2600 has learned that several small electronic hobbyist vendors were recently raided by federal
agents brandishing semiautomatic weapons. News of these raids has been
kept out of the media and many of those involved fear retribution if
they openly discuss the case. Until now, these companies had
operated for years selling harmless educational electronic kits (like
wireless microphones) to students, hobbyists, ham radio operators, and
hackers. Now their inventories are being seized at gunpoint--and their
owners could be facing bankruptcy and prison time.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice is apparently re-interpreting federal wiretapping and smuggling laws to include small hobby radio transmitters. Even possessing so-called "Mr. Microphone" type toys can now put hobbyists at risk of looking down the barrel of a federal agent's loaded gun, a felony conviction, federal prison time, loss of property, and legal fees into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Ramsey Electronics and
Super Circuits are just two of the
companies recently raided at gunpoint.
Both have good and longstanding reputations for selling inexpensive, quality
educational kits and components to electronics hobbyists for many years
through ads in electronic hobby magazines and their websites.
A high-ranking Justice Dept. official told one of the business owners the
orders for these raids are politically motivated and originated from a very
high level in the Clinton administration as a result of the Linda Tripp
wiretapping case. "They just need convictions," the official said.
Earlier this year the Justice Dept. indicted Bill Cheek, the well-known and
loved author of books on radio scanner modifications and Monitoring Times
column writer. Bill was selling very simple "data-slicer" circuits (made
from parts available at any Radio Shack) that could be used with a PC and a
scanner to monitor radio data transmissions--including unencrypted police
mobile data terminal (MDT) transmissions. Even after Bill had been
diagnosed with terminal cancer, the Federal government refused to back
off, even issuing a summons to court on the same day he was to begin
In 1995 2600's BernieS was locked up in five different maximum-security
prisons over 14 months by the Secret Service
for possessing his laptop computer, his software, and ordinary electronic
parts available at Radio Shack. He had been distributing parts, software,
books, and pamphlets about cellular and coin telephones. The Justice
Department's final investigation report stated "There were no victims in
This is a clear pattern of harassment and abuse of power by our Federal
government against people teaching others about electronic
communications. It appears our government doesn't want people to know this
information. 2600 strongly feels this knowledge is important for people to
have, and will continue spreading it at every opportunity. Write and call
your legislators to complain about this injustice. You could be next!