A few days ago we reported on a website dealing with gay issues which included some very disturbing verbiage. Part of our report centered on the reaction of some prominent ex-gays who were treating the site, GayStraightAlliance.org, as if it represented the official GLSEN Gay-Straight Alliance effort. We were in the process of investigating the issue more thoroughly when it became necessary to remark on those posts. In the mean time, we have continued our efforts and would like to report the results so far.
The GayStraightAlliance.org website is part of a group of sites registered to Event Horizon Publications, and more specifically Brian Wyant of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The single page EHP site contains the following text:
Overseeing one of the largest education networks, Event Horizon has directly improved the quality of life for millions of human beings. Now and in the decades to come, we will continue toward our goal of becoming one of the most influential companies on Earth.
All the domains we could find have been registered since early 2000 so this is not a new operation. Wyant and EHP also published a couple of role playing books in the late 1990s. While our concern began with the text quoted in our first article, we found a lot more that needed to be explained. Our investigation was impeded by the fact that all the sites we found by Wyant were set to block all search engines and archiving of any kind. This put up an immediate red flag; who would publish an informational and educational network of sites, but intentionally prevent anyone from finding them? And this was not a recent move either because the only scant search engine listings we could find were links placed on other sites, perhaps three or four, where search engines were not blocked. Keeping a large network of websites off the record that long is quite an achievement.
The first thing we did was email the contact addresses for Wyant. After receiving no response (we never once received a response from any email or phone call), we found that Wyant is the GLBT Center Coordinator for Rainbow Outreach in Omaha. We sent emails to George Broadway and James Lunbeck, Chair and Treasurer respectively for the GLBT Center. PFLAG Omaha references Rainbow Outreach and the GLBT Center on their site, so we left voice mail and email for Bob Dorr, the listed media contact for PFLAG Omaha. Again, no response to date.
WITHOUT GSA ACCESS, STUDENTS ARE FORCED TO SIMPLY KILL CLASSMATES WHO TAUNT & BULLY
OPTION: START A GAY-STRAIGHT HISTORY CLUB OR GAY-STRAIGHT SCIENCE CLUB TO BE CURRICULUM RELATED; IN REGIONS WITHOUT GSAs BUT WITH RELIGIOUS CLUBS START A “JESUS IS GAY CLUB” AT YOUR SCHOOL CELEBRATING ALL THINGS GAY ABOUT JESUS SUCH AS BEING CONCEIVED THRU NON-HETERO MEANS, “DO UNTO OTHERS”, “LOVE ONE ANOTHER”, BEING DESCENDED FROM KING DAVID – ANOTHER HOMOSEXUAL, MALE HAREM OF DISCIPLES, HIS BELOVED DISCIPLE BOYFRIEND, ACKNOWLEDGING HIS BOYFRIEND TO HIS MOM WHILE ON THE CROSS, ETC. THEN SUE FOR MILLIONS BASED ON RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINT DISCRIMINATION IF THEY DISALLOW IT – USE MONEY FROM SUIT FOR SCHOLARSHIPS, COMMUNITY CENTERS, ETC.
It starts with the same premise, but gives another option. The possibility that this site had been hacked was brought up in the comments of the earlier thread and I must admit, we were going back and forth on this ourselves. We found things that were so outrageous, well one wants to believe this must be a hacker exploiting an otherwise moderate site. But then we uncovered things which seemed to indicate this might be intentional. We are presenting the facts to help readers decide for themselves.
First, it looked to us as though the text in the bottom frame was forced, out of place, as though someone had placed it where only a menu was supposed to be (supporting the hacker hypothesis). But there are issues with this thought. First, the text quoted above is commented out in the code, as though it is ready to be rotated to keep the message fresh. In fact, on other sites by Wyant, announcements for events a few weeks away are kept commented out in just this fashion. Also, the text is formatted as “Announcements, News, Warnings and Events” which seems to indicate that he means to place text there in just this way – not something awkwardly injected by a hacker. And last, hackers who deface websites rarely make it a serial effort. Scripts are used to find servers which have certain unpatched security flaws and then they are altered en masse – a onetime deal. Why would a hacker place extra text in the code, commented out for later use?
With this in mind, take a look at this large block of text which was commented out at the bottom of the GayHumanRights.org site (also Wyant’s). From the dates going backwards, we can deduce that these are previous announcements, archived in the same way that messages from a few days ago are being archived now – in text commented out below the current version which is visible. If so, this kind of material has been displayed on Wyant’s sites since at least mid 2006.
