Forget Russia, Worry About the FBI

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

– 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Back in the day – that is, before the computer age – if law inforcement, or the government in general, wanted to know what you were writing to someone using the mail, or what you were saying to someone over the phone, or believed there was physical evidence of a crime in your home, car or elsewhere and they believed – with good reason –  you were engaging in a specific criminal activity, they could go before a judge, swear to the same, and be granted a warrent to intercept, open and read your mail, put a tap on your phone line and listen in on your calls, or conduct a physical search of your property. 

(No fishing expeditions, no “Well, yer Honor, we think, maybe, dis guy’s doing somethin’, so if’n ya let us snoop ’round a bit, we be sure we’ll find sumthin!” Not that that didn’t happen and the judge didn’t occasionally give a warrent anyway. And not that the lack of a warrent ever stopped certain federal agencies from being nosey. But even if they did find something, it couldn’t be used because of the “Exclusionary Rule”, so called because the courts have ruled that evidence obtained without a proper warrent is illegal and cannot be used against a person in court, it must be excluded – the opposite of included – in any criminal case.

The request for the warrent had to be specific as to what they were looking for, and it was restricted to a single individual. 

But that is no longer the case, it’s now “Open Fishing Season”.  Because of Rule 41. You can read more about it at:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/11/30/congress-allows-rule-permitting-mass-hacking-government-take-effect/94683030/

But, in short, a Supreme Court decision allows the government to hack your computer, tablet or cell phone – and thousands, if not millions of others – if yours and theirs might, maybe – in some way – be connected to a person, anywhere, and their computer, being investigated, for anything.

And there are no assurances that privacy won’t be violated or that devices won’t be damaged. Nor is there any explanation of how they will hack your equipment.

Congress had the opportunity to change the SCOUS’ ruling before it took effect December 1 of last year, but didn’t, allowing it to stand as the law of the land.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) – who recently tried with Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) to offer measures to delay or rein in the new expansion of Rule 41 – has said, “[The] Senate [has made] one of the biggest mistakes in surveillance policy in years and years…Without a single congressional hearing, without a shred of meaningful public input, without any opportunity for senators to ask their questions in a public forum, one judge with one warrant [is now] able to authorize the hacking of thousands, possibly millions of devices, cell phones and tablets.”

When Wyden and the two other senators asked for unanimous consent to bring up various measures to modify the new rules or just delay them for further examination, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) objected, killing debate on the issue, thus allowing any law enforcement agency to go to a single judge, assert that a computer crime may involve millions of networked devices, and get a warrant to hack all of those devices.  

So, if your computer starts acting a little wonky, or just crashes, maybe you’ve been hacked.

Maybe by Big Brother.

– Bill

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