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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ashley Madison hack ranks among the top scandals of 2015, even though the press barely has touched key elements of the extramarital-cheating story


The hack of the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site is one of the top 10 scandals of 2015, according to USA Today. Meanwhile, Wired magazine named Ashley Madison (AM) one of the 11 biggest hacks of the year.

Those rankings come even though major elements of the AM story have barely been touched in the press. We plan to change that in 2016. In fact, we maintain that the most important aspects of the AM story still are be uncovered.

The New York Post seems to be of a similar mindset. In late October, it published a story titled "The storm isn't over yet for Ashley Madison cheaters." That headline gets to the heart of an AM issue that largely has gone uncovered.

Who are the Ashley Madison paying customers? Who are these people, the ones willing to cough up cash in hopes of lining up a partner to help cheat on their spouses? Are these "cheaters" (to borrow an NY Post term) from the fringes of society. Are they borderline criminals or sociopaths, the types known for failing to abide by societal norms?

Our examination of AM lists from two states--Alabama and Missouri--suggests the answer to those last two questions are a solid no. In fact, we've found that many AM customers would be considered among our nation's "best and brightest," enjoying status as true elites.

We're talking doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, dentists, chiropractors (lots of chiropractors), military leaders, law-enforcement officials, wealth managers (lots of wealth managers, especially in the "old money" areas of Birmingham), CEOs, COOs, Sr. VPs, and much more.

Who are these elites who seem drawn to cheating, and what do their dalliances with AM say about their values and ethics? We intend to examine those questions closely in the early weeks of 2016.

Meanwhile, what are others saying about the Ashley Madison story? This is from USA Today:


Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site AshleyMadison.com dumped nearly 10 gigabytes of data to the dark web this year, fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details, if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website didn't take Ashley Madison.com offline permanently.

In August, the group who hacked into Ashley Madison, doubled down, posting what appears to be another 20 gigabytes of data — including the CEO's emails.

Analysis of the email addresses in the databases show that most come from webmail providers, said Robert Hansen, vice president of WhiteHat Labs at the computer security company WhiteHat Security, which independently studied the data.

The top most-used domains were Gmail.com, with 8.7 million, Yahoo.com with 6.6 million, Hotmail with 6.2 million and Aol.com with 1.2 million, Hansen found.

Surprisingly, there were at least 13,000 addresses from military and government emails with .mil and .gov addresses.

Here is Wired's take:

The breach of AshleyMadison.com, a site that touted itself as the premier platform for married individuals seeking partners for affairs, was loud and flashy and deserves the award for brazenness. Exactly one month after their hack of the cheating site went public, the hacker or hackers behind the breach made good on a threat to release sensitive company data, dropping more than 30 gigabytes of internal company emails and documents, as well as details and log-in credentials for some 32 million accounts with the social networking site. The data included names, passwords, addresses, and phone numbers submitted by users of the site. Although many of the personal account details were fabricated by users to remain anonymous, the hackers also released seven years worth of credit card and other payment transaction details, which exposed the real names and address of many customers. Reality TV star Josh Duggar was among those exposed by the breach. The company has been hit with several lawsuits from irate customers who accused the cheating site of being negligent in protecting their data.

Perhaps the essence of the Ashley Madison story can be found in a 2013 Newsweek article titled "Wall Street Loves a Cheater." The story was written roughly two years before the hack, but it speaks volumes about the way financial elites viewed a site whose motto is "Life is short; have an affair." From the Newsweek piece:

Headlines in tabloids and even so-called respectable newspapers – think of the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal – and gossip television shows underscore America's fascination with unfaithfulness. In recent years, websites devoted to relationships, including match.com and JDate, have become publicly traded companies (the latter's parent company's ticker symbol: LOV). America has plenty of "sin" businesses – gambling, liquor and cigarette companies are pillars of the New York Stock Exchange. Even the American Association for Retired People, better known for tips on arthritis and prostate screenings, reports a steep drop in the percentage of members who think nonmarital sex is wrong – to 22 percent in 2009, from 41 percent a decade earlier. "Ashley Madison is attracting people who may have always been inclined to cheat," says Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Medical College at Cornell University. "But the site is also providing a previously unavailable opportunity to those who might in years past have chosen not to cheat. . . . "

American investors who get in on Ashley Madison would join a clutch of Canadian hedge funds that have already made a killing, raking in over $90 million in cash dividends since 2009, Biderman says. But like a cheating spouse, those Canadian investors don't want their identities known. Ashley Madison "is a remarkably good business," says one money manager at a Canadian asset management firm with $1 billion in assets who declines to name himself or his firm, citing fears of a public backlash. He says his firm has made 25 percent a year on its stake since investing in 2008. "It's recurring, has high margins, high free cash flow, requires little capital, has a rock-like balance sheet and is exceptionally well run by its passionate CEO."

