Thanks To Months Of Doing Nothing, Senate Allows DOJ's Rule 41 Changes To Become Law

from the do-nothing-lawmakers-manage-to-accomplish-something dept

The amendments to Rule 41 are now law, thanks to Sen. John Cornyn, who prevented bills opposing the immediate adoption of the changes from being debated.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Chris Coons (D-Del) took to the floor and unsuccessfully asked for unanimous consent to either pass or formally vote on three bills to delay or prevent updates to the process used by law enforcement to get a warrant to hack suspects' computers.

“We simply can’t give unlimited power for unlimited hacking,” Daines argued.

[...]

But the bid to prevent the imminent changes to Rule 41 ended quickly. After Wyden spoke, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) immediately objected to all three bills, without waiting to hear from Coons and Daines.

But Cornyn alone can't be blamed for this outcome. A vast majority of senators did nothing to prevent the proposed changes from becoming law -- even though the decision has been in their hands since the Supreme Court's approval in April.

The FBI and others will be able to take advantage of the removal of jurisdictional limits to search computers anywhere in the world using a single warrant issued by a magistrate judge. It will also be granted the same power for use in the disruption of botnets -- in essence, searches/seizures of devices owned by US citizens suspected of no wrongdoing.

Cornyn, who prevented any debate over the "updates" to Rule 41, seems closely aligned with the DOJ's views -- that these changes will have "little effect" on civil liberties because the FBI, etc. "will still have to get a warrant."

Sure, warrants are still involved, but the scope of what can be accessed with a single warrant has been expanded greatly. And the DOJ has yet to explain how it's going to prevent law enforcement agencies from shopping around for the most compliant magistrates, now that they're not required to perform searches in the issuing court's jurisdiction. The DOJ also hasn't adequately explained what sort of notification process it will use when performing its botnet cleanups.

What it has done, however, is issue a statement saying the ends justify the means.

In an effort to address concerns, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell wrote a blog post this week arguing that the benefits given to authorities from the rule changes outweighed any potential for "unintended harm."

The DOJ wanted fewer restrictions, more power, and the opportunity to treat any appearance of anonymization software as an excuse to deploy these newly-granted powers. The Senate -- for the most part -- gave it everything it wanted by doing nothing at all to stop it.

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Filed Under: doj, fbi, hacking, john cornyn, nit, ron wyden, rule 41, surveillance, warrants


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2016 @ 12:41am

    Your law enforcement agencies and your hilariously misnamend DoJ have proven, over and over again, they are just the biggest criminal organisation in the U.S., not in any way proponents or defenders of law or justice. THey hold themselves above it, an repeatedly shield criminals in their own ranks from the consequences of their actions. Now, the U.S. has even declared legally that any person anywhere on this world is free game for their actions. WHich means the U.S: has declared it's completely, officially OK with them that they attack us digitally and in violation of the laws we live under.

    Just think about that for a minute. There is a foreign government out there that will, without hesitation, break the laws I live under and the souvereign domain of my country to attack me digitally, and openly admits to that practice and calls it right and just. That is not the position of an ally, or even a friend. That is the position of an agressor, an enemy, that respects neither me, my country or our laws.

    What the fuck are we supposed to do about that? Just accept that you will do with us what you want? Sever the global internet into nation state splinters? What the fuck? The digital policies of the U.S. threaten us all, on a global scale. And there is absolutely no remedy I can see, no way for us to do anything about this. The U.S. will continue in this avenue until it has eradicated freedom of any kind, and we are helpless.

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