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FC: FBI blocks Canadian sat-phone company, insists o

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Date:          Fri, 30 Jul 1999 09:40:34 -0400
From:          Declan McCullagh <>
Subject:       FC: FBI blocks Canadian sat-phone company, insists on wiretaps

> Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1999 10:22:58 -0400 
> To: Declan McCullagh 
> From: Barry Steinhardt 
> Subject: FBI Blocks Canadian Sattelite Telephone 
> Declan,
> I though your list would  be interested in this story from the Financial
> about the FBI blocking a Canadian Satellite Telcom from operating in the US
> because it couldn't wiretap its users.
> Barry
> To: <> 
> From: "Ama-gi ISPI" <> 
> Subject: ISPI Clips 14.84: Cdn Satellite Phones Bug FBI, It Can't Wiretap
> Them! 
> Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1999 00:28:32 -0700 
> ISPI Clips 14.84: Cdn Satellite Phones Bug FBI, It Can't Wiretap Them! 
> News & Info from the Institute for the Study of Privacy Issues (ISPI) 
> Tuesday July 20, 1999 
> or alternate 
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
> This From: The Financial Post via NatPost, Friday, July 16, 1999 
> Tiny TMI trapped in FBI's national security web 
> FBI objects because it can't wiretap satellite phone calls 
> By 
> Peter Morton 
> Financial Post
> WASHINGTON - All tiny TMI Communications Inc. wanted was to sell its 
> satellite telephone service in the United States.
> Little did the Ottawa-based firm owned by BCE Inc. and Telesat Canada, know 
> that, before long, its application would be swept up in a complex web that 
> includes the FBI, the major U.S. government departments, and ultimately the 
> White House -- with nothing less than the integrity of America's national 
> security at stake.
> The FBI is continuing to block TMI's 16-month-old bid to get a licence that 
> would allow it to sell mobile telephone service to Americans. That's because 
> new U.S. wiretap laws demand the FBI be able to listen to all kinds of 
> telephone calls, including ones on satellite telephones.
> But the agency cannot easily do this in TMI's case, because the company is 
> in Canada.
> "The nightmare scenario for us is the word gets around in the drug 
> trafficking community that the thing to do if you are a Detroit drug 
> trafficker or a New York one or a New Orleans one, for that matter, is to go 
> to a telephone reseller in Toronto," said one senior U.S. Justice Department 
> official. "And that shows up on the system as a Canadian person."
> >From the FBI's perspective, it cannot legally use the evidence from a 
> wiretap on TMI's equipment because it cannot prove the call was made on U.S. 
> soil or by an American.
> TMI is not alone in getting caught up in the FBI's new national security 
> concerns. Iridium LLC, the troubled U.S. satellite company, is facing the 
> same FBI objections because of its plans to build a groundstation in eastern 
> Canada to serve the U.S. northeast. The groundstation has been temporarily 
> shelved because of Iridium's restructuring.
> As well, Globalstar Canada LP, a partnership of U.S. Globalstar and Canadian 
> Satellite Communications, is facing a similar FBI threat because of its 
> plans to use groundstations in Smith Falls, Ont., and High River, Alta., to 
> reach the market in the United States.


Largely overlooked at the time was a tiny clause included in the U.S.

> enabling legislation. The clause said that, before the FCC can give a 
> foreign satellite company a "common carrier" licence to operate, national 
> security concerns must be met first.
> But few people, even the FCC, thought that the FBI and its boss, the 
> Department of Justice, would be so worried about being able to wiretap 
> satellite telephones that they would take the extraordinary step of blocking 
> a foreign licence.
> "The FBI was somewhat late in letting us know their concerns," said one 
> senior FCC official. "This is the very first time we had any kind of sense 
> the FBI had a national security concern about these satellites."


> ________________________________________________________
> Barry Steinhardt                                212 549 2508 (v)
> Associate Director                              212 549 2656 (f)
> American Civil Liberties Union
> 125 Broad Street
> New York, NY 10004                     

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