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Old 03-25-2008, 08:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Rick Rolled to child porn = you're a pedophile, says FBI

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View: Rick Rolled to child porn = you're a pedophile, says FBI
Source: Arstechnica
posted with the TFP thread generator

Rick Rolled to child porn = you're a pedophile, says FBI
Everyone has had it happen to them: a "friend" sends you a link in IM or over IRC that purports to be something like a cat in an awkward position with a hilarious caption. Soon, however, you discover that the link wasn't to a lolcat at all; instead, you've been Rick Rolled—or even worse, sent to 2girls1cup (find it on your own, but be warned: it may scar you for life). These pranks are commonplace now, but be careful of what you click on and from whom. If that link points to anything even pretending to be child porn, that's enough evidence for the FBI of intent to download it. The authorities could then raid your home and possibly throw you in jail. No joke, it just takes one click and you're under intense suspicion.

Such is the case with Temple University doctoral student Roderick Vosburgh, who apparently clicked on an FBI-planted hyperlink somewhere on the Internet. The link pointed to a file on an FBI server that contained no porn, but logged the IP addresses of everyone attempting to access it. Vosburgh's IP was one of those, and the FBI came knockin' on his door early one morning, arrested him, and searched his home.

In fact, this didn't just happen to Vosburgh—the FBI has been using this click-and-be-owned tactic for a few years now, using logged IP addresses as a way to get warrants and charge people with intent to download child porn (a federal crime). The FBI has been planting links to these bogus files on message boards that are known to attract child predators, but even the log files don't take into account the referrer—any IP address that shows up is automatically assumed to be guilty, and assumed to be coming in from one of the FBI's planted links. This means that if your drunk friends think it's funny to IM you a link to something that turns out to be to the FBI's planted link, you could be in trouble.

Don't believe that's all it takes? The FBI admitted that there was apparently no evidence that Vosburgh had ever accessed the forum where the links were originally planted, according to court documents seen by Ars Technica. Vosburgh's attorney also pointed out that the affidavit that was used to charge Vosburgh provided no probable cause to believe that any criminal activity had taken place, that he was home at the time that the file was allegedly accessed, or even that there was a computer with an Internet connection in Vosburgh's apartment.

Vosburgh eventually went to trial and was convicted of clicking on an illegal link and possession of child porn due to two tiny thumbnails that the FBI believes depict underage females—this is despite the testimony from multiple computer experts saying that the cache was created automatically and Vosburgh had no idea how or where to find these thumbnails on his machine. He now faces sentencing on April 22 while his attorney attempts to have the verdict overturned. Vosburgh was caught trying to destroy a hard drive and a flash drive, however, and this surely didn't help his case.

Brilliant honey pot scheme or horribly flawed perversion of justice? The lack of other evidence pointing to this man's guilt places the onus of this man's conviction on the FBI's phishing practices, which from our point of view leave much to be desired.
Further reading:
CNET broke the story: FBI posts fake hyperlinks to snare child porn suspects
If you have PACER access, Vosburgh's case is number 2:07-cr-00171-TJS in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
This is probably the most fucked up thing I've heard in a long time. Especially because there are many times lots of us innocuously click a link.

Will this make you change your behavior in any way? Do you think it fair or reasonable?
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Old 03-25-2008, 08:18 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm not clicking that link...
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Old 03-25-2008, 08:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Sorry, but I don't buy it. Sounds like media writing something sensational to worry people. No jury would convict a man of this, specifically because so many people have experienced the "click a link someone sent you."

The fact that he was caught destroying disks tells me that theres way more to this story than we're hearing.
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Old 03-25-2008, 08:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm still waiting for Paul Harvey to say the words .. "And now, the REST of the story".
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Old 03-25-2008, 08:30 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JinnKai
Sorry, but I don't buy it. Sounds like media writing something sensational to worry people. No jury would convict a man of this, specifically because so many people have experienced the "click a link someone sent you."

The fact that he was caught destroying disks tells me that theres way more to this story than we're hearing.
If you look at the CNET link you'll find scans of the court transcripts

Quote:
FBI posts fake hyperlinks to snare child porn suspects
The FBI has recently adopted a novel investigative technique: posting hyperlinks that purport to be illegal videos of minors having sex, and then raiding the homes of anyone willing to click on them.

Undercover FBI agents used this hyperlink-enticement technique, which directed Internet users to a clandestine government server, to stage armed raids of homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada last year. The supposed video files actually were gibberish and contained no illegal images.

