Paul to join Dem bill on government hacking

Paul to join Dem bill on government hacking
© Francis Rivera

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms Trump lunches with two of his biggest Senate GOP critics Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown MORE (R-Ky.) will co-sponsor a bill from Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach Democrats press Trump officials over drop in ObamaCare signups amid website problems Trump, senators push for drug price disclosures despite setbacks MORE (D-Ore.) blocking a Justice Department request to expand its remote hacking powers, Paul's office told The Hill on Friday.

The measure, originally expected this week, is now anticipated early next week.

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At issue is a proposed alteration to little-known criminal procedure rules — approved by the Supreme Court last month — that would allow judges to grant warrants for electronic searches in multiple locations, even when investigators don’t know the physical location of a device.

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 civil libertarians and tech companies such as Google, who fear the change will give the FBI the authority to hack computers with little oversight.

Other Republican lawmakers are also weighing action on the proposed change.

One Republican Senate aide said that while his office will not be joining the Wyden-Paul effort to scrap the entire change, it's weighing whether some aspects of the new rule should be amended.

“Maybe part of this can be retained,” the aide said. “There’s reason to believe the second piece can be changed in a way that might mitigate our concerns.”

Onlookers say the opposition to the change has united civil liberties advocates from both sides of the aisle who are concerned that the amendment is a form of government overreach.

“I don’t think this is a partisan thing,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told The Hill on Thursday.

Lawmakers have seven months to weigh in with affirmation legislation. Absent any congressional action, the rule will take effect on Dec. 1.