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MSP report: 'extremely unlikely' hacker sent e-mail using official's I.P.

September 4, 2001

A written narrative chronicling the investigation by Maryland State Police Tfc. Art Schroeder and Sgt. Robert Smolek, dated Aug. 28 and delivered to Kent County Commissioners Ron Fithian, Michael Newnam and Larry Beck, states the "investigation is continuing."

The investigation stemmed from e-mail messages sent under the names "rhwillis" and "swillis" on May 28 and 30 to Gov. Parris N. Glendening's office, and an attempt to access the "rhwillis" mailbox on July 9.

Rock Hall Council member Robert Willis announced at a July 12 public meeting that he had tracked the e-mails to a computer firm owned by Beck, and state police investigators told commissioners the "rhwillis" mailbox had been checked through the phone line of a computer at Beck's home.

A copy of the written report, provided to Kent County Commission, states that "Mr. Beck insisted he was hacked. It was explained to Mr. Beck that would be extremely unlikely as this is a dial-up account and the I.P. is constantly changing. He was also advised there is no software available to dial-up a computer from another telephone line. It has to be dialed up at the origin where the computer exists."

Richard D. Bennett, Beck's attorney, had not been sent a copy of the state police report and was unaware yesterday that the investigation was continuing.

"I am in no way criticizing the state police investigation," said Bennett, a former U.S. Attorney for Maryland, currently a member of Miles & Stockbridge, but our firm is planning to conduct a far more thorough investigation into this matter.

"And we're going to be using more than two investigators to do it," Bennett added.

Beck has consistently denied any knowledge of the origin of the e-mail messages sent in May or of any attempt to check the "rhwillis" mailbox in July.

Beck, who was the victim of a hacker more than a year ago, said, as a re-seller of the internet service provider identified in the e-mails, his password could have easily been accessed.

And both Bennett and Beck maintain it is entirely possible that someone else accessed Beck's home computer line.

"The reason I hired Mr. Bennett, who is a top-notch lawyer in a one of the best law firms in the country, is because they have the resources I need to help solve this," he explained.

"Mr. Bennett is a former federal prosecutor, and as a United States attorney, he is familiar with and has taken part in a number of internal investigations, including many with the F.B.I."

Beck said he was puzzled after reading the Aug. 28 police report in which Schroeder revealed he had "received a telephone call from an individual providing information relating some of the surrounding aspects that have been made public during this investigation and does not deal specifically with the e-mails."

"I have no idea what that relates to," he remarked.

And Beck insists he wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than anyone, and he is confident Bennett and Miles & Stockbridge will help to do that.

The state police report also states that Beck was offered the opportunity to take a polygraph examination, but advised "he needed some time to think about it."

The test was never administered.

Beck's fellow commissioners say if their colleague is serious in proving his innocence, it's time he took the polygraph.

"I wanted to read the full report, even though I was aware of its content in discussions with the state police in our executive session last week," said Fithian.

"And after reading the entire report, I believe it appears very damaging to Larry's credibility. Quite frankly," Fithian admitted, "I'm very disturbed this matter hasn't been closed. But I understand there's additional information that might help determine what's going on here. We'll just have to wait and see what that tells us."

Commissioner Newnam also said he would urge Beck to take the polygraph.

"We're not 'after' Larry," said Newnam. "I was the one who called the executive session, and I almost wish I hadn't. But Larry was the one who said a hacker accessed his home computer, and the report tells us that's almost impossible, because the I.P. numbers keep changing."

Newnam said he agrees with Fithian that Beck will have to prove his innocence in order for the three of them to work well together.

"Larry's had every opportunity to prove to us that he's not responsible for the e-mails, and I think taking that polygraph would help him to do that," said Newnam.

Bennett stresses his client has no problem with taking the polygraph, and would do so "as long as everyone else takes one, too."

The lawyer also disagrees with the conclusion by state police investigators that it was not possible to access Beck's home computer line.

"I have strong suspicions about that statement in the report," said Bennett.

"Larry's computer has been hacked into before, and I think our own internal investigation may prove it happened again."

Bennett stands firmly behind his client's claim of innocence.

"We just want to get to the bottom of this," he said. "Larry has nothing to hide."

To satisfy anyone who questions whether Beck intends to step down from his position as commissioner in the midst of the controversy, Beck doesn't miss a beat in his answer.

"There is absolutely no reason for me to resign," Beck said firmly. "And I don't intend to."


By COOKY McCLUNG, Copyright © The Star Democrat 2001


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