Imagine that the government of Ireland suspected you of nefarious and illegal activity and demanded that Microsoft or Google hand over all of your emails, even though you are a U.S. citizen living in the United States. Fourth Amendment attorneys would be coming out of the walls to assist your fight against the breach of your information stored in the cloud.
Yet, that is exactly what the U.S. government is seeking to do right now as they sue Microsoft to access the private email files of an Irish citizen suspected of illegal/non-terror related activity. The ramifications of Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s demand that she be allowed access to everyone in the world’s emails and information stored in the cloud are enormous, particularly in the wake of Edward Snowden’s accusations about U.S. government snooping activity.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is entering the fray by holding a hearing on law enforcement and the Internet, looking at a body of law that hasn’t changed since before the Internet came into widespread use. It is almost certain that the LEADS (Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad) Act — which clarifies the law to ensure that U.S. law enforcement may not use warrants to compel the disclosure of customer content stored outside the United States unless the account holder is a U.S. person — will be part of the discussion. This is especially likely as the act also strengthens legal processes by which governments of one country can allow other governments to obtain evidence in criminal proceedings, an important consideration in the Internet Age.
While at some level, it can be argued that few American citizens really care if an Irish dude suspected of non-terrorist malfeasance gets his personal records rifled through by Lynch’s investigative goon squad, few would think it is a good idea for the government of Ireland to be able to reverse the roles and engage in a witch-hunt through the cloud against a U.S. citizen.
And that is why the LEADS Act enjoys broad bipartisan support (normally not a good thing, but this case breaks that rule), with 78 Republicans — ranging from Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) to more liberal GOP members like Mimi Walters (Calif.) — being joined by 60 Democrats as co-sponsors of the legislation.
The loss of liberty is rarely done in the bright light, but instead occurs through obscure legal maneuvers that in their totality construct the dim gray walls of tyranny around society. Goodlatte’s opening the door to begin the process of slapping down Lynch in this latest attempt to put one more massive gray brick in the wall of oppression is a great example of Congress reasserting its Article One powers in a smart, meaningful way.
With the broad support the LEADS Act enjoys, it can only be hoped that the bill lands on President Obama’s desk and he is compelled to allow it to become law before confidence in a U.S. company’s ability to manage the cloud free from government intrusion is fully eroded.