A CNET News.com review of legal documents shows that courts have approved of this technique, even though it raises questions about entrapment, the problems of identifying who's using an open wireless connection--and whether anyone who clicks on a FBI link that contains no child pornography should be automatically subject to a dawn raid by federal police.

Roderick Vosburgh, a doctoral student at Temple University who also taught history at La Salle University, was raided at home in February 2007 after he allegedly clicked on the FBI's hyperlink. Federal agents knocked on the door around 7 a.m., falsely claiming they wanted to talk to Vosburgh about his car. Once he opened the door, they threw him to the ground outside his house and handcuffed him.

AUDIO

News.com daily podcast
Reporter Declan McCullagh talks about the FBI's
hyperlinking tactic for getting child porn suspects.

Download mp3 (6.36MB)

Vosburgh was charged with violating federal law, which criminalizes "attempts" to download child pornography with up to 10 years in prison. Last November, a jury found Vosburgh guilty on that count, and a sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 22, at which point Vosburgh could face three to four years in prison.

The implications of the FBI's hyperlink-enticement technique are sweeping. Using the same logic and legal arguments, federal agents could send unsolicited e-mail messages to millions of Americans advertising illegal narcotics or child pornography--and raid people who click on the links embedded in the spam messages. The bureau could register the "unlawfulimages.com" domain name and prosecute intentional visitors. And so on.

"The evidence was insufficient for a reasonable jury to find that Mr. Vosburgh specifically intended to download child pornography, a necessary element of any 'attempt' offense," Vosburgh's attorney, Anna Durbin of Ardmore, Penn., wrote in a court filing that is attempting to overturn the jury verdict before her client is sentenced.

In a telephone conversation on Wednesday, Durbin added: "I thought it was scary that they could do this. This whole idea that the FBI can put a honeypot out there to attract people is kind of sad. It seems to me that they've brought a lot of cases without having to stoop to this."

Durbin did not want to be interviewed more extensively about the case because it is still pending; she's waiting for U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage to rule on her motion. Unless he agrees with her and overturns the jury verdict, Vosburgh--who has no prior criminal record--will be required to register as a sex offender for 15 years and will be effectively barred from continuing his work as a college instructor after his prison sentence ends.

How the hyperlink sting operation worked
The government's hyperlink sting operation worked like this: FBI Special Agent Wade Luders disseminated links to the supposedly illicit porn on an online discussion forum called Ranchi, which Luders believed was frequented by people who traded underage images. One server allegedly associated with the Ranchi forum was rangate.da.ru, which is now offline with a message attributing the closure to "non-ethical" activity.

In October 2006, Luders posted a number of links purporting to point to videos of child pornography, and then followed up with a second, supposedly correct link 40 minutes later. All the links pointed to, according to a bureau affidavit, a "covert FBI computer in San Jose, California, and the file located therein was encrypted and non-pornographic."

Excerpt from an FBI affidavit filed in the Nevada case showing how the hyperlink-sting was conducted.

Some of the links, including the supposedly correct one, included the hostname uploader.sytes.net. Sytes.net is hosted by no-ip.com, which provides dynamic domain name service to customers for $15 a year.

When anyone visited the upload.sytes.net site, the FBI recorded the Internet Protocol address of the remote computer. There's no evidence the referring site was recorded as well, meaning the FBI couldn't tell if the visitor found the links through Ranchi or another source such as an e-mail message.

With the logs revealing those allegedly incriminating IP addresses in hand, the FBI sent administrative subpoenas to the relevant Internet service provider to learn the identity of the person whose name was on the account--and then obtained search warrants for dawn raids.

Excerpt from FBI affidavit in Nevada case that shows visits to the hyperlink-sting site.

The search warrants authorized FBI agents to seize and remove any "computer-related" equipment, utility bills, telephone bills, any "addressed correspondence" sent through the U.S. mail, video gear, camera equipment, checkbooks, bank statements, and credit card statements.

While it might seem that merely clicking on a link wouldn't be enough to justify a search warrant, courts have ruled otherwise. On March 6, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in Nevada agreed with a magistrate judge that the hyperlink-sting operation constituted sufficient probable cause to justify giving the FBI its search warrant.

The defendant in that case, Travis Carter, suggested that any of the neighbors could be using his wireless network. (The public defender's office even sent out an investigator who confirmed that dozens of homes were within Wi-Fi range.)

