A Digital Killswitch

August 9th, 2012 by Dylan Leave a reply »

In current court proceedings examining the Kim Dotcom raid by the NZ police early this year it is being suggested that part of the decision to use the police special tactics group (previously known as the anti-terrorist squad) was based on the FBI’s apparent suspicion that Dotcom had some sort of digital killswitch or some other device that would allow him to destroy data on computer systems and warn others.

Even if that were true – and to be fair such a system is something that could very easily be implemented – it is hard to understand how that would support the use of possibly the least subtle method of arrest possible. 

If you are to imagine that, with the press of a button, a phone call or some other simple action, it was possible for Kim Dotcom to destroy evidence then it’s very difficult to imagine that two helicopters and armed police officers screaming “police” and bashing in doors wasn’t going to give him enough time to activate that switch.

The alternative – that a detective makes an appointment to come and “discuss some issues” or even turns up unannounced for a chat – would seem to provide much more opportunity to prevent the alleged MegaPirate from destroying evidence. With no warning that the meeting was likely to result in arrest or search it would be hardly likely that Dotcom would have been on edge with his finger on the “button”.

The other major factor that lead to the STG’s involvement in the raid (or perhaps that was used to help justify it) was a claim that Dotcom was “armed, had a history of violence, was showing current signs of violence and had issued threats to kill” on a police threat assessment form – a claim which is clearly untrue. The source of that information, unsurprisingly, was the FBI.

While police, probably truthfully, claim that the FBI agents weren’t directly involved with the planning or execution of the assault on the Dotcom mansion it seems plainly obvious that they chose to provide ‘information’ that would lead to that sort of action. I’m sure the police have many sane officers who would have been more than capable of arresting Dotcom without incident had they simply been given a full picture of the situation.

Unfortunately the end result of all this is that the police are made to look like gung-ho fools, which I think they generally are not. If I were a senior commander involved with this operation I would be furious at having been put in this position – I hope the NZ police learn a lot from these events.