Pirated E-Mail List Causes Headache For Low Tax Group

By Scott Hogenson | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The capabilities of e-mail and the Internet have made it easier for organizations to keep their members informed, but it showed an embarrassing side Wednesday for one major conservative organization.

An opinion piece entitled "The Revolution Has Started; Here Are Your First Orders," was distributed to the 700-person e-mail list of the group Americans for Tax Reform Wednesday morning without ATR's consent or knowledge, resulting in dozens of angry recipients who were offended by the manuscript and asked to be taken off the group's distribution list.

The commentary, which had the appearance of an e-mail from ATR, said that Americans "will probably be forced to take sides in a revolution against the central government of the nation," in the not too distant future and claimed that Timothy McVeigh, the man convicted for his part in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, was "brainwashed by operatives in the government to participate, be there, and take the fall."

Also included in the correspondence was information on how to "lay the foundation for the revolution." The essay included the name Liz Michael on the by-line.

"It just looks like somehow, (the author) was able to slip something into
our list serve that just made its way out" to hundreds of people, said ATR Communications Director Chad Cowan, who said the transmission and e-mail list use were not authorized by anyone at the organization.

It's not precisely known how the ATR list was accessed, but Cowan said the group has taken measures to protect its e-mail files. "We have already changed passwords and access codes to the list serve," said Cowan.

The group attempted to smooth things over by sending an e-mail message Wednesday afternoon explaining that ATR "did not authorize the use of our listserv (sic) for the dissemination of this essay," and offered to "apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and ask for your patience while we address this issue."

According to Cowan, angry recipients were contacted and agreed to continue being included on ATR's e-mail distribution list after hearing about the unauthorized use of the list. "People have been understanding and realize, unfortunately, these things happen," said Cowan.

Cowan also said ATR was seeking an explanation of why the essayist used the group's e-mail list without permission, but had received no explanation by Wednesday afternoon.

The incident serves as an example of how Internet communications can represent a double-edged sword for some users. "I think it just makes you step back and survey technology," said Cowan. "On the one hand, we know how great technology is, but on the other hand, when technology is abused by other people, it can be pretty damaging."

ATR, an organization that works for lower taxes, has about 100,000 members in all 50 states. The group was founded in 1986 and has been using e-mail to distribute information to supporters and other recipients for more than a year, said Cowan.