Digital Surveillance: The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act [Updated May 3, 2005]   [open pdf - 358KB]

"The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA, P.L. 103- 414, 47 USC 1001-1010), enacted October 25, 1994, is intended to preserve the ability of law enforcement officials to conduct electronic surveillance effectively and efficiently despite the deployment of new digital technologies and wireless services that have altered the character of electronic surveillance. CALEA requires telecommunications carriers to modify their equipment, facilities, and services, wherever reasonably achievable, to ensure that they are able to comply with authorized electronic surveillance actions. The modifications, originally planned to be completed by 1998, have been delayed due to disagreements among the telecommunications industry, law enforcement agencies, and privacy rights groups, over equipment standards, and other technical issues. Disagreements over amount of federal funds to be provided to the telecommunications carriers for CALEA implementation, which carriers are eligible to receive those funds, and privacy concerns, have also impeded implementation. After receiving petitions from the industry and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over the dispute, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1999 ruled in favor of most of the FBI's requests. This decision resulted in lawsuits being filed by industry and privacy rights groups. In August 2000, a federal appeals court upheld parts of the FCC's decision, but remanded most of it for reconsideration. Since that time, the FCC established June 30, 2002, as the final CALEA compliance date, but it has granted numerous waivers and full CALEA implementation remains incomplete."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL30677
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