NZ 'obliged' to allow US access to Dotcom devices

HANNAH DENTON
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2012
tdn kim stand
MEGAUPLOADER: Kim Dotcom is on bail preparing for an extradition hearing.

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New Zealand has an international obligation to allow the United States to analyse devices obtained during the raid of Kim Dotcom's property in January, lawyers for the Crown argued today.

Crown lawyer Mark Ruffin told the High Court in Auckland that police could not hand over copies of information contained in devices seized from Dotcom's Coatesville mansion.

However, Ruffin argued New Zealand is bound to do so by the mutual assistance agreement existing between the two countries.

"The agreement states that each country gives up some of its sovereignty for the mutual benefit of all."

A search warrant used in the raids is currently the subject of a judicial review hearing. Dotcom's defence team have argued that the warrant's terms were too broad and therefore unlawful, and have demanded the return of his property.

Dotcom founded file-sharing site Megaupload and is accused of breaching copyright laws costing owners more than US$500 million which US authorities have called the mega conspiracy.
He was arrested on his Coatesville property in January and is now on bail awaiting an extradition hearing in August.

His defence team have already argued against the lack of disclosure by prosecutors in the District Court - with a judge there yet to make a ruling - and yesterday revealed details of their plan to get "clones" of the data on devices held by police.

Dotcom's lawyer Paul Davison QC said that some of the 135 devices seized were password-protected, meaning authorities couldn't get into them, and that Dotcom would not be providing the codes unless the prosecution made a deal on his terms.
Some of the devices held private and legally privileged information, as well as personal data such as family videos, he said.

"Given the frustration of not being able to have access to his property for in excess of three months, he is not going to give passwords or codes leaving him without access."
Dotcom was prepared to provide a key to the data if it was a court-managed process and he was allowed copies or "clones" of the information. He also wanted his privacy and legally-privileged information protected.
 
Davison also wanted the court to return items irrelevant to the US case, such as the switches that control the mansion's lighting and entertainment system and data from the CCTV system.

Ruffin said the items could not be deemed irrelevant until they had been properly examined by the FBI.

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"We've been told that certain household items such as network switches and routers were incapable of storage but they do have a minimal storing capability to hold illegal material," he said.

Similarly, electronic devices in the crown's possession could not be cloned because it could damage the physical evidence available for forensic examination.

"If the unencrypted data were copied, the investigation runs the risk of compromising the integrity of the original data."

He argued the search warrant terms were not too broad. Police had to be able to seize all technology they thought may hold data useful to the case, he said.

The case continues, in front of Justice Helen Winkelmann.

- Auckland Now

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