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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bullying With The Law

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Sebastien Boucher was coming back into the United States from Canada and during a routine search of his car, customs officials "thought" they saw something that "could" have been child pornography on his laptop which he allowed them to see. In the end the customs officials did nothing at the time and he was allowed through.

Afterward, charges were filed against Boucher for possession of child pornography. The only problem now is that the computer's hard drive is encrypted and Boucher, by the 5th Amendment, should not have to give up the password to the computer because whether or not there is anything illegal contained on the computer, it is possible self-incrimination and you have a right granted by the Constitution that says you don't have to reveal information that would be self-incriminating.

So the government, being the bully that it is, decided it would step all over the Constitution again and force Boucher to give up his password. Here is a quoted segment from the 4th link given; it is said better than I can say it:

"First, and foremost, is the publication of a suspect's name in a child pornography case. In the event that the suspect is not proven guilty (remember: innocent unless proven guilty) the government has already ruined this man's career prospects and reputation. If you don't believe me - just google for his name.

Second, is the notion that a border-check is "voluntary" and not coerced. It's ridiculous to say that someone "voluntarily surrendered their rights" when they were asked - however nicely - by a man with a gun at a border crossing. I've had this happen to me, returning to the US from abroad: you're forced to wait in line (I waited 2 hours!) and told you can't use your cell phone or leave, then you're asked "is this your bag? may I examine it?" It sounds as if in this case the suspect was crossing the border in an automobile but it's the same scenario: wait in line, wait in line, and the man with the gun starts asking you questions. You have to answer them, and agree to any search, or you can turn around and go back.

Third, is the stupidity of trying to coerce someone legally into giving up a hard drive password. If the hard drive contains evidence that could convict him on a 20 year sentence, there's not much they can do to him that's worse than that, if he refuses to give up his password. They can't imprison him for 20 years for refusing the judge's request. What are they going to do, waterboard him?

Lastly, is the charges against him. Interstate commerce of child pornography? That's not how the guys who do child porn for a living transport their data, and the judge knows it. What's going on is that they're trying to coerce him further by layering on as many charges as they can think of, to see if they can make him crack or plea-bargain to a lesser charge. That's not how to do "justice" - criminal charges should not be used coercively!

Obviously, if the guy's guilty, he should suffer the consequences. But I'm very uncomfortable with my government's handling of this matter. If the border cop screwed up his evidence collecting, he screwed it up, and the case was lost at that moment. Precedent-setting rulings that further erode everyone's rights is not a good response to mishandling evidence. This case has been dragging on for 3 years and has probably cost the taxpayers a huge amount of money, and consumed the suspect's life. The publicity it has garnered for hard drive encryption has probably done more damage to law enforcement efforts against child pornography than busting any individual perpetrator would, already."

Lastly, I would like to state that it has been a well established precedent that a person does not have to give up the code to a safe if it may contain something self-incriminating. You cannot force someone to reveal the contents of their own mind in a case against them. If they can get a search warrant for a safe and find another way in, that is a completely different story so if the government can somehow crack the encryption, although it is HIGHLY unlikely, then they can see what is in it. Stop bullying people because you want to be able to see anything at anytime and have total control over everyone.


  1. Whoever posted "disagree", how can you disagree with the Bill of Rights and live in this country? If you are in this country.....

  2. sorry i posted "Agree" and then noticed there is a glitch with the system and decided to test it

    after my "Agree" went through i came back and checked off all three options

    stupidly enough, it kept all three options

    you should send someone a report about that glitch

  3. I agree. There is a lot of stuff that the courts get away with that are unconstitional.