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Judges: Fed's Net Wiretapping Plans Are "Ridiculous"

Bad news for federal snoopers: A panel of judges practically laughed them out of court for trying to extend existing wiretapping laws to VoIP and broadband services. The panel call their legal logic "ridiculous," "gobbledygook" and "nonsense."
The legal wrangling focuses around the Bush administration's plans to make it much easier for the FBI and local law enforcement agencies to wiretap VoIP calls and snoop on Internet use.

The administration says that the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) needs to be extended to VoIP and broadband providers. CALEA requires that telecom providers use equipment that allows law enforcement agencies to easily tap phone calls. The FCC has ruled that VoIP and broadband services must also provide that equipment.

Critics have argued that doing so would be illegal, would prove to be unwarranted invasions of privacy, could seriously hurt innovation, and would put U.S. network hardware makers at a disadvantage against foreign competitors. They say that CALEA, written in the pre-Internet age, does not cover VoIP and broadband.

A panel of judges is considering whether the FCC action was legal. It won't make a final decision for several months, but things look bleak for the government, and good for civil liberties groups, who are challenging the FCC ruling.

The judges didn't pull their punches when considering the feds' legal arguments, according to an Associated Press report.

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