Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Web, Where Bomb-Makers Go to Learn despite Safety Concerns after Olympics Bombing, Instructions on Net Are Legal, Can't Be Stopped

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Web, Where Bomb-Makers Go to Learn despite Safety Concerns after Olympics Bombing, Instructions on Net Are Legal, Can't Be Stopped

Article excerpt

IN THE BRAVE new virtual world, you can find step-by-step instructions on how to make a pipe bomb more easily and discreetly than ever before.

Bomb-making plans available through the global computer network have contributed to an increase in bombings in the United States, authorities say.

Under the circumstances, should the makers of World Wide Web sites providing bomb-making instructions retain the right to spread potentially dangerous information?

This question gained greater relevance as investigators tried to determine whether Richard Jewell, a suspect in the Olympic bombing, tapped into the Internet at a college where he worked as a security guard.

The pipe bomb was hidden in a knapsack and exploded at in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park last Saturday, killing one person and injuring 111 others.

For now, authorities working to prevent terrorist acts can do nothing about bomb-oriented Web sites.

"It's not uncommon to get calls, even from police officers, informing us about these sites," said Gene Oitker, group supervisor at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms office in St. Louis. "They find it incredible that this kind of information can go out to the general public."

The reason is simple: The First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

"No cases have successfully found that this form of speech can be restricted," said Sandra Davidson, a communications law expert at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Dino Baskovic, a senior at Kent State University in Ohio, exercises his freedom to link his student home page to passages from "The Anarchist's Cookbook."

"It was just the fact that I can do it," he said. "In the wrong hands, that information can be used to create another Atlanta bombing, but it's not my responsibility. Whether the people who visit my page read it and laugh or write down the information and blow up a plane is at their discretion."

Baskovic argues that anyone who really wants to make a bomb can also find out how to do it at a library.

Baskovic's home page is far from unique. Many Web sites about making bombs are on student home pages located on university servers.

The anonymous author of "The Terrorist's Handbook" describes himself as a college engineering student and "head of Gunzenbomz Pyro-Technologies, a division of Chaos Industries." He boasts of creating a foot-deep crater in a friend's back yard during his first experiment with high explosives. …

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