New Bill Seeks To Block Expansion Of FBI Hacking Authority

A group of bipartisan senators have introduced new legislation Thursday seeking to block a rule change, which would allow the FBI to conduct mass hacking of any computer in the country or even overseas.

The one-page legislation from Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Rand Paul would undo the change, adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in a private vote last month and without congressional involvement, to procedural rules governing the court system.

Back in April, the Supreme Court approved controversial amendments to federal criminal procedure that if approved by Congress, will expand the FBI’s ability to hack into computer networks.

Republican Senator Steve Daines and Democrats Tammy Baldwin and Jon Tester are co-sponsoring the Stopping Mass Hacking Act.

The rule in question, Criminal Rule 41, limits judges’ authority to authorize search warrants. Magistrate judges can usually only approve warrants within their jurisdiction.

The change to Rule 41 would allow judges to “issue a warrant to use remote access to search electronic storage media and to seize or copy electronically stored information located within or outside that district,” and will go into effect on December 1 if Congress does not try to block it.

“This is a dramatic expansion of the government’s hacking and surveillance authority,” said Wyden in a statement. “Such a substantive change with an enormous impact on Americans’ constitutional rights should be debated by Congress, not maneuvered through an obscure bureaucratic process,” he added.