Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is Neal Rauhauser an Informant?

Neal Rauhauser
Neal Rauhauser, the Iowa native who came to prominence with his involvement in various online trolling efforts like the Beandog Milita, Twittergate, and Vile Tweets, has interesting associations.  Other sites, such as the Crying Wolfe Blog and Ron Brynaert's site, have publicized these associations in the past.  However, the media still has yet to take note.

As part of my continuing series on Neal Rauhauser and his involvement with various online hijinks, pranks, and slander campaigns, I've gone back into Neal's life as a Graettinger, IA native and former resident of Omaha, NE.  I've dug up two past marriages, and contacted various people in Neal's past for phone interviews.  And then there are the people whose lives have been affected by Neal over the past two years, people like blogger Mike Stack of New Jersey, who figured prominently in the revelation of Anthony Weiner's online tweets to porn stars and college aged coeds, including an infamous picture of his erection.

The story broke nationally through Andrew Breitbart, but Mike and his friend Dan Wolfe otherwise known as PatriotUSA76 broke the story with tweets. There is some dispute about how about they agreed to tweet, with Mike Stack saying that he was sent an email by PatriotUSA76 that clued him into a brewing sex scandal involving Congressman Weiner.  Mike Stack alleges that Dan Wolfe contacted him about Weiner after Stack left a comment about his Twitter avatar.  Wolfe pressed Stack to tweet the initial message related to Weiner's then rumored sex scandal, and said that he would re-tweet.  Stack did so.

What happened afterwards was simple enough: Mike Stack took the blame, and Dan Wolfe maintained his anonymity and disappeared.  And what a heavy blame it was: today, photos of Mike along with his arrest report from 2004 have been posted online, and he's been alleged to have framed Anthony Weiner by hacking his account.  Mike vehemently denies doing so.  However, his denials didn't register with the left wing tweeters who bombarded him with threatening tweets and emails.  They outed his address, photos of his home, and his work as a porn site moderator. Additionally, the 2004 case against Mike Stack was dropped.

But that's all been covered by other sites, and what's interesting to me is how Mike Stack managed to haul Neal into court by serving process on an attorney by the name of Mark Rasch.  Mark Rasch, for those of you who do not know, was the general counsel for the online vigilante effort that called itself Project Vigilant.  Project Vigilant was a loose conglomeration of hackers and infosec specialists that made waves when its founder, one Chet Uber, marched into Defcon to announce its existence and boast about the role Project Vigilant had in getting Pfc. Bradley Manning arrested.

Moreover, Mark Rasch is an attorney whose Washington, D.C. location just so happens to be in the same building with Baker & Hostetler, LLP, which happens to the same firm retained by Representative Weiner to investigate his possible hacked Twitter account.  Representative Weiner later admitted to his guilt, of course, but this did not stop some on the left from continuing to posit that he was set up.  It's hard to see how one can set a man up and make him tweet a photo of his erection to a woman on the other side of the country, but there are those who insist on believing in a grand conspiracy in the Weiner scandal that involved nefarious right wing bloggers.

Poulsen & Lamo
Rasch is also the former Department of Justice attorney who investigated Wired magazine's Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen for crime including mail and wire fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Facing seven counts, Poulsen received a mere 51 months in prison. And when he emerged from prison, where did he wind up shortly afterwards?  Security Focus, a publication that focused on security issues related to the Internet, a publication that just so happened to employ Mark Rasch.  What's stranger still is that Kevin Poulsen is now the Senior Editor at Wired, where he works with, you guessed it, Mark Rasch.

And what of Chet Uber, the Omaha resident who relocated to Florida and began accepting disability checks related to his diabetes and heart problems?  He founded Project Vigilant, a consortium of hackers and infosec experts that monitored 12 regional ISPs and turned over their findings to various government agencies.  Interestingly enough, while Project Vigilant's members insist they did not violate the law, one wonders why there is a need for Project Vigilant when the NSA has the capacity to monitor every bit of electronic communication throughout the world.

What's more, how does a man like Chet Uber get the money to found an organization like Project Vigilant, and how does he afford airfare to Defcon on disability checks that by his own account provide him less than $800 a month in income?  Here is Neal's explanation, from his post as Stranded Wind on Firedog Lake:

"I get periodic requests for help with network infrastructure problems, I had one come during the summer of 2009 that needed some special skills, and Chet answered some questions for me. It was a day’s work – $1,000 billed, and I had my customer make the check to BBHC Global so the company could afford to incorporate.

