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If You Use Tor Browser, The FBI Just Labeled You a Criminal

Absent action by Congress, the rule change will go into effect in December.

The U.S. Supreme Court quietly approved a rule change that would allow a federal magistrate judge to issue a search and seizure warrant for any target using anonymity software like Tor to browse the internet.

Absent action by U.S. Congress, the rule change (pdf) went into effect in December. The FBI will now be able to search computers remotely—even if the bureau doesn’t know where that computer is located—if a user has anonymity software installed on it.

(The corresponding pages in regards to the rule change have since been removed from all websites, despite the rule change being publicized, and can no longer be found.)

The rule changes, which the FBI said were necessary to combat cyber crime, come amid escalating tensions between the intelligence community and technology and privacy advocates, and just a day after the U.S. House of Representatives advanced a bill that would require the government to obtain a probable cause warrant from a judge before seizing data stored with tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Dropbox.

“Whatever euphemism the FBI uses to describe it—whether they call it a ‘remote access search’ or a ‘network investigative technique’—what we’re talking about is government hacking, and this obscure rule change would authorize a lot more of it,” said Kevin Bankston, director of the policy advocacy group Open Technology Institute (OTI), which previously testified against the changes.

“Congress should stop this power-grab in its tracks and instead demand answers from the FBI, which so far has been ducking Congress’ questions on this issue and fighting in court to keep its hacking tactics secret.”

As of April, over one million people use Tor just to browse Facebook, the social media platform noted in a blog post.

Chief Justice John Roberts submitted the change to Congress as part of the court’s annual collection of amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which inform every federal prosecution in the country.

In its current incarnation, Rule 41 stipulates that magistrate judges can only authorize searches within their own jurisdiction. The amendment would allow them to issue warrants to hack into and seize information on a computer if its location has been “concealed through technical means.” And according to The Guardian, with this rule change

“..the FBI could get authority to infiltrate any computer – regardless of the owner.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the more outspoken privacy advocates in Congress, slammed the proposal as a “sprawling expansion of government surveillance” and called on Congress to reject it.

“These amendments will have significant consequences for Americans’ privacy and the scope of the government’s powers to conduct remote surveillance and searches of electronic devices,” Wyden said in a statement. “Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the effected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cyber crime.”

“These are complex issues involving privacy, digital security and our Fourth Amendment rights, which require thoughtful debate and public vetting,” Wyden said. “Substantive policy changes like these are clearly a job for Congress, the American people and their elected representatives, not an obscure bureaucratic process.”


Sources: Embedded in Article

36 Replies to “If You Use Tor Browser, The FBI Just Labeled You a Criminal

  1. Ermegherd! Pirvercy!

    Come on, this does nothing of the sort that’s trumpeted in the title. It’s an out and out made up piece of crap. What is Wyden on about? I don’t know, but I really, really doubt that it’s this.

    For those all worked up and spreading this nonsense all over the Internet, please read the rules. If you don’t understand them, ask a real lawyer to read the rules.

    These words you keep using, I don’t think they mean what you think they mean.

    1. “Always beware of what a lawyer says because they are trained to win an argument regardless of the truth.”

    2. I REST MY CASE (Aaaahahaha)

      “I don’t know, but I really, really doubt that it’s this.”

      “For those all worked up and spreading this nonsense all over the Internet, please read the rules. If you don’t understand them, ask a real lawyer to read the rules.
      These words you keep using, I don’t think they mean what you think they mean.”

      “A Lawyer14 HOURS AGO”

    3. Thank you. I, too, started to read with a sense of outrage over government reach. Then I read the rule.

      The rule change only speaks to WHERE the FBI has to go to seek a search warrant when someone is using software that conceals the location of a computer.

      Typically the government investigator would have to obtain the search warrant from a magistrate or judge in the district where the computer is physically located. The question, then, is which district court do they turn to when something conceals the location of the computer from law enforcement?

      Do they seek the warrant anywhere in the U.S. they believe they can find a friendly magistrate?

      Do they go to the District Court for the District of Columbia?

      Do they have to go to the magistrate for the district where their suspect or target resides?

      This proposed rule answers the question of WHERE they must go to obtain a search warrant: “in any district where activities related to a crime may have occurred.”

      1. How do you know if you like the article if you don’t read it?

    4. Why would we listen to BAR members when they have no lawful authority to be operating inside our courts. BAR members swear an oath to the Temple Bar in London .The courts Lawyers are committing fraud in are admirality jurisdiction courts and do not obey the Land jurisdiction, which is what the courts are suppose to be. A public defenders first obligation is to the court because they are officers of the court.

