Bipartisan bill would enhance law enforcement cooperation & transatlantic relations

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) applauded the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) announcement of support for the Murphy-Hatch Judicial Redress Act of 2015. The bipartisan bill will promote increased cooperation among law enforcement and boost transatlantic relations. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also voiced her support for the bill during a U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee DOJ oversight hearing earlier this week. 

The Judicial Redress Act would extend some of the core benefits enjoyed by Americans under the Privacy Act of 1974 to European allies and provide a clear signal that the U.S. values the transatlantic relationship and seeks to fully rebuild trust in U.S.-EU data flows.  This bill is essential to the “Umbrella Agreement,” the critical law enforcement information sharing agreement between the U.S. and Europe. Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled to strike down the “Safe Harbor” agreement between the United States and the European Union (EU) due to a lack of privacy protections for EU citizens.

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Judicial Redress Act. The U.S. Senate must pass the legislation before it is signed into law.

Murphy said, “Just days ago, one of our closest allies faced the worst-ever terrorist attack in their nation’s history. As we confront ongoing national security threats, we must cement the vital U.S.-EU law enforcement efforts we rely on to keep Americans safe – that means passing the Judicial Redress Act into law.

Murphy continued, “Safeguarding our national security is the absolute number one priority. But until the Senate passes this bill into law, the gaps in information sharing addressed by our Judicial Redress Act stand between us and a safer America. I strongly urge the Senate to follow the actions of the House and the recommendation of the DOJ as soon as possible, and pass this bill into law. Our national security depends on it.”

Hatch said, “With unanimous support in the House, and strong support from the administration, it’s time for the Senate to act on the Judicial Redress Act. Many countries in the European Union provide data protection rights to Americans on European soil, and European citizens should have access to the core benefits of the Privacy Act when in the United States. Especially given the European Court of Justice’s recent ‘safe harbor’ decision, Congress should provide assurances to our European allies that America respects data privacy. The Judicial Redress Act is sound policy, and we cannot afford to wait any longer.”

A PDF of the letter is available online here. The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy:

This letter provides the Department of Justice's views in support of S.1600 and H.R. 1428, the "Judicial Redress Act of 2015." The legislation is critical to ensuring continued strong law enforcement cooperation between the United States and the European Union (EU), and we appreciate the opportunity to work with Committee staff on these important matters.

For many years, the EU and many of its Member States have raised significant concerns regarding the fact that the Privacy Act of 1974 (Privacy Act) applies to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs), but not to foreign citizens who are not LPRs. In contrast, U.S. citizens have rights under EU and Member State data protection laws to seek access, amendment and either administrative or judicial redress with respect to the processing or use of their data. The absence of a broader right of action with respect to U.S. government privacy violations has remained a significant point of friction.

In 2011, the United States and EU commenced negotiations on a Data Protection and Privacy Agreement (DPP A). The agreement is intended to establish mutual recognition of EU and U.S. data privacy frameworks and clarify the application of U.S. and EU data protection measures to existing law enforcement cooperation agreements. The United States entered into these negotiations in order to ensure that our robust information sharing with the EU for law enforcement purposes would continue. During the course of the negotiations, the European Commission and Parliament both made it clear that the EU would sign the DPP A only if EU citizens are granted the right to seek redress in U.S. courts for major privacy violations related to personal information covered by the DPP A. Without an Act of Congress, the United States cannot provide EU citizens access to U.S. federal courts. Accordingly, enactment of the Judicial
Redress Act of 2015 is essential to putting the United States and the EU in a position to conclude the DPPA.

The negative consequences that will result from failure to conclude the DPP A will include diminished law enforcement cooperation. If the DPPA is not concluded, it is likely that an increasing amount of law enforcement cooperation will be channeled into formal mutual legal assistance instead of through other channels of cooperation, including between U.S. and EU Member State law enforcement agencies. The diminishrnent of lawful information sharing options and diversion to a single channel would dramatically reduce cooperation and significantly hinder counterterrorism efforts, in addition to the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of other criminal offenses. Additionally, the EU is drafting a new data protection directive, in which international transfers of law enforcement information concerning EU citizens will be severely restricted unless the recipient country meets certain privacy standards, including the right for EU citizens to seek judicial redress for major privacy violations in the recipient country's courts. In the event the EU impedes the transfer of law enforcement information, the ability to seek redress could be denied or withdrawn.

In sum, this legislation is critical to ensuring continued strong law enforcement cooperation between the United States and the EU. We fully support S.1600 and H.R. 1428, and we stand ready to work with the Committee on any issues relating to the legislation. Please do not hesitate to contact this office if we may be of additional assistance. The Office of Management and Budget has advised us that from the standpoint of the Administration's program, there is no objection to the submission of this letter.


Peter J. Kadzik
Assistant Attorney General