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September 03, 2004
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Canadian Police Lobby for Wiretap Changes

CBC News, British Columbia

VANCOUVER - Canadian police chiefs say they want the laws changed to make it easier for officers to access internet and cell phone communications.

Police say the current laws governing phone taps are outdated, and warn that the public will remain at risk until politicians re-write the law.

The president of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs says the current wiretap law was written in 1974 when police were only intercepting calls on rotary phones.

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"Those who decide to prey on society – whether they be terrorists, those who move child pornography across borders within our country and across to other countries – use technology that police are unable to lawfully access," says Cape Breton Chief Edgar MacLeod.

MacLeod says police want a new law that would force internet and cell phone companies to save data.

And it would also force them to provide free access to police when a search warrant is granted. Currently, the companies are billing police departments for the service.

The federal government – which is considering a major revamping of its Lawful Access laws – recently sought submissions on what sort of changes would be needed.

But Jason Gratle of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association doesn''t feel any changes to the law are necessary.

"What it does is threaten to wipe out one of the last remaining realms of privacy for ordinary Canadians," he says.

Gratle worries about internet wiretaps that would allow police to snoop through huge databases of personal information.

"Local police already have an arsenal of techniques to investigate offences within their mandate," says Gratle. "The police don''t need any more powers."

Police are deliberately vague about what information they''re having problems gathering – saying they don''t want to tip their hand to criminals.

But they say they can assure Canadians that court approval will be required to monitor e-mail, instant messaging and cell phones – that the new law would be about changing procedure, not police powers.



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