FBI Raids Georgia Tech Student’s Dorm over Wikileaks Chat Room (UPDATE 1)

UPDATE: A roommate of Chen called APN to say that the roommate had received the note left by APN.  He said he would forward the note to Chen.  He said that Chen had met with the university’s administration yesterday and was advised not to speak to any more media.

(APN) ATLANTA — On Thursday, January 27, 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigations raided the dorm room of Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) student Zhiwei “Jack” Chen, after the FBI obtained a warrant to search for materials related to Operation Payback (OP).

OP was an effort by a group of activists and hackers, called Anonymous, to take down websites Aiplex Software, Bank of America, Mastercard, MPAA, Paypal, RIAA, Visa, and US Copyright Office, after these sites refused to process donations for Wikileaks or otherwise adversely impacted Wikileaks.

The raid was first reported by the Technique student newspaper of Georgia Tech.

The raid is one of about 40 that took place around the country in connection with the investigation of OP.

Atlanta Progressive News has attempted to contact Chen by his campus email address, but has not heard back.  APN also visited Chen’s dorm, Towers Hall, earlier today, but all the doors were locked and there was no front desk.  APN provided a resident of the dorm with a handritten note for Chen, which the student said he would deliver to Chen’s room.

Chen, 18, is a freshman studying Computer Engineering, according to Tech’s website.

After the incident, Chen posted a message on the website Reddit, along with a link to a photograph posted on Imgur.com, of the warrant that he was served, an inventory of the property seized from his room, and a business card left by the FBI agent.

The Reddit post was titled “IAMA Person Questioned about Operation Payback.”

“FBI had a warrant to take all my electronics,” Chen wrote.  “They came in the dorm room bustin in @ 7:00, and pushed everyone out of bed.  They searched the place and questioned all people involved.”

“I was a passive admin for Operation Payback, and quit early to avoid complications with the law, but it seems the FBI has gotten the better of me,” Chen wrote.

“Questions shall be answered whenever I have time, and when I find a public computer to use as they seized all my electronic assets,” Chen wrote.

“TL;DR: FBI took all my stuff and questioned me about OP.  Also, AMA,” Chen wrote.

“Before his account [apparently his Reddit account] was deleted, Chen offered more details surrounding the situation.  Upon request, he posted a copy of the search warrant and the identity of the FBI agent who executed the search,” Technique reported.

“He also stated that he never participated in the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, but confirmed that he was an administrator on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel used to coordinate the operations,” Technique reported.

The search warrant cited a case number, 1:11-MJ-0078, but said the case was under seal.  The warrant was approved by United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia, Magistrate Judge Russel G. Vineyard.  It was issued January 25, 2010.

The warrant stated, “TO: Special Agent Roderick Franklin Coffin and any Authorized Officer of the United States.  Affidavit(s) having been made before me by Roderick Franklin Coffin who has reason to believe that on the property or premises known as… See Attachment A… in the Northern District of Georgia there is now concealed a certain person or property, namely… See Attachment B… which constitutes evidence of the commission of a criminal offense and property which has been used as the means of committing a criminal offense, concerning violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section(s) 1030.  I find the affidavit(s) establishes probable cause to search and seize the person or property from the person or premises described above.”

The inventory of property taken from Chen’s room included computers, an IPhone, handwritten notes, a digital camara, and URB drives.

Chen has denied being involved in Operation Payback, aside from having been a passive administrator on a chat room site for the group, Anonymous, that has been used to carry out OP.

“I thought ‘Oh, there are some intelligent people here to chat with,’ and apparently that got me into some extreme trouble,” he told 11Alive news.

“I’m not involved in the attack on these sites,” Chen said.  “I feel devastated personally.  Pretty much my life’s been invaded.  [The FBI] required me to give all my passwords I have and they pretty much took all my accounts, everything.”

“Chen hasn’t been charged with any crime and he says it could be weeks or months before he knows anything about the investigation. He is asking FBI agents to return his study materials and class documents,” 11Alive reported.

The FBI issued a press release regarding the multiple search warrants executed.

“FBI agents today executed more than 40 search warrants throughout the United States as part of an ongoing investigation into recent coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations.  Also today, the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police Service executed additional search warrants and arrested five people for their alleged role in the attacks,” the FBI wrote.

“These distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) are facilitated by software tools designed to damage a computer network’s ability to function by flooding it with useless commands and information, thus denying service to legitimate users.  A group calling itself ‘Anonymous’ has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they conducted them in protest of the companies’ and organizations’ actions.  The attacks were facilitated by the software tools the group makes available for free download on the Internet.  The victims included major U.S. companies across several industries,” the FBI wrote.
 
“The FBI also is reminding the public that facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as exposing participants to significant civil liability,” the FBI wrote.

“The FBI is working closely with its international law enforcement partners and others to mitigate these threats.  Authorities in the Netherlands, Germany, and France have also taken their own investigative and enforcement actions,” the FBI wrote.

(END / 2011)

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