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[] Reuters 7.8.01: FBI Must Reveal Computer Snooping Technique -Judge,
Tuesday August 7 6:28 PM ET 

FBI Must Reveal Computer Snooping Technique -Judge

NEWARK, N.J. (Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the government to reveal the high-tech computer snooping technique used by the FBI to gather evidence against an alleged mobster.

In a case that privacy advocates say smacks of Big Brother, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Politan ruled that the government must reveal the details of the computer monitoring system it used to gather evidence against Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., who is charged with running illegal gambling and loan-sharking operations for the Gambino crime family.

Scarfo is the son of imprisoned mobster Nicodemo ``Little Nicky'' Scarfo.

The case is believed to be the first in the nation in which federal agents installed a secret surveillance system in a personal computer system under search warrant, and the first to be tested in U.S. courts.

The FBI recorded virtually every keystroke made on Scarfo's computer at his Belleville, New Jersey, business, including passwords, using a ``key logger'' device.

Whether the system is hardware or software is unknown, prompting a motion by Scarfo's attorneys to reveal its makeup so they could have it analyzed and make a case to suppress the evidence it gathered.

Politan ruled that in order to decide the lawfulness of the government surveillance, he must see a full report on how the device works, imposing an Aug. 31 deadline.

``In this new age of rapidly evolving technology, the court cannot make a determination as to the lawfulness of the government's search ... without knowing specifically how the search was effectuated,'' he wrote.

``This requires an understanding of how the key logger device functions. In most, if not all search and seizure cases, the court ... understands the particular method by which the search is executed. ... Because of the advanced technology used the court does not have the benefit of such an understanding.''

The government argued that revealing the workings of the system might jeopardize national security and endanger FBI personnel and those working with them.

Politan gave the government 10 days to provide additional evidence as to why revealing the technology would endanger ongoing investigations and later national security operations. 

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