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Feds Won't File Charges In School Laptop-Spy Case 398

Posted by samzenpus
from the noa-culpa dept.
jamie writes "Federal prosecutors have decided not to file charges against a Philadelphia school district or its employees over the use of software to remotely monitor students. From the article: 'US Attorney Zane David Memeger says investigators have found no evidence of criminal intent by Lower Merion School District employees who activated tracking software that took thousands of webcam and screenshot images on school-provided laptops.'"
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Feds Won't File Charges In School Laptop-Spy Case

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  • Ho hum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schmidt349 (690948) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:20PM (#33283096)

    Of course the Fed won't prosecute them. After all, it'd just be hypocritical if they went after a bunch of perverted quasi-Orwellian miscreants for doing, on a much smaller scale, the same kind of espionage the Fed directs against its own citizens on a daily basis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:21PM (#33283102)

    good lesson to teach the next generation: we will spy on you - sit down and shut the fuck up.

  • Just because... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eggman9713 (714915) <{eggman97132007} {at} {mac.com}> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:22PM (#33283116)
    Just because the feds won't file charges doesn't mean the students themselves or the local DA or state AG can't file civil or criminal charges.
  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:23PM (#33283124) Homepage Journal

    This really sets a horrendous precedent, as it gives school officials the ability to use such invasive and insane actions to spy on kids.

    Amazing that the government's "think of the children" response to everything else unrelated isn't being applied to one of the few cases where it actually should be.

  • Not a Pedo Thing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:27PM (#33283150)
    Well, they couldn't spin it as a Pedo Teacher thing, so they decided it wasn't worth it. You know, "think of the children..."
  • criminal intent? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flabbergast (620919) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:31PM (#33283198)
    U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger says investigators have found no evidence of criminal intent...

    So, when the speed limit changes from a 55 to a 35 MPH zone in 100 feet and I didn't see the sign, does that mean I don't get a ticket because I didn't intend to commit a crime?
  • "Intent"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:38PM (#33283238) Homepage Journal

    since when was there a need to prove "criminal intent" before prosecuting someone?

  • by KahabutDieDrake (1515139) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:38PM (#33283242)
    It really doesn't set a precedent of any kind. First off, there may still be local criminal filings, and almost certainly a civil suit. If I had kids in that school, you can fucking well bet I'd be talking to a lawyer. I'd be suing for anything and everything, and I'd also be lobbying the school board, and or local parents to replace the entire school board, and then replace the entire administration and staff that were privy to this.

    Intent or not, this was a serious breach of privacy. It's also potentially a violation of any number of anti-spying laws. Is it actually legal for a school to install a video camera in my home? If it is, maybe it's time to change the law. If it isn't, why aren't these people being put before a judge? This entire thing reeks. School administrations have gotten just a little out of control lately, and it's about time we smack them back into line. Since we aren't supposed to take someone out behind the gym and beat sense into them anymore, that leaves the political, or legal avenues. The Fed declining to prosecute doesn't constitute an end to the legal front.
  • Re:Ho hum (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cyber-dragon.net (899244) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:43PM (#33283276)

    Where does your sister live? I'll send her a camera... I promise my intentions aren't criminal.

  • by KahabutDieDrake (1515139) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:44PM (#33283278)
    I'm pretty sure that it is in fact illegal to take pictures IN A PRIVATE RESIDENCE without the express permission of the owner. Consider that if it is not illegal, why do cops need a warrant to do such things?
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:47PM (#33283310)
    Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. I had a federal judge tell me that once. Guess it's just unlucky for me I don't work for the government.
  • by cyber-dragon.net (899244) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:47PM (#33283318)

    It is very much illegal. It violates so many laws it isn't even funny.

    If even one of those pictures caught a kid with their shirt off for example, they just created kiddy porn.