That "passionate CEO," Noel Biderman, resigned in August after the site was hacked in July.  E-mails leaked from the hack show that Biderman himself had engaged in multiple affairs, suggesting he was a bit too passionate for his own good. The company now is awash in lawsuits, totaling more than $500 million, and the litigation figures to drag on for years.

Maybe the company wasn't so well run after all.

Noel Biderman
The Birmingham law firm Heninger Garrison Davis has filed multiple class-action lawsuits against Biderman and Avid Life Media (Ashley Madison's parent company).

That means there will be multiple Alabama angles as the Ashley Madison story plays out in 2016. According to a report at Business Insider, Alabama leads the nation in per-capita spending on Ashley Madison.

Who are some of those big spenders? We will be shining light on that question in the weeks ahead.



73 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not sure you realize how much of this data is not reliable. My personal email address is on this list of users. But I never signed up for the site or used it in any way. I started receiving "here are your matches" emails from Ashley Madison, but did not think much of them, basically they were spam. Then when the hack hit I realized that Ashley Madison does not verify emails so any one can use any email address. I ran my address through the search sites that came out, and sure enough: I'm on the damn list! After that, I got a few extortion emails. I run a business so any one of the employees (past or present) could have used my email, or really anybody could have. I could create an account today using your email! That's how awful this website is.

Despite this, I am in your cross hairs because my email is on this list and I run a business in Missouri. Not cool. Wish you would drop this, I certainly don't need the type of attention you intend to bring to this issue. You are causing some damage here, and I don't think you realize how much.

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming you will, as you have stated before, attempt to contact these people before posting any names to make sure you remove anyone with a rational story (e.g., stolen identity, credit card theft, etc)? And please do not use the emails associated with the hack...those have long since probably been disabled. Anybody worth exposing should have a readily identifiable email address at their work. Simply go to any company website and look for investor relations. In it, you will find the email nomenclature for the company (e.g. Firstname.lastname@abc.com). You can then with 95% accuracy know that you gave it your best attempt to let these people know and uncover any backstories associated with them.

I know you are a man of integrity and would do all you could to learn both sides of the story...

legalschnauzer said...

As you note, @12:03, I've already stated how I plan to research this story--in fact, the research has been going on for several months now--and I will stick by that. I've reported so far on three AM customers from Alabama--Rob Campbell, Chuck Dean, and Artur Davis--and your comment does a nice job of summarizing how I approached those stories.

legalschnauzer said...

As the post notes, @12:03, my reporting has focused on paying customers, with account/credit card information, etc. Tech experts I've consulted on this story say that information is accurate. I don't see where I will report anything based simply on an e-mail appearing on a list. In fact, I haven't even seen such a list, so far. But I have seen a list of paying customers for two states, and I believe that's where the stories lies--along with accurate information.

Anonymous said...

Can you please ask your techies what would happen if someone used a prepaid gift card? I imagine this was fairly common on a site like that. When I have bought them before you "register" them (basically type in a name/address though there is no verification). Once done, you can use it like a credit card for Internet purchases. What is to stop a person from registering the gift card in the name of a coworker? Neighbor? I'm guessing if they go to the trouble of buying a gift card for that site they won't register it in their name. And then whose name would show up in the hack list? I think this is one reason why so many names appear who never actually even heard of the site before. But I'm curious what your tech team thinks of that scenario. Thanks LS

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, I can ask them about that. I know some paying users are identified on the list as "Gift Card," or something to that effect. Is there a way to "drill down" and find out that person's identity? Not sure about that yet.

Anonymous said...

I hope the list includes some of the divorce-court judges and lawyers who have been screwing over people for years. Those folks deserve a warm spot in hell, plus an Ashley Madison send-off.

Anonymous said...

This is @12:03. I had not appreciated that you plan to identify paying customers only. I would guess paid data is reliable because it involves verified financial transactions. But I am not familiar with how these datasets actually look. I apologize that I have not really followed your posts on the reporting standard you intend to follow.

What I'm trying to say is this: there are folks like me who are caught up in this awful mess and had nothing to do with it. It's not fun to be associated with this, let alone to receive extortion emails that threaten to "out" you to all your friends and family unless you pay out thousands of dollars. I just cannot believe that Ashley Madison allowed this type of ID theft to happen. Are the CEO and the other executives even being prosecuted for this fraud?

legalschnauzer said...

