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Feds could gain expanded hacking powers if Supreme Court approves search warrant rules change

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U.S. judges will be able to issue search warrants giving law enforcement agents power to access computers in any jurisdiction, potentially even overseas, under a controversial rule change likely to be approved by the Supreme Court by May 1.

Magistrate judges can normally only order searches within the jurisdiction of their court, which is typically limited to a few counties.

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The U.S. Justice Department, which is pushing for the rule change, has described it as a procedural change needed to modernize the criminal code for the digital age, and has said it would not permit searches or seizures that are not already legal.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Access Now, contend the change would vastly expand the ability of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to hack into computer networks. They say it could run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Should the Supreme Court approve the change, it would have to pass both chambers of Congress, a move seen as unlikely given gridlock in the legislature ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

The proposed amendment is to Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, a text governing the judicial branch that is regularly updated. It was at the center of two court opinions issued this month throwing out evidence gathered by FBI sting operations targeting child pornographers who relied on the anonymous Internet browser called Tor network.

Federal courts in Virginia and Oklahoma said the FBI’s use of a warrant to deploy a “network investigative technique” on computers outside the geographic bounds of the issuing judge’s district was invalid.

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A Justice Department spokesman pointed to those cases as reason for why changes to Rule 41 are necessary.

Though it has been several years in the making, the effort to widen warrant jurisdiction has not garnered the level of attention of other recent clashes over government access to digital information, such as the FBI’s standoff with Apple over encryption.

Congress would have until December 1 to reject or amend a change to Rule 41.

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Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has vowed to mobilize opposition to the Rule 41 update. Sources familiar with his plans say he is expected to announce he is working on legislation to block the changes if they earn approval from the Supreme Court.

“This rule change could potentially allow federal investigators to use one warrant to access millions of computers, and it would treat the victims of the hack the same as the hacker himself,” Wyden said during a speech last month at a digital rights conference in San Francisco.

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HISTORY OF DEFERENCE

Proposed changes to the criminal procedure rules go through several layers of vetting by committees comprised of lawyers and judges before reaching the Supreme Court.

The review of the Justice Department’s Rule 41 proposal, which was first drafted in 2013, led to it being pared back to only apply in situations when a suspect can be shown to be using technology to conceal the location of his or her computer or for an investigation into a network of hacked or infected computers, such as a botnot.

The Supreme Court rarely rejects such proposals to change federal rules, according to lawyers familiar with the process.

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Google and other opponents say the Rule 41 proposal amounts to a “substantive” change to the rules, and therefore should be properly debated in Congress.

The change “raises a num­ber of mo­nu­ment­al and highly com­plex con­sti­tu­tion­al, leg­al, and geo­pol­it­ic­al concerns,” Richard Salgado, Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, wrote in public comments submitted in February 2015.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz, additional reporting by Joan Biskupic. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Andrew Hay)


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Andrew Cuomo threatens to bail on CNN interview when his brother shows vintage photo of governor in bellbottoms

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) appeared to feign anger during a CNN interview Wednesday in which his brother, Christopher Cuomo, showed a vintage photo of their family with the elder brother clad in bellbottoms, a rhinestone belt and an unfortunate attempt at an afro.

The younger Cuomo is still suffering from the effects of coronavirus, appearing redfaced and wiping his brow. However, his brother noted that he seemed more animated than he has in days.

"Now I've seen you referred to a little bit recently as the 'Love Gov' and I'm wondering if that's making you a little soft on the president, that you don't want to really criticize him, because you need him and now's not a time for fighting," said the younger Cuomo. "But don't you have to balance that with calling him out if he's doing things that you don't think are great for the people of your state to be hearing and experiencing? Love Gov?"

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Fox News hosts are going back to downplaying threat from coronavirus: report

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Major Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity spent weeks assuring viewers that the novel coronavirus wasn't a serious threat. In recent weeks, however, they have shifted to a different narrative, acknowledging that the virus is dangerous but giving President Donald Trump credit for taking action and criticizing Democrats' lack of action — even though many Democrats, in fact, warned the pubic first.

But according to The Daily Beast, even as there is no clear end to the crisis in sight, and even as the U.S. crosses 13,000 deaths, many Fox News hosts are going back to downplaying the virus, either telling viewers it wasn't as bad as advertised and urging the president to end public safety measures against it.

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The dangers of Trump TV: MSNBC host hammers Fox News as ‘genuine public health threat’ amid pandemic

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Tuesday night, Fox News decided that all anyone needed to do is to pump Americans with a Malaria drug and send them back to work to save President Donald Trump's economy.

Speaking Wednesday night, MSNBC host Chris Hayes bashed the conservative network for downplaying the seriousness of coronavirus, saying that they are "a genuine public health threat."

While Trump has advisers like Dr. Anthony Fauci, he also has the unofficial advisers he sees on Fox News.

They "are coalescing around the idea the whole thing is just overblown and we need to pump everyone full of the malaria drug and get them back to work. This is what you heard if you watch trump tv just last night," Hayes said. He then played clips illustrating exactly that, with hosts ranting and raving about the virus not being as serious as the flu.

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