Law & the Courts

FBI Paid Best Buy Technicians to Inform Them about Illegal Content on Customer Devices

The revelation comes as the FBI is accused of targeting Trump campaign officials.

The FBI recruited computer technicians at Best Buy to inform them about illegal content on personal devices customers brought in for repairs, new Bureau documents show.

The informants were discovered after Best Buy’s Geek Squad technicians at a Kentucky repair shop found thousands of child-pornography images on California doctor Mark Rettenmaier’s computer. The documents from the ensuing court case showed that eight informants were cooperating with the FBI to turn over illegal content.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Department of Justice and finally obtained records the FBI had not revealed, which proved Best Buy had a long-term relationship with federal agents.

FBI agents would come and confiscate any device on which technicians found illegal content, take it to a field office, and, in some cases, obtain a warrant to search the device. Several informants received payments from $500 to $1000 for their cooperation.

Critics have raised possible Fourth Amendment issues with this unusual practice. Best Buy is sanctioned to search devices, but the FBI is supposed to obtain a warrant to do so. Providing a monetary incentive to employees would likely encourage them to perform searches that are unnecessary to the repair, the watchdogs say.

Last year, a Best Buy spokesman said the dealings the company had with federal agents occurred only if an employee happened upon illegal content by accident.

“We have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement,” spokesman Jeff Shelman said.

“Any circumstances in which an employee received payment from the FBI is the result of extremely poor individual judgment, is not something we tolerate and is certainly not a part of our normal business behavior,” Shelman said.

However, the Kentucky FBI branch “maintained close liaison with the Geek Squad’s management in an effort to glean case initiations and to support the division’s Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs,” one document says.

Best Buy at one point hosted a FBI’s Cyber Crimes Working Group at the Kentucky repair facility.

The revelation comes after the FBI raised eyebrows over reports that it abused its surveillance authority to target Trump campaign officials during the 2016 election.

 

 

Most Popular

U.S.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More
Books

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
Education

Gender Dissenter Gets Fired

Allan M. Josephson is a distinguished psychiatrist who, since 2003, has transformed the division of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology at the University of Louisville from a struggling department to a nationally acclaimed program. In the fall of 2017 he appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation ... Read More