Update^4: If you comment doesn’t show up immediately, it probably ended up in the spamfilter (Akismet). As long as the the people keep posting I’ll continue to check the spam-folder regulary and will manually publish the posting. So don’t post twice or even more often. — alex.
Update^2: I want to point out one thing: The investigations about “computer fraud” are not related to the other case. It’s not that they try to find some other accusation to sue me in any case. Lots of people were raising that rumour: It’s not true. — alex.
As you, my regular reader, might now, I run a Tor-server in Germany. I already had some experience with the german Feds, the BKA, regarding the childporn-crackdown earlier this year. I blogged about it and even erlier I wrote a sentence – which was merley a superstition – from which I thought “this can’t possibly happen in Germany”:
“[…] the last thing I want to experience is the police kicking down my door, seizing my computer.”
I also wrote, in another posting:
“My TOR-server is still running, pushing 40GB/day around. I’m not going to shut it down for whatever reason.”
However, I have to retreat from my arguments.
On Sunday morning, 00:15 AM, July the 29th, someone knocked on my door very hard. I just came back from a pub-crawl with a friend from the UK, was quite drunk, opened the door and just heard “Police!”. They entered my appartment, cuffed me and started to search my flat. My wife was scared to death. I was held in my own kitchen for almost 30 minutes asking “WTF is that about?” when they just said “Calm down, we’ll explain everything later”.
Minutes later they explained me that I’m suspected of placing a bomb-threat at a german copper-forum called copzone.de – a forum I never heard about. They accused me of posting shit like “I’ll plant a bomb in the department of work” and that I was about to cut-throat (or something like that, I can’t remember, I was drunk) a worker from that department. (Edit: The posting at copzone.de doesn’t seem to be accessible. Since my lawyer doesn’t have the files yet, I don’t know what exactly was posted. The german police doesn’t hand over the files to the suspect, he has to hire a layer to see the files.)
I explained them that I was a Tor-operator and what Tor is about. I showed them the letters from the Feds from the earlier incident to proove that I’m not bullshitting them. However, the coppers weren’t not so much into Tech-stuff and told me that a forensic unit will care about all my equippment. They searched everything: My attic, my office, my car, they digged through my wifes underwear, they found my old chmistry books very interesting, the flak-vest I own which I use when I go to strange countries, they found the fertilizer which I use for my chilli-plants, my microcontroller-experiments looked like an IED to them: Basically, EVERYTHING was suspicious.
They installed a new lock on my office’s door, although I eplained them that my Tor-server was running in a totally different city, like 500 km away! Funny enough, that server wasn’t confiscated. Ah, and I’m supposed to pay for the new lock. WE’LL SEE ABOUT THAT.
Eventually – after 30 minutes maybe – they took off the cuffs and brought me to the police-barracks for interrogation. I explained there for hours what the hell I’m doing, what Tor is and all the crap. I spare you the details. I was drunk and the interrogation-protocol might be a bit embarrassing for me.
However. Hours later, on the same sunday, someone from the “Staatsschutz” (something like the DHS) of the city of Düsseldorf came to unlock my door, telling me something like “uh, we screwed up, sort of”. That’s not what he said, but that’s the bottomline.
So much for the incident.
The consequences: I’ve shut down my Tor-server. I can’t do this any more, my wife and I were scared to death. I’m at the end of my civil courage. I’ll keep engaged in the Tor-project but I won’t run a server any more. Sorry. No.
So, so much for my arrest. Now the same storyline continued.
I was at the Linuxbierwanderung 2007 in Crete last week. I held a talk about Tor and the legal implications running a server (slides here).
Thursday I was still sitting in the car driving through Austria back to Germany when my wife called me up “we have another letter”. This time the accusation is “computer fraud”. I don’t know any details yet, but I’m supposed to show up for interrogation next thursday. My lawyer is informed. Details when I can tell them.
So, so sum up everything: I was arrested. They scared my wife. They consfiscated all my equippment. They stopped the investigation. I’m sitting on a pile of bills from my lawyer no one except me has to pay. I’ll sue for compensation, but I don’t think that this will lead anywhere. I’m now accused of something else. Horray! Bloody hell. I still love my country, but it’s bitching around.
From my point of view the german police is even more than incompetent++. They aren’t able to do the most simple investigations. Pre-checks for plausibilty don’t exist. This is so stupid.
Ah, and on a sidenote: My lawyer is still waiting for the files of the bomb-threat incident. Although the investigations against me were stopped. Wonderful!
Düsseldorf, September the 16th,
Alex “Yalla” Janßen.
Edit^3: On a sidenote – some people accused me of not knowing what I’m talking about when I said that the police was incompent when it came to this incident. Let me get this straight: I’m qualfied to comment on this, I’m working in the computer security business and I know how to do real investigations. The first thing to check is if the server in question is an open relay or some anonymisation service. So stop this stupid bullshit. Just check the hostname “wormhole.ynfonatic.de” in your favourite search-engine and on the first hits it’s reveiled that this is a Tor-server. You don’t need to be a computer-expert to check on this. Incompetence++.