And just like that, all the court decisions made, all the court decisions waiting to be made, and all the constitutional issues are rendered moot.
February 28, 2012:
The case of the Colorado woman ordered to turn over the contents of her hard drive to federal investigators is on hold: at yesterday’s deadline, Ramona Fricosu’s attorney filed a motion with U.S. District Court judge Robert Blackburn asking him to reconsider his order, and Blackburn has given federal prosecutors until March 12 to respond.
February 27, 2012:
Last week, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to overturn Judge Blackburn’s ruling ordering Fricosu to turn over the contents of her hard drive, and today is her deadline to do so or face contempt charges. She continues to claim she cannot comply, because she doesn’t know her computer’s decryption code.
February 6, 2012: Suspect, Ordered to Decrypt Her Computer’s Hard Drive, Claims She Forgot Her Password
Did anybody not see this coming? Seriously?
Responding to last month’s ruling that the search warrant ordering her to turn over the contents of her hard drive did not violate her Fifth Amendment rights, and the judge’s refusal Friday (February 3) to suspend the order to give her time to appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Ramona Fricosu announced today through her attorney that she’s forgotten the password.
She faces contempt charges if she doesn’t turn over the contents of the hard drive by the end of February — but unless the judge or investigators can somehow determine whether she actually did forget the password…
January 24, 2012: Can the Government Force You to Unlock Your Computer? Well, Yes and No…
Ramona Fricosu has won the battle but lost the war: the federal court has ruled that she doesn’t have to reveal her encryption password, but she does have to turn over the unencrypted contents of her computer drive to investigators by February 21 (the complete ruling is here).
She plans to appeal.
(Thanks to John Baker for the update)
January 20, 2012:
You actually have to wonder why this has never made it to a federal court before:
Federal investigators have the right to use a search warrant to seize a suspect’s computer, of course — but if the computer is password protected or encrypted, does the warrant give them the right to force the suspect to “open” the computer for them?
A federal court in Colorado is considering the case of Ramona Fricosu who, along with her ex-husband, has been indicted for bank fraud. The evidence is allegedly in Fricosu’s computer, but the feds can’t get to it.
While they’d have the right under the search warrant to demand Fricosu turn over a physical key, she contends that the information she holds in her head — the code to access the contents of the computer — is covered under the Fifth Amendment: a semantical question James Madison probably never considered when he drew up the Bill of Rights.
The feds insist they don’t want Fricosu to give them the code: they only want her to use the code to unlock the computer’s data for them. It also offered her limited immunity: but it would only apply to the code itself and not to the computer’s contents, which is entirely worthless and clearly intended as an attempt to satisfy the letter of the law.
Which isn’t to say the court won’t rule that it does satisfy the letter of the law.
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© 2012 by Bill Bickel unless otherwise noted.