Renewing My Obsession with Paul Manafort’s iPods: Robert Mueller’s 2,300 Media Devices

In an attempt to argue that properly processing Jason Leopold’s admittedly very broad FOIA for materials relating to the Mueller investigation, DOJ has claimed that it would need to process the contents of 2,300 media devices to fully comply with his FOIA, which would amount to more content than is stored in the Library of Congress.

For Request No. DOJ-2019-003143—Plaintiffs’ request for all records from the Office of the Special Counsel—the volume of responsive documents is enormous. Defendant estimates that the approximate number of responsive records that OIP would process is as follows:

  • 11 terabytes of non-email digital data, which is the approximate equivalent of 825 million pages (assuming each terabyte consists of 75 million pages); and
  • 318 gigabytes of email, which is the approximate equivalent of over 215 million pages (assuming each gigabyte consists of 677,963 pages).

Defendant estimates that the approximate number of responsive records that FBI would process is as follows:

  • More than 2 million pages of investigative records that are not on media devices; and
  • More than 2,300 media devices that have a combined storage capacity of 240 terabytes of data. If these devices are filled to capacity, this is the approximate equivalent 18 billion pages. [my emphasis]

I find that number — 2,300 — intriguing, given that in the public records on the investigation, I’m not sure we’ve seen warrants reflecting that volume of production. As a reminder, here’s what we know about the warrants obtained in the DC District; there are around 321 docket entries, the better part of which are for stored content rather than searches of media devices. The volume of devices obtained with DC searches would mean the balance of the 500 warrants Mueller obtained are either still sealed, precede Mueller’s appointment, or in other districts.

As a test of how we get to that number, consider what we learned as part of my continuing obsession with Paul Manafort’s iPod habit (I was interested in that habit, in part, because iPods can be used for non-telephonic texting). Just from the search of Manafort’s condo, the government obtained the contents of over 83 devices (note there were some device extractions done as part of the search).

  • 4 DVD discs
  • 7 external hard drives
  • 12 SD cards
  • 7 memory sticks
  • 1 micro SD card
  • 1 iPod
  • 3 compact flash cards
  • 1 MacBook Air hard drive
  • 2 iPads
  • 9 thumb drives
  • 1 iPhone
  • 1 micro vault pro
  • 1 DEWF_COMBO1: A 1TB (containing forensic images and device extractions from rooms: C, F, K, and Q)
  • 7 iPods
  • 1 iMac (including 1 Solid State Drive (SSD) and 1 Hard Disk Drive (HDD))
  • 4 iPhones
  • 1 SD card
  • 12 digital flash drives
  • 1 Macbook Air
  • 2 iPad Minis
  • 2 micro SD HC cards
  • 2 SD HC cards
  • 1 ultra-SD XC I card

My impression is that the government seized fewer devices from Michael Cohen and the same or more from Roger Stone, plus three from George Nader. But they are the only public searches of residences that would result in a big haul of devices, meaning about 300 would be from those three men (there are around 3 searches of residences the owners of which are not identified in the DC docket). Cooperating witnesses like Rick Gates and — before he reneged — Mike Flynn likely provided a number (Flynn described facilitating the production of electronic devices in his sentencing memo), though probably not that high of one, of devices. And many of Mueller’s 500 witnesses provided their phones “voluntarily,” or had some of their content subpoenaed. Mueller also obtained the transition cell phones and laptops for 13 transition officials, but the team appears to have obtained warrants before actually searching them, meaning they’re already accounted for in the DC docket.

Still, somehow that gets us from a universe of around 1,000 devices (counting 500 from Manafort, Cohen, Stone, Gates, and Flynn, plus 500 more from witnesses) to 2,300.

So there’s still a great number of media devices the source of which is not readily apparent.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

31 replies
    • Americana says:

      Whoa, thanks! So what is/was the universal encryption app for these Trump jokers? Don’t tell me they used the same encryption app Maria Butina used?!!

