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FBI Keeps Seized Computers up to Five Years 148

Zorro turned us on to an NYT article that says law enforcement agencies routinely seize hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of computers and hard drives as evidence, but have so few computer experts that confiscated equipment can gather dust for months or years until someone decides whether or not they contain criminal information. The story also says that, even if you're innocent, once the cops grab your computer they can keep it until the statute of limitations on the alleged crime runs out, which is typically five years. (Free NYT reg. required to read.)
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FBI Keeps Seized Computers up to Five Years

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  • coyote-san, thanks for answering calmly this post, which reads either like flamebait or from NAMBLA (or flamebait from NAMBLA).

    I also won't jump down the slippery slope about Traci Lords etc ... there is a grey area, and youngish people do have / can have sex. That's *not* to say "children," especially not "young children."

    mwalker did the right thing (and I say that as someone who generally distrusts the police at whatever level -- see the Steve Jackson references throughout this thread) and I am impressed that he doesn't sound angrier than he does.

  • Also (and I'm playing devil's advocate here), if you did have things your way and the cops were required to reimburse you for the depreciation of your equipment, would you/we really be better off? It would simply make their job significantly harder.

    Only in a police state does the policeman have it easy.

    If it takes years to examine your computer equipment for signs of incriminating data, then you need to write some letters to your legislature and the FBI saying, "use more of my tax dollars to streamline and make efficient this process," not, "use more of my tax dollars for reimbursing the innocent."

    So what you are saying is that the FBI should continue to conduct "investigations" which are just excuses to sieze and hold computer equipment because there will be no follow-up. You say this is due to a lack of funds. I call it mismanagement. If the FBI were doing its job correctly, it would re-allocate funds from the agents doing the seizing to analysts for evaluating the evidence until they could process everything they grabbed in a reasonable amount of time, say 60 days.

  • Yah, but the PC devalues. Therefore, a good lawyer could make the case that the feds owe the difference in the value. I think the fourth ammendment, if they seize your property, they have to pay you the full value, something like that.
  • I could replace my current computer out of pocket. However, when they take the computer, they seize all the oxide in sight: tapes, disks, everything. There goes your email. There go your backups. There go your web page sources. There goes everything!

    The only way to survive this is to have an offsite backup. How many people who aren't expecting this sort of attention routinely make offsite backups for the machine in their bedrooms?
  • So I was talking to a co-worker of mine. Her brother and his friends were out in the desert, about ten miles outside Las Vegas. They were hunting lizards for a college biology project. One of them picked up a rock, which is how you find lizards. He found something else. He found a gleaming metal bead. It was attached to something.

    It turned out to be attached to the rest of a car radio antenna. They dug down far enough to discover a car. This being the Las Vegas neighborhood they expected the car to contain a body so they called the LVPD. LVPD showed up with machinery and dug up a pristine Corvette convertible, which started right up. They took it away.

    Next day the boys went down to the police station to claim the car. Finders keepers, right?

    Right. What car? There was no record of it anywhere.
  • >>Is it ethical to assist in the prevention of certain 'crimes' if you don't believe they are crimes?

    >Probably not, I would have a hard time doing that.

    I dunno... to "assist in the prevention of certain 'crimes'" seems (to me) an ethical toss-up. A grey area. Something as innocuous as a warning - "you could get in serious trouble doing things like that" - might assist in the prevention of a 'crime'. Is that so wrong?

    Certainly assisting in the rounding up for punishment of certain 'criminals' - and confiscation of their equipment - would be an ethical no-no if one didn't consider what they did to be criminal.
  • Here in Australia it is no different. We had our flat raided. The Australian Federal Police had a warrent searching for data relating to a computer crime (some punk kid in Adelaide who was calling Sydney with a hacked PABX and using cc'd ozemail accounts who had talked to me on IRC). They took everything.. my computer, my flatmate's computer(s), our 3 commodore 64's, all the c64 disks.. the really strange thing.. they went around hunting through the house for all the mice.. yer.. they were real adament about it "gotta get all the mice". Everything they picked up I said "erm.. there's no data in that" and they say stuff like "gotta take evidence of a communication".. and I was like "wanna take the phone?".. anyways.. I let it go for about 3 months.. then I called up the AFP and asked where my computers were.. they said they were a bit backlogged and would get back to me.. I asked what they were doing with them.. they said the computers were sitting on a shelf in the holding area waiting to be inspected.. I was like "what are you going to do with em?" and they said they were gunna copy the harddrives and then give em back to me.. so I asked if I could have the modem/mouse/monitor/etc back and they said no.

    So I called them every day.. at first they were pretty co-operative.. then they became annoyed.. then they stopped taking my calls "oh.. he's just walked away from his desk".. One day I called and they said "oh.. there's been a bit of trouble here and he's gone to investigate that.. he'll be back soon".. I rang back 10 minutes later.. they had put the answering machine on.. 20 minutes early.. so I looked up the federal agent's name in the telephone book and called the first number that matched.. "Is this ***** ****'s house?" "Yes.. I'm his wife, can I help you?" "Yer.. is this federal agent ***** ****'s house?" "Yes it is." Cool, I got it first time.. "Oh.. well this is ***** ********** can you get ***** to call me back on ********".. half an hour later.. *ring* "Hello *****, how did you get my home number?" "telephone book".. So I called there every day.. started getting the answering machine.. so I went down to the Forensic Computer Examination Unit and asked to speak to the dude who was sitting on his arse eating twinkies and not copying my harddrive.. For some strange reason they let me in and it turned out that he wasn't even there.. he hadn't been there for months.. no-one in that section had.. I left a post-it note on his door damanding my computers back.. it didn't help.. I got them back 14 months after they took em.. I never got any reply to any of the stern letters that I sent to the police. There is nothing you can do.. I have done it all.. I even applied for a job with the police so that I could get assigned to the FCEU and copy the damn harddrive myself.

    When we got the computer's back they had these cool 'FCEU' stickers on em.. Now my mom has that computer (a P100) and I forbid her from removing the stickers.
  • As a group, we have more money than the average person. In our society that should mean we have more influence, right?

    If we all donated $20 to the EFF and then to the ACLU and other such groups ... Even just 500,000 of us is $10,000,000 ... do that once a year, it will help, right? Or does it need to be a factor of ten more? How much does it take to manipulate this system to our own ends?
  • After 3? More like after 18 months.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Nearly the same situation here: my brother is an alleged hacker and they took everything including printer cables, scanners, etc. But, and this is the kicker, they took all of *my* computer stuff including two video cards that were sitting in my closet in anti-static bags, the cradle for my PalmPilot (but not the PalmPilot itself!), and even my mouse pads! This happened in the beginning of April and I still haven't received any of it back (now nearly five months later!).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's sad that you're filled with such hatred and paranoia. My advice would be for you to talk to more people. Don't go seek professional help, because you're very untrustful of anybody you see as an "authority figure." Just get out more. Go to the park and meet regular people at random. They're not all out to get you. The majority of people in the world are nice ordinary people. They're not brainwashed sheep who just aren't as aware as you are. Think about it, get out more, and have a happy life. Paranoia will destroy you.
  • I wonder if this means the FBI might be in the market for some 'puter Savvy folks like us? And would accepting a job like that be selling out? Is it ethical to assist in the prevention of certain 'crimes' if you don't believe they are crimes?