As I note in the post, they are being sued on several fronts--and one firm in Birmingham is very much involved in several class actions. I'm not aware of any plans for criminal prosecution at this time.

Anonymous said...

This is @12:03 & @2:26, again (and for the last time). I feel like something very harmful was done to me by Ashley Madison. I will not sue the because I don't have the stomach for this sort of thing. But I would hope they are prosecuted for facilitating ID theft and running a site that was an obvious fraud. Isn't that the story?

legalschnauzer said...

In my view, that's certainly part of the story--although I'm not sure the company's actions rise to the level of criminal ID theft and/or fraud. I suspect that's part of the reason the cases (so far) are being pursued in the civil arena.

BTW, in the civil complaints I've seen so far, it appears that customer names are not disclosed. And these are class actions--at least the ones I've seen--so I don't think that means a participant has to pay anything up front. On the downside, my experience has been that victims often do not receive much money from class action claims. I was a plaintiff in one class action and did not receive a penny.

Certainly would welcome input from lawyers, or others, who might be more familiar with class-action cases than I am.

Anonymous said...

So you are going to cover everyone in those two states who has a slightly above average life who was on this website? Unless they are running for office, sounds *yawn* pretty boring and hardly the 'pursuit of truth and justice' you claim as the purpose for this blog.

Anonymous said...

I think you are just as bad, or worse, than the people on that site. But I guess people will do anything these days for a little notoriety. You claim to be a journalist, this is tabloid B.S. at best.

Anonymous said...

I just don't think this ends well for you LS. I pray for the safety of you and your wife. This is NOT a threat from me...I just know these are powerful people. I hope any gain you think you will get out of this is worth it. Karma is a bad thing. Stay safe.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, your going to be outing doctors and dentists?!! This is not journalism but a moral crusade. These are private citizens not elected officials and their private lives are none of your business.

Anonymous said...

I think we clearly have very different views on this Schnauzer. The people on this list made a bad mistake. Perhaps they were suffering from depression, perhaps it was a difficult time of life. Most did not have an affair. Even if they did unless they are a politician or someone who takes a moral stance on issues then its really none of our business. Its not journalism to play the moral police with private citizens unless they broke the law. By outing these people the combination of the hackers and you are turning a very common human failing that many couples seems to be choosing to forgive and forget (eg. all the celebrity couples outed have stayed together) and turning it into a life ruining event. Surely these couples, even if they are company executives, have the right to deal with this in privacy without being pursued and publicly humiliated by you. At the very least think of the harm caused to their spouses and children, by a combination of themselves, hackers, and now you. This is the reason most news outlets are not publishing names. I really would implore you to think again before ruining these private citizens lives, and the lives of their spouses and children, by publishing this on your blog.

Anonymous said...

"Tech experts I've consulted on this story say that information is accurate"

Roger, the credit card database is not, in fact, wholly accurate.

The credit card transaction database contains information that was provided by customers. The name, address and other PII were not validated against the credit card processor's name and address data. I have examined the database and can point out numerous instances of inaccurate information.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the commenters above. This clearly is a story that has been covered nationally and even internationally. Schnauzer proposes to reports on AM customers, especially those who enjoy elite status--people one might think would be too smart to get involved in such a mess.

I think it's an important story, and I can't wait til the posts start rolling.

legalschnauzer said...

Feel free to contact me, @10:09, and share the database information you have uncovered. My personal e-mail address: rshuler3156@gmail.com or you are welcome to call me at (205) 381-5673.

Anonymous said...

LS, as respectfully as I can advise you on this, you need to reconsider how you plan to report on this. There are *children* involved. Innocent children. I can't stress that enough as a professionale who works with and is very passionate about the welfare of young people. Add innocent spouses to that as well. If a publicly elected official is involved, it's certainly journalistic fair game. But these are private citizens, with again, innocent *children.* Reporting on the aggregate is somewhat relevant and interesting, and many media outlets have done such. But naming names of private citizens is just completely out of bounds and affects so many innocent lives it's unimaginable that someone would do this, which is why I suspect no media outlet has to this point. All this data breach proves is that these individuals were on a web site. Nothing more. Don't do this to the children involved. You're better than this. Keep the story to reporting on the aggregate.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I have this straight, @4:26: You think LS and his wife will be in danger because of his reports on Ashley Madison? What does that say about these people on Ashley Madison, that they would resort to violence against a journalist who reported on a legitimate story? If that really is the case, then these people deserve any and all scrutiny they get--and this is an even bigger story, about powerful thugs who turn violent when their stupidity is revealed. And what do you mean by "karma is a bad thing"? That sounds a lot like a threat--from you.

