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FBI's hacking powers expanded

The FBI's job is to find and arrest people who break federal laws. But there are some civil liberties advocates who say the bureau is getting dangerously close to violating Americans' rights -- and sometimes crossing the line in its efforts to track down people suspected of downloading and distributing child pornography.

The FBI and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies recently received an expansion of their powers to hack into private citizens' computers, according to news reports. Judges can now issue search warrants that give the FBI authority to hack into computers anywhere in the nation. Judges were previously restricted to issuing warrants for investigations in their jurisdictions.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said people one day soon will wonder why Congress did not act to stop the expansion of hacking powers. "Law-abiding Americans are going to ask 'What were you guys thinking?'" He said it's possible that the expansion will one day result in law enforcement officials putting lives at risk with botched hacking attempts.

A recent news article says the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies want the new powers to make it easier to track down tech-proficient criminals who want to cover their tracks and their locations. More than once, the FBI has actually operated child porn websites and infected site users' computers.

Wyden said the changes are "one of the biggest mistakes in surveillance policy in years."

It seems likely that these expanded law enforcement powers will lead to more arrests on child pornography-related charges. While the police might encroach on privacy rights, the accused will still have the right to defend themselves in court with the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney.

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