The Feds' Ramsey Electronics Raid Blow by Blow
Electronic Hobby Kits Illegal

In November 2000, Ramsey Electronics was raided by 7 armed federal agents, and 3 state troopers, and has been prohibited from selling certain wireless transmitter kits. The government alleges these commonly available wireless kits were intended for illegal wiretapping and international espionage. "Hacker" groups allege the order to remove previously legal wireless technology kits came from the White House, chagrined after the Linda Tripp wiretapping incident.


Company President John Ramsey offered this play-by-play
of that morning's events:


They had already been here almost an hour when I walked in. I [had been]
at the bank. When I came back in, I saw my controller, Ed VanVoorhis and
his face was white as a ghost. There were these two guys wearing suits
standing on each side of him. He told me that these guys were from the
government and they were here with a search warrant. Then the agents
took over; they pretty much bullied me down the hallway and into my office.
I went to go sit at my desk, and they said 'No. you sit over here,' pointing to
a couch in my office. The two of them proceeded to rattle off a lot of
mumble jumble like Title 18 USC Section 2512 and other numbers, flashing
badges and being surrealistically intimidating. I'm looking at my
accountant. I have never seem him like this. The [agents] are verbally
batting me back and forth, and I'm like, 'Hey, what's going on?' They
proceeded to tell me that they were executing a search warrant to find
goods that were in violation of section 2512, and they shove this four or
five page search warrant in my face.

They said that they were here to find stuff that violated section 2512 and I
said, 'Like our wireless FM mic kits?' The one [agent] gave me his card,
and I noticed that he was from Buffalo, an hour and a half away. I said,
'you two guys came all the way here from Buffalo?' and he said, 'No.
There's seven of us.' Then he said, 'If you don't cooperate with us, we'll shut
you down. We'll lock the doors, send all the employees home, we'll go
through all of your inventory, records, customer lists and computers. We'll
go through your computers bit-by-bit. We have experts that do that, and we
don't care if it takes months.' I was escorted out to the production and
shipping areas, which they had pretty much commandeered. All the doors
had 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper taped on them with a large handwritten
letter on them - like A, B and C. There was a fellow wearing a
photographers vest snapping pictures everywhere; we later counted 5
empty film cans in the trash!

About five hours after they arrived, they staged all of the official US
government boxes near the back loading dock. They took a huge van and
backed it up to my loading dock, and proceeded to load it with my goods. I
walked over to the boxes to verify what they were taking; obviously, they
would want me to confirm their counts and amounts. I was stunned! They
wouldn't let me see what was in the boxes! I have no idea what they took. I
went over to look in them, and they told me to get away. They told me they'd
give me an inventory sheet. I said, 'That's my stuff and I should be able to
check it.' Special Agent Craig Healy turned to me and said 'You can trust
us.'"

After they had finished loading the van, they presented me with the
inventory sheet, a simple handwritten sheet with no names, titles or
signatures. There's nothing indicating who it was from on it. I looked at one
of the sheets quickly and noticed the very first part number wasn't one of
ours and the second item number listed was for a kit that had no function
or bearing on their search warrant. They agreed to fish those two items out
of the van and sure enough, neither item was correct. One of them said
words to the effect of, 'gee, we must have picked up the wrong box from
your shelf.' They corrected their mistakes, asked for a recommendation for
a good local restaurant and were on their way...

After they left, employees told me that they surrounded the building,
watching all the entrances while they entered along with a New York state
trooper for back-up. This show of force, while maybe necessary for raiding
an underground drug lab, was hardly necessary. Our building is located in
a typical suburban office park and our showroom is open to all.

What's incredible is that two of the agents were here a week earlier,
pretending to be customers! This 'recon' obviously would have shown them
that no force would be needed, let alone seven agents on a three hour
travel time round trip. What's especially aggravating was that during the
earlier visit they tried to lead one of my technical people into saying
something they wanted to hear. Questions were posed like 'if we placed one
of these little kits across the street in that building - for instance - could we
hear it over here?' Our technician assured them that although the units
work great for model rockets, toy cars and such, they really weren't suited
for transmitting out of a building. Steel construction, reinforcing rod and
the like limits range. They then asked if they could boost the power to do
the job. Our fellow once again reiterated that the kits were hobby stuff and
that what they wanted couldn't be found here. After the raid, my technician
told me that they were here last week, playing 'customer' and how they had
left unsatisfied.

So, where do we sit now? I have a Federal Small Business Innovation Grant
underway that uses our little FM-5 wireless mike to transmit muscle sensor
data to a nearby computer system. The doctors who are partners in the
grant specified the FM-5 due to its small size; present technology uses a six
pound transmitter that straps to the back of a child. Tough to do on a forty
pound kid. The research is on walking disorders on crippled kids. Now
what? Shall we violate their interpretation of the law and work with the
doctors and the SBIR people? How about all the schools, scout troops and
hobbyists who use our kits? We're not talking big money here. The kits
amount to a small portion of our business, but what will these folks do
now?

