Beginning at midnight on Thursday, December 1, 2016, anyone who uses a VPN, Tor browser, or other privacy protection tools can more easily get hacked by the government.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are scheduled to get expanded powers to remotely access and search computers, phones, and storage devices in cases where people suspected of being “related” to a crime use technological means to conceal their location.
That is, unless Congress takes action to stop these hacking powers from taking effect.
Under current criminal procedure rules, if the FBI or any other agency wants to hack into your computer, they need to get a warrant from a federal judge located within your federal judicial district. Under a new amendment to the rule that takes effect on Thursday, if you use encryption, disable location tracking, or have been a botnet victim, the FBI can get a warrant to hack you from any of the more than 500 federal magistrate judges around the country.
So, if the FBI wants to hack you but they don’t have evidence that passes muster with your local federal judge, they will be able to take their case to a more lenient (or more naïve) judge located anywhere in the country.
Another clause in the rule change would let any federal judge authorize hacking operations for multiple devices in cases involving the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. That means if you are a victim of a botnet or had your computer infected by some malware, the government could remotely hack you under a mass hacking warrant issued by any federal judge.
The rule change was never voted on—or even debated—by Congress. It comes from the Judicial Conference, the national policy-making body for the federal courts, which earlier in the year agreed to a FBI proposal to amend Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (FRCrmP) so they could get warrants to hack multiple computers in different districts. The Judicial Conference has authority to make technical changes to the rules governing criminal proceedings, but this proposal goes way beyond mere technicalities and should be subject to public and legislative debate.
A bipartisan group of senators and representatives is pushing legislation to block the Judicial Conference’s amendment or at least delay it for a few months so Congress can hold a debate. They will be bringing their bills to the floor for unanimous consent consideration on Tuesday and Wednesday. If no senators object, the bills could pass.
According to strategists on the Hill, the best approach at this late stage is to get the Senate to pass the bill first and then use that as pressure to urge the House to follow suit – ideally before the rule change takes effect on Thursday, but they could also pass it at a later date and have the rule change repealed.
After you call your senators, make an extra call to Majority Leader McConnell and urge him to agree to unanimous consent on delaying the Rule 41 change. You can reach him at (202) 224-2541.
Here’s what you should say when you call your senators:
“I am a constituent from [town or city] and I am calling to urge the Senator to agree to unanimous consent on legislation to delay the Rule 41 changes on warrant requirements for government hacking of people’s computers. This rule change could have a big impact on the privacy of all Americans and it should be debated by Congress before going into effect.”
Today, Chelsea Manning’s legal defense team released a letter sent to the U.S. Army and the Office of the Pardon Attorney, requesting the commutation of Ms. Manning’s 35 year court-martial sentence to time served and “a first chance to live a real, meaningful life.” The letter discusses the harsh and inhumane conditions Ms. Manning was subjected to in unlawful pretrial solitary confinement for nearly a year.
Fight for the Future is a nonprofit that protects free speech in the digital age. We have been supporting Chelsea Manning while she is incarcerated, and released this letter with the permission of her attorneys.
Unprecedented grassroots uprising made backroom corporate trade deal politically toxic; public overwhelmingly rejects corruption and secrecy
Today, media reports indicate that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is officially dead. Fight for the Future, a digital rights group best known for organizing some of the largest online protests in history against Internet censorship, for net neutrality, and against government surveillance, along with the celebrity-studded Rock Against the TPP concert tour, issued the following statement, which can be attributed to campaign director, Evan Greer:
“While the world is reeling from the results of the U.S. election, all those who stand on the side of Internet freedom, transparency, and democracy, can take a moment today to celebrate an historic victory: together we stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP.)
Let’s make one thing clear: Donald Trump didn’t kill the TPP. We did.
An unprecedented grassroots movement of people and organizations from across the political spectrum came together to spark an uprising that stopped what would have been nothing less than an outright corporate takeover of our democratic process. Together we sounded the alarm, and made the TPP so politically toxic that no presidential candidate who wanted to be elected could support it.
The TPP would have globalized Internet censorship, undermined civil liberties, and devastated our economy and our planet.
An unlikely band of labor unions and tech companies, environmentalists, hackers, and Tea Party patriots took on the world’s largest and most powerful corporations, and we won.
As we enter a new stage in history, let the movement that stopped the TPP serve as a reminder to the powerful: we are many, and you are few. We will no longer accept blatant political corruption in the form of rigged “trade” deals negotiated in secret. We will fight for the future of free speech and democracy, and in long run, we will always win.”
Fight for the Future has been instrumental in the movement against the TPP. They spearheaded the coalition behind StopFastTrack.com that drove hundreds of thousands of emails and phone calls to Congress in opposition to Trade Promotion Authority legislation needed to pass the TPP, and organized creative stunts likeflying blimps outside of fence-sitting Congress member’s offices. They organized thousands of websites for an online “Internet Vote” protest against the TPP, and sent “rubber stamps” to Republicans who were considering supporting Obama’s trade deal.
Most recently, the group lead the largest ground mobilizations against the TPP to date on the Rock Against the TPP concert tour, which featured an array of well known musicians and celebrities including Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, actress Evangeline Lilly, hip hop icon Talib Kweli, comedian Hari Kondabolu, and punk legends Anti-Flag, and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys. The tour drew large crowds across the country and helped opposition to the TPP reach into the cultural mainstream, with high profile media coverage and a large multigenerational following.
