There are many things wrong in this story, but let me focus on this one for the moment:
That’s right, not only were they forced to live under the accusation of being child pornographers, but the FBI naturally had to seize all their computers, since they contained all the evidence. Like nice pictures of their cat Fluffy. Shouldn’t that have had some impact on the FBI’s allegations?
(because they confused a game about hacking with actual hacking) they put the gaming company out of business by taking their computers, although even they didn’t take all the computers:Secret Service raided Steve Jackson gamesThe seizing of computers by law enforcement has always been abusive, even in the earliest days. When the
files; other systems were left in place. In their diligent search for evidence, the agents also cut off locks, forced open footlockers, tore up dozens of boxes in the warehouse, and bent two of the office letter openers attempting to pick the lock on a file cabinet.GURPS CyberpunkThe only computers taken were those with
The next day, accompanied by an attorney, Steve Jackson visited the Austin offices of the Secret Service. He had been promised that he could make copies of the company’s files. As it turned out, he was only allowed to copy a few files, and only from one system.
Nowadays, apparently, even a raid for possession of child porn results in all computers being seized and held for years.
When police want to search a house, they can’t lock out the legal occupants for years, so why should they be able to keep people out of the digital equivalents of their homes? If there isn’t an organization out there working to revise these laws, then maybe I ought to start one…
There might be a legal issue with using second-best evidence (a copy instead of the original drive), but that sounds like something that could be fixed with a statute. Civil courts have been working around the problem for decades.
What makes this especially abusive is that it is technically unnecessary: Law enforcement officers could take a forensic mage of a computer’s hard drive in just a few hours. At worst, they’d have to seize computers for a day or two before giving them back. Then they could search for what they need without incapacitating anyone.
My computer contains has about 2 terabytes of hard drive storage (not including disks used for RAID or backups). Making the generous assumption that an average book requires a full megabyte of storage, that’s enought to store about 2 million books. Now, noting especially the use of the word “particular” in the Fourth Amendment, does it seem reasonable to assume that the Founding Fathers intended to allow the the government to seize, with a single warrant, more data than all of the Founding Fathers combined had in all their papers and personal libraries?
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
If the Supreme Court hadn’t completely gutted the Fourth Amendment, this would surely be unconstitutional.
(I have backups, but I assume the invading law enforcement agents would take all those too. And my offsite backups only cover critical stuff — I’d still have a lot to put together.)
on our computers — all our email, all our financial and legal records, everything both of us do for a living, and much of what we do for fun. our whole livesMy wife and I keep I keep Losing them would be a huge disaster, second only to losing our entire home.
The EXACT SAME THING happened to me. About 2 years ago the police came by with a search warrant because somebody was trading that stuff on Limewire one day in February when I was on a business trip. They waited 10 months to execute the warrant.
When they tried to interrogate me, I told them I would be happy to speak with them, but only with my lawyer present – this made them very angry (you could see it in their eyes.) They finished tearing apart my house and left.
Then I had to explain to my live-in girlfriend (now my wife) that the police had made a mistake and I was not guilty of anything like that. I was not entirely sure at the time that she believed me – Can you imagine the kind of suspicion that man’s wife had against him when the FBI showed up?
Days turned to weeks, turned to months turned to years – and through my lawyer I’ve only gotten one bit of info from the police – because one (out of eight total) hard drives had a tiny encrypted portion (that I used to keep my tax information on) that they couldn’t break. I had since forgotten the password. Because they can’t execute the search warrant fully – by accessing that portion, they won’t return ANY of my computers, hardware or accessories – including digital cameras and videotapes.
Honestly, I think the police know they made a mistake and are angry that I “lawyered up” so quickly – and they’re getting back at me by keeping my stuff.
Anyway – I haven’t gone to the media with it because I had a collection of old hard drives friends had given me – and I don’t know what’s on them. I’m afraid of provoking the police into serving a second warrant (this time for the encryption password or something?) and depriving me of the equipment I bought to replace what they stole.
I don’t usually make a stink about it because I get leery looks
Mark Draughn says
That’s exactly it. They have no proof you are guilty of anything, yet they stole thousands of dollars of your property. And “stole” is the right word: If they gave them back right now, they’d be giving back two-year-old computers which have lost most of their value. If they’d given them back a week after they took them, it wouldn’t hurt their investigation at all. But they like it better this way because they get to punish you.