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You will be able to penetrate the more sensitive areas of a woman and reach nerve endings she probably doesn't even know she has. ...

At the same time you are satisfying her cravings with your large, manly penis, YOU are receiving more pleasure on your sensitive nerve endings than you can imagine. ...

"Is My Penis Growth PERMANENT?" YES! Take VigRX, grow to the perfect size for you, and you can even stop taking the pills. ...

Remember, a penis larger than 9 inches may be too large for most women ...
--VigRX website

I have survived testicular cancer three times ... The spam messages were coming to my computer every 15 minutes in either pop up or spam form and no other spammer on the Internet is as horrible to deal with as the penis enlargement industry.

If you had only sent me a few spams once in a while, and not filled my computer screen with pop up ads every 15 minutes I would not be so pissed off. In addition to the frequency of the pop ups they were also placed in the middle of my computer screen, they would pop up even when I was not surfing the internet, and they would always pop up near the center of my computer screen, and every pop up would have three or more windows at a single time.

I work on my computer. I do things that require concentration. I am working on real scientific research. ... I need to concentrate while I am working or I get nothing done. ... Please ... act in a responsible and ethical manner, and stop harassing people.
--Letter from Charles Booher to DM Contact's Doug Mackay

Doug Mackay Albion Medical I am going to locate you, disable you using either a quick .22 calibre shot to your lower spine and then duck tape and plastic shrink raps.

Then I am going to kidnap you and take you to my secret hiding place. There I will castrate you and remove your penis using crude gardening tools, I will use a lightweight torch to cauterize your wounds and you will be awake and conscious during the entire procedure.

Then I am going to prepare your genitals into some kind of meat loaf dish and use a nastrogastric tube to force the fetid stew I have made from your genitals down your throat.

Then I am going to cut into the left side of your brain using a power drill and an ice pick and I am going to study enough neurosurgery that I have a good chance of making you aphasic so that you feel every bit of pain and terror I am going to inflict upon you.

Then I am going to use a blow torch to burn your skin off a little at a time until I am certain that you are close enough to death that and that the Burn unit and the Neuro-surgery unit has a medium chance to save your life. You will spend many long years in a painful rehab and I will spend my life in a nice mental hospital taking really cool drugs that will be paid for with your tax dollars.

Doug, I am certain that you can make all my penis enlargement scam go away, but if you cannot for some reason accomplish this noble goal then I recommend that you and everybody at your company quit and the founders move because I am coming after you mother fucker.
--Letter from Booher to Mackay quoted in federal criminal complaint


Photographs by Dan Pulcrano

Son of Spam: Charles Booher fought back against spam. It's possible he went a little too far.

Raging Against The Machine

Charles Booher was arrested for emailing death threats to a company he thought was spamming him with penis pill popups. DM Contact's Doug Mackay swears he's not behind the Internet spam plague, and that enlargement potion pusher Leading Edge Marketing is just a client. But a Metro investigation reveals that Leading Edge Marketing registered in the same province as DM Marketing, under his brother's name: Geoffrey Mackay. So maybe Booher harassed the right guy after all.

By Dan Pulcrano

Charles Booher swears he didn't set out to become the poster boy for a phrase that entered popular culture late last month: "spam rage."

"Was I interested in becoming a martyr for a cause?" he asks rhetorically, and then without a pause answers, "No."

"I just wanted one particular spammer to leave me alone," he says. "I was not looking to be the leader of a movement."

"I was irritable. I had quit smoking. I was trying to get some work done. The obnoxious door-to-door salesman had rang my doorbell too many times."

Outside his two-story, cream-colored Sunnyvale home, where he lives with his elementary schoolteacher wife and their cat Willoughby, Booher doesn't resemble someone the FBI has accused of waging a terror campaign via electronic mail messages. He doesn't wear a crewcut like Timothy McVeigh, or Michael Douglas in Falling Down--or sport a crazed, unkempt mop like the Unabomber. With just slightly mussed and thinning brown hair, he stands barefoot on the rain-moistened cement driveway wearing a purple T-shirt that bears a pocket logo of the firm that laid him off on Aug. 2, 2002: KLA Tencor.