    Given the current situation, even if you disagree with the laws it might not be a bad idea to join the FBI in enforcing them. Right now, people get stuck in limbo for years waiting to get their hardware back. If the computer forensics team at the FBI were increased, then the innocent people would get their stuff back a lot sooner, and the guilty (who would be convicted anyway) would be pretty much unaffected (they might go to prison a little sooner, but at least they'd know what was happening).

    Of course, if you do in fact disagree with the laws, then it might likewise be a good idea to do something like this, in order to "speak from experience" that people in X situation are unlikely to (cause|have caused) Y problem.

    Not that I'm trying to convince anyone to go work for the FBI or anything, but I wanted to point up ways in which doing so shouldn't be considered "selling out"---almost the reverse, in fact.

  • How would you accomplish that by writing things?

    Sorry, I think you mean Steganography :)

  • When I was in college, I hoped to become an FBI agent. It's been a few years, but here are some of the basic requirements I remember:

    BS/BA Degree (I believe military service will qualify in place of a degree).

    Two or more years of full-time employment with a single employer.

    Exceptions are granted to the 2 year rule for people with degrees in law or accounting.

    Clean criminal history, good character, and good physical condition (special agent training can be fairly rigorous).

    Also, the FBI seems to place a lot of weight on academic credentials. I suspect they prefer to get Comp. Sci. grads with advanced degrees for their "computer expert" positions.

    Do the math and figure out how many people meet all of the above criteria. Now subtract the number who are willing to accept roughly half of the salary they could be making in the private sector with the same credentials. Do you see a shortage?

    Yes, there are intangible benefits to being an agent. Honestly, if a recruiter approached me today, I would still be interested. My experience with FBI recruiters, though, was that they were aloof and arrogant. This attitude is hard to take when private companies are falling all over themselves to hire you.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...2 years.

    And, boy, once your name goes into their tickler files, you are presumed guilty until proven innocent. They've batted a solid .000 with this American citizen now immigrating to another country with more solid foundation in civil rights. Given my experiences with Federal investigators, I am beginning to believe that they either have WAY too much time on their hands (even more so than local-yokal law enforcement departments) or the FBI Training Academy's standards have fallen though the floor in the past 10 years.

    Some of the Federal investigative agencies practices just aren't right (or legal, in my opininon). The majority of the population doesn't get to experience nice little things like property seizure and confiscate laws (which fund and add fuel to the fire), criminal record maintance (without conviction), post investigation cateloging of personal letters and papers obtained from computer equipment seizures and abuse of polygraph results in the absence of any real evidence. Once you fall out of that majority, (guilty or not) it's a long, hard fall to reality

    The Second American Revolutions won't happen in time to mitigate technology's control of citizens, their thoughts and desires. Let's get one thing straight... Technology doesn't give a flying fsck about things like "Freedom" or "Liberty" or "The Pursuit of Happyness".

    My recomendation:

    Opt-in, becomming a part of the Federal investigative or enforcement power


    Get out. Find somewhere else, on this rather large earth, safer and freeer to live.

    Everyone else? They're just meat for the butcher's grinder.
  • The only way this is going to be solved is through legislation. Make it happen.
  • The lack of detail in my original post was intentional, as the less details I provided, the safer it was for everyone involved.

    Some clarifications:

    -The guy was not "tortured" by the police. It's probably trollbait, but I'll clarify that just so it's ironed out.

    -He wasn't using my box for NAT or anything, everyone in the apartment had their own jack. Because I had TWO computers, I used a spare jack that happened to be on his side of the four person apartment. Too cheap to buy a hub I guess. I was in no way going to be held legally responsible for his actions.

    So why did I turn someone in for child pornography distribution if it was no skin off my nose? Why not live and let live? I don't feel that the comparison to drug law enforcement is accurate, since the U.S.'s drug laws are retarded and everyone knows it. If'd he'd instead been growing a metric ton of weed in his closet I'd have given him a medal.

    So here is what pushed me over the edge, and made me call the police rather than talk to the guy:

    -Define young? ages appx 8-12 years old. Not traci lords. Pippi longstocking. Sesame street.

    6 gigs. Carefully sorted. Documented. Separated into hundreds of subdirectories by race and gender combination. description files. Creation dates over a span of four years.

    -Was he hurting anyone? He spent a lot of time in chat rooms in AOL. He spent a lot of time trying to meet people.

    -Why not just ask him to stop? That would have, in my opinion, created an opportunity for him to destroy evidence. That introduced the possiblity of him remaining in my apartment. Or he could have stopped, moved, and started again. I felt that I had a responsibility to the public to do something. I felt that reducing the menace this person posed was not within my ability to create change. I considered the prospect of him luring someone into my apartment... and freaked out.

    I stand by my decision, and that's all I have to say about that.

    On the topic of allowing cash reimbursement for seized computing equipment - it's a nice idea, but it's far from being a solution. What if you reimburse a computer criminal who turns out to be guilty? If the state computer facility has a backlog of two years worth of computers, and that demand is constant, then increase capacity. If computer expertise costs too much money, spend more money. Computers aren't going to go away, and as much as corporate america would like to make computer programmers a cheap commodity by importing what they consider the "smart" races on indentured servant visas, the IT labor shortage isn't going to end anytime soon. Bite the bullet, modernize, make computer inspection turnaround time two weeks. Competent government is achievable, though you wouldn't believe it from the current state of affairs.

  • I wonder if this means the FBI might be in the market for some 'puter Savvy folks like us? And would accepting a job like that be selling out? Is it ethical to assist in the prevention of certain 'crimes' if you don't believe they are crimes? What kind of penalties would there be if you claimed you were unable to crack a system because you believed the information it held should be legal? How much do you think the FBI would be willing to pay? I wonder if they would outsource to a consulting company...

  • Considering the fact that a typical compurer becomes almost useless after three years, having yours seized for five years means that you will probably not be very interested in getting it back, except maybe for selling the metal.

    Fortunately, Linux does not suffer from the same bloat factors as other operating systems, which means that you can run an up-to-date version of Linux on a computer that is more than five years old. But still...

  • Any responsible accounting for confiscated equipment would show that returning a modern computer five years later would represent a loss of the majority of value. Is there a constitutional loophole for this or is it simply another violation of the takings clause of the fifth admendment?

    At least in the cases where charges are dropped or the defendant is acquitted, shouldn't compensation for taken property be required?
  • I wonder if this means the FBI might be in the market for some 'puter Savvy folks like us?

    There's a lot more law enforcement agencies out there besides the FBI, maybe local law enforcement agencies are looking for help too.

    And would accepting a job like that be selling out?

    That depends on your ethics, for myself, I disagree with some laws but I don't think that everything the FBI or other law enforcement agencies does is evil. In fact, I really appreciate having local police around.

    Is it ethical to assist in the prevention of certain 'crimes' if you don't believe they are crimes?

    Probably not, I would have a hard time doing that.

    What kind of penalties would there be if you claimed you were unable to crack a system because you believed the information it held should be legal?

    I'm not a lawyer, but I imagine they could range up to dismissal and aiding and abetting criminal charges.

    How much do you think the FBI would be willing to pay?

    Government typically doesn't pay well, though I'm not sure about government contractors. On the other hand, you would probably have lifetime employment.

    What I want to know, is where do I go for a law enforcement auction, I'd love to get my hands on obsolete computers?

    Oooh, a 386, and the bidding is starting at $50!


