The FBI Is Apparently Paying Geek Squad Members To Dig Around In Computers For Evidence Of Criminal Activity

from the maybe-these-are-the-'smart-people'-who-can-fix-Comey's-encryption-&# dept

Law enforcement has a number of informants working for it and the companies that already pay their paychecks, like UPS, for example. It also has a number of government employees working for the TSA, keeping their eyes peeled for “suspicious” amounts of cash it can swoop in and seize.

Unsurprisingly, the FBI also has a number of paid informants. Some of these informants apparently work at Best Buy — Geek Squad by day, government informants by… well, also by day.

According to court records, Geek Squad technician John “Trey” Westphal, an FBI informant, reported he accidentally located on Rettenmaier’s computer an image of “a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck.” Westphal notified his boss, Justin Meade, also an FBI informant, who alerted colleague Randall Ratliff, another FBI informant at Best Buy, as well as the FBI. Claiming the image met the definition of child pornography and was tied to a series of illicit pictures known as the “Jenny” shots, agent Tracey Riley seized the hard drive.

Not necessarily a problem, considering companies performing computer/electronic device repair are legally required to report discovered child porn to law enforcement. The difference here is the paycheck. This Geek Squad member had been paid $500 for digging around in customers’ computers and reporting his findings to the FBI. That changes the motivation from legal obligation to a chance to earn extra cash by digging around in files not essential to the repair work at hand.

More of a problem is the FBI’s tactics. While it possibly could have simply pointed to the legal obligation Best Buy has to report discovered child porn, it proactively destroyed this argument by apparently trying to cover up the origin of its investigation, as well as a couple of warrantless searches.

Setting aside the issue of whether the search of Rettenmaier’s computer constituted an illegal search by private individuals acting as government agents, the FBI undertook a series of dishonest measures in hopes of building a case, according to James D. Riddet, Rettenmaier’s San Clemente-based defense attorney. Riddet says agents conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records.

The “private search” issue is mentioned briefly in OC Weekly’s report, but should be examined more closely. Private searches are acceptable, but the introduction of cash payments, as well as the FBI having an official liaison with Best Buy suggests the searches aren’t really “private.” Instead, the FBI appears to be using private searches to route around warrant requirements. That’s not permissible and even the FBI’s belief that going after the “worst of worst” isn’t going to be enough to salvage these warrantless searches.

As Andrew Fleischman points out at Fault Lines, the government’s spin on the paid “private search” issue — that it’s “wild speculation” the Best Buy employee was acting as a paid informant when he discovered the child porn — doesn’t hold up if the situation is reversed. AUSA Anthony Brown’s defensive statement is nothing more than the noise of a double standard being erected.

Flipping the script for a minute, would an AUSA say it was “wild speculation” that a man was a drug dealer when phone records showed he regularly contacted a distributor, he was listed as a drug dealer in a special book of drug dealers, and he had received $500.00 for drugs? Sorry to break it to you, Mr. Brown, but once you start getting paid for something, it’s tough to argue you’re just doing it for the love of the game.

In addition to these problems, the file discovered by the Best Buy tech was in unallocated space… something that points to almost nothing, legally-speaking.

[I]n Rettenmaier’s case, the alleged “Jenny” image was found on unallocated “trash” space, meaning it could only be retrieved by “carving” with costly, highly sophisticated forensics tools. In other words, it’s arguable a computer’s owner wouldn’t know of its existence. (For example, malware can secretly implant files.) Worse for the FBI, a federal appellate court unequivocally declared in February 2011 (USA v. Andrew Flyer) that pictures found on unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it is impossible to determine when, why or who downloaded them.

This important detail was apparently glossed over in the FBI’s warrant application to search Rettenmaier’s home and personal devices.

In hopes of overcoming this obstacle, they performed a sleight-of-hand maneuver, according to Riddet. The agents simply didn’t alert Judge Marc Goldman that the image in question had been buried in unallocated space and, thus, secured deceitful authorization for a February 2012 raid on Rettenmaier’s Laguna Niguel residence.

Courts have shown an often-excessive amount of empathy for the government’s “outrageous” behavior when pursuing criminals. The fact that there’s child porn involved budges the needle in the government’s direction, but the obstacles the FBI has placed in its own way through its deceptive behavior may prevent it from salvaging this case.

The case is already on very shaky ground, with the presiding judge questioning agents’ “odd memory losses,” noting several discrepancies between the FBI’s reports and its testimony, and its “perplexing” opposition to turning over documents the defense has requested.

In any event, it appears the FBI has a vast network of informants — paid or otherwise — working for both private companies and the federal government. Considering the FBI is already the beneficiary of legal reporting requirements, this move seems ill-advised. It jeopardizes the legitimacy of the evidence, even before the FBI engages in the sort of self-sabotaging acts it appears to have done here.

Underneath it all is the perplexing and disturbing aversion to adhering to the Fourth Amendment we’ve seen time and time again from law enforcement agencies, both at local and federal levels. Anything that can be done to avoid seeking a warrant, and anything that creates an obfuscatory paper trail, is deployed to make sure the accused faces an even more uphill battle once they arrive in court.

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Companies: best buy

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Comments on “The FBI Is Apparently Paying Geek Squad Members To Dig Around In Computers For Evidence Of Criminal Activity”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Works for me...

Don’t care if you’re a tech or not, if you hand over any device, folder, or piece of paper with all the personal info about yourself that your home computer probably has to someone, not know exactly who is going to have access to it, give unrestricted access, and then not be there watching over the shoulder of whoever is viewing this data, you are an idiot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Works for me...

1) The Geek Squad WOULD probably mind you shoulder surfing basically because even if all on the up&up it show their incompetence and make you wonder why you or anyone would let them touch your rig (hell, when getting laptops/tablets/etc from them for less savvy relatives I have refused Geek Squad
“set-up” and left the store – regardless, even those machines I do accept, I purge or wipe depending how bad – dealing with the OEM ad-ware and potential mal-ware is at least documented.

2) Seeing as I don’t trust the Geek Squad with a NEW UNUSED machine, why TF would I ever let them touch a machine I had been using?

3) I’ve seen some photos of the machines brought to them – I acknowledge there are some idiots out there who probably shouldn’t own modern tech.

4) You wouldn’t sell or give your old machine/drive without wiping it would you? Why the hell would you let an unknown 3rd party full access to it with tools you don’t have and capabilities you unaware of WITHOUT keeping a close eye on them?

Smokin says:

Re: Re: Re: Works for me...

Problem is anyone with even a little bit of computer knowledge could extract the data right in front of you and you would not have a clue.
So yeah if your going to trust your personal data to someone you should have trust in that person. However just watching will do nothing in stopping that data from being taken.
Better to have a neighbor kid with computer skills fix your box in front of you than the Geek Squad. Pilfering data is nothing new to the Geek Squad and its well known. I’m sure a Google search would turn up info on that.
Trust me, I’m an IT Network Specialist. 🙂

Will Moments says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Works for me...

Yes. I have had direct exposure to the “technicians” in these cases and its a tough, not very well paying job in many places. Many times I find people who are out of rehab, battling alcohol and other drugs, etc.They tend to be marginally tied to any employer, so loyalty is low.

Not trying to know computer technicians (used to be one), but the people I worked with would jump at such money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Works for me...

Not only that but I hear that what some techs might do is they may try and steal ram from an unsuspecting computer illiterate person and return their computer with less ram.

Basic computer literacy, along with basic literacy in how to handle money, should be taught in high school. Handing over your computer that may have all sorts of confidential information to a random Best Buy nerd (ie: bank statements and transactions, names, addresses, etc…) is risky.

Then again having malware on your computer is also risky. Either way you can get personal information stolen and be subject to identity theft. The solution is for people to be educated about how to use Windows.

Luckily I noticed that the younger generation is more proficient than older people (but not always).

It’s funny when I was taking one of my chemistry classes our chemistry teacher was really old. He was very sharp for his age, had a very good memory and was very well spoken and competent. He worked for NASA in the past and he helped develop the fuel that put the first man on the moon. Yet he could barely work Windows and it was his students that were showing him how to do what he wanted (ie: he partly used powerpoint and whatnot). I think he’s probably retired by now. This guy knew everything there was to know about chemistry but couldn’t operate or troubleshoot Microsoft Windows very well. He’s not the first old brilliant teacher I’ve had that couldn’t work Microsoft Windows. The younger professors have no problems working their computers and are themselves very proficient. So part of it is a generational thing I guess.

ferb says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Works for me...

