Press Releases

Demand Progress Applauds the Stopping Mass Hacking Act

Demand Progress Applauds Bill to Halt Expansion of Government’s Cyberhacking Authority

Contact: Daniel Schuman, 202-577-6100
Email: [email protected]

Today Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Stopping Mass Hacking Act to roll back a measure that would dramatically expand a federal court’s power to okay hacking into computer systems traditionally outside of its jurisdiction.

For two years the Justice Department has pushed a change to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that would allow any federal court–including magistrate judges, which are not confirmed by the Senate–to sign a single warrant approving a government request to hack into potentially millions of computers anywhere in the world when certain criteria are met, including that the government could not ascertain the location of a computer or that the computer is part of a network of computers that cover the jurisdiction of multiple courts. The Supreme Court adopted this proposal on April 28, and if Congress does not act by December 1, it will go into effect.

The proposed change to Rule 41 is opposed by experts and companies alike. It expands a court’s ability to issue hacking warrants by allowing them to give the government carte blanche to hack anyone anywhere. Courts traditionally only have jurisdiction in a limited geographic area and probable cause must be shown for each search.

“Congress, and not the Department of Justice, is responsible for promulgating laws that concern government surveillance and hacking, because Congress has the constitutional obligation and will likely consider privacy concerns and the public interest, not merely governmental convenience,” said Daniel Schuman, Policy Director with Demand Progress. “This rule change would render millions of Americans subject to cyberattacks levied by the most powerful actor on earth: the U.S. government.”

The founders drafted the Constitution to make sure it provided the government limited powers. Rule 41 would give the government virtually boundless ability to hack the world with the say-so of a magistrate judge operating outside of that court’s traditional jurisdiction.