09/23/07 -  Ostergren threatened with prosecution by legal counsel to Florida Sec. of State Kurt Browning for publishing Sec. and Mrs. Browning's record that she got off Pasco County Clerk's Official Records search site.   Here are the emails exchanged...

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Below are the emails that were exchanged on Friday - 9/21/07 with the legal counsel to the Florida Secretary of State.  They speak for themselves.  

Also as of late Friday, images of records were removed off the Pasco County, Florida Clerk's Official Records search site which included Browning's and wife's records; however, images of public records on the Fl UCC search site continue to remain online with SSNs on them.   Over the weekend, The Virginia Watchdog has continued to download records off the Florida UCC search site.  Thousands of records also have FEINs on them which can also be used in criminal acts, but Florida, for some reason, doesn't allow the Federal Employer's Identification Numbers to be removed off the internet record.

Please begin reading the emails from the bottom and come upward.  The last email sent by Ostergren to Hearn was at approx 5:43 PM on 9/21/07.

Ms. Hearn:

No one is "harassing" Mr. Browning. 

IF the SOS can publish millions or even hundreds of thousands of peoples records with SSNs then his should be out there, too, and is thanks to the Pasco County Clerk.   Browning's and wife's SSNs have been online for years on the Pasco County website.  Have you sent this same threatening email to the Clerk there?  I'll bet not.   No telling how many thousands if not millions of people who have already seen it and made copies of the very same records.  Also his is just one example of the kind of records are being published online in Florida.   The good people of Florida need to  be made aware of all these sites that are publishing their records.  That's where I come in.   But like they say what is good for the goose is good for the gander.  His office has been contacted numerous times telling them they have SSNs on that site and that many still remain.   So he continues to spoon feed criminals. 

Also keep this in mind...I am exercising my First Amendment rights protected under the Constitution to freedom of the press and freedom of speech. 

"Moreover, once the government places personal identifying information in the public domain, reliance must rest on the judgment of those who  decide what to publish or broadcast."  You can find that in this Federal District Court case William Sheehan v. Christine Gregoire (former AG now Governor of Washington state).  The Federal Court Judge quotes from the infamous Florida Star case  (The Florida Star, 491 U.S. at 538, 109 S.CT. 2603) and found in favor of Sheehan who was doing a service to the public such as I am doing.  

The government (in this case the Court Clerk of Pasco County) placed this information (the Brownings' deed and another document with SSNs on them) on an OPEN Website for the world to see. (Did you think I drove down there to get those two records out of the Clerk's office?  Well, I didn't.  I got them off the internet.)   You people must THINK apparently that it should be (but isn't) that only an elected official - or appointed one - can put this information on a open website.  The records (like deeds) are not called PUBLIC RECORDS for nothing. 

Also under your #(2)(a) it says "FRAUDULENTLY uses or possesses with intent to fraudulently use..."   Ms. Hearn, it is a PUBLIC RECORD gotten off  PUBLIC website and was put online by the Clerk of Court of Pasco County and no one - especially me - is doing anything fraudulent with it.  We have no fraud in mind as it relates to Chapter 817.    Further Chapter 817 deals with "FRAUDULENT CRIMES"   There is no intent on anyone's part to commit any fraudulent crime against either party.  The records were on the Pasco County Clerk's site and there for the taking and I have chosen to PUBLISH it and it is NOT coming off my site. 

Also re: your #4... I am not harrassing him because if I am harrassing him, then you'd better talk to the Clerk of Pasco County who has the EXACT SAME PUBLIC RECORD image on his website which is OPEN TO THE WORLD.  If you want to see the records, I'll show you how to use the site to retrieve the records.  

Again, we are talking about a PUBLIC RECORD, Ms. Hearn, that was on the internet for all to see - just like the SSNs are on public records called UCCs on the Secretary's UCC search site.   Guess it was okay for Florida to PUBLISH - and continue to publish - people's SSNs but not alright for ME to publish a PUBLIC RECORD!?!?!?   You have got to be kidding.  

We have laws very similar if not identical to Florida laws and this year in our VA General Assembly session two legislators put in identical companion bills which would have made it a $1000 a day fine against me (since the bills put in were directed at me) and BOTH the Senator and Delegate who patroned them had to kill their own bills because I am publishing PUBLIC RECORDS which is protected under the Constitution of the U.S. and every lawyer/counsel down at the Gen Assembly educated them to that fact.    

I know that Sec. Browning doesn't like having his own PUBLIC record (the deed in question) published on The Virginia Watchdog website but that record is just another example of a PUBLIC record put online by an elected official that the public needs to see and the public needs to understand that elected and appointed officials are putting millions of SSNs on the internet all over this country.  And let's  not forget...if someone goes to the courthouse, they can the same records there, too, complete with SSNs.   

I am in Virginia.  You are in Florida.   You are now infringing on MY FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTs and I take your threats to silence me thru prosecution as very serious and without merit since we are talking about PUBLIC RECORDS.    I take your threats as harassment.  Any attempt by anyone to silence me will be met with a lawsuit in Federal Court.  

BOTTOM LINE:  Your Florida laws do not apply to me anyway, but your harassment of me does violate the U.S Constitution and my First Amendment rights to freedom of the press and freedom of speech.   You people should stop harassing and threatening me and try to fix your own problems regarding publishing SSNs on public records.    The record stays on the site. 

