[ISN] Judge: FBI's PC-snooping perfectly lawful

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Fri Dec 28 2001 - 20:23:33 PST

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    NEWARK, N.J. (Reuters)  A defense attorney for reputed mobster
    Nicodemo Scarfo Jr Thursday promised an appeal of a federal judge's
    ruling that the FBI properly spied on Scarfo's computer system. The
    ruling the first of its kind in a federal district court capped six
    months of controversy that weighed computer privacy rights against law
    enforcement's right to use secret computer technology in criminal
    "Of course the matter takes on added importance in light of recent 
    events and potential national security implications," wrote U.S. 
    District Judge Nicholas Politan in a 25-page decision handed down late 
    Acting under a court-ordered search warrant in 1999, FBI agents 
    installed a so-called key logger device in Scarfo's computer to crack 
    into encrypted files.
    Evidence they gathered led to the indictments of Scarfo and a 
    codefendant in June 2000 on gambling and loan-sharking charges.
    Defense attorneys said the case might have been a "run of the mill 
    bookmaking case" except for the surveillance issue. They requested 
    full disclosure of the government's operation, claiming Scarfo 
    otherwise would not get a fair trial.
    Specifically, the attorneys wanted to ensure that e-mail messages were 
    not gathered by modem and phone lines, possibly constituting an 
    illegal wiretap.
    In his ruling, Politan said the government convinced him at a Sept. 26 
    closed meeting that no information was picked up while a modem was on.
    Prosecutors were justified in invoking the Classified Information 
    Privacy Act to protect national security at stake in the case, he 
    Vincent Scoca, Scarfo's attorney, said he will file to have the ruling 
    reconsidered, a first step toward higher appeals.
    "This a is a bad precedent for our judicial system. This was a two-bit 
    bookmaking operation. There was nothing extraordinary about this case 
    that warranted them using the Classified Information Privacy Act," he 
    said. "That's a police state and we don't want a police state. Even in 
    these times, after Sept. 11, people still don't (want) unwarranted 
    government intrusion."
    Scoca was not allowed to attend the September meeting.
    Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Wigler said the judge's access to 
    classified information at the meeting was "a safeguard to prevent the 
    government from overreaching, as the defense alleges. That's why there 
    are these checks and balances."
    Scarfo's trial including evidence gathered from the FBI surveillance 
    is likely get under way in the spring, Wigler said.
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