DID CHILD PORN CASE EXPOSE Deep Ties Between Geek Squad and FBI That Went Around The Need For A Warrant

Wow! Who knew? Court documents in a child porn case show that a deeper relationship than thought exists between the FBI and the Geek Squad.

Lawyers for a doctor accused of child porn say the “Geek Squad City’s technicians acted as government agents by receiving payments from the FBI, regularly speaking with and referring cases to the FBI”.

TECHNICIANS FOR HIRE AS FBI INFORMANTS?
Technicians for Best Buy’s “Geek Squad City” computer repair facility had a long, close relationship with the FBI in “a joint venture to ferret out child porn,” according to claims in new federal court documents, which also note that Best Buy’s management “was aware that its supervisory personnel were being paid by the FBI” and that its technicians were developing a program to find child pornography with the FBI’s guidance.

According to court records, Geek Squad technician John “Trey” Westphal, an FBI informant, reported he accidentally located on a customer’s computer an image of “a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck.” Westphal notified his boss, Justin Meade, also an FBI informant, who alerted colleague Randall Ratliff, another FBI informant at Best Buy, as well as the FBI. Claiming the image met the definition of child pornography and was tied to a series of illicit pictures known as the “Jenny” shots, agent Tracey Riley seized the hard drive.

Not necessarily a problem, considering companies performing computer/electronic device repair are legally required to report discovered child porn to law enforcement. The difference here is the paycheck. This Geek Squad member had been paid $500 for digging around in customers’ computers and reporting his findings to the FBI. That changes the motivation from legal obligation to a chance to earn extra cash by digging around in files not essential to the repair work at hand.

The allegations are made by lawyers for a California doctor charged with possessing child pornography, after the doctor took his computer to a Best Buy store for repair. Computers which require data recovery are typically sent from Best Buy stores around the country to a central Geek Squad City facility in Brooks, Ky., and customers consent to having their computers searched — and turned over to authorities if child porn is found.

While there is no question that Geek Squad technicians have notified authorities after finding child porn, the new court documents assert that there is a deeper relationship than has previously been revealed between the company and federal authorities. The court is now considering the extent of that relationship and whether it is grounds to throw out a pending child porn case, though it could also have ramifications for the dozens of cases which originate from the Kentucky facility annually.

Defense lawyers for the doctor argue that Geek Squad City’s technicians acted as government agents by receiving payments from the FBI, regularly speaking with and referring cases to the FBI, and creating a program to search for child porn. If a government agent wants to search a computer, they need a warrant, and the case has raised issues of privacy invasion and violation of constitutional search and seizure rights.

Both Best Buy and the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles deny any violations in the search of surgeon Mark Rettenmaier’s hard drive, for which the FBI obtained a warrant after being contacted by a Geek Squad supervisor. That in turn led to a warrant and search of Rettenmaier’s home, which led to the discovery of “thousands of images of child pornography,” according to a reply brief by assistant U.S. attorneys Anthony Brown and Gregory Scally.

Underneath it all is the perplexing and disturbing aversion to adhering to the Fourth Amendment we’ve seen time and time again from law enforcement agencies, both at local and federal levels. Anything that can be done to avoid seeking a warrant, and anything that creates an obfuscatory paper trail, is deployed to make sure the accused faces an even more uphill battle once they arrive in court.

Read more: WaPo


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