Re: Overly zealous raids [cr-95/9/10]


On the subject of seizing computer equipment, Daniel Shap
<•••@••.•••> recommends two papers stored on the EFF Web site.  If
you can't download these, email me and I'll send them to you.  They

Mitch Kapor, Civil Liberties Implications of Computer Searches and Seizures:
Some Proposed Guidelines for Magistrates Who Issue Search Warrants (1991)

Harvey A. Silvergate and Thomas C. Viles, Constitutional, Legal and Ethical
Considerations for Dealing with Electronic Files in the Age of Cyberspace,
Archived/Published to the Net: August 7, 1991

Sender: Bill W Smith Jr <•••@••.•••>


R. Smith wrote:
> Sender: •••@••.•••
> In a message dated 95-09-08 17:37:45 EDT, you write:
> > Is confiscation necessary?  If not, is there some way we can
> The problems involved in confiscation versus backing up can be summarized by
> the fact that most police and/or courts do not want the equipment used to
> continue operation while they determine if the equipment, in fact, *was* used
> to violate copywrites, pandering obscenity, or etc. It is easier to take the

You miss the point. Our system of justice is SUPPOSED to assume innocence.
RICO and these RICO-style seizures remove that presumption. They make it next
to impossible for a wrongly accused person to continue to do business while
the matter is decided in court, thereby treating him as guilty when he is not,
yet. When it is finished in the court (2 or 3 years later) is to late to undo
the damage to the innocent, unless you are advocating reparations from the
over-zealous police to the injured computer owner?

Bill W Smith Jr <•••@••.•••>                    (Compuserve) 76460,1443
Senior Programmer                       Around Utah, past Phoenix, 
Sunland Resources, Inc.              over San Antonio, through Orlando...
(713) 955-2800 (Voice)                       Nothin' but net!
(713) 955-7564 (Fax)       Houston Rockets - 1994 & 1995 NBA World Champions!


Sender: "Steve Eppley" <•••@••.•••>

R. Smith <•••@••.•••> wrote:
>The issue we should be concentrating on is the return of the
>confiscated equipment after the owner has been proven not guilty.

I disagree.  We should have presumption of innocence.

Confiscation isn't necessary to prove a crime was committed.  In
fact, confiscation makes it impossible to prove a crime was
committed, unless authenticatable backups are made before the
computer is moved to where the police can plant fake evidence.

With a copy in hand, it shouldn't take more than hours or days for
the police to determine whether there are incriminating files.  If
they're found, then a court order shutting down the operation can be
obtained.  A few days of continued operation is a small price to pay
to guarantee civil liberties.

Perhaps we should go even further, and limit the police copying to
the specific types of files covered in their search warrant.  In the
case of naughty pictures or video, the copying software could be
programmed to recognize those formats, and ignore files which don't
match.  In the case of illegal text (if such a thing is possible) the
copying software can be programmed to ignore all files which don't
contain certain text patterns.  (Of course, the full authenticatable
backups should be performed first, as a protection against copying
software which has been modified to plant evidence.)

To address your issue, however: I agree that if there are
circumstances when it is just to seize the equipment, the owner
should be assured that it will be returned complete and undamaged
and in a timely fashion.  I know someone who had a computer
confiscated; when it was eventually returned, it was a different
computer: less powerful cpu, smaller hard disk, and damaged so it
would no longer operate.

---Steve     (Steve Eppley    •••@••.•••)

 Posted by --  Andrew Oram  --  •••@••.••• --  Cambridge, Mass., USA
                 Moderator:  CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)

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