My intuition tells me that you and some of these other commenters are on Ashley Madison, and that's why you are so concerned about reporting at Legal Schnauzer.

legalschnauzer said...

Are you a child psychologist or pediatrician, @10:35? Feel free to contact me at rshuler3156@gmail.com or (205) 381-5673, and I would be glad to learn more about your concerns. Even if you are not in one of the professions noted above, I would be glad to discuss.

Anonymous said...

If someone is a high-level executive at a public company, or they help sell goods and services to the public, they are not a private individual, and their ethics and judgment are very much my business.

The definition of a "private person" I see from some folks is not even close to being correct. Bring on the stories, Schnauzer.

Anonymous said...

@10:46. Let me ask you this...do you think any of the issues LS has faced in his past (evictions, wife wth broken arm, foreclosure, etc) are due to his coverage of widespread corruption in the public sector? Heck...even LS will tell you he believes that! Do you read this blog?? He has repeatedly connected one law firm to another law firm to his brother to the sheriff, etc, etc all showing how he feels that these powerful people are conspiring against him. So, all I was saying is that he is about to expose people of immense wealth and power...and he has already experienced what happens when that occurs!

And...as far as powerful rich people "squashing those that expose/disagree with them...did you ever take history in high school? Elementary school? History is filled with people that have done this very thing. Is it right? No! Has it already happened to LS? I think the postings on this very blog will prove it has. And all I was saying is he is about to tug on many "Supermans capes" and to be careful.

As far as your last comment, I totally disagree. I think what you are hearing are people that enjoy reading this blog because it does show the injustice. There was no PUBLIC injustice done with AM. In my opinion, totally out of scope with the intent of the blog...and why I (and obviously others) enjoy reading it!

Be safe...LS!

Anonymous said...

11:10am: your saying you don't think a dentist is a private citizen???

Anonymous said...

Dentists make their living by working on teeth, right? Who are those teeth attached to? Members of the public. A dentist as an absolutely private figure? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Well I think one thing we can all agree on is that fear of violence shouldn't be a deterrent to outing AM users, and LS shouldn't be physically intimidated. I'm questioning the journalistic ethics of reporting on the sex lives of private citizens. It should be noted that even gawker (the lowest of the low tabloid gossip site) reversed its decision to publish a story on a sexual mishap of an executive of a rival company. LS is actually proposing here to do what even gawker wouldn't (now) do.

Anonymous said...

There is some discussion here on what does and doesn't constitute a public figure, including from a legal point of view. The link in there suggests a relatively high legal threshold for the definition of a public figure.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ashleymadisonhack/comments/3jcuqq/why_doxing_is_always_illegal/

legalschnauzer said...

A couple of thoughts, @11:32 --

(1) I'm not even sure what "doxing" is. I gather it's an Internet slang term for what someone thinks is harassment, threatening, etc. Whatever it is, it doesn't apply in the situation we are discussing here.

(2) Also, we aren't talking about the legal definition of a public person. That usually comes into play in defamation cases, where the public figures has a higher bar to reach when he claims someone has published falsely about him. Our discussion involves general perceptions about whether, say, a dentist is a private person or a public person. To my knowledge there is no absolute answer on that; it's a matter of opinion, which can vary from reader to reader.

(3) If the published information is true, neither a private nor a public person has a cause of action. They can bring a lawsuit, but the publisher would have an absolute defense, and the plaintiff would be at risk of facing damages for bringing baseless litigation.

legalschnauzer said...

I disagree, @11:23. Publishing about customers of Ashley Madison, in my view, has little (if anything) to do with the customer's sex life. As someone noted above, it's quite possible that many customers never had an affair.

Publishing about an AM customer does, however, say a lot about the person's values, judgment, character, etc. That's why I think it's a story.

Regardless of whether a customer ever met anyone, much less had sex with anyone, this is a Web site about cheating. If the customer is in a high-level position of trust, that makes it of interest to the public.

If a banker or wealth manager, for example, willfully tries to cheat on his spouse, does that make him more likely to cheat on your account?

Anonymous said...

