Thanks To Months Of Doing Nothing, Senate Allows DOJ's Rule 41 Changes To 
Become Law

from the do-nothing-lawmakers-manage-to-accomplish-something dept

The amendments to Rule 41 are now law, thanks to Sen. John Cornyn, who 
prevented bills opposing the immediate adoption of the changes from being 

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Chris Coons (D-Del) took 
to the floor and unsuccessfully asked for unanimous consent to either pass or 
formally vote on three bills to delay or prevent updates to the process used by 
law enforcement to get a warrant to hack suspects' computers.

“We simply can’t give unlimited power for unlimited hacking,” Daines argued.


But the bid to prevent the imminent changes to Rule 41 ended quickly. After 
Wyden spoke, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) immediately objected to all 
three bills, without waiting to hear from Coons and Daines.

But Cornyn alone can't be blamed for this outcome. A vast majority of senators 
did nothing to prevent the proposed changes from becoming law -- even though 
the decision has been in their hands since the Supreme Court's approval in 

The FBI and others will be able to take advantage of the removal of 
jurisdictional limits to search computers anywhere in the world using a single 
warrant issued by a magistrate judge. It will also be granted the same power 
for use in the disruption of botnets -- in essence, searches/seizures of 
devices owned by US citizens suspected of no wrongdoing.

Cornyn, who prevented any debate over the "updates" to Rule 41, seems closely 
aligned with the DOJ's views -- that these changes will have "little effect" on 
civil liberties because the FBI, etc. "will still have to get a warrant."

Sure, warrants are still involved, but the scope of what can be accessed with a 
single warrant has been expanded greatly. And the DOJ has yet to explain how 
it's going to prevent law enforcement agencies from shopping around for the 
most compliant magistrates, now that they're not required to perform searches 
in the issuing court's jurisdiction. The DOJ also hasn't adequately explained 
what sort of notification process it will use when performing its botnet 

What it has done, however, is issue a statement saying the ends justify the 

In an effort to address concerns, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie 
Caldwell wrote a blog post this week arguing that the benefits given to 
authorities from the rule changes outweighed any potential for "unintended 

The DOJ wanted fewer restrictions, more power, and the opportunity to treat any 
appearance of anonymization software as an excuse to deploy these newly-granted 
powers. The Senate -- for the most part -- gave it everything it wanted by 
doing nothing at all to stop it.

It's better to burn out than fade away.

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