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­.s. Is Weighing Wide Overhaul of Wiretap Laws

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A wiretapping scene from the 1974 movie "The Conversation."

An FBI plan would make it easier for that agency to wiretap people who use the Internet to communicate.


The Obama administration reportedly is ready to back a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) plan for a significant overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet.

FBI director Robert S. Mueller has pushed for legal mandates requiring Internet companies to build into their instant-messaging and similar systems a capacity to comply with wiretap orders. Although previous proposals have been held back by concerns from other agencies, the new proposal focuses on fining companies that do not comply with wiretap orders.

The proposal is designed to make it easier on small startups, but it is expected to ignite a debate on the future of the Internet. "I think the FBI's proposal would render Internet communications less secure and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves," says the Center for Democracy and Technology's Gregory T. Nojeim.

However, the FBI says the proposal is only designed to strengthen wiretap orders issued by judges and prevent suspects from "going dark" by using Internet-based communications channels. "This doesn't create any new legal surveillance authority," says the FBI's Andrew Weissmann. "None of the ‘going dark' solutions would do anything except update the law given means of modern communications."

From The New York Times
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