No it doesn't make them any more or less likely to cheat elsewhere. You are crusading against these people as if they committed a felony...They signed up for a website. They made a mistake. That doesn't make them bad people necessarily as I am sure there are circumstances which you may not be aware of that brought them there. The argument that you were on this site and are therefore had the intent to cheat is flawed.

So you Roger are essentially passing judegement on those who may otherwise be decent human beings and leading others to do the same. Shame on you. This is not 'journalism' nor an investigation. Pursuing these 'stories' merely illustrates that you can read a name off a list and google it. I thought you were better than that...

legalschnauzer said...

A couple of thoughts, @3:25--

(1) I'm not "crusading" against anyone, and I'm not saying anyone committed a felony. I'm also not saying they are bad people. That's not my job. But they did sign up for a Web site whose entire purpose is to facilitate extramarital affairs. That says something about character and judgment.

(2) If you were on Ashley Madison, actually signed up with a paying account, then what was your intent--if it wasn't to cheat. The final sentence of your first paragraph makes zero sense.

(3) A lot of journalism involves reading material, from a list or other source, and then researching it. If you don't think that's journalism, then you don't know the profession very well.

(4) I suspect we will continue to disagree, but you are welcome to contact me at rshuler3156@gmail.com or (205) 381-5673, and I would be happy to discuss further.

Anonymous said...

The whiners on here are Ashley Madison customers in Alabama and Missouri who are afraid you are going to out them. They act like they care about children and spouses and privacy, etc. They really only care about themselves.

They are selfish, cheating creeps who will do anything to try to hide who they really are.

It's not hard to see right through them.

Anonymous said...

This @325

1) Your reporting serves no purpose other than to publically embarass private citizens for moral reasons hence crusade. You may ruin the life and career of an otherwise good person. Your reporting and the commenters above desire to see it says more about their character and your character than it does about theirs.

2) You are not privy (nor should you be) to any extenuating circumastances. They may have been single, a swinger, separated at the time, mental illness could have been a factor..should I go on? The site served a variety of people in a variety of situations and hence the flawed logic.

3) The fact that joe dentist was or is on the site is not news...It is gossip. By doing so you put yourself in the company of perez hilton than of someone who could be called a journalist. It is trash and you are selfishly seeking attention under the auspicies of being a journalist with this type of reporting. There is a reason legitimate news sources have not reported on anyone other than those who are well known public figures. It is because they are professional news organizations seeking the truth in important matters and not attention seeking hacks. Which are you? I know the profession well enough to tell the difference.

Anonymous said...

Makes it much easier to rationalize with that thinking, doesn't it. Just like all people who support equal rights for gays, blacks, and women must be one of the above and not just a tasteful and respectful human being? Could be though. I am not a customer, but am indeed 'whining' out of principle and decency and for the families of those involved. I would much rather see Roger do the good work exposing injustice and other things that actually matter...

Anonymous said...

Many may have been using time and computer networks funded by taxpayers. That does make it everyone's business. I've seen things you can't imagine done on state funded computers and networks. From stock trading to sites similar to Ashley Mad to Flakebook and Craig's list. Hours spent on them with no oversight, no consequences and no curiosity about finding out.
Our leaders are like Ghegis Khan. They drink fermented mare's milk, shoot people, screw people, plunder, conspire and conduct business from horseback. The horse in this case is their desk chair on company time or state time.

Anonymous said...

To 4;19PM

Perhaps some of them are Alabama and Missouri AM customers (I am not). However its legitimate for them not to want their online mistake to adversely effect their families. I'm guessing most after the hack will have told their spouses anyway and they will be dealing with the issue privately.

Anonymous said...

Here is a reason why mainstream news outlets may not be reporting on this further. There is a murder or a rape in Alabama every day. The online indiscretions of non-public figures just isn't news. Its people on the fringes who are the ones interested in poking around in their neighbors private lives.

legalschnauzer said...

Good point, @2:04. Also, there are quite a few members of the mainstream media who were Ashley Madison customers. We're talking reporters, editors, producers, etc. They don't want to be outing each other and would rather the story go away.

legalschnauzer said...

Would be glad to discuss further, @4:56, but I think we've covered everything we can here in the comment section. Feel free to contact me at rshuler3156@gmail.com or (205) 381-5673. That goes for anyone else who would like to further share their thoughts on this subject.

Anonymous said...

This is @456/@325

I have nothing more to say other than I thought better of you than a mud slinging hack. It seems like you have made your decision on your next steps but I hope that you realize the damage you will inflict on what may be otherwise good people as well as your own reputation as a 'journalist'.

