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Judge: FBI’s Investigation of Child Pornography Unconstitutional, But Refused to Dismiss Evidence

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s controversial investigation into a “dark web” child pornography network was unconstitutional, Minnesota’s chief federal judge ruled Monday.

But U.S. District Judge John Tunheim declined to toss evidence that was used to prosecute a man from Coleraine, Minn., the Star Tribune reports

The judge rejected a magistrate judge’s recommendation to throw out evidence, including statements made by suspect Terry Lee Carlson.

Carlson was among more than 900 people arrested as part of the investigation into Playpen, a “dark web” network that provided child pornography to 150,000 users.

The Star Tribune wrote:

Tunheim’s decision mirrored numerous other federal court rulings in concluding that agents unconstitutionally exceeded the scope of a Virginia search warrant. The FBI deployed a “network investigative technique (NIT),” described by some as a form of malware, to gather IP addresses and other information on users of the porn website, which formed the backbone of federal criminal cases like Carlson’s and those of at least three other Minnesotans.

But, citing a Supreme Court precedent, Tunheim wrote that because the FBI “acted in good faith and generally followed proper procedures in requesting and executing the warrant,” evidence gathered against Carlson can stand.

The FBI arrested the operator of Playpen in 2015 and seized the website’s server. But it kept a copy of the website running while deploying its NIT to target hundreds of users around the country based on a search warrant signed by a Virginia magistrate judge.


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