Judges would be empowered to issue search warrants for beyond their jurisdiction
Judges would be empowered to issue search warrants for beyond their jurisdiction

The government's power to use a single warrant to investigate computers across jurisdictions, even across the world, is being challenged by a proposed bill.

The Review the Rule Act, introduced into Congress by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers, seeks to delay the enactment on Dec. 1 of a proposed amendments to rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. If enacted, the amendment would grant authority to judges to issue search warrants beyond their local jurisdiction so that computers – whose physical locations might be disguised – could be searched by law enforcement wherever they might be found. The authority was approved by the Supreme Court in April. This new bill seeks to delay its enactment beyond Dec. 1 so that debate on the proposed amendment could continue.

Privacy advocates, civil rights groups and a number of legislators oppose the proposed amendment to rule 41 on grounds that it would grant too much power to law enforcement who, after a judge signed off on a single warrant, could expand surveillance authority that would enable them to commandeer computers anyplace, including beyond U.S. borders.

Legislators backing the bill said they are seeking a delay so that discussions could continue to evaluate the proposed amendment,

“Government does not have the authority to unilaterally legalize widespread government hacking,” said Sen. Ted Poe (R-Texas). “Americans have rights. It is Congress' responsibility to safeguard the constitutional rights of the people they represent from a power hungry Executive Branch." 

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that a single prosecutor "should not have the power to hack into the phone or computer of virtually anyone in the United States."

Those signing the bill are Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.); Mike Lee (R-Utah); Steve Daines (R-Mont.); Ron Wyden (D-Ore.); and Al Franken (D-Minn.). The bill is also supported by Representatives John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas).