The US Senate ratified the Convention on Cybercrime on Thursday, the first international treaty on computer-related crime and the gathering of electronic evidence.
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar said the move will enhance America's ability to join with other countries in fighting computer crime internationally.
"The United States was a leading participant in the negotiation of the Convention and expects it to have a significant law enforcement impact, particularly in terms of our ability to obtain assistance from other countries in the investigation and prosecution of trans-border computer-related crimes," he said. "In particular, it will enhance our ability to cooperate with foreign governments in fighting terrorism, computer hacking, money laundering, and child pornography, among other crimes."
The Convention, which also deals with copyright infringement, lists a number of substantive crimes that parties agree to prohibit under their domestic law, requires parties to adopt improved procedures for investigating computer crimes and provides for international cooperation in the investigation of such crimes. American law is already in compliance with the Convention, so no implementing legislation is required, making ratification a largely symbolic gesture.
The Convention was signed in November 2001 and came into force in July 2004. The UK has signed the Convention but has yet to formally ratify it. While ratification requires implementation of the Convention's principles into national laws, most of them are already in the UK's laws.
An Additional Protocol against racism and xenophobic material on the internet is not likely to be signed by the US because it is inconsistent with the country's Constitutional right to free speech. Canada became the 28th state and the first non-European country to sign the Additional Protocol last July.