Appeals Court Throws Out Child Porn Conviction over Illegal Navy Surveillance of Private Citizens

Monday, September 22, 2014
Mark Clookie, director of Naval Criminal Investigative Service 2010-2013

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was forced to throw out the conviction of a man caught distributing child pornography because the case was initiated by Naval investigators randomly searching computers in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the military acting as a civilian police force.


Michael Allan Dreyer was found guilty in 2012 after his computer was searched based on a tip given to police in Algona, Washington, by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in 2010, according to The Seattle Times. NCIS agent Steve Logan, based in Atlanta, searched all computers in the state of Washington for child pornography. He found suspicious files on Dreyer’s computer and forwarded his findings to the NCIS in Washington state, which passed it on to the local agency. The evidence was used against Dreyer, who had already served a 27-month stint in federal prison on a previous child pornography charge, and he was convicted. Logan’s excuse for searching all computers in Washington was that the state has a high percentage of military personnel.


Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit reversed Dreyer’s conviction, saying in strong language that evidence obtained as a result of the NCIS actions must be suppressed. “The government is arguing vehemently that the military may monitor for criminal activity all the computers anywhere in any state with a military base or installation, regardless of how likely or unlikely the computers are to be associated with a member of the military. Such an expansive reading of the military’s role in the enforcement of the civilian laws demonstrates a profound lack of regard for the important limitations on the role of the military in our civilian society,” the opinion by Judge Marsha Berzon stated.


A concurring opinion by Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said: “This case, though, amounts to the military acting as a national police force to investigate civilian law violations by civilians,” and called the government’s violations “massive.”


The case has been sent back to District Court, but without the computer evidence, Dreyer will probably go free. The U.S. Attorney’s office might ask for the case to be reheard by the entire Ninth Circuit.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

9th Circuit Tosses Child-Porn Evidence, Cites Navy Snooping (by Mike Carter, Seattle Times)

U.S. Court Rules Navy Wrongfully Monitored Computers in Child Porn Probe (by Victoria Cavaliere, Reuters)

U.S. vs. Michael Allan Dreyer (pdf)


dude2 7 years ago
Only problem is much of the arrests made are for possessing materials that existed already and continue to do so in perpetuity
bckrd1 7 years ago
It just boggles the mind that there are no exceptions for commonsense. If someone's well being is threatened or was compromised then whatever evidence is out there should be fair game no matter how said evidence is obtained. Especially in a child pornography realm. If a child is at risk and there is proof then action should be taken to protect them.

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