  • Fortunately, when you get your computer back after five years, it'll still be powerful enough to run Linux.
  • What computer guy would really want to work for the FBI? After the plastering they've taken in the media and the general idea of a dumb G'man so prevelant in society, I can't really say that I'm surprised. This is happening all over the country. The area's that really need geeks can't get them. Of course, the FBI has never had a stock offering and made anyone rich overnight.

    Personally, if they are hiring for geek type jobs, where do I sign up? Could be kind of neat to know that you had a part in busting some big international operation and those perps are now seeing the harsh light of justice. I've been watching way to much Dragnet.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, the folks committing crimes with their computers must feel more secure after reading this article. If the cops can't even find someone to look at the hard drive, a reasonably implemented encryption scheme will probably stand up against the feds.

    No wonder the feds are so desperately worried about people having encryption! If they're ineffective now, with widespread encryption they'd be completely useless.
  • ...for good backups, kept offsite. As a rule of thumb you should always be able to recreate your system(s) as of yesterday given an OS install disk, a partition table, and backups. If you trust Travan, you can get drives for $400 and the media's pretty cheap too. Backups are a good idea anyways, for hardware and software failure reasons. Is anyone doing large scale backups using open source tools? Or is everyone using Veritas/Backup Exec?

    I'm trying to decide what to go with. I'm tempted to wait until this fall and get one of these. [onstream.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hrm. Well, I have some issues with that. Yes, QIC of any type is not as good an initial value proposition than 4mm and 8mm, but there are some issue that mitigate the extra cost of the cart itself for me. My points:

    1. TR4 (4GB native, 8GB compresses) drive is $100 most places for brown-box Aiwa or Exabyte SCSI-2 drives, a little more for IDE. You can get the SCSI-2 ones from www.compgeeks.com for $58.75 (OEM Aiwa). That is a good deal. I have looked around and I cannot find 4mm drives for less than $650 (SCSI). They will hold twice as much native, but they cost a lot more than twice as much. And TR4 drives have the advantage of working with IDE, if you are poor and need backup. A little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing here.
    2. TR4s are $27/tape in quantity. 125m 4mm tapes are $15 in quantity. This isn't that simple an equasion though. TR4s last about 400 runs before you get data errors (mostly). 4mm tapes you have to toss after 16 uses, tops. They just come up with data errors. And I am speaking from experience, here. The big QIC stuff is similar. The issue is the head -- helical head stuff streams poorly and stretches the tape even if it isn't streaming. And then the media flakes off the mylar and/or you have actual tapes snapping. So, assuming that you are brave or lucky and (for round numbers) you get 20 uses out of each DAT tape, for 400 runs, you would need one TR4 or 20 4mm tapes. That is the difference between $27 and $300, or, recognizing the capacity difference and assuming maximum compression (25GB for the DDS3 tapes vs 8GB for the TR4s at 2:1), that would be a cost of $27 vs $100. Like WinNT, 4mm seems easier and offers apparent cost savings, but winds up costing a lot more and being dramatically less reliable. And this is apart from the physical strength of TR4s vs. 4mm tapes; drop a 4mm and it will break (often enough), drop a TR4 tape and you will need to retension it. And this is apart from cleaning tapes. A TR4 cleaning tape is $35 for one, probably less in quantity. A 4mm cleaning tape is $7. Good? Well, no sane person would use a 4mm drive that hasn't been cleaned ever 16-20 uses AT THE OUTSIDE. If the 4mm tapes are reaching the end of their short lives and flaking like crazy, you will need to clean every 3-5 uses. And then throw away the tapes. TR4 drives need to be cleaned ever 300-500 uses (less if it streams)(and under Linux, it will stream, even if IDE). Again, a pretty serious savings, for TR4s.
    3. Long term durability is another issue with 4mm tapes. They are often unreadable 6 months after use. I have seen many, many QIC tapes of various stripes be readable 6-8 YEARS later. In both cases, I am assuming proper storage. The stresses that the head puts on the 4mm media damages it and over time that makes it a lot weaker. And on that note, I hope that you are storing those CD-Rs in a cool, dark place, or they will be unreadable in 5-7 years.

    I am not trying to harsh all over 4mm, but I have had a lot of serious problems with 4mm and 8mm and damned close to none with QIC, half-inch IBM tapes (3480 and 3490), and DLTs. For home use, only QIC is affordable, and the most affordable is Travan. You must budget for a backup cycle so that a single bad tape doesn't screw you (and have scratches -- remember Mabel!), but if you are really doing it right, then you will spend a lot less on QIC TR4s than on 4mm.

    You are verifying your backups each and every time, right? If it isn't verified, then it isn't a backup, right?
  • I dunno. It seems like the could pull the manpower out on these kind of Computer Forensic cases. But it looks like they'd just prefer to leave the "allegedly guilty" party's box doing paperweight duty while the accused decides when he's going to give up. Innocent or not. Government Sponsored Oubliette. Besides..3 techs! That's it for Uncle Sam!?! Sure ..I believe you.
  • The gas cannister thing refers to the Waco fiasco, where the FBI now admit firing flammable tear gas into a building packed with open fires, kerosene lamps, straw and high explosives.

    (Having said that, said combination of open fires, kerosene lamps, straw and high explosives is somewhat unstable anyway. IMHO, all the FBI would have had to have done is wait until someone in there sneezed, and the whole lot would have gone up in smoke anyway.)

  • Customs agents in airports can take your tickets and any cash you're carrying if they suspect you are going to use it to buy drugs. They don't have to charge you, question you, or explain anything to you, and they don't have to give it back. sounds like the Government is becoming as paranoid about computers as they are about drugs.
    ^. .^
    ( @ )
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My computer was involved in a crime 2 years ago, at which the same point my $2000 (at the time) 266 MHz P-II computer was taken. I was told after the crime (for which I was convicted) that I would get it back after 2 months. (the time limit for me to appeal) Well, I still haven't gotten it back yet.. it's been one run around after another.. at first they told me my computer contained "highly illegal information" and must be destroyed. I admit I had a few hundred mp3's and hundreds of technical text files that can be used improperly, but I don't see what's wrong with just deleting the information, hell they can even keep my hard drives, I just want the computer back. But here recently they said I could have the computer back if I retained a) a receipt for the computer (but i built it myself) and b) a letter from my co-defendant saying this in fact is my computer.. well "b" isn't going to happen because him and I are really not friends anymore... he's the main reason I got into this mess..

    I wonder if I should contact another attorney (my first sucked) because I was never presented with a search warrant in the first place.. who knows.. it's obvious they're throwing me one line after the next, and by the time I get it back (if ever) it will be barely worth a few hundred bucks and will serve next to no purpose to me.. Oh well, since then I bit the bullet and bought a new computer and am slowly changing my black hat to a lovely shade of white... I never wanted to grow up but I really learned my lesson with this one.... a warning to anyone else who has even tinkered with someone else's computer: the government is just looking to use you as an example.. even if what you didnt *wasnt that bad* or *easy to fix*.. once you cross the line, you are theirs to toy with.. and if you choose to step over that line again, you had better not get caught or you're in some serious poo poo.
  • I'm doing that very thing, emigrating to another country. Almost half my friends have left to move to Latin America or Europe. (Latin America has its share of corruption, but really, it's not as bad as the US. Personally, I'm considering Argentina.
  • Ah. Yes, then, I did hear about that. I think that Mr. Blassor (initiator of the thread) is a bit too critical of the FBI. I mean, aside from conspiracy theories galore, they seem to be doing a reasonable job. Without xealots, you don't get results. Without results: no FBI, no internal law enforcement agency.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I instruct law enforcement on the proper methods to seize computer systems during the course of an investigation. I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that the investigators that do these seizures normally _hate_ to take a machine because of the amount of work required to investigate everything on the drive.

