After Congress has made it clear that a US warrant seizes emails overseas, the Justice Department on Friday questioned the Supreme Court to dispute a case involving a data request filed by Microsoft for the emails of a drug trafficking suspect in Ireland.
The case, discussed in February, focused on whether a US technology company must comply with a court order to create e-mails. They are stored abroad – in this case in a Dublin server.
The lawsuit emerged from a law enacted in 1986, the Stored Communications Act, long before e-mail became a common communication method and before US companies began to store large amounts of data outside the United States.
During the hearing, some of the judges asked why they should not simply wait for Congress to resolve the issue. Judge Sonia Sotomayor stated that such a bill is still pending.
On March 23, Congress and President Trump passed the Cloud Act. The law states that a "provider of electronic communications services" complies with a court order for data "whether that communication, record or other information is inside or outside the United States."
Microsoft supported the legislation, which also provides a way for foreign law enforcement agencies – through bilateral agreements – to provide access to data within the United States.
The Justice Department received a new search warrant on Friday, which required Microsoft to send e-mails. "Microsoft no longer has a basis for claiming that such an arrest warrant is unacceptably extraterritorial," Attorney General Noel J. Francisco wrote in a motion to the Supreme Court. "So there is no more live argument between the parties, and the case is now in dispute."
Microsoft declined to comment on Saturday.