November 8, 2001
2:00 PM   Subscribe

Rob Rosenberger, editor of, writes that three uniformed federal police visited him in the middle of the night and asked that he not to publish an upcoming column that would embarrass anti-virus vendor for "national security reasons." From late-October, but intriguing.
posted by tranquileye (10 comments total)
The column is so vague, it's hard to figure out what Rosenberger is saying happened to him. And what is a uniformed federal police officer?
posted by Mid at 2:12 PM on November 8, 2001

Good question, Mid. I assumed an "associate" of said virus protection company may have been sent to "convince" him he was a law enforcement official.

Either way, I would love more info on what he found and which company is freaked about it.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 2:15 PM on November 8, 2001

This guy was interviewed on The Screensavers on TechTV last night. He refused to name, the company, the officials, or the agency that came to interview him. He really looked like he was having a little discussion with a white angel and a red devil every time Leo asked him to name someone or some company.
posted by tayknight at 2:18 PM on November 8, 2001

I too have had visitors I won't name tell me things I won't say about stuff I won't talk about. Wow. I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest.
posted by srboisvert at 2:50 PM on November 8, 2001

[Editor's note: the "(U)" before each paragraph is an inside joke.]

Hey! Credibility! Come back!

I'm like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person, but this guy sounds like a major-league crackpot, especially if you listen to the audio.
posted by jpoulos at 3:26 PM on November 8, 2001

I'm so curious what federal agents visited him, and whether "uniformed" is a clue or a red herring (e.g. navy blue windbreaker with "FEDERAL AGENT" on the back). There's the Secret Service Uniformed Division, but they mostly protect the White House and embassies. US Customs agents could be uniformed, but they don't investigate domestic computer crime, mainly pornography and money-laundering. The US Marshals? Not really their bailiwick. The NIPC is the logical office some sort of intimidation might have come from, but they're tied to the FBI, so no uniforms. The spook agencies definitely don't use uniforms.

Maybe they were postal workers. And it took three of them to deliver the package.
posted by dhartung at 3:59 PM on November 8, 2001

I'm like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person, but this guy sounds like a major-league crackpot, especially if you listen to the audio.

Rob has been around on the net for a long, long, loooong time, and has always been reliable and thorough, and more importantly, respected. He's got enough kudos, attention, hits, etc to not have to make this shit up.

Rob's been busting virus myths and scares that he's a living compendium of virus related info. His site is so popular that a company actually sought him out to sponsor it, not the other way round (ala... nevermind). He was in the industry until he found out it was, on the whole, pretty crap, and has spent the last few years on the talk circuit talking people out of scaring themselves witless about melissa et al, and just doing sensible things to protect themselves (firewalls! regularly updated virus scans!).

I've read his stuff for nearly 4 years now, and I say if he says they visited, they probably did. He simply has no reason to lie about it.
posted by Neale at 5:18 PM on November 8, 2001

This is like its straight out of the McCarthyist history period. Person (whistle-blower, defiant, journalist, influential to public) insults group (corporation, political party, government bureau) affiliated with someone powerful (rich, elite, influential). So they take a broad term: "Unamerican" "Terrorist" "Communist" and charge Person with it. In extreme cases, Person is forced to recant, censored, black-listed, and other fun things that a "secret police" can do.
posted by alex3005 at 5:35 PM on November 8, 2001

We're getting close to Godwin territory here, alex3005.

The gist of the article (I think) is that some feds visited the author and strongly suggested that he should not publish some sort of classified material (presumably about virii and gov't computers). Now he's enjoying his free speech right to rant all about it on the web. This is hardly secret police stuff.

The truth is that publishing classified info. is illegal. We can argue about whether what the guy was going to publish really should be classified or not -- but we're shooting in the dark because we don't know any details.

I don't think the guy is making the story up, I just think he is embellishing and/or leaving some very non-dramatic details out. For instance, there is nothing illegal about saying "agents from X agency came to talk to me." All the beating around the bush about who it was that came visiting is just melodrama.
posted by Mid at 6:37 PM on November 8, 2001

And federal agents visited my employer last month and made them down-size me, KNOWING that that would make me convert my site from a deadly weblog into a harmless design portfolio.
posted by GriffX at 7:40 PM on November 8, 2001

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