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FBI Seeks Suspect's Web Game Records 446

wiredmikey writes "The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday asked the administrator of an Internet game to hand over records of communications by Jared Loughner, following a Wall Street Journal article describing disturbing messages the accused shooter wrote over a three-month period last year. In an interview, David McVittie, the administrator of the Web game Earth Empires, said he was contacted by the FBI, which requested the files, including 131 messages that Mr. Loughner wrote."
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FBI Seeks Suspect's Web Game Records

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  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:51PM (#34865792)

    The going after twitter messages looks kind of dubious, but this request has more grounding - it would be very easy for someone to use any online RPG to use as a conduit for messages if they thought someone might be monitoring email or phone. Given that the U.S. is treating him as a criminal suspect (which I'll leave the validity of to the side), this request seems pretty reasonable to build a case against someone.

    • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:56PM (#34865906) Journal

      Given that the U.S. is treating him as a criminal suspect (which I'll leave the validity of to the side),

      Say what? You'll leave that to the side, will you? Well color me flabbergasted. He is technically a criminal suspect, because he has not been tried yet, but dozens of witnesses directly observed him committing murder. How can you question the validity of treating him as a criminal suspect?

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Maybe because it looks like he is mentally ill?

        Personally I say treat him like a criminal suspect until we find out if he is or is not as sick as many think he might be.

        • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:10PM (#34866164) Journal

          Even if he is mentally ill, he is a criminal suspect. Insanity is a possible defense against criminal charges, it does not negate criminal charges. At his trial, he might be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Until then, he is a criminal suspect.

          • by cawpin ( 875453 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @05:56PM (#34868836)

            At his trial, he might be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

            And this is one of the major flaws in the American justice system IMO. Not Guilty by reason of insanity shouldn't exist. The proper finding is Guilty BUT insane.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by PraiseBob ( 1923958 )
              In reality, less than 5% of those who plead insanity are successful in the attempt. When they do succeed in their insanity plea, it doesn't let them off the hook. They are remanded to a mental hospital instead of a prison, and spend on average, a longer time in the hospital than they would in a prison for the same crime.

              The insanity plea isn't a get out of jail free card. It means rather than jail, you spend years of your life in a padded room, possibly strapped down or restrained in jackets, and fed
            • The insanity defense really is not the get out of jail free card that many seem to think it is. First of all, it very rarely works. Secondly, when someone is found not guilty by reason of insanity, they are forcibly committed to a mental institution that is for all intents and purposes, a prison. The only difference is that the guilty party does not have a fixed length sentence -- they are there until the doctors in charge of them decide that they are fit to regain society. In almost all cases, this turns o
        • If his messages are anything like most of what I hear on XBox Live, they will be immensely useful in establishing his insanity.
      • The point is that the logic and lawfulness of this request applies to anyone to government is treating as a criminal suspect with due process, and that the specific details of this case aren't the issue.

      • :Say what? You'll leave that to the side, will you? Well color me flabbergasted.

        I hope you are just trolling and not serious. His point was that he it didn't matter. If he is a suspect, then it is a logical thing to do, and should NOT be compared to the Twitter case.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:57PM (#34865916)

      I live in Victoria, Canada... we had two young teens murder a young girl, it was all planned and VERY sad what they did to her.

      They used WOW to communicate, and one guy admitted to another friend to killing her on WOW... and they got those records.

      Not surprised at all. I'm actually very satisfied knowing that NO channel of communication should be considered '100% secure'. Face to face is the only place 'privacy' has a chance at existing... and I say chance, because technology can be anywhere at anytime.

      Hopefully these messages give more insight... what an amazingly sad example of how broken our society is, and how helpless the parents are when their ADULT son is off the hook

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        There are channels that are very secure, wow is not one of them. To me it seems lots of folks had a chance to help this, mostly his parents. He was clearly mentally ill.

      • I'm actually very satisfied knowing that NO channel of communication should be considered '100% secure'.

        While it may not be 100% secure, it's not very difficult to even make things like e-mail, Instant Messengers, etc. extremely secure. All you have to do is make use of plug-in's that enable PGP, Blowfish, or other good quality encryption. As long as you use a good encryption key of sufficient length & complexity then there's virtually no way law enforcement could crack your messages. That is, of course, unless the NSA gets involved. wink wink.

        • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

          Good encryption isn't very useful if you are trying to broadcast information publicly, for instance in a forum.

          • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            That is where anonymity comes in. You post from wireless you do not own, using forged mac addresses to connect. You also use high gain antennas so you can do this from your car.

    • I guess I'm not sure why it's needed to build a case against him; the evidence and eye witness accounts are overwhelmingly damning as-is.

      And why shouldn't the US treat Loughner as a criminal suspect? If a bunch of people see you shooting a lot of people in the head, that's a pretty good reason to be suspected of committing a crime.

      • by fermat1313 ( 927331 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:03PM (#34866024)
        I don't think the prosecutors are worried about proving he did it. However, his defense will likely mount an insanity plea. Proof of pre-planning pretty much kills an insanity plea, so any evidence that they have that he pre-planned this is definitely important to the prosecution.