I used to work for geek squad. I wouldn’t worry about them stealing physical hardware out of your computer. People used to bring in computers that were not that old all the time and recycle them. If you wanted to steal some hardware that is where you could steal it. At the store I worked for never knew anyone that did though. I would be more worried about the people from foreign countries who do all the actually work on the computers. This process is called Agent Johnny Utah. Dozens of virus and malware infected computers are connected to the same local network and put on the internet to connect to geek squad agents in third world countries who make far less money than American Workers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Works for me...

You don’t really need to know how to program to know how to repair a computer and remove malware. Worst case you backup what you need and delete everything and start from scratch.

Knowing how to use a command prompt can be useful at times, especially in Linux (but someone using Linux doesn’t need your help), but in this day and age it’s not nearly as necessary as it used to be. I could code if I had to (I’ve taught myself to code as a child, though I haven’t done it in years, I used to be able to code in C/C++, basic/VB, HTML, a little bit of assembly. I used to be able to query databases with Oracle which isn’t really coding) and I’ve never used it to fix a computer. Back in the days the closest thing I needed to coding to fixing a computer was changing a bat file or a sys file (autoexec.bat or config.sys) and those days are long gone.

There are some things that you should know such as how to check the manufacturer and digital signature of a suspicious file. System files should be properly digitally signed or they might be infected.

But then again these days you should really have all your data files backed up and if something is that badly wrong with your system you simply reinstall.

Brice Jones says:

Re: Re: Works for me...

They actually fix quite a few things in house. I worked as a GS manager for a couple years.
Best buy has a proprietary software tool for diagnostics and repair. If the problem is hardware it’s almost always returned to a service center however.

On another note.. this article about dumb as shit.
The biggest “spying” that goes on is dumb people with naked pictures on their machines. The store employees will gather and laugh at you.
If you wanted to spy and keep it secret you definitely would NOT use unskilled workers making hourly wages at best buy

I.T. Guy says:

Re: Re: Re: Works for me...

So as a manager you knew your employees looked through things they were not supposed to and let them keep their jobs?

“If you wanted to spy and keep it secret you definitely would NOT use unskilled workers making hourly wages at best buy”
John “Trey” Westphal, an FBI informant.

Apparently BB/GS managers need not possess reading comprehension skills.

I have had a GS boot disk and there is nothing proprietary about them. A bunch of readily available virus/malware/HW test tools and some command line scripts for the 10/hr “tech” to run.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Works for me...

The people who bring their computers in to Geek Squad are clueless.

I first of all have no sympathy for perverts getting dimed out by a GS agent. I’ve never seen anyone get a reward when I worked there, but that’s great if the FBI is paying some people for it.

Rule of thumb, if your computer has content on it, that you know could get you sent to prison for having, don’t take your computer in to get fixed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Works for me...

No you idiots…People have no right to search for things that aren’t pertaining to what they are doing. That is a violation of the 4th amendment. If you make it a habit to peruse peoples private photos when they bring in their computer YOU are a criminal. Now the fact that that every so often there is somebody with some shit that they shouldn’t have on there like child porn that is wrong no doubt. But YOU are wrong too if you are searching through peoples photos…How many people might have very private pictures not related to child pornography on their computer and you take it upon yourself to search through it because your going to be a snitch for the gov….that is a justification to be a pervert yourself and you are no better then the supposed criminals your trying to catch… IMO if your secretly snooping through trying to find that type of shit YOUR probably into that shit and your the sicko.

Skeptik says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Works for me...

Surprised techs would snoop through your stuff like perverts? That’s rich! 10 years here with a major domestic computer manufacturer doing assembly line and depot service. You send your comp back to us and my techs snooped through your stuff for shits & giggles. Naked pics of your wife on the comp? Bonus, we shared them around and compared them to other hapless idiot’s girls. That’s just the way the world is, and us IT types are the biggest pervs of all. Scrub your stuff before handing it over. Better yet, take a hammer to the drive and buy a new one. Ya’ll have been warned.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Works for me...

I am not sure if this is an attempt to be funny or sarcastic, but just in case it wasn’t:
IT people are not perverts who will look through your computer… perverted people will do that. I have no illusions that all my peers are good guys, because that would be law enforcement level delusional. You however, just said that all people in IT are perverts that will look through peoples files for laughs… from the guys who invented the microchip to the programmers that make the best tools you use every day. I really hope you get fired, because in my opinion: you and your techs do not belong in any position anywhere near IT and for the sake of my profession, that would be preferable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Works for me...

Well first of all, Geek Squad is not the government. They have absolutely no obligation to adhere to the 4th amendment. And really though, how would you expect the technician to fix your computer without going through it?

Viruses and trojans get copied to various directories on the drive. There may be a bad sector that’s causing the computer to crash, etc.

If you’re worried about your privacy, don’t take the computer in to get fixed. A little common sense goes a long way. Or better yet, don’t look at kiddie porn and you have nothing to fear.

You sicko.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Works for me...

In theory it would be okay, BUT that is if you don’t take into account that no matter where you work and how “good” a workplace is, there will be greedy and bad people there. This picture that was found had been deleted and there is no way to determine when and how it was placed.
It could be that the owner had downloaded it on purpose or maybe the computer had been bought used with a formatted drive. Maybe it was downloaded by accident with other files. Maybe it was the GS guy who was one of the bad or thoughtless ones, that just wanted to make $500 and didn’t have enough brains (or simply didn’t care) to see that it would devastate a persons life.
I don’t know the rate of good vs bad people in GS, but I would guess that shifts when money is involved and with the FBI’s eagerness to prosecute no matter how little actual evidence there is and the general public’s thirst for blood when facing such things, we would be facing more false accusations than if it weren’t there.
It is not only the fact that the falsely accused will be labeled during the trial, but even if they are judged to be innocent (which they should if all they have is a deleted picture) there is the court of the public that don’t always take things such as “innocent in a court of law” serious. This persons life will be worse afterwards which is why it is not worth the cost of using these methods.

simpkins5 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Works for me...

A lot of folks here are missing an important point. Unallocated space is not where deleted files go to be written over.

Unallocated space is a portion of the HD that has not been partioned. There is NO access to this area for the average user.
A deleted file will not go to unallocated space. GS would have to use a deep probing program to access this space.

As the article mentions, “Worse for the FBI, a federal appellate court unequivocally declared in February 2011 (USA v. Andrew Flyer) that pictures found on unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it is impossible to determine when, why or who downloaded them.”

If this person took their PC to Best Buy for repair, they obviously didn’t have the technical knowledge of how to partition a drive.

This file could have come from a previous owner of the hd/pc who repartitioned the drive prior to sale.
The drive could have previously been “cloned” by a bit by bit copier. There are many ways as the court stated, that the unallocated space can contain a file.

By the way, I am totally against CP. I just don’t think in this case, the FBI has clear evidence.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Works for me...

This article may have simply used the wrong term. Deleted files are ones who’s entry in the FAT (file allocation table) has a certain flag bit set. This tells the operating system to ignore that entry in the FAT. So in a sense, it isn’t allocated. There’s an entry in the FAT that points to it, but the OS ignores that entry because it’s marked as deleted. Though technically allocated space refers to a partition which doesn’t have a FAT (or other similar structure that defines how data is to be found on that partition). But for a layman, any file that is deleted can be thought of as being allocated. That’s probably why the article used the term “unallocated”. The site is called Techdirt, but it isn’t for uber geeks who have a lot of technical knowledge. It’s for the layman, and is written in such a way as to be able to convey technical concepts to a person who doesn’t have extensive technical knowledge.

It’s called writing for your audience. It’s something you learn in middle school or high school English class.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Works for me...

Typo correction:

Where I wrote:
Though technically allocated space refers to a partition which doesn’t have a FAT (or other similar structure that defines how data is to be found on that partition).

It should have said:
Though technically unallocated space refers to a partition which doesn’t have a FAT (or other similar structure that defines how data is to be found on that partition).

That is, the word “allocated” in that sentence should have instead been “unallocated”.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Works for me...

I think you missed the part in this case where the image found was in slack space. That means the GS employee had to run forensics software to find the image at all. This particular case goes way, way beyond someone digging through your files when you bring a computer in. This employee was hunting for stuff that wasn’t even accessible from the file system. (In this case it was most likely a deleted picture, or something that ended up in slack space from web browsing. However malware could have put it there as well. There’s probably no way to prove how it go there, so there’s likely no actual case. Thus why the FBI didn’t inform the judge of this fact when getting a warrant. Otherwise the warrant would have been denied.)

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Works for me...

