May 13th, 2006

Some time in March, DLS was served with a subpoena for information about one of the IP addresses assigned to my co-located server, namely the one I have specifically setup for a Tor exit node. They of course complied, and I didn't think much of it. I've personally processed quite a few subpoenas in my time while in charge of the abuse department at DLS.

In early April, I was contacted by one of the lawyers for the case asking me about the subpoena. I told him I hadn't personally received one yet, but I explained what Tor was, how it worked, and that I didn't have any logs to give them for whatever they were asking for.

On the 17th of April, I was personally served with a subpoena and a twenty-five dollar check for my deposition regarding the information about an anonymous post to a Yahoo message board, apparently made through my Tor server. The subpoena referenced a case of the state of Florida versus… a large corporation that I won't mention. I contacted the petitioning lawyer that ordered it and explained the same things about Tor as I did to the other lawyer. We talked a few more times as he thought the other side was not going to go through with the deposition, but no such luck.

Last Tuesday morning, I drove to a law office in Woodstock where i was scheduled to give my deposition. I got there at 9 sharp and sat in the conference room with the lawyer that petitioned me with the subpoena and a court reporter, waiting to establish a conference call with the opposing lawyers.

After an hour of awkward silence, watching the lawyer fumble with his Blackberry and try to get the conference call up, we finally proceeded. The court reporter swore me in, luckily without me having to put my hand on a bible (do they still do that anymore?) so as not to make a scene.

The lawyer asked me some basic questions that I had to answer for the record and then asked if I had the information they requested. I said no, and then had to attempt to explain how onion routing worked to the lawyer and why I had no logs of who posted the message. He showed me a print-out of the message, which detailed how certain things operated in the company that I'm not mentioning, and asked me to read it, then asked if i had ever seen it before or knew who posted it. I said no.

I thought it would end at that point, me having no information and having stated that I had never even heard of the company in question before the subpoena. However, it didn't end there, and the lawyer continued to ask me off-the-wall questions for the next hour and a half. Stupid things like where I used to live, where I went to school, where I had my training in computers, etc.

The lawyer on the other end of the conference call was getting tired of the silly questions (as was I) and began objecting to nearly every question asked to me. he told me to wait before responding so he could object and have it recorded. This caused a very awkward scenario of the lawyer across the table from me asking me questions, me having to stare at him for 2 seconds or so while waiting for the other lawyers to object, and then responding to him.

While explaining what Tor was, he asked if there was any way to defeat Tor, or if I knew anyone that was working to defeat it, and the opposing lawyer joked, "you mean besides [the company in the lawsuit]?" I laughed and said that I didn't know of any efforts to defeat it. While talking about Tor, I mentioned the EFF and saw him write down "EFF" and outline it. A while later he came back to that and asked what my affiliation was with them, where they were based, whether they give me money or whether I give them money. I said that I donate to them every month and he seemed to be confused why I would give them money and run a Tor server for free without any ulterior motives.

The questioning went further and further off-track and at one point while telling the lawyer who my previous roommate was at my old townhouse, he asked me what his parents did for a living. I kind of laughed at the absurd question and said, "I have no idea." The lawyer responded, "come on, you lived with this person and you didn't know what his parents did?" I furrowed my brow at him and said, "why the hell would I care what my roommate's parents did for a living?" He quickly demanded that I answer yes or no. Then he reminded me that I was under oath, as if I was lying.

He was visibly frustrated while looking at his piece of paper full of questions, as nearly every one of them that I answered had a "no" written after it. He kept staring at the paper hoping more questions would come to mind, but proceeded to ask the same questions over and over but worded slightly different as if it would cause me to change my mind. After nearly every question, the opposing lawyer would say "objection‚ asked and answered already!"

After repeating myself for an hour or so, the lawyer finally stated he had no further questions. The annoyed lawyer on the other end of the conference call quickly said "no questions here" and ended the conference call. I was told I could leave and the lawyer stood up and said "sorry for all that" as if it was a different person that had interrogated me. I gave him a look like, "thanks asshole" and went to work.

Questions or comments?
Please feel free to contact me.