If you feel that your need for attention, as negative as it may be, supercedes the needs of the families involved NOT to be publicly humiliated, then it speaks volumes of YOUR character and judgement than it does of those who signed up for this website. Their intentions in doing so are only known and should be only known to them and them alone. It also says alot about your blog if you can't find more important and meaningful stories to report on regardless of the status your intended victims enjoy in our community. It is disappointing. Shame on you.

legalschnauzer said...

That's a lot of vitriol, for some reason, @4:56, especially since I offered to discuss the matter personally via e-mail or phone with anyone who wanted to do so. You seem focused on whatever speck I might have in my eye, but you might want to check for the possibility that you have a log in your own.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if 4:56 is concerned about the children and mothers who have been harmed horribly in divorce cases such as Rollins v. Rollins and Upton v. Upton. And you just wrote about the Upton case again yesterday:

http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2016/01/court-records-show-that-alabama-steel.html

I don't know of another blog that has written so much about the abuse courts, lawyers, and judges dump on women and children, but certain commenters here only seem concerned with your coverage of Ashley Madison.

Makes no sense. Smells like someone has an agenda to me.

Anonymous said...

We have seen many instances over the years of Roger Shuler accusing individuals of improper or illegal behaviour based on little or no evidence. Shuler has been publicly discredited many, many times, and he has been successfully sued and rightfully imprisoned for his actions. Mr. Shuler behaves much more like an extortionist and bully than a journalist. He has no credibility.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that anyone Shuler identifies as having been a member of Ashley Madison was, in fact, a member. Based on past posts, in my opinion Mr. Shuler does not appear to have access to an accurate Ashley Madison dataset.

Mr. Shuler should also be aware of the following two facts concerning the Ashley Madison data:

* The bulk of the personal data collected by Ashley Madison was not verified as being accurate by the company. This includes email addresses and most of the billing information in the credit card database. To be explicit: an individual could provide a false name and address to Ashley Madison during credit card transactions.

* The Ashley Madison user database contains very many false user accounts created by Ashley Madison itself. In many cases, Ashley Madison used real, publically accessible personal information for these false accounts.

Mr. Shuler is exposing himself to further legal action by making false claims based on his inaccurate Ashley Madison data.

legalschnauzer said...

A few questions, @10:13:

(1) You say "there have been many instances over the years of Roger Shuler accusing individuals of improper or illegal behavior based on little or no evidence." Can you cite any such instance? Can you cite one?

(2) You say, "Shuler has been publicly discredited many, many times." Can you cite an example?

(3) You say Shuler "has been successfully sued." Can you cite an example? Can you cite an example where any lawsuit against me has been decided according to the facts and the law? Please provide citations to law that support your contention.

(4) You say Shuler "has been rightfully imprisoned for his actions." Can you cite facts or law to support this claim?

(5) Regarding your two "facts" regarding Ashley Madison, where did you find this information? Please provide a reference, so readers and I can look it up?

(6) You claim "my" Ashley Madison data is inaccurate? How do you know that?

Finally, I will repeat the offer I've made before: You, or anyone else, with concerns about AM coverage, is welcome to contact me via e-mail (rshuler3156@gmail.com) or phone (205) 381-5673, and I would be glad to discuss further and learn more about the issues you raise.

Anonymous said...

Hi Roger,
You wrote a relatively sympathetic piece on the john Gibson suicide I thought which is in rather stark contrast to the glee you took exposing Chuck Dean and Rob Campbell. I don't quite understand the difference, will you wait until one of the people you out commits suicide and then write another more sympathetic piece about them?

legalschnauzer said...

Boy, you wrote an intriguing comment, @3:49. You seem to be finding parallels that I don't think are there, but I will give you credit for being creative. I'm not sure where you get the notion that I took glee in reporting about Chuck Dean and Rob Campbell. I also don't agree with your use of the term "out" in regards to the AM story. A journalist who reports on a story based on information that has become public is not, in my view, "outing" anyone. It's reporting, not outing.

I wrote a sympathetic piece about John Gibson because, like most rational people, I'm sorry to see anyone commit suicide. But even Gibson's widow has not blamed his death on journalism. She has said it came from years of hiding the truth about troubling issues in his life.

I hope no one commits suicide in the wake of my reporting on AM, or any other subject. But I agree with Mr. Gibson's widow--reporters don't cause such unfortunate events to happen. They happen for a lot of often complex reasons that have nothing to do with journalism or blogging.

Anonymous said...

