The majority of this article outlines the specific illegal and criminal activity of Miami Herald reporter Frances Robles on 7/13/12 and the substantial legal remedies available to Mark and Sondra Osterman.
However, due to new federal laws that apply to internet cyber-stalking, the broader points now apply in multiple internet forums and social media sites (ours included). At the end of the outline we will explain how The Conservative Treehouse is now in the process of specific legal criminal and civil remedies against various sites affiliated with Trayvon Martin.
Frances Robles published the following – Frances Robles and The Miami Herald: […] He was the friend who taught Zimmerman how to shoot and hosted his graduation party. As lesser acquaintances granted television interview after television interview, Mark Osterman never showed his face even as he offered shelter to a friend in need just when he had become one of the most controversial people in America.
In the summary of the friend’s interview with the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released Thursday by the Duval County state attorney, the name and occupation of the friend is blacked out. But one memo in the 300 pages identifies him as an air marshal, and the interview he gave provides enough detail about the relationship to reasonably confirm his identity.
He told authorities that his wife presided over Zimmerman’s wedding. Zimmerman’s marriage certificate lists Sondra Osterman as the person who presided over the ceremony. Sondra Osterman’s Facebook profile shows she’s married to Mark, who posted that he travels for a living and works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Among his Facebook likes: “Support George Zimmerman.” (link 7/13/12)
Russell Simmons takes over from there:
Joy-Ann Reid and NBC (The Grio) / Russell Simmons and the Global Grind. – As we delve deeper into the George Zimmerman case, recent revelations have come to light revealing that Zimmerman was hiding out for over a month at the home of a federal law-enforcement agent. The man in question is a former Seminole County Sheriff deputy who was pressured to quit after he was duped by a con artist and violated department policy.
Here is the house which Zimmerman was hiding out at:
U.S. Air Marshal Mark Osterman was the friend who taught Zimmerman how to shoot, and whose wife presided over Zimmerman’s wedding. (article link 7/13/12)
Note the dates of both articles – The first of which reveals the identity of Mark Osterman a Federal Employee and Federal Air Marshal. The second which includes pictures of Mark and Sondra’s actual residence.
Both criminal activities.
“Doxing“ is a legal term that means revealing “documents” about a person. This can range from revealing the name of a person who uses an alias, but more commonly refers to revealing whatever the person doing it feels will harm, shame, humiliate, endanger, or put the person at some risk. Doxing is a form of stalking or threatening and is illegal under many different federal and state laws, depending on the exact facts and location.
Revealing a “name” per se’ may, or may not be considered “Doxing” depending on the level of anticipated anonymity. However, in this law, the term “restricted personal information” means, “with respect to an individual, the Social Security number, the home address, home phone number, mobile phone number, personal email, or home fax number of, and identifiable to, that individual.” This is an important distinction to remember.
Once you outline the address or location of a person, within which a person can be placed at risk, YOU have VIOLATED THE LAW. PERIOD.
In all cases if you outline the physical location of any individual with the intent to harm, shame, stalk, humiliate, endanger, or otherwise compromise the safety and security of ANY individual you have placed that person in a position of risk and you are in violation of ALL State Stalking laws.
THIS is the most commonly crossed line.
However, in some cases, such as federal agents, or in Mark Osterman’s case his anonymity as a Federal Air Marshal, just revealing his name crosses the threshold for illegal activity.
I CAN FIND THOSE PIECES OF INFORMATION USING GOOGLE SEARCH. IS THAT STILL RESTRICTED? YES. It is illegal to announce or disseminate or post those listed pieces of information for the purposes listed in the law (18 USC § 119). Those are purposes such as threatening or intimidating or making it so others can harass or harm the person. This law is about acts that endanger the safety of or encourage attacks against a person or a person’s family. It is not about where you found the information.
READ THAT AGAIN:
This law is about acts that endanger the safety of, or encourage attacks against, a person or a person’s family. It is not about where you found the information.
18 USC § 119
The information may or may not even be on the internet; that is not a factor for a charge. A criminal act does not need to be physically possible for a charge to exist with regard to it. The activity can take the form of cyber-space and internet posting.
Doxing might also be part of a conspiracy to harm, endanger, or even kill a person. Even if unintentionally if the action of the party is intended to threaten, harass or harm.
Doxing is always illegal, whether it is done against a federal employee, a state employee, or a regular person. There are federal and state laws that specifically address doxing government employees 18 U.S.C. Sec 371 (18 U.S.C. Sec 119).
With regular non-governmental citizens, doxing falls under various state criminal laws, such as stalking, cyber stalking, harassment, threats, and other such laws, depending on the state.
Since these doxing threats and activities are made on the internet, the law of any state may be invoked, though most often an investigator will look to the state in which the person making the threat is located, if this is known, or the state in which the victim is situated.
A state prosecutor can only prosecute violations of the laws of his or her own state, and of acts that extend into their state.
