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Child Porn Suspect Jailed Indefinitely For Not Decrypting Hard Drives

A Philadelphia man suspected of possessing child porn has been in jail for  seven months and counting after being found in contempt of a court order demanding that he decrypt two password protected hard drives.

The suspect, a former P.P.D. Sergeant, hasn’t been charged with any child porn crimes. Instead he remains indefinitely imprisoned in Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center for refusing to unlock two drives encrypted with Apples FileVault software in a case that once again highlights the extent to which the authorities are going to crack encrypted devices. The man is to remain jailed until such a time that he fully complies with the decryption order.

The suspects attorney, Federal Public Defender Keith Donoghue, urged the federal appeals court on Tuesday to release his client immediately, pending the outcome of appeals. “Not only is he presently being held without charges, but he has never in his life been charged with a crime,” Donoghue wrote in his brief to the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The government successfully cited a 1789 law known as the All Writs Act to Compel the suspect to decrypt two hard drives it believes contain child pornography. The All Writs Act was the same law the Justice Department asserted in its legal battle with Apple, in which a magistrate ordered the gadget maker to write code to assist the authorities in unlocking one of the shooters iPhones responsible for the attack in San Bernardino County in December. The authorities dropped that case after they paid a reported $1 million for a hack.

Donoghue wrote that his client’s “first claim is that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The claim stems from the government’s apparently unprecedented use of an unusual procedural vehicle to attempt to compel a suspect to give evidence in advance of potential criminal charges. Specifically, the government took resort not to a grand jury, but a magistrate judge pursuant to the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651.”

The defense also claims that “compelling the target of a criminal investigation to recall the divulge an encryption pass code transgresses the Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination.”

The Supreme Court has never addressed the compelled decryption issue. But Donoghue says the court came close to 2000 when it said a suspect cannot be forced “to disclose the sequence of numbers that will open a combination lock.” A federal appeals court ruled in 2012, however, that a bank-fraud defendant must decrypt her laptop, but the ruling wasn’t enforced as the authorities obtained the password elsewhere.

The EFF has weighed in on the suspects plight, telling the circuit court in a friend of the court brief, that “compelled decryption is inherently testimonial because it compels a suspect to use the contents f their mind to translate unintelligible evidence into a form that can be used against them. The Fifth Amendment provides an absolute privilege against such self incriminating compelled decryption.”

Authorities have called two witnesses. One was the suspects sister, who claimed she looked at child porn with her brother at his house. The other was a forensic examiner who testified that it was his “best guess” that child porn was on the drives,” Donoghue wrote. The investigation began in 2015 when Pennsylvania prosecutors were monitoring the online network Freenet and executed a search warrant of the man’s home.

Donoghue also wrote that investigators had decrypted a Mac Pro using a recovery key discovered on the iPhone 5S authorities seized from his client’s residence. He said no child porn was found. The authorities want the suspect to decrypt two external drives discovered in the search.

13 comments

  1. Child pornographers are the worst kind of human fecal effuse. They are without peer in their offensiveness to the common good. However, there is NO proof that this man is a pedophile. The argument that he is only exercising his 5th Amendment right is as “plain as the nose on your face” to state it plainly and categorically. To be jailed for even one day in America for exercising your 5th Amendment right, chips away at the very keystone that is this country. If we as citizens let our supposition of this mans guilt paint us into the corner of arbitrarily Removing his rights. We risk losing our own freedoms on the same slippery slope the German people did when they gradually allowed the Nazi party to subjugate the Jew in the last century. We all know where that ultimately led.

    • Anonymouse

      That’s true, but I can’t imagine what would be so sensitive that he can’t unlock his hard drive over. His sister said he showed her child porn. He was using Freenet, a network that’s been known to host large amounts of child porn. These alone aren’t enough to prove his guilt in a court of law, but in a court of common sense its obvious. The only reason he’d have to not give up the password is knowing he would be arrested for what is on it. It might not be child porn, it could be financial fraud or terrorism. Aside from LEGAL fetish porn, what could be worth hiding so much that he’d go to jail over?

