The United States and Australia, on October 7, said that they have entered into formal negotiations for a bilateral agreement to boost law enforcement cooperation. In a joint statement, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said that the bilateral agreement under the U.S. Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act) will bolster strong protections for rule of law, privacy and civil liberties. The formal negotiations started when the law-enforcement agencies of the two countries are looking into the alleged overstepping of U.S. officials in the investigation of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Attorney General Barr, during the announcement of negotiations, said, “The CLOUD Act was created to permit our close foreign partners who have robust protections for privacy and civil liberties, such as Australia, to enter into executive agreements with the United States.”
Barr said that the agreement will allow service providers in Australia and the United States to respond to lawful orders from the other country without fear of running afoul of restrictions on disclosure. The US Attorney General also claimed that it will enhance the ability of both countries to fight crime by allowing faster access to data needed for quick-moving investigations.
Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs said that his country was very pleased to have taken this step and that the CLOUD Act provides the required balance for serious cases. “ When police are investigating a terrorist plot or serious crime such as child exploitation, they need to be able to move forward without delay, but within the law – and the CLOUD Act strikes exactly that balance,” said Dutton calling Australia and the US like-minded countries.
Recently, US President Donald Trump had asked the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to cooperate with Attorney General Barr in investigating Russia probe. According to the joint statement, the CLOUD Act will address the delays in mutual legal assistance (MLA) process and will provide an alternative expedited framework for obtaining the data.
“A bilateral CLOUD Act agreement would enable Australian law enforcement to serve domestic orders for communications data needed to combat serious crime directly on U.S.-based companies, and vice versa,” the statement read.
(With inputs from agencies)