    In fact, it's not surprising in most investigations to have computers go untouched because, in the officer's mind, the work required to sort through the storage devices and removable media on-site exceeds the value of the evidence he or she may find. Most officers (trained ones, not the average street cop, but the high-tech crimes investigators) only take equipment that meets one or more of the following criteria:

    1) There is a good chance the equipment was used in the commission of a crime,
    2) The equipment is stolen or presumed stolen,
    3) Other evidence points to the use of the equipment in the commission of the crime being investigated.

    Once the equipment is seized, trained officers will always image the drive and any removable media and perform the investigation on the copy. The reason the original is kept is because the officer must maintain full certainty that the evidence is pristine -- that is, that it has not been modified while in the possession of the investigator. These are steps trained officers -- indeed, the ones that _I_ train -- will take. I can't speak for every officer, though.

    The trouble with keeping mahines is, many investigations take a long time to complete -- the evidence _must_ be kept pristine until there is a trial. Sometimes, as we all know, the courts don't exactly speed cases through. The fact that so much effort is expended on the part of the officer to maintain the accuracy of the evidence doesn't just protect _him_ in a criminal trial, it may protect the accused as well. If the accused has access to change the evidence after the investigation has been initiated, it casts a lot of doubt on that person's own veracity.

    Still, I know abuses do occur. I know that sometimes officers keep equipment well beyond the times they should, and they sometimes do so out of spite. Some equipment is not returned even though there is absolutely _not_ going to be a trial.

    If anyone feels that way, they should protest it to other law enforcement personnel as highly-placed as possible. In additon, if an officer during an investigation comes to take the machine, ask them if they hold professional certification from any of the common high-tech crime investigation associations (HTCIA, IACIS).

    But, please, do realize these officers have to abide by the rules. The same rule of evidence which applies to computer equipment seized in a crime investigation also applies to any other piece of physical evidence: it must be kept pristine until trial -- however long that takes.
  • This a very important point. The governments ARE as paranoid about computer crimes as they are about drugs, because, once again, they are going right into a loosing battle at everyones cost.

    The war on computer crimes (especially piracy) that the American government is so eager to step up, is just the "war on drugs" all over again, and it threatens to do to our computer networks what the latter has done to our city centers.

    /. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.
  • ...
    and the external one hasn't already told the computer that power is out and it should shut down, then destroy all your sensitive material.
    Ah, just what the Feds want. After they catch onto the "dual UPS" trick, they'll use the auto-delete list as a roadmap to all of your most incriminating stuff.

    Nice way of shooting yourself in the foot.

  • I have been reading /. for a while and that is the most enlightened comment I have read yet.
  • IMHO, law enforcement should be forced to pony up the missing $1800.
    Good, but not good enough. Law enforcement should be forced to provide (at their expense) a copying service for all information on the computer's mass-storage devices, copies to be provided to the owner within 5 business days. Then, upon aquittal or past the statute of limitations, they should be forced to pay the original cost of the siezed equipment plus interest at 19.8% per year.

    This is the only way that the innocent can be protected from maurauding seizure. If the cops grab your stuff and you haven't done anything, you just buy a new system with your VISA card, plug in the copy of the hard drive and wait for their check to pay off the card.

    The really ironic thing about this is that, unlike houses and even cars, computers depreciate so fast they are effectively useless as asset-forfeiture fund-raising material. Yet the cops grab and hold them for ridiculous amounts of time anyway.

  • I'm sure in the near future an extremely high-profile case will finally end the capability of law enforcement to steal property from everybody. It's not evidence if it isn't being examined, used in court, returned as soon as possible, and pertinent, so yes, they are _stealing_ huge amounts of property. There will surely be a case where one of two things happens:

    1) Law enforcement goes to jail


    2) Law enforcement has to pay an obscene amount in a class action, and suddenly all of the different groups get targetted by all of their past victims

    It will only take one good victory to end the illegal actions by our so-called public servants. The moment the enforcers of the law consider themselves immune to the law, it's time to overhaul / replace / destroy the system.
  • The entire legal system in the USA is out of control. It needs to be redone, from scratch.

    Also, don't I have the right to see what laws affect me? Yea, I thought so too. Where can I go download a copy? Which section in my public library? What, the laws arn't avalible? I thought that as well.

    The laws should be simple enough that they can be taught in school in their entirety, and once a working system gets set up (Aka, the current sytem isn't a "Working System") it should be nigh on impossible to tweak it and add on unnessisary stupidity!

    Arghhh!!!! I'm going to wright up a thingie and submit it as a top level Slashdot article. This subject pisses me off!

  • by mwalker ( 66677 ) on Friday August 27, 1999 @07:32AM (#1722141) Homepage
    I thought that maybe a real-world testimonial from a slashdot'er might be of use here.

    I went to college at the University of College Park, MD. I lived on campus, which meant that everyone in my on-campus apartment had a 10baseT jack fed to a T3 line on the Internet backbone. Good deal.

    I had two computers, a Pentium-60 running FreeBSD with no monitor (fixed-ip permanent uptime server) and a dual-boot redhat/windows box in my bedroom. My on campus-apartment housed four people.

    One semester a new guy moved into our apartment. I don't want to make this post run on forever with details, so to make a long story short: we discovered that he was hosting approx. 6gig of pictures of very young children having sex on his computer through a password protected ftp server. We freaked. We called the police.

    I think it was the right thing to do.

    The police came. Lots of them. They had a search warrant. They took everything electronic in this kid's room. They took his alarm clock. ...they took the computer which was attached to a cable run 25 feet out of his room. A quiet computer with no monitor sitting in a closet.

    My computer.

    When they were taking it I told the officers: "you'll need the passwords, it's running an IDEA encrypted filesystem" and wrote the root pwd and filesystem key on a 3m note. I didn't care, the crypto was for fun, my box was legal. I remember what the officer said:
    "I'm pretty sure they can figure it out".

    As if.

    I got my computer back 32 months later. I kept in touch with the college park police department. They just said it was at the state computer crime facility awaiting testing.

    I don't have to tell you what a P60 is worth today. I still use it as a server, but I lost upwards of two years of use on that box.

    I don't mind law enforcement taking computers in some cases. I think my case was a good example of better-safe-than-sorry. But they DO have a responsibility to get their f**ing act together when it comes to data inspection and returning property to innocent people.

    From first hand knowledge, I can say that this is a VERY real problem, and that it needs attention at a national level now. If the mere suspicion of misdeeds is enough to confiscate a computer until it is entirely worthless, then law enforcement has effectively bypassed our trial-by-jury system. The punishment comes swiftly and BEFORE guilt or innocence is determined, because the punishment consists of denying a civilian access to his property. It consititutes the same kind of loophole that RICO does.
    (see Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act - search altavista)

    The problem with punishment before judgement is that sometimes you punish the innocent.
    It happened to me.
    It could happen to you.

  • Maybe if these officers didn't waste the courts time with frivolous offenses like having a collection of mp3s or some text files, the courts wouldn't then have such a large caseload, and would be able to swiftly handle the true crimes.

