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FBI Caught On Camera Returning Seized Server 267

Posted by timothy
from the but-we-were-just-pampering-the-evidence dept.
sunbird writes "As previously covered on Slashdot, on April 18th the FBI seized a server located in a New York colocation facility shared by May First / People Link and Riseup.net. The server, which was operated by the European Counter Network ('ECN'), the oldest independent internet service provider in Europe, was seized in relation to bomb threats sent to the University of Pittsburgh using a Mixmaster anonymous remailer hosted on the server (search warrant). The FBI's action has been criticized by the EFF. Predictably, the threats continued even after the server seizure. On April 24th, the FBI quietly returned the server, without notifying either Mayfirst / People Link or riseup, and were caught on video doing it."
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FBI Caught On Camera Returning Seized Server

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  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:34PM (#39880701)

    So, they returned a server. Isn't that good?

    Maybe I don't understand the issue here.

  • It's a trap? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:38PM (#39880739)

    If I were the people who ran the server, I'd go over the hardware with a fine-toothed comb, and wipe/rebuild the software. There's no telling what (legal or illegal) tracking crap the FBI put in it, if they're giving it back without a huge fight.

  • This is sort of awkward since I donate ~$50 to the EFF and wear their shirts around town but ... what was the FBI supposed to do? Throw up their hands and say "Nothing can be done" to the parents and students at the University. It's not like they went through an inappropriate channel to seize this server. What law was broken? On top of that, April 18th to May 3rd is a much faster turnaround than what I would credit the FBI.

    Sure it was heavy handed -- in about the same way as shutting down traffic for a major accident is heavy handed. You know we have the ability to just plow that wreckage off our highways and get on with our lives but noooo the police want to find out who was at fault and make sure everyone is okay. Even though it inconveniences thousands of people every day and, predictably, the accidents keep happening despite the police officers' efforts.

    Predictably, the threats continued even after the server seizure

    That's gotta be the stupidest part of this summary. The idea wasn't to stop the threats but to trace them! If logging wasn't turned off on that server, the FBI would have been able to trace it. That being the only thing they could do, they did it. I mean, if I was a student or parent, I would be really upset if the FBI said "Well, we could confiscate that server and mildly interrupt e-mail service for 300 people but it will only tell us who is doing it if logging is turned on and it's probably not so we're just going to go ahead and let this all continue to happen."

    Yeah, hundreds of people were inconvenienced when their e-mail was disrupted ... with the safety and lives of hundreds of other people at the university in mind when it happened.

    Big bad FBI, trying to follow the only lead they have on some sick pervert who gets off to bomb threats. Shame on them! Sometimes I think law enforcement is damned if they do, damned if they don't.

  • by PRMan (959735) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:41PM (#39880777)
    Normally, in a free society, any interactions with Law Enforcement would be above board and you would be notified. That would be known as due process. This would be called an unreasonable search and seizure by the Founding Fathers of the US.
  • As you pointed out, this is a VERY fast turn-around ... almost like they hope that people will use it in a "business as usual" fashion ... like a honeypot?

    Not even telling them that it was back so that the owners could decide if they even wanted to risk leaving it in place? VERY suspicious.

  • Re:wipe and dump (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Barbara, not Barbie (721478) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <nosduh.arabrab>> on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:50PM (#39880877) Journal

    I sincerely hope the server owner and users consider tne equipment hopelessly compromised, and quickly and completely dispose of it.

    It never kept any log files or other personal identifying data, so they could probably make some serious coin auctioning it off to whoever wants to pay the most to get a first-hand look at the lastest guvernment spyware.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:50PM (#39880879)

    The server, which was operated by the European Counter Network ('ECN'), ... was seized in relation to bomb threats sent to the University of Pittsburgh using a Mixmaster anonymous remailer hosted on the server.

    Given their recent activities - Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the F.B.I. [nytimes.com] - I wouldn't be surprised if the FBI e-mailed that bomb threat themselves so they could legally seize and search the ECN system - brilliant.

  • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:53PM (#39880909)

    They're long dead my friend, even if their dreams and ideals live on. Its up to the people of today to persevere and embody those ideals, and if that's not happening maybe its time to ask why not.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:00PM (#39880971)

    I assume you are joking? They are investigating criminal activities (rather ineffectively, apparently, but still investigating), so of course they are not going to state every action they take publicly.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:06PM (#39881035)

    No law was broken?!?!?

    Try reading the Bill of Rights sometime. The FBI broke the 6th law in that document (also known as the 4th amendment) which requires obtaining a search warrant from a judge prior to entrance.

    And yes sometimes the bad guy gets away. That is preferable to harassing innocent people & treating them like criminals (example: patting down their breasts and crotches) (example: randomly searching through cars) (example: arresting people who publish anti-war pamphlets) (example: rounding-up asian-Americans & tossing them in jail cause it's world war 2) (example: assassinating Americans because you SUSPECT they might be terrorists) (example: strip-searching old people before they can fly) (example: forcing a breast-feeding mom to stand in a glass jail for an hour, rather than let her take her pumping equipment home to her newborn kid) (example: ......

    INFORM yourself of what's happening in the world.

  • by a90Tj2P7 (1533853) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:13PM (#39881085)

    The threats continued after the server seizure. So one might expect the FBI to return the server with a courteous "Sorry, my bad" apology, maybe.

    Why? They had a valid warrant, and the server isn't owned by Riseup or May First/Peoplelink. Why should they have to apologize to them, or notify them? In fact, according to Riseup's press release, this server didn't even contain any of their info.

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:20PM (#39881161)

    It looks like you really need to understand some definitions before you use spout off.

    Due Process [wikipedia.org] is basically that law enforcement must follow the law. Show me where there is a law that requires law enforcement to inform everyone involved as to what they are doing. Considering that to put the server back the colocation company had to know about it as they had to let them in. Does it really matter if the FBI or the colocation compant told the server owner it was back?

    Unreasonable search and seizure; It might have been iff they did not have a search warrant [riseup.net] signed by a judge in accordance with Fourth Amendment [wikipedia.org].

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:25PM (#39881209) Journal

    Try reading the Bill of Rights sometime. The FBI broke the 6th law in that document (also known as the 4th amendment) which requires obtaining a search warrant from a judge prior to entrance.

    You mean something like this [eff.org]? The warrant that was linked to not only in the article but also the summary?

    And yes sometimes the bad guy gets away.

    That would be a hilarious motto for any law enforcement agency! I'd opt for "We do everything within our legal rights to catch the bad guy."

    That is preferable to harassing innocent people & treating them like criminals (example: patting down their breasts and crotches)

    You are confusing the FBI and TSA.

    (example: randomly searching through cars)

    You are confusing the FBI and ... your local law enforcement? Who require probable cause?

    (example: arresting people who publish anti-war pamphlets)

    The FBI might have done that in the past during Vietnam but it was probably for other trumped up bogus charges and luckily today we have the EFF/ACLU to take up those cases when that happens. Got any recent examples or really any citations at all for this entire post?

    (example: rounding-up asian-Americans & tossing them in jail cause it's world war 2)

    Wow, dude, that was six decades ago ... yeah it was horrible and I think it's been publicly recognized as horribly racist and is a reason for public shame to the United States. I do not think that's happening today.

    (example: assassinating Americans because you SUSPECT they might be terrorists)

    Again, I think you're confusing the FBI with some other agency ...

    (example: strip-searching old people before they can fly)

    But you repeat yourself ... that's the TSA, not FBI. The TSA definitely has no purpose and needs to be dissolved.

    (example: forcing a breast-feeding mom to stand in a glass jail for an hour, rather than let her take her pumping equipment home to her newborn kid)

    What the hell? Citation?

    INFORM yourself of what's happening in the world.

    Yep, I'm the misinformed one here, got it. Hey, since all government actions are from the same people (you cross state and federal levels several times there) why don't you go tell your local county clerk to stop murdering Afghan children? Makes about as much sense as the rest of your rambling post ...

