Streaming the International Silver Platter Doctrine: Coordinating Transnational Law Enforcement in the Age of Global Terrorism and Technology

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The dramatic expansion of technology and globalization over the last thirty years has not only facilitated transnational terrorist operations, but also has transformed the countermeasures utilized by law enforcement and amplified the need for counterterrorism coordination between foreign and domestic authorities.  Crucially, these changes have altered the fourth amendment calculus, set out by the international silver platter doctrine, for admitting evidence seized in U.S.-foreign cooperative searches abroad.  Under the international silver platter doctrine, courts admit the evidence gathered by foreign authorities abroad unless the unreasonable search is deemed a “joint venture” between U.S. and foreign authorities.  Notably, the legal framework governing joint ventures is based on standards and guideposts used when coordination between different law enforcement entities was almost always physical rather than technological.  This Note argues that in the twenty-first century, technology and the pervasive transnational terrorist threat have broadened the scope of the international silver platter doctrine, reduced the impact of its joint venture exception, and consequently rendered the Fourth Amendment, in practice, virtually inapplicable to most transnational terrorism investigations.  Applying this anti-quated legal doctrine to this novel context narrows the range of activities encompassed in the joint venture exception and in turn allows more evidence gathered in unreasonable searches to be presented in U.S. federal courts.  While this Note argues that the rise of international terrorism and heightened transnational law enforcement cooperation demands to some extent a broad international silver platter doctrine and a narrow joint venture exception, it also stresses that at some point Congress must legislate to preserve a baseline of fourth amendment values governing cooperative searches of Americans abroad.