The case of the mysterious .gov site

A U.S. Department of Defense spokesman has never heard of the group that operated AONN.gov, and the U.S. General Services Administration has pulled the site's .gov domain because of questions about the organization's connection to the U.S. government.

Still, Robert L. Taylor III, chief information officer of Access One Network Northwest, continues to claim he operates a "clandestine" cybersecurity and intelligence agency supported by the Deparment of Defense (DOD), according to an e-mail statement attributed to Taylor sent in response to IDG News Service questions. The e-mail was sent by someone purporting to be the webmaster at AONN.gov's companion site, dsispecialaccess.net.

In a plot worthy of "The X-Files," the General Services Administration (GSA), which assigns .gov domains, yanked the AONN.gov domain in late January, but declined to comment on how Taylor's group received the URL (uniform resource locator) in the first place. The GSA issued a statement Thursday: "There is question about the authenticity of the web site that included the AONN name. Until the situation is resolved, we have eliminated the URL from the dot gov directory name server."

The Google cache of the AONN.gov domain is available at http://216.239.33.100/search?q=cache:1JEsrM4RI4oC:www.aonn.gov/+%22Robert+L.+Taylor+III%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

Taylor's group also declined to explain who gave AONN and its affiliated "covert" group Defense Security Intelligence Network access to a .gov site. "It doesn't work like that," the webmaster at AONN.gov's companion site, responded by e-mail when asked for the name of the government person who assigned the .gov domain to him. The webmaster did not respond to repeated telephone messages, but did reply to questions sent by e-mail.

"Our intent isn't to embarrass the government. Our aim is only to strengthen U.S. government spy capabilities and the overall economy. GSA provided the domain, account and access after we made a secret arrangement with the Pentagon. Don't worry; the Pentagon knows about this even if they claim they don't. That's the nature of our profession."

But a high-ranking Defense Department spokesman said his checks into AONN have come up empty. A search of the DOD's DefenseLink.mil contractor database shows no mention of AONN, said Lieutenant Colonol Ken McClellan, although it's possible that such a search would leave out a subcontractor to a DOD agency.

"Nobody could tell me who it was," McClellan said of his inquires about AONN. "How you would be getting a .gov suffix and not be a government agency, that'd be beyond me."

But AONN claims in documents that its people have met with high-ranking Pentagon officials. The fact that many government agencies don't know about AONN and DSIN is proof of his group's success at operating covertly, said the webmaster, who declined to be further identified. The "Defense Industrial Complex" has many arms, the webmaster said, and few people know what's happening in every corner of the Defense Department.

"We have to be able to maneuver despite the bureaucracy," the webmaster said through e-mail. "The world is in grave danger, therefore certain 'rules' and failing 'systems' must be destroyed. We might have to break some specialists out of custody -- we might have to change some peoples' identities. We might have to torture some people -- enemy combatants. DSIN has done deals across the board and formed alliances all throughout government. The world is not the same as it was even six months ago. There are no rules in war."

Asked why the webmaster couldn't reveal his or her identify, the reply was: "There are a lot of us here. This is a shared portal. Your request can neither be confirmed nor denied. That is all that we can say. This is our policy."

Asked for proof of the group's authenticity, the webmaster answered, "We want for GSA and DOD to tell you this." He also cited as proof the DSIN's 122-page PDF (Portable Document Format), posted at http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/images/pdfs/US%20Intelligence.pdf.

For an organization claiming to be covert, AONN seems to promote itself heavily. In addition to the AONN.gov site, where Taylor promises to share his government contractors with financiers, information about AONN is posted on a handful of Web message boards, including the Lone Conspirators site.

Taylor, who's based in the Seattle area, has also apparently dabbled in making hip-hop records. "The November 12 Projekt," first released by AONN Records in late 2000, helped finance the company's covert operations, the webmaster claimed. Several articles quoting Taylor about AONN Records also appear on the Web.

On a Totse.com forum, someone claiming to be Taylor promotes AONN and then writes, "Finally, the fact that I recently surpassed Kevin Mitnick, Captain Zap and all the Hall of Famers and became the #1 Hacker in the history of the United States of America ... and the world, often causes me to crack a little smile and laugh as well. It's quite funny."

That post disappeared from Totse.com shortly after a reporter notified AONN of it.

Asked about that posting, the webmaster responded, "I can't say I know anything about that."

And why would a covert operation be promoting itself on the Web? "We haven't really talked about DSIN -- at all -- really," the webmaster said. "We've only reiterated what has been publicly available for a considerable amount of time. We haven't come forward with anything."

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