So that’s all there really is to it – a bunch of civic minded professionals who see each other at conferences, one of them on disability but wanting to volunteer so he could do something useful with his time, and one old friend repaying a debt to another by writing off a day’s consulting pay in hopes some good would come of it."

Chet Uber
According to Neal, he paid the incorporation costs for the company that financed Project Vigilant's emergence in the summer of 2009 by having his customer make out a $1000 check to BBHC Global.  Neal subsequently deleted his explanation of BBHC Global's genesis, but his fellow Firedoglake member shekissesfrogs had it saved in her cache and reposted it.  What's more interesting is how Neal had the time and energy to work a day and make $1000, but he didn't use that money to pay off his child support obligations.  At over $30,000 in the present day, Neal hasn't paid child support in a while.  At $675 a month, it's easy to compute his financial obligations to his children as stretching back to 2009.

His insistence that he didn't have the money because he could work is belied by his own version of events as to the rise of Project Vigilance and BBHC Global.  He paid the incorporation costs of BBHC Global with his work on a company's network infrastructure!  But it goes much further, as the following quote from Neal's Firedoglake post explaining how Project Vigilant came to be funded indicates:

"I hadn’t heard from Chet in quite a while. He’d had a massive heart attack in 2005, I got Lyme in 2007, and both of us were in pretty sad shape. I’d gone back to work at the beginning of the year and for a while my credit card was attached to his Walgreens account, covering meds he otherwise would not have been able to afford.

We started talking again, every week or so. A couple of times I logged in and paid his cell bill. He’d managed to hang on to a laptop through heart attack, losing a long term relationship, losing a business, and bouncing between friends and relatives. He finally qualified for disability and things started to get easier."

Neal had money to help pay for Chet's medications and even his cell phone bill, but he didn't pay the child support he owes for his children.  Despite insisting repeatedly to his ex-wife Nancy that he didn't have the money because of his Lyme Disease, by Neal's own account on Firedoglake he was working in the summer of 2009 and making enough money to pay for Chet Uber's medications and his cell phone bill!

Project Vigilant is a largely extraneous and even redundant group, given what we know about the NSA's capabilities, but the NSA, like other federal agencies, is occasionally constrained by obstacles like the law and procedural requirements.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where Project Vigilant becomes useful.  You have people like Neal Rauhauser, a man who allegedly hacked the computer of his ex-wife to be vindictive, working to penetrate 12 regional ISPs and monitor the information and behavior of their customers for the purposes of turning over that information to various federal agencies.  Neal has faced charges of criminal harassment from Mike Stack, the aforementioned New Jersey blogger who accused Neal of online harassment.

You have Neal's associates, like the various members of the Beandogs, represented by Neal to me in our communications last year as hackers. We know that one of those Beandogs, Sam Birbeck aka Methadonna, went on to infamy for his role in accusing HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide director Paul Russell of retaining him for the purposes of rigging an online poll.  Birbeck sent emails saying that he would triple the agreed upon fee for his services. Trouble was, Paul Russell never retained Sam Birbeck for any job at all.

Sam Birbeck/Methadonna
But the supporters of the euthanasia bill in South Australia seized on the emails as proof of Russell's gaming of the polls that showed citizens overwhelmingly opposing the euthanasia bill.  One of the bill's supporters, a transexual gynecologist named Dr. Rosemary Jones, forwarded an email from another euthanasia advocate named Mark Lawrence which stated the following:

"Friends, from what I hear, they (the Canadian based colation [sic], with teh [sic] NCC SA as its Ausralian [sic] base) are paying small amounts of PayPal money to US gamers to rig these polls all over the world, 24/7- how very principled. That's how they got a 75/25 result on Adelaide Now on Tuesday, and, given that it is so obvious, why Adelaide Now at one point on Tuesday evening actually reduced the number of aggregate votes recorded. Good old NCC. Mark."

