Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FBI Seeks Expansion of Internet Investigation Powers

A Department of Justice proposal to amend Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure would make it easier for domestic law enforcement to hack into computers of people attempting to protect their anonymity on the Internet. The DOJ has explicitly stated that the amendment is not meant to give courts the power to issue warrants that authorize searches in foreign countries—but the practical reality of the underlying technology means doing so is almost unavoidable...

As for extraterritorial hacking, the DOJ commentary explicitly states that the proposal does not seek power to extend search authority beyond the United States: 
  • In light of the presumption against international extraterritorial application, and consistent with the existing language of Rule 41(b)(3), this amendment does not purport to authorize courts to issue warrants that authorize the search of electronic storage media located in a foreign country or countries. AUSA Mythili Raman, Letter to Committee.
Yet the commentary also articulates a standard of searches that “are within the United States or where the location of the electronic media is unknown....

The latter standard seems to be a significant loophole in the DOJ’s own formulation of the approach, particularly given the global nature of the Internet. For instance, over 85% of computers directly connecting to the Tor network are located outside the United States. (more)