Clinton's Wiretap-Heavy Budget


Wired News Report

Clinton's Wiretap-Heavy Budget
by Declan McCullagh
1:25 p.m. 7.Feb.2000 PST

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton's proposed $1.84 trillion budget includes millions of dollars in new spending on technology and law enforcement programs.

The record budget request for the 2001 fiscal year, which begins 1 October, asks Congress for more money for wiretapping, police databases, antitrust enforcement, and computer crime forensics.

One of the heftiest increases, from $15 million to $240 million, will pay telephone companies to rewire their networks to facilitate federal and state wiretapping.

Under the 1994 Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), Congress may "reimburse" phone companies for their efforts, but the controversial process is the subject of a lawsuit currently before a federal appeals court.

Half of that money, $120 million, will come from the Department of Defense's "national security" budget -- a move that alarms privacy groups.

"The proposal to use thinly disguised intelligence agency money to fund CALEA confirms what we have suspected all along: The National Security Agency is a silent partner in the government's campaign to make our entire telecommunications system, including the Net, wiretap ready," says Barry Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"If it's up to the FBI and the NSA, the only medium of communications they won't be able to tap will be two tin cans and a string."

According to the Defense Department's budget, Clinton asked for $4.96 billion in military "intelligence and communications activities," a $51 million increase over last year.

The Department of Justice is another big beneficiary from the mammoth budget, which Republicans have already pronounced an election-year political statement that's "dead on arrival." The White House is asking for $3.28 billion total for the DOJ.

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