Cybersecurity

Feds Worry Defendant in Forced Decryption Case Will Forget Passwords

Well, he will certainly try to now, won't he?

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Federal prosecutors are urging a federal judge to demand a Wisconsin man immediately decrypt several hard drives they believe contain child pornography.

The authorities have been litigating the constitutionality of the decryption issue for months, and want the suspect, Jeffrey Feldman, to decrypt the drives before he forgets the passwords. Federal prosecutors say Feldman can, even after decrypting, continue litigating his claim that the Fifth Amendment protects him from having to unlock at least seven hard drives in the case.

"As more time passes, it is increasingly possible that Feldman could forget his passwords, and currently-encrypted evidence may be lost as a result," federal prosecutor Karine Moreno-Taxman wrote in a brief filing  Friday. "The Court can reduce this risk by requiring Feldman to provide the Court with the decrypted contents of his hard drives now, ex parte and under seal, so that they can be securely retained pending the adjudication of the Fifth-Amendment question."

The suspect's attorney, Robin Shellow, scoffed at the government's proposal, saying it was a backdoor attempt to get his client thrown in jail immediately. That's because, she said, Feldman is not going to decrypt his drives, no matter what, meaning the government's offer essentially hastens a potential contempt-of-court charge.