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EPIC on Wiretap Bill Passage

The passage of the FBI Wiretap Bill in the closing hours of the 103d Congress demonstrates the need for continued and aggressive advocacy in support of communications privacy. The legislation, which mandates the re-design of the nation's telecommunications infrastructure to facilitate government interception, was enacted with no floor debate and no resolution of the lingering questions concerning the need for such an unprecedented and far-reaching change in the law. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) opposed passage of the bill and believes that its enactment could establish a dangerous precedent for the design and development of the National Information Infrastructure.

The grassroots campaign that emerged to oppose the wiretap legislation shows the potential of the Internet as a means of educating the public and promoting democratic participation in the policymaking process. In the two-month period between the introduction of the legislation and its enactment, grassroots efforts demonstrated that a measure initially touted as a "compromise" bill was, in fact, a highly controversial proposal. Numerous Congressional offices admitted to being astounded by the number of calls and faxes they received in opposition to the legislation as it moved to consideration in both houses. EPIC believes that the on-line campaign to defeat the wiretap bill can serve as a model for the Internet community to build upon in the future. We congratulate the thousands of individuals who participated in the process and wish to express our appreciation and admiration for the work of the Voters Telecomm Watch (VTW) in bridging the gap between Washington and activists around the country. EPIC looks forward to continuing to work VTW, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Internet Business Association and the many other organizations that joined us in opposing the FBI Wiretap Bill.

Implementation of the newly enacted legislation must be closely monitored. EPIC is committed to continuing its efforts to obtain relevant government data under the Freedom of Information Act, including the aggressive pursuit of our pending litigation against the FBI for the release of information cited in support of the wiretap legislation. EPIC also intends to monitor proceedings in the Federal Communications Commission pursuant to the new law and to participate in such proceedings to protect the privacy interests of network users. EPIC will also continue its research and advocacy activities in the areas of encryption policy, medical records privacy, transactional data privacy, proposed national identification systems, and other issues now emerging with the advent of the information superhighway.

Electronic Privacy Information Center
666 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.
Suite 301
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 544-9240 (voice)
(202) 547-5482 (fax)
info@epic.org (e-mail)