Don’t Give FBI Unnecessary Spying Powers


Target: The Honorable Reena Raggi, Chair, Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules

Goal: Don’t give the FBI expanded access to private computers worldwide

In an unsurprising move, the FBI is demanding more powers to add to its already overstuffed tool belt. The agency has proposed to the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules, the regulatory body that checks its surveillance powers, that it ought to be able to get a search warrant from a US judge to hack into a computer located anywhere in the world. The rule in question, Rule 41, currently states that the FBI must get a warrant from a judge in the same district where the crime is occurring, forcing the agency to pinpoint the location of criminal activity before getting authorization for searches and seizures. The FBI wants to change Rule 41 so that a judge can give them the power to take control of any computer anywhere, and so that it applies to any criminal investigation, not only terrorism-related investigations.

The FBI claims that they need this power to carry out investigations on computers whose locations have been blocked or encrypted using special tools. However, a number of privacy and civil liberties advocates have spoken out against the FBI’s proposal, saying that it is an unnecessary power grab that would leave Americans too vulnerable. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement arguing that the proposal violates the constitution by supporting dragnet searches, and endangers citizens by commodifying devices’ vulnerabilities and potentially capturing the sensitive data of innocents. That’s not to mention the foreign policy implications, as pointed out by computer law expert Ahmed Ghappour of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Ghappour told The Guardian, “To be seeking these powers at a time of heightened international concern about US surveillance is an especially brazen and potentially dangerous move.” Ghappour and the ACLU were present at the Advisory Committee’s recent hearing on the proposal, making their cases against it.

Stand with them by telling the Advisory Committee’s Chair not to support the proposed amendment. Urge Chair Reena Raggi to acknowledge that this proposal represents an unconstitutional grab for power that could endanger citizens as well as relationships with other nations.


Dear Chair Reena Raggi,

I am extremely worried by the FBI’s recent proposal to change Rule 41. As many privacy and civil liberties advocates have pointed out, this proposal is plainly unconstitutional because it threatens the privacy and safety of innocent Americans who could be caught up (along with their sensitive information) in an investigation that has nothing to do with them. This amendment would also put an even higher price on information about system weaknesses, and further commodify vulnerabilities that again put innocent Americans and their data at risk. Finally, removing restrictions on the FBI’s surveillance powers could put Americans at risk for foreign retaliation, especially now that so many nations are suspicious of American intelligence agencies.

I urge you to acknowledge that this proposal to change Rule 41 is a blatant grab for power that violates Americans’ rights to privacy and safety. I urge you to reject this proposal on the grounds that it puts Americans and their information in danger, not only from the FBI itself but from foreign nations who may feel threatened by this power grab. Please stop the FBI from relieving itself of restrictions that are meant to protect Americans from unconstitutional invasion of privacy.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: maebmij via Flickr

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