More on data havens

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From: Antoun Nabhan (
Date: Mon Jun 05 2000 - 08:10:17 PDT

I thought the first post might be a hoax, since it was so transparently a
knockoff of the Cryptonomicon plot. Given this article, though, I guess it
is true, unless Markoff and Declan were both smoking off the same bong this
weekend. (Which is actually a possibility - was Declan in NYC this weekend?)

>Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 08:27:01 -0400
>Subject: FC: A data sanctuary is born
>X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 4.3
>X-URL: Politech is at
> A Data Sanctuary is Born
> by Declan McCullagh (
> 5:00 p.m. Jun. 4, 2000 PDT
> WASHINGTON -- A windswept gun tower anchored six miles off the stormy
> coast of England is about to become the first Internet data haven.
> A group of American cypherpunks has transformed the rusting fortress,
> erected by the British military during World War II to shoot down Nazi
> aircraft, into a satellite-linked virtual home for anyone looking for
> a secure place to store sensitive or controversial data.
> The founders of HavenCo, which will announce operations on Monday,
> believe the concept will appeal to individuals and businesses looking
> for a "safe haven" from governments around that world that are
> becoming more and more interested in Internet regulation and taxation.
> It's for "companies that want to have email servers in a location in
> which they can consider their email private and not open to scrutiny
> by anyone capable of filing a lawsuit," says Sean Hastings, the
> 32-year-old chief executive of HavenCo.
> Hastings says that because a 1968 British court decision effectively
> recognized the basketball court-sized island as a sovereign nation
> called Sealand, HavenCo can provide more privacy and legal protections
> then anyone else on the planet.
> To create HavenCo -- which will offer Linux servers for $1,500 a month
> -- the founders signed an agreement with Roy Bates, the quirky "crown
> prince" of Sealand who landed on the abandoned platform in 1966 and
> claimed it as an independent nation with its own currency, stamps, and
> flag.
> Bates, a former British Army major, has undertaken a string of failed
> business ventures in an attempt make use of the world's tiniest
> country -- a platform just 10 by 25 yards that perches atop two cement
> caissons in the North Sea.
> One plan was to build Sealand into a three-mile-long, man-made island
> with an airport and banks. Another venture included working with
> German investors to build a $70 million hotel and gambling complex --
> a scheme that fell apart with the Germans taking over the fortress in
> 1978 and Bates regaining control in a dramatic helicopter raid at
> dawn.
> This time the elder Bates, now about 80 years old, is taking no
> chances on his business partners: His son and royal heir-apparent,
> Michael, is HavenCo's chief logistics officer and the royal family has
> a seat on the board.
> But today Sealand's potential adversaries include not merely a few
> expansion-minded Germans, but nervous government officials who are
> aggressively trying to pull the plug on unapproved offshore
> activities.
> During a Paris summit in May, for instance, representatives of the
> Group of Eight (G8) nations met to hammer out an agreement on
> international Net law. "The idea is to produce a global text so there
> cannot be 'digital havens' or 'Internet havens' where anyone planning
> some shady business could find the facilities to do it," French
> Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement said at the time.
> When Sealand was simply an eccentric's hobby, the British government
> largely ignored the smallest country in the world. But if HavenCo
> becomes a popular destination for gambling, money laundering, or other
> socially disapproved activities, governments could move against it.
> The Home Office in London could restrict the microwave links that
> provide HavenCo with its lifeline to the outside world, and the
> companies offering satellite connectivity could come under pressure
> from regulators in their home countries. HavenCo could even find its
> bank accounts imperiled.
> For their part, HavenCo executives say they hope to avoid negative
> publicity. "We don't intend to make anyone angry at us. We simply want
> to provide online businesses a place with a sane set of rules that are
> not constantly changing," Hastings said.
> "If larger nations have a problem with unrestricted information flow,
> then their problem is with the increase in information technology, and
> not with us. They can't put the genie back in the bottle until every
> individual on the planet has had their three wishes come true," he
> said.
> Somewhat ironically, bandits recently set up a fake "Principality of
> Sealand" website to sell citizenship to unsuspecting visitors. Spanish
> authorities reportedly are investigating a gang involved with drug
> smuggling and arms trafficking using those passports.
> In a bizarre incident, one "Sealand" passport of dubious origin
> surfaced in connection with the July 1997 murder of fashion designer
> Gianni Versace in Miami.
> The British Embassy in Washington declined to comment on what would
> prompt London to take action against the legitimate prince of Sealand.
> "What it comes down to is that this is a hypothetical (situation), and
> so we cannot speculate on this," said Peter Reed, the embassy's press
> officer.
> In interviews, U.S. government officials indicated they would take a
> more active approach.
> [...remainder snipped...]
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Antoun Nabhan * 617.901.8871 voice/page
"We will invent ways to enable freedom faster than tyrants can develop the
means to suppress them." - Eric Raymond

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