Friday, June 09, 2006

Court Backs Government Broadband Wiretap Access

A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld the government's authority to force high-speed Internet service providers to give law enforcement authorities access for surveillance purposes.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a petition aimed at overturning a decision by regulators requiring facilities-based broadband providers and those that offer Internet telephone service to comply with U.S. wiretap laws.

The court concluded that the FCC requirement was a "reasonable policy choice" even though information services are exempted from the government's wiretapping authority.

The FCC has set a May 14, 2007 deadline for compliance.

"I am pleased that the Court agreed with the Commission's finding, which will ensure that law enforcement agencies' ability to conduct lawful court-ordered electronic surveillance will keep pace with new communication technologies," FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement after the ruling.

The ruling comes at a time when critics have voiced concerned that the Bush administration's surveillance program violates civil liberties. The administration argues it needs the program, which allows the National Security Agency to monitor international telephone calls of U.S. citizens, as part of its broader war on terrorism.


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