Isn't that a nice accusation, and isn't it consistent with the loser's limp and whining of Neal Rauhauser and other supporters of disgraced Representative Anthony Weiner?  Neal and his allies insist that Weiner was hacked, and that he didn't tweet the photo of his genitalia, even though Anthony Weiner accepted full responsibility for all of the tweets during his final his press conference.

And what we know of Brett Warren, aka @solaar of Maitland, FL, is that he too was linked to a robocalling operation in Canada in which he posed as Conservative Party aide Michael Sona to confess to Sona's involvement in the robocalling effort which led Canadian voters to believe that their polling places had been moved!  What are the odds that two known online associates of Neal Rauhauser would be involved in such tricks as they related to the political processes of two countries?

Just look at what Neal posted in his recollection of Project Vigilant's beginnings:

"We’d been into infosec stuff ever since we’d met, him (Chet Uber) much more than me, but this was the first time I heard the name Project Vigilant applied to his broad collection of associates. He began organizing with a will, herding infosec rock stars into formation, then pulling in those who wanted to learn. The names of those willing to be seen in public were detailed in the second Albertson column."

Did any of those who wanted to learn happen to be Beandogs or any of the other assorted trolls Neal was consorting with on Twitter during 2010 and early 2011?  Did Project Vigilant serve not merely as a means to surreptitiously make an end-run around legal restrictions on government monitoring of ISPs, but also a means of training the Beandogs and other like-minded partisan individuals in the skill sets necessary to perform the dirty tricks directed at conservative bloggers and libertarian tweeters we've seen over the past two years?

Or was it something even more nefarious, such as a shell game to provide a convenient narrative to cover for how the government came to be aware of Pfc. Bradley Manning's leak of classified diplomatic cables to Wikileaks?  What we know of Pfc. Manning's actions is simple enough: he isn't charged with leaking the cables online to Wikileaks. The government contends that he made a physical drop of disks to Wikileaks allies in the Boston area.  Why, then, would he communicate with the likes of a convicted hacker like Adrian Lamo, who in turn notified none other than Project Vigilant founder Chet Uber, who then notified Washington, D.C. attorney Mark Rasch, the man whose criminal investigation of Kevin Poulsen led to his conviction on seven criminal counts for which Poulsen received a surprisingly light sentence.

When you consider that before Adrian Lamo was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital three weeks before he supposedly began communicating with Pfc. Manning, you begin to understand that something isn't quite right.  The government's chief witness against Bradley Manning is a man who has contradicted himself in numerous media interviews, and the main organization that helped bust Bradley Manning wasn't the NSA or any other U.S. intelligence agency, but was instead a group of infosec folks and hackers operating under the direction of a disabled man by the name of Chet Uber, who had to rely on Neal Rauhauser for his prescriptions, his cell phone bill, and the money to incorporate the company that served as the funding conduit for Project Vigilant.

And nowhere in BBHC Global's information is Neal Rauhauser listed as principal or even a member, even though he purportedly provided the startup money for BBHC Global. Instead, the owner of the BBHC Global domain name is one Steve Ruhe, who provides an interesting email: [email protected]  Steve Ruhe is a drywall contractor named R&R Drywall in Lincoln, NE.  Think of it: a drywall contractor who got into the information security business and registered BBHC Global's domain name under Chet Uber's account.  It strains credulity, especially when you consider that the domain name wasn't registered until April 2009.  The significance of this is tremendous, because we know from Wired Magazine's own reporting that Manning had been going through the classified information for months when he came across the infamous helicopter video in late 2009.

What if Project Vigilant and BBHC Global were merely shell organizations set up as part of a sophisticated operation to smoke out Bradley Manning?  And what if Bradley Manning's relationship with Adrian Lamo stemmed not from his leaking operation, but from his sexual orientation?  Adrian Lamo was a volunteer at PlanetOut during the mid-1990s.  PlanetOut is a gay and lesbian media firm. And given that Neal Rauhauser, the self-professed "old hacker" alleges that he fronted BBHC Global the money to incorporate with the proceeds from one of his jobs in the summer of 2009, what was his role in accumulating intelligence on the Manning leaks, if he had any role at all? And now that he is actively soliciting Anonymous and Lulzsec members and stirring up people at Occupy Wall Street, is he doing so in his capacity as a progressive activist or is he merely an informant passing on the information he accrues on social networks and IRCs to the federal government?  Surely the members of Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous would look at Neal's solicitous attitude quite differently if they were aware of his affiliation with Project Vigilance, its cooperation with the FBI and other various federal agencies, and the boast of its founder Chet Uber that his organization helped bust Bradley Manning.

