The team-up that helped force the sunset of one of the domestic surveillance authorizations of the PATRIOT Act is back together for a new fight. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is joining Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to try to halt the implementation of a new federal rule that has the potential to launch a new form of far-reaching, high-tech surveillance.
What they’re trying to stop is an update to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. This update, approved by the Supreme Court in April, would authorize federal judges to issue warrants that would allow remote hacking into large numbers of computers in any jurisdiction. At the moment, the rules allow judges to authorize these warrants only in their own jurisdictions. But crimes involving computer and internet communications are hardly confined to a single jurisdiction. The example prosecutors use here is child pornography, their go-to when they can’t use terrorism to justify an expansion of government power.
Wyden spoke out against the rule change early on, saying it would “have significant consequences of Americans’ privacy and the scope of government’s powers to conduct remote surveillance of searches of electronic devices.” He has promised legislation to reverse the implementation of the rule. Paul has now joined him as a co-sponsor to make it a bipartisan push.