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At Forbes, Sore Over Sources
From: InfoSec News <isn () C4I ORG>
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2000 12:18:44 -0500
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday , July 17, 2000; C01
Reporter Adam Penenberg is quitting Forbes magazine to protect Slut
Puppy and Master Pimp.
An expert on the shadowy underworld of computer hackers, Penenberg
says he's leaving his job because Forbes won't support his refusal to
testify before a federal grand jury. Prosecutors want to talk to him
about his 1998 article on the aforementioned cyberspace duo who hacked
into the New York Times Web site and shut it down for nine hours.
"It would ruin my career, and it's wrong," Penenberg says. "I write
these inside-hacker stories and I break a lot of news, and I couldn't
do that if it were viewed that I was helping out the Department of
Justice in an investigation. I feel like my publisher is stabbing me
in the back."
The dispute, however, is more complicated than that. Forbes's attorney
says he's made an arrangement with prosecutors in which Penenberg
would be asked only to attest that his article is accurate--not about
his confidential sources. Penenberg is not only balking at the deal,
he's hired his own lawyer--the son of Chief Justice William
Rehnquist--and is asking the magazine to pick up the tab.
"Surely, Forbes cannot be expected to underwrite the legal fees of
separate counsel for an employee that Forbes has agreed to represent
without charge," attorney Tennyson Schad wrote Rehnquist. "Not only is
it wasteful, it raises the possibility that the employee's counsel
would pursue a strategy different from Forbes', and at Forbes'
Criticizing Penenberg's "inflexibility" in refusing to accept the
"pre-arranged compromise" with the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office,
Schad says the reporter "fails to see that the hackers, in seeking
publicity in Forbes, recklessly placed themselves in the DOJ
headlights, yet Adam is willing to fall on his sword and risk contempt
by not at least admitting that the article was true and accurate."
What's more, Schad writes, Forbes hasn't decided "just how far it is
willing to go to fight any government subpoena."
In the richly detailed piece, Penenberg described how the hackers,
operating out of Slut Puppy's three-room condo, replaced the Times
welcome screen with one tinged with nudity and obscenity, in part to
protest a book about another hacker co-authored by Times reporter John
Penenberg says the Forbes lawyer is "trying to coerce me into
testifying," and that he doesn't trust the prosecutors not to ask
Schad dismisses as "nonsense" the notion that the reporter is being
pushed to testify. While declining to comment on the details of the
dispute, he says it's "premature" to talk about the situation with the
U.S. attorney's office but that "we're not going to abandon Adam."
Penenberg, though, is abandoning Forbes. "It seems to me a very rich
company like Forbes would stay firm on this," he says.
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- At Forbes, Sore Over Sources InfoSec News (Jul 17)