Re: FC: FBI reportedly recruited "Equalizer" hacker as informant

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From: Carey Lening (
Date: Thu May 10 2001 - 00:23:07 PDT

When hackers sell out -- and then get an attorney. Nice to know the
government is really valuing our constitutional right to a lawyer... -BB

At 07:01 PM 5/9/01 -0400, you wrote:

>From: "Kevin L. Poulsen" <>
>To: "Declan McCullagh" <>
>Subject: Max Vision: FBI pawn?
>Date: Tue, 8 May 2001 23:01:24 -0400
>Max Vision: FBI pawn?
>by Kevin Poulsen,
>May 8, 2001 2:48 PM PT
>Federal officials used threats and a false promise of leniency to lure
>computer security researcher and admitted cyber intruder Max Butler into
>becoming an undercover FBI informant, according to a defense motion filed in
>the case Tuesday.
>It was only when Butler balked at covertly recording a friend and colleague,
>and instead sought advice from an attorney, that the government threw the
>book at him, the motion charges. "The government as much as promised him he
>would receive consideration," says defense attorney Jennifer Granick. "At
>least until he hired an attorney."
>The agents gave Butler the nickname "Equalizer," and immediately put him to
>work. Phone hackers had infiltrated 3Com's PBX, and were using the company
>phone system for free teleconferencing. Butler's first mission was "to
>familiarize himself with new telephone system intrusion tools and techniques
>and to be able to pose as a 'phone phreak' (telephone hacker) in the
>investigation," the motion reads.
>"Mr. Butler, using his computer knowledge, and dropping the names of people
>the intruders knew from Internet Relay Chat (IRC), was able to lull the
>intruders into a sense of security. They then revealed, to Mr. Butler and
>through him to the FBI, the name of the hacking group that had committed the
>intrusion and the handle of the primary intruder," reads the motion. "During
>this monitored conversation, the suspects also discussed several instances
>of credit card fraud occurring over the network."
>Butler went on to hold IRC conversations with the hackers, and provide the
>FBI with transcripts.
>The agents were evidently pleased enough with Butler's work to give him
>another assignment, and near the end of July they summoned "Equalizer" to a
>meeting in the FBI offices high above San Francisco's Golden Gate Boulevard.
>Butler's new mission: Attend the DEFCON hacker convention at the Plaza Hotel
>and Casino in Las Vegas -- the largest annual gathering of security experts,
>hackers and cybercops in the world. "There, he was to collect PGP encryption
>keys from conference attendees and try to match people's real names with
>their hacker identities and with the keys," reads the motion.
>The motion doesn't reveal how much information Butler gathered at DEFCON 6.0
>on behalf of the FBI, and in an interview, Granick said Butler doesn't
>recall what he reported back to the Bureau. On Granick's advice, Butler
>refuses interviews about his case.
>After DEFCON, the FBI had another assignment for Butler. This time he was to
>wear a transmitting device - a 'wire' - and secretly record friend and
>colleague Matthew Harrigan, then CTO of San Francisco security services firm
>MCR, for which Butler had performed some consulting.
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