" in which the receiver of a message is systematically tricked into believing in the existence and credibility of anonymous entities. Detweiler explored the issue in depth and from many angles in many posts over many months, provoking a cyberspatial flamewar of legendary status.

At first Detweiler beseeched the cypherpunk "leaders", who he regarded T.C.May and E.Hughes, and sometimes J.Gilmore, to "come clean" about what they were really advocating. He started in private mail but advanced and escalated his campaign to public forums, even newsgroups such as talk.politics.crypto. They either flatly refused or were evasive, or actually answered the questions by saying they didn't think there was anything immoral or unethical about "pseudospoofing" as Detweiler implied. With what he called their "stonewalling" Detweiler eventually became increasingly hostile and enraged, saying they had "betrayed" him.

Searing satire of S. Boxx

During the period of attacking various cypherpunks and particularly the "big three" cypherpunk leaders (Hughes, Gilmore, May) for their "stonewalling" over the pseudospoofing issue, Detweiler frequently used an alias an12070@anon.penet.fi, and changed the name associated with the address to, at various times, "S.Boxx", "The Executioner", "CRAP (Cryptoanarchist Repression and Poison", "Pablo Escobar", etc. Under the name, he compared pseudospoofers variously to conspiracists, sodomists, and drug users. These were apparently mostly inspired by feedback he claimed to be receiving from various cypherpunks. For example, S.McCandlish posted a letter to newsgroups quoting John Gilmore as defending drug use. S.Boxx also frequently wrote about a secret "counterrevolutionary" group or police force working against the Cypherpunk "conspiracy". "Boxx" also publicly attacked others as "tentacles" and various email addresses "cryptoanarchist infiltration sites". At first he seemed to try to keep his identity as this poster secret. But as time advanced, he began to blend his postings between his real and pseudonymous identity.

Detweiler seemed to be amused at playing a game of hinting of his real identity in pseudonymous posts and the great commotions that their appearances caused. He appeared to delight in trampling on whatever cypherpunks considered sacred, including fanaticism for anonymity, and watching as an increasing majority of cypherpunks realized his secret identity. He also claimed at times that he was deliberately demonstrating the havoc that could be wrought through the use of what he called "pseudoanonymity" (when the reader of a message is not aware of the pseudonymous identity of the sender). He pointed to how much chaos he could sow with a single identity that everyone *knew* was anonymous, and that the dangers of fake identities not recognized as such were far greater.

This period involved a great number of cypherpunks mailing Detweiler or posting to the list to ask him to stop his "jihad". But Detweiler sensed that "the leaders" were stonewalling. As evidence, he alluded to all kinds of supposedly incriminating elements that he never really described. He became increasingly melodramatic and at times, seemed to post messages bordering on insanity. He invented new terms like "tentacles" or "Medusa" to describe the "rampant pseudospoofing" on the cypherpunks list that he claimed was "brainwashing" innocent, unsuspecting outsiders. He claimed that "double agents" were tormenting him by filling his mailbox with attempts to glean his secret knowledge. His paranoia surpassed even the heightened degree of the cypherpunks who had themselves elevated it almost to a religion.

Exploring the evidence

Descending to the deeper depths of what others saw as Detweiler's delusional abyss he began to write lengthy, thorough articles about the dangers of pseudospoofing, its use as a powerful propaganda tool, and the liberatian extremist politics on the Internet he described as "cyberanarchy". Various articles were published in Risks Digest and Computer Underground Digest. Detweiler counted these as great victories for promoting awareness of the practice. The articles were highly speculative in tone, however. Detweiler continually claimed to have evidence that everything he was hinting about was really happening, but never elaborated, apparently attempting to instead get others to "come forward" and admit complicity. He urged other cypherpunk members to exert pressure on others to do so, and complained that the majority of cypherpunks weren't really interested in the truth or ethics of their leaders and were "braindead".

However, deep in all the vitriolic froth he was routinely posting to the cypherpunks list to deliberately provoke massive flamewars (saying this was like giving anarchists a taste of their own medicine), Detweiler did eventually allude to two important facts he had uncovered in private mail to cypherpunks. Detweiler claimed that T.C.May once wrote him in a message in which he admitted to "experimenting" with pseudospoofing but stopping later. This seemed to be inconsistent with later claims of May's that he had "never" used the practice. Another private message he received supposedly came from Doug Barnes, who said that the practice of pseudospoofing was liberating, and that E.Hughes had introduced him to the practice.

Other anomalies were present. E.Hughes wrote to Risks that he had never posted under an identity other than his own. But the message was worded in such a way as to seem to imply that he didn't even use anonymous remailers, ever (a farfetched position considering he had himself helped to invent them). The "leaders" did conspicuously refrain from posting any indication of whether they had used the technique, or wrote long or terse defenses of their "privacy" or the practice itself. Hughes wrote, "that which cannot be enforced should not be prohibited". May and Gilmore wrote similar defenses.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The cypherpunks began to retaliate against Detweiler's one-man anti-pseudospoofing campaign with vicious, escalating assaults. Perry Metzger sent Detweiler a mailbomb, and Detweiler complained of many mailbombs during this period. When Detweiler revealed Metzger had bombed him, others on the cypherpunks list said he had "invaded his privacy" by posting details of "private" mail. In one case D.Barnes attempted to track down administrators and Detweiler's employer at the school he was attending (Colorado State University, Ft.Collins Colorado). Detweiler was clearly rattled by the hostility but continued to post even more inflammatory writing even despite repercussions and warnings from his system administrator, Steve Dempsey.

