Yes, the U.S. Navy has searched your computer looking for kiddie porn
Buried under a small headline in today’s Seattle Times is a story about sensational military and police misconduct.
“’[I]t has become a routine practice for the Navy to conduct surveillance of all the civilian computers in an entire state to see whether any child pornography can be found on them, and then to turn over that information to civilian law enforcement when no military connection exists.’ … Senior 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld found that the case ‘amounts to the military acting as a national police force to investigate civilian law violations by civilians.’”
If you live in Washington State, your computer has been searched by U.S. Navy criminal investigators for evidence of child pornography; and if they found any, they turned it over to civilian police so you can be prosecuted by civilian authorities — even if you’ve never had anything to do with the Navy. They did this to everyone in the entire state. And they did it without probable cause or search warrants. They did it to me, and they did it to you, and they did it to your mother and your children.
This is so unconstitutional the Ninth Circuit has decided to allow a scumbag convicted of distributing child pornography to walk free, in order to emphasize it’s sooo unconstitutional the government can’t be allowed to get away with it under any circumstances.
Without a doubt, the Navy and civilian personnel responsible for these constitutional violations believed they were doing good — maybe even God’s work — by tracking down the scum who traffic in child pornography. And those offenders are the scum of the earth and should be caught and deserve to go to prison.
But I’m not one of them, and this doesn’t justify the U.S. Navy’s search of my computer. As a lawyer and former judge, I find it disheartening that there are people within our military and police forces entrusted with the frightening powers of government who have such a cavalier attitude toward our liberties and constitutional rights.
Some will argue, “If you haven’t done anything wrong, what are you worried about?” To which I reply, do they need to ask? Is it really necessary in this day and age to remind anyone that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”? Is it possible anyone in this country is so stupid as to believe the Founders wrote the Bill of Rights into the Constitution to give criminals get-out-of-jail-free cards?
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some government spook working in a dank bunker under an unmarked suburban D.C. office complex has compiled a dossier on me. I can readily imagine what it says: “Liberal cop-hater uses free on-line dictionaries to collect information about homophones.”
Well you know what, I admit being a liberal but that’s my prerogative. I post articles on blogs criticizing cops who murder people for being black or run extortion schemes for crooked city governments, but that doesn’t make me a cop-hater, it makes me a critic of intolerably bad policing, which isn’t the same. As for looking up homophones, if you don’t know what the word means, look it up. Dictionaries are available online, and they’re free, so there’s no excuse for being an ignoramus who doesn’t know what a homophone is.
I don’t know what to do about this. People generally don’t go to prison for violating other people’s constitutional rights, although I think there’s something to be said in favor of that concept, because given how frequently our constitutional rights are being violated now, the existing deterrents obviously aren’t working. But our government is too busy trying to extradite and prosecute Eric Snowden to do anything about the real threats to our freedom and security, so don’t hold your breath. http://handbill.us/?p=34131
STTPML Note: Here is a case where there was probable cause and a warrant but the warrant was messed up in its drafting and execution.
9th Circuit tosses child-porn evidence, cites Navy snooping http://seattletimes.com/html/l…..n1xml.html
9th Circuit judges say Naval Criminal Investigative Service has routinely probed the computers of civilians in Washington and elsewhere looking for evidence of crimes.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Navy criminal investigators repeatedly and routinely peeked into the computers of private citizens in Washington state and elsewhere, a violation of the law so “massive” and egregious that an appeals court says it has no choice but to throw out the evidence against an Algona man sentenced to 18 years in prison for distribution of child pornography.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision handed down last week, said the 2012 prosecution of Michael Allan Dreyer by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle demonstrated Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents “routinely carry out broad surveillance activities that violate” the Posse Comitatus Act, a Reconstruction-era law that prohibits the military from enforcing civilian laws.
The court called the violations “extraordinary” and said evidence presented in Dreyer’s prosecution appears to show that “it has become a routine practice for the Navy to conduct surveillance of all the civilian computers in an entire state to see whether any child pornography can be found on them, and then to turn over that information to civilian law enforcement when no military connection exists.”
