Lawmakers question new DOJ hacking rule

A bipartisan group of legislators signed letter on Thursday requesting that the Department of Justice (DOJ) clarify a forthcoming rules change that could affect citizens’ privacy.

“We are concerned about the full scope of the new authority that would be provided to the Department of Justice,” lawmakers wrote in their letter seeking clarification on amendments to Rule 41.

The changes — which the Supreme Court approved in April — are due to take effect on Dec. 1 and will allow investigators search multiple computers off a single warrant.
The FBI previously ran into trouble in a case regarding the child pornography dark website, Playpen, when they hacked multiple computers across the country to gain the identities of individuals using the website. A judge in Massachusetts threw out evidence obtained by the FBI’s hacking, because Rule 41 had stipulated that a warrant needs to be issued in the judicial district where the criminal activity occurred.

The 23 lawmakers’ concerns focused on innocent Americans who could be affected by the changes.

“Will network investigative techniques be used to ‘clean’ infected devices, including devices that belong to innocent Americans?” the letter asked.

“If the Department were to search devices belonging to innocent American’s to combat a complicated computer crime, please describe what procedures the Department would use to prevent further damage to accessed devices.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — one of the letter’s signatories — along with other lawmakers previously introduced legislation to block the rule change, which the DOJ has spent years working on.

A Justice Department spokesperson told Reuters that they are currently reviewing the letter.


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