DOJ pushes expanded ability to search computers

DOJ pushes expanded ability to search computers
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The Department of Justice says the United States needs to expand law enforcement’s ability to search computers. 

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In a Monday blog post, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell wrote in support of changes to a federal rule governing search and seizure, known as “Rule 41,” working their way through Congress.  

Proposed amendments would allow law enforcement to receive warrants to search a computer despite not knowing the physical location of the computer or to have a single judge issue warrants for computers across five or more jurisdictions. These would include remote searches that involve hacking techniques. 

The Justice Department sees these changes as a necessary step at a time when criminals can use technological means to hide the location of their computers or arrange vast networks of hijacked computers across the world to perform coordinated attacks. 

Civil liberties groups see them as an open invitation for the government to hack any suspect's computer.

“The amendments do not change any of the traditional protections and procedures under the Fourth Amendment, such as the requirement that the government establish probable cause,” Caldwell wrote in her blog post. “Rather, the amendments would merely ensure that at least one court is available to consider whether a particular warrant application comports with the Fourth Amendment.

Earlier on Monday, an alliance of civil liberties advocates announced plans to coordinate online action against the rule changes.