One of the least-discussed but quite important fallouts from the war on drugs has been the incredible power we seem to have handed police authorities to seize assets. While theoretically, it should be impossible to be fined or punished without being convicted, in fact it is perfectly possible for police to shut down businesses and impose enormous fines without trial through this confiscation authority. Here is just one recent example that came up this morning:
The FBI on Tuesday defended its raids on at least two data centers in Texas, in which agents carted out equipment and disrupted service to hundreds of businesses.
The raids were part of an investigation prompted by complaints from AT&T and Verizon about unpaid bills allegedly owed by some data center customers, according to court records....
According to the owner of one co-location facility, Crydon Technology, which was raided on March 12, FBI agents seized about 220 servers belonging to him and his customers, as well as routers, switches, cabinets for storing servers and even power strips. Authorities also raided his home, where they seized eight iPods, some belonging to his three children, five XBoxes, a PlayStation3 system and a Wii gaming console, among other equipment. Agents also seized about $200,000 from the owner's business accounts, $1,000 from his teenage daughter's account and more than $10,000 in a personal bank account belonging to the elderly mother of his former comptroller.
FBI agents displayed their usual level of competance when it comes to technology-related matters:
Faulkner says the FBI appears to have assumed that all the servers located at Crydon's address belonged to him, and didn't seem to understand the concept of co-location.
This is over a private billing dispute? The FBI claims its a much bigger matter - since there was fraud involved as one of the target companies faked some credit references. Oh, OK, then go right ahead and seize all the family's iPods.