[ISN] FBI seeks CALEA rewrite amendment

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Sat Jul 25 1998 - 13:01:17 PDT

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    >From RCR
    July 20, 1998 
    FBI seeks CALEA rewrite amendment
    By Heather Weaver
    WASHINGTON-The FBI and the Department of Justice are shopping an amendment
    to congressional appropriators to change the Justice Department budget in
    a way that would re-write the controversial digital wiretap act. 
    The amendment not only addresses the date issue, but would have Congress
    order the Federal Communications Commission to deem the industry standard
    The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA) was
    passed by Congress to preserve law enforcement^'s wiretapping capabilities
    in the digital age. Since then, the telecommunications industry, the FBI
    and privacy advocates have been battled over CALEA's implementation. 
    The FBI's amendment has been criticized soundly by industry and privacy
    advocates. The FBI "is trying to re-write the Bill of Rights through the
    appropriations process," said Thomas Wheeler, president of the Cellular
    Telecommunications Industry Association. 
    "The FBI is trying to re-write [the digital wiretap act] to get what it
    failed to get from Congress four years ago," echoed the Center for
    Democracy and Technology. 
    The amendment would eliminate the embedded base date of Jan. 1, 1995,
    which would help personal communications services carriers, which argued
    they did not exist then. All telecom carriers would be required to comply
    with CALEA by Oct. 25, 2000. This is the same change telecom carriers
    hailed last month. 
    That's the good news for the telecom industry. The bad news for industry
    is compliance now would include the so-called punch-list items. The FBI
    and DOJ have said nine additional capabilities beyond the industry
    standard are necessary to completely implement CALEA. 
    Industry and privacy advocates believe these capabilities go too far.
    "This [amendment] is a clear admission that the FBI has lacked the
    authority [for the punch list]," said Tim Ayers, CTIA vice president for
    Indeed, a government official admitted the amendment was an attempt by the
    FBI to thwart the impact of the so-called Lofgren amendment^×named for its
    author, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif. attached to the DOJ authorization bill
    passed last month by the House of Representatives.  The Lofgren amendment
    "would do irreparable harm and change the intent of CALEA ... if Congress
    is compelled to changing CALEA" then the FBI wanted its views known, the
    official said. The official, however, stressed that law enforcement is
    opposed to any change in CALEA. 
    The DOJ authorization bill was not expected to be considered by the Senate
    this year, but a letter from Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the
    House Judiciary Committee, could change that. Hyde sent a letter to Senate
    Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) July 16 urging adoption
    of the DOJ authorization bill, including the Lofgren amendment. Hyde said
    the Lofgren amendment "does not alter the underlying substance of CALEA." 
    Hyde also said the Lofgren amendment was "necessary because of the
    unfortunate delays that have prevented both law enforcement and the
    telecommunications industry from fully implementing the provisions of
    The FBI-proposed amendment requires the FCC to deem the punch list part of
    the standard and to say the new standard is "reasonably achievable" within
    30 days "without notice or comment." 
    In essence, Congress would define for the FCC what should be included in
    the technical standard to implement CALEA. This upset Jay Kitchen,
    president of the Personal Communications Industry Association, who said,
    "It is no surprise that the DOJ continues to push its own agenda ... PCIA
    firmly believes that the [FCC] is the proper venue for determining whether
    or not the punch list goes beyond the bounds of CALEA." 
    Attorney General Janet Reno and FCC Chairman William Kennard were expected
    to discuss the attempt to usurp FCC authority in a Friday afternoon
    meeting last week. Kennard said the meeting was "productive and quite
    It is unclear which side^×between the DOJ and the FCC^×the White House
    would favor. Vice President Al Gore, who has taken the lead on telecom
    issues, could not be reached for comment at RCR press time. 
    The reimbursement issue also would be resolved in the FBI amendment. The
    telecom industry long has said the $500 million originally authorized for
    CALEA reimbursements was not enough, but Congress consistently has said no
    more than $500 million would be authorized. Indeed, Rep. Harold Rogers
    (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce,
    justice, state and the judiciary, told Reno earlier this year he would not
    allow for more than $500 million to be appropriated for CALEA
    The FBI amendment would authorize $420 million for direct reimbursement to
    all telecom carriers in existence before Oct. 25, 1998. The money would be
    distributed by a formula based on the number of exchanges assigned to each
    carrier on that date. The remaining $80 million would be used to reimburse
    carriers for capacity upgrades. 
    In short, the amendment would implement CALEA in a manner favorable to law
    enforcement. This would break the implementation logjam, which has sparked
    frustration among lawmakers, one of whom vented at Reno at a hearing last
    "Problems ... persist in implementation of [CALEA] ... To date, this law
    has generated litigation in the courts and before federal regulatory
    agencies, and provoked additional legislative action, but has not been
    implemented in the manner it should," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
    ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of the
    Senate Appropriations Committee. 
    On another front, the FBI recently released the Small Entity Compliance
    Guide for CALEA, which says all carriers must admit their current
    equipment is not CALEA-compliant by Sept. 8.
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