I often find myself telling level headed people in conversation that I don’t wear a tin foil hat, but I do keep a roll of aluminum foil nearby just in case. A recent press release from the Department of Justice has my skin crawling with the underpinnings of the Ministry of Truth and an ubermensch version of “Big Brother”. Call me a Chicken Little if you must, but what I read was an announcement that reeks with gobilist progressive measures to expand control. The DOJ so neatly delivered a “Joint Statement by the United States and the United Kingdom on Data Access Agreement.”
The United States and United Kingdom intend to bring into force the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on Access to Electronic Data for the Purpose of Countering Serious Crime (“Data Access Agreement”), which was signed in 2019, on Oct. 3, 2022. The entry into force of the Data Access Agreement will start a new era of co-operation between the United States and the United Kingdom, bringing forward a renewed commitment to tackling the threat of serious crime.
The Data Access Agreement will be the first agreement of its kind, allowing each country’s investigators to gain better access to vital data to combat serious crime in a way that is consistent with our shared values and mission of protecting our citizens and safeguarding our national security.
What’s equally troubling is that the agreement going into force this upcoming October is that it was signed in 2019 by then Attorney General William Barr. Maybe when this was executed while the United States had a different President and England a different Prime Minister (not that Barr is on a list of people I’d like to have dinner with), such an agreement would not seem that bad. However, this conduit will be opened up between two governments, which don’t necessarily seem to have the best interests in mind for their respective citizens at the current time.
What is it that they say the road to Hell is paved on?
Digging deeper into what the inception of this agreement was (a product of the CLOUD Act Agreement), we need to turn to letters that were sent between William Barr and Priti Patel MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department for the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. These clips might open the door a little on the topic, however reading them in full at the source paints a clearer picture.
Patel to Barr:
The United Kingdom declares that its essential interests under the Agreement may be implicated by the introduction of data received pursuant to Legal Process recognised by the Agreement as evidence in the prosecution’s case in the United States for an offence for which the death penalty is sought. Accordingly, in the event that authorities in the United States receive such data and intend to introduce such data as evidence in the prosecution’s case for an offence for which the death penalty is sought, the Designated Authority of the United States is required to obtain permission from the Designated Authority of the United Kingdom prior to any use of the data in a manner that is or could be contrary to those essential interests, as described in Article 8(4).
Barr to Patel:
In addition, the United States commits to inform the United Kingdom if the Department of Defense intends to use data known by relevant Department personnel to have been obtained pursuant to Legal Process recognized by the Agreement as evidence in the prosecution’s case in military commission proceedings at Guantanamo, as information to be used against a detainee in reviews of such detention at Guantanamo, as evidence in support of the United States’ case in any legal proceedings challenging the Department’s authority to detain a current or nominated Guantanamo detainee, or as intelligence in support of military detention operations where the target of the operations has been nominated for, or designated for, detention at Guantanamo.
Apparently, the United Kingdom is not the only country that we’re planning on sharing information with. In the Federal Register, there’s a notice of a similar arrangement with Australia, also from the formerly mentioned CLOUD Act Agreement.
In accordance with the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (“CLOUD Act”) relating to an executive agreement governing access by a foreign government to electronic data, notice is given that on December 15, 2021, the Attorney General certified his determination that the laws of the Government of Australia and the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America (“U.S.” or the “United States”) and the Government of Australia on Access to Electronic Data for the Purpose of Countering Serious Crime (the “U.S.-Australia CLOUD Agreement” or “Agreement”) satisfy the requirements of the CLOUD Act. On December 22, 2021, the Attorney General submitted a written certification of his determination to Congress.
These agreements have all been circulating quietly in the background. I don’t hear MSM talking about any of them, and I do keep my finger on the news pulse.
Outside of the little correspondence we could read between Barr and Patel and that it’s a product of the CLOUD Act, the big “why” is not abundantly clear. It’s the language in the July 21st release that’s really troubling though, regardless of the modifiers “ensuring” that our protections are not compromised.
The Data Access Agreement will allow information and evidence that is held by service providers within each of our nations [emphasis added] and relates to the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of serious crime to be accessed more quickly than ever before. This will help, for example, our law enforcement agencies gain more effective access to the evidence they need to bring offenders to justice, including terrorists and child abuse offenders, thereby preventing further victimization.
Our Agreement will maintain the strong oversight and protections that our citizens enjoy and does not compromise or erode the human rights and freedoms that our nations cherish and share. It protects our citizens by improving both nations’ ability to fight serious crime while maintaining the democratic and civil liberties standards that we stand for and promote around the world.
Just so we’re all on the same page about who or what a “provider” is, from the agreement’s definitions page:
Covered Provider means any private· entity to the extent that it:
(i) provides to the public the ability to communicate, or to process or store computer data, by means of a Computer System or a telecommunications system; or
(ii) processes or stores Covered Data on behalf of an entity defined in subsection (i).
On the surface, many would say such agreements just make sense, as they’ll lead to the ease of procuring important evidence in high profile cases. The data can be used to stop, intercept, and prosecute sex/human trafficing, amongst other crimes.
Consider me a cynic though. Any room for abuse, in my opinion, something like this would be abused. If the last administration paved the way for this under good intentions, I can see the current one using it for bad. We’re told that under the Trump administration Barr was trying to make it easier to get data on detainees in Gitmo and or information concerning capital crimes. Those cases do sound juicy.
Given our geo-political makeup, an agreement like this should cause some alarm. We know that the UN seeks the registration of all privately held arms in the world through their so-called small arms treaty. Given historical context, we also know that registration of arms leads to confiscation, leaving people subjects rather than citizens to their governments. Who’s to say that such an agreement can’t lead to the dissemination of information about arms in the United States?
Data sharing like that of this agreement and of the CLOUD Act could be an existential threat to the Republic. We must keep in mind that what’s considered “human rights and freedoms” to England and by extension Australia, is very different from that of the United States. Remembering that it was the tyranny of England we fought to gain our own independence from, and England has a disarmament mentality to date. Australia fought no such war, and still bends a knee to the crown. We don’t see eye to eye on what all liberties are.
When the rubber meets the road, I don’t exactly trust our data in the hands of even allies, especially ones that are hoplophobic. On the other hand, we can be assured that the United States would never engage in something that’ll undermine our liberties, such as…Nevermind, that Patriot Act pretty much ran a train on our privacy and deteriorated several civil rights, among them the Fourth Amendment. These agreements should give us all the heebie-jeebies and scream global power grab to me.