In case you've been waiting for the conclusion to this story, or What it's like to be free of the FBI
I learned that my friend Bill is no longer under FBI investigation, though he says that he wonders whether his email is still being sniffed and his website watched by the spooks. He says that sometime last year, about three years after the raid, the special agent that conducted the raid called him on the phone one day out of the blue. The agent told him that the U. S. attorney (whoever this was, Bill has no idea) had decided not to file any charges against him. I suppose this is the way the Feds say they couldn't show you committed any crime. The agent said that his confiscated property would be returned to him soon and for him to provide a shipping address. With that, the phone call ended.
Bill says his belongings showed up about two months later, in three very large cardboard boxes with a return address label reading Department of Justice. Inside one of the boxes was a letter which said something like, and this is a paraphrase:
"This material has been deemed no longer needed by the FBI. Please sign the and return the enclosed form to confirm receipt of materials."
After unpacking all the boxes, Bill says that everything they took, down to the last floppy disk, was there and accounted for, and that the packing job was actually pretty decent. He says also that curiously, in all of the computer systems taken by the snoops, each one was still complete, however all the heat sinks had been popped off the CPUs inside each one, though the CPUs were still in their sockets. He says he put the sinks back on and attempted to boot each machine and found them still working, though now three years behind the times. He said that there was no way he was going to use any parts of those machines before totally disassembling them and making sure no sneaky business was going on. I really don't blame him. It turns out nothing was tampered with, and he isn't sure how much of the stuff the FBI even really looked at, or if the stuff sat in a closet all those years collecting dust.
It seems a little anticlimactic to me, though I can't say I pretend to know what sort of pressure Bill was under those three years not knowing what was going to happen to him. I know he's learned a lot more about privacy, encryption, and his rights though. I wonder if the FBI is still monitoring him, quietly, taking notes, reading his emails, ready to move in and mess up his life again. Who knows, though I doubt the FBI sends out letters saying "We're not watching you anymore."
What it's like to be raided by the FBI
What it's like to be questioned by the FBI