DOJ Pushes Out Legislation Proposal To Undercut Microsoft Case Decision About Overseas Searches

from the please-please-please-let-us-get-what-we-want dept

No sooner had the ink dried on the Second Circuit Appeals Court decision regarding Microsoft and its overseas servers than new legislation designed to undercut the court's finding has been printed up by the DOJ and presented to the administration.

Microsoft successfully argued that the US government couldn't force it to unlock a server in Dublin, Ireland, so it could rummage around for evidence. Nor could the DOJ force the company to act on its behalf, performing a search of its overseas servers for documents the US government couldn't access otherwise.

Since that decision obviously just won't do, the DOJ has presented proposed legislation [PDF] that would alter existing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) so the agency can do the very thing a court just said it couldn't do.

The details are discussed in, um, detail over at the Lawfare blog by none other than a former DOJ lawyer (David Kris). Needless to say, the post skews towards "supportive," but the analysis is thorough and offers some excellent insight on what the DOJ hopes to open up -- and what it's willing to concede in return for this new power.

The law would limit searches to communications from non-US citizens located abroad and only for criminal investigations. This would prevent the altered MLATs from being used by US agencies to gather intelligence, restricting them only to gathering evidence of criminal activity. That being said, for every concession made, there's a DOJ land grab.

The heart of the proposed legislation is section 4, which allows for executive agreements between the U.S. and foreign governments. Where a satisfactory agreement is in place, the barriers to access in the Wiretap Act, Stored Communications Act, and criminal Pen Register statute are removed (by section 3).

Of all the places to remove existing limits, the DOJ has chosen three of its most-abused laws/statutes. The Wiretap Act has been rendered toothless by the DEA's collusion with a judicial rubber stamp in California and used by the DOJ to push American telcos into doing its spying for it. The Stored Communications Act was just another (failed) angle of attack for the DOJ in its fight against Microsoft. And the Pen Register Act has been used as a cover for Stingray deployments by multiple law enforcement agencies, all with the tacit approval of the FBI, which still acts as a middleman in every IMSI catcher purchase by local PDs.

From there, the DOJ offers a melange of legal authorities to govern its searches of foreign servers.

The foreign orders authorized by the agreement must meet several specific requirements. First, they must pertain to the “prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of serious crime, including terrorism.” This means that affirmative foreign intelligence gathering is out of bounds. Conceptually, the idea here seems similar to the split in FISA’s two definitions of “foreign intelligence information,” 50 U.S.C. 1801(e)(1)-(2).

[...]

Second, the foreign orders must use a “specific” identifier such as a name or account as the “object of the order.” This comes from the USA Freedom Act’s amendments to FISA, designed to prevent bulk collection, 50 U.S.C. 1841, 1861.

[...]

Third, the orders must be “based on requirements for a reasonable justification based on articulable and credible facts, particularity, legality, and severity regarding the conduct under investigation,” and must be subject to “review or oversight” by a judge or other “independent authority.” These elements seem to be derived in part from several U.S. constitutional requirements—e.g., those governing a stop and frisk (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1967)), the definition of probable cause (Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983)), the requirements for a search warrant (including particularity and a neutral and detached magistrate, see Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79 (1987)), and a proportionality requirement.

At first blush, these would seem to subject DOJ requests to multiple forms of oversight. But it most likely won't. The self-written loopholes allow for plenty of "search first, ask permission later" action.

Of course, the requirements are not exactly the same as those the Fourth Amendment would compel—for example, the reference to “review or oversight” by a judge or other “independent authority” would seem to permit after-the-fact review by a Parliamentary body rather than advance review of orders by a judge.

On top of that, the folding in of FISA language allows the FBI, et al to interpret "criminal investigation" very loosely.

Note, however, that counter-intelligence, expressly including counter-terrorism but also probably including counter-espionage, is included, because the language refers not only to “investigation” and “prosecution,” but also to “prevention” and “detection” of crime.

So, despite saying the MLAT alterations would be limited to investigatory work, rather than intelligence gathering, the new agreements could be read as permitting both. And, despite restricting agencies from using foreign government to obtain data or communications they otherwise wouldn't be able to access, the proposal does allow these entities to provide US agencies with data and communications involving US persons. Sure, there are minimization procedures, but they're apparently tied to restrictions built into foreign governments' laws rather than our own, and auditing for abuses of this access is limited to a review every half-decade -- hardly the sort of thing that stops abuse in its tracks.

And the minimization procedures deployed by foreign governments when handing over info on US persons are tied to a bunch of exceptions -- the usual parade of horrors agencies use to justify intrusive surveillance.