But the magistrate judge ruled that even the possibilities of spoofing or other users of an open Wi-Fi connection "would not have negated a substantial basis for concluding that there was probable cause to believe that evidence of child pornography would be found on the premises to be searched." Translated, that means the search warrant was valid.

Entrapment: Not a defense
So far, at least, attorneys defending the hyperlink-sting cases do not appear to have raised unlawful entrapment as a defense.

"Claims of entrapment have been made in similar cases, but usually do not get very far," said Stephen Saltzburg, a professor at George Washington University's law school. "The individuals who chose to log into the FBI sites appear to have had no pressure put upon them by the government...It is doubtful that the individuals could claim the government made them do something they weren't predisposed to doing or that the government overreached."

The outcome may be different, Saltzburg said, if the FBI had tried to encourage people to click on the link by including misleading statements suggesting the videos were legal or approved.

In the case of Vosburgh, the college instructor who lived in Media, Penn., his attorney has been left to argue that "no reasonable jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Vosburgh himself attempted to download child pornography."

Vosburgh faced four charges: clicking on an illegal hyperlink; knowingly destroying a hard drive and a thumb drive by physically damaging them when the FBI agents were outside his home; obstructing an FBI investigation by destroying the devices; and possessing a hard drive with two grainy thumbnail images of naked female minors (the youths weren't having sex, but their genitalia were visible).

The judge threw out the third count and the jury found him not guilty of the second. But Vosburgh was convicted of the first and last counts, which included clicking on the FBI's illicit hyperlink.

In a legal brief filed on March 6, his attorney argued that the two thumbnails were in a hidden "thumbs.db" file automatically created by the Windows operating system. The brief said that there was no evidence that Vosburgh ever viewed the full-size images--which were not found on his hard drive--and the thumbnails could have been created by receiving an e-mail message, copying files, or innocently visiting a Web page.

From the FBI's perspective, clicking on the illicit hyperlink and having a thumbs.db file with illicit images are both serious crimes. Federal prosecutors wrote: "The jury found that defendant knew exactly what he was trying to obtain when he downloaded the hyperlinks on Agent Luder's Ranchi post. At trial, defendant suggested unrealistic, unlikely explanations as to how his computer was linked to the post. The jury saw through the smokes (sic) and mirrors, as should the court."

And, as for the two thumbnail images, prosecutors argued (note that under federal child pornography law, the definition of "sexually explicit conduct" does not require that sex acts take place):

The first image depicted a pre-pubescent girl, fully naked, standing on one leg while the other leg was fully extended leaning on a desk, exposing her genitalia... The other image depicted four pre-pubescent fully naked girls sitting on a couch, with their legs spread apart, exposing their genitalia. Viewing this image, the jury could reasonably conclude that the four girls were posed in unnatural positions and the focal point of this picture was on their genitalia.... And, based on all this evidence, the jury found that the images were of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and certainly did not require a crystal clear resolution that defendant now claims was necessary, yet lacking.

Prosecutors also highlighted the fact that Vosburgh visited the "loli-chan" site, which has in the past featured a teenage Webcam girl holding up provocative signs (but without any nudity).

Civil libertarians warn that anyone who clicks on a hyperlink advertising something illegal--perhaps found while Web browsing or received through e-mail--could face the same fate.

When asked what would stop the FBI from expanding its hyperlink sting operation, Harvey Silverglate, a longtime criminal defense lawyer in Cambridge, Mass. and author of a forthcoming book on the Justice Department, replied: "Because the courts have been so narrow in their definition of 'entrapment,' and so expansive in their definition of 'probable cause,' there is nothing to stop the Feds from acting as you posit."
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Old 03-25-2008, 09:01 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'd argue that whether or not Vosburgh himself is guilty is sort of beside the point. I call your attention to:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cynthetiq
Vosburgh faced four charges: clicking on an illegal hyperlink; knowingly destroying a hard drive and a thumb drive by physically damaging them when the FBI agents were outside his home; obstructing an FBI investigation by destroying the devices; and possessing a hard drive with two grainy thumbnail images of naked female minors (the youths weren't having sex, but their genitalia were visible).