    I suspect that these heavy-handed enforcement practices will continue until they begin seizing the equipment of individuals with "highly-placed" contacts. No, not contacts in law enforcement but in the legislatures around the country. Some bad publicity goes a long way to changing attitudes, and the FBI isn't exactly the most admired federal agency right now.

    The FBI chooses to characterize these "hackers" in stereotypical and fear-mongering ways. The real irony is when these people begin to use the same methods against them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Amazing, a post that actually makes sense...and no replys! Sure big government does stupid things, but I've been to other countries and I can't say I'm all that inpressed with the way things are run there either. People fear that which they don't understand, and we all suffer for it...here's an example. I had a linux box stashed under my desk here at work to play with in my spare time. Our internal M$IS depertment noticed it and went off the handle wen they found out it had Linux on it. It was quite funny actually..They demanded all my passwords which I gladly gave them. Once they got to a root prompt they had no idea what to do, better yet, they were too proud to ask me what to do next...I still have seen or heard back on that computer. Which by the way only had a fresh install of RH 5.2. I do know they wasted several hours looking at the root prompt. The FBI just takes more time.
  • Steve Jackson Games has some information [sjgames.com] available on the GURPS Cyberpunk raid at their web site. This Secret Service raid was the first case [eff.org] taken on by the Electronic Frontier Foundation [eff.org].
  • Which is probably why our "authority figures" get away with so much. People like you and the previous poster hold them above suspicion. If we believe they are behaving in a criminal manner, people like you tell us that we are paranoid and should get a life. I wonder who the real delusional person is...

  • Well, I'm no expert on civil-liberty laws, but Canada, AFAIK, has a less paranoid and less authoritarian government than the US (that is, unless Mike Harris was to become PM of Canada... [shudder]).

    Sure, we have higher taxes, but also a national Medicare system that works (for now), as well as good public education (for now).

    (Sorry abouy my pessimism, but I live in Ontario, and IMHO, Mike Harris and his cronies are ruining this province.)
  • The FBI has reasonable rules concerning cars, and homes.

    Actually, no, they don't. (Well, maybe they do written down on a yellowing scrap of paper somewhere, but in actual practice law enforcement at all levels has been getting into the habit of just stealing stuff [fear.org].)

  • by Wah ( 30840 )
    and it threatens to do to our computer networks what the latter has done to our city centers.

    And it also threatens to do to our software companies what the war on drugs did to our drug companies (include tobacco and alcohol in that assessment)

    Right now the U.S. Government is about making money for U.S. companies, Why?, because we all work for who pays us.

    My two most importants items in the next election? Campaign Finance and Term Limits, long live Jesse!

  • Umm, what the guy was doing was ILLEGAL. And in poor taste, but that's subjective. Stealing doesn't really 'hurt' anyone, but it's still wrong.Any number of crimes don't really 'hurt' anyone. Also, children aren't designed to be participating in sex acts, that's what puberty is for. If you aren't CAPABLE of sex, then you definately don't need to be having it.


  • The FBI has reasonable rules concerning cars, and homes. Why not computers. I might be wrong about this. In any case it's unreasonable to keep a computer for vary long. It's a simple matter to copy the information off. We are, after all, in the digital age.

    But then again, ever try reading the Constitution to a cop?
  • Don't you read the newspapers? You seem to want to put your head in the sand and pretend that government seizure abuses don't happen. What does meeting 'regular people' have at all to do with 'authority figure's?

    A certain degree of paranoia is not bad, it is healthy. The thing you can't do is let yourself get so obsessed with it that it controls your life.

    There is a middle ground between people who don't trust anyone, and people who trust everyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hey, rob or whoever codes the ./ back-end now, you really need to make "Plain Old Text" the default for anonymous cowheards... we offen post in the heat of the moment and, being human being and all, sometimes forget to switch it over.. and no, I never use the "Preview" buttion. Geezz didn't you guys take any Human Factors Engineering classes at that liberal arts college?

    This would explain some other things as well, like:

    - exceptionally low prosecution and conviction rates for computer crimes - over reliance on polygraph tests

    - how increadibly easy it is to find scapegoat, track-covering, innocent third party on which investigators can focus their efforts.

    - the remarkable number of passed-over ex-military officers who majored in Physical Training at their local land-grant college before the ROTC recruiter managed snatched their soles and after the canidate realized they were unemployable upon graduation (but hey, they can make it though the FBI PT course like a champ!).

    - rampant and general incompetence, resulting in abuse of investigative powers (ever lost your $65k a year job to an FBI investigator because it wanted to put you in a hurt locker so you'll confess and try to cut a deal? It happens, even if you don't confess... hey, anything is worth a try, if you're an FBI investigator... you might stumble across the computer crime case formula that actually works.).

    - the reason industry doesn't rely upon the FBI to protect their assets or even figure out who dicked them over (the only really big institutional win for the FBI has been bank robbers and the FDIC program; that will never happen with computer cases).

    - why academics make lousy security experts. I had the pleasure of attening a top 10 computer science program where a good portion of the student body cheated their way through the program by doing things like obtaining midterm tests from printer spools 24 hours prior to the exam, using professor's own code and previous project submissions to "complete" class projects and bringing down various computer systems to get deadline extentions. The comp-sci department? They were absolutely clueless (those who can't teach; those who can't and won't teach at University).

    I could go on... but needless to say popular suspicions about government employees is well founded. Fear of "endowed" and armed government employees (IRS, FBI, Justice Department Prosecuters, Kongress Kritters and the like) is downright HEALTHY and should be encouraged (no kids, officer bob isn't necessarily here to help you once you've reached the age of incarceration)
  • Currently we imprison a larger percentage of our population that any other country in the world (a little over one percent of our population, if I remember.)

    According to this article [sciam.com] in Scientific American, the U.S. prison population is 668 per 100,000 (~.7%). Only Russia has more, with 690 per 100,000. Check out the article, worth a read.
  • It's a bit disappointing to me that many so-called libertarians seem a lot more concerned about getting rid of environmental and consumer protection regulations and lowering taxes, than actually protecting citizens from direct and overt abuses of power.

    There's no bright line between the two -- some of the most outrageous abuses are committed by the tax collectors and environmental enforcers. Laws against polluting other people's air and water are one thing (supported by pretty much everybody, libertarians included); blocking multi-million dollar developments (in effect, confiscating the assets involved) to protect a population of eight flies (I swear I am not making this up) is quite another.

  • The reason the entire machine is seized is that the people who execute the search warrant are very rarely the people who handled the investigation, or who will investigate in the future. They recieve directions like "Seize all computer and computer related equipment", and just to be safe, they take everything.
  • The original AC never mentioned his age, so I'm going under the perhaps false assumption that, since he's living with his brother, they're both minors. If this is the case, neither of you own those computers. Your parents do. The search warrant was probably served against them, which means everything on the premises is fair game.

    If you two were adults, and just, say, roommates, the search warrant probably still covers the entire place. Since you both live there, the entire place can be considered his property (as well as yours), which again makes your computer equipment subject to the warrant just as much as anything else in the place.
  • We could make major progress in this direction with a few simple rules:

    1. All laws shall expire not more than ten years from passage. (They can be effectively renewed by re-passing them, going through the same procedure as for a new law.)