  • by Darth Muffin (781947) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:49PM (#33283346) Homepage
    Terry Childs didn't have any criminal intent either, and he caused a lot less harm. Look where that got him... I no longer have any faith in the "justice" system.
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @08:54PM (#33283382) Homepage Journal

    don't you feel that you are living in an increasingly a police state, where the cops' and generally the government actions are always above the law and justified and the citizens actions are more and more criminalized?

  • by Ziktar (196669) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:01PM (#33283432)

    The students did detect this. They saw the light blinking on and off, and reported it. These claims were dismissed as something wrong with the light. Of course, the fact that the claims were dismissed by the very group of people who could be taking the pictures should have made it seem a bit suspicious...

  • by mykos (1627575) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:04PM (#33283442)
    Recording children in their rooms without anyone's consent:
    Not wiretapping

    Recording the police on the job in a traffic stop at a public location:
    Wiretapping

    Source: http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=102616&catid=187 [wusa9.com]
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:09PM (#33283494)

    Which is why our system of prosecutorial discretion [wikipedia.org] needs to be overhauled. It undermines the concept of equal protection under the law.

    While all are ensured equitable and fair treatment in court, the odds of their ever coming to trial is totally dependant on the whim of the prosecutor. And eventually the majority that elected him/her to office. Which is something that our Constitution and Bill of Rights is supposed to protect us from.

  • by Ossifer (703813) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:11PM (#33283504)
    They took 56,000 pictures of minors in their bedrooms and watched them for fun out of incompetence or stupidity??!!?!
  • by AhabTheArab (798575) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:12PM (#33283518) Homepage

    If it had been an ordinary IT clerk, instead of a school system's policy, they would have faced serious prosecution, no ifs, ands, or buts. (except the kind on film..)

    That's a really good way of looking at it. If one person had done this alone (like one of the school district's IT staff for instance) without any approval and it was discovered, he would have been hung out to dry. Even if he legitimately had no criminal intent. Even if he didn't necessarily capture any images which might be illegal. He would at the very least have lost his job, would likely be in prison, and would probably have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

    Talk about a double standard.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:15PM (#33283550)

    The students did detect this. They saw the light blinking on and off, and reported it. These claims were dismissed as something wrong with the light. Of course, the fact that the claims were dismissed by the very group of people who could be taking the pictures should have made it seem a bit suspicious...

    Not to mention the fact that would have been a heck of a lot of laptops with the exact same "malfunction."

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:34PM (#33283694) Homepage Journal
    "good lesson to teach the next generation: we will spy on you - sit down and shut the fuck up."

    What one generation accepts...

    ...The NEXT generation embraces.

  • by pentalive (449155) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:51PM (#33283804) Journal
    Because guess who gets to pay the fines?

    The families in the school district.

    If the families sue the district then there is less money to go into the class room. Taxes must be raised to properly educate the children. If the families sue individuals the individuals will just be reimbursed by the district or the district's insurance company. Once again class-room money is drained away and taxes must be raised to replace it.

    Unless individuals can be sued and barred from getting any reimbursement.

  • by MasaMuneCyrus (779918) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @09:54PM (#33283836)

    What one generation accepts... ...The NEXT generation embraces.

    Because all of us here on the internet (the younger generations) are accepting of the majority of now middle-aged Americans that support monitoring of the internet, support outlawing gay marriage, support a zero-tolerance war on drugs, etc...

    And on that note, just as how all the hippies of the 1970's were totally acceptant of the rules imposed on them by the post-WWII generation and the big federal government...

  • Re:"Intent"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @10:26PM (#33284086)

    but there's obviously room for a lot of unfairness.

    More it seems than most people are willing to say. The wealthy, the powerful, the famous and the politically well connected or their clients always seem to find themselves treated differently, some would say more deferentially, than the common man. It has been this way for as long as there has been courts and recorded history. The best that we ordinary people can do is withhold our votes for those who promise to ever tougher laws because it is invariably the ordinary man who invariably suffers most when these new rules are applied with ruthless zeal by prosecutors seeking to advance political careers regardless of the human cost. Indeed, the present situation here in the United States is enough to convert even the most optimistic citizen into an ardent student of Machiavelli [wikipedia.org].

