March 13, 2004

Easier Internet Wiretaps Sought: Justice Dept., FBI Want Consumers To Pay the Cost

The Justice Department wants to significantly expand the government's ability to monitor online traffic, proposing that providers of high-speed
Internet service should be forced to grant easier access for FBI wiretaps and other electronic surveillance, according to documents and government

A petition filed this week with the Federal Communications Commission also suggests that consumers should be required to foot the bill.

Law enforcement agencies have been increasingly concerned that fast-growing telephone service over the Internet could be a way for terrorists and
criminals to evade surveillance. But the petition also moves beyond Internet telephony, leading several technology experts and privacy advocates
yesterday to warn that many types of online communication, including instant messages and visits to Web sites, could be covered.

The proposal by the Justice Department, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration could require extensive retooling of existing broadband
networks and could impose significant costs, the experts said. Privacy advocates also argue that there are not enough safeguards to prevent the
government from intercepting data from innocent users.


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