The judge threw out the third count and the jury found him not guilty of the second. But Vosburgh was convicted of the first and last counts, which included clicking on the FBI's illicit hyperlink.
Granted I'm not a legal expert, but it would appear to me that Vosburgh was charged and convicted of clicking on an illicit link (which is apparently a crime), with no further evidence provided than his ip in a logfile. Consider how easy it is to be duped into clicking a link to an unwanted page; I think pretty much all of us have been duped into visiting goatse or tubgirl, it's practically an internet rite of passage. Now imagine if doing that could result in jail time. See the problem here?
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Old 03-26-2008, 01:28 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Old 03-26-2008, 04:12 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Maybe I'm oversimplifying, but wouldn't it be a case of quantity? You know, establishing a pattern? Once could be forgiveable as an error, but when it happens as a pattern over a period of time, then it would add up to something else.
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Old 03-26-2008, 06:01 AM   #9 (permalink)
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So what we have here is an electronic version of the baitcar.

Oh, he didn't mean to be on the web browing for CP? It was an accident that he clicked on a link that promised him delicous CP? He was rickrolled so no harm no foul?

It's not like they put that link here, where none of us has the expectation of seeing CP when we click on it. It's not like they sent that link out in an email and told us it was free Viagra. It was posted on a site known to be frequented by people who distribute child porn amongst each other. What kind of site did Vosburgh think he was surfing?
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Old 03-26-2008, 07:20 AM   #10 (permalink)
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First, I think the guy involved is in fact guilty.

That doesn't make me comfortable with the concept of an 'illegal link' (I wonder if they arrest googlebot)

I would think some attempt to download the stuff would be a MINIMUM. How hard would it be to have 'fake' child porn or the like?
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Old 03-26-2008, 12:03 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuasiMondo
It's not like they put that link here, where none of us has the expectation of seeing CP when we click on it. It's not like they sent that link out in an email and told us it was free Viagra. It was posted on a site known to be frequented by people who distribute child porn amongst each other. What kind of site did Vosburgh think he was surfing?
The funny thing about links is that they can be copied and pasted and renamed.

We don't know that the FBI knew that child porn was traded on that forum. The article states they suspected it, which is entirely different. The TFP is a large forum where users trade pornography. We have a sub-forum dedicated to sex, and another one dedicated to fetishes. It's possible that people could assume all kinds of things about us as a forum, and as members.

To be fair, it is very unlikely that there was any ambiguity on that link. On the other hand, the very idea that someone could be prosecuted for no better reason than that their ip shows up in a logfile is frankly one of those things that makes me glad I don't live in the US. This isn't like the prostitute 'accidently' approaching the wrong car; there are all manner of ways that one can end up at the wrong site, or that one's ip address can be used or misused. Wireless networks, address spoofing, even malicious intent. Imagine one of your friends sent this to you on a lark.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
First, I think the guy involved is in fact guilty.
Sir, I am highly impressed by your deductive abilities that allow you to come to that conclusion based on absolutely no real evidence. My hat is off to you.
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Old 03-26-2008, 12:40 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Not that I agree or disagree entirely with anyone on this particular topic with any certainty beyond pure speculation and intuitive gut feeling, I can't help but agree with Ustwo on the BELIEF that Vosburgh is indeed guilty of SOMETHING based solely on his behaviour when being accosted in the first place. Guilty of what exactly, the evidence has not proven.

Consider the very fact that he was attempting to destroy his hardware when the authorities came for him, this is most certainly the characteristic behaviour of someone trying to hide SOMETHING. Whether it was child pornography or intricately laid out plans to rob a bank, we may never know. The fact remains that if he were indeed innocent, he most certainly would not have been trying to destroy the "evidence", however assumed his guilt may have been by the authorities at the time.

Further, it doesn't help his case any that A) he was indeed known to have accessed a link that, to my basic understanding, was posted in an area known to be frequented by known offenders and in such a way that he knew what he was clicking on .. and B) attempted to obstruct justice when confronted with the accusation.

From a purely deductive standpoint, it smells like guilt to me.
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Old 03-26-2008, 12:50 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kahn
Consider the very fact that he was attempting to destroy his hardware when the authorities came for him, this is most certainly the characteristic behaviour of someone trying to hide SOMETHING. Whether it was child pornography or intricately laid out plans to rob a bank, we may never know. The fact remains that if he were indeed innocent, he most certainly would not have been trying to destroy the "evidence", however assumed his guilt may have been by the authorities at the time.
Hell, it could've just been his directory of illegaly downloaded Phish tunes. I mean would you really want the FBI rooting around in your hard drive? (but of course everyone here is squeaky clean and have nothing to hide )
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Old 03-26-2008, 12:51 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kahn
Not that I agree or disagree entirely with anyone on this particular topic with any certainty beyond pure speculation and intuitive gut feeling, I can't help but agree with Ustwo on the BELIEF that Vosburgh is indeed guilty of SOMETHING based solely on his behaviour when being accosted in the first place. Guilty of what exactly, the evidence has not proven.