However, when acts are on the internet, they extend into all the states. Thereby allowing the victim to choose the state of filing which may, or may not, be the state of residence for the victim(s) or perpetrator(s).
Increasingly with internet use, attorneys are affirming representation to the state with the strongest current legal remedies for Doxing, Cyber-Stalking, or Harassment.
Misinformation was spread that doxing is legal. I am not sure how or why anyone fell for that misinformation. Surely, people must understand instinctively, even if they were misled about the law, that if they are threatening someone or putting them at risk, or tormenting or harassing the other on the internet, that this must be illegal.
Common sense would tell you that bullying or jeopardizing another would be illegal in some way. So yes, doxing is illegal, no matter who the target. The difference is when it is on the internet it is Federal, or State. When it is not via cyber space it is State issue/laws/ remedy only.
In addition there are even more consequential specific federal laws, and federal remedies, against doxing federal employees. This is one of the issues with Mark Osterman and the potential for Frances Robles indictment. In addition, many states have such individual laws against doing this to state employees, officials, and/or law enforcement officers.
If you are doxing a non-government person, this can be illegal under various laws that have names such as stalking, cyber stalking, cyber-bullying, harassment, invasion of privacy, threatening, terroristic threatening, endangering the safety of, intentional infliction of emotional distress (this can be a crime or a tort, depending on state law), threatening a witness (if the person is a witness), intimidation, and other laws that exist in the different states.
Depending on the situation, it might also be a hate crime or a violation of civil rights. Some states also have laws that specifically apply to students harassing or being harassed. Many states now have laws about posting a person’s name or photo on an indecent or incendiary website without their permission. It really depends on the situation, but there are plenty of laws that can be invoked and multiple remedies available.
When you do something on the internet, it reaches into every state and you open yourself up to potentially being prosecuted under the laws of any state.
In addition, since it is being done in interstate commerce (the internet), you can be accountable under federal law.
Also, if you dox someone using an internet website or service such as Facebook or Twitter or most other such services, such as WordPress or Blogger, and your intent is stalking, cyber stalking, cyber-bullying, harassment, invasion of privacy, threatening, terroristic threatening, endangering the safety of, intentional infliction of emotional distress or intimidation, you are probably violating the Terms of Service under the media contract which binds your activity from your acceptance of the terms.
Violating the terms of service can actually be a federal crime, depending on the situation, and especially so when the terms are violated in order to harm a person.
It is important at this point to note the “intent” of the activity itself, which is where capturing the full data “as it exists” becomes important. Example: A post itself may not violate the terms or the law; However, the “intent” can change depending on the editorial content within the control of the site operator. When the comments follow, and reflect, a specific intent as outlined, then the arbiter of the posting itself is ultimately liable for the consequences of their affiliates.
Think about only using a name, it is probably a violation of law, but maybe not. However, once you go beyond the name IT IS ALWAYS A VIOLATION OF LAW.
If we are hosting a site discussion and publicly name a private party, depending on intent, there is no harm. However, if we further provide, or a commentator provides an address for the party – and we do not delete the information in a timely manner, then depending on circumstance we could be in direct violation of law.
There was a recent court case where a person violated the terms of service for social media and using manufactured e-mail address, only for the media platform, created a fake account/site with the specific purpose to harass another person. In turn this led to the harassed person committing suicide — and this was treated as a federal crime because of the violation of terms of service. Remember – the person being harassed does not need to die for the crime to exist, it just amplifies the repercussions/charges.
If you DO post someone’s personal information and if some harm comes to that person, you might also be charged with something related to that, possibly even with the crime itself.
For example, if you post someone’s address and then someone reads it and goes and kills that person or someone close to them, don’t be surprised if you are charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, or other actionable charges as outlined in 18 U.S.C. Sec 371 (18 U.S.C. Sec 119) b.
Considering the activity of the Miami Herald’s Frances Robles action in regard to Mark and Sondra Osterman: Conspiracy to Make Publicly Available Restricted Personal Information of an Employee of the United States 18 U.S.C. Sec 371 (18 U.S.C. Sec 119)
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? It means the potential for Robles, Simmons and Reid to be charged with Conspiracy (under 18 U.S.C Section 371) to commit a crime that is listed in 18 U.S.C. Chapter 7 Section 119.
The illegal activity is the restricted private information that was made public, and someone else agreed to do so (Robles), and some step was taken in furtherance of doing it (Simmons). In Mark Ostermans case Francis Robles took the specific action of “doxing” Mark with the expressed collusion of NBC’s Joy-Ann Reid. This was furthered by the action of posting pictures of the personal residence and address by Russell Simmons and the Global Grind.
CAN SOMETHING SOMEONE SAYS ON THE INTERNET BE CONSIDERED A CRIME AND NOT FREE SPEECH? Easily and quite often actually, again it goes to intent – Michael Prout, Assistant Director for Judicial Security of the US Marshals Service, on page 2 in a written statement in 2009 explained the danger of internet threats:
“Most Internet threateners, when confronted or challenged on their statement, will claim they are only exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. And in many cases, an examination of their speech could lead us to concur.