What we know about Neal is that he is a self-professed Infragard member who has meetings with the FBI on occasion, and on May 30, 2011 Neal made the following claim on his blog:

"OK, kids, in addition to being a mouthy blogger I’m also an Infragard member and my day job gets me occasional meetings with the FBI. I just called the agent for my district who covers cybercrime and we need to get this muddle distilled down for him."

From what we know of the federal government and its history as it relates to movements like Occupy Wall Street, the anti-war movement during Vietnam, and the civil rights movement, planting people like Neal in those movements is not such a stretch.  COINTELPRO, anyone?  And given Neal's documented and notorious trolling of the Tea Party, and his repeated threats to refer various Tea Party supporters on Twitter to federal law enforcement, was his trolling an attempt at entrapment to provokeTea Party supporters on Twitter to engage in possibly illegal and threatening conduct with their reactions?

Considering that members of the Wrecking Crew like Jeannie McBride, who would later be outed as a registered Democrat, went on infamy for their cooperation with Neal Rauhauser, it would seem that Neal's operations were a good bit more than an effort to control the partisan narrative on social networks.   After all, how does the FBI allow a man with documented psychiatric issues like Neal Rauhauser to work even peripherally for a quasi-governmental initiative like Project Vigilance?  For that matter, given that their chief witness against Bradley Manning is Adrian Lamo, a man who was hospitalized for psychiatric issues three weeks before he came forward against Bradley Manning, things don't add up.

And considering that serving process for Neal in a criminal harassment case on Mark Rasch resulted in Neal showing up with Brett Kimberlin to Municipal Court, what is Velvet Revolution's role in Neal's possible activities as an infiltrator and informant?  We know that Velvet Revolution's financials are sparse, with little detail on how they've spent their substantial donations.  All we see of Velvet Revolution's expenditures are the various websites like Indict Breitbart and the alleged retaining of Neal Rauhauser to work on various tasks.  Is Velvet Revolution paying Neal Rauhauser, and if so, what services does Neal provide?  Are they appropriate for a registered non-profit with tax-exempt status?

And has the federal government paid Neal for services rendered in his capacities with Project Vigilant and Infragard, and if so, why hasn't Neal made an effort to address his financial obligations in Nebraska and Iowa?  Again, given the prior history of the federal government and the animus it has displayed toward alternative political movements like the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, and hacking organizations like Anonymous, LulzSec, and Wikileaks, it makes perfect sense to set a man with Neal's psychological and character defects loose in Zuccotti Park and on Twitter, where he can entice and provoke individuals into incriminating behavior that would compromise and discredit them and the movements they affiliate with.

For all of the questions related to Neal's involvement with Project Vigilant, Infragard, and his interaction with the federal government and his association with a former Department of Justice attorney whose protege and client have central positions in the Manning leaks and prosecution, one thing is very clear: those who are a part of Occupy Wall Street, Anonymous, and LulzSec, along with anyone in the Tea Party, should be very careful about what they say or divulge to Neal Rauhauser.

Author's Note: The reporting of Ron Brynaert, Crying Wolf Blog, The Other McCain, Liberty Chick, and various other bloggers and websites deserves to be credited for the extensive documentation of Neal's back history over the past two years.  Also, thanks to Brooks Bayne and his site The Trenches for their continuing dedication to this story.  To all of you who have read this series, thanks to you. There is so much more to come in the days and weeks ahead.  To Mike Stack, I owe you a debt of gratitude for the emails you sent.  It was like God dropped confirmation in my lap as to one of my theories.


  1. While NSA might have extensive capability, I believe it is against the law for them to operate against communications between US citizens. To the best of my knowledge, they are focused externally or where at least one side of the communications is of foreign origin. This came about as a result of the revelation of communications intercept targeting American political activists in the 1960's and 1970's (Jane Fonda, MalcomX, Martin Luther King, etc). Internal communications would be the bailiwick of the FBI.

  2. damn, you're good! I couldn't read this piece until just now... 503 errors across the board. Printing it before it goes 404... WTG!