Geek Squad Works For FBI
(Redoubt News) Newly unsealed records show the collusion between the FBI and Best Buy’s Geek Squad, where the FBI had Geek Squad employees searching through the computers of unsuspecting customers to find evidence of crimes.
These records reveal a much more extensive secret relationship than previously known between the FBI and Best Buy’s Geek Squad, including evidence the agency trained company technicians on law-enforcement operational tactics, shared lists of targeted citizens and, to covertly increase surveillance of the public, encouraged searches of computers even when unrelated to a customer’s request for repairs.
The FBI had previously acknowledged a program that paid Best Buy employees $500 for tips about child pornography. Even that arrangement was alarming from a civil liberties and privacy perspective, but it was apparently only the tip of the iceberg. OC Weekly’s R. Scott Moxley characterizes the more extensive program shown in the new filings as an effort “to sidestep the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against warrantless invasions of private property.”
In January, the FBI testified against Dr. Mark Albert Rettenmaier, 62, a gynecological oncologist, facing child pornography charges after Geek Squad technicians supposedly located an image of a young naked girl on his computer in 2011. The image was discovered in a section of Rettenmaier’s hard drive where deleted files are stored when he brought it to a Best Buy store for repairs.
James Riddet, Rettenmaier’s defense lawyer, claims “the FBI was dealing with a paid agent inside the Geek Squad who was used for the specific purpose of searching clients’ computers for child pornography and other contraband or evidence of crimes,” according to a court filing obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Riddet accuses the FBI of paying at least eight employees at Geek Squad to be “confidential human sources.”
As early as 2010, FBI agent Tracey Riley allegedly wrote to her supervisor, reporting on a “source” at Geek Squad.
“Source reported all has been quiet for about the last 5-6 months, however source agreed that once school started again, they may see an influx of CP [child pornography],” Riley wrote, according to internal FBI communications obtained by the Washington Post.
Agent Tracey Riley admitted to U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney the so-called “Jenny” image found by a Best Buy Geek Squad technician, who doubled as a paid agency informant, “wasn’t child pornography by itself.”
Evidence demonstrates company employees routinely snooped for the agency, contemplated “writing a software program” specifically to aid the FBI in rifling through its customers’ computers without probable cause for any crime that had been committed, and were “under the direction and control of the FBI.”
Obviously, this raises serious questions about whether sending devices into the repair shop forfeits a person’s right to privacy or unreasonable search and seizure.
Under questioning, experts for both the defense and the government testified that it’s not only possible for files from the internet to land on a computer without the owner’s knowledge, but that it also frequently happens.
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