From ArsTechnica:

A federal judge in Iowa has ordered the suppression of child pornography evidence derived from an invalid warrant. The warrant was issued as part of a controversial government-sanctioned operation to hack Tor users. Out of nearly 200 such cases nationwide that involve the Tor-hidden child porn site known as “Playpen,” US District Judge Robert Pratt is just the third to make such a ruling.

“Any search conducted pursuant to such warrant is the equivalent of a warrantless search,” Judge Pratt wrote Monday in his 19-page order in United States v. Croghan.

While the charges against Beau Croghan have not been dropped yet, the ruling significantly hinders the government’s case.

Earlier this year, federal judges in Massachusetts and Oklahoma made similar rulings and similarly tossed the relevant evidence. Thirteen other judges, meanwhile, have found that while the warrants to search the defendants’ computers via the hacking tool were invalid, they did not take the extra step of ordering suppression of the evidence. The corresponding judges in the remainder of the cases have yet to rule on the warrant question.

In all of these cases related to Playpen, a federal magistrate judge in Virginia issued a warrant that was then used to authorize the deployment of this tool, known as a “network investigative technique,” or NIT, as a way to locate users.

Under current rules of federal jurisprudence, magistrate judges only …

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