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Fourth Amendment Attack by DOJ; Constitutionm; Patriot Act; digital search and seizure

Here's some more bad news thie from Gizmodo Blog) about the Justice Department's continuing attack on the Fourh Amendment - the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures:

A new proposed rule change will make it way easier for federal agents to obtain warrants to hack a computer from basically anywhere was just approved by a US Court committee., bringing us one step closer to having what little is left of our digital privacy rights destroyed in the name of federal "investigative need."

For decades, federal search warrants are only valid within the issuing judge's jurisdiction.   Agents are required to demonstrate probable cause, find the right jurisdiction to petition for a warrant, and notify the person they're planning on searching. (That last bit is a cornerstone of our Fourth Amendment privacy rights.)

In only very rare cases have agents obtained permission to legally conduct remote computer searches, outside of the issuing judge's jurisdiction. To make it easier for the FBI to conduct these sorts of remote hacks and track down criminals who use anonymizing software, the DOJ would now like to expand that power.

This latest bright idea for doing so amounts to a massive repudiation of the Fourth Amendment. Not only would the rule change permit judges to authorize FBI agents to surveil and grab any suspect's computer anywhere, the vague language of the rules can (and if historyey is any guide, will) make it totally acceptable in certain cases to search our computers without ever telling us.

The rules for how the DOJ tracks down criminals in the digital age are all pro-government, none pro-COnstitution. By and large, the proposed rule change has been met with disgust from the tech community. Here's what Google lawyer Richard Salgado had to say about it in a blog post this past February:

The proposed change threatens to undermine the privacy rights and computer security of Internet users. For example, the change would excuse territorial limits on the use of warrants to conduct "remote access" searches where the physical location of the media is "concealed through technological means." The proposed change does not define what a "remote search" is or under what circumstances and conditions a remote search can be undertaken; it merely assumes such searches, whatever they may be, are constitutional and otherwise legal. It carries with it the specter of government hacking without any Congressional debate or democratic policymaking process.

The USA Patriot Act is a perfect example of what happens with the government is given certain unusual authority to "cross the line" - all in the name of catching terrorists who might otherwise hit America again.  In the case of the Patriot Act, the government's use of the proivileges afforded it have been mostly used against ordinary criminal activity that is suspected. 

Everyone in the govenrment admits there is no specific terrorist act or plan that has been identified or thwarted through the use of the Patriot Act privileges - but there have been tons of "ordinary" criminal cases that were made by the use of that Act's authority - something the Bush DOJ promised it would not use the Act for.

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