Judge In Child Porn Case Reverses Course, Says FBI Will Not Have To Turn Over Details On Its Hacking Tool

from the no-unending-solitary-confinement-for-special-agents,-apparently dept

Back in February, the judge presiding over the FBI's case against Jay Michaud ordered the agency to turn over information on the hacking tool it used to unmask Tor users who visited a seized child porn site. The FBI further solidified its status as a law unto itself by responding that it would not comply with the court's order, no matter what.

Unfortunately, we won't be seeing any FBI officials tossed into jail cells indefinitely for contempt of court charges. The judge in that case has reversed course, as Motherboard reports.

The government's motion has been granted, and the FBI does not have to provide the exploit code to the defense as previously ordered. That means that the defense in the case will probably be unable to examine how the evidence against their client was collected in the first place.

It is not totally clear why Judge Robert J. Bryan changed his mind. On Thursday, the government and Bryan held a private meeting, where the government presented its reasons for nondisclosure of the Tor Browser exploit.
The judge apparently believes the defense should still be able to examine the code but apparently can't be bothered with ensuring this will happen.
Despite backtracking somewhat, Bryan still thinks the defense has a reason to see that code, according to audio of the public section of Thursday’s hearing provided by activist Phil Mocek. Of course, whether the FBI decides to then provide it is another matter.
Given the FBI's earlier promise to withhold the details of the NIT despite being ordered to disclose them, I'd say there's about a 0% chance of the FBI voluntarily turning this information over to the defense. Right now, the agency is working overtime just trying to keep the evidence it obtained with its hacking tool from being tossed out of three other courts. It's also facing the prospect that third-party interlopers like Mozilla may still result in it having to release these details to someone outside of its own offices. At this point, hardly anything's going the FBI's way, so it will take whatever it can get, even if it's only temporary relief.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2016 @ 10:51am

    I guess the FBI hacked into his computer and put child porn on it. Purely as a demonstration, of course.

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