A coalition of tech and privacy groups are calling on legislators to delay changes to Rule 41 that would allow judges to issue warrants to remotely access computers located in any jurisdiction.
The letter, sent to Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), asked the Congressional leaders to lawmakers to support a last-ditch effort from a bi-partisan group of legislators to delay authorization of proposed changes to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The bill, known as the Review the Rule Act, aims to delay until July 2017 amendments that would grant the government access to seek warrants to hack computers in any jurisdiction. If no action is taken, the proposed amendments will take effect on December 1.
Lawmakers have made previous attempts to block the controversial amendment. Earlier this month, a Congressional aide told SC Media that he does not believe Congress has an interest in blocking the proposed changes, considering the recent election results.
“The consequences of this rule change are far from clear, and could be deleterious to security as well as to Fourth Amendment privacy rights,” the groups wrote in the public letter to lawmakers.
“Government hacking, like wiretapping, can be much more privacy invasive than traditional searches” the coalition wrote. The letter was signed by a coalition of 26 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), New America's Open Technology Institute, R Street Institute, Google, and other groups.
The proposed change to Rule 41 “would allow a judge to issue a warrant that would permit law enforcement to search the computers of hundreds of entirely innocent crime victims without their consent,” the letter stated.
The Justice Department has defended the need for an amendment to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Leslie Caldwell, Justice Department assistant attorney general of the criminal division, argued in a blog post Monday that anonymizing technologies “enable new forms of crime and victimization that would have been difficult to imagine not that long ago.”
“Despite being prepared to comply fully with the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirements, including persuading a federal judge that a lawful basis for a warrant exists, investigators are being told that, because criminals have successfully used technology to hide their location, there is no court available to hear their warrant application,” Caldwell wrote.