      • Errr child porn, it doesn’t get any worse than that. I don’t know about you but I would rather a conviction of financial fraud or even a low level terrorism charge than child porn. He is also banking on his lawyer getting him off using the 5th and if he gives up his password then he obviously has no chance of getting off.

    • Johnny V

      “Child pornographers are the worst kind of human fecal effuse. They are without peer in their offensiveness to the common good.”

      Ever heard of genocide?
      What about those managers exploiting children, hitting, torturing and quite possible killing boys and girls in their factories.
      Coorporations using human beings in sulfur mines, without protection, letting them inhale toxic and acid gasses, depraving them of quite possible half of their life expectantcy, letting them die in agony?

      Child pornographers are people watching (admittedly disgusting and harming) videos. Some of them can’t help it because they can’t control their impulses (after all, pedophilia is a psychological illness). I don’t think they are even close to being the worst possible human beings.

  2. And, here comes Mr. Fuckhead Forensics-Man “who testified that it was his ‘best guess’ that child porn was on the drives.” Well, how about a “spoof drive”, dumbass? Because, as I have posted elsewhere, that’s what I would do!! And, it’s this simple:

    1) Open Gedit (or, notepad, for you dipshit Windows users) and then close your eyes!

    2) Type nonsense, gobbledygook over and over.

    3) Cut & paste sections of the shit from #2; rinse and repeat until you get a 40 to 50 character passphrase — make sure you get plenty of nonsense: Upper & lower case letters, punctuation & special, and numbers. It should completely nonsensical, so “rearrange” as necessary.

    4) Use the “polished” result in #3 to create some large encrypted containers with the bogus password. Once completed, close Gedit, and reboot. The password is now lost FOREVER!!!

    5) The encrypted containers just “sit there”, until the FBI comes along and puts you in jail for failing to “reveal” your passphrase to the containers!

    Enjoy!!!

    • CP Framer!!!

      Thanks, Anonymous! (Are you the *real* “anonymous”, by the way???) Framing someone for CP has now gotten SO easy! Just create some spoofy encrypted file on your enemy’s (or, friend’s) hard drive and then make a complaint to the police that the fool has been looking at CP!!! And, watch as the poor asshole goes to jail for “refusing” to reveal the password!!

      Hahahahahaha!!!!!!!

      • That’s what I’m saying.. Also what if the defendant, after spending all this time in jail, had a freshly created, complex password that he didn’t get to practice using and remembering very much? Now, let’s say, he truly forgot what it is, but changes his mind and wants to reveal it? Sorry I guess you get the same sentence of life in jail as if you murdered someone.. His cellmate will ask “So what are you in here for? For life w/o parole and for having a poor memory..” I say that judge needs to be dethroned.

    • Anonymous

      The guy in the article was already suspected of transmitting child porn, and then in addition his sister said she saw him watching child porn. As if that’s not enough, he was using Freenet which has been known to offer terabytes of child porn, and some say it offers more child porn than all the onion sites combined.

      If you’re plotting some revenge attack against someone, its not going to work using the method you described. This isn’t any different than finding an adult with a lock code on their iphone and screaming you saw child porn on their phone and them refusing to unlock it. It takes more than 1 uncooperative person and 1 testimony from a stranger to get someone into the kind of trouble the original story is about.

      • Bill of rights

        Listen to yourself! You are not making any sense.

        Think about:
        * Who watches pornography, let alone child porn, with his sister? And if so, why are they not jailing his sister too?
        * The computer clown’s “best guess”: Balony. When data is encrypted he has no way in hell to make any guess about the unencryoted data.

        To put someone in prison for refusing to incriminate himself, and without any substantial evidence, is illegal, immoral and something one hope does not happen in this country.

        Someone needs to kick that f**king judge in his head.

  3. 1.Don’t use Apple
    2.Don’t share your porn with your sister
    3.Encryption works!

    • bob

      1.Don’t use Apple…?

      What about this article makes you think this?

      If anything, it should make a privacy concerned individual more likely to use Apple as LE can’t/can’t be bothered cracking his hard drives.

  4. the overwhelming majority of kid-fuckers are niggaz and jewz!

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