The Brady Bunch neighborhood with white quartz lawns and squat, cylindrically pruned junipers is a David Lynch picture of 1970s normalcy that Booher calls "paradise." Just down the street from the school that Wozniak and Jobs attended, Homestead High, in the city where Nolan Bushnell created the first videogame, Pong, this could well be Silicon Valley's residential Ground Zero. And Booher is as classic a specimen of pre-Internet boom Silicon Valley geekdom as can be sighted in its natural habitat. He even speaks in Woz-like boyishly excited tech-ese, with a faded Chicago accent.

The programmer, who has worked for companies like Sun, Amdahl and Taligent, lives in a carpeted home with a ceiling fan, Tiffany-style table lamps and white walls adorned with traditional lithographs in an assortment of simple wood frames. A mixed variety of oak and other varieties of pre-Ikea wooden furniture from the 1980s and earlier fill its rooms.

Booher doesn't strike me as creepy or deranged as he welcomes me into his living room and a bit later shows me the upstairs office whose sole decoration is an astronomy map on one wall. A coffee mug with a purple satanic pentacle sits amidst the computer gear.

Ever since his KLA job tanked, Booher has spent his time networking online with colleagues, firing off résumés and creating CD-ROMs of fruit fly, plant and human genomes that he hoped would generate some income while he scoured web resources for his next job in the turbulent technology industry. "It's been a long, dry spell for Silicon Valley nerds," he laments.

Booher was having some particularly rough moments late last spring. As he tells it, his mother-in-law was dying, his wife was out of town, he'd been unemployed for almost a year and income from sales of his CD-based data products could generously be described as a trickle. Meanwhile, an unwelcome pop-up demon had set up residence in the Windows operating system of his Gateway computer.

Jonesing from nicotine withdrawal, Booher says he was having "psychological problems." He remembers being "psychoactive as hell, and spent the week hallucinating."

As Booher crunched gene sequences for his DNA mapping project, beside a bookshelf filled with reference manuals on C++, Linux, cryptography and the game Doom, unsolicited messages began popping up in the upper corner of his computer screen offering to enlarge, lengthen and thicken his male organ. As the uninvited hucksters shouted from his desktop, his email inbox overflowed with message headers that Booher says ranged from "Guaranteed Penis Enlargment" to innocuously deceptive ones like "Did I bother you?" and "Happy Birthday," all of which promoted the same macho mix herbal pill.

"Phony stock tips, phony mortgage offers--that didn't bother me. Phony urology, medical scams--now that bothered me.

"It reminded me of my testicular cancer nightmare," Booher recalls. "It was coming back at me. And I had no control over it."

Booher attempted to opt out of the email and pop-up avalanche by contacting the firm that he identified as the source of the harassing messages, DM Contact Management of Victoria, Canada.

Booher says that in a telephone conversation, DM Contact's Doug Mackay admitted his connection to penis pill pushers Albion Medical and Leading Edge Marketing, Inc., then later changed his story.

Reached at his office, Mackay insisted that Leading Edge, which lists a shopping center in Nassau, Bahamas, as its mailing address and a voice mailbox in Michigan as its phone number, is just a client.

"He had the wrong company. We're a service provider. We provide call center services and answer email, things like that," Mackay said.

The call center could explain why his firm shares the same telephone number with the penis enhancement firm. However, he shares web hosting, domain name service, IP addresses and a law firm with Leading Edge as well.

"That's another service of ours--we provide servers for people," Mackay explained.

Lawyers too? Both Leading Edge and Mackay's firm are represented by the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm. DWT's flagship office is in Seattle, close to DM's Victoria, British Columbia, headquarters but not exactly around the corner from Nassau, a financial haven used by companies who wish to hide their ownership or dodge taxes by establishing a virtual headquarters on the small Caribbean island.

"I really can't comment about how they find law firms," Mackay demurs. He says he has no financial interest in Leading Edge, and played no role in organizing the Bahamian entity.

Filings with the British Columbia corporate registry list Geoffrey M. Mackay of Sidney B.C. as sole principal of Leading Edge Marketing Inc. and Andrew A. and Douglas Mackay as principals of D M Contact Management Ltd.

When asked about this apparent coincidence, Douglas Mackay responded, "I don't talk about my family to reporters." A Leading Edge employee, however, did identify Geoffrey as Douglas' brother.

"This case is about a man with a long history of mental illness who mistakenly harassed a company," was all Douglas Mackay would say.

"Douglas Mackay is a liar," Booher says. "A pathological liar."

