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I do not understand the sledgehammer approach the FBI 'cybercrimes' division deals with things with.

The FBI are not police, are not detectives, and are not competent in these matters. I'm sorry but covert monitoring of a server is going to be vastly more beneficial for an operation than taking the server and is going to net more targets and more evidence.

I remember stories of the FBI sitting on a known front for organized crime and waiting until they got someone worth catching before making a move.

It's a universal truth that any action has a reaction. If the FBI shut down a money laundering front, then the Mob would get wise and get more sophisticated and you won't hurt their operation. If you wait until you can link someone important to the Mob infrastructure and then make a move, then you've seriously effected crime in a city.

The FBI does shit like this and Megaupload before they appear to have their ducks in a row. They don't know what they're doing, and don't know what they're looking for so they consistently appear to jump the gun.

My only thoughts with this are that someone with a lot of power and influence is making this happen. What I wonder is what politician or presidential candidate/whatever has a lot vested and a lot to lose from someone finding out they/their kids/their family is pirating, or running anonymous operations, etc. Seriously, it's the only reason I can think of other than incompetency as to why the FBI is consistently jumping the gun.




> I do not understand the sledgehammer approach the FBI 'cybercrimes' division deals with things with. ... I'm sorry but covert monitoring of a server is going to be vastly more beneficial for an operation than taking the server and is going to net more targets and more evidence.

I wonder if they'll auction off the server?

Fun fact. The federal government makes ~$3 billion a year off asset seizures. They don't have to charge people with a crime to seize property - the trial is actually conducted against the property itself.) The law enforcement agencies responsible get to keep 50-80% of the proceeds.

http://reason.com/archives/2010/01/26/the-forfeiture-racket/... (disclaimer - source does not pretend to be unbiased ;)

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Yeah, but they have to hold on to that stuff for a while. a 5 year old cash is still cash. a 5 year old computer is a doorstop.

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I would point out the fallacy in your statement - but I will let you figure it out in the next 5-10 years.

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I believe he is hinting at inflation damaging the value of cash in the next 5 to 10.

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I would be very interested in the fallacy you see, yet I see none.

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Servers lose 90% of their value in 5 years. Cash will not.

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Readers from Argentina and Zimbabwe might disagree.

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2 things.

1. Police are taking at least 20% hit right off the top. so, sure $1000 turns into $750 at 5%, the police are going to be looking at $600 profit, at the very best. a $1000 computer would be more like $100 dollars after five years, in which the police keep $80 bucks.

2. You can pirate all the copyrighted material you want in Argentina and Zimbabwe. Furthermore, neither of those countries really care about property rights. if the government wants your stuff, they just take it anyway.

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Yes, but the data on the server may still be valuable (e.g. to an identity thief).

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Are there any legal scholars, lawyers, or law enforcement around that can comment on why they would take this approach? Would the burden of proof required for wiretapping authorization be more stringent than for seizure of a server? Could they have actually already been tapping the communications in and out of riseup and performed the seizure to use the server as evidence in a case that was already prepared based on information pulled from the tap?

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> The FBI are not police, are not detectives, and are not competent in these matters.

Actually the FBI is a law-enforcement agency with the statutory power to investigate and arrest people for the violation of certain federal laws. I'd consider that police.

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Yep. It would also astound me if they didn't have at least some cyber-competent people in their organization.

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I wouldn't say they use a sledgehammer approach. I used to own and operate an anonymous email service until the FBI called me one day for the user data. I never ended up giving it to them, but I immediately shut it down after that. They were nice, cordial and understood that I was not the one using the service maliciously.

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They may well be doing that in many cases, but we only hear about the occasional dramatic seizures. And the dramatic seizures may be prompted by internal politics -- some manager needs to show that his team is doing something in order to justify his budget, so he makes a visible move and gets some publicity.

It would be interesting to correlation frequency of these stories with FBI budget cycles.

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They say they took the server for investigative purposes. If true, all they needed to do was take a copy of the disks. At worst the service might have been offline a few hours.

The purpose was to disrupt and stop the service with minimal effort and without having to wait for a trial. They were able to judge and punish a business without trial.

Why would they do that? In this case it might be the very common law enforcement motivation of doing something, anything.

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It was already well known that the FBI was talking with and investigating May First/People Link. Whoever is sending in the bomb threats to U Pittsburgh already knows it as well. So there was no point in 'staking out' this server.

They probably just seized it for evidence collection. May First/People Link said they don't keep any logs. Maybe the FBI didn't believe them or think they can do some 'advanced forensics' on the HDD.

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This isn't a "sledgehammer" approach. The operators made an explicit choice to stick a bunch of mailing lists and websites on the same machine as a remailer. A reasonable person would expect the remailer to eventually be used to commit a crime.

It's like keeping your kids school books and a kilo of cocaine both in your cars trunk, then complaining when the FBI takes the whole car into evidence.

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Its more like a commercial airplane being seized because one of the passengers smuggled drugs. I think its reasonable to assume that during the life of a commercial plane, a passenger will eventually commit a felony(smuggling drugs/contraband) on it.

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Whoah whoah whoah! Is a remailer really === a kilo of cocaine? Seems like it's more like a car sans license plates, operating in a state where license plates are optional. (But hey, if you use that car to transport a cool k...)

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Sure. Because you have no idea if that remailer is going to be used to leak information on civil rights abuses or to plan the assassination of an official.

I run a number of Tor nodes. I follow the Tor mailing list. I understand that what I am doing is not illegal, but is still very risky. What have I done in response to that risk? All my important shit is hosted elsewhere.

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Of course, possessing a kilo of cocaine is illegal. Hosting an anonymous remailer, is not.

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I'm sorry but covert monitoring of a server is going to be vastly more beneficial for an operation than taking the server and is going to net more targets and more evidence.

They do this sometimes. You don't hear a lot about it, because it is covert, and nobody makes a stink about it in the headlines. But it is time-intensive and expensive, so you can't do it all the time to every target of interest. If you believe the servers already have all the evidence you need, and you can get the servers, it makes sense.

It's like the difference between hiring a private eye to shadow someone for a month, and simply requesting a subpoena. Both have their place.

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