    2. All bills shall be read on the floor in their entirety by the sponsor (or by a colleague designated by the sponsor, to be fair to the vocally challenged should any such be found in politics).

    3. Only legislators who have remained present for the entire reading get to vote on that bill. If this is less than a quorum, the bill dies right there.

  • To cops, everyone is a bad guy. In everyone but a cop, this is called paranoia. In many of the /. posts, anyone critical of the government is called paranoid -- but the truly paranoid ones are IN the government.

    Very well said, I couldn't agree more.

  • Let me assure the narrow minded self-righteous twits out there that you *can* get raided without ever breaking into a single system. The FBI has a real "thing" for acting rashly on next to no actual evidence. Usually the less accurate their information, the more irrational their reaction.
  • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Friday August 27, 1999 @10:08AM (#1722177)
    Reread the article, asshole2.

    This guy was not a stranger who mwalker squealed on, he was a *dormmate* who was apparently using mwalker's server to access the campus network. (It sounds like the campus was cheap and had installed a single 10baseT jack for the entire dorm suite. The seized computer was apparently used as a masquerading firewall to allow all of the dormmates to run their own system.)

    In the US, a private citizen is *not* required to report criminal acts which they are not party to. If you think the current drug laws are insane, don't call the cops to complain about the smell of pot coming from your neighbor's yard.

    But if the criminal act involves your own property, then failing to report a crime may make you an accessory to that crime. If the dorms had a 10baseT jack for each person and this server was directly attached to that jack (and the guy was in a different bedroom), then mwalker could walk away from the situation.

    That's not what happened. Since that material only reached the web because of mwalker's actions and equipment, once he became aware of the likely criminal action he had to decide what to do. Report the guy, or risk arrest as an accessory? Simply asking him to stop was not an option because he could still be convicted of being an accessory after the fact.

    Finally, I will not defend the "kiddie porn" cases involving a 17-year-old actress providing fake ID to the producers (e.g., Traci Lords). But the original article made it clear that this was a case that really did involve children. "very young children." There's no doubt that "very young children" are traumatized by sexual activity, and in a situation like this it's reasonable and prudent to check whether the adults in the picture are related to the owner of the system hosting them. After all, 6 GIGABYTES of pornography is a huge amount that wasn't acquired by downloading a mislabeled file or two.
  • If your lawyer didn't think that bit of information was important, perhaps he understood/knew something you didn't...

    Or maybe was just an incompetent boob.
  • Another thing to consider is that many law enforcement agencies do such slipshod work, or are so rampantly corrupt that they do one of the following:
    • Lose evidence due to shoddy accounting
    • Employees steal evidence
    • Agencies view siezed evidence as a revenue source

    Unfortunately in many cases even if charges are dropped or you are aquitted, you have to sue law enforcement agencies to get your property back. And suing them is very difficult because the whole system is stacked in their favor. They almost never have to even apologize, let alone pay for your hardship, inconvenience or actual damages they do.

    I'm not saying that all law enforcement officers or employees are bad people, but unfortunately they are working in a system that has become so bloated and self serving and corrupt that it seems the honest guys can't get ahead.

    Sad, we should expect better. We should demand better.

  • I had a friend who lost his computers this way. Not only did it take three years, but to add insult to injury, the equipment was no longer functional when he got it back.
  • I hit the FBI.gov page and found this:

    The I.T. environment at the FBI: It's not what you expect. In a world that is changing by the second, FBI information technologies solve ever-increasing challenges more intelligently, and at higher levels. So do the skilled professionals who provide the vision and the human intelligence. We invite you to join them at our headquarters in Washington, D.C.
    Computer Science & Engineering Professionals:
    Computer Scientists
    Computer Specialists
    Computer Specialists (Programmer)
    Computer Specialists (Systems Analyst)
    Electronics Engineer
    Telecommunications Managers

    High priority technologies...and compensation.
    Equally as high profile as our I.T. impact are the compensation packages we offer. They are highly competitive, recognizing the unique expertise of today's brightest technical leaders. Consider:
    Salaries up to $125,900
    Sign-on bonuses available to those who qualify
    Excellent group health & life insurance plans
    Vacation & sick pay
    Comprehensive retirement plan

    However, the FBI has absolutely no e-mail address from their page for contacting them concerning job openings. They have a crime report form, but no e-mail address. How odd.


  • an encrypted hard drive might attract their attention and get them to look at it faster. then they get a subpoena for your key, and you end up sitting in jail until you're ready to cough it up, and then, even when they don't find anything, they charge you with destroying evidence because they found some deleted files they couldn't recover, and some judge has already issued an order barring you from ever being in the same room with a computer for the rest of your life.
    ^. .^
    ( @ )
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What I don't get is why they would have to seize an entire computer. The only evidence would be on your hard drive... For example, in my brother's (Aaron Blosser, Alleged US West hacker or whatever they wanted to call him) case, they went so far as to seize his printer cable... like it contains evidence or something... I'd like to think that this violates some sort of unlawful seizure law somewhere. I mean, after 5 years, your computer is obsolete. So its basically like the government chooses to rip you off of a few thousand dollars worth of equipment... All of this in light of the possible recent FBI snafu involving some certain gas canisters and a flimsy wooden building... starts to make me wonder... Anyone else beginning to *fear* our government? Or am I just overly paranoid? ;)
  • If you trust Travan, you can get drives for $400

    Travan seems like a bad value proposition to me, especially the media which is much more expensive than 4mm DAT media. Compared to a 4mm DAT drive, by the time you buy a dozen tapes, 4mm is cheaper than Travan. If you don't buy at least a dozen or so tapes and use a decent tape rotation scheme, you probably aren't going to do adequate backups. I've seen too many people with Travan style drives that only buy one or two tapes and they have no backup history or get screwed by a failed tape.

    From what I've seen 4mm is also faster, quieter, more reliable, and more compact than Travan.

    I have a 4mm DAT drive that I've had for a long time, and it has always worked great for me under Linux. Although for my backup use these days I mostly burn CDRs.

  • It doesn't suprise me that they keep computers for so long, especially when you consider how much crap they have to wade through. My old win95 machine has around 40,000 files and 2,000 directories on it. Of those files, about 80 or so are encrypted with a 4096 length pgp key. That leaves about 39920 files for them to wade through . . . files in which information can be hidden in a wide variety of ways that do not fall before a simple grep (binary data, stenography, etc).

    Even though the reasons for them taking so long are rather obvious, law enforcement should be financially liable when the person turns out to be innocent. That computer they seized five years ago could easily have cost $2000, but is now probably worth $200 tops. IMHO, law enforcement should be forced to pony up the missing $1800. Doesn't the constitution mention something about no property being deprived without proper compensation? Hmmm.

    Anyway, I've stalled long enough. I have to smack some sense into the NT boxen on the network. Seems the little buggers aren't running Web Site Pro and Cold Fusion properly . . . sigh.

  • Anyone else beginning to *fear* our government? Or am I just overly paranoid? ;)

    If you are only beginning to fear, then you are not paranoid enough. The past 20-30 years has been an all out assault by the government on virtually all of the bill of rights.

  • They will happily confiscate the backup as well. Having a backup in another country may be a good idea.

    It is not even a good idea it almost sounds like a good business to start in Australia, Northern Europe or somewhere else where the internet to the US is fast enough.

