Posted on July 1, 2017 at 4:18 PM
After discovering that Microsoft doesn’t have to hand over communication data that is stored in other countries when asked, the DOJ was not very pleased. To demonstrate this, it decided to pursue the permission to access this data. They tried to get it twice from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and twice was their demand rejected. Because of it, the DOJ is now trying to get the same permission from a Supreme Court.
Statutory language was not in agreement with the premise that the government tried to push, which is what the Appeals Court tried to explain to the DOJ. The US government’s idea is that they should be able to issue warrants that will allow their law enforcement to search foreign ‘file cabinets’.
This is something that is, thankfully, not allowed, even to the US. And the said limitations remain the same for digital documents, as well as for physical ones. The DOJ was told to discuss this matter with the Congress if they wish to continue pursuing this idea.
They actually did propose a legislation, but despite this, getting a permission from a Supreme Court would be faster, so the DOJ decided to go both ways.
Their petition is 207 pages long, but their arguments for receiving this permission are only 30-pages long. The rest of it are court decisions from the past, as well as transcripts of oral arguments about some of the low-level DOJ losses.
The DOJ is not wasting their time, and the section header of this document is titled “The panel’s decision is wrong”. It goes straight to the point, and it is not shy of using the quotes from the past. They even mentioned the famous ‘Appeal to 9/11’ argument. Basically, they quote that, if the US had access to foreign data, and the terrorists used electronic ways of communications, the 9/11 could have been prevented.
However, this would not stop there, as is seen from another segment, where they remind about the request from December 2013. Back then, the government wanted personal emails belonging to an individual suspected of having connections with criminal drug activities.
So basically, they talk about terrorists and big changes, when actually they want to track down smaller criminals. Stopping small criminals would be good, and not by any means a waste of time. However, in order to get there, the entire world’s privacy would be lost to the US government.
The negotiations and convincing goes in circles from this point on, with everyone claiming what they believe is right and fair. Even Microsoft itself has responded with a blog post. They are also against allowing the access, but instead, they have other suggestions. They include working with US service providers and Congress on building better laws that will address the world as it actually is.
Also, cooperating with foreign law enforcement would be much faster than what the DOJ suggested, which was ‘weeks’. Another thing that the DOJ either doesn’t get or at least doesn’t care about, is that getting access to the entire world’s communication would also mean exposing the communication of the US to the rest of the world.
Whatever the Supreme Court’s decision turns out to be, there will probably be some sort of consequences. And the DOJ is expected to continue pursuing their wish, as they did so far.