SIIA Calls on Congress to Make MLAT Funding a Priority in Current Budget Cycle

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In a letter sent to congressional leaders this morning, SIIA joined with several other business and technology organizations in calling for increased funding to allow the Department of Justice to adequately handle its responsibilities under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs).

For decades MLATs, which provide a process for law enforcement to resolve criminal investigations across borders, have ensured that foreign government requests conform to U.S. law and have helped counter foreign efforts to enact restrictive laws governing the Internet.  In the last decade, however, foreign evidence requests have jumped 60 percent, with electronic record requests increasing 1,000 percent. At the same time, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, which handles these requests, has seen reductions in staff.

With dramatically more evidence requests and reduced Justice Department staffing to handle these requests, American businesses are in a very difficult situation. DOJ’s inability to keep up has caused foreign governments to go around the MLAT process altogether, taking their demands directly to U.S. businesses. Companies are now in the nearly impossible position of trying to comply with foreign law enforcement requests while adhering to U.S. law. The breakdown in the MLAT process also leads to countries around the world pursuing data localization requirements, which threaten to fragment the internet.

SIIA, along with seven other organizations, calls on Congress to approve the Department of Justice’s request for $24.1 million in dedicated FY 2015 funding.  In the letter the organizations state that this level of funding will provide additional prosecutors, personnel and technology and is “…critical to rebuilding trust in the effectiveness of the U.S. MLAT process, while maintaining the rule of law around the world.”  The letter urges leaders “to assign the highest priority to funding the urgently needed improvements in the MLAT process on the basis that it represents an investment that can pay dividends across a range of economic and geopolitical fronts.”

The organizations signing the letter are: Application Developers Alliance, Business Software Alliance, Computer & Communications Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, The Internet Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Council for International Business.

Mark Mark MacCarthy, Senior Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology. Follow Mark on Twitter at @Mark_MacCarthy.