The Hill: Second Republican joins push to block federal hacking powers

Sen. Steve Daines is signing on to a bill from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) blocking a Justice Department request to expand its remote hacking powers, an aide from the Montana Republican’s office tells The Hill.

He is the second Republican to join the bill. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will also co-sponsor, according to Paul’s office.

The measure — set to be released tomorrow, according to a Wyden aide — comes in response to a proposed alteration to little-known criminal procedure rules that was approved by the Supreme Court last month.

The change would allow judges to grant warrants for electronic searches in multiple locations, even when investigators don’t know the physical location of a device.

The Justice Department, which has been working for years on getting the change, insists the revision to what’s known as Rule 41 is a necessary update to match the realities of modern digital investigations.

But the amendment was met with swift pushback from civil libertarians and tech companies such as Google, who fear the change will give the FBI the authority to hack computers with little oversight.

Other Republican lawmakers are also weighing action on the proposed change.

One Republican Senate aide said that while his office will not be joining the Wyden effort to scrap the entire change, it’s weighing whether some aspects of the new rule should be amended.

“Maybe part of this can be retained,” the aide said. “There’s reason to believe the second piece can be changed in a way that might mitigate our concerns.”

Observers say opposition to the change has united civil liberties advocates from both sides of the aisle who are concerned that the amendment is a form of government overreach.

“I don’t think this is a partisan thing,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told The Hill last week.

Lawmakers have seven months to weigh in with affirmation legislation. Absent any congressional action, the rule will take effect on Dec. 1.