January 5, 2012

BEARING WITNESS AGAINST ONESELF:

Beyond the log-in screen of Ramona Fricosu’s laptop computer lies what federal prosecutors say could be the key evidence in the bank-fraud case against her.

There’s only one problem: Prosecutors don’t know her password.

Thus, in an extraordinarily rare move, prosecutors in Denver are seeking a court order forcing Fricosu to unlock the computer so that they can obtain files they would use to try to convict her and her ex-husband.

Civil-liberties groups nationwide have taken notice, saying the case tests the strength of rights against self-incrimination in a digital world. Prosecutors, meanwhile, say that allowing criminal defendants to beat search warrants simply by encrypting their computers would make it impossible to obtain evidence in an age when clues are more likely held within a hard drive than a file cabinet.

Or you could follow Hillary’s advice, and say you can’t recall. But read the whole thing. To me, being forced to divulge the password seems like forced testimony, not like turning over a physical key.

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