April 2016 – SURVEILLANCE – A federal court judge has voiced worries about a string of instances where the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency overstepped the approved limits of their surveillance activities. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Thomas Hogan stated that he was “extremely concerned” about the agencies’ behavior.
These criticisms stem from surveillance data being kept much longer than it should have been, according to a report from Politico. These materials were meant to be wiped after either two or five years, but apparently remained accessible for four years after they should have been purged. Hogan wrote that it was “perhaps more disappointing” that the government had failed to inform the Court that this information was being retained. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence made a response claiming that there was no intent to mislead, but acknowledged that the situation could have been explained with more clarity.
The NSA claimed that retention of some of the data was required to prevent future situations where data might be collected without legal authority. However, that argument ignores a separate court order that officials are required to comply with, and the fact that not all the information in question was related to that scenario.
Hogan made these comments in November 2015, but they’ve only been released to the public this week. A hearing last October saw FBI representatives detail plans to tighten up their efforts, which Hogan found to be satisfactory — although the judge did confirm that he would be checking in with their progress at a later date. It’s becoming clearer that data privacy will be a major issue shaping discourse over the next few years. Traditionally, we’ve seen these debates center around protecting information from outside attackers, but examples like this demonstrate the need for our own governmental agencies to be held to exacting standards. –Digital Trends
Supreme Court ruling makes it easier for the government to hack your computer
A Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday could make it much easier for the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to hack computers across the country, angering privacy advocates and drawing a rebuke from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). A Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday could make it much easier for the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to hack computers across the country, angering privacy advocates and drawing a rebuke from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The court approved a change to Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure, which outlines how federal criminal cases are run. The current version of the rule says search warrants are only valid in the relatively small judicial districts where they were issued. Under the new rule, magistrate judges would be able to issue warrants that apply to computers throughout the country, allowing law enforcement officers to hack and infect them remotely. The change still has to be approved by Congress, which has until December 1 to reject or alter the rule change before it automatically takes effect.
The government says the change is necessary to keep up with wide-ranging computer networks and criminals who use tools to hide their physical locations online. Courts in Oklahoma and Massachusetts threw out evidence this month in two child pornography cases stemming from the government’s takeover of a dark-web site called Playpen, which it used to insert tracking tools into the computers of people accessing child porn. Because the order allowing the takeover was issued by a judge in Virginia, the judges in the two cases said, the evidence from the investigation could not be used elsewhere.
But privacy advocates say the rule change is an attempt by the government to expand its hacking powers without public debate. “Instead of directly asking Congress for authorization to break into computers, the Justice Department is now trying to quietly circumvent the legislative process by pushing for a change in court rules, pretending that its government hacking proposal is a mere procedural formality rather than the massive change to the law that it really is,” said Kevin Bankston, the director of the Open Technology Institute at the liberal-leaning New America Foundation, in a statement.
Sen. Ron Wyden also attacked the rule change as overly broad. “Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime,” he said in a press release. Wyden has promised to introduce a bill that would reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling. –Mother Jones