        Also, I think they haven't ruled out that someone else was involved in the planning of the attack, so they are still looking for any evidence relating to this. Getting these records is simply competent lawyering by the prosecution.
        • How does "[p]roof of pre-planning pretty much [kill] an insanity plea"? Have you never read "The Tell-Tale Heart"? Sure it's fiction, but many insane individuals (especially schizophrenics) are capable of extensive planning in their "madness".
          • by fishbowl ( 7759 )

            It's important to establish that he knew what he was planning was wrong, and that he has the cognitive ability to distinguish "right" from "wrong" in a way that reasonable people understand it. I do not believe this will be a problem in his case.

            There is another element. The federal case against him depends in part on his knowledge that the judge he shot was a judge. If he did know that he was assassinating a judge, the federal prosecution can seek a federal death penalty. They want to prosecute him und

        • by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:18PM (#34866320)

          An insanity defense has nothing to do with whether it was pre-planned or not.

          Insanity is about whether the defendant knew what he was doing was wrong. Not whether or not it was planned.

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Because from all outward signs he is a nutcase not a criminal. Crazy people are going to do things like this and throwing them in jail helps no one. It will not discourage other crazy folks, because they are mentally ill.

        • Wow, I hope you don't have any friends or family that are Schizophrenic or Bi-polar or have other mental illnesses. They might be hurt by your insinuation that they have no control over their actions are are basically ticking time bombs waiting to explode and kill dozens of innocent people.

          For the record, there are an estimated 20 million people with schizophrenia in the world, and that is only one of the many diseases that will earn someone the moniker 'crazy'. You'd think if they were all an inch away f

          • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            Not all mentally ill folks are time bombs.

            The only crazy person I fear insulting is myself.

        • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

          you can be both a nutcase and a criminal. And locking someone like that away does help people by severely restricting the number people he can target for his next insane killing spree.

          • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            Putting him in a home for the mentally ill does the same thing.

            • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

              No. Putting him in a home for the mentally ill will out at risk the non-violent residents. If he really is mentally ill, he can be institutionalized in a maximum security mental institution until such time as he is fit to stand trial. That time spent institutionalized will not count towards his eventual sentence.

        • You can argue that anyone who wants to murder innocent people is a nutjob. And there is evidence this was pre-meditated.

          An insanity plea doesn't get you off just because you're a little nutty. The purpose of an insanity plea is for people who have lost connect with reality to the extent that they truly don't understand the repercussions of their actions.

      • There's more to this kind of case than "Did he shoot a bunch of people in broad daylight?", obviously he did. You can bet the defense is going to play the mental illness card. Communications over the past year with him talking lucidly of killing people goes a long way towards proving that his mental illness isn't the direct cause.

        It's easy to see his actions and watch his videos and say "Dude's crazy and he killed some people because of it" and move on, but you need to remember that there are millions of

        • It's easy to see his actions and watch his videos and say "Dude's crazy and he killed some people because of it" and move on, but you need to remember that there are millions of schizophrenics in the world that don't go around shooting dozens of innocent people

          True but, if your read DSM-V draft section on schizophrenia [] you will learn that it not a specific disease but a continuum of disorder. Their is a varying level of lucidity present in the various form of the disorder therefore some untreated schizophrenics are really walking time bombs.

    • by fotbr ( 855184 )

      I think you're confusing the shooter in arizona with the wikileak crap.

    • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:04PM (#34866054)
      For those who don't recognize the name, Jared Loughner is the fellow accused of the shooting spree in Tuscon that claimed six lives and seriously wounded a U.S. Representative. Given that he was arrested at the scene and two eyewitnesses reported having wrested a smoking gun from his grasp, I mean, innocent till proven guilty and all, but it would be hard to argue that calling him a "suspect" is jumping to conclusions.
    • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:05PM (#34866056) Journal

      Amazing how many take what you said out of context. As for the content, that is exactly what I was thinking. This isn't a fishing exposition, this is gathering evidence to demonstrate forethought of his actions, which is necessary for this type of investigation. Not only is it acceptable, but obviously necessary for them to be exercising due diligence in prosecuting the case, assuming they have any suspicion that the logs will provide ANY insight into his actions.

    • I haven't kept up on the news recently, and while the name rang a bell I hadn't really looked into this story until now. Now looking at it quickly, and skimming the article...

      I agree with you, though I think whatever they find needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Loughner is about the same age as me, and I'm not going to lie, guys our age like to still pretend we are in high school. We like the attention that comes with being a comedian and we'll use jokes that kind of go against the grain of society to

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:51PM (#34865798)

    Why exactly is this news or a surprise? Will everyone be shocked because they request credit card, banking and cell phone information too?

    • Will everyone be shocked because they request credit card, banking and cell phone information too?

      THEY CAN DO THAT???!??!?! :p

    • Why exactly is this news or a surprise? Will everyone be shocked because they request credit card, banking and cell phone information too?

