The Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), and in collaboration with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), held a workshop in Washington, D.C., under the framework of the Global Initiative on “Strengthening the Capacity of Central Authorities and Counter-Terrorism Prosecutors and Investigators in Obtaining Digital Evidence from Private Communications Service Providers (CSPs) in Cross-Border Investigations, with a Particular Focus on Counter-Terrorism Matters,” which was launched in December 2017.
The Global Initiative consists of a series of activities focused on capacity-building of central authorities, prosecutors and investigators in requesting electronic evidence. These focused activities include regional workshops for South and South-East Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a national workshop in Pakistan. The activities also include three expert group meetings (EGMs), the first two were held in Vienna in 2018 and the third one in New York on 13 and 14 November 2019. These EGMs aimed to convene multiple stakeholders and experts from a number of States and provide an opportunity to develop innovative solutions consistent with national legislation and international human rights law. The first two EGMs resulted in the publication of the Practical Guide for Requesting Electronic Evidence Across Borders developed in collaboration with EUROMED Justice and EUROMED Police.
Work conducted by CTED and its partners on the Global Initiative is in line with Security Council resolutions 2322 (2016) and 2396 (2017) as well as the Addendum to the Guiding Principles on Foreign Terrorist Fighters (2018).
The specialist workshop, held from 10 – 11 December 2019, addressed and built capabilities for practitioners including liaison magistrates to the U.S., national prosecutors and representatives of central authorities, representatives of the U.S. DOJ and technical experts. The workshop also assessed and provided updates for practitioners on the process of Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) requests with the U.S for electronic evidence. With the vast majority of users of U.S.-based CSPs residing outside of the United States and the continual growth in recent years of criminal activities online, including those related to terrorism, the workshop provided a chance to give practitioners from a number of backgrounds the requisite understanding of how to request data from these users.
In 2018, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act was passed in the U.S. This gave the United States the authorisation to enter into executive agreements with foreign partners agreeing to remove legal barriers to accessing data across borders. This is a two-way agreement and allows for faster access to electronic data for investigations of serious crimes. To date, only the United Kingdom has entered into this agreement with the government of the United States. The U.S. has signed 60 bilateral agreements with other states to facilitate the flow of data. However, due to differences in laws, this process can be lengthy and complicated. The CTED/UNODC/IAP workshop, in partnership with the DOJ, informed practitioners of best practices and built capabilities in collecting and sharing electronic evidence.