Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project


Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

CALEA is a bit like Carnivore. CALEA is not about the authority to do the tap; CALEA is about placing equipment in the network (and who pays).

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), passed in 1994, took the unusual direction of requiring that networks and vendors must employ technology in order to permit and facilitate wiretaps. This makes the immediately ready for a wiretap when a tap is needed. It also means that the network ends up paying for the costs of the wiretap equipment instead of law enforcement (without CALEA, law enforcement must pay for the cost of the tap). These obligations traditionally have fallen upon on telecommunications carriers and vendors of equipment used by carriers. In recent times, the FCC has sought to expand this obligation to Internet over broadband service providers and VoIP.

For more information about CALEA, see, maintained by the CALEA Implementation Section of the USDOJ.



Who Must Comply?

CALEA Releases

FCC Proposes Rules to Meet Technical Requirements of CALEA

10/23/98, 11/5/98
CC Docket No. 97-213"In the Third Report and Order in CC Docket No. 97-213, the Commission adopted technical capabilities for wireline, cellular, and broadband Personal Communications Services (PCS) carriers to comply with the assistance capability requirements prescribed by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA). Specifically, for such carriers, we required that all capabilities of J-STD-025 (the interim industry standard, otherwise referred to as the "J-Standard"), except packet-mode communications, be implemented by June 30, 2000 and that six of nine "punch list" capabilities requested by the Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation be implemented by September 30, 2001. We also required that a packet-mode capability be implemented by such carriers by September 30, 2001, and in the interim permitted packet-mode data to be delivered to law enforcement under the interim standard, pending further study by the telecommunications industry.

"The United States Telecom Association (USTA), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and others sought review of the Commission decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The petitioners challenged the requirements that carriers make available to law enforcement agencies the location of antenna towers used in wireless telephone calls, signaling information from custom calling features (such as call forwarding and call waiting), telephone numbers dialed after calls are connected, and data pertaining to digital packet-mode communications. Petitioners argued that the Commission exceeded its statutory authority, impermissibly expanded the types of call-identifying information that carriers must make accessible to law enforcement, and violated the statute's requirements that it protect communication privacy and minimize the cost of implementing the order.

"In a decision issued August 15, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the agency's decision in part and vacated and remanded in part for further proceedings. USTA v. FCC, No. 99-1442 (D.C.Cir. Aug. 15, 2000). The court's mandate issued on October 4, 2000.  The court affirmed the Commission's decision to not remove the antenna tower location information capability and the packet-mode data capability from the J-Standard. The court vacated and remanded to the Commission four of the punch list items that the order required: post-cut-through dialed digit extraction; party hold/join/drop information; subject-initiated dialing and signaling information; and in-band and out-of-band signaling information. The court concluded that the Commission's decision to include these four capabilities reflected a lack of reasoned decisionmaking. The court found that the Commission had not: (a) explained the basis for its conclusion that these four capabilities are required by CALEA as call-identifying information; (b) identified any deficiencies in the J-Standard's definition of call-identifying information; (c) explained how its order would satisfy CALEA's requirements by "cost-effective methods" or how its order would affect residential ratepayers; and (d) explained how required post-cut-through dialed digits would "protect the privacy and security of communications not authorized to be intercepted."

"The Commission seeks comment on the issues identified by the court in its decision, and what action it should take to satisfy the court's concerns. In particular, we seek comment on the definition of the term "call identifying information" as used in CALEA, discussed in the legislative history, and used in the interim standard, and whether the four punch list capabilities are covered by that term. Parties should address whether the four punch list capabilities are call identifying information, whether deficiencies exist in the interim standard, and how each of the four punch list capabilities would address such deficiencies. We also seek comment on the definition of the term "cost-effective methods," how cost effectiveness should be measured in relation to the four punch list capabilities, the implementing costs for the punch list capabilities, and how requiring these capabilities would affect residential ratepayers. Commenters should provide information on alternative methods for providing the four capabilities, and for each alternative method provide specific information on implementing cost and the effect on residential ratepayers. Commenters should suggest ways for carriers to minimize costs to residential ratepayers. Finally, commenters should provide information on how the four capabilities, in particular post-cut-through dialed digit extraction, could be implemented while satisfying CALEA's requirement to "protect the privacy and security of communications not authorized to be intercepted."

