CALEA Packet Surveillance Joint Experts Meeting (JEM) FAQs

See also TIA's main overview of CALEA.

Q: What is CALEA?

A: The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which was enacted on October 24, 1994, as P.L. No. 103-414.

Q: What is CIS?

A: CALEA Implementation Section formed by FBI to assist CALEA implementation.

Q: What is the purpose of CALEA?

A: CALEA was intended to preserve the ability of law enforcement to conduct electronic surveillance in the face of rapid advances in telecommunications technology. In enacting this statute, however, Congress recognized the need to protect privacy interests within the context of court-authorized electronic surveillance. Thus, in defining the terms and requirements of the Act, Congress sought to balance three important policies:

"(1) to preserve a narrowly focused capability for law enforcement agencies to carry out properly authorized intercepts;

(2) to protect privacy in the face of increasingly powerful and personally revealing technologies; and

(3) to avoid impeding the development of new communications services and technologies."

H.R. Rep. No. 103-827, 103d Cong., 2d Sess.(1994), reprinted in 1994 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3489

Q: Who is covered by CALEA?

A: Telecommunications carriers and providers with the ability to "originate, terminate, or direct communications." - Section 103(a) of CALEA

Q: What are the legal requirements of CALEA?

A: Section 103 of CALEA establishes four general "assistance capability requirements" that carriers must meet to achieve compliance with CALEA. Section 103(a) requires that a telecommunications carrier shall ensure that its equipment, facilities, or services that provide a customer or subscriber with the ability to originate, terminate, or direct communications are capable of:

(1) expeditiously isolating and enabling the government, pursuant to a court order or other lawful authorization, to intercept, to the exclusion of any other communications, all wire and electronic communications carried by the carrier within a service area to or from equipment, facilities, or services of a subscriber of such carrier concurrently with their transmission to or from the subscriber's equipment, facility, or service, or at such later time as may be acceptable to the government;

(2) expeditiously isolating and enabling the government, pursuant to a court order or other lawful authorization, to access call-identifying information that is reasonably available to the carrier--

(A) before, during, or immediately after the transmission of a wire or electronic communication (or at such later time as may be acceptable to the government); and
(B) in a manner that allows it to be associated with the communication to which it pertains,

except that, with regard to information acquired solely pursuant to the authority for pen registers and trap and trace devices (as defined in section 3127 of title 18, United States Code), such call-identifying information shall not include any information that may disclose the physical location of the subscriber (except to the extent that the location may be determined from the telephone number);

(3) delivering intercepted communications and call-identifying information to the government, pursuant to a court order or other lawful authorization, in a format such that they may be transmitted by means of equipment, facilities, or services procured by the government to a location other than the premises of the carrier; and

(4) facilitating authorized communications interceptions and access to call-identifying information unobtrusively and with a minimum of interference with any subscriber's telecommunications service and in a manner that protects--

(A) the privacy and security of communications and call-identifying information not authorized to be intercepted; and
(B) information regarding the government's interception of communications and access to call-identifying information.

Q: What is call-identifying information?

A: CALEA defines call-identifying information as "dialing or signaling information that identifies the origin, direction, destination, or termination of each communication generated or received by a subscriber by means of any equipment, facility, or service of a telecommunications carrier."

Q: When is call-identifying information "reasonably available?"

A: Call identifying information is "reasonably available" to a carrier if it is present at an intercept access point and can be made available without the carrier being unduly burdened with network modifications.

Q: What is Call Content?

A: Defined in 18 USC 2510 (8) to be "when used with respect to any wire or electronic communications, includes any information concerning the substance, purport, or meaning of that communications."

Q: What is a "safe harbor" under CALEA?

A: Section 107(a)(2) of CALEA contains a "safe harbor" provision, stating that "[a] telecommunications carrier shall be found to be in compliance with the assistance capability requirements under section 103, and a manufacturer of telecommunications transmission or switching equipment or a provider of telecommunications support services shall be found to be in compliance with section 106 if the carrier, manufacturer, or support service provider is in compliance with publicly available technical requirements or standards adopted by an industry association or standard-setting organization, or by the Commission under subsection (b), to meet the requirements of section 103."

Q: What is J-STD-025?

A: Subcommittee TR-45.2 of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), along with Committee T1 of the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, developed interim standard J-STD-025 to serve as a "safe harbor" for wireline, cellular, and broadband PCS carriers and manufacturers under section 107(a) of CALEA. The standard defines services and features required by wireline, cellular, and broadband PCS carriers to support lawfully authorized electronic surveillance, and specifies interfaces necessary to deliver intercepted communications and call-identifying information to a law enforcement agency.

Q: Is J-STD-025 a "safe harbor?"

A: Yes, for the core CALEA capabilities or features that must be implemented by June, 30, 2000.

Q: Are There Technical Requirements in Addition to J-STD-025?

A: On August 30, 1999, the FCC found that J-STD-025 was deficient in certain technical respects and remanded the standard to TR-45.2 for revision. The additional requirements (sometimes referred to as punch-list items) are stated in the FCC Report & Order as:

1) Provide the content of subject-initiated conference calls supported by the subject's service (including the call content of parties on hold).

2) Identify the active parties of a conference call.

3) Provide access to all dialing and signaling information available from the subject including a subject's use of features (such as the use of flash-hook and other feature keys).

4) Notify law enforcement agency (LEA) when a subject's service sends a tone or other network message to the subject or associate (e.g., notification that a line is ringing or busy).

5) Provide timing information to correlate call-identifying information with the call content of a communications interception.

6) Provide digits dialed by a subject after the initial call setup is completed.

Under the Report & Order, these features must be installed by September 30, 2001.

Q: Are packet-mode communication technologies covered by CALEA?

A: The FCC has concluded that packet data and packet-switching technology are potentially usable for both information services and telecommunications services, but that such technology is subject to CALEA requirements only to the extent it is used to provide telecommunications services, and not for information services. The JEM does not intend to reach legal conclusions regarding the scope of CALEA and interested contributors to the JEM should consult legal counsel regarding CALEA obligations.

Q: Why was the Joint Experts Meeting (JEM) convened?

A: In the FCC's Third Report and Order regarding implementation of CALEA, it found "that the approach taken with regard to packet-mode communications in J-STD-025 raise[d] significant technical and privacy concerns." Under this standard, law enforcement could be provided with both call-identifying information and call content when only call-identifying information was authorized to be delivered.

The FCC "believe[d] that further efforts can be made to find ways to better protect privacy by providing law enforcement only with the information to which it is lawfully entitled." However, the FCC acknowledged that the record before it did not sufficiently address packet technologies and the problems that they may present for CALEA purposes. The FCC noted, for example, "that some packet technologies (e.g., frame relay, ATM, X.25) are connection oriented--i.e., there are call set-up and take-down processes, similar to those used in circuit-switched voice networks, whereby addressing information is made available to the carrier separate from and before call content is transmitted. Other packet technologies (e.g., internet-protocol-based solutions) would not be processed this way."

Accordingly, the FCC invited TIA to study CALEA solutions for packet-mode technology and report in one year on "steps that can be taken, including particular amendments to J-STD-025, that will better address privacy concerns." To meet the timetable envisioned by the FCC and to build a record based on technical information assimilated from a broad range of industry sources, TIA has convened a JEM.

Q: What is the scope of the JEM?

A: The scope of the JEM includes reporting on the following packet-mode technologies: TDMA-supported packet (based on evolution of TIA/EIA-136), CDMA-supported packet (based on evolution of TIA/EIA-95), PCS 1900/GSM-supported packet, CDPD, X.25, ISDN, ATM, DSL, Frame Relay, and internet protocol (IP) (including voice over IP). This list of packet technologies is NOT all-inclusive; other packet technologies anticipated to be supported by telecommunications service providers subject to CALEA are welcome to contribute to the JEM.

The scope of the JEM does NOT include: (a) legal issues such as the scope of CALEA, including whether it covers any specific packet-mode communication technology; (b) interpretation of electronic surveillance laws or FCC orders or rules; or (c) the impact of encryption technology on lawfully authorized electronic surveillance other than as it affects the technical issues regarding the feasibility of delivering less than the full content of a packet (i.e., addressing information) to law enforcement in response to a pen register order. The fact that an organization or company contributes to the JEM regarding a particular packet technology is not an admission that CALEA applies to that technology or company.

Q: What packet-mode communication technologies will be addressed at the JEM?

A: TDMA-supported packet (based on evolution of TIA/EIA-136), CDMA-supported packet (based on evolution of TIA/EIA-95), PCS 1900/GSM-supported packet, CDPD, X.25, ISDN, ATM, DSL, Frame Relay, and IP (including voice over IP).

This list of packet technologies is NOT all-inclusive; those with substantive knowledge of other packet technologies anticipated to be supported by telecommunications service providers subject to CALEA are welcome to contribute to the JEM.

Q: Who may contribute to the JEM and how?

A: Technical organizations and experts that can add to the empirical body of evidence as it relates to packet-mode communication and CALEA compliance. A link will be provided on this site for contributions.

Q: By what date must CALEA be implemented?

A: The core requirements of J-STD-025 must be implemented by June 30, 2000.

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