Spam Wars' Ground Zero: Booher, who works from home, says he was never interested in becoming an anti-spam poster boy, but fans post supportive messages in blogs and websites. He also liked the T-shirt, a gift from Metro.

Shock and Law

Doctor-Approved Vig-Rx Penis Enlargement pills Will Actually Expand, Lengthen And Enlarge Your Penis. 100% GUARANTEED!

You'll radiate confidence and success whenever you enter a locker room, and other men will look at you with real envy. But the best part is when you reveal yourself in all your glory to the woman in your life. When she sees how massive and manly, how truly long and hard you are, she will surrender and give you everything you have always wanted. The feeling of power is sensational, and the sex is unbelievable!

We accept Bank Cashiers Checks made payable to "Leading Edge Marketing Inc."
--Albion Medical Web site

I am sending a package full of Anthrax Spores to your address mother fuckers. Stop Spamming me mother fucker or I will locate the family of all of the quacks at Albion "Medical" and put a bullet in your head mother fuckers.
--May 31 email

"Here is the way it is going to work Doug Mackay. I am going to slam a 10cm ice pick into your left ear. It is going to go past your ear drum and when it does so you are for a brief moment going to be in more pain than you can imagine. As the ice pick pushes through into your brain Doug Mackay it will cause damage that might kill you, or will more likely maim you causing brain damage such as loss of control over the right side of your body, seizures, and with luck a neuro-surgeon from the fine Canadian Health care service will be able to get the bleeding stopped. If I roll around the ice pick enough I think I can either kill you or take out your language area such that you are rendered aphasic. It should be an interesting trial you fucking pig piece of shit Doug Mackay. Be afraid Doug Mackay, be very afraid."
--July 6 email

Booher says he suffers from bipolar depression. In a 1998 Usenet posting he said he was having good luck with a mood stabilizer called Depakote, prescribed for "treatment of manic episodes associated with bipolar disorders," according to its manufacturer, which notes, "Typical symptoms of mania include pressure of speech, motor hyperactivity, reduced need for sleep, flight of ideas, grandiosity, poor judgment, aggressiveness and possible hostility."

"Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of," Booher posted in 1998. "Lots of very great people throughout history have been afflicted."

"I take my pills," Booher volunteered this week. "They work 99 percent of the time. I do the best I can."

"When I get angry I write," he says.

He had been a frequent poster to Usenet groups before his scrap with DM Contact Management. He had been obsessed for years with Saddam Hussein and Iraq's biological weapons, and particularly Saddam's son, Uday. "I want Saddam and his rapist son of a pig fucking whore to die soon," was a typical posting. He urged bombing Iraq long before that was fashionable, and sometimes engaged in borderline hate speech against Arabs in general, suggesting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be solved by anthraxing the Palestinians.

His postings were often so off-the-hook that they could be dismissed as the ravings of a madman or viewed as an obvious attempt at humorous parody. Or maybe just an attempt to shock. He suggested mandatory sterilization of all environmentalists. In response to a 1998 recruiting ad for Nazi and KKK sympathizers to help defend South African apartheid, he responded: "I Work for the CIA and MOSSAD and I would like to kill you."

At other times, his postings were well argued and displayed intelligence and knowledge of history, even while advocating unconventional solutions to geopolitical problems.

He now says he regrets many of the postings. "Yes, I wrote some vile shit in there. I lost my temper. I'm sorry."

Paralleling Booher's amateur political punditry was his effort to develop and market a public key encryption program to compete with Network Associates' PGP. A utility that worked with Microsoft Office, he promoted the downloadable freeware by posting encrypted chapters of "a story about rogue officers who had decided to take over the Pentagon and destroy Saddam Hussein," he pauses and adds, "and it had a biological warfare element to it."

To view the story, readers had to download his 168-bit encryption program called SecureOffice, which he posted to his website. Either the political fiction or the free distribution of technology that foreign enemies could use to protect their communications attracted attention of federal investigators, who subpoenaed his source code and launched a Keystone Cops-style attempt to prosecute Booher for violation of laws against the international export of sensitive technologies even though there had been, by some accounts, only a single overseas download.

The feds were so naive about the Internet, Booher says, that they referred to shipping containers in their investigation, as if the code was being sent overseas in large wooden crates. Booher released a scan of the subpoena on the Internet, and his case became a cause célèbre in the electronic-freedom community, drawing global coverage. He drew laughter when he showed up to court in a Bullwinkle T-shirt in a reference to the Cold War-era cartoon that pitted Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose against bumbling spies Boris and Natasha. The feds never pursued the case, and Booher switched to writing about crime instead of war.

