More authority needed to wiretap the internet

NY Times:

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.

“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”

But law enforcement officials contend that imposing such a mandate is reasonable and necessary to prevent the erosion of their investigative powers.

I am not surprised that they need this change. It will be interesting to see if we see the same howls about big brother from the left that we would if George Bush were still President. We may even see some from the right because Obama is asking for it, but at this point I support the move. I am all for intercepting all the enemy communications that we can. While I use the internet all the time, most of my work is reviewing publicly available material and discussing the most interesting pieces in my blog.

I do use Skype to talk with my daughter and her family in Thailand, but those are hardly conversations that would be of interest to anyone else. It would not bother me if Obama was reading a transcript of them other than that it would be a terrible waste of his time.


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