    Off shore backups inc... 1 c per G per day ;-)
  • by fable2112 ( 46114 ) on Friday August 27, 1999 @08:04AM (#1722188) Homepage

    That really sucks. :(

    Personally, I think this is one of those situations where what they SHOULD do, given that (as per another post on this thread) they need to keep the evidence "pristine," is give someone like you the cash to buy another computer.

    Would that be an acceptable compromise?

  • IMHO, law enforcement should be forced to pony up the missing $1800.

    If the cops can justify the seizure, explain why they charged you with a crime, etc., there's nothing you can do. If you can prove that they were out of line to begin with ("wrongful arrest"), you may be able to sue them and get something out of it, but usually that only happens if there's some major breach of protocol on their part.

    Remember: if they're coming into your house and seizing your equipment, they've been able to convince a *judge* that this search and seizure is necessary. Cops/FBI don't normally do this sort of thing on a whim. There are checks and balances at work.

    Also (and I'm playing devil's advocate here), if you did have things your way and the cops were required to reimburse you for the depreciation of your equipment, would you/we really be better off? It would simply make their job significantly harder. The whole point of a search warrant (thus confiscation) is to determine if you've done something wrong. Cops don't hire a cleaning service to come clean up your place after they tear it apart as part of a search warrant. If it takes years to examine your computer equipment for signs of incriminating data, then you need to write some letters to your legislature and the FBI saying, "use more of my tax dollars to streamline and make efficient this process," not, "use more of my tax dollars for reimbursing the innocent."
  • I suspect that these heavy-handed enforcement practices will continue until they begin seizing the equipment of individuals with "highly-placed" contacts.

    That's why Colorado has sane credit bureau laws. Critics had been complaining for years about the problems with credit bureau reports, but the industry would send a lobbyist or two to "prove" that the only people complaining where people trying to hide legitimate, if unpleasant, information in their credit report.

    Until a state legislator was denied credit due to false information in her report, and she discovered first-hand just how difficult it can be to correct errors.

    She introduced rather interesting legislation when the legislature reconvened. Even I thought it went too far, although I understood that sometimes it takes a 2x4 to get the mule's attention. (IIRC, the original bill involved daily fines for carrying false information!) The industry lobbied hard against any legislation, but there's absolutely no lobbyist more effective than a respected legislator with a legitimate gripe. The bill was toned down, but I believe it was still the most pro-consumer credit bureau law in the nation at the time it was passed.

    Unfortunately, when you're talking about the FBI you need to nail someone close to a member of Congress... and the FBI is so political it's a near certainty that they treat members of Congress differently than the rest of the population. (This isn't *entirely* unjustified, since the damage caused by a congressman claiming that the president is misusing the FBI to harrass enemies might outweigh the benefits of stopping a relatively minor crime.) And it's far harder for a politician to stand up for someone under investigation for drug trafficking or child pornography than for someone falsely accused of being a deadbeat.
  • You've made a common mistake. There is a huge difference between "innocence" (which only God knows) and "presumed innocence" (which the courts use when determining whether the police are acting in a reasonable manner).

    If you're innocent, the police shouldn't hold any of your property against your will. Unfortunately God hasn't been answering His pages, and history shows that people who claim to speak for God are not to be trusted.

    If you're "presumed innocent," the police can't dispose of your property against your will, but they still have the right to prevent *you* from disposing of property they believe is evidence in a criminal act.

    Once you're found "legally guilty," the state can do whatever it wants with your former property that was seized in connection with a criminal act. You have absolutely no rights to it. I think they'll generally try to avoid actually doing so until appeals are exhausted, but it's no longer unreasonable for them to sell some items and, if you win your appeal, simply give you the current cash equivalence. The fact you lost all of your files, well tough luck.

    As to the general "we don't return tools to bad guys" sentiment, that's just ignorance speaking. As others have pointed out, the state has an obligation to keep evidence in a pristine state. For all anyone knows, that disk is one use away from sudden catastrophic failure and your "convenience" copy will prevent the evidence from being used at trial.

    That said, the government has become *extremely* abusive of forfeiture laws, and once someone is acquited *or the state declines to prosecute within a reasonable period* ( the statue of limitations period, since the latter was never intended to be used as an extra-legal bludgeon to punish people without the trouble of actually going to trial), cash, computers, cars, and the like should be returned. The current crap about "the seizure order is against the property, which doesn't have constitutional rights, not the person, who does" is just that - crap. Last time I checked the BOR mentioned both unreasonable searches *and seizures*.
  • If you were never presented with a search warrant, and you didn't *voluntarily* let the cops in to do their work, then that information should have come out during the trial (or the appeal). If your lawyer didn't think that bit of information was important, perhaps he understood/knew something you didn't...

    The only way these kinds of things are going to change is if people start writing letters. Send a letter to your congressmen explaining what happened. Write your local district attourney or the judge in the case. Write the FBI (or whoever it was that did this). Tell them what happened and ask them to change this practice. Tell them all that it's been 2 years (or however long) and that you'd like your stuff back. You shouldn't need a receipt. If your stuff was confiscated in a legal manner, all sorts of documentation was written about what was taken, where, when, from whom, etc. I'm sure your name is in there somewhere.

    And sure, contact an attourney.
  • You really gotta wonder about the mainstream media's claims that they're more reliable than Slashdot (see the recent Slashdot discussion [slashdot.org] of the topic) when it comes to getting the facts straight.

    Since 10-12-1994, SJ Games has had The Top Ten Media Errors About the SJ Games Raid [sjgames.com] available, and yet the NY Times managed to make both errors #4 and #5.

    And you saw the correction here first, on Slashdot :-)
  • They also take power trips, speakers, monitors, phone cables (standard voice telephone cable, 6 feet long, single pair), pressed CD's (turbotax, paint shop pro, Kings Quest, Battle Chess, etc)
    keyboards, mice, spare computer components (ram, cpu, motherboard, case, etc).

    the general idea is to slow down your re-aquisition of access to the internet as much as possible.
  • Can you read the news reports on the computer industry, and then turn around and believe them in a different area? Try applying the same distortion calculations. It makes things a bit fuzzy, but probably more realistic.
  • It probably was legal. That's the problem. Most of the practices that are being complained about are legal. This doesn't make them moral.
  • It certainly doesn't seem to reflect any presumption of innocence.
  • You are absolutely right. Today's admission by the FBI that they have lied for years about their actions in the Waco massacre of the Branch Davidians should serve as a wake-up call. The seizure and conversion of billions of dollars of citizens assets under the thinnest of rationales is feeding a monster that is not only out of control, but a "clear and present danger" to us all. Don't confuse Republicans with Libertarians. The Libertarian party is the party of principle and is committed to individual rights and freedoms (plug). Just check the home page http://www.lp.org/ to see the headline issues.
  • They may not hire a cleaning service, but they ***** should. If you are found not guilty they should be required to compensate fully for all damage, inconvenience, and interruption of service. Etc.
    Even if you are found guilty they should be liable for any excessive damages. Ithat case a good question would be, who should be paid.. but it should come out of their budget, and be put into someone else's, say the fund for sewer maintenance.

    Yes, I am aware that it would make the acknowledged cost of law enforcment higher, but that is a part of the real cost of law enforcement. They just normally cook the books so that they don't have to show it. (I.e., they make someone else pay for it.)
  • Don't wish for that. The cost of getting it is far too high.
  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Friday August 27, 1999 @06:10AM (#1722208) Homepage
    Law enforcement in the US in general is out of control, and the constitutional protections we used to enjoy are being eroded or ignored, due to the hysteria of fear about crime and drugs. Currently we imprison a larger percentage of our population that any other country in the world (a little over one percent of our population, if I remember.)

