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FBI ran world’s largest paedophile site – and can’t use the evidence

Evidence obtained in the FBI’s sting on ‘Playpen’ users is looking to be less useful than the government would have hoped, following a ruling from another judge that evidence collected under the initial warrant can’t be submitted in prosecuting one of the identified users.

The site was run on the ‘dark net’ site through TOR but the FBI seized control of its servers and ran the site for nearly two weeks from its own servers. However, since then, three judges have successively ruled that evidence that the organisation collected on its users via its ‘Network Investigative Technique (NIT) wasn’t obtained with appropriate authorisation.

In this instance, it was a judge in Iowa ruling the evidence collection invalid, but the same result was reached in Oklahoma and Massachusetts. Essentially, it balances on the jurisdiction of the warrant issued to allow collection of data using the NIT – it was issued in Virgnia, but applied to other states. It’s this that’s in question.

In future, it won’t really matter, as magistrate judges currently can’t issue warrants outside their own districts. This is set to change later this year though.

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