[A] foreign government “may not disseminate the content of a communication of a U.S. person to U.S. authorities unless it is relevant to the “prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of serious crime, including terrorism, or necessary to protect against a threat of death or serious bodily harm to any person,” and also “relates to significant harm, or the threat thereof, to the United States or U.S. persons, including but not limited to crimes involving national security such as terrorism, significant violent crime, child exploitation, transnational organized crime, or significant financial fraud.”

So, it can't be used for anything not included on the "serious crimes" list, which doesn't leave much. There's not a whole lot of criminal activity that can't be squeezed into this laundry list. Moving violations? Jaywalking? Lord knows anything drug-related will still be considered "dangerous," even if most of the threat is composed of overreacting drug warriors lobbing flash bangs into cribs at 5 am.

Obviously, the DOJ wasn't just going to stand by and let the Second Circuit determine how it's going to operate. This bill may have been a long time in the works, but its public debut is impeccably timed.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2016 @ 11:55am

    DOJ...

    We are TYRANNY!!!

    No we don't give a fuck that you know it either. We do not see you shitizens doing a fucking damn thing about it either.

    Your current choices are from candidates that support our tyranny and you are going to vote for US either way. Come at us bro! We dare ya!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2016 @ 12:10pm

    So other countries come calling for emails etc. from those they call terrorist and dangerous criminals, the USA will agree to handing over that data, or will it be like most USA use of treaty privileges, something for the USA to use, while denying reciprocity to other countries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2016 @ 12:57pm

      Re:

      Other countries like, ummmm, China. Their request will be: Everyone, please. We are trying to prevent and detect "serious" crime. Trust us.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2016 @ 1:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Or Turkey, who have a government who are purging all opposition... I mena seeing terrorists in every shadow.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 12:12pm

    Wait, wait... is it even possible for one party to unilaterally alter an existing treaty in this way? How does that make any sense at all?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vidiot (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 12:20pm

      Re:

      A certain Cheetos-colored candidate claims he'll unilaterally modify every treaty we've ever signed. And after that, it'll be really great. Really great.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 2:48pm

        Re: Re:

        You'll just love it. I mean, it will be the best, classiest treaty you've ever seen. Everyone who's ever read a treaty that I re-negotiate has just loved it. And if the other parties to the treaty don't like it, we'll make the other treaty signatories pay for it! Believe me, I know what I'm talking about. My foreign policy will put America in a position with foreigners like we've never seen before! Trust me. It will be great.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        AJ, 20 Jul 2016 @ 7:34am

        Re: Re:

        You had me at "Cheetos"....lol's..

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 8:36pm

      Re:

      might makes right to the mind of a bully

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JH, 19 Jul 2016 @ 12:13pm

    So if it's a bilateral treaty amendment, does Scotland Yard get to access Americans' emails sent and received in the U.S. as well?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2016 @ 12:46pm

      Re:

      > So if it's a bilateral treaty amendment, does Scotland Yard get to access Americans' emails sent and received in the U.S. as well?

      Only when the NSA asks the GCHQ to ask for them...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 12:34pm

    Let's recap a little bit: what are laws meant for? They are a product of people who represent the citizenry based on behaviors society believes to be punishable or something.

    Then the DOJ loses a case but because the little tyrants behind it don't like the outcome the DOJ pushes for laws nobody asked for that will most likely affect Constitutional rights people fought hard to have and were written in a way that protect even foreigners from Government overreach.

    So instead of having what I first described we have laws being written by a few corporate interests or the interests of a few paranoid, megalomaniac tyrants that serve everybody EXCEPT the citizenry. Awesome.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 1:41pm

    Attached Drugs

    It won't be long before they have drug sniffing dogs searching email for drug attachments. These attachments will then be tested with a $2.00 road side testing piece o' crap and life sentences will be handed out for positives, false or not, without the whole bother and expense of any Jurisprudence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 19 Jul 2016 @ 2:09pm

    When At First You Don't Succeed

    DOJ Pushes Out Legislation Proposal To Undercut Microsoft Case Decision About Overseas Searches

    It must be nice to have seemingly infinite resources (thank you tax slaves and deficit spending) so as the US government (DOJ or what ever government acronym applies) can make unlimited attempts to tilt the legal/economic "playing field' in it's favor whenever it suits governments fancy.

    Whatever DOJ's actions are labeled it certainly has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with wanton lust for power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DocRobot (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 2:26pm

    God Damn Kids Get Everything Nowadays...

    "You can't have it."

    "But, I want it..."

    "You can't have it."

    "I want it..."

    "You can't have it."

