By Meredith Ward, Manager, Legislative and Media Affairs, IACP
n late February, IACP President Mark Marshall testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security at a hearing titled Going Dark: Lawful Electronic Surveillance in the Face of New Technologies.
In the United States, there are more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies, many of which use electronic surveillance to investigate crimes. Each day, state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies use lawful electronic surveillance as a critical tool for enforcing the nation’s laws and protecting the citizens they serve. Moreover, electronic evidence is now a routine issue in all crimes and at most crime scenes.
The advanced features of today’s phones can process more information about where people have been, who they know and are calling, what they are texting, what pictures they have and are sending, as well as hold larger amounts of data than ever before. Information recovered can also produce connections to other media like Facebook and Twitter, contact lists, call history, calendars, global positioning system waypoints, and e-mail. If properly recovered, this sort of stored data on communication devices has great investigative and intelligence value to assist law enforcement with investigations.
At the hearing, President Marshall stated, “The IACP believes that lawful interception of voice and data communications is one of the most valuable investigative tools available to law enforcement in identifying and crippling criminal and terrorist organizations.” President Marshall went on to discuss how communication methods have changed in recent years, saying, “The evolution and development of communication devices has had a significant impact on law enforcement’s ability to conduct electronic surveillance, as well as to recover valuable evidence from communication devices.”
The focus of the hearing was these new technologies and the fact that many agencies that need to be able to conduct electronic surveillance of real-time communications are on the verge of “going dark” because they are increasingly unable to access, intercept, collect, and process wire or electronic communications information when they are lawfully authorized to do so.
As President Marshall stated, “This serious intercept capability gap often undercuts state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies’ efforts to investigate criminal activity such as organized crime, drug-related offenses, child abduction, child exploitation, prison escape, and other threats to public safety.”
President Marshall went on to call for updated laws and the creation of a uniform set of standards and guidelines to assist law enforcement agencies. He also called for a central entity that would aid state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies with lawful intercepts and share technology with those same agencies.
FY 2012 Proposed Budget Released
The Obama administration recently released its FY 2012 budget proposal. The proposal includes $28.2 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ), including $3 billion in funds for state, local, and tribal assistance programs such as the Edward R. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. The proposed DOJ budget includes $600 million for the COPS Program and $487 million for the Byrne-JAG.
The proposal also includes $43.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes assistance grants for state, local, and tribal law enforcement.
The proposed DHS budget includes $1 billion for the State Homeland Security Grant (SHSG) program and $920 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).
Please note that there is no separate line item for the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP). In accordance with the 9/11 Act, 25 percent of funds from the SHSG and the UASI must be used for LETPP activities. Based on the numbers proposed for the LETPP and the UASI programs, this 25 percent set aside equates to approximately $480 million.
The president’s submission of his budget proposal represents the first step in the federal budget process. Over the next several weeks, the House and Senate budget committees will begin work on drafting the congressional budget resolution. This nonbinding document serves as a statement of Congress’s priorities in the budget process. At the same time, the various subcommittees of the House and Senate appropriations committees will begin their efforts to craft the annual appropriation bills that fund the federal government. ■
Please cite as:
Meredith Ward, "The IACP Testifies on "Going Dark," Legislative Alert, The Police Chief 78 (April 2011): 8.