Monday, June 09, 2008

The spy who didn't shag my wifi 1: background

Those who have been following the Marc Lemire case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal have seen some weird twists and turns — and a bizarre series of allegations that have been made about the Commission and its employees. One allegation was that human rights activist Richard Warman (who had initiated the complaint against Lemire) had himself posted a racist attack against senator Anne Cools, and allegation that was ultimately proven false. Another weird allegation was that Warman had leaked confidential commission documents related to the Demigorgona case. Again false.

Today we turn our attention to another allegation that Commission employee, Dean Steacy, who is legally blind, had hacked an Ottawa woman's wifi to visit a racist website in December 2006. The details are scattered and complicated, but a fresh look at them will show that there is plenty of room for doubt, and that in fact the evidence suggests that there was no wifi hackery, just a simple miscommunication of facts.

First, some background. In his position at the Commission, Steacy is involved in investigations of websites accused of spreading hate. In these investigations, Steacy has occasionally actually registered in the sites in question -- some sites have areas that are limited to registered members only; others only allow members to view other members' profiles or use the site's search engines.

JadewarrProfileStormFrontPosteSuch was the case with White Supremacist site, Stormfront, where Steacy registered the pseudonym "jadewarr". To the right is Jadewarr's member-profile there. (He was member number 58160, if you want to go there to look for yourself -- but in order to access the member profiles, you will have to become a member) He joined, as you can see, in February 2005 (note the left hand column, right under "Forum Info").

The wifi controversy arose with regards to a visit made to Stormfront on December 8th, 2006. On that date, Steacy had logged into the Jadewarr account in order to find a specific posting related to a hearing before the tribunal. (Stormfront's own search engine is only available to logged-in members.) He then printed the posting, but without logging-out, which meant that "jadewarr" was included on the print out. When the print-out was submitted as evidence, his pseudonym was exposed.

As I said, Lemire is himself a respondent before the Tribunal, and his defense strategy seems to be to delay, distract, and deflect. Spurious complaints are filed with the CHRC against opponents; allegations are made about CHRC unfairness, incompetence, or corruption. The exposure of Steacy's pseudonym gave him an opportunity to make new allegations. Indeed, given the information available, it should be possible to learn Steacy's IP, and once his IP was known, his actions on other sites might be examined.

Marc Lemire himself, however, had no access to that information -- Stormfont is based in the United States, having been founded by former KKK Grand Wizard, Don Black (who has a fairly nasty history of his own). Lemire, however, was (and is) a long-time member there: indeed, his profile (to the right), shows not only that he is a sustaining member, but also proclaims him to be a "Friend of Stormfront". Presumably it was on this basis that Black supplied him with an IP and hostname: and

We know all this from an affidavit that Lemire filed with the Tribunal in May 2007, requesting that Bell be subpoenaed to supply the name, address, and phone records associated with that IP address (here). The subpoena was granted, and on March 25, 2008, a Bell technician appeared in court to provide the information that he was asked for.

What the Bell technician reported, however, was a surprise to everyone: on Dec. 8, 2006, the IP was assigned to someone with no apparent connection to Steacy, the Commission, or Stormfront. It was a woman named Nelly Hechme who lived in an apartment building in Ottawa not far from the CHRC offices. Once her name was made public, a reporter contacted her to ask whether she knew how and why her email might be involved in this affair, and the only available explanation was that someone had accessed her wifi. But since her wifi was secured with a pass-word, the usual suspects accused Steacy of having hacked it.

To be continued ....

Other posts relevant to this controversy: