Grassley wants details on FBI spyware programs

FBI LogoFrom Press Release


U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is pressing the Federal Bureau of Investigation for more information on its spyware program.

The request comes amid the Justice Department’s push to amend Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in order to allow judges to grant warrants for remote searches of computers located outside their district or when the location of the computer is unknown.  Currently, federal prosecutors generally must seek a warrant in the judicial district in which the target of the search is located.

In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Grassley wrote, “It is essential that law enforcement has the necessary technological tools and legal framework to keep the public safe,” however, “Publicly available information on the FBI’s use of spyware is often inconsistent.”

Grassley noted that the FBI’s reported capabilities in this area can raise privacy concerns and in order to perform its constitutional duty of oversight, it’s important that the committee understand the FBI’s use of spyware and the Justice Department’s proposed changes to the legal framework through which the FBI receives judicial approval.

The questions posed by Grassley to the FBI center on the types of spyware programs used; their capabilities; the FBI’s internal policies and procedures for using spyware; the legal processes used; the methods of deploying spyware; and the audit procedures used to ensure the spyware is used in compliance with both FBI policies and the law.

A signed copy of the letter can be found here.