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The FBI’s Operation Pacifier sting is in the news again.
For those not familiar with this particular brand of FBI trickery, more details can be found in earlier posts. The jist of the sting was the FBI used a hacking tool called NIT/network investigative technique to install malware on the computer’s of those visiting The Playpen (a so-called “dark-web” CP site). The malware gave FBI agents the IP addresses and other identifying information about The Playpen’s users and search warrants and arrests ensued. (This occurred only after the FBI acted as the website host for 2 weeks, kept the website up and running, and posted and swapped over 48,000 photos and videos of child pornography to entrap as many people as possible.)
The “minor” glitch for the FBI was that the original search warrant issued by a magistrate in Virginia only covered the magistrate’s jurisdiction, Virginia, not the country-wide searches that were conducted, illegally.
In a TN case which was a direct result of the sting and on which I commented several months ago, Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan joined other judges across the country in agreeing that the FBI had violated the U.S. Constitution as well as federal rules of criminal procedure while trying to ensnare the more than 180 suspects caught up in its sting.
Sounds good right? A judge who believed that the FBI had made a mistake according to the rules of law.
Well, if it sounds too good to be true….you know the rest.
Here we are several months later and in the TN case, a plea deal has been taken and the individual in this particular case will get 70-87 months in prison for possession of child pornography..
Judge Leon Jordan applied an obscure rule known as the “good-faith exception” which allowed prosecutors to use the FBI’s illegally obtained evidence at trial, essentially “bending the rules” to allow evidence. The Judge’s reasoning behind allowing the illegally obtained evidence, ” the FBI did nothing terribly wicked, in fact, they believed they were acting within the law.”
I would venture to say that most reasonable people would disagree with the judge. Does he really think we believe the FBI was not aware of the parameters of the law? Isn’t legal search vs. illegal search warrants part of FBI 101?
It seems more plausible that the FBI chose to ignore the law and hoped no one would notice the “minor” glitch requiring “legal search warrants”.