Being publicly humilated isn't the only factor, but will be a tipping point for some. The possibility of suicides in the wake of your 'reporting' is very real. I hope you can live with that.

Anonymous said...

I guess this comes back to the whole issue of who is fair game for a journalist. You can quite reasonably argue that Dean may have conflicts of interest in his reporting and Campbell, well I'm not from Alabama so I don't know how high profile he is. So the question is are you going after people that are fair game. Ordinary people who are not a politicians and have little in the way of a "machine" backing them up and also may not be financially secure would be defenseless and likely be destroyed in the same way as Gibson by someone such as yourself going after them. I personally don't think Joe the dentist deserves to have his life ruined for an online indiscretion and fairly minor human failing, and joe's wife and kids certainly don't.

Anonymous said...

Another thing LS. According to reports there were plenty of people on AM who were either single or in relationships where monogamy was not absolutely required. Whilst these are non-mainstream in Alabama at least in public I understand they are actually fairly common in other part of the country (California, New York etc).

Here we get to the public versus private thing again. Maybe you wouldn't want a mainstream politician or church leader to have these sort of relationships. However if joe the dentist, fred the banker, or jim the chiropractor and his wife do, then thats surely up to them? Its surely a gross invasion of privacy to suggest we have a right to impose our judgement on those private choices. Perhaps another reason why mainstream news agencies have chosen not to name names. One conservative blogger was made to look pretty silly after he outed a state department official who it turned out wasn't even married! In fact in that case the official got married after the hack, so clearly his partner wasn't too bothered!

Anonymous said...


Apparently online flirting is consented to by 50% of people in this survey, and up to 30% of people would consider a not strictly monogamous relationship.

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-love/open-relationship

Maybe not your values Roger, but between consenting adults who do not set themselves up to be moral leaders then who cares?

legalschnauzer said...

Appreciate your thoughts, @3:04, but I disagree with some of the language you use. This isn't a matter of "going after people" or who is "fair game." That's not how journalism works. As I noted earlier, Mr. Gibson's own wife stated that reporters had nothing to do with his suicide.

Anonymous said...

A piece about public shaming that I found quite good, especially the lengths people will go to justify their actions.

http://www.avclub.com/article/jon-ronson-gets-serious-about-ashley-madison-and-t-226526

legalschnauzer said...

Interesting interview; thanks for sharing. Not sure when journalism became public shaming, or who made that determination, but it still made for a good read.

Anonymous said...

As several commenters have already pointed out Roger, it is public shaming and it is not in fact journalism, it is gossip. If you call that journalism, then I guess the ladies down at the hair salon are 'jounalists' too. You should maybe help them out with setting up a nice blog site ;)

Anonymous said...

Roger, If you contacted someone on the AM list saying you were writing a piece of them and they said either:

1. Yeah it was a bit of a mistake but my wife thinks its not big deal and we're carrying on as before.

or

2. Yes this was a known and consensual part of my relationship.

How would you write the story? It would seem odd to be more concerned about exposing it than the people themselves were about it happening wouldn't it? There seems an assumption that a couple would be devastated by this news, whereas in fact they might be dealing with it fine except that other people like yourself thought it was a bigger deal than they did.

Anonymous said...

One last time Roger. We will never meet but if you don't allow this to be posted you will know in your heart of hearts that you are censoring something that goes against your position on this, surprising for a free speech advocate don't you think? You can edit these top sentences out if you like.

Your argument on AM is that it is an indication of character. To some extent yes, but two examples where it wouldn't stand up:

1. Oskar Schindler had several adulterous affairs including with a Jewish women which some credit with giving him empathy to the Jewish plight in WW2. He is a war hero who it could be argued had poor judgement in his private life.

2. Martin Luther King of course had affairs and he is on of the defining figures of American 20th century history.

AM members indiscretions are much less than these two greats. I'm not saying their affairs are positive, just that private judgment is not the same as public judgement.

legalschnauzer said...

I welcome your points, @11:45, but no one is saying that AM users (or anyone who has conducted an extramarital affair) can't contribute to society in major ways. Franklin Roosevelt had affairs also, and I would argue he was the most admirable individual of the 20th century, at least in U.S.

That's one reason this isn't about "shaming," it's about journalism.

Of course, how do we know about the Schindler, King, and FDR stories? Someone, a historian, a journalist, wrote about them. And it didn't keep these individuals from going on to be major figures.

You have a greater understanding of these individuals because someone reported on their lives in a comprehensive way.

legalschnauzer said...

