As Keith Raniere’s various attacks on his conviction dwindle, FR will record in plain language the details of his probable last hope, and a slim one: his claim that the FBI tampered with evidence.
While some may be annoyed with this reporting, FR finds it interesting and instructive for the following reasons:
- The government should be held to a higher standard of integrity than the public, for it wields more power.
- The explanation of the evidence is interesting, as it helps lay readers understand more about the world of digital forensics.
- If the claims are more of Raniere’s shenanigans and deceptions, it should be clear enough to laugh him right out of court and proclaim his goose is cooked.
- There are certain die-hard, so-called ‘dead enders,’ who continue to support Raniere, who pin all their hopes on this one last “hail Mary.” If the FBI did not tamper, they might have to resume their lives without the constant guidance of the Vanguard.
- If the FBI did NOT tamper with evidence, it should become increasingly evident by looking at the evidence that Raniere’s highly paid team of experts marshaled. It may exonerate the FBI.
- If, on the remote chance that someone did tamper with the evidence, which commenters almost universally agree did not happen, it seems a good idea to find out about it and who did it. Though the odds may be a million to one that the FBI tampered with evidence, the above reasons are good enough to proceed with our analysis. Those with no interest can quickly move on to topics of more interest.
Distinguishing What Evidentiary Items Raniere Seeks From What Evidence the DOJ Already Provided
The DOJ used a Western Digital hard drive and a Lexar camera card, seized from Raniere’s library, to prove to a jury that he took 22 explicit photos of Camila when she was 15, then retained them on the hard drive.
The digital evidence proved three predicate acts of Raniere’s racketeering charges: One count of possession of child porn because the FBI found the images on his hard drive, and two counts of sexual exploitation of a child because he took the photos of Camila on two different dates in 2005, when she was 15.
In his Rule 33 Motion for a new trial, Raniere alleges that employees of the FBI conspired to manufacture and plant the 22 images of Camila on the hard drive.
Raniere alleges the FBI changed the EXIF data to 2005. He also alleges the FBI altered the camera card, planting explicit images of women Raniere knew, also dated in 2005, to prove that Raniere initially took the photos of Camila on his Canon camera and stored them on the camera card around the same time he supposedly took Camila’s photos.
Raniere retained seven forensic experts, including four former FBI forensic examiners, to analyze the evidence available to the defense.
Joseph Tully, attorney for Keith Raniere.
According to Raniere’s attorney, Joseph Tully, all seven retained experts concluded that there are “definitive demarcations of manipulation and falsification of evidence, with the most logical explanation being government bad actors.”
The seven experts are:
- J. Richard Kiper, former FBI special agent, and forensic examiner, 1999-2019.
- Stacy R. Eldridge, former FBI forensic examiner, 2003 – 2012
- Mark Daniel Bowling, former FBI special agent, and forensic examiner, 1995 to 2015
- William F. Odom, III, former FBI special agent and forensic examiner, 1996 to 2001
- Stephen Michael Bunting, Captain with the University of Delaware Police, 1980 to 2009, handling digital forensics and cyber investigations
- Steven Abrams, Esq, cyber lawyer
- Wayne B. Norris, forensic expert witness
The evidence the DOJ made available to the defense, which the seven retained experts analyzed, include:
- AccessData Forensic Tool Kit (FTK) reports for the camera card
- File directory listings of the camera card
- File directory listing of the hard drive
- Senior Forensic Examiner Brian Booth’s CART examination notes
- A drag-and-drop forensic copy of the hard drive taken on September 19, 2018, that excluded alleged contraband
- A file directory listing of the camera card
- Court testimony
- Government exhibits
- Defense exhibits
- Government discovery items
- Search warrants
- Associated affidavits
- Chains of custody for the camera card and hard drive.
Raniere’s legal team filed a motion to compel the DOJ to provide additional discovery. His attorney, Joseph Tully demands:
- A forensic copy of the camera card dated April 11, 2019
- FTK log file dated April 11, 2019
- A forensic copy of the camera card dated June 11, 2019
- FTK log file dated June 11, 2019
- File listing of the hard drive
- A Comma Separated Values (CSV) file for the forensic image of the hard drive taken on September 19, 2018
- CART Examination notes made by SFE Flatley when he inspected the camera card
- FTK Log Files, created when SFE Flately made an FTK report of the camera card
Prohibited Reexamination of Camera Card
In explaining why the defense wants the additional evidentiary items, Tully claims the FBI made two forensic copies of the camera card, one dated April 11 and another on June 11, 2019.
Despite federal rules of discovery mandating such disclosure before trial, the DOJ never provided the defense with either of the two forensic copies of the camera card.
The DOJ also did not provide the log files, though they provided the FTK reports.
Raniere alleges that the FBI’s creation of two forensic images of the camera card violates the FBI’s Digital Evidence Policy procedures and policies. The FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team [CART] policy “strictly prohibits such reexaminations, unless approved by the executive management of the FBI Operational Technology Division,” according to one of Raniere’s experts, Dr. J Richard Kiper, a former FBI forensic examiner and instructor of forensic examiners.
Kiper claims SFE Booth did not get authorized approval from OTD but instead obtained permission from his acting supervisor, Trenton Schmatz, to proceed with the reexamination.
Kiper adds that the purpose of strictly prohibiting reexamination of digital devices without authority is, according to the FBI Digital Evidence Policy Guide, Section 22.214.171.124, to “[e]nsure that the integrity of the evidence is maintained.”
The Raniere case is a good example of the reason for the prohibition of reexamination. The FBI FTK report based on the reexamination of the camera card produced 37 new image files not found on the first.
Tully maintains the DOJ is long overdue in turning over the two forensic images of the camera card and the associated FTK lists.
He says these evidentiary items would allow Raniere’s forensic experts to examine the content and metadata of the 37 new files that appeared on the June 11, 2019, FTK report, which was not present on the April 11, 2019, FTK report, to determine what forensic tools the FBI allegedly used to allegedly “manipulate” the images and when it was done.
Two examinations of the same device using the same tools – as in this case – should produce identical results, Raniere’s paid experts state.
The Hard Drive
The FBI made a forensic image of the hard drive on September 19, 2019, and the defense has a forensic copy minus the 22 images of Camila.
Tully seeks the file index, claiming that “by reviewing the hard drive’s file index list, the forensic experts can determine whether the “manipulation present on the hard drive occurred before or after the government imaged it” on September 19, 2018.
Raniere Seeks Evidence Under Brady Doctrine
Though the trial ended almost four years ago, Tully argues that the evidentiary items he seeks are exculpatory and covered under the Brady Doctrine, a pretrial discovery rule established by the United States Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland (1963).
The rule mandates the prosecution to turn over any evidence favorable to the defendant, which could exonerate him.
Tully, quoting a 2002, 4th Circuit case, Harvey v. Horan, said, “[I]t would simply be ‘constitutionally intolerable,’ for the government to withhold from the convicted, for no reason at all, the very evidence that it used to deprive him of his liberty.”
Tully added, “these four evidentiary items… were used to convict him of the most heinous allegations against him.”