October 20, 2009

President Obama Signs Whitehouse Bill to Ease Burdens Imposed on U.S. Attorneys by Foreign Investigations

Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama has signed into law legislation introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that makes it easier for U.S. Attorneys to respond to requests for evidence made by foreign authorities pursuing international criminal investigations.

The Foreign Evidence Request Efficiency Act (S. 1289), was cosponsored in the Senate by both the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and the Ranking Member, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Representative Daniel Lungren (R-CA), both members of the House Judiciary Committee, led passage of the bill in the House. The Department of Justice has also endorsed the bill.

“If the U.S. can respond more quickly and efficiently to these requests for evidence, it will encourage foreign authorities to respond to us with comparable speed,” said Whitehouse. “The Foreign Evidence Request Efficiency Act will streamline and simplify this process for U.S. Attorneys without changing our obligations to foreign nations. In so doing, it will allow U.S. Attorneys to spend more time and resources on prosecutions.”

The United States routinely helps foreign law enforcement agencies as they investigate criminal conduct involving activity in this country. Foreign nations do the same for the United States. As the world grows more interconnected and crime becomes increasingly global, such cooperation becomes all the more important for law enforcement agencies as they work to build cases against international organized crime organizations, drug cartels, purveyors of child pornography on the internet, and other criminal threats from outside our borders.

The existing process for collecting foreign evidence in the United States on behalf of a foreign government requires separate evidence requests to be sent to each U.S. Attorney’s office in which such evidence exists. For example, a request for evidence relating to a complicated financial fraud on the internet would have to be directed to the office in each district where requested bank records, internet records, and other documents are located.

The Foreign Evidence Request Efficiency Act will end this problem by creating a clear statutory framework for handling foreign evidence requests more centrally by a single or more limited number of U.S. Attorneys offices. It does so without changing the types of evidence that foreign governments may receive from the United States or reducing the role of courts as gatekeepers for searches. The Foreign Evidence Request Efficiency Act will leave those important protections in place, while simultaneously reducing the paperwork that the current process imposes on our U.S. Attorneys.


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