Jailed AlterNIC cofounder Eugene Kashpureff today waived his right to oppose extradition from Canada and, as a result, could be in a U.S. courtroom as early as Friday to face FBI charges of wire and computer fraud.
"He's voluntarily returning to the United States to face the charges," said Kashpureff's attorney, William R. Gilmour, who has been defending Kashpureff since he was arrested October 31 under the provisions of the Canadian immigration act. "He believes he's innocent of any criminality and the matter is going to have to be determined on its merits."
Kashpureff has been held in Canadian jails since his arrest and has been unable to pay his attorney and support his wife and four children, according to Gilmour and Kashpureff's friends.
Gilmour said he took on the case despite a relatively poor prospect of being paid partly because he is interested in computers, and "more importantly than that, I thought an injustice was being done to somebody."
In July, Kashpureff altered the site of the InterNIC, which is the master database that acts like a phone directory for the Internet, so that surfers trying to get to "www.internic.net" instead landed at "www.alternic.net," to protest what he believes is the monopoly the InterNIC holds over the domain name system.
The FBI is saying that was enough to constitute wire and computer fraud.
But Gilmour said Kashpureff did not actually cause any monetary damage.
"He didn't break into anything. He didn't break into anyone's computer. He didn't corrupt anything. He didn't do any damage. All he did was post a political protest available on the Internet and he is being persecuted for him," he said.
The Internet community is somewhat divided on whether Kashpureff's charges fit his crime. While some say they didn't like his move, they also question why the FBI is pursuing Kashpureff so vigorously.
The FBI maintains that Kashpureff "unleashed software on the Internet that interrupted service for tens of thousands of Internet users worldwide and caused significant economic damage to others," according an affidavit filed by the FBI and signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Simon Chrein on September 12.
Damage is defined as any "impairment" that causes at least $5,000 in loss.
But Gilmour and others maintain that he did no more damage than delay surfers a few seconds from their ultimate destination.
Kashpureff, in his action, had directed all Web surfers typing in "www.internic.net" to his page. From there, they would read a message saying they were redirected to the page to protest the InterNIC's monopoly over the top-level domain names. Then they were given an option to click through to the InterNIC.
"From my point of view, it seems that he has stepped on someone's political toes," Gilmour said. "It appears they are sending the aircraft carrier Nimitz to do battle with a mouse."
Gilmour said the government is going to have trouble proving fraud under what he called outdated provisions of the legal code. "I suspect the provisions he's being charged under in the United States do not fit the present state of technology, and that's going to be a difficulty the authorities are going to have to surmount in trying to prosecute him."
But Kashpureff, as his friends point out, is broke, and that might affect the kind of defense he can afford.
"I've maintained all along they're trying to teach him a lesson," said Richard Sexton, Kashpureff's former colleague. "They want to teach kids out there that you can't do this and get away with it."