According to a ruling passed down by Henry Coke Morgan Jr., a Senior United States District Court Judge, the FBI does not need to have a warrant to hack a citizen’s computer. Obviously the decision is going to have a ripple effect across the country, but it is yet to be upheld.
The ruling may or may not be part of the ongoing FBI program, also known as ‘Operation Pacifier’ that was basically aimed against bringing down child pornography websites. Granted that Judge Morgan’s decision is upheld, it would mean that the law enforcement agencies have the authority to hack/ remotely access anyone’s computer without the need to have probable cause, consent, or proper warrants.
Already the FBI has successfully deployed hacking tools across not only the United States of America, but also other regions such as Denmark, Chile, and Greece. Reportedly, pedophiles in excess of 1000 have been arrested or are on trial based on Operation Pacifier’s successful campaign.
“The court finds that no Fourth Amendment violation occurred here because the government did not need a warrant to capture the Defendants’ IP address,” wrote Judge Morgan on Tuesday. While the Fourth Amendment supports a U.S. citizen against any unreasonable search and seizure activities, Judge Morgan believes that one does not have any “reasonable expectation of privacy in an IP address while on the internet.”
Back in April 2016, a court rejected to consider evidence by the FBI as part of a case against child pornography website. The said court considered the gathered evidence ineffective as based on an invalid warrant.
As far as Operation Pacifier is concerned, the FBI uses an internal “network investigative technique” or NIT Software, based on a hacking tool. The agency intends to keep this tool completely classified because of potential threat to national security.
The FBI has proposed several changes to Rule 41, which will allow Judges to give approval for remote access to government agencies, granted that the said computer(s) is not within the judge’s jurisdiction. For instance, a judge in one State can give the go-ahead to authorities to hack a citizen’s computer from another State.
On the contrary, since Congress has until the 1st of December 2016 to act on the ruling, a Senate bill (Stop Mass Hacking Act) is in motion to stop the Supreme Court from allowing expanded powers to the investigating authorities.