FWD: Ramsey Raid Information
Mon, 27 Dec 1999 23:25:23 -0500
The following thread may or may not be of interest to you. Ramsey has been a good friend to the ham radio community. It seems the feds have become a little heavy-handed recently thanks to MonicaTrippGate and the State Department incident. We're waiting for them to take out the local Radio Shack...
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These messages were
posted on a fox hunt list by KQ6XA. Foxhunters (Hams looking for hidden
transmitters) are worried because they use Ramsey stuff for the transmitters.
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Dear Fellow Foxhunters,
There has been some criticism in the past about Ramsey Electronics kits
having possible technical problems. Please keep in mind that they put out HOBBY EXPERIMENT KITS. Those kits can form the basis or PCB for a viable system, but good judgment and techniques by the homebrew builder really should be used when putting an experimental device on the air such as a fox transmitter or other type of amateur transmitter.
But, the raid on Ramsey has NOTHING TO DO WITH FCC technical requirements or meeting specifications on spurious emissions, stability, etc.
IMHO, The raid on Ramsey was a politically motivated initiative to "make an example out of them" in the area of "wiretapping" and electronic eavesdropping. The wiretap laws were written many years ago when technology was bulky and fairly simplistic. These days, with miniaturization due to advancements in digitization, SMT and ICs, many common methods of building simple transmitters and other security devices could easily be construed to fall under the old wiretapping laws. Common technology in everyday use now blurs the old legal concept of "wiretapping".
In this election year, with the "Linda Tripp" case recently opened, and a VHF bug found in the heart of the US Department of State, electronic
eavesdropping is making the national news. The funny thing is that Linda
Tripp used a common tape recorder for her "wiretapping" and the State
Department bug was done by a professional Russian diplomatic spy (using a custom made transmitter device)!
So, a government agency just decided to "re-interpret" the old wiretapping laws, and that Ramsey would make an easy target to use as a public message that they are "getting tough on wiretapping". Ramsey is a small company with limited resources which simply cannot afford to respond with massive legal force in the courts. Therefore, it is in the interest of self preservation that they seem to be pulling certain kits from their catalog.
Radio Shack, makes and sells very similar hobby kits. However, Radio Shack is a huge company with vast resources and has a high-powered team of attorneys. Therefore, Radio Shack was a hard target for the government agency to raid.
For those wanting to know more about the Ramsey raid, here is a link to
Ramsey's web page and discussion board on the USA Federal Restrictions on their hobby kits:
Click on the upper left frame where it says:
"New Federal Restrictions"
73 & Happy Y2K
First, apologies to those reading this who have no interest in the future of ham radio in the USA. If this is you, please delete this message now.
My inbox is now full of email responses about the Ramsey kits and questions such as whether it is now illegal to build them for Foxhunting... So I looked up the law that Ramsey is trying to comply with now. I'm no legal expert, but as I read it, anyone who has ever assembled one of Ramsey's kits which are now on the restricted list could now be construed under the "new interpretation" to fall under this catch-22 law.
Will they take us away in handcuffs, since we assembled some Ramsey FM-6
units for fox transmitters?
I doubt it :-)
But, if you read the letter of the law, any general coverage receiver, HT, spectrum analyzer, a microphone, or tin-cans-with-string could be illegal if they want to deem them so under this law. Those credit-card size Alinco HTs are a miniature bugging device! Just tape down the PTT, similar to the way we do when using them for a fox transmitter!
So I've snipped out the pertinent portion of the law which may apply to us:
USA "TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
PART I - CRIMES
CHAPTER 119 - WIRE AND ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS INTERCEPTION AND
INTERCEPTION OF ORAL COMMUNICATIONS
Sec. 2512. Manufacture, distribution, possession, and advertising of wire, oral, or electronic communication intercepting devices prohibited
(1) Except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter, any person who intentionally -
(b) manufactures, assembles, possesses, or sells any
electronic, mechanical, or other device, knowing or having reason
to know that the design of such device renders it primarily
useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of wire,
oral, or electronic communications, and that such device or any
component thereof has been or will be sent through the mail or
transported in interstate or foreign commerce; or..."
There seems to be a lot of interest in this story, and I've been getting a ton of email from foxhunters who are trying to find out what happened at Ramsey. This is the last report I'll be making until the situation resolves, so please check out Ramsey's website and other places on the web if you want more info.
2200UTC Monday 27DEC1999
A reliable source reports:
The Ramsey Raid was carried out by 7 armed agents of US Customs (Buffalo NY office). Two undercover NY State Police officers visited Ramsey Electronics a few weeks in advance, posing as civilians and saying they needed to buy office bugging equipment. A technician at Ramsey told the two men they were in the wrong place for that type of stuff, since Ramsey only produced hobby kits. They went away empty-handed. The entrapment scheme failed so they took another angle. It's unknown at this time how US Customs came into the picture but it seems there was no FCC involvement.
