February 8, 2001
In Tapping Net, F.B.I. Insists Privacy Is Not a Victim
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
UANTICO, Va. -- AS long as there have been law enforcement agents, they have tried to listen in on what the bad guys are planning.
In early times, that meant standing next to a window in the evesdrope, the place where water from the eaves drips, to overhear conversations. As communications went electronic, eavesdropping did, too: Gen. Jeb Stuart hired a tapper to intercept telegraph messages in the Civil War. And by the 1890's, two decades after Alexander Graham Bell's first call to Watson, the first known telephone wiretaps by the police were in place.
The Internet, in turn, has provided new frontiers for law enforcement tappers. At first, surveillance of Internet traffic was useful only in hacking cases