Jason G. Weiss J.D. ’92 Has Spent Nearly Two Decades Gathering Digital Evidence for the FBI.
By ELIZABETH KELLEY GILLOGLY B.A.’93
“I sometimes call the Internet the eighth wonder of the world,” says Jason G. Weiss J.D. ’92, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation based in Orange County. “The Internet brings us so much opportunity and information. Technology is wonderful. In some ways it has made us safer. But in some ways it makes the world much more dangerous…. Some people end up doing things they might have never done if it was not made so easy on the Internet. People think, incorrectly I might add, that they are somehow anonymous while using the Internet. They are wrong.”
That is where Weiss and his team come in. Weiss is the founding laboratory director of the Orange County Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (OCRCFL), a compilation of federal, state, and local computer forensic examiners. When investigations include cell phones, computers, or other devices, the items are sent to one of these 15 labs in the U.S., which includes Weiss and his colleagues at the OCRCFL.
Weiss currently serves as a senior computer forensic examiner at the OCRCFL, and he says his Santa Clara Law experience is something he is quite grateful for in his line of work. “The FBI enforces 300 different statutes, so every case can be very different. It is critical to be able to understand the federal criminal codes and the elements of the crime, to be able to go to court and understand the process, and to be able to testify.” Weiss also had a few years of lawyering under his belt before joining the FBI—he served as a trial attorney in Central California doing civil litigation, insurance defense, and medical malpractice defense, and he also served as a judge pro tem for San Joaquin County Superior Courts.
In addition to his forensic lab work, Weiss also helps train others in his field by participating in the FBI’s moot court process as a mock prosecutor and mock defense attorney. “When we train new computer forensic examiners, they have to go through a moot court trial process. It is a critical part of our training,” Weiss says, adding that he enjoys the courtroom work and helping other examiners learn the ropes.
“It is impossible to stand still when you work in technology,” says Weiss. In the almost 20 years he has worked in this field, Weiss says, “computer crime has changed dramatically because technology has changed so much and so fast. We are constantly working on keeping up with the latest technology, the new operating systems, and the new encryption algorithms. Any time things change, we have to figure out how it works so we can extract data from it in a format that is admissible to court and helpful to investigators.
“You always trade privacy for security,” says Weiss. And despite the constant challenge of keeping up, Weiss says the FBI is “very good at what we do.” He compares the full court press of an FBI investigation to “turning the eye of Mordor” on a criminal (a Lord of the Rings reference). “If we turn our eye on you, and apply our full spectrum of resources, we will find everything,” he says. He cites the Boston Marathon bombing as one example. “There was no digital stone left unturned,” he says.
One of the more difficult areas of his work involves crimes against children. “It is by far the most heartbreaking thing I do,” he says. “Even though we catch many of these people and put them in jail, we can’t ever undo what they have done. I am still shocked by the growth of this type of crime. At one point crimes against children represented almost 40 percent of our laboratory case load.”
At the end of the day, Weiss says he is grateful to go home to his wife (of 25 years) Cammy and his two teenage children. In his free time, he says he loves to watch his daughter play soccer and his son perform in theater. And, he adds, he also still loves to play video games.