"We hereby solicit comment on the issues raised in the court's remand decision by November 16, 2000, and reply comments by December 1, 2000. Comments may be filed using the Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) or by filing paper copies. Generally, only one electronic submission must be file. If filing by paper, parties must file an original and four copies. Parties should send comments to the Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.  Parties are also encouraged to file a copy of all pleadings on a 3.5 inch diskette in Word 97 format.

"Comments filed through the ECFS can be sent as an electronic file via the Internet to  Generally, only one copy of an electronic submission must be filed.  In completing the transmittal screen, commenters should include their full name, Postal Service mailing address, and the applicable docket number.  Parties may also submit an electronic comment by Internet e-mail.  To obtain filing instructions for e-mail comments, commenters should send an e-mail to ecfs, and should include the following words in the body of the message: "get form <your e-mail address."  A sample form and directions will be sent in reply.


"The Third Report and Order is available for public inspection and copying during regular business hours at the FCC Reference Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street, S.W., Room CY-A257, Washington, D.C. 20554.  This document may also be purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, International Transcription Service, Inc., 1231 20th Street, NW, 20036, telephone 202-857-3800, facsimile 202-857-3805, TTY 202-293-8810.  You may also view this document and all Docket 97-213 filings by accessing the ECFS at  The court's remand decision may be viewed at:  - FCC Public Notice Oct 17,2000New FCC CALEA Website

August 31, 1999 FCC releases Second Report and Order specifying the entities subject to CALEA and Third Report and Order specifying technical requirements for wireline, cellular, and broadband PCS carriers.

  • Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)USA Bulletin (May 2001)
  • FCC DENIES BLANKET EXTENSION FOR PACKET-MODE COMMUNICATIONS, TEMPORARILY SUSPENDS CALEA "PUNCH LIST" DEADLINE. FCC adopted an Order in the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 proceeding that denies in part and Granted in part the relief requested by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. News Release. OET. DOC-216217A1.doc
  • FCC Proposes Rules to Meet Technical Requirements of CALEA. [ Press Statement | Kennard Statement | Furchgott-Roth Statement ] 10/23/98  Proceeding includes consideration of application of CALEA rules to "packet-mode" communications.
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSISTANCE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACT.  Established the systems  security and integrity regulations that telecommunications carriers must  follow to comply with section 105 of the Communications Assistance for Law  Enforcement Act.  Dkt No.: CC- 97-213.  Action by the Commission.   Adopted: January 29, 1999.  by R&O.  (FCC No. 99-11).

  • CCB



    Note that CALEA is not the authority to wiretap.  That authority comes under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and Title II.  CALEA is a requirement on common carriers to have pre installed equipment in their network provisioning the capability to do the taps.  The FBI is petitioning the FCC to expand the scope of CALEA to include VoIP.

    Issues under CALEA include

  • Cost recovery - there are cost recovery mechanisms under ECPA; they are not the same under CALEA.
  • CALEA's safe harbor
  • CALEA standards established through a trade group
  • FCC approval of those standards with FBI input
  • Note that there are two definitions of "telecom carrier" in the Communications Act.  There is the definition for title II coverning common carriers and then there is the definition in CALEA itself.  These definitions are not the same.
    Definition of Telecom Carrier under CALEA 18 USC 2510
    (8) The term `telecommunications carrier'--

    (A) means a person or entity engaged in the transmission or switching of wire or electronic communications as a common carrier for hire; and

    (B) includes--

    (i) a person or entity engaged in providing commercial mobile service (as defined in section 332(d) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 332(d))); or
    (ii) a person or entity engaged in providing wire or electronic communication switching or transmission service to the extent that the Commission finds that such service is a replacement for a substantial portion of the local telephone exchange service and that it is in the public interest to deem such a person or entity to be a telecommunications carrier for purposes of this title; but

    (C) does not include--

    (i) persons or entities insofar as they are engaged in providing information services; and
    (ii) any class or category of telecommunications carriers that the Commission exempts by rule after consultation with the Attorney General.