Wiretap abuses

October 15, 2010 

Regarding the Sept. 27 article "U.S. wants better online surveillance": I was one of the small group of people who developed the wiretap system (and a patent holder), and we spent 10 years assuring that the wiretap system ordered by the 103rd Congress in 1994 only preserved the rights that law enforcement had had since 1932 and did not expand capabilities to collect information. Law enforcement, led by the FBI, did manage to win some advanced features through the court system's interpretation of the congressional mandate.

Retrieval of voicemail, e-mail messages and other such "information services" was flatly rejected by the courts as protected. Just as the government cannot open your mail, it can't open your e-mail, either. Further laws are not necessary.

The current wiretap system already is a giant step toward "big brother," and additional laws would wade into territory that is draconian. Today, as an expert witness in cases involving wiretap, I see enough abuses of the current system. We need to protect privacy and continue to consider wiretap as an "investigative tool of last resort" because it is so intrusive.

Ben Levitan


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