Rule 41 change effective: NPR: Judges Have More Power In Granting Warrants To Hack Digital Devices / Some questions for Jeff Sessions

NPR: Judges Have More Power In Granting Warrants To Hack Digital Devices by David Welna

Under new rules, the Justice Department can ask a federal court for permission to search mobile devices outside the court’s district.

Congress had a full seven months to block a rule change for federal courts that lets judges authorize the hacking of digital devices well beyond their districts. But opponents of the measure on Capitol Hill waited until the day before the rule change was to take effect to try to shoot it down or at least delay its implementation.

They were not successful. So as of midnight Dec. 1, the change to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure — the statute that covers Fourth Amendment search and seizure warrants — is the law of the land. And that, says Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines, “should send a shiver down the spine of all Americans.”

The Department of Justice, which sought the rules change, disagrees. On its website, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Crawford of the Criminal Division argues that the changes “would merely ensure that at least one court is available to consider whether a particular warrant application comports with the Fourth Amendment.” Crawford notes that federal authorities were already able to obtain warrants for “remote searches” — the term the DOJ uses — even before the rule change.

So why the change? For federal investigators, the rule for obtaining search warrants failed to address digital age realities. Typically, those warrants had to be tied to geographical jurisdictions — specific addresses in specific places for specific people. That meant criminal activity being carried out online under the cloak of anonymity was difficult, if not impossible, to link to any particular judge’s area of jurisdiction.

From all accounts, some members of Congress didn’t even think about attempting to block this rule change until this week, and Congress was in session and voting on stuff yesterday. They were apparently to busy not doing much of anything in the last seven months to care. Even what little is here mentioned some Congressmen’s efforts to bring this up, including a story from the Alt-Right blaming President Obama for the SCOTUS rule change since they apparently don’t understand how rules are adopted and amended.* This blog had about seven postings about the rule change starting even before the letter from the Chief Justice to Congress in April triggering Congress’s period to object or change it.

When Jeff Sessions comes before the Senate for his AG confirmation, he should be asked about whether he supports the Rule 41 authorized hacking. If not, why did he make no attempt to stop it by blocking the rule? If so, why does he hate privacy?
* Career prosecutors in DoJ sought the rule change but it had already been adopted in a case. Presumably the new Administration with an Alt-Right operative on the inside can change it again. Just watch. {Crickets, I predict.}

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