Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The FBI Wiretap Law

A hotly contested FBI proposal called the Wiretap Bill, or the Digital Telephony (DT) bill, finally passed the Congress unanimously on October 7, 1994. The bill mandates that all communications carriers must provide "wiretap-ready" equipment. The purpose of this is to facilitate the FBI’s implementation of any wiretaps that are approved by the courts. The bill was strongly opposed by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), the Voters Telecomm Watch (VTM), the ACLU, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), among others, and much support for this opposition was marshalled in terms of letters and e-mail messages to congressional representatives.

CPSR sent out a list of "100 Reasons to Oppose the FBI Wiretap Bill"; for example, Reason 29 was that the bill contains inadequate privacy protection for private e-mail records. The estimated cost of enacting the law is (according to a CPSR report) $500 million, a cost that will be borne by "government, industry, and consumers." (This information came from their website, www.cpsr.org.). This is just another instance of an action of government that will infringe a right of the public (in this case, privacy) and require the public to pay for it.

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