Bipartisan, Bicameral Group of Lawmakers Ask AG Lynch for Geolocation Memos

Published: Oct 26, 2015

WASHINGTON—Today, a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators sent a letter to Attorney General (AG) Loretta Lynch requesting Department of Justice (DOJ) memoranda on the use of geolocation and other surveillance technology. Over the past two years, lawmakers from both the House and Senate have repeatedly requested the Jones memos and have been denied.

Key excerpts from the letter:

“These requests noted congressional interest in reviewing how the Department has adjusted its policies to comply with recent Supreme Court decisions regarding the Fourth Amendment implications of using global positioning systems and searches of electronically stored information. …

“The Department of Justice should never, however, be in the position of relying on secret law to justify its investigative strategies. … ”   

Earlier this year, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings sent a letter to AG Lynch requesting the same documents as outlined in today’s letter. Citing “internal deliberations,” DOJ denied the request. Last Congress, Rep. Chaffetz and Senator Wyden initially requested the DOJ’s geolocation memoranda.

Full text of letter can be found here.

October 26, 2015

Dear Attorney General Lynch:

Over the past two years members of the House and Senate have repeatedly requested information related to the Department of Justice’s updated guidance for using geolocation and other surveillance technology. These requests noted congressional interest in reviewing how the Department has adjusted its policies to comply with recent Supreme Court decisions regarding the Fourth Amendment implications of using global positioning systems and searches of electronically stored information. Specifically, these requests asked for memoranda that were circulated to prosecutors and investigators in response to the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones. 

On September 9, 2015, the Department stated in a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that it will not provide these memoranda. Although the letter referenced “internal deliberative materials,” the prior requests did not seek deliberative materials. Instead, they sought to obtain the Department’s guidance to federal investigators and prosecutors about how to apply the law. 

The response goes on to suggest that disclosing this guidance to Congress would permit investigative targets to escape detection. But on an issue that fundamentally affects Americans’ privacy, the government should not rely on secret interpretations of law.  

We ask that you provide these memoranda by October 30, 2015.  We recognize the Department’s interest in protecting certain details about ongoing investigations, and we are willing to engage in discussions about how to handle any materials that implicate specific investigations. The Department of Justice should never, however, be in the position of relying on secret law to justify its investigative strategies. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your prompt response. 

Sincerely,

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)                                      Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)                                 Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)                              Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)                                        Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)                                                 Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)