FBI Prefers to Drop Charges Rather Than Opening Source Code of Its Spying Software

By Menahem Zen | Mar 07, 2017 08:24 AM EST

U.S. Department of Justice made a strange decision to drop all charges against a man accused of child pornography on Friday. The DOJ prefer the decision rather than exposing its spying software.

Department of Justice took the decision on Friday, March 3 to drop the charges against defendant Jay Michaud rather than exposing the source code of Tor Browser according to report by Computer World. The defendant, Michaud was accused of accessing a child pornography website PlayPen and he was caught by the spying software deployed by FBI to uncover his computer’s real IP address and his location as well.

There are around 200 cases in the U.S. currently in court, which related to the use of Tor to spy the criminal activities during the FBI investigation. This has raised questions about the legal boundary of tracking and hacking criminal suspects conducted by the governments as reported by Ars Technica.

FBI called the method as NIT, Network Investigative Technique, which basically a hacking technique using software called Tor that able to track IP address of criminal perpetrators. Following the operation to crack down child pornography site PlayPen in 2015, Department of Justice has caught 137 suspects, with 35 of them are accused as child sexual offenders and 17 are identified as the child pornography producers.

However, in the court, the judge demanded the FBI to expose its investigation technique. During the trial in Tacoma, US District Judge Robert Bryan ordered Department of Justice to hand over the source code of Tor as the evidence. However, DOJ preferred to drop the case rather than exposing its classified software.

The federal prosecutor for the case Annette Hayes filed the motion to dismiss the case upon the judge request. She preferred not to allow the classified software to be exposed

"The government must now choose between disclosure of classified information and dismissal of its indictment, "Hayes wrote in her court filing in respond to the judge’s request. “Disclosure is not currently an option.”

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