For the next half-decade, Booher dropped to a lower profile in the Usenet discussion forums, posting a few messages here and there, mostly under handles like "Former FBI Agent." He released a rewrite of SecureOffice that apparently the U.S. government had no problem with. He took some hits from critics in cryptography forums and was attacked variously as a "kook" or a sellout to the NSA. He was generally on good behavior, except for the occasional rant about drug czar Barry McCaffrey, who opposed medicinal marijuana use:

Maybe somebody will kill you with an axe. Maybe somebody will kill you with a firearm. Maybe somebody will kill you with a Truck Bomb. Maybe you will die in an Aviation accident. ... Maybe you will die of some horrible disease.

Who could have predicted Booher's re-emergence as a newsmaker, folk hero, Usenet whipping boy and target of the federal criminal justice system would be prompted by some small pieces of software code that the computer programmer says planted themselves on his hard drive? Known variously as "spyware" or "adware," they blast advertising messages at the user in pop-up windows at regular intervals. "They take over your computer and turn it into an advertising machine and it's evil," Booher says.

"If I had gotten my hands on a program called SpyHunter," which claims to eliminate "Spyware, Adware, Trojans, Spybots, Malware and Intrusive PC Parasites," Booher says, this might not all have happened.

Booher contacted Leading Edge, the company he determined was the source of the messages, and asked them to stop broadcasting penis-growth-pill ads in language that was pretty mild by Charles Booher standards. He started out relatively politely, even inserting a "please" or two.

The pop-ups continued to flash on his screen with pictures of doctors in white lab coats with stethoscopes draped around their collars and questions like, "Want a 10-inch penis like Ron Jeremy?"

Lifetime incarceration in Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane is looking pretty good to me given the State of the California economy, but given my total desperation, and an industry that is as annoying as the penis enlargement pill industry, it would be a very good thing for your own health and safety if you didn't bother me too much.

The cells at Atascadero are just one option and given my circumstances that is not my first choice, but getting free food, medical care, and psychiatric care and the like from the State of California for acting out my most vicious perverted violent sexual fantasy on an enemy that will not stop bothering me is something I have been thinking about more than you would really like to know. I know that the cells at Atascadero are nowhere near as gloomy, and given an adequate amount of real drugs I could live out my life happily in place and have no regret at all about my actions. I know that I would find the people who work at Atascadero very nice, and I know that I would be happy living with all the other inmates at Atascadero for the rest of my life.

I don't care what the Penis pill enlargement industry does. I just don't want to see 30 spam messages a day from you guys inside the email address [email protected] I am willing to accept pop up spam from you guys when I am checking sites related to male medical issues, or porno sites, but when I am looking at the NCBI web site or any other site that deals with something else other than these two issues I wish to be left alone by the penis pill vendor industry. All I am asking for is peace and quiet. I just want to be left alone.

Booher left voicemail messages on Leading Edge's voicemail system, threatening, "I'm going to be in there Monday morning with a shotgun and 30 rounds of ammunition and a hunting rifle and a handgun. I'm going to kill everyone one of you motherfuckers and cut your dicks off. You hear me motherfuckers? You get your fucking pop-ups off of my screen."

Alarmed, Mackay called his local Mounties as well as the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety in June. He also hired San Francisco lawyer Peter Isola of Davis, Wright, Tremaine to send a cease-and-desist letter and file for a restraining order, which was issued in Santa Clara County Superior Court on July 11. (Ironically, DWT frequently represents newspapers, including this publication, on First Amendment issues.)

The mild-mannered Booher swears he doesn't own guns. "I hate those damn things," he says. He never left his house, and even if he had started driving to Victoria, British Columbia, "I would have lost interest. I would have wound up in a marijuana bar in Vancouver, playing chess," he figures.

"When the restraining order came in, I obeyed it."

Then his Internet provider cut him off. "They pulled my Internet connection. OK, Charles, I thought. I got thrown off the Internet. I need to make some changes in my life."

He figured the whole episode was over when FBI agents, who had emptied the contents of his Earthlink mailbox, showed up with the emails, which Booher confessed to writing. Unlike his cagey adversary Mackay, who hides behind companies from Cypress to the Caribbean, Booher is disarmingly candid and transparent. He conducted his campaign under his own name, and his home address and telephone number are posted to the web and listed on his CDs. He answers questions fully and without hesitation, even if they are embarrassing or incriminating.

