(NationalSentinel) Constitution: Despite the fact that the U.S. intelligence community has its own extensive network of electronic surveillance and signals intelligence (SIGINT) technology, when you’re prevented by certain aspects of the law from spying on the general public, you have to get creative.
And it appears as though the FBI did.
As reported by OC Weekly, recently unsealed records indicate the bureau used Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” on several occasions to conduct covert, and likely illegal, surveillance:
To sidestep the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against warrantless invasions of private property, federal prosecutors and FBI officials have argued that Geek Squad employees accidentally find and report, for example, potential child pornography on customers’ computers without any prodding by the government. Assistant United States Attorney M. Anthony Brown last year labeled allegations of a hidden partnership as “wild speculation.” But more than a dozen summaries of FBI memoranda filed inside Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse this month in USA v. Mark Rettenmaier contradict the official line.
The report noted there are indications the FBI trained Geek Squad 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.”
One agency communication about Geek Squad supervisor Justin Meade noted, “Agent assignments have been reviewed and are appropriate for operation of this source,” that the paid informant “continues to provide valuable information on [child pornography] matters” and has “value due to his unique or potential access to FBI priority targets or intelligence responsive to FBI national and/or local collection.”
Other records show how Meade’s job gave him “excellent and frequent” access for “several years” to computers belonging to unwitting Best Buy customers, though agents considered him “underutilized” and wanted him “tasked” to search devices “on a more consistent basis.”
To enhance the Geek Squad role as a “tripwire” for the agency, another FBI record voiced the opinion that agents should “schedule regular meetings” with Meade “to ensure he is reporting.”
Granted, no sane, reasonable person likes child pornographers and the evil things they do. But the process matters: If evidence against them is illegally obtained, they walk, and society loses.
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But this behavior by the FBI also raises the question: Are these cases the only cases Best Buy’s Geek Squads are assisting the bureau with – those pertaining to child pornography? Because this reeks of the “camel nose under the tent” syndrome, whereby a government spy agency finds an effective way to bend the rules away from public (and constitutional) scrutiny, then uses it for expansive abuses of surveillance power:
Jeff Haydock, a Best Buy vice president, told OCWeekly in January there has been no arrangement with the FBI. “If we discover child pornography in the normal course of serving a computer, phone or tablet, we have an obligation to contact law enforcement,” he said, calling such policy “the right thing to do.”
But 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.”
The problem with absolute power is that it corrupts, absolutely. The Digital Age, combined with endless mountains of taxpayer money, has transformed America’s spy agencies into the Big Brother we’ve always always feared. Unless or until a president gets serious about reining in the Deep State’s power, expect these abuses to continue.