Pols back plan to monitor phone, Net use

TV usage remains sacred

WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill politicos on Wednesday roundly embraced an emergency measure that would allow authorities to spy on a cable customer’s phone and Internet usage free-and-clear for 90 days — but reiterated that no one is to peek at someone’s TV preferences, adult-rated or otherwise.

Anti-terrorism legislation being pushed by the Bush administration would close a discrepancy in the law that requires a cabler to immediately notify a customer whose records are under review by law enforcement authorities. Congress passed the law in the early 1990s, concerned that a person’s TV habits — particularly when it comes to pornography — would be exposed.

Conversely, phone companies and Internet ventures don’t have to tell a customer about a government request to review records for 90 days.

Thursday, the House Commerce Committee gave its blessing to make it the same for cable phone and Internet records, saying it strikes the right balance. The panel, chaired by Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin, deliberated less than five minutes before giving its unanimous approval.

The provision is included in broad anti-terrorism legislation being pushed by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who says the government must be empowered with greater authority if it is to crackdown on terrorism.

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