BJ Ostergren


----- Original Message -----

To: The Virginia Watchdog

Sent: Friday, September 21, 2007 4:02 PM

Subject: RE: Misuse of Social Security Numbers

Ms. Ostergren:

You have now posted on your website a deed containing the social security numbers of Secretary of State Kurt Browning and his wife Kathy Browning.  You state on your web site, among other things, “. . . it ha[s] come to this – if the Sec. of State is hell bent on showing people’s SSNs, then his and wife’s [sic] are here for the world to see on his own PUBLIC records.”  (Emphasis in original)

You do not have Mr. or Mrs. Browning’s consent to use their social security numbers for any purpose.  Further, it is clear that you are disclosing the social security numbers for purposes of harassment.  

Accordingly, we believe your publication of these social security numbers violates the following sections of Chapter 817, Florida Statutes:

(2)(a) Any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information concerning an individual without first obtaining that individual's consent, commits the offense of fraudulent use of personal identification information, which is a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

. . .

(4) Any person who willfully and without authorization possesses, uses, or attempts to use personal identification information concerning an individual without first obtaining that individual's consent, and who does so for the purpose of harassing that individual, commits the offense of harassment by use of personal identification information, which is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(5) If an offense prohibited under this section was facilitated or furthered by the use of a public record, as defined in s. 119.011, the offense is reclassified to the next higher degree as follows:

(a) A misdemeanor of the first degree is reclassified as a felony of the third degree.

Please remove the referenced social security numbers from your web site immediately.  If you do not, you will be subject to action by law enforcement.  

Lynn C. Hearn

General Counsel

Florida Department of State

R.A. Gray Building

500 South Bronough Street

Tallahassee, FL  32399-0250

(850) 245-6536

From: The Virginia Watchdog []
Sent: Friday, September 21, 2007 1:45 PM
To: Hearn, Lynn C.
Subject: Re: Misuse of Social Security Numbers

Sir or Madam:

Please see the latest article on my website.  I am dealing with  PUBLIC RECORDS and I got Sec. Browning's record off a PUBLIC website.

I told that young lady that the Sec continues to spoon feed criminals many people's SSNs which remain on the UCCs and that the site should be shut down until ALL SSNs are removed.  But since y'all are hell bent down there in Florida to have SSNs online then here's Browning's and wife's on a PUBLIC RECORD which I do have a FIRST AMENDMENT right to publish - the same way y'all are publishing PUBLIC records called UCCs with SSNs on them. 

I've downloaded too many to count off that Florida UCC search site which should only have an INDEX on it (and not images) and even though I've had my fingertips on millions at a time when I go into websites, I've only downloaded or printed out over 20,000 from all over the country.  I'm just trying to get public officials to quit being stupid by putting records on the World Wide Web that contain personal info. So I publish big wheels' records.

If you want to see Jeb Bush's click on the link on the front page of my site where it says his name.  Or the previous CIA Director's.  Or some other Florida big wheels' PUBLIC records.  They all have SSNs on them and I got them off public websites put online by Florida elected officials...or in Browning's case, "appointed."    

As General Counsel, I'm sure you know that a PUBLIC record is just that....PUBLIC.  Please don't threaten me with this garbage you have written me.  Bigger wheels than you have tried and failed also. 

However, you people should be more concerned about all the private citizens's SSNs that are on records still on Browning's UCCs and you should be concerned about other Florida officials like Court Clerks spoon feeding criminals.  

Your "willful and without authorization" B.S. doesn't concern me in the least.  His and Kathy's SSNs are on a PUBLIC RECORD that I have chosen to publish.  

Also concerning the "with intent to fraudulently use"...There is no intent to fraudulently use the PUBLIC RECORD.  I'm just publishing a PUBLIC RECORD and exercising my First Amendment rights.

Sorry, but he'll have to deal with his public record being online.  Do him a favor and tell him to go to the Pasco County website and get the SSNs removed off TWO DOCs there.  I have only shown one because on the other one one of the SSNs had been blacked out.  It just goes to show you REDACTION doesn't work but yet state and County officials continue to put people in harm's way by publishing these public records online.  I think if people want to see the records, they should have to drive to the COURTHOUSE or the Sec.'s OFFICE.  It was a big mistake to allow the UCCs to be centralized anyway.  They used to enjoy some "practical obscurity" at the courthouse.  Not anymore.

Bottom line:  I don't need his permission - or anyone else's - to publish his PUBLIC RECORD.

BJ Ostergren, Founder/Publisher of The Virginia Watchdog


----- Original Message -----

Sent: Friday, September 21, 2007 11:31 AM

Subject: Misuse of Social Security Numbers

Ms. Ostergren:

I have been advised by Amy Woodward, Executive Assistant to Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, that you informed her you have obtained the social security numbers of Secretary Browning and his wife and intend to post them on your web site.

I write to caution you that such conduct would violate Section 817.568, Florida Statutes, which makes it felony to:

 “willfully and without authorization fraudulently use[], or possess with intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information concerning an individual without first obtaining that individual’s consent.”

Your representation, by itself, that you intend to post the social security numbers on your web site likely already constitutes a violation of this section and other provisions of Florida law.  Therefore, you may currently be subject to prosecution and will certainly be subject to prosecution if you take any additional steps toward carrying out this threat. 

Please govern yourself accordingly.

Lynn C. Hearn

General Counsel

Florida Department of State

R.A. Gray Building

500 South Bronough Street

Tallahassee, FL  32399-0250

(850) 245-6536






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