H. R. 1616 and S. 904 Complete Text and Outlook

Chart showing the departments under the oversight of the Presidency of the United States. Caption reads, If it passes, HR 1616/S 904 will expand Federal police powers over cybercrime by expanding the duties of the National Computer Forensics Institute of the Department of Homeland Security. At present, only the FBI handles cybercrime, but the new law will allow multiple non-Federal agencies to receive funding, equipment, and personnel for enhancing their own law enforcement capabilities.

H. R. 1616 and S. 904 were introduced to Congress on 03/17/2017 and 04/07/2017 respectively. The House and Senate bills are identical. Drafting and sponsorship of H. R. 1616 was performed by Texas Representative John Ratcliff and the Senate version by Chuck Grassley of Iowa. The Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act of 2017 as it is called was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on 5/17/2017 when it was referred to the U.S. Senate. It had by that point already been approved by the Senate on 04/07/2017 when that version (S. 904) was sent to the Committee on the Judiciary. The bill appears poised for passage and with little doubt, once it passes the Judicial Committee, President Trump will likely sign it into law.

What is Contained in HR 1616 and S 904?

Because these identical bills have passed through Congress largely unopposed, that is, with strong bi-partisan support, they are likely to become law when the 115th Congress reconvenes in the fall of 2017. Students of criminal justice and law then need to know what is contained in the bills and how the pending new law will impact their jobs.

Following is the complete text of HR 1616 (S 904 is identical, so there is no need to add it here) followed by  a pdf versions which may be downloaded and commentary on how this anticipated law will affect the criminal justice system in the United States.

“115th CONGRESS
1st Session H. R. 1616


“IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

“May 17, 2017

“Received; read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


“AN ACT

“To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to authorize the National Computer Forensics Institute, and for other purposes.

 

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

 

“SECTION 1. Short title.

 

“This Act may be cited as the “Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act of 2017”.

 

“SEC. 2. Authorization of the national computer forensics institute of the department of homeland security.

 

 “(a) In general.—Subtitle C of title VIII of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 381 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
“SEC. 822. National computer forensics institute.
“(a) In general.—There is authorized for fiscal years 2017 through 2022 within the United States Secret Service a National Computer Forensics Institute (in this section referred to as the ‘Institute’). The Institute shall disseminate information related to the investigation and prevention of cyber and electronic crime and related threats, and educate, train, and equip State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges.
“(b) Functions.—The functions of the Institute shall include the following:
“(1) Educating State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on current—
“(A) cyber and electronic crimes and related threats;
“(B) methods for investigating cyber and electronic crime and related threats and conducting computer and mobile device forensic examinations; and
“(C) prosecutorial and judicial challenges related to cyber and electronic crime and related threats, and computer and mobile device forensic examinations.
“(2) Training State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers to—
“(A) conduct cyber and electronic crime and related threat investigations;
“(B) conduct computer and mobile device forensic examinations; and
“(C) respond to network intrusion incidents.
“(3) Training State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on methods to obtain, process, store, and admit digital evidence in court.
“(c) Principles.—In carrying out the functions specified in subsection (b), the Institute shall ensure, to the extent practicable, that timely, actionable, and relevant expertise and information related to cyber and electronic crime and related threats is shared with State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
“(d) Equipment.—The Institute may provide State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers with computer equipment, hardware, software, manuals, and tools necessary to conduct cyber and electronic crime and related threat investigations and computer and mobile device forensic examinations.
“(e) Electronic crime task forces.—The Institute shall facilitate the expansion of the network of Electronic Crime Task Forces of the United States Secret Service through the addition of State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers educated and trained at the Institute.
“(f) Savings provision.—All authorized activities and functions carried out by the Institute at any location as of the day before the date of the enactment of this section are authorized to continue to be carried out at any such location on and after such date.”.
“(b) Funding.—For each of fiscal years 2018 through 2022, amounts appropriated for United States Secret Service, Operations and Support, may be used to carry out this Act and the amendments made by this Act.
“(c) Clerical amendment.—The table of contents in section 1(b) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 101 et seq.) is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 821 the following new item:
“Sec. 822. National Computer Forensics Institute.”.

“Passed the House of Representatives May 16, 2017.

Attest: KAREN L. HAAS,
Clerk

Once Passed into Law, How Will HR 1616 and S 904 Likely Impact the Criminal Justice System in the United States?

Chart showing the departments under the oversight of the Presidency of the United States. Caption reads, If it passes, HR 1616/S 904 will expand Federal police powers over cybercrime by expanding the duties of the National Computer Forensics Institute of the Department of Homeland Security. At present, only the FBI handles cybercrime, but the new law will allow multiple non-Federal agencies to receive funding, equipment, and personnel for enhancing their own law enforcement capabilities.
If it passes, HR 1616/S 904 will expand Federal police powers over cybercrime by expanding the duties of the National Computer Forensics Institute of the Department of Homeland Security. At present, only the FBI handles cybercrime, but the new law will allow multiple non-Federal agencies to receive funding, equipment, and personnel for enhancing their own law enforcement capabilities.

S 904/HR 1616 at this point are simply bills pending before Congress. If the Committee on the Judiciary makes no changes to the bills and approves them for passage, the next step will be for President Trump to sign them into law. This is the most likely outcome. That is the assumption we make with the following information which will be updated when the time comes.

One of the key provisions in S 904 is to provide the United States Secret Service with oversight of computer forensics and cybercrime in the United States. Why does this matter?

The United States Secret Service is an office within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an office within the Department of Justice (DOJ). At present, responsibility for cybercrime and national training is handled within the FBI. HR 1616 changes that.

HR 1616/S 904 changes the effective name and function of the National Computer Forensics Institute within the Secret Service. It appears to expand the law enforcement capabilities of the Office of the President and create new jobs. It could also create more confusion within competing agencies, though time will tell.

Still, the criminal justice system in America will be expanded considerably. HR 1616/S 904 calls for  providing,

  • “State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers with computer equipment, hardware, software, manuals, and tools necessary”
  • Additional “State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers educated and trained at the Institute”

This second provision appears to indicate that non-federal law enforcement agencies can expect to receive trained officers and equipment at Federal expense.

When Should Students of Criminal Justice and Computer Forensics Apply for these New Positions within the United States Secret Service Institute?

Although it appears that HR 1616/S 904 are destined for passage, students of criminal justice and computer forensics should not expect to see jobs any time soon. The Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act of 2017 will implement upon signing by the President, which will likely occur sometime within the Fall session of Congress. After that, the law will receive funding starting in 2018 and is set to apply through 2022.

However, President Trump still has a hiring freeze on for Federal employees, so until that is lifted, the Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act of 2017 will lack teeth — it will be mainly an educational system. When that will change is anyone’s guess, but we will keep you informed.

To stay up with these changes, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and/or bookmark Criminal Justice Law International for easy access later.