Middle East Professors Say They Are Under Email Seige

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Over the weekend Juan Cole reported that he and the other seven professors listed on Campus Watch have been subject to"massive repetitive spamming of our email accounts. Also hacker tools are being used to spoof our emails, sending out things under our names that are not from us."

He added:

This sort of thing paralyzed some of my poor colleagues. I use Eudora so I just set filters and empty the trash more often, plus I report the offenders to their internet service providers. But then it starts up from another account somewhere. It is interesting to see what it is like to be under siege.
Mr. Cole says that some of the members on the list have received up to 1400 emails a day. Some, he says, have received telephone threats.

In an email he sent to the others on the list, Mr. Cole referred to"this campaign of intimidation" as an"organized conspiracy." He informed his colleagues that filters can weed out the spam once the IP address has been identified. But"once one account is canceled, another one will be opened elsewhere to continue the attacks." He has told his colleages they should report instances of identity theft to the authorities:"Where the individual has 'spoofed' or stolen an identity, this is a Federal crime and should be reported as such to the FBI. ... It is possible that RICO or other legal tools will be used to break up such attack rings."

This is an example of an email Mr. Cole has sent to an ISP discovered hosting one of the spammers:

Someone is using a repetitive spam program from your servers to disrupt my email service at the University of Michigan. Please cancel this account, or if the person is a nested hacker, seek him out and zot him, immediately, or I shall be forced to take legal action. Please note that the individual has stolen the identities of prominent US academics and so is in violation of Federal law. I ask that if you discover his identity, that it and information on his activities be turned over to the FBI.


Professor Juan Cole
University of Michigan


HNN emailed Mr. Pipes about Mr. Cole's complaint that he and other professors listed on Campus Watch had been spammed. We received the following comment:

Professor Juan Cole has complained that he has received spam, his e-mail address is being"spoofed," and he has been subjected to other forms of e-mail pestering in recent days--all of which he believes is the work of visitors to the Campus Watch website.

But Campus Watch does not encourage site visitors to contact anyone mentioned on its website. Indeed, the Campus Watch website deliberately omits contact information about the individuals noted at http://www.campus-watch.org/dossier.php/id/2. Further, Campus Watch categorically repudiates all forms of e-mail harassment.

If Professor Cole has in fact been subject to such harassment, Campus Watch joins him in demanding that whoever stands behind this reprehensible behavior cease immediately.

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More Comments:

Svend White - 10/9/2002

Sorry, I forgot to include the link: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,54708,00.html

Svend White - 10/9/2002

The scope of this campaign (or these campaigns) is wider than this article indicates:

1) It's been happening for 3-4 months (i.e., before the CampusWatch was put up).

2) The targets aren't all academics or famous (e.g., I've been getting attacked since May). It's a mixture of prominent academics activists and officials at political orgs, and people who are just active on pro-Palestinian e-mail lists (like me).

It appears that the perpetrators might have gotten a lot of their names from e-lists on Yahoo Groups (which seems to host every list under the sun).

3) The types of messages have varied considerably, but have mostly been hardline pro-Israeli or anti-Islamic fundamentalism articles that seem to have been cut and pasted from some fringe publications. (For a while, some of them included a link to a porn website.)

It's impossible to know how many people are doing this. My guess is that it started out small, but has increased as they realized the power of spam to clog up people's inboxes.

Here's an article in Wired on it (though, I think the author is totally unjustified in discounting the possibility of this being done by pro-Israeli hackers, given all the evidence).


Rachel Terry Neuwirth - 9/29/2002

Dr. Pipes has and is achieving his point as there is no room for falsifaction in the education system. Dr. Pipes is one of the most sought historian today and is as the WSJ worte 'An Athoritative commentator on the Middle East'.

Aisha Sobh will not know truth if it hits her in the head like many in the Arab world these days, unfortunatly.

David Vincelette - 9/26/2002

I see that Daniel Pipes is shocked, shocked! that listing professors he perceives as not toeing the Israeli line results in their being targeted by ADL types. To Pipes and his ilk, any criticism of Jews is an attack on them.

Chris Osborne - 9/26/2002

So all those who disagree with Ms. Sobh are "fascists?" This sounds like the leftist version of McCarthyism in which all critics of the late Wisconsin senator were labelled as communists--the idea that if you don't agree with me completely you are therefore utterly evil. One of the reasons why the German Left was unable to stop Hitler in 1933 was because the communists were too busy labelling the Social Democrats "social fascists" merely because they lacked Marxist-Leninist purity, rather than combining with other anti-Nazis to stop the rise of the future dictator.
One hopes that since Ms. Sobh believes that Daniel Pipes has effectively set up a network to harass leftist scholars, perhaps she'll be angry when her fellow leftists boo, jeer, and telephone death threats to Marilyn Faulkner merely because she believes that Mumia Abu-Jamal killed her husband. Gosh, I guess I could charge that all those who support the acquittal of or a new trial for Mumia are guilty of organizing the death threat campaign against Mrs. Faulkner!

aisha sobh - 9/25/2002

Mr. Pipes has missed the point. He is creating a machine of harrassment that enables others to do what he cannot. As if he couldn't see the consequences! Mr. Pipe's lost his credibility as a scholar long ago, having sold his soul for for a few pet causes. One wonders what is the appropriate response: (the same feelings we have when the other fascists come to our town). Does one fight them vociferously, or hope that by ignoring them, they fade into oblivion without public attention.

donkates - 9/23/2002

My deep sympathy for Cole's plight is mitigated by my admiration for his wisdom in picking the right side. Israelis get suicide bombers. American (and especially French and European) Jews get shot and stabbed and their synagogues and businesses fire-bombed. Ordinary Americans of all varieties get murdered by the thousands on 9/11. Cole and his colleagues get spam and hate mail and threats. The comparison certainly tell you something, doesn't it?