    Vehicular seizure for mere suspicion of drug use has become a normal practice (one that, by the way, disproportionately targets blacks and latinos) - police in many states do not even need to arrest a suspect or charge them with anything, and they can simply take and sell their vehicle. It has become a very profitable enterprise for many departments.

    The ACLU has a good resource page [aclu.org] with links to information about some of the abuses - both illegal and currently legal - that law enforcement agencies are engaging in, but one of my favorite sites is this one, [policeabuse.com] run by a former LA policeman who began documenting police abuses and racism after he was attacked by another cop while operating undercover - he now leads a non-profit group that 'stings' officers with hidden cameras and recorders in new vehicles being driven by black men, and the results are dismaying. It's a bit disappointing to me that many so-called libertarians seem a lot more concerned about getting rid of environmental and consumer protection regulations and lowering taxes, than actually protecting citizens from direct and overt abuses of power. The selectiveness of law enforcement is excrutiangly painful in light of the G.W. Bush debacle - the powers-that-be are more than happy to jail the rest of us for mistakes that they have the luxury to simply "outgrow."

    Here's another story [latimes.com] of police enforcement going out of control, and another. [latimes.com]

  • If the Feds are building a Beowulf cluster...
  • This is off topic, but do not use Backup Exec. That is what we use at work, and it has been nothing but trouble. The new version 7.3? had missing install options. I had to deal with their shoddy tech support for two days to come up with a hack to get it to work.
  • by jim ( 3666 )
    ... they're actually running SETI@Home ...
  • Yarbrough said that it is not a valid use of limited government resources to spend time copying the hard drives of a suspect's computer just to be able to return it to them. "We don't give the gun back to a bad guy, and we don't give the computer back to a bad guy," he said.

    This sentiment really irritates me, because this law-enforcement official seems to be forgetting something very important: the owner of the computer is INNOCENT of the crime he's accused of. At least, until proven guilty. Which means that the above quote is pretty much directly advocating theft (not to mention the technical differences between a gun and a computer...).

  • I remember when the laws concerning siezures were changed. I found them scary, but since i was a child I had no voice that would be listened to. I am appalled that we allow laws like that to stand. There should be no crime so heinous that it demands all citizens lose what is meant to be our constitutional rights. I found out a few years ago when i began to raise African violets that the grow lights I bought could be considered drug paraphenalia because they could be used to raise marajuana and could be siezed as such during a search.

    Such heavy handed laws are justified to the public by saying that they help crack down on drugs and kiddie porn. We then also use programs like D.A.R.E. to make sure drugs remain as a big boogie so as the children of today grow up they will leave the seizure laws in place, and that anyone who opposes these laws will be considered by the public to support drug addiction and kiddie porn, so there is little motivation for politician to try to scale back or repeal these laws.

    I think that the addiction survey the otherday that said if you use the internet over 4 hours a day is a sign of things to come. It seems to me that perhaps certain segments want computers viewed with the same unhealthy fear that D.A.R.E. teaches children to view alchohol. Read the numerous account of "Computers wrecked my marriage" in Ann Landers and Dear Abby. The sentiment is already out there waiting to be tapped.

    Computers are becoming a big part of our culture. A battle is waging on how they will fit into our lives.
  • Anyone who says anything to the cops when they get arrested deserves to sit in jail. I believe I still have 5th amendment rights and I would gladly use them. Advice: the cops hardly ever have enough evidence unless you talk to them and give the evidence away. Advice: NEVER TALK WITHOUT A LAWYER, preferably a good expensive one.
  • Then use stenography. If your "encrypted drive" looks like a tarball of fractal JPGs, nobody's going to know that it's encrypted.
  • Even after judgement sometimes you punish the innocent, and let the guilty go free. But the odds are better.
  • I was encrypting my post. Honest! :)

    Yeah, that's what I meant to type, but the keyboard moved. :)

  • The courts kee reinterpreting the word unreasonable.
    ^. .^
    ( @ )
  • Well that's kinda the point of a search warrant.. to determine if items are relevant to the potential infraction they're investigating. You're still innocent, certainly, but in order to gather all of the facts, the search warrant allows them to take what they need to do a thorough investigation.
  • I have only _once_ seen the aftermath of a police raid - on an apartment of a friend whose boyfriend alledgedly stole $50,000 from a bank with some other guys (turns out he did - but that isn't the point of the story).

    In the kitchen, I had to replace all of the hinges on the cabinets, because the doors were ripped off! I can understand the police looking for the money or goods obtained with the money, but they don't have to destroy a house to do it.

    In a raid dealing with computers and electronics, if you are smart, and are doing something that may be illegal, you better have the appropriate protections in place. I would personally booby trap the machine via an iButton [ibutton.com], so that if they powered up without it, the drive could be wiped (and the iButton would be on me as a ring on my finger). Or maybe the iButton could store the key to unlock the file encryption I would be using. Or maybe it would keep the machine from exploding via a homemade pipebomb that would encase the hard drive (personally, I wouldn't use this last one, but I am sure someone out there would/could)...

    Just some thoughts...
  • Well I agree that in some circumstances the things people are saying in this thread seem pretty bad, but as far as confiscating *everything* remotely relevant to a case that's in an apartment/house (even if it's in another person's bedroom), that really can't be helped. How do the cops know that the other computers weren't shared between the two brothers? Evidence could just as easily be on either PC for all they know. They have to be thorough. I don't really see any other way that doesn't compromise the investigation.

    Though a lot of these other stories about the cops keeping the equipment *after* the resolution of the case (either for better or for worse), THOSE are the types of things that I really object to. Those are the things we should be writing letters about.
  • I would certainly support some legislation that made police liable for excessive damage (assuming there isn't something along those lines already). Tearing cabinet doors from their mounts is something I would consider excessive. Scattering papers or dumping some things out of drawers probably isn't.

    The legislation would need to protect the property of the searched from damage without hindering the abilities of the police to conduct a thorough search.

    Write a letter to your state's congress.
  • He he.

    I think that'd help a little, but it doesn't prevent congress from passing lame-ass laws, they just have to read out the lame-ass law in it's entirety.

    It also doesn't do anything about lame state laws, nor does it do anything about "entities able to pass law-like rules" like the EPA. (Damnit, the Constitution says "Congress may make laws" not "Congress may designate any other organization, and then that organization can make laws too"

  • If your brother is an alledged hacker, of course they take the whole lot away. They don't want him doing any more hacking, so they remove his hardware. You don't think the average FBI agent knows what everything is. A printer cable can look like a serial cable - which attaches to a modem and thus enables communication. It could also be that they didn't want anyone from printing anything from his location. This is all assuming, of course, that they took the computer as well as the printer cable. I mean, if they just walked in, said "Right Mr. Blosser, you're under arrest, these are your Miranda rights {or whatever}" and then took his printer cable, nothing else, then I can see why they would be deperate for computer peeps. Unless there's something sinister about printer cables that we don't know about but the Feds do... Sirch Oh yeah, being in Britain, some things don't get as far as me. Please can someone explain the gas canisters thing. Thanks
  • That a policeman, after getting trounced in Quake, is going to care about the difference between a gun and a computer. In Quake, they're one and the same.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.