25 June 1998
Thanks to TS

06:02 PM ET 06/23/98

House extends digital wiretapping deadline to 2000

    WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - Under legislation adopted
by the House of Representatives late on Monday,
telecommunications carriers would get a two year reprieve from
a law requiring them to update their digital networks to permit

    Carriers and equipment makers have been locked in a bitter
struggle with the FBI over implementation of the 1994
Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA),
which requires changes to telephone newtorks to permit
continued wiretapping.

    On Monday, lawmakers adopted the Department of Justice's
appropriations bill with a provision to extend the compliance
deadline in CALEA to October 2000 from October 1998.

    The provision also extended a grandfathering clause in the
1994 law, which limits government reimbursements to carriers
for alterations they make, to October 2000 from January 1995.
That would allow carriers to claim reimbursements for many more

    Prospects for Senate adoption of the provision were
uncertain, however, industry officials said.

    The industry, privacy advocates and the FBI have been
fueding over CALEA for years. 

    In March, with the compliance deadline looming, the parties
asked the Federal Communications Commission to resolve the

    The FBI says it needs numerous changes in new telephone
networks to permit wiretapping, but the industry says the
changes go beyond those required in the law and exceed the $500
million Congress allotted to cover their costs.

    Privacy advocates fear many of the changes requested by the
FBI go beyond the law and could lead to improper survelliance.

  ((Aaron Pressman, Washington newsroom, 202-898-8312))