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Hotmail Embroiled in Moussaoui Case

The legal battle of alleged Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui has taken a turn into the world of tech, as the case focuses on a missing Hotmail e-mail account that Moussaoui claims will back up his alibi for taking flying lessons in Minnesota, according to a report by the Washington Post.

Moussaoui, representing himself in the case, had requested that the government turn over all records related to his Hotmail.com e-mail address.

Unfortunately for Moussaoui's case, his Hotmail address, xdesertman@hotmail.com, is nowhere to be found, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which supplied U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema with a certificate from Microsoft attesting to the fact that the account does not exist.

The only problem? Microsoft's recent policy of deleting a Hotmail account after 30 days of inactivity and freeing the address for others to use after 90 days.

But Judge Brinkema was dubious that the FBI had not been able to track Moussaoui's e-mail trail, given the seriousness of the investigation. The judge ordered the bureau to explain why it had no records of Moussaoui's activities online.

On Wednesday, Brinkema wrote: "Given the intense law enforcement attention focused on Mr. Moussaoui after September 11, 2001, we do not understand why an immediate and thorough investigation into the defendant's e-mail and computer activities did not lead investigators to the xdesertman@hotmail.com account, if it existed."

The judge proceeded to grant Moussaoui's request for an independent forensic computer expert, who will seek the information independently.

In addition, Brinkema demanded the prosecutors provide an affidavit from the FBI, "explaining how and when, if at all, the FBI examined the contents of the defendant's computers," the Washington Post reported.

"The affidavit must indicate why investigators were unable to retrieve any information from MSN Hotmail and/or any other computers or accounts searched, and must make clear whether any efforts were made to obtain forensic expert services of any other government agencies such as the CIA or NSA to assist in retrieving the information."