Consider this scenario: Somewhere in America a terrorist bomb rips through a building. It turns out the explosion was triggered or coordinated by a cell phone or wireless broadband signal from an airplane thousands of miles away.

That's the latest worst-case scenario being painted by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in its comments about the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) proposal to allow in-flight use of cell phones and other wireless devices.

''The proposal raises not only regulatory and technical/operational issues, but also important public safety and national security issues,'' the DoJ stated in a filing last week to the FCC.

Led by the DoJ, law enforcement officials are urging the FCC to not only impose traditional wiretap laws on airborne cell and Internet traffic but to also expand those powers.

Under the current Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), telecommunications carriers are required to develop and deploy CALEA intercept solutions in their networks and are obligated to ''promptly'' respond to a legal wiretap request.

CALEA does not, however, define ''promptly''.

''There is a short window of opportunity in which action can be taken to thwart a suicidal terrorist hijacking or remedy other crisis situations onboard an aircraft, and law enforcement needs to maximize its ability to respond to these potentially lethal situations,'' the DoJ filing states.

The DoJ wants the FCC to require wireless carriers of airborne traffic to have no more than 10 minutes from the moment of notification to the telecommunications carrier of a lawful intercept order to the moment of real-time transmission to law enforcement officials.

''There is no room for such uncertainty in the air-to-ground context where delays of minutes and seconds could make the difference between life and death for passengers and crew aloft and those on the ground below,'' the DoJ states.

This article was first published on To read the full article, click here.