Roll Call: Senate Privacy Advocates Seek to Block Expanded Search Powers

A bipartisan Senate coalition led by Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Rand Paul wants to block efforts to make it easier for the government to search computers across multiple jurisdictions.  

The Justice Department is proposing rule changes that would allow it to use a single warrant to search far and wide, a move the government says is designed to deal with technology.

But some senators see the change to criminal procedure rules, which has already been blessed  by the Supreme Court, as opening the door to a vast expansion of surveillance by the FBI. And on Thursday, they introduced legislation to stop it.  

Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, called the proposal to amend Rule 41 a “dramatic expansion of the government’s hacking and surveillance authority.”  

“Such a substantive change with an enormous impact on Americans’ constitutional rights should be debated by Congress, not maneuvered through an obscure bureaucratic process,” Wyden said.  

The rules change has been opposed by civil libertarians and companies like Google.  

“Our law enforcement policies need to be updated to reflect 21st century realities with a process that is transparent, effective and protects our civil liberties,” said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., one of the co-sponsors of the bill.  

The legislative text is extraordinarily short, fitting on a single page and declaring without ambiguity that the rule changes as proposed, “shall not take effect.”