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National

The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance Systems

[reason.com – 4/24/19]

The Department of Justice has been dismissing child pornography cases in order to not reveal information about the software programs used as the basis for the charges.

An array of cases suggest serious problems with the tech tools used by federal authorities. But the private entities who developed these tools won’t submit them for independent inspection or hand over hardly any information about how they work, their error rates, or other critical information. As a result, potentially innocent people are being smeared as pedophiles and prosecuted as child porn collectors, while potentially guilty people are going free so these companies can protect “trade secrets.”

The situation suggests some of the many problems that can arise around public-private partnerships in catching criminals and the secretive digital surveillance software that it entails (software that’s being employed for far more than catching child predators).

With the child pornography cases, “the defendants are hardly the most sympathetic,” notes Tim Cushing at Techdirt. Yet that’s all the more reason why the government’s antics here are disturbing. Either the feds initially brought bad cases against people whom they just didn’t think would fight back, or they’re willing to let bad behavior go rather than face some public scrutiny.

An extensive investigation by ProPublica “found more than a dozen cases since 2011 that were dismissed either because of challenges to the software’s findings, or the refusal by the government or the maker to share the computer programs with defense attorneys, or both,” writes Jack Gillum. Many more cases raised issues with the software as a defense.

“Defense attorneys have long complained that the government’s secrecy claims may hamstring suspects seeking to prove that the software wrongly identified them,” notes Gillum. “But the growing success of their counterattack is also raising concerns that, by questioning the software used by investigators, some who trade in child pornography can avoid punishment.”

 

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  1. Timothy

    The databases ability to continuously search the general population is being utilized to advance political agendas. Only fools would presume these powerful machines wouldn’t succumb to human nature. The National Center for Missing and Exploited children has turned into a police force offering tips to other LEO agencys. The local agencies make arrests after warrant is issued, under informant initiatives.

    In 2011, I questioned SOR AGENT concerning email address and internet ID’s during my FTR.
    Q1 Agent does WI DOC intend to communicate with registered persons via email?
    A1 NO!

    Q2 ‘Agent the government intends to utilize the email provided for reasons outside an email address normal use to communicate?
    A2 Yes

    Nuff said. Except Judge Matsch Made it clear enough. The info demanded is for keystroke targeting by surveillance saints.

  2. The Unforgiven

    Interesting to see the selective process of how and when “saving just one child” is applied.

  3. агент аранжавы

    SAMI = Sources And Methods Intelligence.

    It’s the same reason why there will never be a 100% unredacted Muller report.

    • Timothy

      There will be no move away from electronic poll tabulation either. The sheep are asleep. Every nation has a stake in U.S. Elections. While Mueller focused on Russia, Hillary signed of on Unranium1 to buy rides to ISS. Given that both parties embraced the words ” was in prison for” in law TEXT, exposes the status of Constitutional discipline as it stands in MN>HN=NULL.

      Just as comrade Asimov predicted. It wasn’t the bots ; it was the humans programming the bots.

  4. Dustin

    What do you want to bet that the software used actually plants the CP images on the target computer in one of those caches that can’t be reached or deleted?

    • TS

      @Dustin

      That was the point an online gamer brought up in his case (IIRC) when images were found on his computer in places that would not be normal for them had they been seen normally. One has to wonder.

  5. e

    Almost makes one wish they had faced federal vs state charges.

  6. Harry

    It looks like the feds are more crooked than the people they entrap.

  7. mark k

    Its really simple, we have a CORRUPT government that should be eliminated by a civil war from the citizens.

  8. ab

    Anyone remotely surprised that government representatives don’t want to reveal sources and methods has not been paying enough attention. Moreover a lot of difficult to catch tricks can be utilized in arguing something meets the definition of CP or requires an enhancement on the federal sentencing range. Unfortunately these factors result in many cases built on shaky ground which doesn’t automatically mean someone is completely innocent, but it also does not mean everything brought against them is what the government claims. Even successfully challenging the tiniest details of a case can be the difference between years in prison to a year or less to a term of supervised release or even a dropped prosecution.

  9. K

    Any chance some of our convictions could be overturned if an attorney approached it with this in mind?

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