      No, but the first few times they did request phone or credit card information it was news. There was a time when cell phones weren't a ubiquitous part of our world, so this serves as a reminder of what is becoming a larger and more involved part of our lives. If this happens in a dozen more high-profile cases, it will no longer be interesting, just like cops/jobs using Facebook is becoming a very boring story now compared to a few years ago.

    • It is a surprise because it does nothing to prove that he did, or didn't shoot a bunch of people. This is for the later "blame game" that will be played out by the lawyers that has no real bearing on guilt or innocence of the suspect. The end "blame game" is of course not part of "justice" in any sense, but has become ingrained into the legal system because it plays upon the emotions and sympathies of juries.

      • It's investigating his state of mind and whether he planed it or just went on a random shooting spree.

        The FBI (well the prosecutor) wants to be able to counter the insanity claim the defense will make. Or if you have a friendlier view of law enforcement actually want to determine if he is legally sane...

        But yes, if he's been playing GTA/whatever then the media circus is warming up.

      • Legally a crime of passion, and premeditated murder are two different things. If they can prove he discussed killing her in advance, it matters.

        Not to mention they may need to build a case against a possible insanity plea.

        Not to mention the fact that he came to scene with another person. People keep forgetting there may be an accomplice here who hasn't been arrested. If they believe he discussed and planned the murders with an accomplice, then finding those conversations is critical.

    • They want to see if he's insane or not. Given the amount of crazy this guy has displayed, it is possible he's actually legally insane. Part of determining that will be looking in to the communications he's made. That's going to include things in games, as well as e-mail and so on. The more information the better.

  • Seems fair (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:55PM (#34865872)
    Obviously, they have plenty of probable cause connecting him to an actually serious crime, and they probably obtained a warrant in this case to get these records. While Loughner may not have left explicit notes along the lines of "I'm going to shoot people", it would definitely be relevant for the purpose of establishing his mental state.

    Not every search-and-seizure is objectionable, you know. Sometimes, the government is actually doing its job properly.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Yes, it certainly is fair. It would have been preferable if the admin in question had demanded to see a warrant first though. Demanding a warrant every time will help stop FBI fishing expeditions, and only inconvenience those who really deserve the data a tiny bit.

  • Hey, I have no doubt Loughner said some creepy stuff on some online games. I have $10 that says none of it was half as bad as the shit that I hear Halo-playing 12 year olds say on XBox Live at night though.
    • by spun ( 1352 )

      What twelve year old says shit creepier than "I know how to keep you alive for a week while I eat your flesh?"

  • for case. This is what they are supposed to be doing.

    • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

      Correct, though "asked" raises the question on if they issued a warrant, subpoena or if they did it informally. The article isn't clear on this.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:04PM (#34866034)
    It is rather pointless to get this information and perhaps dangerous. Things said in-game could be construed by others to mean things other than what they intended. While undoubtedly Loughtner is guilty, it sets a disturbing precedent where people will be judged out of context for what they said. I mean, whats next? Arresting someone because they said in the middle of a Call of Duty game that they were going to shoot someone (referring to the game)?
    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      Just about any trial will involve a jury judging intent. Saying in Call of Duty that you were planning to shoot someone is not particularly confusing when it comes to intent, and any defense lawyer would be sure to point that out. OTOH, saying that you were plannning to shoot someone by their real name when there's no record of them ever playing CoD, that would be quite relevent to intent.

      In the current culture of paranoia, I'm careful about discussing gaming topics in public places, because someone who o

    • No, this isn't "Dangerous", it's part of the give and take of a criminal trial, and requesting this information was a perfectly proper thing to do. Just like you can use phone recordings, e-mail messages, letters, conversations, etc.... why should there be special status for his online message transcripts?

      Yes, things can be taken out of context. And that is an argument the defense can make, should the prosecution choose to use this evidence in the trial. The mere possibility of the evidence being mis-int

    • It's not pointless, they are going to be looking for and at everything he has written or said for as far back as they can be bothered.

      For all they know he wasn't a loan gunman and was just the action guy of a larger plot involving other people (the probability of this is essentially 0 but you never know).

      If they find evidence of planning that makes for better chance of them getting the outcome they want in court.

  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:37PM (#34866564) Homepage Journal
    According with several FPS game logs, we have a lot of mass murderers around. They even found there who sniped the player Jfk
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @05:10PM (#34868102)

    I'm an administrator for earth empires, though I'm not the one mentioned by name in the summary. I'm posting AC for obvious reasons.

    The FBI only wanted information from an alliance hosting site related to the game. I believe an appropriate equivalent would be a WoW guild setting up a forum to discuss strategy, organize raids, and things like that. Information was obtained from the forum, but not from the game itself.

    The alliance hosting site in question happens to be run by one of the game's administrators. Providing information to the FBI did not violate the site's privacy policy in this case because the site's community manager had already leaked information to the WSJ. Even if we had wished to fight the subpoena, we do not have the legal resources to do so.

    I hope that this provides a little more context and clarifies the situation.

  • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @05:34PM (#34868528) Homepage

    we have Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Drowning Pool and Video Games to blame for his actions... can't we just blame him?

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann