Barton: No VoIP Haven for Terrorists

Terrorists should not be able to exploit regulatory loopholes to make Internet-based phone calls outside of the wiretapping authority of the FBI, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) said Wednesday.

Voice-over-Internet-protocol service “should not become the communications medium of choice for terrorists,” Barton said in a statement released Wednesday to coincide with a House subcommittee hearing on VoIP regulation.

Barton was evidently reacting to FBI and Department of Justice concerns that if VoIP is not classified as a telecommunications service, they would lack authority under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (commonly known as CALEA) to monitor VoIP calls made by foreign and domestic criminals.

Barton and other key House Republicans share law enforcement’s VoIP-security concerns, especially in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

“We need to make sure that law-enforcement officials, when authorized, have adequate tools to track criminals and terrorists who use VoIP services," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, where Wednesday’s hearing was held.

Testifying before Upton’s panel, Cablevision Systems Corp. chief operating officer Thomas Rutledge agreed with the view that law enforcement had legitimate concerns that Congress should address.

“We also recognize that there will continue to be a need to address significant public-safety and security issues,” Rutledge said.

Reaping the benefits of an aggressive VoIP rollout, Cablevision currently has 100,000 VoIP customers, and the MSO is adding 3,000 per week.