  • by TheCarp (96830) <[ten.tenaprac] [ta] [cjs]> on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:36PM (#39881369) Homepage

    Fuck legality. They took these people's server, they were informed and even should have known it was pointless to do so. Fuck, it would have taken all of how many minutes of google searching to determine what fucking mixmaster was.

    This was incompetence. Besides that.... simple fucking common courtesy says you inform people and appologize. Fuck the law, this is about decency and about serving the public, rather than just acting like a bunch of no account thugs.

    Honestly, someone should be fired for such gross negligence on their part, and there should be appologies and compensation.

  • by million_monkeys (2480792) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:41PM (#39881447)

    Probably because they didn't make a public statement about it.

    Anytime a government agency does something, ideally they should state publicly wtf they're doing.

    Absolutely! They're spending our tax money, they ought to be telling us how their using it. If someone returns a server, I want to know about. Send out a press release, that way camera crews can be there to ensure it's done properly. And the FBI agent files sends a memo about the return, send out a press release. Then we'll all be able to sleep well knowing that there's no out standing paperwork.

    This should really apply to all government agencies. How else are we to know that our money is being well spent? Do you know how much money gets blown on "black" programs by the CIA? I think it'd be better for everyone if they told us what they were doing in all those projects. That agency is sorely in need of some more transparency and openness. With all the money they are spending, they ought to be sending out press releases all day long telling us what they're up to.

    The benefits go beyond keeping track of taxpayer money. Think of the bin Laden raid. If they had sent out a press release about it the week before, news agencies could have sent reporters over to interview bin Laden to find out how he felt about his impending demise. And then they'd have film crews there to record the action as it happened. With a week's notice, Osama's crew probably could put together some Bollywood number to perform during the raid while the SEALs were taking a timeout to update their facebook status letting us know they were blowing up that crashed helicopter.

  • by EasyTarget (43516) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:44PM (#39881507) Journal

    "Why should they have to apologize to them"

    One of the ways society identifies shit people, and their fanbois, is by the way they never apologise or show any signs of remorse.

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:44PM (#39881517)

    I was wondering the same thing. I know people here like to cast "The Man" in the worst possible light, but are they really just bitching that the FBI didn't jump up and down and wave their arms so that people would know that the server was back?

    The FBI re-installed the server without telling May First / People Link. They just put it back in the rack and reconnected it (and presumably turned it on). Who knows what they added to the server? I certainly wouldn't trust the FBI in this situation. If they had nothing to hide they would have returned the server to the facility operators so it could be re-install but the facility's personnel. This looks like the FBI were trying to sneak it back in.

  • by DeadboltX (751907) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @05:17PM (#39883059)
    It would be more like this:

    You go into 7-11, pay for a frozen burrito, then proceed to the customer-use microwave to warm up your afternoon treat. While you wait for your snack to warm up: 2 FBI agents walk into the store, identify themselves to the manager, walk over to the microwave (with your burrito in it), unplug it, walk out the door with it, and drive away.

    Now you're thinking, hey those 2 guys just stole a microwave and my burrito. In reality they had a warrant to seize the microwave and its contents, and properly identified themselves to the establishment housing the microwave.
  • Anyone with a brain would go over that system with a fine-toothed comb to look for such things, and then wipe the system and restore from a known-good backup, and diff update.

    Trash the server, it's the only way to be sure. In fact, since they appear to have been in the datacenter, just nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  • by maxwells_deamon (221474) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @09:59PM (#39885805) Homepage

    Not sure the details in this case but I would not want to have a server returned without notice and plugged in.

    so imagine you are an admin, Server "yoyo" is gone so you set up a replacement server using a backup. We call the new server "yoyo" as well. you tweek it as needed and life is good.

    A few days later both servers are now online. Both called "yoyo" One is out of date perhaps but they both have the same name. try to serve the same requests perhaps. Do backups to the same network location

    The possiblities for excitement and fun are limitless.

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