FBI Paid Geek Squad Employees As Informants
By Bill Galluccio
March 8, 2018
A freedom of information request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) revealed that the FBI has been paying Geek Squad employees for information over the past ten years according to Fox News. The EFF received a memo from September 2008, which details the agency's meeting with Geek Squad employees at a repair facility in Kentucky.
The memo indicates that the local FBI division "has maintained close liaison with the Geek Squad's management in an effort to glean case initiations and to support the division's Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs."
The EFF filed their freedom of information request last year after "revelations about the FBI's interactions with Geek Squad technicians emerged in the case of Mark Rettenmaier, an Orange County, Calif., physician and surgeon who took his computer in for repair when it wouldn't boot up," according to NPR.
Best Buy issued to a statement that acknowledged at least four employees "may have" been paid by the FBI after turning over potentially illegal materials they found on the computers of customers.
"Any decision to accept payment was in very poor judgement and inconsistent with our training and policies," Best Buy wrote. "Three of these employees are no longer with the company and the fourth has been reprimanded and reassigned."
Best Buy said employees do not specifically search for illegal material, but if they happen to find it during the course of the repair they are obligated to alert the appropriate authorities.
"Our policies prohibit employees from doing anything other than what is necessary to solve the customer's problem," the company wrote. "In the wake of these allegations, we have redoubled our efforts to train employees on what to do — and not do — in these circumstances."
"We have a moral and, in more than 20 states, a legal obligation to report these findings to law enforcement," the company wrote. "We share this policy with our customers in writing before we begin any repair."
The documents obtained by the EFF appear to contradict Best Buy's statement. In the case of Rettenmaier, the child pornography that was discovered on his computer was located in "unallocated space" on the hard drive which would have required the Geek Squad employee to actively search for material using forensic tools.
Most of the evidence in the case was thrown out by a judge and the government ended up dropping the charges against Rettenmaier.