We looked further. Clicking on a link named “Gay Rights Human Rights” at the bottom of the actual web page, the following popup appeared. This is rather elaborate detail for most hackers. It’s long but you are encouraged to read through it. A few examples:
There are approximately 1.1 million firefighters in the United States – 25% are paid personnel and 75% volunteer. There are roughly 275 million acres of wetlands and 2.25 billion acres of non-wetland terrain in the USA. Fire moves on average 14.6 miles per hour and can jettison embers to ignite new sources miles away. A single blaze caused by nature or carelessness can inflict millions, even billions, of dollars in damage. The aftereffects can last decades or be permanent as plant and animal life fail to recover at all. Accelerants are cheap and widely available throughout the world. Your local gas/petrol station, hardware store, convenience store, supermarket, discount store, chain store, camping supply shop, boat refueling depot, liquor store, etc. all carry accelerants such as gasoline, butane, kerosine, methane, propane, medicinal alcohol, consumable alcohol, magnesium, spraypaint, aerosol, etc. Every car, truck, van, boat, plane, motorcycle, tractor, jetski, chainsaw, lawnmower, woodchipper, go-kart, ATV, snowmobile, generator, etc. contains an accelerant. Igniters have equal widespread availability such as matchbooks, matchboxes, butane lighters, self-igniting laterns, flint and steel, vehicle cigarette lighters, warning flares, etc; sunlight passing through broken glass; and even any electrical-spark-producing apparatus of which there are too many to list (for example, every battery-operated device including cellphones, cd players, laptops, etc.). Fire safety and prevention are luxuries only availed to people not distracted by human rights violations. Alas, prejudice and discrimination always risk being very costly in many ways.
If you live in a state with a damaged justice system (e.g. one with less than a rudimentary respect for human rights or one that has altered its constitution to violate Equal Protection under the Law – the bedrock of sustainable democracy), you can simply throw the entire judicial system into disarray by switching your vote to the opposite of what you would otherwise cast whenever you sit on any jury for any trial in that state.
If you see someone in distress or in danger in one of these regions, ignore them and go about your business.
The comments about fires are carefully worded in a series of factual statements, but basically this appears to speak of how to spread anarchy, death and destruction. Why would a hacker be so careful? This was again reported to Wyant, with no response. We then sent another, more serious email to George Broadway and James Lunbeck of the GLBT Center, including a direct link to the page above along with our increasing concern. Shortly thereafter, the content of the page was replaced by a poem. A day or so later, the page no longer exists.
The original text in the bottom frame of GayStraightAlliance.org that first caused a stir has been changed a couple of times in the past few days. It now contains what appears to be a message for those of us who have been asking questions.
VIOLENCE IS A STARK REALITY FOR CHILDREN GLOBALLY. TORMENTORS REMAIN PATHETICALLY SILENT OR HARASS THE GRIEVING FAMILY WHEN BULLIED CHILDREN COMMIT SUICIDE BUT DISINGENUOUSLY BECOME VOCAL WHEN REMINDED OF THE FACT THAT THESE DAYS BULLIED STUDENTS MAY CHOOSE RETALIATION RATHER THAN KILLING THEMSELVES; EVIL TORMENTORS THINK THEIR VERSION OF RELIGION GIVES THEM SPECIAL RIGHT TO TORMENT GAY CHILDREN UNCHECKED; EVERY 2 MINUTES IN THE USA ANOTHER GLBT AMERICAN DIES FROM HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
If this is true, then perhaps Wyant has responded after all. Interestingly, the last sentence is taken directly from the original message, lending yet more evidence to the assumption that this is not a hack, but intentional. And once again, still hidden in the source of that bottom frame is the text from above suggesting that students without GSAs start a “Jesus is Gay” club, etc., suggesting that this is simply a method used to rotate material.
So let’s review:
- Wyant and his company are the registered owners of a group of websites claiming to be “the oldest and largest global public education resource founded as an independent entity to advance the human rights of gays and lesbians, their families, friends and allies.” Most of the information there appears to be common and moderate.
- All the sites in this informational portal are blocked by design from being indexed by any search engines, archive sites, spiders – virtually nothing appears in the search engines about them in spite of the fact that they were registered in 2000 and claim to be even older.
- Wyant is connected to Rainbow Outreach in Omaha as a GLBT Center Coordinator, which includes working with youth. He is not an anonymous person with a “fly by night” website. However, he also seems to have nothing to do with GLSEN and the official Gay-Straight Alliance project.
- PFLAG Omaha recommends Rainbow Outreach as a resource, linking to it on their site. They also sponsor a youth group, Proud Horizons, in which we suspect Wyant participates, though we are still seeking verification of this (we would know more if they were talking to us).
- Malicious and irresponsible comments appear on one of these sites, GayStraightAlliance.org as early as July 27, 2007. On August 8, several posts are written and we, among others, try to contact Wyant and those around him to notify and to ask about why. Through Dr. Throckmorton, we know that Wyant did receive the information on August 9.
- No one has yet returned any phone call or email.
- The sites with the most egregious messages have been altered, but verbiage of the same type and tone remains, both visible and hidden, suggesting the previous text was not an aberration.
- It should also be noted that these sites seem current, with events in the near future listed, suggesting that Wyant is constantly aware of the condition of his sites.
- Finally, speaking as one who has operated public servers for over a decade, if one is hacked the first thing done is to shut it off from the outside world. Wyant has demonstrated that he has access to his sites, and upon realizing they had been hacked could simply have removed them from public access, replaced by a maintenance page. With all search engine access blocked, he had nothing to lose.
The stark silence in response to our queries is certainly disturbing, and it adds weight to the idea that these are not hacks, but intentional and the sentiments of someone officially working with youth in Omaha. In a world with Columbine and the Virginia Tech massacre, we have learned that we must not be silent when something seems this far out of whack. If indeed Wyant is suggesting these things, he has no business working with youth, gay or otherwise. And those who are in positions of accountability around him have a duty to respond with their thoughts.