DOJ Power Grab Wants To Target Anonymous Web Users

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is proposing a power grab that would make it easier for domestic law enforcement to break into computers of people trying to protect their anonymity via Tor or other anonymizing technologies.

That’s according to a law professor and litigator who deals with constitutional issues that arise in espionage, cybersecurity and counterterrorism prosecutions.

Ahmed Ghappour, a visiting professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco, explained the potential ramifications of the legal maneuver in a post published last week.

Concerns center around a DOJ proposal to amend Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure – the part that describes the authority necessary to issue a warrant in search and seizure – to lawfully achieve two law enforcement activities:

  1. Piercing Tor, a free, open-source program that bestows online anonymity via a circuit of multilayered, encrypted connections routed through a worldwide volunteer network of servers, and
  2. Ignoring borders and using the internet – now considered a “global commons” – in order to track down extraterritorial evidence.

The latter would be similar to what it did in 2002, when an FBI agent accessed servers in Chelyabinsk, Russia, to seize evidence against Russians that was later used in their criminal trial.

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