Someone, I think, is lying.
In our last post, Frank Report reviewed the testimony of FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Brian Booth in the trial of Keith Raniere as it related to using EXIF data to reliably date the creation of digital photos.
Booth said EXIF data is hard to remove or change.
Suneel Chakravorty, a supporter of Raniere who is well-known to many Frank Report readers, says that EXIF data is easy to change and that Booth, as a senior forensic examiner, certainly knows this. In short, Suneel says that Brian Booth lied.
Forget, for a moment, whether Raniere took or possessed photos of Camila when she was 15. Raniere was convicted for it. He is appealing his conviction. Camila did not testify at Raniere’s trial but publicly said later that he began sexually abusing her when she was 15, including taking photos of her.
Forget also whether the FBI tampered with the photos to convict Raniere. That is expected to be the “newly discovered evidence” that would be the basis for a federal rule 33 motion Raniere may file
Let us only consider the veracity of statements made by FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Booth about EXIF data, to the effect that EXIF data is hard to remove or change.
It won’t change a thing about the Raniere case even if Booth lied. It does not prove tampering if Booth lied. It does not prove the pictures were not actually of Camila when she was 15.
It is of interest, however, to probe whether an FBI agent lied on the stand – and lied about something that is easily verifiable.
It is easy to understand the motives of Raniere or his supporters. They might lie to help their friend.
It is also easy to understand the motive to lie by the FBI in this high-profile case. The most reliable evidence of the dating of the photos, as the FBI Forensic Examiner Booth said, was EXIF data. The jury was told that the most reliable proof was the EXIF data.
EXIF data was used to prove that 14 photos of Camila were taken on November 2, 2005, during the period from 5:59:16 PM to 6:09:11 PM – and that 8 more photos of Camila were taken on November 24, 2005, starting at 6:07:50 PM and completing the last shot about three minutes later, at 6:10:38 PM.
EXIF data also showed the serial number of the Canon EOS 20D, which was the same as the camera seized from Raniere’s library.
This was the proof of possession of child porn and sexual exploitation of a child: The EXIF data, which Booth testified was hard to change, showed when the photos were taken via Raniere’s camera, in November 2005, when Camila was 15.
Camila Photos’ EXIF Data
The photos were not found on the camera or its camera card, which were also seized.
According to the prosecution, the EXIF data remained embedded in the photos unaltered when the camera transferred the photos of Camila to a camera card, then to a Dell computer, and finally to a backup hard drive.
A Canon Camera EOS 20D was used to take 14 photos of Camila on November 2, 2005 – and 8 more photos of her on November 24, 2005. The photos, however, were not found on the camera.
A Lexar camera card was used to transfer the photos from the camera and store them. However, the photos of camila were also not found on the camera card.
From the camera card, the photos were downloaded to a Dell Dimension 8300 computer. The Dell Dimension computer was never found.
Finally, a Western Digital hard drive was used to back up the Camila photos from the Dell computer. The hard drive, found in Raniere’s library, contained the Camila photos with their EXIF data intact, prosecutors said.
What Is EXIF Data?
EXIF data [exchangeable image file format] is a set of information [data] embedded into a photo by the digital camera that takes the picture. You do not see EXIF data when you look at the photo. EXIF data can be viewed on the photo file’s “properties.”
Professional photographers use EXIF data to see the time and date they took the picture and the camera settings used.
Generally, digital cameras record and save as part of EXIF data:
- Current date and time [to the second.
- Camera model and make
- Image orientation (rotation), Aperture, Shutter speed, Focal length, Metering mode, ISO speed information.
- A thumbnail for previewing the picture
- Copyright information.
- Version history
- Location [geotagging] on more modern digital cameras.
Booth’s EXIF Data Statements
During the trial of Raniere, FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Booth made numerous statements about EXIF data.
His testimony included some unambiguous statements about EXIF data:
- “[EXIF data] stays into that photo and it’s very hard to remove.”
- “Most commercial software will not touch EXIF data.”
- “They purposely designed it that way…”
- “They don’t want data to be moved around and changed, especially time and date information.”
- “When it comes to photos, they still keep you from changing dates and times.”
- “It’s not easy to change those.”
What he told the jury was reinforced by prosecutors in their closing statements.
AUSA Moira Kim Penza told the jury:
“Now you also know that the photographs were taken in 2005 because that’s what the data shows. The forensic examiner, Brian Booth testified that the most reliable metadata that the FBI could obtain from the images on the Western digital hard drive, said that they were taken exactly when the folders stated they were taken.”
