In case you've ever wondered What it's like to be raided by the FBI.

(or having 8 federal agents chilling out in your living room)

(or offsite backups are your friend)

A few years ago, a close friend of mine, let's call him Bill, decided to write a clone of some commercially available software in his spare time, at home. Bill progressed pretty well and eventually had a product better than the competition's and worthy of selling. The only problem is, this commercial code was under export control and therefore releasable to government agencies and the like. No problem Bill said, he'd just sell copies to government agencies. He did this for about a year with great success until late last year the commercial developer started feeling the heat and decided to use taxpayer dollars to try and get rid of him. They decided to call the FBI and say that Bill was engaged in arms trafficking.

You gotta love sour apples.

Bill was kicking it old school in his crib one morning (7:30 or so) watching cartoons when there was a knock on the front door. He opened it and was greeted by eight federal agents and a search warrant. There was something like five Suburbans in his driveway. The agents came in and calmly said they had a search warrant and for him to read it and understand what they were there for. The warrant called for the search and seizure of all documents, records, receipts, and anything related to computer hardware or storage of any kind whatsoever (obviously related to his code development).

Two of the FBI agents sat him down in the kitchen and asked him questions about his programs, who he had sold them to, where he had obtained the information to develop them, and the like. The agents were very calm and reserved. Bill was surprisingly cool too, considering that he was now among an elite group of individuals that included Kevin Mitnick and Phiber Optik. He even offered the agents some coffee (they declined). The other six or so agents dismantled Bill's network, network server, dual processor linux server, desktop box, and laptop. They gathered every CD, disk, and box in a well-organized pile in his living room, took photographs, and wrote up an inventory which they provided to Bill (so when his belongings are returned, in the year 2025, he can make sure nothing is missing). The agents did not rough him up, break anything, pressure him or swear at him. Nice of them. One of the agents even told him that his home network was "extremely impressive" and that they had never seen anything like it. They thanked him for his cooperation and then left.

Um, yeah. Bill was having what you might call a bad day. He was already late for traffic court for running a stop light. I'll never forget how he handled the District Judge:

Judge: Sir, why are you late for court?
Bill: Well, uh, the FBI paid me a visit this morning.
Judge: Excuse me?
Bill: I have some paperwork to that effect.
-hands the search warrant to the judge-
Judge: ... I see. To the charge of running a stop light, how do you ..

Bill says that he was nauseous for three weeks straight after the incident. I believe him.

A year later and Bill is still not charged with any crime. As to when his property will be returned, he has no idea. He is still allowed to sell his software, which he still develops due to his diligent use of offsite backup. He says it's the greatest icebreaker at parties he's ever known. "Say, what's the scariest thing that ever happened to you?" "Well, the FBI came over to my house this one time .."

What it's like to be questioned by the FBI.
What it's like to be free of the FBI.