A person who is a genuine pedophile, is going to delete their pictures. Finding a deleted picture is not proof of innocence, but rather proof that they committed a crime, KNEW that it was a crime, and tried to COVER UP the crime. If it’s in slack space that makes them even MORE guilty. If a virus downloaded a CP image to your computer, you wouldn’t know about it, and it would remain in a normal (not deleted) state on your harddrive. The fact that it’s even deleted means the person knew the picture existed on their harddrive, and they deleted it, which is highly indicative of them having intentionally put it on their harddrive in the first place.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Works for me...

A virus won’t cache or delete anything. If a virus plants CP on your computer, it’s going to be in plain view, though in some folder that you aren’t likely to look in (like windowssystem32 folder), so you won’t be able to find it and remove it, unless you knew to look there for it.

The fact that it’s deleted suggests that it was something well known about by the computer owner, and that they deleted it to hide the evidence.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Works for me...

Reasonable doubt would be if there was forensic proof of a virus. If there’s no malware on the computer, or there is forensic proof of a virus but after analysis it’s determined that the virus wasn’t capable of downloading external files to the computer, then that excuse goes right out the window. I’m sure such a virus analysis would most certainly be done by the prosecution to eliminate the possibility that it was a virus, to make sure that the defense attorney couldn’t claim that “maybe it’s a virus”.

NoNameRequired says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Works for me...

Always proof of Malware on any computer! Somewhere, somehow,it is there. That’s just logic? Get into your system files on your own. Just look around in there. You may not understand everything you’re looking at because of so many abbreviations, but you’ll find lots of old files you know you deleted. Parts still remain?

mews says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Works for me...

A person can be sent porn through email unsolicited and trash it b/c he doesn’t want it. I had someone with access to my phone actually open a porn site account using my business credit card he heard given over the phone to a supplier. I guess the photos were not on my computer but payments to the site were on my card.

Skeptik says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Works for me...

Not true in all cases. Moderately savvy computer users keep their “keeper” pics & media files in known directories and run utilities to scrub the rest of the drive for trash files just to cleanup mof HDD space. This includes temp folders, cache files, and other junk directories created by random surfing and online activities. I don’t review each file individually before I delete it- I specify file types to purge, exclude designated folders, and then let the utilities shit can the garbage files. That’s not evidence of guilt and/or intent, it’s evidence of routine HDD maintenance. The authorities need to work harder than that.

londen says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Works for me...

Well, it may get to court but it won’t get far, and it definitely won’t go before a jury. Anything discovered by a search warrant obtained by false means will be thrown out by the judge. The FBI will press hard to get the defendant to plea bargain. If he doesn’t bite, they will probably drop the case.

NoNameRequired says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Works for me...

Sorry fella, it matters how that pic was discovered. I myself look at porn from time to time and have been astonished at some of the pics I’ve come across on any site I decide to go to. I don’t type in, “find me kiddie porn”. I’m talking about just regular porn where one would tend to believe you wouldn’t find such pictures of under age girls being exploited because they know better? Many sites try to make of age women look like little girls to appease those types who like that I suppose? I get emails from porn sites and many times they look like under age girls? Best not go any further and hit delete? You might end up like the person in this case?

NoNameRequired says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Works for me...

Then there’s the best logical reason there is. No pedophile who even thinks he may have something on their hard drive that could be discovered, would take it in to Best Buy to have someone possibly find it and report it. The guy would have to be rock solid stupid! A true pedophile isn’t going to let anyone near or on his PC because it would just be against that persons best interest? I’m no pedophile, but because of the scenario I already described further up in this post, I wouldn’t even bring my computer to anyone (who didn’t know me at all)so they could see what was on it? Just out of complete paranoia of what could happen to me! Why would an actual pedophile do this? I’m not trying to give any pedophile any credit here either. It’s just a common sense statement. A person wouldn’t do it if he or she thought they might have something on there that could get them caught? Don’t you think?

Yet another says:

Re: Works for me...

One doesn’t need to be. If you have done something untoward, illegal or not, you should scrub your computer before taking it in.

There are too many stories of techs or hackers finding and releasing private materials online (The Fappening), or using them for their own ends (News of the World.

Those two were phone hacks, but no what happened to Hong Kong actor Edison Chen, who brought in HIS laptop for repair without removing is many selfies of sex with several female co-stars. This led to the studio enforced one year hiatus of Gillian Chung and the divorce of another actress.

So, techie or not, if you have something that could get you in trouble of any kind, it is incumbent on you to figure out how to get rid of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I assume the same about my mechanic, must be off joyriding in my car. Or my plumber, must have been taco night last night. These things make way more sense than maybe they’re busy, and ffs it’s retail, you know they pay low and staff less. Lets not be so quick to assume everyone on the planet has some evil agenda against you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It’s not paranoia to believe proven, uncontested facts.”

^Tell that the the morons who still don’t think that Trump won the election and Russia won it for him. I’ll believe Assange – who said the only hacking that happened was by our own government – over the FBI under the Obama administration any day. The state of Georgia’s election commission traced intrusion on their computers to Obama’s Department of Homeland Security.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Tell that the the morons who still don’t think that Trump won the election and Russia won it for him.

It’s OK snowflake. It’s OK. There’ll be an article where you can whine about this shortly.

This one isn’t it, though.

Try the Bulgarian Public Radio one next. Now THAT’S a test of being able to insert this political bullshit where it doesn’t belong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Are you an idiot? Read his post again. The original poster is saying that he thinks liberals are idiots for thinking Putin stole the election for Trump. He goes on to say he doesn’t trust Obama. The “snowflake” youre saying is “whining” is actually on YOUR side. So now we know who the real whiners are…

NoNameRequired says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Oh, Ok! Lol! Let’s just take the state of “Georgia’s fine election commission (insert Scooby-Doo like giggle now)! The complete election was bogus so stop killing brain cells over who won and who did what. The only true statement that can be made about who won was that it wasn’t the American people! Two crooked-ass organizations that have been running our country into the ground relentlessly for their own gain, GAMED US ALL! They sliced, they diced, minced, mangled our Democracy from the inside out! Both parties are utter failures and it should be painfully clear to most by now that they don’t give a pinch of dog pooh about you and I? Unless you’re a business that makes a shit ton of money, you don’t matter anymore? Hard truth to swallow so you better get started.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I don’t think you get it. Bounty Hunters go after people who already have a warrant out for their arrest.

They don’t start stalking people and looking through their windows and trash who the feds don’t know are criminals in hope they can find dirt on them and then turn them in for a reward.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

There is a “wanted” poster in place. That’s what you seem to be missing. The “wanted” poster is in this case, not for a specific person, but rather for any computer that has child porn on it. This is no different than a bounty hunter. This is just the modern day version of a bounty hunter, because it involves computers, technology that never used to exist in the old days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

The title you’re looking for is “Surety Agent” or “Bondsman”, “Bounty Hunter” is layman slang. Weather it was the days of yesteryear or today, you must be bonded and certified to be a Surety Agent, Bounty Hunter, Process Server, Bondsman or any other form law enforcement per SCOTUS ruling (1872 Taylor v. Taintor) you are an law enforcement agent of the State, or in this case the Federal Government.

As far as “wanted poster”, a court writ must be issued…aka “warrant” for arrest/search/ect. The FBI can not give Geek Squad or any other citizen Carte Blanche to search for evidence, what is commonly known as a “fishing expedition”, it’s a violation privacy law or the 4th Amendment. The FBI must have reasonable suspension a crime has been committed and then must apply for a warrant, not the other way around. We don’t live in Minority Report, all citizens are granted the right to their 4th Amendment.

Geek Squard or anyone else being paid for their services eludes to employment as contract agents with the FBI.

Bill Everman says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Bounty hunting is fine, as long as you don’t do it when you’re supposed to be working for someone else, and you aren’t stomping around someone else’s property. As it stands, Best Buy isn’t getting it’s full value on whatever they’re paying for this employee, any more than if the employee runs out in the middle of their shift to pick up Uber passengers, and just like when you grant the heater repair guy access to your basement to fix your heater, you shouldn’t be finding him in the bathroom going through the medicine cabinet, if you grant someone access to your computer to repair it, they should be spending their time with it repairing it.

Anonymous Coward says:


I fully agree that child porn scums should be punished, but methods like described in the post are STASI 2.0. It could give informants an incentive to plant evidence for some extra income, besides circumventing law. If an IT service tech finds something by accident he’s obliged to report it anyway.

CrystalRivers (profile) says:

Re: Re: STASI 2.0

It was found in “unallocated space” on the drive which means it was not accessible to the user of the computer – it was a deleted file and I have to wonder if maybe the drive maker recycles hard drives they put in their computers too – that’s a loophole for the defense you could drive a Mack truck through

Ninja (profile) says:

And this is why, ladies and gentleman, you encrypt anything you don’t want snooped. I was honestly shocked when I needed to ask for maintenance under warranty and the tech person asked for my password. I was like, what? Make it turn on and then if you need to check the configurations you’ll do while I’m looking. Sure this guy may have had CP on his machine but it could be pictures of his family, pictures of him and his girl in the nudes etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: FBI in the Obama era

I struggled with that fact in this election. I saw no reason to believe Trump or Clinton would slow down the dismantling of our privacy rights, so I just had to try to ignore the issue. It’s a pity too, because that’s close to the top of my list of priorities.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 FBI in the Obama era

Well if there is one good thing it is that Trump seem to be more forward on what he intends even if it ends up being the same things the other guys did.
It will be interesting to see if people will react differently when instead of the typical backdoor dealings and shady agreements, they will just be told directly “Hey, I am going to make things crappy for you. Deal with it”. I consider these next years a science experiment in human psychology.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 FBI in the Obama era

Yeah. As long as we keep re-litigating and voting on gay rights, abortion, and trickle down, we can’t get any other issues on the national docket.

When do we get to vote on issues like:
– 4th Amendment
– Privacy
– Intellectual Property

No candidate ever needs to take a stand on these issues because they’re overshadowed by the rerun issues, or worse, “email!”. As long as the people don’t vote on these issues, the “machine of gov’t, both D and R” will keep taking it in the direction it chooses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately, the ACA pretty much destroyed HIPPA. Those protections don’t mean much when health care providers are now required to turn over just about everything to the government. In fact, the ACA mandated the government to create far more detailed files on Americans than just their medical records. It basically required a low-mid level FBI file to be opened on every American. Just try to sign up for Obamacare, and see how much they know about your personal life. I only did it to check prices, and I quit because it was so disturbing.

Yes, it’s still illegal to divulge most medical information to private third parties. But as much as I despise Monsanto, I just don’t see how they could cause me as much grief as the government could.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Are you really that naïve?

“As for any type of information, your electronic patient records can be released if ordered by a court or by health agencies or law enforcement agencies with a valid subpoena or legal order, and may be required in certain situations.”

Note that they specify a subpoena OR legal order. Not even a warrant. Just a law enforcement agency saying they need it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Your reading comprehension is seriously deficient. Re-read the direct quote I put in the previous message. No court order is required.

And that’s just from the first legitimate looking website I came across, in a 30 second search. If you’re actually interested in the subject, why don’t you look in to it yourself? I did, several years ago. I can’t quote the specifics of things I read in 2010, off the top of my head. I’m sorry, my memory just isn’t that good. But I suspect your disbelief is based on politics rather than knowledge, so I see no reason to dig through thousands of pages again, just to provide you with evidence you’ll dismiss out of hand.

When did people who describe themselves as liberal become so pro-establishment? What happened to questioning The Man? This article is explicitly about The Man looking for creative new ways to deny you your rights. Do you really believe this is an isolated case?

Seriously, please try to sign up for an ACA plan. Don’t actually do it, just go through the process. You’ll be disgusted at how much they tell you about yourself, and how little of it the government has any right to know about a presumably law abiding citizen. Then ask yourself if you really believe they’re just ignoring all that medical data they’ve required to be put into electronic form.

I’m done. Peace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“As for any type of information, your electronic patient records can be released if ordered by a court or by health agencies or law enforcement agencies with a valid subpoena or legal order, and may be required in certain situations.”

“…can be released if ordered by a court” – In other words, albeit cleverly switched around, a COURT ORDER.

I think it’s yourself who’s reading comprehension is seriously deficient.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: HIPAA

I don’t know anything about HIPPA, specifically. But in the ACA, section 3015 states:

“The Secretary shall collect and aggregate consistent data on quality and resource use measures from information systems used to support health care delivery to implement the public reporting of performance information…”

And later gives him the power to:

“…determine the type of information that is useful to stakeholders and the format that best facilitates use of the reports..”

Also in the same section:

“Such information shall be tailored to respond to the differing needs of hospitals and other institutional health care providers, physicians and other clinicians, patients, consumers, researchers, policymakers, States, and other stakeholders, as the Secretary may specify.”

If you’re looking for the section that says “The NSA can spy on citizens at will,” that’s not how governments write laws. But if you understand legalese, this clearly spells out that the secretary, presumably of HHS, has the authority to determine the scope of his own data collection powers, and to name stakeholders. Beyond that, States, researchers, and policy makers are already explicitly listed as stakeholders. He can collect any medical data he wants, and share it with whomever he chooses. It’s right there, in the text of the law.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 HIPAA

curious as to WHY you would think that because there (may or may not be) some law to prevent gummint goons accessing medical info, that they will weally, weally, we double-dog pwomise not to do so…
um, what turnip wagon did you just jump off of, hayseed ? ? ?
i mean you SERIOUSLY think that will stop them from doing so ? ? ? if so, you simply don’t have a clue of how the world works…
AND you run some sort of clinic ? ? ? why is that not very comforting to me to realize a pollyanna is in charge of our med info….

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Bust or blackmail the customer at best buy.

If you did wipe it for a customer after they payed you “under the table”, then that would get rid of the picture, and thus any proof that you were involved in getting rid of it would be wiped when the pictures were wiped. No way to prove that you wiped anything, or that such pictures ever even existed on the computer.

Yes, a GS employee could do something bad like that, but I usually trust most people.

Steven Moshlak (user link) says:

When you are busted...

Guess what I do for a living, folks, for over 20 years? Computer forensics, especially criminal defense. I do a fair share of "kiddie porn" cases, for the defense. If and when you do get busted, please be so kind as to pick-up the telephone, to retain my services.

Confidential informant or not, it looks like there will be a heck of a lot of dismissals, on the horizon, for these types of cases.

I had a recently like case, dismissed / terminated.

Steven Moshlak

NoNameRequired says:

Re: Re: Re: $500 dollars a pop

Because THAT employee who turned in the employee planting cp had let’s say, a $400 electric bill that month? Maybe they needed a set of new shoes for the car or some other outstanding bills they couldn’t pay otherwise? Combine that $500 bucks with a Best Buy employee discount and one can buy a lot of geeky stuff from Best Buy? Bet his/her home pc is decked out to the highest of geekstivity! They can download “The Bible” by just putting their mouse pointer close to the download button without ever having to click on it! Lol.

Agent Joe says:

Re: $500 dollars a pop

Ya, and you would get into big trouble because everything is time stamped when being modified and transferred into a computer. I work for Geek Squad and if a person is dumb enough, and sick enough to bring in a machine with child porn, than they deserve much worse than Geek Squad turning them into authority but that is all we can do, but they do deserve much worse than that.

I.T. Guy says:

Nice… so instead of actually fixing your PC they are running a utility to recover deleted files then lying about how they found them.

“According to court records, Geek Squad technician John “Trey” Westphal, an FBI informant, reported he accidentally located on Rettenmaier’s computer”

“the image in question had been buried in unallocated space”

It’s like trying to say to your girlfriend/wife… “I accidentally had sex with that woman.”

I bet the tech in question saved a copy for himself before turning the guy in. I’d be curious if a warrant were issued to search John “Trey” Westphal’s PC how many customer pictures, MP3’s, and Movies would be found on his PC.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, but recovery of files from unallocated space doesn’t automatically show the images to the user of the tool. Most tools I’ve ever used only give you a number of files it was able to recover. It would still be beyond the scope of recovery for the employee to go look at the image(s) they recovered.

Marc W says:

Stoopit People

If people are so stupid as to think the NSA/CIA/FBI doesn’t already have access to any computer they want almost anytime it’s on and connected to the internet thru the documented Windows and Mac Opsystem BACK DOORS –then this story should piss them off.


Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Maybe so, but that could easily be overturned in court by suggesting that it had been planted by the GeekSquad guy. This would put enough doubt in the minds of the jury that they would probably acquit. And then the investigation would turn to the GeekSquad guy, because if in fact he had planted it, then that means he knowingly had it in his possession, which makes him guilty of possession of CP. So the GeekSquad guy would end up serving hard time.

And the GeekSquad guys know this. That’s why they never would do something so STUPID as planting CP on somebody’s computer, no matter how greedy they were for that FBI reward money.

Bill Everman says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Most employers kind of already have a policy that you can’t be working for someone else during the same time that you’re on the clock for them. Maybe I missed it, but do we know that Best Buy explicitly allowed this? Why would anyone allow their employees to moonlight during their working hours?

NoNameRequired says:

Re: Re: Re:

A cool $500 makes people do things without thinking it through. I mean if a guy offered you $1,000,000 to let him have his way with your wife (with her present at the asking)you would most likely be offended, as well as your Mrs., and beat his ass! However, you may be the one offended and your Mrs. would say, “Ima fuck that guys BRAINS OUT!”. You’d be like, “really?” Some might even do it for just $500, lol. When money is a motivator, ethics often take a back seat. To everything! It should be illegal for the FBI to even offer an informant money for such?

will says:

Computer search

It’s not even that the technician is rooting around your system looking at files. They are running a set of “standard” utilities that on the surface are “looking for computer viruses”. But the FBI has seeded these programs with the digital signatures of child porn they have already identified. This happens online with Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, Box, Facebook, etc. So anything you store “in the cloud” is getting this treatment as well, to “look for viruses”.

Now this has been weaponized, they can search for anything. In some countries a copy of the US constitution would be considered a prohibited “virus”, though it appears the Fed’s have found the antidote.

This is similar to the NSA revelations a few years ago. Some smart person paid to “find a work around” always will. It’s this attitude which the judges are responsible for stopping.

I am not defending child porn, terrorists, or even drug dealers. It’s just that these are hot button issues to deploy the techniques and socialize them in the courts, the population, etc.

Bill Everman says:

Re: Computer search

It’s a shame that when you call out the government for shredding the Constitution, you have to tell people you’re not defending “child porn, terrorists, or even drug dealers.” Americans are supposed to want the Constitution followed, but too many have been conditioned to applaud the abuse of the rules by people with power.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Computer search

Just in case this is not a Poe…

From ‘A Man for All Seasons’, Act 1

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

When you start stripping legal and/or constitutional protections from people because you don’t like them, or they are accused of committing terrible crimes, you undermine your own protections under the law at the same time.

If you want the law to protect the best, then it must protect the worst, or those protections become based upon nothing more than the whim of the judge and/or prosecutor. If a case ‘fails’, or is dropped because those protections were violated blame the ones who violated them for screwing up and letting the ‘guilty’ free, not the protections from working as intended.

Totally_Disillusioned says:

Dangerous Territory...

FBI contracts computer services and delivery people to “spy” and report on Citizen’s activities. In the case of “accidentally stumbling on child pornography” on Rettenmaier’s computer yet the Podesta brothers actually have nude adolescent girls displayed in their homes?

Yet, FBI had Santiago in November, handed him off to psych interview and returned his firearm. Month later he shoots up Ft Lauderdale airport baggage claim area.

The CIA is politically engaged, the FBI can’t seem to catch terrorists yet they can justify Geek Squad/UPS spying on citizens? This is VERY DANGEROUS territory and points to a govt that is off the rails.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Dangerous Territory...

Big difference between nude art (even if the subject is underage), and child porn. The courts have constantly ruled that nudity without a sexual element (like a lewd pose, or the genitals being the obvious main point of the photo) is not child porn. In fact, you can see nude photographic art of children in the Guggenheim art museum in New York City.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dangerous Territory...

heh man, i have no brief on pizzagate, but those are some SERIOUSLY weird/borderline fucking nutz paintings and sculptures…
i have a wide latitude for weird shit, but i was a guest in a house with paintings like that, and i would exchange surprised looks with my wife, and head for the door… that is some seriously weird shit for a non-serial killer to have hanging in their homes…

Big Bill says:

Simple Workaround

All Best Buy has to do is offer a “free service” as part of their “standard maintenance package” to “help recover lost files” or “do a full hard drive search for viruses”. Bingo! Any rooting around in unallocated space is now justified as “standard operating procedure” and not some kind of special snooping for the Feds.

DannyB (profile) says:

Worst of the Worst is just an excuse

As with the Apple terrorist iPhone battle last year, this is not about what it appears to be. It is about something different.

The FBI wanted Apple to build a universal back door so the FBI could access any phone at any time without supervision. In the name of Terrorism.

In this instance, the FBI wants to work around the warrant requirement by involving a third party. All in the name of Think Of The Children.

What they seem to want is a warrantless way to snoop into anyone’s computer or smartphone.

I would suggest that this is what their NIT (network investigative technique) is all about. The NIT is a euphemism for hacking into computers around the globe. Under cover of a local search warrant from an easily fooled judge.

Imagine this. Use NIT to find someone you want to bust, by hacking their computer. You can’t nail them on some other charge. So plant illegal pr0n on their computer. Then make their computer unbootable (but easily fixable) so that they take it in to Best Buy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Laws

Random, completely non-political question. What are people referencing when they call Trump, Drumpf? Is it an allusion to “harrumph?” Or is it something completely different, that I’m missing. I understood most of the derogatory Obama misspellings. They usually referenced either his race, or some specific action Obama took that someone disagreed with. I see Drumpf all over the place, but I just don’t get it. Could someone let me in on the joke?

Thanks in advance.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Here is what I would like to know, who at the FBI brought the idea forward and approached the folks at Best Buy HQ’s and proposed this idea?

Who at Best Buy HQ thought this would be great that the employees would get $500.00 for the info, so if the employee was getting $500.00 what was Best Buy’s cut then? No way they were doing this to be a good citizen and how did they think violating their customers privacy was a-ok to do?

Several people at Best Buy HQ are responsible for having their staff act as agents for the FBI under teh guise of fixing someone computer issues, but yet it seems onlt the geek squad employees are taking the hit.

SM says:


What seems most disturbing? Is it that the FBI has a number of child porn sites which it runs? (I guess it works to catch child pornographers.)

Or when the article alludes to “suspicious amounts of cash it can swoosh it and seize”?

They can decide to take property. Beware civil forfeiture. No crime, no judge involved.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Disturbing

FBI doesn’t run CP websites. That would be illegal, as it would require possessing actual CP to put on those sites. Instead they are fake sites, who’s contents are text or pictures that merely IMPLY that if you click the next link there will be real CP. Of course there’s no CP when you click the next link. Instead it logs your IP address, and you get a knock on your door from the authorities. I’ve read about that tactic before. So no, the FBI is NOT running any actual child porn website.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Disturbing

Breaking into a house is illegal. It’s called “burglary”.
Attempting but failing, to break into a house is illegal. It’s called “attempted burglary”.

Same thing with child porn.
Viewing child porn is illegal, as your computer has to download it from the web server to display it on your screen (even if you don’t save it to the harddrive). And of course this downloading fits the crime “receiving child pornography”.
If you try to get to a child porn website, but instead end up on an FBI sting-operation fake child porn site, you still attempted to do the above mentioned crime. Therefore the crime you will be charged with in this case is “attempted receiving child pornography”.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Disturbing

That’s not just wrong it’s demonstrably wrong, and given it looks like you’ve been on TD for years according to your comment history you should know better. The whole Playpen debacle was about the FBI not just running the site, not just running it for weeks, but improving the site to make it more ‘efficient’.

The FBI not only did ‘run [a] CP website’, it improved it and made it run better.

Unless of course that was a Poe, in which case well done I suppose.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Disturbing

So now they have to not only run it but create it for it to count?

I’m curious, why are you bothering to shift the goalposts on someone else’s behalf? They claimed that the ‘FBI doesn’t run CP websites’, I pointed out that that was demonstrably wrong. They didn’t just ‘discover’ the site, they ran it for two weeks, improving the site’s performance significantly during that time period, and they didn’t ‘wiretap’ the server they had control of that too.

The FBI had full control over the site for at least two weeks, didn’t shut it down immediately, but did make it run even faster and more ‘efficiently’ than before during that time. I’d say that’s pretty clearly ‘run[ing] a CP site’.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Disturbing

I checked out your claim, and it seems you were mostly correct. The point is they took control of it from a genuine pedo. However, the rest of your claim is incorrect. It The site was NOT created by the FBI. They simply took control of it. They probably arrested the guy who ran it, but then instead of also taking down his server as they would normally do, they kept his server computer running, and yes, because they had physical access to the computer they could do whatever they wanted to it. As far as I know though, they didn’t actually harm and exploit children by uploading additional pictures to the site. They simply made the site itself run more efficiently, so that more pedos could gain easy access to it, and that means the FBI could catch more pedos. The more pedos taken off the street the better.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Disturbing

I’m confused, what exactly that I have said are you objecting to?

I never said that the FBI created the site, I was pointing out that the original claim didn’t specify that it did, and as such the claim ‘FBI doesn’t run CP websites’ wasn’t true.

As far as I know though, they didn’t actually harm and exploit children by uploading additional pictures to the site.

The FBI/government’s own arguments would say otherwise.

From the filing by the defense in one of the cases:

This behavior is all the more shocking because the federal government itself – in sentencing memoranda, online mission statements, reports to congress, press releases, and arguments before this very Court and many others – has repeatedly emphasized that victims of child pornography are revictimized each and every time their images are viewed online.