The agents confiscated about $30,000 worth of Ramsey products, including kits such as the Ham Kits and RF Switches, etc. without regard (or seemingly any technical knowledge) for what the purpose of the kits were. Tactics such as threats to tear their computers down and thus keep them from doing business for a long time, were used to get them to knuckle under to "voluntary restrictions".
Ramsey Electronics has worked with the FBI and other federal and local
agencies in the past, and received certificates of commendation for their help in solving cases. This raid came as quite a shock to the management and employees during the holiday season.
Email I just received from John Ramsey.
Posted to the foxhunting lists by permission:
>Hi Bonnie KQ6XA
>thanks for your letter, although you use our kits for
>something fun like foxhunting, we've found that our $6 fm-1
>kit is the ideal bugging device for cash-strapped terrorists
>and dictators throughout the world!!
>they came loaded for bear! no letter, no phone call - nothing!
> 7 agents (all armed!) in 3 vehicles from buffalo, ny
>(1 1/2 hours away) plus 3 state troopers! wouldn't be so crazy,
>except that 2 of them were here a week ago
>pretending to be customers while 'casing the joint"
>(ha ha - our small factory showroom filled with all our kits
>as well as some of our clocks that we're now selling.
>hardly a wiretappers/criminal's paradise!!) they tried to
>lead one of our techs into saying how some of the stuff
>would do the exact job they wanted in bugging some offices,
>etc. he told them that if they wanted something like that,
>that they were in the wrong place - all our stuff is pretty much
>for the hobbyists. talk about entrapment!! we had no
>idea it was them, until a week later at "the raid" when the
>tech recognized them!
>They could have solved the whole thing then and there, but no.
>They headed back to buffalo to plan their big 'raid'.
>2 guys and a 3 hour round trip - to recon a 25 year old business
>that is located in an office park that sells to electronic experimenters
>and schools - not like we're in a dingy basement in the inner city
>surrounded by hit-men and drug labs! let's see....
>one of the heaviest traveled US border crossings is in buffalo,
>about 7 minutes from their office.... and isn't the US/Canadian
> border where a customs agent in washington state luckily
>stumbled upon a terrorist bringing a bomb into the US?
>"no time to watch the border, guys - we gotta bust a kit
>they backed up their van to the loading dock and filled it
>with over $30K in gear. they wouldn't let me see what they
> were taking, verify counts or even observe what was in the boxes!
> "you can trust us" was their response!!! they gave me a
>handwritten inventory sheet with no names on it or signatures!
>i questioned the first 2 items on the list. one item was a
>part # that was completely wrong and the second item was
>our RFS-1 - an rf switch kit. "oh, ahhh we probably picked up
> the wrong box" right, the pulled the wrong box off the shelf -
>should have been the PB-1 phone bug kit. yep, that $15 kit
>that transmits in the middle of the FM broadcast band, the
>choice of criminals everywhere! so, on the list given to me,
>the first 2 items i see are both wrong!!! "you can trust us"
>righty-o, mr. government man!
>all that to do the job of a 33 cent stamp. its a whole lot
>more ugly than you can imagine... me being hearded
>down into my office, being told where and when to sit,
>being told to cooperate or, "we'll shut down your business,
>send everyone home and we'll bring in computer experts to
>dissect your computers bit-by-bit and we don't care if it takes
>months" think i want to cooperate? do i need my lifelong business
> shut down by a group of thugs that
>i'm paying!!?? i'm ashamed to be an american!
>radio shack *is* next and they even mentioned wal-mart
>with their baby monitors!! sure you can use a lot of our kits
> for rotten uses, so can most any other everyday object.
>hey, some of our ad copy says, 'be like james bond' but
>so does the latest remco toy that says, 'be like hulk hogan' or
>'fly your own B-1 bomber mission' thye decide to "get" all the
>smaller companies and drive them out of biz to make their
>raids look good. radio shack may fight them, they may win,
> but by that time, all the little guys have been crushed
>and the gov't's rate of conviction looks good. its sad.
>my company has worked with the FBI lab in washington, dc.
> we helped put away a spy/terrorist who worked at a missile
>plant in new england, helped with breaking and IRA terrorist, too.
> we even had the FBI i here a few months ago, helping them
>to track down an Iranian terrorist. i have a certificate of
>appreciation from the ontario county sheriff ahnging on my wall.
> i have a patent being denied publication due to its value to the
> us military - i tested the invention at nellis air force base and it
> will save the hide of many a night flying pilot - that's the air force's
> words, not mine! my company is recognized by the county as
>one of 'the high tech, clean companies we should be proud to
> have in our back yard!' it is dispicable that a high order from
> some knee-jerk politicians could target us.
>thanks for your support out there guys! i travel thru santa
> rosa at least 3-4 times a year and am looking forward to
> moving to the healdsburg area in the next few years,
>perhaps you'll hear my call soon!
>thanks for your support!
>73, john ramsey, N2HWA
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