  • by Golddess (1361003) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @11:16PM (#33284504)

    And on that note, just as how all the hippies of the 1970's were totally acceptant of the rules imposed on them by the post-WWII generation and the big federal government

    Yeah, I really love all those changes that occurred once the young adults of that era grew up and took charge of this nation.

  • by Narcogen (666692) <narcogen&narcogen,com> on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @12:49AM (#33284962) Homepage

    Which is why our system of
    prosecutorial discretion [wikipedia.org] needs to be overhauled. It undermines the concept of equal protection under the law.

    While all are ensured equitable and fair treatment in court, the odds of their ever coming to trial is totally dependant on the whim of the prosecutor. And eventually the majority that elected him/her to office. Which is something that our Constitution and Bill of Rights is supposed to protect us from.

    The alternative is what... having it depend on the whim of the plaintiffs? Allowing for the same kind of litigous attidue that permeates the civil courts into the criminal courts, where the accused have a right to a public defender, paid for by public funds?

    How with the massive increase in caseload be dealt with? Who will pay for the huge influx of new prosecuting attorneys-- the public? The plaintiffs? All this does is take the undermining of equal protection under the law that already exists in the civil system, where the side that can bear the legal expenses longest often wins-- and moves it into the criminal arena, where the potential penalties aren't merely pecuniary, but run to the loss of freedom or, depending on the state, loss of life.

    You can't be serious.

  • by buybuydandavis (644487) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @01:11AM (#33285050)

    Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse
    Unless you work in law enforcement
    http://reason.com/archives/2010/08/02/ignorance-of-the-law-is-no-exc [reason.com]

    "Police Officers Don't Check Their Civil Rights at the Station House Door"
    Three law enforcement officials defend the arrest of citizens who record on-duty cops.
    http://reason.com/archives/2010/08/09/police-officers-dont-check-the [reason.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @01:48AM (#33285222)

    The US has basically degenerated into the society from 1984. The inner party consists of the politicians, judges and other court officials, and the rich. The outer party is the bureaucrats and police who make life easy for the inner party members. The only way a party member can be subject to "justice" is if they piss off a higher up member of the party.

    The proles are all the rest of us who put up with this crap. Our plates aren't on the secret list so we get speed and red light camera tickets. God himself can't save us if we don't pay our taxes, they don't have to worry. If we have 2 beers then drive home we are facing mandatory license revocation for a year and thousands in fines, if they down a bottle of whisky and drive all over the road and crash into a ditch they get a free ride home from their buddies.

    It feels like the country has gotten both too big in that an individual can't possibly make any difference, and too small in that there is no place to go where we aren't under their thumbs at the same time.

  • Union (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @07:18AM (#33286188) Homepage Journal

    Wait the federal government won't prosecute a bunch of union, jack boot gestapo perverts from the Teacher's Union? No really? In Philly? Why piss off your largest voting block? Makes perfect sense. I don't know about Philly but the first question to ask is "Is this DA elected and did he have the teacher's union endorsement?"

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @10:20AM (#33287896)

    For example, the driver of a getaway car can be charged with felony murder if his partner accidently shoots someone while attempting to rob a bank.

    That always has struck me as unfair, and even downright bizarre. I'm all for deterring crime and punishing criminals. But punishing someone for a crime they didn't commit themselves (or, for that matter, that they might not even be AWARE was committed) is just outlandish. IMHO, only the trigger person(s) should be charged with actual murder. In a robbery type situation, his fellow robbers could be charged with "accessory to murder," "armed robbery," etc. But the idea of charging someone with murder who might have never laid a finger on anyone in his life, who walked into a bank thinking his partner was just going to rob it, or who might have been sitting in the getaway car outside unaware that anyone had even been killed...that's just bizarre.

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