The Italian Machiavelli once famously stated: “I am not interested in preserving the status quo, I want to overthrow it.” It is no secret that many U.S. government officials and even many data service providers have long been unhappy with the existing system of international Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), arguing that they are not up-to-date and not up-to-the-task to fight international crimes swiftly and efficiently. So why not throw them overboard and replace them with something new? This is what happened when the U.S. Congress adopted the CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act).
On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed a very extensive budget bill into law, giving the CLOUD Act (H.R. 4943, S. 2383) a piggyback ride by enacting it into law. Whoever ventures all the way to page 2201 of the new budget act will find the CLOUD Act with its new rules on how foreign government agencies may access data stored in the United States for law enforcement purposes.
Special legal consultant Axel Spies and of counsel Louis Rothberg authored this commentary for the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS).