Feds Seek Wiretap Law Overhaul To Catch Up With Technology


Citing lapses in compliance with surveillance orders, officials are pushing to overhaul a federal law that requires phone and broadband carriers to ensure that their networks can be wiretapped, reports the New York Times. The officials say tougher legislation is needed because some telecommunications companies in recent years have begun new services and made system upgrades that create technical obstacles to surveillance. They want to increase legal incentives and penalties aimed at pushing carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast to ensure that any network changes will not disrupt their ability to conduct wiretaps.

An Obama administration task force that includes officials from the Justice and Commerce Departments, the FBI and other agencies recently began working on draft legislation to strengthen and expand a 1994 law requiring carriers to make sure their systems can be wiretapped. There is not yet agreement over the details, but they said the administration intends to submit a package to Congress next year. To bolster their case, security agencies are citing two previously undisclosed episodes in which major carriers were stymied for weeks or even months when they tried to comply with court-approved wiretap orders in criminal or terrorism investigations, the officials said.

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