    "Want it!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 2:56pm

    You can only police people as much as they want to be policed

    You would think that any government that doesn't know this eventually learns it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 3:03pm

      Re: You can only police people as much as they want to be policed

      Indeed. That's a special case of a larger rule: find the exact amount of tyranny that a population will tolerate, and you have found the exact amount of tyranny they live under.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Boris Limburger (profile), 20 Jul 2016 @ 12:14pm

        Re: Re: You can only police people as much as they want to be policed

        Oh, their mega computers are very busy calculating that data even as we debate the tyranny and corrupt policies.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Kent State Never Forget, 20 Jul 2016 @ 12:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: You can only police people as much as they want to be policed

          When you can stare down a barrel of an assault rifle aimed at you for excersizing your right to peacefully protest their atrocities and can place a daisy in that barrel, you got something you can rest peacefully in your grave about.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 20 Jul 2016 @ 5:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: You can only police people as much as they want to be policed

          No need to use computers for this. The method is tried and true, and as old as government: you keep increasing the amount of tyranny until your subjects start to squeal louder than you can take, then back off half a notch.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2016 @ 3:38pm

    Its hard to believe just how crooked the DOJ is.

    At what point do we say enough is enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 5:11pm

      Who watches the watchers

      The problem is not one part of the government has both pieces necessary to do something about the rot infesting the whole thing.

      If they have the ability to do something, they have no inclination to do so.

      If they have the inclination to do something, they don't have the ability to do so.

      The entire government is basically filled with people who are willing to look the other way when someone else abuses their power/position for personal gain, with the understanding that the other person will return the favor when it's their turn to do the same.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 5:05pm

    You know the saying...

    "If at first you don't succeed, push out a law to retroactively make your actions legal, and/or give you legal grounds to try again under much more favorable circumstances."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2016 @ 5:10pm

    There is a bully in the school yard taking little kids lunch money. Nothing new in that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2016 @ 7:45pm

    How very Erdogan of DOJ. They probably had this ready, and they were going to release it if the ruling wasn't in their favor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2016 @ 1:34am

    A solution for vehicles stopages and drug dogs

    Have a small chemical delivery system installed on your vehicle and while the windows are wound up release small quantities of the following kinds of chemicals:

    thiophenol (toxic)
    selenophenol (toxic)
    hydrogen selenide (toxic)
    hydrogen telluride (toxic)

    or the top of the list

    thioacetone

    The last causing unpleasant reactions up to 3/4 of a km away. I don't think drug dogs will be willing to stick around to sniff your vehicle, particularly if said compound is managed to be placed on doggy. I would also assume that the police will also leave you alone.

    A remarkable property of thioacetone is its odor (or perhaps the odor of oligomerization or degradation products). The smell is so potent it can be detected several hundred meters downwind mere seconds after a container is opened. In 1889, the attempt to distill the chemical in the German city of Freiburg im Breisgau was followed by cases of vomiting, nausea and unconsciousness in an area 3/4 of a kilometer around the laboratory due to the smell. The soap manufacturer Whitehall Soap Works later noted in a 1890 report that dilution seemed to make the smell worse and described the smell as "fearful".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2016 @ 6:27am

    They can't hide it anymore.

    We are all carrying cameras and microphones now. We are all ready to "go to press" at a moments notice now.

    The old propaganda machine is still chugging away, but half of us don't believe it anymore. Many don't even see it anymore.

    And each year more and more our poor, brainwashed pre-internet forebears die off.

    Each year the number of us that regard "our" "leaders" with nothing but contempt grows.

    That shit with Lynch a couple of weeks ago. It would be shocking if it wasn't already the expected norm.

    Government needs to adapt to the new reality. Because we've been listening to stories about "freedom and democracy" for far too long to ever be able to accept the "new deal" being offered now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Never one of them, 20 Jul 2016 @ 12:03pm

      Re:

      They have violated every aspect of America. They send our sons and daughters off to fight for them. They aim the law enforcement at us and our freedoms. They have sex in the oval office of our whitehouse and lie about that. There is nothing they wont deface. We are the other half of this nation and we can't possibly sit by much longer and take their abuse of our government. They stockpile hollow point ammo to be used against us. We are the citizens of this great nation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 20 Jul 2016 @ 8:21am

    State of Law

    Did the DOJ ever hear about the foundations of the State of Law, namely the separation of power?

    Well, separation of power says THE FUCKING DOJ DOES NOT MAKE LAWS, not even propose! And if they're trying they're trying to subvert democracy itself. I'd call such an action treasonous and at least enough to fire all involved people within the DOJ immediately, with a ban of ever working in the DOJ again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vern's Discounts, 20 Jul 2016 @ 11:54am

    Hog Wash

    People need to throw away their cell phones and gather around like in the days of hog washes and hoe downs. Grab a partner swing around! Dosey Do and they won't know what to do about that. They'll try to infiltrate, but we can spot one a mile away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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