Washington, DC – A federal court ruling governing how Internet services providers must respond to search warrants will protect the rights of the public without imposing unnecessary burdens on Internet service providers, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) said today.
The ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier decision by a Federal district court in U.S. v. Bach. The trial court had ruled that law enforcement officers must be physically present when Internet service providers retrieve information from their systems in response to search warrants.
“We are very pleased that the Eighth Circuit has overturned the flawed decision of the lower court,” CCIA President and CEO Ed Black said. “The rule set forth by the trial court would impose a heavy burden on service providers without providing additional protections to the rights of criminal suspects.”
In its decision yesterday, the Eighth Circuit held that service of a warrant on an ISP by fax complies with the “reasonableness” requirements of the Fourth Amendment. The court also found that employees of the service provider could conduct the search for information in response to the warrant without law enforcement supervision. The district court had maintained that the presence of law enforcement officers was necessary to ensure that the service provider did not exceed the bounds of the warrant. CCIA joined with several other industry groups in an amicus curiae brief to urge the Circuit Court to overturn the lower court’s decision.
“In most cases like these, law enforcement will be incapable of conducting the search. So it is reasonable for the searches to be done by the ISP itself,” Black said. “Having law enforcement looking over their shoulders while ISP’s compile and sort documents does nothing to secure the Fourth Amendment rights of the public. In fact, such supervision could be counterproductive in protecting those rights. We applaud the Eighth Circuit for coming to a reasonable and constitutionally sound conclusion.”
The opinion can be found at: ../..//legal/bach.pdf