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AlterNIC cofounder ready for trial

Eugene Kashpureff, extradited to the United States and released on bail Christmas eve, says he wants to face the feds in court.

    AlterNIC cofounder Eugene Kashpureff, recently released from jail on a bond, wants to face the feds in court, he said today.

    Kashpureff, 33, spent 55 days in jail in Canada and was extradited to the United States on December 24 to face FBI charges of computer and wire fraud. He was released on a $75,000 signature bond the same day in time to celebrate Christmas eve with his family, he said.

    Today in a telephone interview, he repeated that he was sorry for his actions back in July when he orchestrated an Internet-wide stunt in which he hijacked the InterNIC Web site, where many organizations, businesses, and Netizens register top-level domain names.

    He also said he doesn't feel the punishment fits the crime and that he believes he is being persecuted for his political ideas.

    "I plead 'not guilty' and I intend to take this to trial," he said.

    While Kashpureff said he knew he would get in some trouble after his July actions, he never expected to face jail and federal felony charges. In fact, Network Solutions (NSI), which runs the InterNIC registry that Kashpureff was protesting, did take Kashpureff to court over the summer. The case was settled in August, with part of the provision being that he post a letter of apology.

    Today he said his apology was sincere. But he also maintains that his actions did not constitute a crime.

    "I don't believe that I committed a crime as outlined in the statues I've been charged with," he said. "I don't think I did anything to deserve the prosecution that's been brought to bear against me.

    "At the time I knew that trouble was likely to come down the pike," he added. "I didn't know I was breaking any laws."

    "But at the same time I've been very vocal to speak out against the U.S. government--the U.S. government on the Internet," he said. "It can be tough to fight city hall. It can be even tougher to speak out against the White House. With the level of prosecution that's being brought against me I can't help but feel that yes, I am being persecuted for my political beliefs and for being very outspoken about those political beliefs."

    In July, Kashpureff caused quite a stir when he decided to wage a one-man protest against NSI by rerouting surfers who wanted to access the InterNIC to the AlterNIC, the alternative domain name registration system that he runs. He did it on two separate occasions, prompting NSI to file a suit against him. NSI specifically alleged that he broke federal computer crime laws.

    The formal charges later brought by the FBI against Kashpureff were separate from the suit. According to an affidavit filed by the FBI and signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Simon Chrein on September 12, Kashpureff "unleashed software on the Internet that interrupted service for tens of thousands of Internet users worldwide and caused significant economic damage to others."

    "Damage" is defined as any "impairment" that causes at least $5,000 in loss.

    Kashpureff said today that he could not go into details about how he specifically rerouted surfers, but he said he "never performed any unauthorized access, to quote the law."

    The FBI's case against Kashpureff is likely to hinge on whether he actually caused any monetary damage.

    Opinion at the time about his actions appeared to be split among those who felt he deserved some punishment and those who felt that what he did was irritating but not malicious.

    Many believed Kashpureff's actions were wrong. Even some of his friends and colleagues say he shouldn't have performed the hijack. But even those who said it was wrong have questioned the fervor with which the FBI is pursuing him.

    Some have speculated that Kashpureff's case could wind up setting a legal precedent that could end up giving the federal government more power to enforce laws on the Internet. They also wonder if the FBI is trying to use the case to set an example for others who would perform such actions.

    FBI officials could not be reached today for comment, but the complaint they filed outlines their case against Kashpureff.

    Kashpureff says he wants to go to trial mainly to clear his name and not necessarily to fight any higher cause.

    Kashpureff is currently working as an Internet system administrator doing client software development. He and his family are staying with a relative in Trenton, New Jersey.