November 30, 2016

Bipartisan Senators Question Rush to Expand DOJ Hacking Authority Without Congressional Oversight

Wyden, Coons, Daines Requested Short-Term Delay of Controversial Hacking Rules; Starting Tomorrow, New Rules Allow Mass Hacking of Innocent Americans’ Phones, Computers

Washington, D.C.–Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., today made a last-ditch effort to delay broad new government hacking authority that is now set to go into effect tomorrow.

Wyden, Coons and Daines asked the Senate to pass or vote on three separate measures to block or delay a set of new rules that would broadly expand government hacking authority without any Congressional input or hearing. The bipartisan group of senators has repeatedly asked for hearings to consider potentially sweeping changes to how the government can hack, search or size Americans’ personal phones, computers and other devices.

“By sitting here and doing nothing, the Senate has given consent to this expansion of government hacking and surveillance,” Wyden said. “Law-abiding Americans are going to ask ‘what were you guys thinking? when the FBI starts hacking victims of a botnet hack. Or when a mass hack goes awry and breaks their device, or an entire hospital system and puts lives at risk.”

“If we fail to act today, these changes to Rule 41 will go into effect tomorrow without any hearing or markup to consider and evaluate the impact of the changes,” said Senator Coons. “While the proposed changes are not necessarily bad or good, they are serious, and they present significant privacy concerns that warrant careful consideration and debate. That’s why I joined my colleagues from both sides of the aisle today in calling for prompt passage of our legislation to delay implementation of the changes for six months. It is our responsibility to do our jobs and thoroughly evaluate the merits and ramifications of the proposed changes.” 

“We can’t give unlimited power for unlimited hacking – putting Americans’ civil liberties at risk,” Senator Daines stated.

Sen. Wyden first asked the Senate to pass his Stopping Mass Hacking (SMH) Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Daines, to block the rules from taking effect. Sen. Coons followed by asking unanimous consent to pass his Review the Rule Act, to delay the changes for 6 months. After those requests were rejected, Sen. Wyden asked for a vote on just a 3-month delay, through his Stalling Mass Damaging Hacking Act, which was also denied by Republican leaders.