[ISN] FBI, Police May Tap Cell Phones

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Thu Oct 22 1998 - 01:58:24 PDT

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    Forwarded From: Nicholas Charles Brawn <ncb05t_private>
    FBI, Police May Tap Cell Phones
    22-10-1998 07:43 
    Associated Press Writer
       WASHINGTON (AP) -- Law enforcement officials say they need to know
    where a suspected criminal is when he makes a cellular telephone call.
    Federal regulators are proposing to give them the capability to find out. 
       The Federal Communications Commission was expected to propose today
    that cellular phone companies make technical changes so the FBI, police
    and other law enforcers -- as long as a court approves -- can locate a
    person talking on a mobile phone. 
       This and other additional wiretapping capabilities being proposed aim
    to help law enforcers keep pace with technology. 
       With some 66 million cellular phone customers, police want the
    authority to legally tap cell phones to track down drug dealers,
    terrorists and kidnappers. But some groups worry that such a practice
    could violate privacy. 
       The location proposal is part of a larger plan to implement a 1994 law
    that requires telecommunications companies to make changes in their
    networks so police are able to carry out court-ordered wiretaps in a world
    of digital technology. The proposal is based on a plan from the
    telecommunications industry. 
       "We think this is a positive step forward," said Stephen Colgate, the
    Justice Department's assistant attorney general for administration. "In
    many kidnapping cases, it would have been very helpful to have location
       But James Dempsey, counsel to the Center for Democracy and Technology,
    a privacy group, said: "We're prepared to fight this one every step of the
       FCC Chairman Bill Kennard stressed that police would have no access to
    locations without a court order. 
       "A lot of people are saying the FCC will turn mobile phones into
    tracking devices for the FBI and invade Americans' privacy. I don't
    believe that will be the case," Kennard said. 
       With a court order, police already can legally listen in to cell phone
    conversations, and, in some instances, get information on the caller's
       But not every company has the technical ability to provide a caller's
    location. This proposal, if adopted, would set up a nationwide requirement
    for companies to follow. 
       The legal standard for obtaining a location is lower than the standard
    for a wiretap order in which police must show a judge there is probable
    cause of criminal activity. 
       Under the proposal, police would only need to show the location is
    relevant to an investigation. Privacy groups say that means the government
    could easily track the movements not only of a suspect, but also of
    associates, friends or relatives. 
       It would give police the ability to obtain the cellular phone user's
    location at the beginning and end of a wiretapped call, according to
    industry sources familiar with the plan. They spoke on condition of
       The proposal would provide police with that information based on the
    cellular tower, or "cell" site, where a call originated and ended. That
    would give information on the caller's location within several city blocks
    in an urban area to hundreds of square miles in a rural area. 
       The FBI had been seeking more exact location information. 
       The FCC also is expected to tentatively conclude that companies must
    give police, as long as a court approves, additional capabilities --
    beyond minimum technical standards already proposed by the industry -- so
    their ability to conduct wiretaps won't be thwarted. 
       The additional capabilities being sought by the FBI and expected to be
    advanced by the FCC include: 
       -- Giving police the ability to listen in on the conversations of all
    people on a conference call, even if some are put on hold and no longer
    talking to the target of a wiretap. 
       -- Giving police the ability to get information when the wiretap target
    has put someone on hold or dropped someone from a conference call; and to
    know if the wiretap target has used dialing features -- such as call
    waiting or call forwarding. 
       -- Giving police the number dialed by a wiretap target when the
    suspect, for instance, uses a credit or calling card at a pay phone. 
       Privacy groups and the telephone industry contend the additional
    capabilities sought by the FBI go beyond the 1994 law and are an attempt
    to broaden wiretapping powers. The FBI says it merely wants to preserve
    the ability to conduct legal wiretaps in a world of constantly changing
       The FCC is involved because the Justice Department, FBI and the
    telecommunications industry, after three years of negotiations, were
    unable to reach agreement on the larger plan for implementing the 1994
       All interested parties will get a chance to offer opinions on the
    proposal, which could be revised. Kennard wants a final plan adopted by
    the end of the year. 
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