US

Activists Want Warrant For FBI’s Mass Child Porn Hacking

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
Font Size:

The FBI recently hacked child pornographers’ electronic devices, and now activists are calling for the disclosure of court documents to make sure it was done legally.

The FBI attacked at least 4,000 computers from around the globe in order to identity visitors of a child pornography site, according to Motherboard. Offenders sometimes use a once discreet email service site called TorMail. The site was based on Freedom Hosting, a web host that allows users to install hidden Tor services. Child pornographers and other evildoers use TorMail and Freedom Hosting because the virtual abyss called the “dark web” is often a means for them to circumvent surveillance.

Many journalists, and people generally worried about government or foreign intrusion, use TorMail too. When the FBI reportedly seized the control of Freedom Hosting in 2013, anyone visiting the site, including reporters, were met with a “Down for Maintenance” message, reports Motherboard.

Many, including leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), grew suspicious that more than just child pornographers were targeted by the FBI.

America’s premier law enforcement agency claims it was granted a warrant to surreptitiously implant infected computer code (malware) on all computers that logged into a once-exclusive child pornography site that was within TorMail.

While the FBI was able to distinguish and apprehend some of the perverts, privacy advocacy groups like the ACLU are trying to determine if the hacking campaign was so extensive that innocent people also had their data taken without a warrant.

“As the hacking techniques become more ambitious, failure in execution can lead to large-scale privacy and civil liberties abuses at home and abroad,” Ahmed Ghappour, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, told The Washington Post.

The ACLU then filed a motion to unseal the docket. It fears the FBI can issue a probable cause for anyone using TorMail even though the site “was not dedicated to the distribution of child pornography–it was a free, anonymous email service that had many users who were using it to protect their lawful private communications.”

The ACLU also argues that although the FBI has been doing so for roughly 15 years, the FBI has never been given official authority to use hacking technologies for investigations.

“The breadth and potency of malware as a law-enforcement tool raises concerns that can only be properly debated if legislators and the general public are aware of instances in which it is being used, the ways in which law enforcement seeks to use it, and the extent of judicial supervision,” the motion reads.

ACLU’s principal technologist says he just wants more judicial transparency.

Law enforcement in Australia was able to uncover a massive online child pornography ring called “The Love Zone” by hacking American citizens — there was no evidence they obtained a warrant.

“The FBI led by its Legal Attaches in numerous countries around the world, seeks to foster strategic partnerships with foreign law enforcement, intelligence, and security services…” a spokesperson for the agency said in response to the Australian police’s espionage.

(Editor’s note: This has been updated.)

Follow Eric on Twitter

Send tips to eric@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.