Week ahead: Senate fight brews over feds' hacking powers

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump struggles to get new IRS team in place CIA declassifies memo on nominee's handling of interrogation tapes Dem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers MORE (D-Ore.) is moving to prevent a controversial expansion of the federal government's hacking powers.

The privacy hawk in the coming week is expected to unveil legislation blocking a Justice Department request to allow judges to grant a single warrant for electronic searches in multiple locations -- even when investigators don't know the physical location of a device.

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The Justice Department, which has been working for years on getting the change, insists the revision to what's known as Rule 41 is a necessary update to match the realities of modern digital investigations.

But the amendment has met with swift pushback from tech companies, such as Google, as well as from Wyden and civil liberties organizations, which fear the change will give the FBI the authority to hack computers with little oversight.

The Supreme Court approved the DOJ's request last week, and it now heads to Congress, where lawmakers have seven months to weigh in. Absent any congressional action, the rule will take effect on Dec. 1.

"Sen. Wyden is currently speaking with interested co-sponsors and plans on introducing legislation within days to reverse the amendments to Rule 41," a Wyden aide told The Hill on Wednesday.

Lawmakers' attention in the coming week will largely be focused on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which faces committee markups in the Senate. The House version is expected to hit the floor in that chamber soon.

The bill has a number of cybersecurity provisions, largely seen as non-controversial. The NDAA would elevate U.S. Cyber Command and launch a review into whether the agency should still be run by the head of the National Security Agency (NSA).

The move is a nod to the expanding role of cyber warfare in international conflicts. The Pentagon has increased its focus on offensive cyber tactics in recent years and recently acknowledged launching its first full-scale cyber offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Cyber Command head Adm. Michael Rogers supports designating his unit as a "unified combatant command," as do many lawmakers in both the House and Senate.

Rogers, who also heads the NSA, stumped for the move during a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. He said the change would help prioritize cyber during the budgeting process, while making Cyber Command more nimble.

"A combatant commander designation would allow us to be faster, which would generate better mission outcomes," he told the committee.

But Rogers pushed back against taking Cyber Command control away from the NSA chief just yet, noting that the unit was established six years ago to take advantage of NSA infrastructure.

"I agree in the long run," Rogers said. "But the reality is we're just not ready to do that today."

Lawmakers have been more skeptical of the dual-hat position, however, which was reflected in the NDAA. The bill would direct the Government Accountability Office to study whether the NSA chief should continue to run Cyber Command.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee's oversight panel will examine data breaches at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

 

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Apple CEO Tim Cook is planning to visit China as the company faces new tensions there.

The State Department said it could not verify claims by a Romanian hacker who said he broke into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton takes swipe at 'false equivalency' in media coverage of 2016 election Former presidents, first ladies come together to honor Barbara Bush Romney: Parts of Comey book read 'too much like a novel’ MORE's private server.

Meanwhile, a federal judge opened the door to interviewing Clinton as part of a review into her use of the server.

Facebook paid $10,000 to a 10-year-old hacker who uncovered a security flaw in its Instagram app.