ACLU Calls On Senate to Reject Misguided International Cybercrime Treaty; Pact Would Require U.S. Police to Enforce Foreign Laws

December 18, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK– The American Civil Liberties Union today decried President Bush’s decision to submit the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention to the Senate for ratification, and called on the Senate to reject the treaty.

“This is a bad treaty that not only threatens core liberties, but will obligate the United States to use extraordinary powers to do the dirty work of other nations,” said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program. “We thought the Bush Administration had realized this, since they had never sent it to the Senate in the nearly two years since it was signed.”

The Cybercrime treaty includes a list of crimes that each signatory nation must have on its books; requires each signatory to grant new powers of search and seizure to its law enforcement authorities; and it requires law enforcement in each nation to assist police from other participating countries.

The ACLU today also released a list of seven reasons why the Cybercrime Treaty should be rejected. Prominent among them is the fact that because the treaty lacks a “dual criminality” requirement, American law enforcement would be forced to cooperate with investigations of activities that are perfectly legal in the U.S. but illegal overseas.

“The Cybercrime signatories include nations of recent and untested democratic vintage such as Ukraine and Bulgaria, and over time the Convention will be opened to stark dictatorships like China,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Marv Johnson. “Do we really want professional American law enforcement personnel conducting surveillance on people who haven’t broken any U.S. law in order to help enforce the ‘law’ of some Party apparatchik in China?”

Other problems, the ACLU said, include the fact that the treaty:

  • is far too broad, covering not only “computer crimes” like network cracking, but any crime that involves the use of a computer
  • lacks privacy protections
  • would further tilt our intellectual property laws away from the public interest
  • would legitimize the use of the use of the Carnivore surveillance scheme to intercept the content of electronic communications.

“We will fight ratification of this treaty,” said Steinhardt.

The ACLU’s fact sheet, “Seven Reasons Why the Senate Should Reject the Cybercrime Treaty” and other materials are online at

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