FBI warned agents not to share tech secrets with prosecutors

Posted: Monday April 25, 2016, 1:35 AM>

By Brad Heath / USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The FBI guards its high-tech secrets so carefully that officials once warned agents not to share details even with federal prosecutors for fear they might eventually go on to work as defense attorneys, newly disclosed records show.

A supervisor also cautioned the bureau’s “technically trained agents” in a 2003 memo not to reveal techniques for secretly entering and bugging a suspect’s home to other agents who might be forced to reveal them in court. “We need to protect how our equipment is concealed,” the unnamed supervisor wrote.

The records, released this year as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, offer a rare view of the extent to which the FBI has sought to keep its most sensitive surveillance capabilities secret, even from others within federal law enforcement. That secrecy remains a common feature of the FBI’s most sophisticated investigations, including recent cases in which it cracked the encrypted iPhone of one of the gunmen in last year’s San Bernardino terror attacks and breached the anonymous Tor computer network.

But it has also alarmed some lawyers and privacy advocates, who worry that the secrecy makes it difficult for courts to scrutinize the agency’s tactics.

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