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Posted 26 Feb 2001 11:12:16 UTC

If you were worried that the FBI is lagging behind in their ability to listen in on your phone calls, you can rest easy. Thanks to the "Digital Storm" program and the $30 million allotted to the FBI Laboratory, it won't be long before those bulky tapes are a thing of the past.

Instead of using the clunky reel-to-reel machines that you may remember from quality TV shows of the 70's, the feds are now starting to employ PC's that are specifically designed to capture audio. So while the rest of us are running around capturing MP3's of our favorite music, they will be capturing audio of a different sort. Their machines are reported to be a minimum of 800 Mhz Pentium PC's using Level 5 RAID and 256 megs of RAM.

Right now only about 20 percent of FBI offices have this digital capability. The plan is for them to be completely cut over by 2003.

The power this will give the FBI is staggering. Instead of having to wade through reels of tape like they've done since tape was invented, any phone conversation will be instantly accessible, indexed by day, time, person talking, subject talked about, you name it. Copies can be easily made and passed around for all to enjoy. The potential for a Napster-type system cataloguing criminal conversations is most intriguing. And the audit trail will be right there on the file eliminating the need for paperwork to prove the validity of the evidence. We all know electronic data can't be manipulated, after all.

At least one elected official has expressed reservations. Rep. Robert Barr (R-GA) said, "I continue to believe such proposals should be subject to strict scrutiny before Congress grants them, and that they should receive regular and probing oversight if they are approved."

Unfortunately these things tend to become a way of life that we all force ourselves to accept until nobody can remember when it was otherwise.

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