Why it matters: Court documents in the case against Michael Cohen show the FBI was authorized to use and collect almost every detail of his digital life. This includes his email accounts, address books, cookies, search history, GPS location, cloud file storage, and more.
Cohen, the former fixer and personal attorney for President Trump, has been convicted on several charges of fraud and lying to Congress. To obtain evidence for these convictions, the FBI surveilled almost every aspect of his digital life.
This week, almost 1,000 pages of search warrant applications were unsealed giving new details to what information the FBI had access to. They are available in eight separate exhibits: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8. Some portions of the document are redacted, but they show that Mueller was watching Cohen more than a year before he was charged.
In addition to standard channels like email and GPS data, the FBI was also authorized to unlock Cohen's mobile devices using his body. They were allowed "to press the fingers of the user of the Subject Devices to the devices' Touch ID sensor, or hold the Subject Devices in front of the user's face to activate the Face ID sensor, in an attempt to unlock the devices for the purpose of executing the search authorization by this warrant."
This is a relatively new area and the legality of these searches is still in question. Privacy advocates worry about violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, while law enforcement officials see it as an avenue to get useful information when a subject is not cooperating. In Cohen's case, the warrant stated that it was necessary to force him to unlock his phone because "the government may not otherwise be able to access the data."
The documents also show that law enforcement officials used the infamous Stingray triggerfish device to track Cohen's precise location.
The case against Cohen was not just confined to the United States. Investigators in the Southern District of New York tried to obtain information on Cohen from Google, but this request was initially denied since some of the data was stored on overseas servers.
During the investigation, the CLOUD Act was passed which allowed such overseas data to be obtained in some scenarios. Law enforcement officials went back to Google with an updated warrant and were able to obtain the information they wanted.
Lead Photo Credit - Mary Altaffer/Associated Press