Trump AG, CIA picks raise concerns about expansion of surveillance, P.1

Previously on this blog, we briefly discussed Donald Trump’s selection of Congressman Jeff Sessions as his top pick for Attorney General, and how confirmation of this selection could impact federal investigation and prosecution of health care fraud. As we noted, most experts think there isn’t likely to be much change in this area.

Trump’s selection of Sessions as Attorney General, as well as his selection Congressman Mike Pompeo as his top pick for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, though, could result in changes in the area of surveillance. Some are concerned that the selections signal Trump’s willingness to significantly expand the surveillance power of federal intelligence agencies.

At this point, there is mostly speculation about what will happen to state surveillance under President Trump, but some have suggested that there may be a rollback of limitations on the bulk collection of telephone records and email contents and a lifting of restrictions on investigatory computer hacking.

The concerns relate not only to the implementation of new measures, but also to existing measures. For example, a measure went into effect at the beginning of the month which allows judges to sign a single search warrant allowing authorities to hack computers in multiple jurisdictions for purposes of criminal investigation. While alarm has been raised over the measure, the Department of Justice has downplayed fears of overreach, saying that judges would still be required to demonstrate probable cause and abide by other Fourth Amendment requirements.

Still, critics have said that the administratively created rule is a big enough change that it should have been submitted to Congress for approval. Unsurprisingly, the war against terror has been cited as a reason for the change, and it is the war on terror that could drive further expansion of government surveillance under President Trump. We’ll continue looking at this point in our next post.

Source:, “Game over: New US computer search law takes effect Thursday,” David Kravets, Nov. 30. 2016.


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