Steve Jackson Games Vs The U.S. Secret Service

Steve Jackson Games Inc, v. U.S. Secret Service is a court case that sprang from the raid of a computer company by the U.S. Secret Service. On March first, 1990, the U.S. Secret Service searched the office of SJ games for computer equipment, and seized four computers, two printers, hard disks, and numerous other pieces of computer hardware. In the process, they ruined the office by cutting off locks, forcing open footlockers, tearing open boxes, and bending letter openers in an effort to open a locked file cabinet. Incredibly, according to Steve Jackson’s testimony, the Secret Service personnel were offered the keys even as this was taking place.


Why did this happen? The answer to this question didn’t become clear until months after the event, but eventually the truth was revealed. On the same day as the SJ Games raid, the home of Loyd Blakenship, an SJ Games employee and computer hacker, was also searched. Blankenship owned a BBS which published the underground ezine, Phrack (the term “underground ezine” is defined as “a publication without defined periodicity that discusses any subject which the publisher deems interesting or newsworthy”). In 1989, Phrank had published a file containing information regarding the E911 emergency response system. The text was stolen from BellSouth, an American telecommunications company. The importance of this document is disputed (BellSouth admitted that it sold copies to the public for a small fee), but government agents fear that it could aid hackers in compromising the E911 system.

It is clear that Steve Jackson Games was raided to find information concerning Loyd Blankenship’s hacking activities. The game he was making for the company, GURPS Cyberpunk, was considered by government agents to be "a handbook for computer crime." Even so, SJ Games won the case easily, and a similar occurrence hasn’t happened since.

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