September 17, 2015
As we speak, the war in Syria is driving a mass migration across borders into Europe. It is a humanitarian crisis, and there’s little question that virtually all of these people are innocent refugees in search of a better life. But we live in a dangerous world where even a handful of individuals can cause devastating harm.
Terrorists like Al Qaeda and ISIS will not hesitate to exploit any opportunity to advance their agendas, and the current mass migration in Europe is one such opportunity. A European passport holder is a plane ticket from America. There is little that our immigration controls can do to prevent criminals or terrorists from entering the United States on short-term visas with European passports.
Because we justifiably refuse to live in a world where nations simply close their borders, we have to be vigilant. We need to know what our allies know and identify individuals who will do wrong. Information sharing and the sharing of law enforcement data between nations is, therefore, essential to law and order.
Against this backdrop, I authored and introduced the Judicial Redress Bill of 2015. In many ways, it’s a privacy bill—backed and supported by many of our country’s top privacy advocates—but make no mistake, the Judicial Redress Act is a crucial element to our law enforcement strategy.
Trust is easily lost and hard to rebuild. As the original author of the USA FREEDOM Act, I saw firsthand the damage the Snowden leaks did to our international reputation. It is my hope that passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, and the unequivocal end to mass, suspicion-less surveillance in the United States, was a first step toward normalizing relations with our allies. But the Judicial Redress Act is an important second step.
The bill is essential to the implementation of a recently signed umbrella agreement between the United States and European Union. In the words of the agreement, “the purpose . . . is to ensure a high level of protection of personal information and enhance cooperation between the United States and the European Union and its Member States, in relation to the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offenses, including terrorism.”
In our complex digital world, privacy and security are not competing values. They are weaved together inseparably, and today’s policymakers must craft legal frameworks that support both.
The Judicial Redress Act of 2015 provides our closest allies with limited remedies relative to data they share with the United States similar to those Americans enjoy under the Privacy Act. It is a way to support our foreign allies and ensure continued sharing of law enforcement data. More specifically, the bill would give citizens of covered countries the ability to correct flawed information in their records—mistakes that could subject innocent people to criminal charges or unnecessary surveillance—and limited remedies in U.S. courts if the U.S. government fully and intentionally discloses their personal data.
Americans already enjoy similar rights in Europe. Providing reciprocal rights is imperative to our international relationships. Our European allies have already indicated that such a bill is central to their willingness to continue to share law enforcement data with America. Failure to pass the Judicial Redress Act will therefore undermine several important international agreements, hurt U.S. businesses operating in Europe, and limit law enforcement sharing from key allies.
The bill is narrowly tailored, enabling only citizens of designated foreign countries to bring suit in specified circumstances, and only with respect to information obtained from their home country for law enforcement purposes. The right to redress is subject to the same restrictions U.S. citizens face under the Privacy Act, including broad exemptions for national security.
Because of the issue’s importance, this bill enjoys broad support. It has been endorsed by the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement, as well as U.S. businesses, including the Chamber of Commerce and nearly all of our largest technology and information companies.
Continuing advancements in technology make it critical to increase our security efforts and continue building solid relationships with our allies. As part of our growing law enforcement strategy, as well as a sign of good faith to our international partners, we must past the Judicial Redress Act of 2015.
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