By drastically improving the site they made it so that many more pictures and videos were shared/downloaded, so by their own previous arguments they caused significant harm to the victims, even if they didn’t personally upload a single file.

They simply made the site itself run more efficiently, so that more pedos could gain easy access to it, and that means the FBI could catch more pedos.

Beyond the ‘ends justify the means’ problem, there’s also the issue that while they could have possibly ‘caught more pedos’ it doesn’t seem that their keeping the site up for two weeks and improving it resulted in that happening.

From later in the same filing:

Moreover, as noted above, the government has charged less than 1% of Playpen members, the same percentage of users it already had IP addresses for on the day it seized the site. It cannot be that the government may distribute child pornography to a thousand users for each user it catches, particularly when it already has the necessary information to identify the same number of users before it had distributes a single image.’

They could have shut down the site for ‘maintenance’ on day one and the result would have been the same as far as how many people were charged.

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Always Insert Clean Drive

You should always put a clean drive into your computer when it is turned over to someone else or traveling. Most computers are an identity thief’s treasure trove of personal information. If you lose your computer or it’s confiscated your valuable personal information is likely gone forever. Encrypt your computer. The FBI is generally the least of your worries. Even crappy encryption is better than none for the more typical situation of theft by a common criminal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So that's why.....

Well just use the stupid argument. Lets be disgusted with people who don’t think it is right for people who are supposed to repair your pc do a deep scan.
Because the ends always justify the means and there is no way a deleted picture with no metadata could ever be falsely placed for money or from a previous owner.

afn29129 (profile) says:

Re: Re: So that's why.....

AC asserts: “the Geek Squad rummages around your folders, not like they do a deep scan of your hard drive.”

from the article: “In addition to these problems, the file discovered by the Best Buy tech was in unallocated space…”

Actually the Geeks HAD to do a deep scan to find the image in ‘an-allocated space’. The image had been deleted, indexs removed from the FAT, but the data was still extant on the HDD.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Mafia has known this for decades

“Unsurprisingly, the FBI also has a number of paid informants. Some of these informants apparently work at Best Buy — Geek Squad by day, government informants by… well, also by day.”

In the 1950’s, the Mafia wives constantly complained that they weren’t allowed to get their refrigerators and washing machines fixed, because the FBI had paid off all of these repairmen (yes, they were all MEN back then) to spy on them when they came for repairs.

The Mafia was so suspicious, they wouldn’t even *throw these old machines away*, in case some evidence remained within their innards.

So, you could tell a Mafia house by how many dead household appliances they had stacked up in their garages/back yards.

lindou chang says:

Blah -

I used to have a computer shop, there wasn’t one computer, one at all, that didn’t have some type of porn on it..I don’t care if it was the local preacher, mayor, chief of police, etc…all had porn of some type on their computers. First thing we did after getting them fixed was to do a “search” for “malicious” files…lol…then gather around and see who had the best stuff. of course for record keeping purposes, we’d make a copy for our records..especially if it was someone’s wife!

John Campbll says:

How low will some go?

This part is not only disgusting, it’s downright scary. Political operatives with no scruples, such as the likes of the DNC’s own Creamer and Foval, could get away with planting a malware hidden hidden image of such filth on an opposition’s computer. It could destroy the reputation of an innocent person. Having witnessed what the DNC is already capable of it would seem that nothing should be put passed them.

“In other words, it’s arguable a computer’s owner wouldn’t know of its existence. (For example, malware can secretly implant files.)”

mendskyz says:

Geek Squad

How stupid can our FBI be? The Geek Squad? That might be a good choice if they are looking for someone to tell you you need to reload windows, or are looking to find some reason to tell you you need a new computer, but not very likely to be able to pull this one off. How well do you think any evidence that is found on a computer will withstand a good defense lawyer? How much time do you think the FBI will spend chasing rabbits down endless rabbit holes? This will fail on 4th Amendment Rights before the first case hits the docket.

Anonymous Coward says:

In defense of minor attracted people

Police searches for cp are nothing more than a new age witch hunt to justify gov. intrusion into peoples lives. It’s not at all unlike how gay people were persecuted in the past.

Morality is just an abstract concept, a social construct created by parochial minded religious people that are trying to make you submit to their antiquated group think. They often craft shaming language toward you, accusing you of having a “ high hope for a low heaven”. Evil and morality are Points of view. Picture a cat playing with a mouse. To the cat, he is just playing with his food. To the mouse, the cat is the equivalent of evil it’s self.

Pedophilia in relation to human nature, and how it evolved through evolution is discussed briefly. Life is a question, asked of the Universe, “Is this right?”…and answered by death if it isn’t. This is the realist’s perspective who lives by natural law. People lived short brutish lives in out ancient history, often dying around age 30. There was no supportive social services in those ancient times and young girls who lost their families either died or grew up quick. The ones that were attracted to older men survived and eventually reproduced. That is why you have women who like older men, and men who like young girls. It’s and adaptive strategy that worked in the past; simple as that. We are still running on 20,000 year old software, and no stupid, recently created, feel good, socially constructed laws are going to change that. You can bet there are at least, if not more, minor attracted men out there than there are gay men. Why persecute them for the way nature made them if they are not hurting anyone? No wonder the birth rate in western civilization is declining. No one wants to marry a menopausal women that is hitting the wall.

Being attracted to youth doesn’t make one a monster, it’s the way nature made us. What does make a monster is destroying the lives of innocent men who did nothing more than follow their human nature. Not only does it destroy the lives of men when they are taken to prison but destroys the lives of the families, and pets, that depend on them. Think of all the poor animals that get hauled off to the animal shelters,and get killed, because their owners get put in prison for stupid non-violent crimes; feeding the prison industry. If I was a cop, I would have trouble sleeping at night for thinking about all the lives I destroyed. Shame on me, I say shame on you!

Tenth Degree says:

Re: In defense of minor attracted people

The problem is “pre-puberty” females…those that have reached puberty and are able to reproduce does make evolutionary sense, most if not all animals in the wild reproduce as soon as they are capable. somewhere down the line, someone decided that there was a “underage” for sex. it was not unheard of that women were married at 13, had kids all throughout their teen years. The one’s who haven’t reached puberty, there is something wrong there, there isn’t a biological reason for that attraction, it’s a mental problem and people who deal in that should go to prison for life if not outright killed.

Uncommon Sense says:

Re: Re: In defense of minor attracted people

See, the problem is no one can force others to find something attractive. We’ve all seen newborn pictures totally nude to be cute. As a photographer I stay away from that even. But someone who searches for borderline images aren’t breaking the law. To search for it may be someone hoping to find something wrong, BUT punishing the search prevents good citizens from being safe to try to police the web when they get the chance and search as well for things to report.

There’s girls of all ages in Jock Sturgess, David Hamilton’s and Sally Mann’s books you can buy in Boarders, or any other art / book store.

Totally nude.

We protect the “Art” and the problem is people are going to jail because there’s LEGAL art that is being considered porn.

There’s people who have been jailed because of LEGAL images that were considered underage because no one could confirm the age of the girls and people assumed that the endocrinology must make a girl who is 18 years old have significant stage 5 breasts.

This is on the Tanner Scale and even the creator of the Tanner Scale said it shouldn’t be used for prosecution.

There was a case where “Little Lulu” was a porn out of a US State, a man was found traveling through an airport checkpoint and they found it. They were prosecuting him. They didn’t care if the girl was of legal age. His attorney successfully got in touch with the model from the video who came and testified in court that she was actually of legal age.

Do you see the point? If there’s no way to vouch for the age of the girl people are going to jail under “better safe than sorry”

We need:
Better policing of the internet. First and foremost. Less desire to punish people who may enjoy forbidden fruit fantasies.

Gary Gross photographed 10 year old Brooke Shields (yes the famous one) nude and those images were published in Playboy.

She went on to be nude in a George Burns film climbing out of the trunk of his car, as well as Blue Lagoon totally nude by the time she was 15.

Those movies are and always were legal. There were also modeling sites like Met-Art that went 18 up voluntarily but they were always showing nude underage girls because it was a protected “art.”

NOT DEFENDING just pointing out we have a huge overlap in laws and understanding that leads to people going to jail for something that might not even be a crime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: In defense of minor attracted people

This is my second and last post I’m making about the subject, hopefully the mods will have the integrity to let it through. Yes, there is a perfectly obvious biological, and evaluational, reason for it, and it isn’t a mental illness.