  1. P J Evans says:

    For comparison, I have: a win98 machine, a win10 machine, three 1TB external drives, one smaller external drive, a microSD chip (I think it’s currently empty), the SD chips in the cameras, the one in the Palm (genealogy only), and a lot of thumbdrives.

  2. John says:

    I suspect that a lot of the data they report is in images, including poorly compressed PDFs containing page images. So it’s not really close to the Humber of pages in actual pages, just as a data equivalent. Also the emails are going to have images as well as redundant reply chains that inflate their size. That they resort to the “if filled to capacity” shows that they’re trying to make it sound like as big and unreasonable request as possible.

  3. Robert Littlejohn says:

    Agree with John. You don’t normally get terabytes of data unless it is mostly video files. Measuring them in terms of the equivalent number of pages of text is misleading, evidently intentionally so, to make the files look harder to process than they actually are. An hour of video takes an hour to watch; it might take 10GB of storage. If we translate that at 1GB=75,000 pages of text, this means an equivalent of 3/4 million pages of text for an hour of video. How many hours does it take to read 3/4 million pages? (The amount of space taken by a video file depends on a lot of things, the format, the compression, etc., but the basic point I’m making here holds regardless.)

    Likewise with emails. In a typical package of emails, by far the majority of the space is taken up by attachments. The actual emails themselves are normally quite short.

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, I agree with both of you. These numbers are hugely inflated. But the 2,300 number should not be.

      • bmaz says:

        Yep. Last conspiracy case I did had terabytes and terabytes of disclosure. Literally had to take clean external drives down to the prosecutor’s office for it to be copied onto. It was almost all useless polecam video and then a gazillion still photos from surveillance. I probably should not have bothered it turns out, it added nothing as to my client in the conspiracy. But you have to, just to make sure.

        • chuck says:

          That was my thinking as well when first reading the numbers. DOJ is also quoting from their own surveillance amount and segregated devices–plus all that combined capacity–in order to get to their 2300 number.

  4. BobCon says:

    I assume Mueller’s team has created an index of what is on those devices — how often is that FOIA-able, or does that get redacted like crazy too?

  5. Amers says:

    Any chance some Epstein devices fill the count? this uncle khashoggi stuff is making my brain melt.

    • Matthew says:

      That is the weird thing about the OSC investigation: even after it has dropped out of the 24 hours news cycle, there is obviously a lot still going on. It probably connects to other stories, but it is hard to tell exactly how. I have no idea if Epstein was in any way related to that case. For all we know, years from now, it will be revealed that McMaster or Zinke or Rob Porter or someone we don’t even know the name of was the key player in the investigation. Of all the 12 redacted referred investigations in the report, we don’t know if they were about something “boring” like tax evasion or if they were about Epstein smuggling women out of the Ukraine.

      My own guess is that the Epstein stuff is a coincidence, but we really have no way of knowing, and it might be 20 years before the things that connected the investigations together are revealed. Or never.

  6. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    Wild guess here: They’ve got iCloud backups (or the equivalent) of these devices and they’re counting each backup snapshot as a device that needs to be to inspected. That would be literally true in that a file created on day 37, backed up on day 38, and deleted on day 39 would show up only on the day 38 snapshot.

    Whether this conforms to actual investigative practice, I have no idea.

  7. drouse says:

    It’s probably the counting that the FBI used to come up the number of encrypted devices needing to be accessed.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Sorry, MSNBC. Donald Trump is not “blotting out the sun,” with his tweets. Your and the MSM’s coverage are allowing that. You did it in 2016. You are preparing to do it again in 2020.

    What’s confusing to voters is not that the Dems have so many candidates in the field. With sixteen months to go before the election, there’s another ten months to go before the field needs to be dramatically narrowed.

    No, Democrats are not confusing the electorate by providing competing policy proposals. In different ways, those would address the laundry list of problems Trump is ignoring, making worse, or is incompetent to address.

