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Tillis & Schatz Lead Bipartisan Effort on How Law Enforcement Agencies Analyze Digital Evidence

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) sent letters to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeking more information on how they plan to prepare law enforcement officials to effectively access and analyze digital evidence in support of criminal investigations.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently reported law enforcement agencies are facing significant challenges impeding their ability to effectively access and use digital evidence to support criminal investigations. Central among these challenges is insufficient training and technical support to help law enforcement understand how legally to identify, handle, access, and analyze such evidence—a problem more far-reaching than accessing encrypted devices or data.

The CSIS report found that nearly one-third of law enforcement professionals cited difficulties in identifying which service providers had access to digital evidence as their largest challenge, followed by difficulties in obtaining evidence from providers, and a lack of resources needed to access and analyze data from devices. A 2018 study sponsored by BJA similarly found that “needs related to facilitating better communication and understanding between law enforcement and service providers” and “better investigator access to information and training on requesting remote digital evidence” ranked high among law enforcement’s challenges.

“While traditional evidentiary sources and methods remain critically important for prosecutions of criminal cases at the local, state, and federal levels, law enforcement officials increasingly must rely on digital evidence—including mobile communications devices, social media accounts, internet browsing histories, and myriad other data sources—to generate leads, identify suspects, and build and prosecute cases,” wrote the Senators. “As the need to use digital evidence grows and access to the myriad types of digital information available to law enforcement agencies becomes more technically complex, stronger coordination and more effective training for law enforcement personnel will prove invaluable, especially as access to and use of certain digital evidence raise issues of privacy or due process.”

“We share a commitment to ensuring U.S. law enforcement personnel are equipped with the best tools and training necessary to leverage digital evidence in their investigations,” the Senators continued. “As such, we seek your assistance in providing information about how your department is working to combat these challenges.”

Read the letter to the BJA here.

Read the letter to the DHS here.

Read the letter to the FBI here.

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