As I stated previously, You had a good chance of dieing before 30 years old in the past. People had to reproduce early, the species literately depended on it, as you had a good chance of dieing before or just about the time your child was hitting puberty. Beta males taking care of girls around the age of puberty was a reproductive strategy that eventually allowed them to eventually reproduce, and the girls to survive without parents.

Unfortunately, as always, religious prudes are standing in the way of sound reason but try to get your head around the idea, it’s a sound theory. It very well might have made the difference between the human race surviving, and not to acknowledge this possibility is just being unreasonable.

Throwing men in jail for having an interest in girls around the age of puberty is just predatory policing for money, just like with drugs. I would say the age of consent of 12, like in Mexico, is about right for a legal cut off. So, every one, stop being uptight prudes, know that everyone is different, and just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean that it’s isn’t or wasn’t at some point a good thing. Men taking in young girls was natures answer to a social safety net.

I would like to thank Drudge report for linking to this article, and the mods at Techdirt for letting me speak freely on this controversial topic.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: In defense of minor attracted people

I agree starting at puberty (sexual maturity) there is a legit reason for sexual intercourse. However, it is perverse and unnatural to have sex with prepubescent individual. There is no logical reason for it. It doesn’t result in procreation. Therefore it doesn’t aid in helping the species to survive.

And that is what makes a person a pedophile. They desire sex with individuals who have not yet reached sexual maturity. Anybody who acts on those sick and unnatural sexual urges deserves prison time.

Skeptik says:

Re: In defense of minor attracted people

You used a whole lot of words and pseudo-sophistry to justify pedophilia. “Nature” doesn’t drive species to engage in sexual activity until the creature achieves sexual maturity. Sexually mature humans who engage in preying on sexually immature humans are un-natural perverts. Period.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: In defense of minor attracted people

13yo and 14yo individuals are usually sexually mature (able to reproduce). They just are not emotionally/mentally mature yet. Under current law, those who are not emotionally mature are automatically assumed to have been taken advantage of (without any other possibility even being considered by the law) when having sexual relations with a person who is mentally/emotionally more mature. However, in nature, animals don’t wait until they are mentally/emotionally mature to have sex. They just wait until they are sexually mature, and then they start having sex all the time. And technically, humans are just advanced animals. The law that bans this is one of oppressing nature, in favor of imposing a human-invented order of things, instead of the natural order of things. I don’t regard a sexually mature teen as a child, even if the law does. Of course I don’t have sex with them because that would be illegal, but it wouldn’t make me a pedophile.

A pedophile is by definition, a person who is sexually attracted to an individual who is not sexually mature. Being a pedophile or not, has nothing to do with mental/emotional maturity, or what the law says is right or wrong. Being a pedophile is an unnatural sexual attraction to those who aren’t sexually mature (able to reproduce).

And yes, pedophiles are sick filthy scum. And they deserve the full force of the law (even taking unconstitutional steps, such as the steps this article says the FBI has taken) to apprehend them. However, a pedophile is not a person who’s attracted to a 13 or 14 year old individual, even if acting on that attraction is illegal under US law.

NoNameRequired says:

Re: Re: Re: In defense of minor attracted people

We are advanced animals. So much so advanced that there is no other living thing on this spec of dirt that comes close to the complexity of our emotional maturity as you’ve put it. Other “living” things will never have this issue to contend with in the first place. All “living” things may very well have a sexual maturity point? But that’s all. Emotional maturity in a young adolescent can be stopped in it’s tracks, destroyed, killed even? Age 13, 15, 16, 18 even? You believe children of these ages are ready to understand and be cast into sexual situations by folks who feel it’s alright because their bodies may be sexually mature? Who cares about back in the day! No one knew any better but we do now so please, try to close the humongous evolutionary gap you seem to be stuck in. Maybe Huge Dump will let you date one of his daughters since yo know, he can’t?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: In defense of minor attracted people

Allow me to pop a jaunty little bonnet on your pseudo-sophistry, Mr. Pot Calling Kettle. I was getting raging boners and lusting after women way before my young, supple body was venting jizz. So where the hell does that fit into your closeted black and white world of unnatural preverts?

Uncommon Sense says:

Pay and when are pre-pubescent images legal.

Pay creates the incentive for people to PLANT eidences that are illegal.

Brooke Shields modeled for Gary Gross when she was 10 years old Fully Nude. By the time she was 13 those were in Playboy. The supreme court of New York has upheld that those images were NOT PORN due to what a definition of porn must be.

The DOST TEST is the 6 point definition of porn. This was set in place so that people who happen to snap innocent photos of their family / kids being silly in the tub or at a clothing optional beach weren’t headed for prison.

There are people going to jail today who have no idea that the images they had on their computer weren’t even porn.

This is all defined in the 18 U.S.C 2257 and 2257(a)

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If (as you said) the people in question had no idea that it wasn’t porn, then that means they thought it was porn. And if the images they thought were porn were of children then that means they knowingly and intentionally were in possession of images that they believed were CHILD porn. In other words, they intentionally were performing actions that they believed were illegal, and only by chance did those actions happen to not be illegal. These people you are defending clearly had the INTENT to commit a crime, and attempted to commit a crime, believing fully that their actions were illegal.

Even if the pictures that these people had were technically not CP, it does not make these people’s ACTIONS any less criminal.

Uncommon Sense says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not exactly, YES there’s illegal things they can find, BUT if they were searching for ART that’s not illegal.

Sally Mann, David Hamilton and Jock Sturgess have all been producing books their entire photographic lives showing underage girls nude.

In fact you can buy those books right now at Boarders or other places. They’re protected by the supreme court. So your point is about “intent”

This also must be compared with the Dost test’s 6 points to determine if something is porn. Keep in mind yes people can be sexually attracted to anything regardless of human or animal.

Let me validate your point. YES there’s people who want something illegal. You’re absolutely right. BUT the point is strictly for people who weren’t breaking any laws.

A girl nude with just a collar may be a photo taken by her parents at a nudist camp if they’re just doing something silly. SURE some jackass doesn’t have really any real excuse why to have possession of it, but it.

Huffington Post showed nude images last year of a children in an article about the wonders of fatherhood. And all his pictures were of his kids nude playing in the yard. black and white images, BUT the supreme court doesn’t differentiate between color vs. black and white.

You’re 100% correct on the aspect that if they were searching for something illegal their INTENT was to have something that violates the 18 USC 2257 and 2257a

BUT due to the fact there’s also no legal defined term for art modeling of all ages that people will search for that term. so this creates the impression they’re seeking to do something of criminal action.

HOW DO YOU KNOW… if there’s dozens of images that cross the line between art and CRIME.

So yes you’re right, we can tell. However it’s also not the courts responsibility to determine what’s legal in your case. YOU need to be armed with this information.

Did you know MetArt website went 18 up voluntarily and before that they were legally producing underage girls nude?

The problem with most legal issues is that so few people really study the depths of the laws (I’m a legal bookworm)

In the 90% there was many model sites of girls of all ages modeling in lingerie and even sheer stuff. Cali Sky was 14 when she was modeling nude, but not showing genitals, just paint on her nipples. She had her own website at 16 and is still doing tease modeling.

Jimmy Stephens was a producer of many models websites and images and denver police tried to charge him with CP production with 8000 years jailtime.

He proved that none of the images were porn because porn requires either focus on sexual areas (Meaning an innocent picture that’s cropped may turn into porn once cropped)
or sexual penetration or images created strictly for sexual enticement of the viewer.

CREEPY FACTOR. yes people were paying members of those sites. They had to claim they were a modeling agent or photographer. See where the line turns gray.

I thought of doing a documentary on this, so I did a shit ton of research.

So Jimmy Stephens (James grady is his real name) was found completely innocent when he proved girls post images just like what he posted by themselves and facebook charges advertisers, so for pay is for pay. He proved that the supreme court decisions upheld what was art.

He also proved that Calvin Klein showed Brooke Shields covering her tits nude. So advertisers are always using the limits.

Thora Burch was topless in a American Beauty. She was 16.
Hollywood has had many underage girls in films. Brooke Sheilds in Blue Lagoon at 15 nude, she was in a George Burns film nude getting out of the trunk of his car at 14.

You’re right about the intent. As we know from criminal law the SPECIFIC INTENT (mens rhea) is the determining factor if something was a crime. Criminal Intent.

This is often found in the questioning. What were you looking for.

ALSO a unique story… Did you read my comment about Little Lulu? A man was charged with CP for a DVD of an adult model. The prosecution didn’t even care to research it.

Another unique story police were performing a sting operation on a man’s router. However someone was contacting them THROUGH his router. So he downloaded hundreds of CP images (yes they’ll actually provide them, imagine how screwed up that is)

And therefore the police gave out a bunch of images that shouldn’t be out there but only found out when they tried to arrest the homeowner.

Prosecute the criminal, but let’s not criminalize those who didn’t show intent for criminal activity with stuff that doesn’t rise to the level of a crime.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Maybe so, but in your comment I was replying to, it stipulated that the person you were talking about had images they believed to be illegal, even though they weren’t illegal images. The conduct of the person you are describing is clearly criminal conduct, because they intentionally came into possession of something that they believed was illegal, and just by chance the material wasn’t illegal. That’s an “attempt” crime, like “attempted murder”. The person clearly was trying to violate the law, and would violated the law if they had the chance, but just by accident they failed to commit the crime. Thus they actually ARE guilty under the “criminal attempt” laws.

Bill Everman says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Given the ongoing discussion, I may have misread it, but I was thinking he meant a situation where someone has a picture of, say, their kid in the bathtub, and are arrested and told by the cops, “that’s child pornography!” Instead of questioning the “expert’s” definition of child porn, they assume that they are in the wrong and take a plea.

Oliver Clozoff (profile) says:

Geek Squad snoopers

This is one reason why you should NEVER save data of any kind to your C: drive. Documents, media, and emails should be saved to a separate PHYSICAL drive that you can remove if you ever need to take your PC in for service. Another reason is that if you get a virus or ransomeware, you can just reformat C: and reinstall your software.

Sugar Daddy (profile) says:

Re: dd

Chances are it was the best Buy guy who placed the “pr0n” image there.

It’s funny that nobody has raised the following problem with his BS story:

Anyone who has ever downloaded an mp3, movie or legal pr0n has never downloaded just one file. All the contrary, most users downloads tons of it.

The guy being trapped by the FBI here would be the first kiddie pr0n addict who ever downloaded only one file to satisfy his impulses, LOL.

This is Gruber stuff for the crowd who truly believe a YouTube video caused a terrorist attack.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Actually this is legal.

I guess you never have heard of a reward before. Those Best Buy employees are not actual FBI employees. They were informed of a reward by the FBI. Any intentional digging around computers they did, wasn’t ordered by the FBI, but rather was just the individuals trying to cash in on the reward offered by the FBI. Intentionally seeking out a criminal or information on a criminal, so as to be able to claim a reward, is called being a bounty hunter. It is 100% legal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 On the books vs In practice

To that note, have you ever read law books, particularly case law books? I consider myself fairly capable of retaining information, but I’d have a hard time sitting through case after case and not letting something slip by.

I wish I could find online examples of what I’m talking about. In the same volume, covering the same subjects, I’ve read court case results that directly contradict not only each other but also the law they were predicated upon.

I guess that’s the reason for the Court of Appeals but even so, if a lawyer determines that a particular case law result favors his/her client, that’s what they’re going to run with. And if the judge decides that it’s valid, guess it sticks.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Actually this is legal.

What the Geek Squad guys did, was certainly legal. Seeking out info on a crime so as to be able to claim reward money offered by law enforcement. And there is no 4th amendment clause preventing non-law-enforcement people from digging through somebody’s computer files, even if ultimately they do turn over what they find to law-enforcement, and as long as they aren’t actually hired on as law-enforcement officers (which would terminate their status of being non-law-enforcement). Digging through somebody’s computer, in an attempt to claim REWARD MONEY does NOT terminate your status of being non-law-enforcement, as claiming reward money offered by law-enforcement is NOT the same as being a hired employee of law-enforcement.

Animedude5555 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Actually this is legal.

Big difference between FBI agents (hired employees) and some guy who sees a wanted poster, so they personally set out to find the bad guy, and notify the FBI when they find him. Claiming your reward money, is different than being a hired employee. This is just the digital version of a bounty hunter. It’s 100% legal.

TripMN says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Actually this is legal.

Yes, but a wanted poster is put up because there is a warrant out for their arrest, not because someone said we’ll give you $100 for every crook you bust and bring the ill-gotten evidence to us. That is vigilante-ism, not being a bounty hunter, and the evidence should be considered suspect and tainted the second it is turned over.

Bill Everman says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Actually this is legal.

There’s also a problem in that the “bounty hunters” are on the clock for someone else. I know actual bounty hunters, and they don’t go looking for fugitives while they’re on the clock for the local McDonald’s. If you’re working for Best Buy and they’re paying you by the hour to fix computers and you spend ten minutes of every hour looking for porn, then you’re not only invading peoples’ privacy, you’re also ripping off your employer.

Sugar Daddy (profile) says:

"The Russians did it" stuff

Anybody who falls for this Stasi crap needs to read the Constitution and get a course on ethics.

If an unknown individual is getting paid for snooping in computers, digging for dirt that can be turned into cash, chances are he will be encouraged on plant it there.

The FBI lied to a judge on purpose in order to secure a search warrant. That in itself is grounds for dismissal of the case and for the FBI lawyer to lose his/her license.

What’s a GS staffer doing looking for dirt in unallocated space in the first place? GS should have fired the informant because now that the case is falling part, the guy who took the computer there can sue them for defamation, violation of privacy and civil rights, and being accessory to a felony. And I’m sure he will.

HaveWeForgotten (profile) says:

Welcome to Germany in the 30's

I don’t understand how people are so willing to give up our rights. Freedom of speech is gone, Freedom to practice religion (government searching of sermons, church roles), the FBI using our kids in public schools to rat out their parents if they say anything against the government, freedom of undue search and seizure. Don’t forget the NSA, cell phone tower copying, etc

This is not a Vast Left/right wing false news story. It’s happening every day, and We the People are letting it happen

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

FBI finally makes it to the bottom of a stack of complaints about Geek Squad employees lifting personal information & pictures from machines they repair. Rather than prosecute the smart agent looks for a way to make this benefit his case win ratio by paying the Geeks to look for CP while they shift the drives looking for nudes of the hot owners.

Kage (profile) says:

4th Amendment Violation?

Is content that GS finds even admissible in a court of law as valid evidence? You would need to take a forensic analyst approach to preserve the chain of custody. If this is the case, why is GS even digging around looking through computers without legal authority or a warrant?

The other consideration here is that GS could install malware or a rootkit on the machine without the user knowing. We already know that they are being rewarded by the FBI for finding law breakers, so the incentive is there. From a consumer perspective, if these GS employees are FBI informants, there is a breach of trust and we have no reason to believe that they are placing the needs of the consumers first. Is it far fetched to believe that GS would install malware? Is there anything that proves that they wouldn’t?

On a side note, I’m a IT professional and this just confirms what I’ve preached to everyone I know. Never take your computer to Best Buy. At the very best, you’ll receive your machine back fully wiped. When computers become infected with viruses, GS will handle virus removal by resetting to factory settings and destroying all of your data. A virus doesn’t mean you have to wipe your machine if you know what you’re doing.

rollory says:

best buy

I took my Win7 computer in to Best Buy to have a fan cleaned. When I got it back they
1) had not touched the fan
2) had uninstalled several applications I use
3) had installed several other applications I did not recognize
4) had set up Windows Update to automatically download and install Windows 10 after the next reboot.

As far as I’m concerned this was criminal vandalism. The only reason I didn’t talk to a lawyer about it is that due to the repair service I was requesting coming under a free-maintenance clause of a friend’s previous purchase I didn’t need to actually pay them.

But you can bet I’m not ever paying them for anything else, either.

Garys opinion says:


There was a time, not long ago, when photographs had to be developed by a developer. If there was a picture in the film that they found objectionable they wouldn’t print it. Digital cameras did away with that and you could download any picture you wanted onto your computer.
You still have to be careful though, you won’t have a developer censoring your pictures, but you may have the FBI doing it.
With technology the way it is today, I can’t imagine anybody being so stupid to put anything on a computer that could harm them.

Adam says:

Chain of Custody?

I’m sorry but I was always under the impress that if you take an item to be repaired by someone then they turn it over for alleged illegal activity, such items found would be hard to held into evidence because of chain of custody issues. Does this no longer apply?

I though that such said discovered items could put you on the police’s radar but using such discovered items in court would be unlikely to be admissible since the computer has been out of your control and god knows who could have put them on the computer (The tech working on it, someone else in the shop.) And if the tech also has a $500 incentive by the FBI does it become at some point advantageous to plant something on an unsuspecting computer to keep the payouts coming.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Chain of Custody?

Would be interesting to see if there’s similar cases involving drugs found in a car. For example, if you turned your vehicle over to the shop and the shop planted drugs for the police, would the chain of custody argument be valid?

I know when I turn my vehicle over for repair I implicitly trust the shop to not plant drugs in my car for the police to find later.