A controversial expansion of government powers has granted the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the ability to hack an unlimited number
of civilian computers with just a single warrant, including computers
located beyond the judicial district where the warrant is issued. Under
the recently-amended Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,
federal magistrates are now authorized to permit widespread searches of
computers regardless of their location, including those found in other
judicial districts, states, or foreign countries. Until now, the government
could only carry out a search of computers located in the district where
the federal judge granted the warrant.
The expanded rule comes as a result of an early 2015 investigation which
targeted Playpen, one of the largest child pornography forums on the internet.
After federal agents seized the computer server hosting the site, a warrant
was obtained authorizing the FBI to continue running the site to investigate
its users, resulting in the identification of more than 8,000 internet
protocol addresses in more than 120 countries and the arrest of more than
1,000 American users.
Though several courts found that the warrant was improperly issued, no
universal agreement was established regarding whether or not evidence
from the case should be suppressed. As a result, the Supreme Court conveyed
to Congress its proposed changes to the rule, which include:
- The government would be permitted to remotely access electronic devices
even if their location is unknown, and;
- The Department of Justice would be able to search multiple computers in
numerous districts as part of a large-scale investigation of computer crimes.
Is This a Violation of the Fourth Amendment?
Despite being given until December 21st, 2016 to pass counter-legislation, Congress failed to act, allowing the
proposed changes to take effect without resistance. Opponents of the rule
change have labeled it as invasive and a breach of citizens’ rights
under the Fourth Amendment. NSA Fugitive Edward Snowden expressed his
thoughts on the matter, tweeting “Without a debate or any new law,
the rights of every American – and basic privacy of people around
the world – have been narrowed.”
While debate regarding the constitutionality of the Rule 41 modification
will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future, one thing remains
certain: it is now a whole lot easier for the government to access confidential
information on your computer.
Charged with a Computer Crime? Call (888) 694-4645
If you are facing criminal prosecution for a computer crime such as
spamming, contact Friedman & Nemeck, LLC Attorneys at Law today. Backed by years of
criminal defense experience and a
proven history of positive case results, our team of top-rated Cleveland criminal defense attorneys can provide
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chances of conviction.
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today to discuss your defense options in full detail.