FBI Petitions for Broad Wiretapping Rights

New broadband technologies would have to be approved by law enforcement before introduction.

The Bush administration has asked the Federal Communications Commission to require broadband service providers to introduce new architecture in their networks that would facilitate eavesdropping by law enforcement officials. The 85-page proposal was filed March 12 by the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Experts are saying that if it is approved, it could dramatically hinder both emerging and existing technologies.

"This filing even says that the FBI should be able to approve any new technologies so that it can get what it wants when it tries to intercept things, which is pretty astounding," says Lara Flint, staff counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "Implementing this kind of prior approval authority would have a serious effect on innovation in the United States." The FCC has issued a statement saying that it wants to receive comments on the proposal by mid-April. "I would guess there will be many comments filed," says Flint.

The proposal specifically calls for giving police easy access to all forms of "switched" Internet communications, including communications conducted over voice-over-IP (VoIP) systems, instant messaging systems, and communications taking place over cable modem and DSL networks. The language of the proposal, which is posted online, implies that backdoors should be integrated in networked systems to allow law enforcement officials eavesdropping rights.


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