Jon Katz, a columnist for Slashdot.org, an online news site, wrote a short article about an e-mail message he had received from Junis, an Afghan programmer in his mid-20's living in a village near Kabul. Junis, whom Mr. Katz has never met, wrote that with ''the dust of the pickup trucks carrying the Taliban'' out of his village still visible, he unearthed his ancient Commodore computer from underneath a chicken coop, where it had been hidden for years.
The poignant tale of Junis's reunion with his computer as he told it to Mr. Katz in a message routed through Kabul, Islamabad and London was ''a reminder that there are civil liberties, and then there are civil liberties,'' Mr. Katz wrote. Computers had been banned under the Taliban. People caught using them could face death, Mr. Katz wrote.
But no sooner had Mr. Katz posted his article on Nov. 20 than skeptics piped up by the hundreds. Most of the criticism centered on the account of Junis's Commodore computer, an anemic machine from the 1980's.