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CMU Professor's Web Site Causing Controversy

by Brought to you by Tendai Monday, Aug. 11, 2003 at 5:24 PM

Controversy is brewing over a Web site at a local university. Some people say the site promotes terrorism because it includes instructions for building a bomb.

CMU Professor's Web Site Causing Controversy

Site Offers Info On Bomb-Making

by Karen Welles, Target 11 Investigator

PITTSBURGH -- Controversy is brewing over a Web site at a local university. Some people say the site promotes terrorism because it includes instructions for building a bomb.

It's as easy to find as a couple of clicks. The details of what a professor at Carnegie Mellon University has on his Web site is causing controversy and sparking debate both on and off the campus.

It's right there in plain English -- directions on how to make a fertilizer bomb. It's not on some terrorist's Web site. It's on the Carnegie Mellon University Web site of computer science professor Dr. David Touretzky, who refers to it as a free speech project.

Target 11's Karen Welles asked "Is this a free speech issue or do you think it's something more in light of terrorism in the United States today?"

Former FBI agent Lane Bonner said, "Well, it's certainly a free speech issue and he may not be technically in violation of statutes but it's certainly questionable and reprehensive conduct."

Bonner heard about the Web site on

"Having been a law enforcement officer for a number of years, I consider it to be very, very dangerous conduct and behavior," Bonner said.

Touretzky is actually mirroring information which was on the now-defunct Web site.

A California teenager was arrested for using the site to distribute bomb-making instructions.

Peter Madsen, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics at CMU, said, "It was claimed by the prosecutors on the on the west coast that there was an intent to commit an act of violence with this site. That was not the intent of Professor Touretzky. As a result, it is not considered to be an illegal site at all. This particular Web site seems to threaten some people yet at the same time Professor Touretzky believes he has a right to express himself as he sees fit."

Tourtezky's Web site does include warnings and disclaimers. But it is a CMU Web site and just last year the university received millions in defense department money to find ways to fight cyberterrorism.

Peter Shane, director of the Institute for the Study of Information, Technology and Society at CMU, said, "There is no one intent on finding information about how to do destructive things who is, I think, made any better off because of Professor Touretzky's Web site. I don't think Professor Touretzky thinks of his effort as being intention with the goal of security and whether or not it is, I think is a difficult question."

Bonner: "It might encourage terrorism."

Welles: "Why is that?"

Bonner: "There are people out there. There are single individuals out there that may not have that knowledge. The information is now readily available to them."

Although Professor Touretzky considers this free speech, he doesn't want to speak with Channel 11 about it.

A spokesperson for CMU had no comment on individual faculty Web sites. But Channel 11 has been told the university has received several complaints and Bonner said he's taking his complaints to his legislators in Washington.

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