Wiretapping's Fuzzy Future

15 May 2008

The Internet has never cared much for legal boundaries. Phishers steal credit cards across oceans and off-shore sites offer gambling with little regard for the laws of the countries where their victims or customers are located.

But when it comes to the government's search for foreign terrorists, says Eric Lichtblau, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter and the author of the federal wiretapping exposé, Bush's Law, that internationalism could get especially hairy.

One of the major sticking points in the U.S. Congress' debate over changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been the question of calls between Americans and foreigners. The National Security Agency (NSA) isn't authorized to tap Americans' conversations without a warrant--but the Internet, and specifically voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, doesn't draw as clear a line to the location of a caller or a call's recipient as the traditional phone system does.

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