Today Access launched www.mlat.info, a website that makes it easy to explore the text and geographical scope of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs). These agreements facilitate the exchange of information for investigations happening across borders, dictating how users’ data is shared with foreign governments for criminal investigations and prosecutions.
A focus of MLAT.info is the need for MLAT reform. The existing MLAT system is outdated and fails to meet both human rights standards and requirements for information sharing between jurisdictions. President Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology determined that it can take about ten months for MLAT requests made to the US to be fulfilled.
When MLAT requests linger for ten months or longer, law enforcement agencies look towards other, informal processes for the sharing of criminal information. Means of obtaining information outside of the formal MLAT system have little to no transparency or accountability. The ineffectiveness of MLATs is therefore a problem not only for law enforcement agencies but also for users who are concerned about protecting their privacy and other rights.
One step in the process of reforming the MLAT system is providing greater information on how and where MLATs operate. Users of the MLAT.info site can use a searchable map to find treaties ratified by particular countries, and can consult a Policy Analysis page to discover the issues and potential reforms of the MLAT system and a Resources page which provides external information on mutual legal assistance.
Check www.accessnow.org during the Necessary and Proportionate Principles’ Week of Action from September 15 – 19 for a more detailed look at why MLATs need to be reformed.