Feds Seek To Snoop On In-flight Communications

 - April 16, 2007, 6:53 AM

Fearing that terrorists will exploit emerging in-flight broadband services to remotely activate bombs or coordinate hijackings, the Justice Department has asked the Federal Communications Commission for the power to eavesdrop on any passenger’s Internet use or cellphone call within 10 minutes of obtaining a court order. According to a 23-page Justice Department filing, “There is a short window of opportunity in which action can be taken to thwart a suicidal terrorist hijacking or remedy other crisis situations on board an aircraft, and law enforcement needs to maximize its ability to respond to these potentially lethal situations.” The FCC is currently considering rule changes that would permit cellphone calling and additional broadband wireless use in flight. The Washington, D.C. organization Center for Democracy and Technology yesterday filed comments of its own with the FCC opposing the government’s request to force satellite broadband service providers to equip their in-air networks with rapid-wiretapping technology. The group said the Justice Department should be seeking such authority directly from Congress, not the FCC.