Tags: Homeland Security | NSA/Surveillance | War on Terrorism | expand | spy | authority | computers

Justice Dept. Seeks to Expand Computer Spying Authority

By    |   Wednesday, 05 Nov 2014 05:44 PM

The Justice Department is quietly trying to expand its authority to spy on computers — at home or abroad — by changing a federal rule that restricts judicial approval of search warrants, National Journal reports.

The department has petitioned a judicial advisory committee to amend "Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure," which outlines conditions under which magistrate judges can grant government search warrants — changing it so judges can green-light spying on computers no matter where they're situated.

The expansion would let Justice officials better track and investigate suspects using technology to hide their location or identity, National Journal notes.

But tech experts and civil-liberties groups condemned the plan during testimony before the rule-making committee Wednesday.

"It's like turning on a switch, but instead of turning on a faucet, it's like turning on a fire hose," Ahmed Ghappour, a computer law professor at the University of California's Hastings College of Law, told National Journal, warning that unintended consequences could include the ability of the government to spy on computer networks in other countries.

Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this month criticized the newest Apple Inc. and Google Inc. smartphones that automatically encrypt data stored on them, blocking law enforcement agents from tapping into the phones of suspected criminals.

Critics say such a broad rule change ought to be decided by Congress, not by an obscure regulatory panel.

"I empathize that it is very hard to get a legislative change," Amie Stepanovich, senior policy counsel with Access, a digital-freedom group, told National Journal. "However, when you have us resorting to Congress to get increased privacy protections, we would also like to see the government turn to Congress to get increased surveillance authority."

The FBI wants to expand its electronic spying capabilities, and last week met with House staffers about legislation that would force tech companies to give the government greater backdoor access to their devices, National Journal has reported.

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The Justice Department is quietly trying to expand its authority to spy on computers – at home or abroad – by changing a federal rule that restricts judicial approval of search warrants, National Journal reports.
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2014-44-05
Wednesday, 05 Nov 2014 05:44 PM
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