Government lawyers don’t understand the internet, but we all pay anyway

From Garrett M Graff at Washington Post:

Last year, the FBI nearly destroyed the life of an innocent physicist. In May 2015, agents arrested Xi Xiaoxing, the chairman of Temple University’s physics department, and charged that he was sneaking Chinese scientists details about a piece of restricted research equipment known as a “pocket heater.” An illustrious career seemed suddenly to implode. A few months later, though, the Justice Department dropped all the charges and made an embarrassing admission: It hadn’t actually understood Xi’s work. After defense experts examined his supposed “leaks,” they pointed out that what he’d shared with Chinese colleagues wasn’t a restricted engineering design but in fact a schematic for an altogether different type of device. The case helped lead earlier this year to new Justice Department restrictions that took power away from prosecutors in the field and centralized certain investigations in Washington, where they could receive more oversight from a specially trained team of lawyers.

Just this week, a federal judge in Iowa threw out evidence collected by the FBI in a child porn investigation because the Justice Department’s search warrant misstated the technical details of where and how it hoped to gather the evidence. As the judge concluded, either the FBI or the prosecutors hadn’t understood exactly how their own “network investigative technique” worked, or they’d failed to explain it correctly in the courtroom. What’s more, the judge who issued the original warrant didn’t have the jurisdiction to do so, because the “network investigative technique,” a piece of FBI-designed malware that sniffed out people trading illegal files, collected evidence far beyond the bounds of the Virginia district where the warrant was authorized More.

Reality check: Thank heaven every day that we do not get all the government we pay for, not by any means.

See also: China set to dominate internet