Coalition Urges House and Senate Judiciary Leaders to Support the LEADS Act

Michi Iljazi

May 13, 2015

There are several debates ongoing in Washington right now, and one of the more contentious areas of discussion in Congress is privacy. In the next few weeks the House and Senate will be debating what to do regarding certain aspects of the Patriot Act, which is up for renewal. However, there is another piece of legislation that is making it’s way through Congress that falls under the area of privacy that Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been looking at and that is the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS). The bill, from Chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Conn.), would provide better tools for the United States government to obtain needed information abroad in criminal pursuits, but at the same ensure privacy protections for Americans while respecting the laws of other countries. TPA has already come out in support of the legislation earlier this year and just last week our organization signed a coalition letter with eight others expressing our support for the bill’s passage. The letter was sent to both the House & Senate Judiciary Committee Chairmen.

Read the letter below:


The Honorable Chuck Grassley 
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte 
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

May 1, 2015

Dear Chairman Grassley and Goodlatte:

The undersigned represent a broad coalition that encourages your support for the bipartisan Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (the “LEADS Act”) introduced by Senators Hatch, Chris Coons, and Dean Heller in the Senate. The House bipartisan companion was introduced by Representatives Tom Marino and Suzan DelBene. This legislation will protect the privacy of American citizens, promote cross-border data flow and our global trade agenda, and provide the tools law enforcement needs.

Until now, the U.S. Government has relied on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to reach data of foreign citizens stored abroad so long as the company storing the data had a presence on U.S. soil. This practice creates distrust of American businesses and encourages foreign citizens, companies and countries to stop doing business with U.S. companies operating overseas. Eventually, this will harm U.S. companies and threaten America’s leadership in cloud computing technology.

Moreover, if the U.S. Government can obtain emails wherever stored simply by serving a warrant on a provider subject to U.S. process, nothing stops other countries – including China and Russia – from seeking to obtain emails of Americans stored on servers in the United States.

The LEADS Act addresses these problems by amending ECPA to clarify that law enforcement may use a warrant to obtain electronically stored communications overseas if the account- holder is a U.S. person. This extends the traditional reach of a warrant beyond U.S. borders, but is appropriately responsive to the global nature of electronic data storage in the 21st Century. The legislation provides that the U.S. law enforcement cannot require disclosure of data stored abroad if the data is not associated with a U.S. person or if accessing that data would violate the laws of the country where it is stored. Instead, the U.S. must work with the host country to obtain the data.

The proposed legislation also tracks other ECPA reform proposals that have gained broad support in both the House and the Senate. The LEADS Act updates the nearly 30-year old law to require government officials to obtain a warrant for email and other digital content, thereby recognizing that the same privacy protections that apply to physical letters also apply to communications online.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue. We hope you will support the LEADS Act, which strikes the right balance between the legitimate needs of law enforcement and the privacy of American citizens.

Sincerely,

David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance 
Phil Kerpen, President, American Commitment
Katie McAuliffe, Executive Director of Digital Liberty & Federal Affairs Manager, Americans for Tax Reform
Thomas A. Schatz, President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
Andrew M. Langer, President, Institute for Liberty
Lt. Col. Allen B. West (US Army, Ret), President/CEO, National Center for Policy Analysis
Seton Motley, President, Less Government
Colin A. Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring
Erik Telford, Author, Red State