In a speech in April, Gonzales said that investigations into child pornography had been hampered because Internet companies had not always kept records that would help prosecutors identify people who traded in illegal images. “The investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of Internet service providers,” Gonzales said in remarks at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va. “This evidence will be available for us to use only if the providers retain the records for a reasonable amount of time,” he said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2While initial proposals were vague, executives from companies that attended the meeting said they gathered that the department was interested in records that would allow them to identify which individuals visited certain Web sites and possibly conduct searches using certain terms. It also wants the Internet companies to retain records about whom their users exchange e-mail with, but not the contents of e-mail messages, the executives said. The executives spoke on the condition that they not be identified because they did not want to offend the Justice Department. The proposal and the initial meeting were first reported by CNet News.com and USA Today. The department proposed that the records be retained for as long as two years. Most Internet companies discard such records after a few weeks or months. In its current proposal, the department appears to be trying to determine whether Internet companies will voluntarily agree to keep certain information or if it will need to seek legislation to require them to do so. The request comes as the government has been trying to extend its power to review electronic communications in several ways. The New York Times reported in December that the National Security Agency had gained access to phone and e-mail traffic with the cooperation of telecommunications companies, and USA Today reported last month that the agency had collected telephone calling records. The Justice Department has subpoenaed information on Internet search patterns – but not the searches of individuals – as it tries to defend a law meant to protect children from pornography. The Justice Department is asking Internet companies to keep records on the Web-surfing activities of their customers to aid law enforcement, and may propose legislation to force them to do so. The director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller III, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a meeting in Washington last Friday where they offered a general proposal on record-keeping to a group of senior executives from Internet companies, said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the department. The meeting included representatives from America Online, Microsoft, Google, Verizon and Comcast. The attorney general has appointed a task force of department officials to explore the issue, and that group is holding another meeting with a broader group of Internet executives on Friday, Roehrkasse said. The department also met Thursday with a group of privacy experts. The Justice Department is not asking the Internet companies to give it data about users, but rather to retain information that could be subpoenaed through existing laws and procedures, Roehrkasse said.