    What is confusing voters and the public is the MSM’s failure to cover them. What is confusing is its insistence on turning every preliminary contest into a one-on-one horse race that confuses the public about who Trump is and who his Democratic rivals are.

    • Democritus says:

      NBC News is run by Andy Lack, who hired Matt Lauer and is a Republican. I enjoy the evening programs, and oddly Nicole Wallace, but always with grains of salt.

      Lots of them.

      • Sonso says:

        Andy Lack is the Peter Principle at its zenith (or nadir if you look at it that way). He also hired Megyn Kelly (post-Fox).

  9. it's complicated says:

    Sorry for what might look bizarre/off-topic.
    The one thing that really really puzzles me here is 677963.
    >> 11 terabytes of non-email digital data, which is the approximate equivalent of 825 million pages (assuming each terabyte consists of 75 million pages
    >> 318 gigabytes of email, which is the approximate equivalent of over 215 million pages (assuming each gigabyte consists of 677,963 pages)
    75 million pages/TB has two digits precision, as to be expected. Sounds plausible.
    But from what kind of magical hat did they pull 677963? That sounds like number malpractice at the very least.

  10. Ed Smiley says:

    Could this be devices associated with physical transfers for Assange and Wikileaks and Russians in embassy?

  11. Drew says:

    Could the large number come from subpoenaing and organization or 20 (or even the DNC for instance)–though what I have in mind are the banks, onshore & offshore, & institutions related to the zillions of LLCs that Manafort had set up?

  12. CD54 says:

    What are the indications/odds that Counter Intel has NOT accessed all of the encrypted devices? Would any of that have been used by SCO? Are there smoking gun decrypts out there which are not usable or embargoed for the criminal case(s)? What are we to do as a country if the evidence of Presidential criminality is trapped within our Intelligence system?

    P.S. (and OT): Has the pardon scheme already been deployed? Manafort, Flynn, and Stone Obstruction for Pardons — not to mention Corsi going dark (is Corsi receiving more monthly installment payments for ‘research’ from untraceable sources? Or am I just paranoid?

    • bmaz says:

      Mueller had access to the CI. He just didn’t share it with the public. And shouldn’t share it with the public.

    • Hops says:

      AFIK, there’s no magic decryption algorithms, you need ridiculous amounts of super computer time to break a strong encryption. I suspect one way in which Manafort didn’t cooperate was in providing the key.

  13. Willis Warren says:

    I’ve been thinking (I know, I know) about the “President isn’t under investigation” obsession by trump and later disclosures (comey, and later in the Mueller reports Vol 2 bullet points) and, I know it’s off topic…

    But isn’t it likely that Trump’s strategy from the beginning, or his legal advice, was that he couldn’t be named as under investigation? did someone tip him off to this early? I don’t remember any analysis of this over the course of the Mueller investigation, so if anyone does, link?

    • bmaz says:

      Well, he was under investigation, and it “could” have been stated that he was under investigation. Don’t disagree with Mueller thinking the better of that and not doing so, but he could have. And neither him or Comey et, al did either, but they didn’t particularly deny it either. They said he was not a target. And if he couldn’t be indicted, hard to see how he could really be a formal target. Trump took “not a target” and duplicitously turned that into “not under investigation”.

      • Willis Warren says:

        yes, exactly, but something’s been bugging me about this (as I posted day of report’s release and many times after) :

        “Third, we considered whether to evaluate the conduct we investigated under the Justice Manual standards governing prosecution and declination decisions, but we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes.”

        I keep wondering how well informed about this process Trump was even BEFORE the appointment of Mueller. I mean, clearly Mueller put that part in there about the president being under investigation being ok as a dig, but to whom? the President or… Rosenstein?

  14. AndTheSlithyToves says:

    Am I the only one who wonders why Trump has not been back–not once–to his Tower since he left for Washington?

    • elk_l says:

      Trump, no doubt, thinks that spy, Plastic Man Obama, is, with evil intent, still scrambling all over that building.

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