Detweiler began to see even more sinister conspiracies in the cypherpunks. He said that they were really involved in a propaganda campaign across the Internet to promote anarchy, black marketeering, tax evasion, pornography distribution, etc. in different newsgroups and mailing lists. He said that they may be involved in bribing reporters or at least had questionably "cozy" ties to them. As evidence of possible deceit, he said he had been unable to find the photographer Larry Dyer of the first Wired Cypherpunks article, and he suggested that the name was fictional. He said that the cypherpunks were manipulating the media to glean articles that championed them as "digital freedom fighters" and mask their more subversive agendas. Detweiler claimed that the heart of their cynicism about governments disguised the cypherpunks' real stance: anti-democracy anarchism.

Detweiler was particularly inflamed by and hostile to T.C.May, a retired millionaire chip engineer who worked for Intel. May invented a organization he called "BlackNet" that was interested in selling industrial or political espionage secrets. The scheme was for the system to work via anonymous remailers and encrypted traffic, and the early public announcements introducing its existence were posted anonymously. Detweiler claimed that May was behind the organization. After many months, May did eventually admit that he had invented BlackNet, but only as an "experiment". Detweiler claimed that to the contrary May was seriously interested in the aims of Blacknet.

A potpourri of projects

After total alienation and disillusionment with the cypherpunk group, Detweiler began to escalate his anti-"cryptoanarchist" campaign to an even hotter degree. (At one point even J.Helsingius, operator of the anonymous server anon.penet.fi, terminated Detweiler's S.Boxx alias after complaints became too hot to handle.) Detweiler tried to start a splinter group from the Cypherpunks called the "cypherwonks" to draw off what he called the "honest" members. He was interested in advancing a new group dedicated to "Electronic Democracy". The list enjoyed some initial activity and interest but members were driven from it by flames and anonymous posts from cypherpunks and Detweiler's own emotional posts that seemed to suggest he thought he was in the middle of a war in cyberspace of epic proportions.

Detweiler also began to experiment with cypherpunk remailers more assiduously. He began to post his messages to diverse newsgroups in what appeared to be more desperate attempts to exert pressure on the cypherpunks to "come clean" about their true agendas. These variously depicted May as a Nazi who was using identity-subversion techniques of the Germans used in WWII, comparing pseudospoofing to a real German espionage effort called "Operation North Pole". He invented a satirical game called "SQUISH" attempting to get others to find, pursue, and hunt down people posting "pseudoanonymously", sending it to about a hundred mailing lists through the cypherpunk anonymous remailers.

Recent Accomplishments

In recent times Detweiler's activities seem to have waned in their intensity or at least in their height of publicity. He may have been behind a campaign for "censorship reform" at Netcom, posting anonymous messages about a case of censorship at the site. An April Fools prank on the cypherpunks list where someone discovered a way to build a self-replicating anonymous remailer explosion may have been due to him. Some theorize that he was behind a pseudonym, "Sue D. Nym", nym@netcom.com who posted a few brief messages to the group.

It does appear that Detweiler was behind a prolific alias, tmp@netcom.com, who posted many messages, posing as different people, to talk.politics.crypto and news.admin.policy before apparently being censored by Netcom administrator Bruce Woodcock. tmp@netcom.com delighted in tasteless irony such as posting vicious satire under a signature such as "Beavis N. Butthead", and then turning around to complain about its vituperative tone as "Linda Lollipop".

The person posted private mail received in newsgroups, and was one of the most deliberately offensive and insulting entities to grace the Internet in recent times. tmp@netcom.com was particularly hostile to T.C.May's "cryptoanarchist" agenda, but out of boredom seemed to seep into news.admin.policy to criticize news administrators for their "capricious" and "oppressive" policy of censoring users without a systematic review or universal guidelines, something he was certainly qualified to speak about from experience.

The L.Detweiler saga in retrospect

The Detweiler story does not appear to have strongly coherent themes or meanings. In messages posted by tmp@netcom.com, the Shakespearean quote "It is a tale full of sound and fury, told by an idiot, signifying nothing" might seem to hold. Themes that do permeate his writing are those of the importance of honesty of trust in cyberspace, demanding ethical and moral leaders, the dangers of "poisonous" electronic propaganda, and his goal of "civilizing cyberspace". He is behind many FAQs and a group he calls "CRAM", the "Cyberspatial Reality Advancement Movement". Because of his recent apparent preference for the use of pseudonyms (a necessary survival tactic adopted after losing approximately 5 Internet accounts from his enemies' complaints) and the massive scope of cyberspace it is probably impossible to identify all his latest activities and projects (which, based on precedent, are probably numerous).

For his legendary crackpotism he has been awarded a place in FAQs dealing with the subject and continues to be a lodged residue in the collective Cypherpunk consciousness. Detweiler if nothing else is persistent and behaves with the fanaticism characteristic of ideologues who believe their ideas are intrinsically important and true and if not recognized as such in their own lifetime will nevertheless be seen as world-shattering from the perspective of historical retrospective.