Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. and Chris Coons, D-Del., said Tuesday they are “deeply disappointed with the Justice Department’s failure to substantively answer” many of the questions by 23 U.S. lawmakers about a new expanded mass hacking authority that is set to go into effect next month if Congress does not act. 

According to the lawmakers, the Justice Department’s response did not provide details about how the government will uphold fundamental protections, including:

  • How to prevent “forum shopping” by federal prosecutors when seeking a single warrant to hack thousands or millions of devices;
  • Whether and how the government plans to “clean” devices belonging to innocent Americans, including under what legal authority;
  • How the government would prevent further damaging a compromised device already hacked by both a criminal and the government;
  • Whether having your device “damaged,” and connected to a crime, is probable cause to search it.

Sen. Coons and Sen. Steve Daines R-Mont., along with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, have introduced a bipartisan bill to delay the rule changes for 6 months, co-sponsored by Wyden.

“While I am pleased that the Department of Justice responded to our October letter concerning the proposed amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, many questions remain unanswered,” said Senator Coons. “That is why I continue to believe Congress should have a substantive debate surrounding any changes before they go into effect on December 1, 2016.  Congress should pass my Review the Rule Act (S.3475) and ensure we have adequate time to do our job and consider and debate these changes.”

“The American people deserve answers to these very basic questions about how our government intends to hack thousands or millions of personal devices with a single warrant,” Wyden said. “The Justice Department’s failure to answer these questions should be a big blinking warning sign about whether the government can be trusted to carry out these hacks without harming the security and privacy of innocent Americans’ phones, computers and other devices.”