I have personally received mail from many who say that they are now
graduate engineers as a direct result of one of our little kits sparking their
interest in electronics. I guess the mobsters, terrorists and kidnappers don't
feel the need to write, huh?


Comments from Newsgroups



Subject:  Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1999 20:22:55 -0500
From: "Joe Schlatter" <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.boatanchors, rec.radio.amateur.policy, rec.radio.amateur.misc

David:

Thank you for posting the alert as to what happened to Ramsey Electronics.

I am a retired Army colonel and my politics are somewhat to the left; I am a
yellow-dog Democrat and voted for Bill Clinton twice.  I favor serious gun
control.  BUT, this is beyond good sense.  I now think that the guys who are
telling me that I should be afraid of my own government may have a point.

I recommend that folks go to this URL and read a description of what
happened:

Here is the problem:  This has set a precedent.  Yes, terrorists or other
evil doers could use Ramsey kits to do bad things.  But, the vast majority
of folks buying those kits are electronic hobbyists who do nothing more than
eavesdrop on their big sister and her boyfriend.  The cops should be
concentrating on catching lawbreakers who have broken the law, not sweeping
up every possible item that could, maybe, possibly be used by a criminal.

Case in point:  I have an acquaintance who is an Alabama state police commo
tech.  He told me once that they are forever seizing 2-meter handhelds that
crooks are modifying to transmit outside the ham bands and using for short
range commo.  How about we just swoop down on AES and HRO and seize all
their handhelds -- after all, don't want any criminals buying one.  The same
goes for HF rigs.  I spent 25 years in intelligence work and I can tell you
that international terrorists and drug runners use amateur gear for
long-haul commo.  Let's just shut down Ten-Tec, ICOM, Kenwood, Yaesu,
Collins, the whole works.

Think it can't happen? Think it will not happen?  What would you have said
ten years ago if I had told you that the feds would sue the cigarette
companies and win a multi-billion dollar settlement?

This weekend I will compose a letter to my Congressional delegation, citing
this outrage, and asking that they get a rope around Janet Reno and her
associates.  I will post that letter to this NG and anyone who wishes may
use my letter as a model for writing their own.

--
 

Regards,
Joe Schlatter
[email protected]
http://www.schlatter.org/
http://www.miafacts.org/
Amateur Radio Extra Class call sign W4HH



Subject:  Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1999 09:26:46 -0500
From:  "Joe Schlatter" <[email protected]>
Newsgroups:  rec.radio.amateur.boatanchors, rec.radio.amateur.policy, rec.radio.amateur.misc

Thank you for posting the Ramsey e-mail.  I am suspicious of claims about
"armed federal agents" but this is outrageous.  I don't know what can be
done but I intend to write my Congressional reps and senators today.

I certainly understand the concern about electronic devices being used for
something other than their intended purpose.  Hell, a ham friend of mine a
commo chief for Alabama state police and they confiscate Icom, Kenwood,
Alinco, Yaesu handhelds from drug runners all the time.  Guess folks who
sell handhelds are next??

It is obvious that the Dept of Justice does not understand that the bad guys
will get this stuff anyway and that they need to concentrate on the bad
guys, not on people selling honest stuff honestly.

--
 

Regards,
Joe Schlatter
[email protected]
http://www.schlatter.org/
http://www.miafacts.org/
Amateur Radio Extra Class call sign W4HH



Subject:  Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1999 21:32:36 -0500
From: "David Little" <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.boatanchors, rec.radio.amateur.policy, rec.radio.amateur.misc

Joe,

The armed and dangerous bit is getting far too commonplace.  This isn't the
first such case in point.  This has bveen going on unreported for somtime
now....

A good story (non-fiction) is Bruce Sterling's "Hacker Crackdown".  EFF
should have the online version available for download.



Subject:  Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1999 22:49:46 -0600
From: David Stinson <[email protected]>
Newsgroups:  rec.radio.amateur.misc

The idea of selling electronic kits of any type-
with a very few exceptions not included here-
being illegal falls under the concept of "prior restraint,"
which has been forbidden all the way to the Supreme Court.
The actual misuse of the items is illegal- not owning them.
Unfortunately, it appears the feds are more concerned with
political expedience then actual justice.



Subject: Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 05:35:09 GMT
From: "Gary - KJ6Q" <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.boatanchors, rec.radio.amateur.policy, rec.radio.amateur.misc

IF you would just substitute "gun" in every applicable place where
"radio" or "kits" is used below, you MIGHT understand us pro-gunners a
bit better as well - there are more parallels than you might feel
comfortable with as an admitted leftie...