Consider the very fact that he was attempting to destroy his hardware when the authorities came for him, this is most certainly the characteristic behaviour of someone trying to hide SOMETHING. Whether it was child pornography or intricately laid out plans to rob a bank, we may never know. The fact remains that if he were indeed innocent, he most certainly would not have been trying to destroy the "evidence", however assumed his guilt may have been by the authorities at the time.

Further, it doesn't help his case any that A) he was indeed known to have accessed a link that, to my basic understanding, was posted in an area known to be frequented by known offenders and in such a way that he knew what he was clicking on .. and B) attempted to obstruct justice when confronted with the accusation.

From a purely deductive standpoint, it smells like guilt to me.
I believe you've made an error in your deductive reasoning. Nowhere has it been stated that the man was discovered destroying evidence. Rather, what's stated is that the man was accused of destroying evidence, a charge which a jury of his peers found him not guilty of.

Is he a pedophile? How should I know? My only real point is that it's a mistake to take anything at face value. We don't have the whole picture here, and bear in mind that the FBI would have a vested interest in proving that he's guilty of what they're saying he is, since it was their questionable program that caught him to begin with. Thus, any information given with the FBI as it's source is automatically biased and suspect.
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Old 03-26-2008, 12:58 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian
Sir, I am highly impressed by your deductive abilities that allow you to come to that conclusion based on absolutely no real evidence. My hat is off to you.
You sound like you are hiding something....

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Old 03-26-2008, 01:06 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
You sound like you are hiding something....
That may be so, but at least you now know it wasn't under my hat.
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Old 03-26-2008, 01:07 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Martian,

After your reply, I went back and reread the entire excerpts of the case much more closely and admit .. I stand corrected. I did misread the part where he was NOT convicted of destroying evidence .. my bad .. I honestly thought it said he WAS convicted. Thank goodness I'm not this guy's attorney eh? My only defense is that it was real late when I read this initially and my eyesight ain't what it used to be.

That being said, this whole thing smells fishy to me, and I'm still waiting for the rest of the story.

Regardless, I'll make it a point to be more accurate in the future when replying to things on this forum. Thank you for pointing that out.
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Old 03-26-2008, 01:16 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kahn
Martian,

After your reply, I went back and reread the entire excerpts of the case much more closely and admit .. I stand corrected. I did misread the part where he was NOT convicted of destroying evidence .. my bad .. I honestly thought it said he WAS convicted. Thank goodness I'm not this guy's attorney eh? My only defense is that it was real late when I read this initially and my eyesight ain't what it used to be.

That being said, this whole thing smells fishy to me, and I'm still waiting for the rest of the story.

Regardless, I'll make it a point to be more accurate in the future when replying to things on this forum. Thank you for pointing that out.
If I'm being honest, my gut instinct tells me the same thing. The pieces just don't add up. On the other hand, gut instinct isn't grounds for conviction, and given that we're clearly not seeing the whole picture here definitely shouldn't be trusted implicitly. We know there's more to the story here than what's been given to us, and really that's the only thing we can say with any certainty.

I'm not overly worried about the individual case anyway. It's the larger implications of this that concern me.
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Old 03-26-2008, 01:20 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I've already been blatantly wrong once in this thread, I won't compound that with further speculative comments at this juncture. I will say that my gut tells me this isn't going to end well.
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Old 03-26-2008, 01:27 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kahn
I will say that my gut tells me this isn't going to end well.
You know, my gut told me that same thing the night that I shit myself in Vegas.
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Old 03-26-2008, 07:11 PM   #21 (permalink)
Dumb all over...a little ugly on the side
 
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Location: In the room where the giant fire puffer works, and the torture never stops.
Brilliant honey pot scheme or horribly flawed perversion of justice?


the latter....and its not even close


Actually, I'm surprised at how long it took them (the FBI) to get around to this.
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I jus' want ta thank you...falettinme...be mice elf...agin...

Last edited by Sion; 03-26-2008 at 07:21 PM..
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