That is what happened to Dreyer, now 60, who became the target of an NCIS investigation in 2010 when Agent Steve Logan, who was stationed in Georgia, used a law-enforcement software program called “RoundUp” to troll for child pornography on computers in Washington using a legal file-sharing network called “Gnutella.”
According to court documents, Logan identified a computer sharing suspicious files, downloaded three of them, then got a subpoena for Comcast, which identified Dreyer as the IP address owner.
Logan, according to court documents, checked to see if Dreyer was a member of the armed forces and determined he was not.
Logan then summarized his investigation and forwarded it to the NCIS office in Washington state, which turned it over to the Algona Police Department, according to the documents.
The case was filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in federal court, where Dreyer faced up to 40 years in prison due to a prior conviction.
Dreyer was arrested in April 2011 and fought to suppress the evidence, which included explicit videos of adults having sex with preteen boys and girls.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman allowed the videos to be used and Dreyer was convicted of possession and distribution of child pornography after a four-day jury trial in September 2012.
Dreyer — who previously had served 27 months for a federal child-pornography conviction in 2000 — was sentenced to 18 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release when he gets out.
However, the 9th Circuit judges found the NCIS behavior so outrageous that it “demonstrates the need to deter future violations” and sent Dreyer’s case back to the district court with an order that Pechman exclude the NCIS evidence against him.
Erik Levin, the former federal public defender who represented Dreyer during his trial and appeal, said the ruling likely means he will go free.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is considering asking the case be reheard by the entire Court of Appeals. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, whose office prosecuted Dreyer and argued the appeal, said Wednesday it is possible the court misunderstood some of the technology the agent was using and the scope of his searches.
Durkan said some information in the 9th Circuit’s opinion “is wrong.”
Otherwise, she said she could not comment on pending litigation.
A spokesman for the NCIS declined to comment on the ruling Thursday.
The government, in its appellate briefs, argued Logan was a civilian employee of the NCIS, and that his role in the investigation was peripheral and fell within exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act.
The panel unanimously, and strongly, disagreed.
Senior 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld found that the case “amounts to the military acting as a national police force to investigate civilian law violations by civilians.”
“There could be no bona fide military purpose to this indiscriminate peeking into civilian computers,” Kleinfeld wrote. “Letting a criminal go free to deter national military investigation of civilians is worth it.”
The judges also excoriated the government for defending the role of the NCIS and its investigation and said the court has warned the Justice Department about it before. This time, the court said, the violation comes with a price to get the government’s attention — Dreyer’s release from prison.
“Such an expansive reading of the military role in the enforcement of civilian laws demonstrates a profound lack of regard for the important limitations on the role of the military in our civilian society,” wrote Judge Marsha Berzon.
Logan, the NCIS agent, had argued he had chosen to scan computers in Washington partly because of the state’s many military bases.
While he initially was only able to identify the suspect’s whereabouts within a 30-mile radius of the IP address he identified, he wrote in a search warrant that the “large [U.S. Navy/Department of Defense] saturation” indicated a “likelihood” the suspect was in the military.
By that logic, Berzon said, Posse Comitatus would be “rendered meaningless.”
“To accept that position would mean that NCIS agents could, for example, routinely stop suspected drunk drivers in downtown Seattle on the off-chance that a driver is a member of the military, and then turn over all information collected about civilians to the Seattle Police Department for prosecution.”
The opinion comes as the reach of government and law enforcement has come under fire after a series of disclosures of domestic surveillance by former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden.
Levin, who now practices law in Berkeley, Calif., also noted the controversy over the so-called “militarization of police” in the aftermath of the riots in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting death by police of a black teenager. Exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act allow the military to provide some equipment to police.
“This,” Levin said, “is the real militarization of police — when the military becomes the police.”
Mike Carter: email@example.com or 206-464-3706