--
Gary - KJ6Q



Subject: Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: 31 Dec 1999 14:28:31 GMT
From: [email protected] (RFEnforcer)
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.misc

"Due process?"  What a joke!  There is no "due process" when the heavy hand of
the government with it's unlimited financial resources swoops down on a small
business, then forces the business owner to incur huge legal fees for his
defense.  Even if ultimately found innocent, the business is usually ruined in
the process.

Note: this address does not accept unsolicited e-mail.  Please contain all
discussion regarding USENET posts to the appropriate newsgroup thread.



Subject: Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 10:10:23 -0800
From: "dgcochran" <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.boatanchors, rec.radio.amateur.policy, rec.radio.amateur.misc

Hello, In my opinion this is really bad.  I wonder if they will go after
radio shack? I'm sure the Shack's lawyers would have a lot more to say than
picking on a smaller company like Ramsey.  I guess we're getting to the
point that thinking of a crime will be just as illegal as doing it.  I think
that almos anything can be used illegally.  The fed's actions smack of big
brother tactics that should not be tolerated.



Subject: Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: 31 Dec 1999 17:07:03 GMT
From: [email protected] (RFEnforcer)
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.misc

In article <[email protected]>, JJ <[email protected]> writes:

>The same analogy can be said for guns. Look at how many guns are used
>illegally, but you don't see the feds rushing in to all the gun shops to
>shut them down.

Already happening.  Several municipalities have already filed lawsuits against
the gun manufacturers with more localities to follow.  The goal here is to
obtain huge damage awards, thus forcing said manufacturers out of business.
 

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discussion regarding USENET posts to the appropriate newsgroup thread.



Subject: Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 17:45:31 GMT
From: "Gary - KJ6Q" <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.boatanchors, rec.radio.amateur.policy, rec.radio.amateur.misc

The GREAT flaw in your logic is the ASSUMPTION of later "due process",
or that the court process is somehow isolated from *law enforcement* -
hasn't it YET occured to you that events LEADING to the reported
incidents are a PART of our "due process" that are set forth and
permitted by our current legal system?

Or do you REALLY think those two institutions operate entirely
independently from each other? Who do you think gives the search
warrants - or wiretap permissions? Here's a clue - IT'S THE JUDGES!

The SAME judges who will next render the "due process you speak of..."

Gary - KJ6Q
--

Jeffrey Herman <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]
> You folks sound like a lynch mob. Let due-process sort things out.
> Everything that's been produced so far has been extremely one-sided.
>
> 73, Jeff KH6O/6



Subject:
           Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS - NEW WORLD ORDER AT WORK!
Date:
           Wed, 29 Dec 1999 17:34:09 GMT
From:
           Kevin Alfred Strom <[email protected]>
Newsgroups:
           rec.radio.amateur.misc, rec.radio.shortwave

It is quite odd, this mentality that it's a terrible thing for
ordinary folks to possess miniature cameras, handguns, little FM
transmitters, and communications scanners -- but that it's perfectly
alright for the secret police to possess such things, and 10,000
times more, and use them against us.
 
 

With every good wish,
 
 

--

Kevin Alfred Strom.

News, links, and pictures: http://www.kevin-strom.com



Subject: Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS - NEW WORLD ORDER AT WORK!
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 03:54:35 GMT
From: "Lake" <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.misc, rec.radio.shortwave

Ramsey electronics was raided.  They sell a bunch of little electronic kits.
Even Radio Shack sells little FM transmitter kits.

A nice example of our tax dollars going to waste. These kits are NOT illegal
to buy or own, It's only illegal if used in the wrong way.
As a matter of fact it was little kits like these that got me and probably
many others involved
with radio.



Subject: Re: FEDS RAID ELECTRONIC HOBBY VENDORS - NEW WORLD ORDER AT WORK!
Date: 31 Dec 1999 14:28:32 GMT
From: [email protected] (RFEnforcer)
Newsgroups: rec.radio.amateur.misc

In article <%[email protected]>, "Lake"
<[email protected]> writes:

>A nice example of our tax dollars going to waste. These kits are NOT illegal
>to buy or own, It's only illegal if used in the wrong way.

Next on the list: 10-meter amateur transceivers (they "could" be modified and
used illegally on 11m), handguns (they "could" be used illegally by criminals),
and lawn fertilizer (it "could" be used illegally to make bombs.)

Remember, folks, this is the same government that was just caught red-handed
lying to it's citizens about it's actions at the Branch Davidian compound in
1993.  Do you still feel so safe in "the land of the free?"
 
 
 

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