from the gotta-play-by-the-rules-and-thems-the-rules dept.
AP reports that a federal appeals court has overturned a civilian's conviction for possessing and distributing child pornography because he was found out by a military investigator who used a high-powered software program in 2010 to search computers throughout the state of Washington. When the program picked up two child porn images and a video, the agent contacted the FBI, which tracked down the suspect's name and address. The naval office then got in touch with local police, who obtained a search warrant. The Department of Homeland Security later got a federal search warrant, and the suspect was charged in federal court.
When the search was challenged, the government argued that the search was justified because there are military bases in the greater Seattle area, and it's a crime for military members to distribute child pornography. Those actions, the three-judge panel said, violated the Posse Comitatus Act, the 1878 law that prohibits the U.S. military from taking part in civilian law enforcement activities. The ruling said the search was so sweeping, it shows "a profound lack of regard for the important limitations on the role of the military in our civilian society." It noted "abundant evidence" that the Navy frequently hacks into civilian computers to search for evidence of child pornography and turn it over to the police if the computer owner has no relation to the military. "This is, literally, the militarization of the police," says defense attorney Erik Levin. "They have enough funding that they can go out and stray from the core mission of national security and get into local law enforcement."