I would report it, @11:36, just as you spelled it out. I would lay out the facts. If a couple has dealt with this issue in a constructive manner, I would say (to myself) great. And I would report it accordingly.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:57, I would suggest you read my comment at 10:22.

Anonymous said...

I think the difference between the famous figures who had affairs recorded by the history books is that by reporting on ordinary folk who do not have a chance to have recorded similarly balanced presentations of their character your blog maybe unfairly tarnishes them, where their good characteristics may be more humble and day to day, like being a good father to their kids, but that is not something that will feature prominently on the internet or ever really be recorded.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Roger, I've read your personal history and I think you've had a very tough life recently its very unfortunate what you and your wife have endured. I can understand your desire to expose some of the same perceived class that have wronged you, but really lets give these people a break. They are not the same people that wronged you and they made a pretty minor slip up in the scheme of life. Compare that to much more serious problems in the State of Alabama, police violence being one as you know.

Just because you have the power and can do something doesn't mean you should and that applies to journalists as much as anyone. All journalists self censor to some extent right?

legalschnauzer said...

I've never said, @11:54, that my reporting on the AM story is driven in any way by what has been done to Carol and me. It's driven by what I've learned via a college education (two years of it in a top-tier school of journalism), plus more than 30 years of professional experience in the field. Also, coverage of the AM story does not preclude coverage of other issues--police violence, etc.

I think it's pretty hard to seriously argue that AM does not constitute a story. It's been covered nationally and internationally, with parts of the story fairly well examined and others not being examined at all. The legal aspects of it are just now heating up, as I will be reporting shortly.

I plan to focus on areas that have largely not been examined so far. Journalists make judgment calls all the time, but I'm not sure what it is to "self censor." One definition might be: To see a story, know that it's valid and accurate, and ignore it because it might upset somebody.

I'm not going to practice that kind of self-censorship. I didn't start this blog to practice that short of timid "journalism," and I'm not going to engage in it going forward.

Anonymous said...

Did you miss the class on ethics at said top tier journalism school? You should re-read your notes....

Anonymous said...


Its not being timid to be responsible and proportionate, its just exercising judgement. Sure the New York Times could publish the whole list tomorrow. They don't though as it would be pointless and destructive.

legalschnauzer said...

What's unethical about the AM coverage I've produced so far, @11:24? Would like to hear some specifics.

legalschnauzer said...

A point about your NYT assertion, @6:53. Neither you nor I know why the NYT has not published the whole list. It could be because execs, editors and reporters from the paper are on the list. It could be because the reporting on this subject is labor intensive, and they don't want to invest the time and energy. NYT long has been accused of being a paper for elites, and the AM list is filled with elites, the kind of folks perhaps the Times would like to protect. It's also possible NYT is preparing an article on the AM story, and we don't know about it.

I agree that just publishing the list is pointless. It gives you no context and doesn't tell you what really is behind all of those names. That's why I'm not doing that. It's why I'm covering the story in a way that no other news site/blog has taken on.

Anonymous said...

I've been following the back and forth here for several days, and @11:24's comment inspired me to jump in. My question for @11:24--Are you saying it's ethical for prominent individuals to seek an extramarital affair by using Ashley Madison, but it's unethical for a journalist to report on that?

If so, you've lost me with that reasoning.

Anonymous said...

Do you know that for a fact that they were seeking out affairs Roger? Do you? As a self proclaimed journalist with lofty crendentials, are you reporting their side of the story? Is the information you are publishing doing needless harm to the loved ones around them? Both journalists ethics 101. If you are questioning their ethics, it would seem they might have a spec in their eye and you might have a log in your own. But keep up the good work, Pulitzer is in the mail. Promise :)

legalschnauzer said...

Why else would somebody go to Ashley Madison, @7:35, if not to seek an affair? That's the site's whole purpose. I've taken a number of courses on ethics in journalism--more than you've taken, I feel certain--and I've never heard a word about avoiding stories because it might be disturbing for a subject's loved ones.

If you can cite any journalism ethicist who says reporters have a responsibility not to hurt the feelings of a subject's loved ones, please share. I would be interested in reading it.

It's a matter of public record that I've sought comment from AM users I've reported on. So far, none has responded. If you've actually followed my coverage, you should know that. If you haven't followed my coverage, why are you commenting on something you know nothing about?

Anonymous said...

Turns out Roger has had an AM profile all this time! I just saw the screenshot on Twitter.

legalschnauzer said...

Turns out you are wrong, @9:41. Roger does not have, and never has had, an AM account, profile, screenshot or whatever.

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