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Bipartisan Coalition Presses DOJ About Government Hacking

Lawmakers seek answers about how government would use new hacking authority, one month before Rule 41 amendments would take effect

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined a bipartisan coalition of Senate and House lawmakers in urging Attorney General Loretta Lynch to provide Congress with more information about a proposed expansion of government hacking and surveillance powers. The bipartisan group of 23 lawmakers, led by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), asked for more information about the proposal, formally known as amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Unless Congress acts, these new amendments are scheduled to go into effect on December 1.

“We are concerned about the full scope of the new authority that would be provided to the Department of Justice,” the 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.”

 The lawmakers ask DOJ a number of questions about how Rule 41 will be used, including:

  • How the government intends to prevent forum shopping by prosecutors seeking court approval to hack into Americans' devices;
  • How the government will prevent collateral damage to innocent Americans' devices and electronic data when it remotely searches devices such as smartphones or medical devices;
  • Whether the government intends to use this new authority to search and “clean” Americans' computers;
  • How the government will maintain a chain of custody when searching or removing evidence from a device;
  • How the government will notify Americans who are the subjects of remote government searches.

The letter was signed by: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Steve Daines (R-MT), Al Franken (D-MN) Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) as well as and Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Ted Poe (R-TX), Justin Amash (R-MI), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Judy Chu (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

A copy of the letter the lawmakers sent is available here