EFF And ACLU Sue FBI Over Seizure Of Activists' Computers

from the 4th-amendment-anyone? dept

The EFF and the ACLU has filed yet another lawsuit against the government, highlighting another scary abuse of power that feels straight out of a police state, rather than the free society we supposedly live in. Specifically, the FBI and other law enforcement officials raided the offices of two different activist organizations and seized all of their computers. There are two issues here that are important. First, if the FBI was concerned about the computers being used in commission of a crime, they easily could have followed the same policies used to get records off of computers at libraries (part of the issue is that these organizations offer public access computers to folks visiting their offices). The second issue is that both organizations act as publishers, and federal law makes it clear that the government can't just seize computers of publishers except in extremely narrow circumstances. So, in either circumstance, the Feds should not have seized the computers.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    A. L. Flanagan, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 5:57pm

    This is why I donate to the EFF

    Why do people assume that the old rights don't apply to new technology? Is it just a case of "let's see how much we can get away with"?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Relonar, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 7:53pm

      Re: This is why I donate to the EFF

      That is exactly as how I see it happening. Constantly pushing the border a tiny bit, if it leads to a conviction and goes under the public radar then theres a better chance of the policy holding, after that they can push a tiny bit harder. Then you have cases like this where someone does take notice. Stuff like this needs to be checked, checked by the agencies themselves before groups like the EFF and ACLU need to get involved.
      People are more willing to follow the laws when they can trust the enforces.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 6:12pm

    Does anybody remember...

    This sounds incredibly like the Secret Service raid on Steve Jackson Games in 1990 - the very incident which led to the formation of the EFF. In both cases, government agents walked into a building and proceeded to grab anything that resembled a computer, even if it had nothing to do with the case they were working on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Bob V, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    I remember

    Its funny you mention the Steve Jackson because that was the first comparison that came to my mind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 8:09pm

    Normally I agree with the EFF, but if history teaches anything, it is the ACLU is always on the wrong side of all fights.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2009 @ 9:32pm

    Not that I agree with the search (there is no mention in any of the articles why a search warrant was even issued), but these two groups are hardly paragons of virtue. Visit their websites to understand what I mean.

    Yes, the First Amendment forcefully applies to much of what they are distributing to the public, but in many ways these groups remind me of Berkeley back in the late 60s and early 70s.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      nasch, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:25am

      Re:

      I didn't even find mention of IF there was a search warrant, let alone why.

      Let's see, close Gitmo, stop the practice of child soldiers, allow 9/11 court case to be publicized, opposing pardons for those involved with torture, supporting habeus corpus rights, reform domestic surveillance... some highlights from the ACLU.

      EFF wants to get an exception to the DMCA so people can legally unlock phones, oppose censorship, hold companies accountable for assisting in domestic spying, protect travelers' privacy, and many other things.

      So... what exactly is your problem with these organizations? Honestly, I'd like to know. There seems to be a lot of mistrust and even hatred of the ACLU, especially from the right. I just don't understand why there would be so much opposition to an organization that works to protect civil liberties and Constitutional rights. The EFF would probably be in the same boat if they were more widely known.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Kevin C., Jan 15th, 2009 @ 10:17pm

    @5 - 'Normally I agree with the EFF, but if history teaches anything, it is the ACLU is always on the wrong side of all fights.' - Absolutely right! Damn that ACLU for trying to defend/protect our rights!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    carol, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 2:52am

    cmon now chin up!!!
    change is here :-)

    http://www.jobstaxi.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    James, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:44am

    Terrorist

    The ACLU is one step short of being a terrorist organizaion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Terrorist Sniper, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:00am

      Re: Terrorist

      The ACLU is a neccessary organization that defines one side to which the pendallum could swing.

      In order to have balance, you will always have ultra conservatives and ultra liberals. Lack of either will lead to a shift in the balance to the other side.

      The last thing I want is an ultra conservative police state.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Grae, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

      Re: Terrorist

      Cite your source for this statement or stop spreading FUD.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:37am

    Think

    " . . . rather than the free society we supposedly live in . . . "

    as long as you can be imprisoned based on the types of weeds growing on your private property, you dont live anywhere near a "free scoiety" . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rick Sarvas, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:44am

    I almost forgot about the Steve Jackson Games, though if I recall correctly, the incident was caused by accusations business was being run largely on pirated software.

    Ah, Car Wars. Happy memories.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 9:38am

      Re:

      Actually, the Steve Jackson raid was based on even flimsier evidence - one of their employees was sharing electronic copies of a Bell document from his home computer. The main connection the Secret Service capitalized on was that the same guy was in charge of running SJ Games' BBS computer (just one machine in the building). They also misrepresented the document being spread as a stolen, high-priority document, worth many thousands of dollars, when it was publicly available for about $20.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This