Capability Requirements for Telecommunications Carriers

Section 103 of CALEA sets forth the assistance capability requirements that telecommunications carriers need to maintain to support law enforcement in the conduct of lawfully-authorized electronic surveillance. Specifically, CALEA directs the telecommunications industry to design, develop, and deploy solutions that meet certain assistance capability requirements.

Pursuant to a court order or other lawful authorization, carriers must be able to: (1) expeditiously isolate all wire and electronic communications of a target transmitted by the carrier within its service area; (2) expeditiously isolate call-identifying information of a target; (3) provide intercepted communications and call-identifying information to law enforcement; and (4) carry out intercepts unobtrusively, so targets are not made aware of the electronic surveillance, and in a manner that does not compromise the privacy and security of other communications.

On August 15, 2000, in the case of United States Telecom Association, et al., Petitioners v. Federal Communications Commission and United States of America, respondents and AirTouch Communications, Inc., Interveners. (D.C. Circuit, August 15, 2000) the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit partially vacated and remanded to the Federal Communications Commission the Third Report and Order FCC 99-230 . The court vacated the FCC's decision with respect to four Punch List capabilities: dialed digit extraction, party/hold/join/drop information, subject initiated dialing and signaling, and in-band/out-of-band signaling. The court's ruling requires the FCC to reconsider whether these four Punch List items are mandated by CALEA, and to enter a new decision in accordance with the court's instructions. The court primarily vacated the FCC's order on the grounds that the FCC had not adequately explained and supported its reasons for determining that any of the capabilities were required by CALEA. In particular, the court directed the FCC to more fully explain the their consideration of the privacy protection and cost minimization factors of Sections 107(b)(1) and (3) and to explain its application of the CALEA definition of call identifying information. The court specifically directed the FCC to address on remand how to protect the privacy and security of communications not authorized to be intercepted in the case of dialed digit extraction.

Rejecting the challenges of certain privacy groups, the court refused to vacate the FCC's Order with respect to packet-mode communications and location information. These two capabilities, and other punch list items that were not challenged before the court (including conference call surveillance and timing information), therefore were not altered by the court's decision.

On September 21, 2001, the FCC released Order FCC 01-265 . In the Order, the FCC granted in part the relief requested by CTIA by temporarily suspending the September 30, 2001, compliance date for wireline, cellular, and broadband PCS carriers to implement two punch list capabilities mandated by the Third Report and Order FCC 99-230 . Also, the FCC denied CTIA's request for a blanket extension of the September 30, 2001, compliance deadline for these carriers to implement a packet-mode communications capability. However, due to the imminence of the packet-mode compliance deadline, the FCC granted these carriers until November 19, 2001, either to come into compliance or seek individual relief. You can read the news announcement regarding Order FCC 01-265.

An Order on Remand FCC 02-108 ordering capabilities authorized by CALEA that must be provided by wireline, cellular, and broadband PCS telecommunications carriers was released by the FCC on April 11, 2002. The FCC issued this order in response to a decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that vacated four FBI ?punch list? electronic surveillance capabilities mandated by the Third Report and Order.

Last Updated: February 1, 2011