09.30.09

Schiff Bill to Increase Efficiency in Processing Foreign Evidence Requests for International Criminal Investigations Passes House

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

Schiff Bill to Increase Efficiency in Processing Foreign Evidence Requests for International Criminal Investigations Passes House

Washington, D.C. – Today the House passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Congressman Adam Schiff that will make it easier for U.S. Attorneys to process requests for evidence made by foreign authorities pursuing international criminal investigations. The Foreign Evidence Request Efficiency Act will allow U.S. Attorneys to more easily respond to requests for evidence and focus more of their time and resources on prosecutions. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) authored the Senate companion bill, which recently passed the Senate.  The Department of Justice has endorsed the bill, and it will now be sent to the President to be signed into law.

“The current process is inefficient and burdensome for federal prosecutors across the country, and adds unnecessary hurdles to the efforts to catch criminals,” said Schiff.  The important changes in this bill will greatly improve crime fighting abilities at home and abroad.”

It is commonplace for the United State and other nations to assist each other by sharing information and evidence in international criminal investigations. This type of cooperation is vital for law enforcement as they work to build cases against international organized crime organizations, intellectual property violators, identity theft, drug cartels, purveyors of child pornography on the internet, and other criminal threats from outside our borders.

Under existing law, international requests for evidence are processed under rules that require prosecutors to file in every district in which evidence or a witness may be found.  For example, evidence sought for one criminal matter may involve financial records housed in banks in several different federal judicial districts, Internet records in more than one judicial district, and other evidence spread over several districts.  Oftentimes, under current law over a dozen different U.S. Attorneys offices and several district courts can be required to work on an evidence request for a single case. 

The Foreign Evidence Request Efficiency Act would end this problem by creating a clear framework for handling foreign evidence requests.  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 streamlining the existing bureaucratic process imposed on U.S. Attorneys.