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Child-porn suspect ordered to decrypt files

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A federal magistrate in Milwaukee has ordered a West Allis man to provide readable versions of encrypted hard drives seized from his home as part of a child-porn investigation.

The order by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Callahan Jr. marks a reversal of his own earlier decision that the Fifth Amendment insulated the suspect from such a mandate, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Callahan said the difference is the FBI has since decrypted part of the system seized from Jeffrey Feldman’s apartment. Among the roughly 700,000 files were many that clearly constituted child porn. The agents also found files containing detailed personal financial records relating to Feldman and dozens of personal photographs of Feldman.

That, along with the FBI’s claim that an unencrypted computer also seized from Feldman’s apartment had file names suggesting child pornography, was enough for Callahan to conclude it was a “foregone conclusion” that Feldman had access to and control over the seized hard drives.

Feldman is a computer scientist and software developer at Rockwell Automation Inc. If he refuses to help agents gain access to the rest of his encrypted digital storage devices by June 4, he may be found in contempt of court.

That’s what happened to a Florida man in the only case on the issue to reach a federal appeals court. The man refused to decrypt files suspected of containing child porn and was jailed on contempt charges until an appeals court ruled that the contempt violated the man’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Because Feldman hasn’t been charged, his attorney, Robin Shellow, wasn’t allowed to formally oppose the government’s “ex parte,” or one-side, order to Callahan. She said she believes agents have exaggerated the notion that Feldman’s job makes his encryption more difficult to crack.

Shellow added that she expects her client will comply with court orders if other legal avenues don’t lead to Callahan’s order being overturned.

“I believe the courts in this district will not permit the Fifth Amendment to hit the recycle bin behind the closed doors of an ex parte affidavit,” Shellow said.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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