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DoJ pushes data retention on ISPs

Plan-B if CALEA falls short

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Anticipating a court defeat for the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bid which would extend the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to make Internet service providers wiretap friendly, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller have launched a PR campaign pitching Internet data retention as the next best solution to kiddie porn and terrorism.

The FCC rule, declaring that ISPs fall under the CALEA along with telcos, has been challenged and is currently on appeal. There was, however, a rather bad omen during recent hearings, as one appellate judge openly mocked the FCC's arguments as "gobbledygook".

This has led to a bit of concern among the Feds, and a subsequent Plan-B approach. Indeed, it's a fair bet that the DoJ and FBI have learned through their contacts (or electronic surveillance posts) that the court is not inclined to give them the Total Internet Surveillance™ capabilities they crave.

Thus Gonzales, speaking to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia last month, emphasized the need for ISPs to retain data for two years to aid in bringing sexual predators to justice.

And according to a recent CNET News.com article, Gonzales and Mueller sat down with major American ISP honchos last week to push the terrorism angle.

The obvious purpose was for DoJ to get a sense of which policing burdens the industry will tolerate, and how much they expect to be paid, as a prelude to proposing data-retention legislation.

However, as the FCC's CALEA ruling for ISPs looks to be headed down the crapper, the DoJ has recently infuriated Congress by raiding the offices of (obviously corrupt, all right) US Representative William Jefferson (Democrat, Louisiana), a move somewhat too suggestive of a coup d'état. Thus we're not likely to see DoJ-sponsored legislation treated as a Congressional priority in the foreseeable future.

For now, at least, it looks like nuts to extending the CALEA, and nuts to mass data retention. ®

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