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Wednesday
Oct062010

FBI Director Seeks Updated Surveillance Laws for Internet Communications

Photo Courtesy -- FBI.gov(WASHINGTON) -- FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said Wednesday that wiretap laws have not kept pace with rapidly evolving technology as terrorist and criminal groups have come to rely on the Internet as a tool for recruitment and their criminal networks.

“In some instances, communications providers are not able to provide the electronic communications we seek in response to a court order.  Many providers are not currently required to build or maintain intercept capabilities in their operating systems,” Mueller said. “As a result, they are often not equipped to provide timely assistance.  Critical laws covering this area have not been updated since 1994, when we moved from a copper-wire phone system to digital networks and cell phones.” 

The director made his remarks in reference to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which required communications companies to build their products and networks so the FBI could conduct court-approved wiretaps. Parts of the law have been reviewed with legal determinations to cover some Internet traffic, but the comments by Mueller Wednesday are part of an effort to give the FBI updated capabilities to wiretap new and emerging communications.

It is unclear how the Justice Department and FBI will seek the legal framework on the updated surveillance authority, but some officials say they believe Congressional legislation will eventually be required. The issue is critical to not only to the FBI but also for state and local law enforcement agencies to wiretap technology such as Skype and other Internet communications.

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