July 10, 2009

Senate Passes Whitehouse Bill to Ease Burdens on U.S. Attorneys Imposed by Foreign Investigations

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today passed bipartisan 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), cosponsored by both the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and the Ranking Member, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), will allow U.S. Attorneys to more easily respond to requests for evidence and focus more of their time and resources on prosecutions. 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, making it easier for U.S. Attorneys without changing our obligations to foreign nations.”

The United States routinely helps foreign law enforcement agencies as they pursue criminal conduct involving activity outside their borders. Foreign nations do the same for us. As the world grows more interconnected and crime becomes increasingly global, such cooperation becomes all the more important for law enforcement 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 requires requests to be split up and sent to the U.S. Attorneys offices in every district where pieces of 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 would 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 would leave those important protections in place, while simultaneously reducing the paperwork that the cumbersome existing process imposes on our U.S. Attorneys.


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921