Fight for Future is best known for organizing the massive online protests against the SOPA internet censorship bill in 2012, and has since won major victories for net neutrality and against government surveillance. Learn more at https://www.fightforthefuture.org
PITTSBURGH, PA––Hundreds packed into Mr Smalls Theater in Pittsburgh last night to protest the anti-democratic Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement at the “Rock Against the TPP” concert headlined by legendary political punk band Anti-Flag. The event was part of a nationwide tour featuring high profile musicians and celebrities raising awareness about controversial deal, which is expected to come up for a vote in Congress during the “lame duck” session after the election.
The concert also featured renowned Pittsburgh folksinger Anne Feeney along with Downtown Boys, Taina Asili, Ryan Harvey, Son of Nun,
The TPP has little to do with trade, but instead grants multinational corporations extraordinary new powers to threaten jobs, the environment, affordable medicine, free speech, and food safety.
Anti-Flag are one of the most popular musical acts to emerge from Pittsburgh, and tour extensively performing politically charged punk rock that’s half circle pit, half picket line. The band issued the following statement ahead of the November 3rd concert: “The Rock Against The TPP shows that we have played across the US and Canada were so amazing that we had to curate one in our beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh, an international epicenter of the labor movement - a city where union loyalty and the fight for human rights courses through the veins of its citizens to this very day. The Rock Against The TPP shows are beyond educational, they’re inspirational. They are a true testament to music’s ability to bring people together and create positive change; a rally to energize us all to continue to fight against The TPP and all of the ills it will bring to the world.”
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not about ‘free trade,’ it’s about corruption,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future and lead organizer of the tour, “we’re harnessing the power of music and culture to sound the alarm about this corporate power grab and stop it in its tracks.”
Organized by digital rights group Fight for the Future in partnership with legendary guitarist Tom Morello (Prophets of Rage, Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave) and riot-folk singer Ryan Harvey’s record label Firebrand Records, previous stops on the Rock Against the TPP tour have featured high-profile participants including actress Evangeline Lilly, hip hop icon Talib Kweli, comedian Hari Kondabolu, Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, legendary punk band Anti-Flag, Danbert Nobacon of the UK sensation Chumbawamba, and ANTI records songwriter Jolie Holland. The roadshow has already drawn large crowds in Denver, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Toronto.
The Rock Against the TPP tour brings together a broad coalition of supporters including digital rights groups, labor unions, environmental groups, and small businesses, and is sponsored by Backbone Campaign, Citizens Trade Campaign, Communications Workers of America (CWA), CREDO, Demand Progress, Friends of the Earth, the International Labor Rights Forum, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, SumOfUs, the Teamsters, and United Steelworkers. The Pittsburgh stop was also backed by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, PA Fair Trade Coalition, and Fight Back Pittsburgh.
One year ago, the “We the People” petition calling on President Obama to stand for strong encryption reached the 100,000 signature threshold that is supposed to trigger a response from the President. We never heard from him.
Today—one year later—Fight for the Future and 17 other groups are once again calling on the President to acknowledge and respond to the 100,000+ people that signed this petition. President Obama and the incoming president have a responsibility to
defend online security for everyone. We need to know where they stand on
this important issue.
Dear President Obama,
On September 29, 2015, Access Now, EFF, and a coalition that grew to nearly 50 organizations and companies initiated a petition using your “We the People” platform. The petition asked you to “[p]ublicly affirm your support for strong encryption,” and to “[r]eject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine our security” online. It also asked you to encourage other governments worldwide to do the same. The petition, also available at SaveCrypto.org, garnered more than 100,000 signatures in fewer than 30 days.
According to the blog post announcing the creation of We The People, “if a petition gathers enough online signatures, it will be reviewed by policy experts and you’ll receive an official response.” At the time our petition was submitted the threshold for official response was (and currently is) 100,000 signatures within 30 days. Further, the website pledges an official response within 60 days of meeting that threshold.
It has been 365 days — a full year — since our petition exceeded 100,000 signatures, and while in December 2015 your administration created an online portal for signatories to offer more information, there has still been no substantive response.
Encryption tools enable journalists, whistleblowers, organizers, and regular people to communicate securely. It assures users of the integrity of their data and authenticates individuals to companies, governments, and one another. Further, the ability to confidently communicate and conduct business online is a necessary foundation of economic growth in the digital age. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression recently noted, “[e]ncryption and anonymity, separately or together, create a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief.”
In the 365 days since our petition hit the 100,000 signatory threshold to ensure a response from the administration, the FBI attempted to force Apple to build an entirely new, insecure operating system to bypass its security protocols and the U.S. Congress and legislatures in individual states have debated passing harmful anti-security legislation that would endanger the technology sector globally. Around the world, governments have capitalized on the lack of leadership in support for encryption and implemented harmful laws and policies. China specifically cited to the rhetoric in the U.S. last December when it passed a new law that likely bans end to end encryption, with no upper limit on fines for non-compliant companies. The UK is on the cusp of passing a law that could, practically, have the same impact. And from Brazil to Russia to India we are seeing other actions or proposals that could undermine the security of the global internet.
Mr. President, your response is urgently needed to clarify the United States’ position and establish its leadership on this critically important topic. The United States should once and for all repudiate any type of mandate requiring third-party access to encrypted data, both stored and in transit.
The leading candidates for president have commented on the importance of strengthening U.S. cybersecurity. A cornerstone to those plans must be an increase in the development and use of strong encryption.