On Nov. 20, federal marshals showed up at Booher's doorstep with an arrest warrant. His wife let them in and they went upstairs to his bedroom, rousted him out of bed, handcuffed him while nude and, after his wife helped him get dressed while shackled, took him to downtown San Jose for booking on charges that he had violated Title 18 of the U.S. Interstate Communications Code prohibiting "any communication containing any threat to "injure the person of another." The statute carries a five-year jail penalty.

News of Booher's arrest spread on the net faster than the Paris Hilton sex tape. Stories from Reuters and the San Jose Mercury News were translated into dozens of languages, reprinted in newspapers around the globe and posted to blogs. As political consultants like to say, the idea "resonated." Within a week, Google had catalogued more than 30,000 references to the term "spam rage."

The phrase had been coined as early as 1996, when one net user wondered whether "some nut with an ax isn't going to eventually find one of these email spammers and remove him permanently from the gene pool?" and a Brit named Keith M. Lucas fired back in a Usenet group, "Hey, Spamford, route round THIS *BLAM*, *BLAM* !! After road- and trolley-rage, spam-rage!!!"

While many net users didn't exactly endorse the death threats, many identified with Booher's sentiments and shared their comments around cyberland.

Screen Shots: Booher says the intrusive penis pill ads reminded him of his nightmarish bout with testicular cancer, and he snapped.

YEAH! Free Charles Now! He is the man!

I'll help with the duck tape and power drill. After giving them a good working with a baseball bat.

I know how he feels.
--Brian Clark

It is my dearest wish to be foreman of his jury. He would not be convicted. He would be given a medal, the thanks of a grateful nation, and a monthly stipend with which to carry on his noble work.
--Catholic blogger

I see absolutely nothing unreasonable about kneecapping the bastards who send them. ... Maybe kneecap 'em, then skin 'em, and then spam their friends and families with ads for the streaming video of it.
--Oregon priest

It is difficult to take someone who threatens to torture you with a power drill seriously.
--Anonymous poster

While Booher did clearly lose his temper and needed a good talking to, the idea that he should be facing five years in prison and a huge fine for a few blowing off the steam emails is beyond absurd; only if there was evidence that Booher was planning to travel the 3,000 miles or so to confront Mackay in person could justify an arrest.
--Mountain View resident William Lazar

I heartily encourage any and all civic-minded Internet users to track down and punish these motherless fucks in whatever manner seems appropriate.
--Marc Majcher, Austin, TX

Fixing the Net

OK, Booher may be a little nuts, but mostly because he was crazy enough to ignore the consequences of saying aloud what many people have been thinking to themselves. And he didn't hurt anybody. He only struck a little fear in the heart of a disingenuous Canadian penis--pill spamster who's been making millions off male insecurity while damaging the Internet as a business and personal productivity resource. Even federal prosecutors assigned such a low priority to the case that it took nearly half a year to slap cuffs on Booher.

Besides, after spending part of Saturday with Booher, I'd have to say he's a likable kook, who makes points well when he's on his meds. "It's time to take back our Internet," he declares. "It's being overrun by criminals," a reference to the proliferation of fraudulent scams choking email servers. "For a while I was so angry I couldn't see straight. Now, I'm over it. I'm done. The argument is over," Booher says.

"I lost my temper. I'm sorry. These guys just got to me. I just wanted the guy to leave me alone."

He says he takes responsibility for his actions. If convicted and sentenced, Booher says, "I will stand up and take my punishment. I will try to become the best citizen I can. I have confidence in America's legal system. I believe justice will be served."

After having managed to create one fine mess with nothing more than a computer keyboard, Booher now thinks it's time to tackle the spam problem. Government and technology's profiteers haven't done a very good job so far. He believes it will take a combination of technology, legislation and law enforcement.

"We're going to have to bring a sheriff into the Internet town and enforce some laws. I believe my case is an example of why something needs to be done. Even someone who's sophisticated about computers can get hammered by these guys to the point of psychosis.

"There's a lot of unemployed engineers around here, and I'm certain we can fix this problem. So we'll spend $100 million, and we'll get our Internet back.

"And we'll be happy again," Booher says.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the December 4-10, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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