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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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:38PM (#39880733)

    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.

  • by Above (100351) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @06:11PM (#39883749)

    If the police come to your house and search it with a warrant when you are not home, they are required to leave a copy of the warrant "in plain sight" in most instances. Except for a few rare cases the law generally requires that the owner of the property being searched and seized be notified, and this is the accepted way to do it.

    In this case ECN says they were not notified. We don't know why, but there are a number of interesting possibilities:

    • The police served the warrant on XO, their hosting provider. This has been done before, and I have a feeling one of these days one of the cases will make it to the federal appeals court or even supreme court. A colo is more like a apartment building than a hotel, and in most jurisdictions the named in an apartment search must be the leasee, not the apartment owner. If the police did this leaving the warrant with XO was enough legally, but not right, and XO should have told ECN.
    • The police named ECN, in which case they should have left the warrant in plain sight. We can argue a bit about what this means, but when taking one server I think taping it to the rack near where the server was taken would fit the bill. Since ECN sent staff and saw nothing, I'd say this didn't happen. It prevents ECN from mounting a proper defense and involving their lawyers early, and I think judges should frown on it. Unfortunately few of these cases have made it anywhere, and Judges don't understand colo...yet.

    Either way, XO or the FBI fubared the notification at a corporate and legal level respectively.

    Now, let's look at putting it back, first in the real world. FBI gets a warrant to search your house for a joint, breaks in when you're not at home, searches it, and finds what it thinks is a joint. Takes that, runs it off for testing and finds out it's full of oregano or something. Does the FBI now break back into your house when you're not home and put the joint back? Heck no. It would in fact be breaking and entering. Your right to privacy is being broken. Plus, they just don't do it, anyone who's ever retrieved seized property knows you go to the evidence room, fill out a bunch of paperwork, and you're on your own to take it back home. No warrant is ever issued to return property.

    I think a competent lawyer could have a lot of fun with this case. Invasion of privacy, breaking and entering, civil trespass, etc, all from returning it. The FBI should have given ECN a notice to come pick it up, and they didn't. Thing is, I'm sure they know better, this really does feel like some sort of cover-up attempt. "What server? We don't have any of your servers. Are you sure it's missing?"

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