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Northampton County
Correctional Facility

ATTN: Ed Cummings, M3
666 Walnut Street
Easton, PA 18042
Press Release
Computer Hacker Severely Beaten after Criticizing Prison Conditions
Target of Campaign by U.S. Secret Service

A convicted hacker, in prison for nothing more than possession of electronic parts easily obtainable at any Radio Shack, has been savagely beaten after being transferred to a maximum security prison as punishment for speaking out publicly about prison conditions. Ed Cummings, recently published in Wired and Internet Underground, as well as a correspondent for WBAI-FM in New York and 2600 Magazine, has been the focus of an increasingly ugly campaign of harrassment and terror from the authorities. At the time of this writing, Cummings is locked in the infectious diseases ward at Lehigh County prison in Allentown, Pennsylvania, unable to obtain the proper medical treatment for the severe injuries he has suffered.

The Ed Cummings case has been widely publicized in the computer hacker community over the past 18 months. In March of 1995, in what can only be described as a bizarre application of justice, Cummings (whose pen name is "Bernie S.") was targetted and imprisoned by the United States Secret Service for mere possession of technology that could be used to make free phone calls. Although the prosecution agreed there was no unauthorized access, no victims, no fraud, and no costs associated with the case, Cummings was imprisoned under a little known attachment to the Digital Telephony bill allowing individuals to be charged in this fashion. Cummings was portrayed by the Secret Service as a potential terrorist because of some of the books found in his library.

A year and a half later, Cummings is still in prison, despite the fact that he became eligible for parole three months ago. But things have now taken a sudden violent turn for the worse. As apparent retribution for Cummings' continued outspokenness against the daily harrassment and numerous injustices that he has faced, he was transferred on Friday to Lehigh County Prison, a dangerous maximum security facility. Being placed in this facility was in direct opposition to his sentencing order. The reason given by the prison: "protective custody".

A day later, Cummings was nearly killed by a dangerous inmate for not getting off the phone fast enough. By the time the prison guards stopped the attack, Cummings had been kicked in the face so many times that he lost his front teeth and had his jaw shattered. His arm, which he tried to use to shield his face, was also severely injured. It is expected that his mouth will be wired shut for up to three months. Effectively, Cummings has now been silenced at last.

From the start of this ordeal, Cummings has always maintained his composure and confidence that one day the injustice of his imprisonment will be realized. He was a weekly contributor to a radio talk show in New York where he not only updated listeners on his experiences, but answered their questions about technology. People from as far away as Bosnia and China wrote to him, having heard about his story over the Internet.

Now we are left to piece these events together and to find those responsible for what are now criminal actions against him. We are demanding answers to these questions: Why was Cummings transferred for no apparent reason from a minimum security facility to a very dangerous prison? Why has he been removed from the hospital immediately after surgery and placed in the infectious diseases ward of the very same prison, receiving barely any desperately needed medical attention? Why was virtually every moment of Cummings' prison stay a continuous episode of harrassment, where he was severely punished for such crimes as receiving a fax (without his knowledge) or having too much reading material? Why did the Secret Service do everything in their power to ruin Ed Cummings' life?

Had these events occurred elsewhere in the world, we would be quick to condemn them as barbaric and obscene. The fact that such things are taking place in our own back yards should not blind us to the fact that they are just as unacceptable.

Lehigh County Prison will be the site of several protest actions as will the Philadelphia office of the United States Secret Service. For more information on this, email or call our office at (516) 751-2600.

More information on this case can be found on the following web site:

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