SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – FBI agents raided a Berkeley office and seized dozens of computers based solely on allegations of improper use of a public-access computer by an unknown member of the public and without informing the judge who signed the warrant that the businesses distribute information to the public, according to a federal suit.
Agents from the FBI, along with local officers and some from the University of California, allegedly forced their way into Long Haul Inc. and East Bay Prisoner Support when the businesses were closed, looked through a list of people who had borrowed books from the Long Haul library, seized public access computers, broke the locks to an office that houses Slingshot, a bi-weekly newspaper published by Long Haul, took computers and digital storage media, unscrewed the lock on the door to the East Bay Prisoner Support office and took a computer the organization uses to publish prisoner-rights information.
The businesses claim the officers then copied the seized data for future use.
According to the suit, the officers had no reason to suspect the businesses of any wrongdoing and had no such evidence. The Statement of Probable case they presented to a magistrate only alleged that a member of the public improperly used a public-access terminal located at Long Haul. The officers did not inform the magistrate that Long Haul and East Bay Prisoner Support distribute information to the public, protecting them under federal and state law from seizure except under special circumstances not present in this case.
Nor did the officers let the judge know that East Bay Prisoner Support is unaffiliated with Long Haul.
The plaintiffs want an injunction stopping the officers from copying, examining or otherwise using the seized information, a declaration that they violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights, treble damages and other relief. The plaintiffs are represented by Jennifer Granick of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.