ip: Feds wiretap efforts stuck in 20th century...
R. A. Hettinga
rah at shipwright.com
Mon Jun 11 14:10:27 EDT 2001
--- begin forwarded text
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001 12:00:28 -0500
To: believer at telepath.com
From: " " <mail at dragonbyte.net> (by way of believer at telepath.com)
Subject: ip: Feds wiretap efforts stuck in 20th century...
Unresolved Issues Dog Fed's Data-Tap Efforts
By Doug Brown, Interactive Week
June 11, 2001 8:58 AM ET
Rapid changes in communications technology threaten to make "a big mess"
out of the federal government's ambitious plans to weave wiretapping into
the fabric of the digital age, while a 1994 law grows increasingly outdated.
While parts of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act
(CALEA) have already been implemented by phone and other communications
carriers, important areas of the law are being disputed in courtrooms and
mulled over by bureaucrats in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the
Federal Communications Commission.
One unresolved issue is how to handle packet data, a technology that was in
its infancy when the law was written, but has since emerged as the leading
method for transmitting voice and data in the Internet age. Communications
companies carrying packet data have until Sept. 30 to demonstrate that
their systems will permit law enforcement officials to conduct wiretaps.
The industry has filed requests with the FCC to extend the deadline. The
FBI argues that extensions should not be granted. Industry representatives
say they need to figure out a way to separate the packets' header data from
content before they can implement any standards, and the technological
solution to the problem could take years to figure out. It's up to the FCC
to decide how to proceed.
"We believe the packet issue is going to be around for a long time," said
Rodney Small, an economist in the FCC's office of engineering and
technology who handles CALEA. Industry has "decided it's too expensive to
do this, and they aren't sure what the privacy implications are," Small
said. "They are getting cold feet, legally and financially. Meanwhile,
these new technologies keep developing. . . . On the packet data [issue],
there could be more petitions and it could be a big mess."
An industry official agreed. "You will see more lawsuits or court
challenges. You'll certainly see carriers filing extensions on packet data
deadlines," said Grant Seiffert, vice president of external affairs and
global policy at the Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade group
representing many telecommunications carriers implicated in the CALEA
regulations. "In a packet world, somebody has to open the packet to look
for the information the FBI is seeking. Is the FBI going to do it? We're
not going to do it unless we are paid to do it. Who is going to be looking
over everyone's shoulders when we open up this information?"
As the packet data issue looms, industry and civil liberties advocates
await signals from the Bush administration about how new regulators -
particularly FCC commissioners and the new FBI director - plan to approach
government surveillance issues. The agencies' decisions could affect the
depth of the debates.
"Congress may be re-engaged," Seiffert said. "It's sort of a wait-and-see
game right now."
"The FBI's credibility is at an all-time low here," said Barry Steinhardt,
associate director at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Attorney General
[John] Ashcroft in the Senate expressed skepticism about a number of
government surveillance programs."
An FBI spokesman defended work to date, saying: "There has been significant
progress made with the implementation of CALEA," and citing technical
solutions available for wireline and wireless segments of the telecom
Some CALEA experts question some of what the FBI has managed to implement
already, charging that the agency installed sophisticated data collection
systems in communications networks that require expensive equipment to
"It's close to a scandal," said Stewart Baker, an attorney and former
general counsel at the National Security Agency who has been involved with
legal challenges to CALEA. "After industry has spent all of this money, it
turns out it's generating all of this data that has to be translated by
special-purpose machines that have to be bought by local law enforcement.
This may have the effect of pricing wiretaps out of the market for a lot of
Baker also said that while CALEA is supposed to apply only to voice
communications, the FBI has been "pretty aggressive" when it delves into
the packet data realm, "trying to persuade people who build data networks
that sooner or later they will have to provide wiretap capability."
"A year ago, when times were good, everybody leaned towards the view that
it was better to not pick a fight with the FBI," Baker said. "Now it's less
clear that people have the funds to spend on development or to purchase
this stuff, so there could be a serious conflict over this and there is
certainly a difficult question for people who are building Internet
--- end forwarded text
R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
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