Khairullozhon Matanov, a former taxi driver, could be sentenced to 20 years in prison under charges for obstruction of justice for clearing his browser history in the days following the 2013 Boston bombing attacks.
Matanov was not involved or had any prior knowledge of the attacks, but because he deleted videos and photos related to the alleged bombers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (possibly to distance himself from the suspects), he could face decades behind bars.
Matanov was charged for destroying records under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law passed by Congress “intended to prohibit corporations under federal investigation from shredding incriminating documents.” However, prosecutors have applied the law to a broader range of activities, specifically in incriminating an individual for deleting digital data even if they have no knowledge of a federal investigation.
What this law boils down to is the government’s authoritarian belief that it owns and is entitled to all of your private information, fitting aptly with government’s continued collection and oversight of our personal online activities.
Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury told the Nation that the government’s “underlying theory” for the law is:
“Don’t even think about deleting anything that may be harmful to you, because we may come after you at some point in the future for some unforeseen reason and we want to be able to have access to that data. And if we don’t have access to that data, we’re going to slap an obstruction charge that has as 20-year maximum on you.”
Matanov asserts he is innocent but has pleaded guilty to the charges. He will appear in federal court next week to face sentencing on those charges.
“The whole case is mystery,” he told The Daily Beast. “FBI is trying to destroy my life.”