CNET NEWS.COM By Declan McCullagh - Feds seek wiretap access via VoIP.
The FBI and the Justice Department have renewed their efforts to wiretap voice conversations carried across the Internet.
The agencies have asked the Federal Communications Commission to order companies offering voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service to rewire their networks to guarantee police the ability to eavesdrop on subscribers' conversations.
Without such mandatory rules, the two agencies predicted in a letter to the FCC last month that "criminals, terrorists, and spies (could) use VoIP services to avoid lawfully authorized surveillance." The letter also was signed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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"The FCC should ignore pleas about national security and sophisticated criminals because sophisticated parties will use noncompliant VoIP, available open source and offshore," said Jim Harper of "Privacilla.org", a privacy advocacy Web site. "CALEA for VoIP will only be good for busting small-time bookies, small-time potheads and other nincompoops."
One unusual section of the FBI letter is that it claims the bureau is seeking to protect Americans' privacy rights: "Mandatory CALEA compliance by VoIP providers would better protect the privacy of VoIP users than a voluntary approach. CALEA protects the privacy of surveillance suspects by requiring carriers to provision the surveillance in a confidential manner." Otherwise, the FBI argues, a VoIP company might turn over a "full pipe" to police that would include conversations of more people than necessary. [