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Security maven turns tables on fibbing police

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A computer security expert used his elite skills to turn the tables on Seattle Police who arrested him for doing nothing more than refusing to identify himself during a drunken street golf game in 2008.

Eric Rachner, identified by The Seattle PI as a cyber security expert, fought the charges for obstructing a police officer, and as part of his defense, he demanded access to the video and audio recordings of his arrest. The recordings are automatically made using cameras mounted to squad car dashboards and microphones on police uniforms.

Seattle Police refused and prosecutors eventually dropped the charges, but that wasn't good enough for Rachner. He filed a request under a Washington state public disclosure law demanding access to the recordings and was again turned down.

"These recordings are both past our retention period and can no longer be obtained," Seattle Police Department officials responded in writing. "Please note that the majority of 911 calls and videos are retained for a period of ninety (90) days."

So Rachner researched the video and audio recording system used by the department and discovered that permanent logs index every recording and show when it is uploaded, flagged for retention, played, copied, or deleted.

Armed with this new information, Rachner filed a public records request for the log, and that's when he hit pay dirt. It showed that the recordings had been flagged for retention after his arrest and still existed. Soon enough, he had them, and they backed his contention that he was arrested solely for refusing to provide identification to police. (Officers claimed otherwise but never elaborated).

Police now say their earlier claim that the videos couldn't be obtained was the result of a server error, which sounds like the modern-day equivalent of the dog-ate-my-homework excuse.

Much more from the PI - including the supposedly unavailable video and a cameo from fellow Seattle-based security researcher Dan Kaminsky - is here. ®

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