more accusations later, they finally let him go with the flimsiest of
apologies. `Well, you understand,' one cop said. `We don't see many of
your type around here.'
Yeah. Anthrax understood. It looked pretty suspicious, a dark-skinned
boy using a public telephone. Very suss indeed.
In fact, Anthrax had the last laugh. He had been on a phreaked call to
Canada at the time and he hadn't bothered to hang up when the cops
arrived. Just told the other phreakers to hang on. After the police
left, he picked up the conversation where he left off.
Incidents like that taught him that sometimes the better path was to
toy with the cops. Let them play their little games. Pretend to be
manipulated by them. Laugh at them silently and give them nothing. So
he appeared to ignore the fungus comment and led the cops to his car.
They found nothing.
When the police finally packed up to leave, one of them handed Anthrax
a business card with the AFP's phone number.
`Call us to arrange an interview time,' he said.
`Sure,' Anthrax replied as he shut the door.
Anthrax keep putting the police off. Every time they called hassling
him for an interview, he said he was busy. But when they began ringing
up his mum, he found himself in a quandary. They were threatening and
yet reassuring to his mother all at the same time and spoke politely
to her, even apologetically.
`As bad as it sounds,' one of them said, `we're going to have to
charge you with things Anthrax has done, hacking, phreaking, etc. if
he doesn't cooperate with us. We know it sounds funny, but we're
within our rights to do that. In fact that is what the law dictates
because the phone is in your name.'
He followed this with the well-worn `it's in your son's best interest
to cooperate' line, delivered with cooing persuasion.
Anthrax wondered why there was no mention of charging his father,
whose name appeared on the house's main telephone number. That line
also carried some illegal calls.
His mother worried. She asked her son to cooperate with the police.
Anthrax felt he had to protect his mother and finally agreed to a
police interview after his uni exams. The only reason he did so was
because of the police threat to charge his mother. He was sure that if
they dragged his mother through court, her health would deteriorate
and lead to an early death.
Anthrax's father picked him up from uni on a fine November day and
drove down to Melbourne. His mother had insisted that he attend the
interview, since he knew all about the law and police. Anthrax didn't
mind having him along: he figured a witness might prevent any use of
During the ride to the city, Anthrax talked about how he would handle
the interview. The good news was that the AFP had said they wanted to
interview him about his phreaking, not his hacking. He went to the
interview understanding they would only be discussing his `recent
stuff'--the phreaking. He had two possible approaches to the
interview. He could come clean and admit everything, as his first
lawyer had advised. Or he could pretend to cooperate and be evasive,
which was what his instincts told him to do.
His father jumped all over the second option. `You have to cooperate
fully. They will know if you are lying. They are trained to pick out
lies. Tell them everything and they will go easier on you.' Law and
order all the way.
`Who do they think they are anyway? The pigs.' Anthrax looked away,
disgusted at the thought of police harassing people like his mother.
`Don't call them pigs,' his father snapped. `They are police officers.
If you are ever in trouble, they are the first people you are ever
going to call.'
`Oh yeah. What kind of trouble am I going to be in that the first
people I call are the AFP?' Anthrax replied.
Anthrax would put up with his father coming along so long as he kept
his mouth shut during the interview. He certainly wasn't there for
personal support. They had a distant relationship at best. When his
father began working in the town where Anthrax now lived and studied,
his mother had tried to patch things between them. She suggested his
father take Anthrax out for dinner once a week, to smooth things over.
Develop a relationship. They had dinner a handful of times and Anthrax
listened to his father's lectures. Admit you were wrong. Cooperate
with the police. Get your life together. Own up to it all. Grow up. Be
responsible. Stop being so useless. Stop being so stupid.
The lectures were a bit rich, Anthrax thought, considering that his
father had benefited from Anthrax's hacking skills. When he discovered
Anthrax had got into a huge news clipping database, he asked the boy
to pull up every article containing the word `prison'. Then he had him
search for articles on discipline. The searches should have cost a
fortune, probably thousands of dollars. But his father didn't pay a
cent, thanks to Anthrax. And he didn't spend much time lecturing
Anthrax on the evils of hacking then.
When they arrived at AFP headquarters, Anthrax made a point of putting
his feet up on the leather couch in the reception area and opened a
can of Coke he had brought along. His father got upset.
`Get your feet off that seat. You shouldn't have brought that can of
Coke. It doesn't look very professional.'
`Hey, I'm not going for a job interview here,' Anthrax responded.
Constable Andrew Sexton, a redhead sporting two earrings, came up to
Anthrax and his father and took them upstairs for coffee. Detective
Sergeant Ken Day, head of the Computer Crime Unit, was in a meeting,
Sexton said, so the interview would be delayed a little.
Anthrax's father and Sexton found they shared some interests in law
enforcement. They discussed the problems associated with
rehabilitation and prisoner discipline. Joked with each other.
Laughed. Talked about `young Anthrax'. Young Anthrax did this. Young
Anthrax did that.
Young Anthrax felt sick. Watching his own father cosying up to the
enemy, talking as if he wasn't even there.
When Sexton went to check on whether Day had finished his meeting,
Anthrax's father growled, `Wipe that look of contempt off your face,
young man. You are going to get nowhere in this world if you show that
kind of attitude, they are going to come down on you like a ton of
any respect after the way they threatened his mother?
The interview room was small but very full. A dozen or more boxes, all
filled with labelled print-outs.
Sexton began the interview. `Taped record of interview conducted at
Australian Federal Police Headquarters, 383 Latrobe Street Melbourne
on 29 November 1994.' He reeled off the names of the people present
and asked each to introduce himself for voice recognition.
`As I have already stated, Detective Sergeant Day and I are making
enquiries into your alleged involvement into the manipulation of
private automated branch exchanges [PABXes] via Telecom 008 numbers in
order to obtain free phone calls nationally and internationally. Do
you clearly understand this allegation?'
Anthrax understand that he was not obliged to answer any questions?
That he had the right to communicate with a lawyer? That he had
attended the interview of his own free will? That he was free to leave
at any time?
Yes, Anthrax said in answer to each question.
Sexton then ploughed through a few more standard procedures before he
finally got to the meat of the issue--telephones. He fished around in
one of the many boxes and pulled out a mobile phone. Anthrax confirmed
that it was his phone.
`Was that the phone that you used to call the 008 numbers and
subsequent connections?' Sexton asked.
`Contained in that phone is a number of pre-set numbers. Do you
looked pleased with himself for hacking Anthrax's speed-dial numbers
from the mobile. `Number 22 is of some interest to myself. It comes up
as Aaron. Could that be the person you referred to before as Aaron in
`Yes, but he is always moving house. He is a hard person to track
Sexton went through a few more numbers, most of which Anthrax hedged.
particularly about the way he made free calls overseas using
Australian companies' 008 numbers.
When Anthrax had patiently explained how it all worked, Sexton went
through some more speed-dial numbers.
`Number 43. Do you recognise that one?'
`That's the Swedish Party Line.'
`What about these other numbers? Such as 78? And 30?'
`I'm not sure. I couldn't say what any of these are. It's been so
long,' Anthrax paused, sensing the pressure from the other side of the
table. `These ones here, they are numbers in my town. But I don't know
who. Very often, 'cause I don't have any pen and paper with me, I just
plug a number into the phone.'
Sexton looked unhappy. He decided to go in a little harder. `I'm going
to be pretty blunt. So far you have admitted to the 008s but I think
you are understating your knowledge and your experience when it comes
to these sort of offences.' He caught himself. `Not offences. But your
involvement in all of this ... I think you have got a little bit more
... I'm not saying you are lying, don't get me wrong, but you tend to
be pulling yourself away from how far you were really into this. And
how far everyone looked up to you.'
There was the gauntlet, thrown down on the table. Anthrax picked it
`They looked up to me? That was just a perception. To be honest, I
exchanges or anything like that. In the past, I guess the reason they
might look up to me in the sense of a leader is because I was doing
this, as you are probably aware, quite a bit in the past, and
subsequently built up a reputation. Since then I decided I wouldn't do
`Since this?' Sexton was quick off the mark.
`No. Before. I just said, "I don't want anything to do with this any
more. It's just stupid". When I broke up with my girlfriend ... I just
got dragged into it again. I'm not trying to say that I am any less
responsible for any of this but I will say I didn't originate any of
these 008s. They were all scanned by other people. But I made calls
and admittedly I did a lot of stupid things.'
But Sexton was like a dog with a bone.
`I just felt that you were tending to ... I don't know if it's because
your dad's here or ... I have read stuff that "Anthrax was a legend
when it came to this, and he was a scanner, and he was the man to talk
to about X.25, Tymnet, hacking, Unix. The whole kit and kaboodle".'
Anthrax didn't take the bait. Cops always try that line. Play on a
hacker's ego, get them to brag. It was so transparent.
`It's not true,' he answered. `I know nothing about ... I can't
program. I have an Amiga with one meg of memory. I have no formal
background in computers whatsoever.'
That part was definitely true. Everything was self-taught. Well,
almost everything. He did take one programming class at uni, but he
failed it. He went to the library to do extra research, used in his
final project for the course. Most of his classmates wrote simple
200-line programs with few functions; his ran to 500 lines and had
lots of special functions. But the lecturer flunked him. She told him,
`The functions in your program were not taught in this course'.
Sexton asked Anthrax if he was into carding, which he denied
emphatically. Then Sexton headed back into scanning. How much had
Anthrax done? Had he given scanned numbers to other hackers? Anthrax
was evasive, and both cops were getting impatient.
`What I am trying to get at is that I believe that, through your
scanning, you are helping other people break the law by promoting this
sort of thing.' Sexton had shown his hand.
`No more than a telephone directory would be assisting someone,
because it's really just a list. I didn't actually break anything. I
just looked at it.'
`These voice mailbox systems obviously belong to people. What would
you do when you found a VMB?'
`Just play with it. Give it to someone and say, "Have a look at this.
It is interesting," or whatever.'
`When you say play with it you would break the code out to the VMB?'
`No. Just have a look around. I'm not very good at breaking VMBs.'
Sexton tried a different tack. `What are 1-900 numbers? On the back of
that document there is a 1-900 number. What are they generally for?'
Easy question. `In America they like cost $10 a minute. You can ring
them up, I think, and get all sorts of information, party lines, etc.'
`It's a conference type of call?'
labelled AS/AB/S/1. Is this a scan? Do you recognise your
`Yes, it's in my handwriting. Once again it's the same sort of scan.
It's just dialling some commercial numbers and noting them.'
`And once you found something, what would you do with it?'
Anthrax had no intention of being painted as some sort of ringleader
of a scanning gang. He was a sociable loner, not a part of a team.
`I'd just look at it, like in the case of this one here--630. I just
punched in a few numbers and it said that 113 diverts somewhere, 115
says goodbye, etc. I'd just do that and I probably never came back to
`And you believe that if I pick up the telephone book, I would get all
`No. It's just a list of numbers in the same sense that a telephone
`What about a 1-800 number?'
`That is the same as a 0014.'
`If you rang a 1-800 number, where would you go?'
Anthrax wondered if the Computer Crimes Unit gained most of its
technical knowledge from interviews with hackers.
`You can either do 0014 or you can do 1-800. It's just the same.'
`Is it Canada--0014?'
`It's everywhere.' Oops. Don't sound too cocky. `Isn't it?'
`No, I'm not familiar.' Which is just what Anthrax was thinking.
Sexton moved on. `On the back of that document there is more type
`It's all just the same thing. Just take a note of what is there. In
this case, box 544 belongs to this woman ...'
`So, once again, you just release this type of information on the
`Not all of it. Most of it I would probably keep to myself and never
look at it again. I was bored. Is it illegal to scan?'
`I'm not saying it's illegal. I'm just trying to show that you were
really into this. I'm building a picture and I am gradually getting to
a point and I'm going to build a picture to show that for a while
there ...' Sexton then interrupted himself and veered down a less
confrontational course. `I'm not saying you are doing it now, but back
then, when all these offences occurred, you were really into scanning
telephone systems, be it voice mailboxes ... I'm not saying you found
the 008s but you ... anything to bugger up Telecom. You were really
getting into it and you were helping other people.'
Anthrax took offence. `The motivation for me doing it wasn't to bugger
Sexton backpedalled. `Perhaps ... probably a poor choice of words.'
He began pressing forward on the subject of hacking, something the
police had not said they were going to be discussing. Anthrax felt a
little unnerved, even rattled.
Day asked if Anthrax wanted a break.
`No,' he answered. `I just want to get it over and done with, if
that's OK. I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to say "no comment".
I'm going to admit to everything 'cause, based on what I have been
told, it's in my best interest to do so.'
The police paused. They didn't seem to like that last comment much.
Day tried to clear things up.
`Before we go any further, based on what you have been told, it is in
your best interests to tell the truth. Was it any member of the AFP
that told you this?'
`Who?' Day threw the question out quickly.
I think Andrew also said it to me,' he said, nodding in the direction
of the red-headed constable.
