In 1994 President Clinton passed and signed the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, requiring telecommunications companies (carriers and providers only) to have the ability to intercept commumications and allow access to this data at the request of the government – in other words, provide mechanisms for government wiretapping.
Since then, technologies have advanced and the structure of the internet has progressed. Many services provide encrypted peer to peer chat, which is inherently resistive to wiretapping.
The Obama administration is drafting a bill requiring that all communications services be capable of complying with wiretap orders. Setting aside privacy implications (especially in the context of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping), the added burden on communications services will slow innovation and herald an era of unnecessary beaurocratic regulation on what is our generation’s frontier.