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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.

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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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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The disturbing Nazi-era history behind the Trump administration’s revival of the public charge clause

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During the Nazi era, roughly 300,000 additional Jewish refugees could have gained entry to the U.S. without exceeding the nation’s existing quotas.

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It is not possible to say what happened to these refugees. Some immigrated to other countries that remained outside Germany’s grip, such as Great Britain. But many -— perhaps most -– were forced into hiding, imprisoned in concentration camps and ghettos, and deported to extermination centers.

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Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who killed Eric Garner in 2014 by using an illegal chokehold, was fired Monday and stripped of his pension benefits. The decision came more than five years after Pantaleo held Garner, an unarmed African-American man, in a chokehold until he dropped to the ground. Before dying, he gasped “I can’t breathe” 11 times. Despite outcry from the family and community members, Pantaleo had remained on the police force on desk duty since the killing. Last month, on the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death, the Justice Department declined to charge Pantaleo with a crime despite calls by the Garner family and their supporters that the city punish him and other officers involved. Over the years, Garner’s case has helped drive the Black Lives Matter movement for police accountability. His family is continuing their fight for justice, calling on the New York City Police Department to fire the other officers involved in Garner’s death, and vowing to block any appeals made by Pantaleo’s attorney. We speak with Eric Garner’s youngest daughter, Emerald Garner.

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Tuesday he would resign, lashing out at far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for pursuing his own interests by pulling the plug on the government coalition.

"I'm ending this government experience here... I will go to the president of the republic (Sergio Mattarella) to inform him of my resignation", after a Senate debate, Conte said after an almost hour-long speech to the chamber.

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