WASHINGTON – British and U.S. officials have been negotiating a plan that could allow British authorities to directly serve wiretap orders on U.S. communications companies in criminal and national security inquiries, U.S. officials confirmed Thursday.
The talks are aimed at allowing British authorities access to a range of data, from interceptions of live communications to archived emails involving British suspects, according to the officials, who are not authorized to comment publicly.
The negotiations were first reported Thursday by the Washington Post.
Under the proposed plan, British authorities would not have access to records of U.S. citizens if they emerged in the British investigations.
Congressional approval would be required of any deal negotiated by the two countries.
One of the U.S. officials said the talks were necessary because of the increasing immediacy of developing criminal enterprises and potential terror plots that are playing out on various communications platforms around the globe.
The official said the talks have sought to preserve privacy protections that have been at the center of the recent U.S. debate over access to Americans’ telephone records that were part of a formerly secret program disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
“These communications are happening with the speed of light, and law enforcement agencies need to keep pace with these communications,” the official said.
A separate official said that any agreement also would be designed to provide equal benefits for U.S. law enforcement and national security authorities in U.S. investigations.
“Such an agreement would ensure U.S. access to data stored in the United Kingdom in support of law enforcement, terrorism, and other transnational threat investigations and support our partners’ ability to investigate serious crime, as well as terrorism and other transnational threats on a reciprocal basis,” that official said.