April 28, 2016

Wyden: Congress Must Reject Sprawling Expansion of Government Surveillance

Rule 41 Revision Treats Victims like Attackers; One Warrant Could Authorize Government Hacking of Thousands or Millions of Americans’ Devices; Any Change Should be Made by Congress

Washington, D.C.– U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. today called for Congress to reject new rules that will massively expand the government’s hacking and surveillance powers, if the rules are allowed to go into effect later this year.

These new surveillance and hacking rules are known formally as amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

 “These amendments will have significant consequences for Americans’ privacy and the scope of the government’s powers to conduct remote surveillance and searches of electronic devices. I plan to introduce legislation to reverse these amendments shortly, and to request details on the opaque process for the authorization and use of hacking techniques by the government,” said Wyden.

 “Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime. These are complex issues involving privacy, digital security and our Fourth Amendment rights, which require thoughtful debate and public vetting. Substantive policy changes like these are clearly a job for Congress, the American people and their elected representatives, not an obscure bureaucratic process.”

At the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) the U.S. Federal Courts made an administrative change to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure which were approved by the Supreme Court today.

The amendments to Rule 41 would make it easier for DOJ to obtain warrants for electronic searches. The amendments would allow a single judge to issue a single warrant authorizing government hacking of an untold number of devices located anywhere in the world. The amendments would take effect on December 1, 2016 absent Congressional action.