  2. Our government is slowly taking power over us. It happens every day. We are supposed to be free. This is just another example of our freedoms being taken away, as our right to privacy is an unambiguous inhereted freedom.

    Us as people need to stop this at every step. Let it be known what our government is doing and do not elect anybody who has ever, or will ever vote for any bill that will remove our freedoms.

    Our government is allowed access to everything its citizens are doing. Hacking is all the sudden legal if you are the government. They can read your texts, your emails, and monitor your phone calls. Tor exists due to people wanting to avoid government malicious infringement upon its citizens privacy. The government does not like the freedom that tor proposes. So they are attempting to smash this.

    If this concerns you read up on TAILS and bridges. Protect yourself and get out there and let your voices be heard, tell your friends and family. Vote for parties and people who have your freedom in mind.

    1. If we were free we wouldn’t need the government’s permission to travel or fish or set up a lemonade stand without getting a permit or getting permission, which is what a permit is . People care more about personal wealth , than they do about following what is moral and right.

  3. I didnt fact check this article but if it’s true. Its basically the same as stating because you have hedges in your yard for privacy you must be hiding illegal activity

  4. The only way things are going to change is if people who desire liberty step up and take responsibility for the current situation. Spread out we can’t do much, but together we can do a lot to create a liberty-respecting home. That means you have to actively take action though. There is a migration movement we can all participate in. Right now there are 20,000 people who have agreed to move to New Hampshire in the pursuit of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as part of the Free State Project (evil hypocritical organization, but the goal is what matters and is held by all movers). Or almost. The idea is the maximum role of government should be the protection of individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property. I moved in March and there were already 10% of participants here who had moved already. Bought a house and everything. Best decision of my life.

    If you believe in liberty here are some of the things you should be against: Social security, license plates, drivers license, vehicular registration, copyright, taxation, government funded public schools, general welfare, laws restricting drug sales or consumption, age-related regulations of any sort including driving, sex, drugs, and alcohol, mandatory insurance of any kind, laws against anything where no person is harmed, laws mandating harsher sentences for smart criminals, the totally unfair ‘Fair Sentencing Guidelines’ which basically ensures every accused person has to plead guilty, laws prohibiting convicts and ex-convicts from voting, closed borders, the concept of citizenship (we’re all people regardless of where we were born, what language we speak, or what our income level is), laws against abortion, needless overseas military intervention, laws against privacy/anonymity, discrimination, harsher laws for hate-crimes, any kind of hate speech law.

  5. don’t download the pdf linked in the article; you’ll be tracked by a jsPDF script.

  6. You have 2 choices here:

    Cover yourself even more with anonymity software and scripts hoping there is no 0day in the hands of authority.


    Abandon the internet entirely.

  7. No, they didn’t label you a criminal. A criminal is a person who can get served an ARREST warrant, and then the cops kick in your door and slap on the cuffs. This does not even come CLOSE to that. This simply gives them the right to get a SEARCH warrant, if you are using that software. And guess what, there’s only 2 good reasons to use that software:

    1) You are a good person in another country like Syria that is a REAL dictatorship (unlike the US, which despite what people say, is NOT a dictatorship) and because you are in this other country that is a dictatorship, you have decided to plan a revolution, but to plan it you need to be able to communicate with your friends in secret.

    2) You are a criminal in the United States, and you are using this software to hide your illegal activity (hacking, child porn, pirated movies, etc).

    You have NO REASON to use it if you live in the USA, and if you are using it while here in the USA, there’s a 99% chance that you are using it to try to hide some form of online illegal activity. By the way, “reason 2” that I mentioned is the way, this is EXACTLY why Tor was created in the first place. In fact the US government CREATED Tor to help rebels in foreign countries to plan revolutions to overthrow dictators. It was ONLY intended to be released in foreign countries. It was NEVER intended to be used here in the USA. Somehow though, a copy of it got leaked into the USA, and as a result cyber criminals here started using it to commit their crimes.

    I think it’s VERY VERY GOOD that the FBI considers the use of Tor to be an indication of cyber crime in progress, because that’s what it’s used for in the USA, almost ENTIRELY what it’s used for in the USA.

    1. Your massive oversimplification isn’t just wrong; it’s a harmful misconception that contributes to the erosion of our human right to privacy.

      By your logic, there’s no reason to have a lock on your front door if you’re not a criminal. Only criminals need to lock their homes, and anyone who locks their home is obviously doing something unethical or illegal inside.

      Seriously, privacy is a basic human right. If I don’t want to be tracked online, that does not constitute probable cause or warrant additional scrutiny. All this does is criminalize resistance to the government’s creepy behavior.

      If you ‘have nothing to hide’, then you have ‘NO REASON’ not to put a webcam in your bathroom and let the public watch you use the toilet. Put your money where your mouth is. We’re waiting.