AUSA Mark Lesko told the jury:
“I’m no expert, don’t get me wrong, but I heard Examiner Boothe, just like you did. EXIF data is extremely reliable. It’s embedded in the jpeg, in the image itself. And the EXIF data shows that the data was created on the camera, in this instance, this particular instance, the 150 jpeg [one of the Camila photos] on November 2, 2005…”
Suneel Has a Different View
Suneel Chakravorty attended the Raniere trial, he says, because he was a student of NXIVM before the classes were suspended in 2018.
He had met Raniere briefly before he was arrested.
After Raniere’s conviction, Suneel visited Raniere at the Metropolitan Detention Center, where Raniere was held for more than a year prior to sentencing. I met Suneel just prior to Raniere’s sentencing in October 2020.
One of the first things Suneel told me was that he believed the FBI tampered with Camila’s photos. He said the thing that first made him suspicious was that Booth testified that EXIF data is hard to change.
I took into consideration that Suneel is a friend of Raniere’s. But he also made his living as a software consultant, a trainer and instructor of computer technologies. He knows about EXIF data. He used to teach people on the topic.
Would he lie about something so easy to check as EXIF data being hard to change?
Here we have FBI Senior Forensic Examiner Brian Booth swearing under oath that EXIF data is hard to change.
Then we have a Raniere supporter, with knowledge of the topic, saying EXIF data is easy to change.
Suneel was born in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He is 31. His father is a medical doctor who was born in India and practices medicine in the USA. His paternal grandfather was also a physician and practiced medicine in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Suneel is a graduate of Harvard, who majored in mathematics, was captain of the Harvard Ballroom Dance team 2010-2011, won numerous memory contests, being able to remember 300 digits of the number Pi [try it sometime]. He plays the piano and the tabla, [an Indian percussion instrument] speaks fluently the two most spoken languages in the world, English and Mandarin, and was an unpaid NXIVM coach.
And he told me EXIF data is easy to change.
He said, “Brian Booth said EXIF data is ‘hard to remove’. That’s a lie. Booth said ‘most commercial software will not touch EXIF data’ and, ‘when it comes to photos, they still keep you from changing dates and times. It’s not easy to change those.’ These too are lies. To change the EXIF data, including the date and time of when the photo was created, anyone can download free software like ExifEditor. People change the EXIF data all the time for privacy reasons.”
Then he explained how to change EXIF data.
- Get any freely available software like ExifEditor.
- Open the program.
- Open the photo you want to remove data from or change in the program.
- The program will show you the EXIF data.
- Change or remove whatever you want.
- Save the photo.
Somebody is lying here. And I do not know who.
Either Booth or Suneel Chakravorty.
I invite readers to try to find out.
Finally, before any reader gets upset, this, again, is not a defense of Raniere. This is a look into the conduct of an FBI agent.
I, for one, want the FBI held to the highest standard. Anyone who thinks differently is welcome to state that Frank Report or anyone else has no right to investigate their integrity.
As for me, I want to know if the FBI is lying, even on a matter that would not have changed the results of the trial. Even if they lied on a trifling matter during the trial of a veritable monster, I want to know whenever they lie.
But I don’t know if this was a lie.
Brian Booth said, and he is persuasive, that “with EXIF data, once it’s embedded in a picture, it doesn’t matter how many times you move it around. It stays into that photo and it’s very hard to remove. In fact, most commercial software will not touch EXIF data. It will allow you maybe to add data to it, but even in that sense, it’s very – it’s very able to be corrupted.”
He was asked, “Is there a particular reason why EXIF data is more difficult to alter?”
He answered, “They purposely designed it that way…It’s mainly to be able to store information. And they don’t want data to be moved around and changed, especially time and date information. Those things are very hard for the consumer to be able to modify, unless you wind up getting software that’s just developed to do that.”
When asked if EXIF data is the best evidence for dating a photo, he answered, “Well, the best reference is the EXIF data because that gets put into the JPEG file and it’s not easily modifiable and it moves with the file the same way from device to device, no matter where you place it. It has nothing to do with the bearing of a file system at all or the dates and times associated with it. So it’s on its own, but are created at the same time that you take the picture.”
And “…when it comes to EXIF data… when it comes to photos, they still keep you from changing dates and times. It’s not easy to change those. You have to go through special processes to change those things…. It’s very rare that I’ve found someone has been changing metadata within a photo and that time and date does not change from place to place. It stays embedded in the photo…
Asked “What’s [the ] most reliable…metadata?”, Booth answered, “the EXIF data…It’s the most reliable.”
Now here comes Suneel who shows us that EXIF data is easy to change and, therefore, not reliable at all.
They both can’t be telling the truth about EXIF data.
We will soon find out who is lying.