The Bush administration plans to ask the Federal Communications Commission to order Net telephony providers to comply with a law that would permit police to wiretap conversations carried over the Internet.

In a series of letters made public Tuesday, the Justice Department said it is “currently drafting a request” that would invoke the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). That law requires telecommunications carriers to rewire their networks to government specifications to provide police with guaranteed access for wiretaps.

It is debatable whether CALEA’s decade-old definition of “telecommunications carrier,” crafted long before the Internet era, applies to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers. If the FCC rules that CALEA’s definitions are not a close enough fit for the fast-growing and somewhat amorphous VoIP sector, then the Bush administration could ask Congress to rewrite the law.

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