Human Rights groups furious about new US warrant law

police-stateThe Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project are rallying human rights groups to fight against law changes that would allow coppers and spooks vast new surveillance authorities and undermine anonymity online.

Currently Rule 41 only authorises federal magistrate judges to issue warrants to conduct searches in the judicial district where the magistrate is located. The new Rule 41 would for the first time authorize magistrates to issue warrants when “technological means,” like Tor or virtual private networks (VPNs), are obscuring the location of a computer. The rule would authorise warrants to remotely access, search, seize, or copy data on computers, wherever in the world they are located.

The EFF and more than 40 partner organisations are holding a day of action for a new campaign——to warn citizens about the dangers of Rule 41 and push U.S. lawmakers to oppose it.

The process for updating these rules was intended to deal exclusively with procedural issues. But this year a US judicial committee approved changes in the rule that will expand judicial authority to grant warrants for government hacking.

The organizations are collecting petition signatures at and website operators can go there to download widgets that express their opposition to Rule 41.

In May, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) filed a bill to block Rule 41, writing at the time: “When the public realises what is at stake, I think there is going to be a massive outcry: Americans will look at Congress and say, ‘What were you thinking?’”