Amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are set to go into effect on December 1, which will legalize the ability of the US government to hack into computers in any jurisdiction, even in foreign nations.
Congress has until that date to challenge the amendment, and now a group of 23 senators and representatives have sent a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing concerns over the potential privacy violations this amendment would allow.
“We are concerned about the full scope of the new authority that would be provided to the Department of Justice,” the bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote. “We believe that Congress—and the American public—must better understand the department’s need for the proposed amendments, how the department intends to use its proposed new powers, and the potential consequences to our digital security before these rules go into effect.”
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, has introduced legislation to stop Rule 41, but has not yet garnered needed support. “The Supreme Court in April approved amendments to Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure that would allow judges to issue warrants in cases when a suspect uses anonymizing technology to conceal the location of his or her computer or for an investigation into a network of hacked or infected computers, such as a botnet,” Reuters detailed.
Questions posed by lawmakers to Lynch included asking how the privacy of American citizens will be protected, and how damage to innocent people’s computers, servers, and networks would be prevented. They also inquired as to how law enforcement would be prevented from exploiting “forum shopping,” to seek judges or districts favorable to their cause.
Perhaps the biggest question, however, is whether agencies would notify innocent people whose computers are being used as botnets that their privacy had been invaded and their devices hacked. Since time is running out to stop Rule 41, lawmakers have requested a response to their inquiries within the next two weeks.