January 23, 2007 12:42 PM PST

Feds: Details of ISP snooping haven't been decided

WASHINGTON--The Bush administration hasn't settled on what data it would like Internet service providers to retain about their subscribers or for how long, a U.S. Department of Justice attorney said Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made it clear last fall that he planned to seek national legislation requiring the controversial practice known as data retention, but "we don't have any position officially about how long records would have to be retained or what records would have to be retained," said Eric Wenger, a trial attorney with the Justice Department's computer crime unit.

During an event here hosted by the Federal Communications Bar Association, Wenger also said police already have ready access to other legal tools, such as the power to send letters to ISPs requesting "preservation" of existing data for up to 90 days while law enforcement obtains the necessary court authority to obtain that data.

But he categorized the lack of consistent data retention by ISPs as a "roadblock" to some investigations. He described, for example, a situation in which an investigator may be able to secure an IP address for a suspected phisher from Microsoft's Hotmail service. By the time the investigator took that IP address to the Internet service provider for more information about the suspect's identity, he may be told by the ISP that such information has already been purged.

"We've been talking to some of the companies to explain the needs we have for the records," he said, although he did not expressly urge adoption of new laws. Another possibility is that a data retention requirement could be extended beyond ISPs to search engines, which was discussed in private Justice Department meetings in October.

As first reported by CNET News.com in June 2005, Justice Department officials began quietly discussing the idea of data retention requirements, akin to what the European Union has already enacted.

Last week, Gonzales told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he planned to resume discussions with Congress about data retention legislation this year. The attorney general did not elaborate on his plans, but last year, he repeatedly said the practice was necessary to help investigators nab elusive online criminals, particularly sexual predators.

Privacy advocates have long resisted such mandates, arguing that they allow police to obtain records of e-mail chatter, Web browsing or chat room activity that normally would have been discarded after a few months--or in some cases, never kept at all.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

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3 comments

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CNet bungles another Title
As usual.. CNet is actually trying to create controversy.

This isn't at all about "snooping," as the title suggests. This is a push for standardized data retention laws. Similar laws alread exist about other business documents. This gives the government no form of free or unrestricted access to the data. What it means, is that when the government gets a court-granted warrant to collect data, they know that the data will be there, and what it will be.

Too bad CNet has to put their spin on everything. Here we go... watch the conspiracy theorists spread more anti-government hoodoo. *sigh*
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
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Do you trust the government that much?
I know I don't. The FBI can use administrative subpoenas (no court involved) and NSLs to demand business records etc which presumably includes logs. We all know the government would never abuse it's power *sarcasm.
Then there are plenty of litigious people and businesses (the types that sue over any form of criticism) out there that would love to get their hands on that kind of information. It could certainly speed up the RIAA's quest to sue more old ladies and dead people.

If CNet is as bad as some people like to claim why they continue reading it? Surely they better things to do.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
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Actually, YES, This IS about "snooping"...
Anyone who actually knows,

...the long-term systematic governmental-process of intentional privacy-erosions which have literally been, unswervingly, leading to this very point for years,

Or, ...anyone who knows the technical details of such technological-systems as "Trusted Computing" (the thoroughly-integrated goals of so-called "trusted network access", absolute "user-identification", "access, and use, control", and its inherent "monitoring" capability, etc.),

Or, ...anyone who has heard of "REAL-ID", TOTAL-INFORMATION AWARENESS", "The WAR on Drugs", "The WAR on Terrorism", "The PATRIOT ACT", "CAPPS", the Governments ILLEGAL-WIRETAPPING of Americans, declaring citizens to be "Enemy Combatants", "Secret Laws", "Secret Courts", "Secret Extraditions", "Secret Prisons", Etc., Etc.,

Or, ...anyone who knows the actual-legislation which, in fact, already DOES exist, which DOES already allow "access" to such "private records" WITHOUT any real "due process" or "probable cause" (...at this point, all ANY "law-enforcement" agency has to do is simply say the words, "ongoing investigation"),

...would know that posts defending these, OBSCENELY UN-AMERICAN actions, are completely ignorant of the FACTS.


Actually, Im giving such -posters- the benefit of the doubt, postulating that they ARE just supremely ignorant of such facts, and not just FLAT OUT LYING. And, I am also assuming that theyre not simply the "trolls", that their inane posts would seem to indicate.

But, I do love how "David", for example, seems to hint that this "data-retention" is, actually, somehow related to monitoring unsavory "business" actions. That was, almost, clever.

Too bad, this IS about "snooping". And, too bad it IS directed against ALL private-citizens. And, its really too bad that its SO OBVIOUS that this HAS BEEN PLANNED for a very-long time. And, its REALLY too bad this IS, CLEARLY, GOING TO BE IMPOSED on the American People, ...by a corrupt few, ...NO MATTER WHAT.

Remember when the "United States" was "the great Bastion of Freedom, Law, and Justice"..?

By the way... "David", the last polls I heard seem to place about 70-percent of the American-People in that, "...anti-government ...conspiracy theorists" camp, these days.

Hhhmmm...
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
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