To guard against violating a person’s First Amendment right to free speech, the USMS requires the occurrence of a “triggering event” before a protective investigation is initiated. In the area of threat management, a “triggering event” is the receipt of an inappropriate communication, or a reasonable indication that a possible threat exists.
However, one of the issues that make Internet threats so insidious is that others who hear or read this “free speech” may
interpret it differently; they may interpret it as a threat of violence, or as a call to violence, and be influenced to act out violently.
If the threat on the Internet is also accompanied by restricted personal information, it can assist in facilitating the act of
violence by locating the protectee.” (citation)
According to legal authorities who have reviewed the Frances Robles action there is absolutely NO STANDARD of review which would not outline the specific activity of Frances Robles, Joy-Ann Reid, and Russell Simmons to be absolutely in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec 371 (18 U.S.C. Sec 119) in the Doxing of Mark Osterman.
Indeed, arguably there is no more succinct an example of such illegal activity given the inherent role of Mark Osterman as a federal officer in his role of anonymity for his position as a Federal Air Marshal.
Subsequently as a specific agent of The Miami Herald, it’s parent company, and NBC’s The Grio, along with Global Grind the management and company leadership would also be criminally accountable, and civilly liable for the willful acceptance of the illegal action of their employed agent. Cha-Ching
Whether or not the FBI or DOJ would pursue the legal case is a matter of political discussion, risk and benefit analysis. However, the illegal activity is not subjective – it exists. More importantly for corrective action, and punishment upon the perpetrator of the Doxing though, is the “civil liability”, which is even more extreme.
The compensatory and punitive damages available to the Osterman’s for the specific action of Frances Robles, Joy-Ann Reid, and Russell Simmons, and their respective approving employers is staggering when you consider the real, physical, and emotional quantification of harm.
Think about the “costs” of harm a judiciary or jury would have to consider: Having to move, live in fear, effects on children, move schools, emotional distress and actual financial costs from being Doxed are significant.
Many who have reviewed have also concluded there has never been a more appropriate case for application.
The positive at the end of this dark tunnel is the REAL and reasonable expectation of serious compensatory damages for Mark and Sondra. Any attorney would grab this case for the sheer value to their own pocketbook.
This is a case of minimal lawyers effort needed to secure a maximum financial award for their client. The case speaks for itself.
Many thanks to Sue Basko a lawyer for Independent Media in California and Illinois. Ms. Basko trained in mass communications graduate school in investigative journalism and historic research techniques, as well as in media law, IP law, First Amendment, and digital production tech. Her research and information has been exceptional and invaluable.
Now, how does this also pertain to the Treehouse. As you are aware we have now invested over 15 full labor-hour days of intrepid research cataloging various sites who have specific intent to “out” or publish the personal information of Site Administrators, myself included, and various Treepers.
Some seriously ideological, and hate-filled people have been “Doxing”, or actively engaged in the attempting to “Dox” us quite openly, which as outlined is not only violation of multiple site TOS it is also illegal as above.
Only the media sites, and corresponding Twitter feeds who have linked to the sites, with the expressed purpose of spreading the illegal activity, and who have openly violated the law, have currently been addressed. There are two more being monitored as they flirt dangerously close to the line.
One specific site has seriously and massively crossed the line regarding illegal DOXING and apparently they are fully aware of their illegal activity, yet they scoff and continue. (not a good character trait) All of their visible posts, comments, backgrounds, names, accounts have been screengrabbed, cataloged and cited based on date of incident. Hosting sites (WordPress, Blogger, Gravatar, Twitter, FB, e-mail platforms such as g-mail etc) have now been contacted (step one) and are in the process of complying with court ordered requests for mandatory release of the account holder(s)/Administrator(s) isp, account names, e-mail addresses and physical locations by state (step 2).
No, we will not publish this information – two wrongs don’t make right. (It will however -in time- become a matter of public record – those links will be provided) The information is initially being used to file the first batch of criminal police reports in the identified state jurisdictions (step 3.). From there, based on “best venue”, civil filings will be submitted to the appropriate courts of jurisdiction (step 4). Some of the civil jurisdictions will be divergent from the law enforcement actions, for the sake of convenience and cost effectiveness (civil actions take longer).
It is doubtful any mediation terms will be accepted, nor will settlement terms be offered or entertained – The process through the court system is longer, much longer, but the consequences more severe.
Lessons need to be learned.
The first batch of court order filing fees was manageable, however, if you want to hit the tip jar to help offset the recurring filing costs moving forward – that would be splendid. And don’t worry about the scrubbing (one site already took themselves down when notified by their host today) every single page is screen captured and stored on both disk and thumb drive. The removal of content does not remove the liability (it does reflect a certain regret which is appreciated).
We feel confident we have located the primary offenders. However, please feel free to continue sending your identified site details to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will follow-up accordingly. Y’all do a great job with that and we THANK YOU muchly.