FBI wants net snooping law

A plan by the FBI to draw up an internet snooping law and have it proposed by a Republican senator has been uncovered in the US. CNet News discovered the plan after an FBI agent met with industry representatives last week to explain the plans.

The new laws would give the FBI wide ranging new powers to demand access to information on what US citizens are doing online. As well as expanding surveillance to instant messaging systems and making it compulsory for ISPs to upgrade systems to make them tap-able, the law would relieve the Justice Department of the requirement to publish the number of interceptions it has made each year.

The new laws are due to be proposed by Mike DeWine, a Republican senator for Ohio, sources told CNet. They come in the form of amendments to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

Universities and libraries are already objecting to a previous extension to this Act. It had been expanded by the Federal Communications Commission ( FCC ) to regulate broadband providers but the Association of American Universities and the American Library Association, amongst other organisations, have objected.

They claim that the FCC does not have the authority to expand the law's scope, and that their plans exceed what Congress had ordered. They lost a court appeal last month but hope to continue the case.

The FBI 's proposed extension will demand that telecommunications providers upgrade their hardware so that it offers internet wiretapping. They are already required to do this for voice calls but not yet for internet traffic.