      1. However, you overlook the fact that most browsing of the web is done without TOR. Using TOR is actively taking steps to hide something. If you are not in a dictatorship, you have no reason to plan a revolution, and therefore no reason to actively take steps to hide your online activity. For most people, the fact that their online banking uses HTTPS protocol (an actual legit use of encryption in the USA), is more than enough protection. Ordinary web browsing (such as visiting the website TheLastAmericanVagabond) has no need for you to take steps to actively hide your online presence.

        In the USA, passive security (such as the walls and doors of a bathroom, to hide you when going bathroom) is more than enough protection. But active security (going out of your way to hide all of your online communications, using software like TOR) suggests that the person using it has more than something innocent but personal (such as going bathroom) to hide. It suggests that they have criminal communications going on (possibly even something as drastic as a revolution, which despite what some people say, is NOT yet necesary, as we can still VOTE and WRITE LETTERS to our politicians, and peacefully march in PROTEST while holding signs that explain our grievances).

        TOR’s one and ONLY legitimate use is the use it was ORIGINALLY planned for, and that is the one that the CIA created it for. TOR, like the internet itself, was originally a government project, specifically a CIA project. The CIA originally created it so people in FOREIGN COUNTRIES (not in the USA) could communicate in secret, while planning revolutions against their dictator regimes (like the uprising against Assad in Syria).

    2. You sound like a cop and your weak argument against privacy is laughable.

      Where do you live,I‘d love to check if you lock your doors. Pathetic sheep.

    3. You are an idiot or a cop, or one and the same. Hope you are hiding you IP and geolocation data. Slaves like you are the reason we live in a police state. Thanks for identifying yourself traitorous pig.

    4. Is American’s not allowed to over throw our government either? Are we not allowed to have the same right to change, as other countries? Just because they have a different form of government rule we consider it Bad? We only know what are media tells us, and were not there first hand to know either?

      1. Yes, it’s in the Constitution, that “We the People” have the Right to do so, but IF you ever think it would happen, then STOP. They, Capitol Hill, would use the Military to take each and every single person OUT! They don’t want to lose that Massive Income, and making “We the People”, Poorer each and everyday!

        No, they have their Agenda, and that’s all there is too it!

        We would have to have a REAL American Revolution Again! Something has got to give!

      2. Yes We Are! It’s in the Constitution! If you think that they, Capitol Hill, would allow it, you’re wrong! They don’t want to lose all the MONEY they are getting, while making “We the People”, POORER!

        They would use the Military to take each and everyone of us out!

        I would take Another American Revolution for it to happen!

  8. This is the thin end of the wedge. The more power that ~Gov and its agencies can get the more they will seek to keep and use it. In the UK agencies are already routinely abusing intrusive surveillance laws because they CAN and because there is little or even NO oversight to stop them and because people are just not aware of the levels to which these people will stoop to gain informaiton on you to keep the Courts and their enforcers BUSY!

  9. @ Animedude5555

    Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

    E. Snowden

    you are a pathetic, unthinking shill. better to cut your own throat and stop consuming
    the resources of the tribe. anyone can be a cog in a machine such as yourself, and easily replaced as well. why don’t you ‘save the children’ and end your existence. your body heat is creating global warming and i detest your existence. you have no right to life since you obviously don’t live. you are the worst kind of detritus.

  10. Oh come on !!!

    Are you saying that for the sake of privacy one should let and allow REAL cyber crims do whatever they like with impunity and get away with it.

    The loss of some privacy is a very small price to pay in order to catch REAL crims and relieve our society from their evils.

    How on earth and how else can such REAL CRIMS be stopped and caught???

    If you are doing nothing wrong when being watched, you have nothing to fear !!!

    1. It’s not about fear of being watched or tracked at least not for me. For me it is a capitalist issue. If the government, corporations, whatever, want to monitor my online activity, then I should be paid for allowing that. I’m still waiting for the first check.

  11. SO what? Don’t do anything illegal and surf away.Also we wouldn’t even have a country or internet to bit** about if not for law stoping others from destroying it.

  12. Lately I hear the words “Oppressive government”.
    My question to you:
    Is the United States Federal Government considered to be an “Oppressive Government”.
    The reason that I am asking this question,is because for a number of years I have placed my life on line,for this ideology. – Now I grew out of it.
    However,I need your opinios.

  13. yeah all u sheeple who dont understand what the right to privacy is about. your fucken lame to give up an inch of it. no way i dont do shit illigal and i still dont want big brother to know. and as for ciminals they are catching why r they not putting the real criminals away like the diplomats ie clintons we need to rebel already.

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