Why were the cops getting so uncomfortable all of a sudden? It was no
secret that they had told both Anthrax and his mother repeatedly that
it was in his best interest to agree to an interview.
Day leaned forward, peered at Anthrax and asked, `What did you
interpret that to mean?'
`That if I don't tell the truth, if I say "no comment" and don't
cooperate, that it is going to be ... it will mean that you will go
after me with ...' Anthrax grasped for the right words, but he felt
tongue-tied, `with ... more force, I guess.'
Both officers stiffened visibly.
Day came back again. `Do you feel that an unfair inducement has been
placed on you as a result of that?'
`In what sense?' The question was genuine.
`You have made the comment and it has now been recorded and I have to
clear it up. Do you feel like, that a deal has been offered to you at
A deal? Anthrax thought about it. It wasn't a deal as in `Talk to us
now and we will make sure you don't go to jail'. Or `Talk now and we
won't beat you with a rubber hose'.
`No,' he answered.
`Do you feel that as a result of that being said that you have been
pressured to come forward today and tell the truth?'
Ah, that sort of deal. Well, of course.
`Yes, I have been pressured,' Anthrax answered. The two police
officers looked stunned. Anthrax paused, concerned about the growing
feeling of disapproval in the room. `Indirectly,' he added quickly,
For a brief moment, Anthrax just didn't care. About the police. About
his father. About the pressure. He would tell the truth. He decided to
explain the situation as he saw it.
`Because since they came to my house, they emphasised the fact that if
I didn't come for an interview, that they would then charge my mother
and, as my mother is very sick, I am not prepared to put her through
The police looked at each other. The shock waves reverberated around
interview tape. But what he said about his mother being threatened was
the truth, so let it be on the record with everything else.
Ken Day caught his breath, `So you are saying that you
have now been ...' he cut himself off ... `that you are not here
Anthrax thought about it. What did `voluntarily' mean? The police
didn't cuff him to a chair and tell him he couldn't leave until he
talked. They didn't beat him around the head with a baton. They
offered him a choice: talk or inflict the police on his ailing mother.
Not a palatable choice, but a choice nonetheless. He chose to talk to
protect his mother.
`I am here voluntarily,' he answered.
`That is not what you have said. What you have just said is
that pressure has been placed on you and that you have had to come in
here and answer the questions. Otherwise certain actions would take
place. That does not mean you are here
The police must have realised they were on very thin ice and Anthrax
felt pressure growing in the room. The cops pushed. His father did not
`I was going to come anyway,' Anthrax answered, again almost
apologetically. Walk the tightrope, he thought. Don't get them too mad
or they will charge my mother. `You can talk to the people who carried
out the warrant. All along, I said to them I would come in for an
interview. Whatever my motivations are, I don't think should matter. I
am going to tell you the truth.'
`It does matter,' Day responded, `because at the beginning of the
interview it was stated--do you agree--that you have come in here
`I have. No-one has forced me.'
Anthrax felt exasperated. The room was getting stuffy. He wanted to
finish this thing and get out of there. So much pressure.
`And is anyone forcing you to make the answers you have given here
today?' Day tried again.
`No individuals are forcing me, no.' There. You have what you want.
Now get on with it and let's get out of here.
`You have to tell the truth. Is that what you are saying?' The police
would not leave the issue be.
`I want to tell the truth. As well.' The key words there were `as
well'. Anthrax thought, I want to and I have to.
`It's the circumstances that are forcing this upon you, not an
`No.' Of course it was the circumstances. Never mind that the police
created the circumstance.
Anthrax felt as if the police were just toying with him. He knew and
they knew they would go after his mother if this interview wasn't to
their liking. Visions of his frail mother being hauled out of her
house by the AFP flashed through his mind. Anthrax felt sweaty and
hot. Just get on with it. Whatever makes them happy, just agree to it
in order to get out of this crowded room.
`So, would it be fair to summarise it, really, to say that perhaps ...
of your activity before the police arrived at your premises, that is
what is forcing you?'
What was this cop talking about? His `activity' forcing him? Anthrax
felt confused. The interview had already gone on some time. The cops
had such obscure ways of asking things. The room was oppressively
broken the law, and that is what is forcing you to come forward here
today and tell the truth?'
Yeah. Whatever you want. `OK,' Anthrax started to answer, `That is a
Day cut him off. `I just wanted to clarify that because the
interpretation I immediately got from that was that we, or members of