United States federal court documents show the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) hired an independent contractor to hack into a suspect’s computer to gather evidence in a criminal investigation. The FBI and other US law enforcement agencies refer to this type of hacking as a “Network Investigative Technique,” or NIT for short.

On December 6, 2013, The Washington Post reported on the FBI’s December 14, 2012, planned use of a NIT to hack the computer of a person alleged to have made bomb threats at universities and airports across the United States. The Post reported that the FBI’s hacking attempt failed. Further research conducted by Rebeltronics revealed that a subsequent hacking attempt was successful.

A December 26, 2012, search warrant return shows the FBI used the services of a private contractor named Russ Jensen to carry out the hack.

A Google search of Jensen’s name and email address revealed that at the time of the hack he was Sr. Engineer at Allied Associates International, a company “bring[ing] together talented engineers, scientists, and subject matter experts who seek out challenging national security problems and deliver innovative solutions.”

The search warrant return shows that Jensen seized the following categories of data: (1) CPU, (2) RAM, (3) Windows Version, (4) Locale, (5) User Info, (6) SID, (7) Application List (x86), and (8) ApplicationList (x64). Some examples of specific seized data include the username of the computer and the name of its modem driver. For a full list of seized data, see the inventory section of the search warrant return.

The search warrant application, issued warrant, warrant return, and case docket are located here.