18 July 1997
Communications Daily: Wireless Assn. Seeks FCC Intervention to Resolve Digital Wiretap Impasse CTIA asked FCC Wed. to open proceeding on standards needed to meet digital wiretap law, conceding that opposition by FBI and law enforcement entities had made it "monumentally frustrating" to reach agreement without Commission intervention. CTIA Pres. Thomas Wheeler said petition seeks to draw FCC into process based on language in Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) that requires industry "in consultations with law enforcement" to develop standards that allow law enforcement units to monitor phone calls in digital format. Wheeler said meeting of standards body in Boston last week, at which he said FBI opposed any compromises, triggered application to FCC. In recent weeks, CTIA sent letters to FBI Dir. Louis Freeh and FBI Electronic Surveillance Technology Section Chief Ed Allen offering final compromise to adopt standards while resolving more critical disagreements separate from standards-setting. Wheeler said FBI had refused to accept offer. "We still have no consensus standards," he said. "We now need to change the venue." He pledged to continue negotiating with FBI even as FCC considers petition and vowed to continue talks even if Commission opens proceeding. FCC official said no decision had been made on petition by our deadline. Law enforcement field has taken firm stand on requirements for gaining access to telecom traffic carried in digital format. FBI spokesman Barry Smith told us current industry standards, which CTIA said comply with CALEA "100%," fall short of requirements. "In our view, the standards being proposed are lacking items law enforcement needs," he said. CTIA acted alone, Wheeler said. Although digital wiretap law applies to all telecom carriers, he said, only CTIA has been aggressive in publicizing its continuing disputes with FBI. He said he and USTA Pres. Roy Neel met with FBI executives last year to discuss issue, but he didn't seek USTA endorsement when petition was filed. USTA said Wed. it didn't plan separate filing at Commission but didn't comment immediately on CTIA petition. Other trade groups didn't comment. In petition, CTIA accused FBI of "stuffing" ballots in industry voting on standards that had been adopted separately from FBI proposals. Wheeler said that by mid-May, Telecommunications Industry Assn. -- which routinely circulates proposed standards among "interested parties" to achieve consensus -- received 60 ballots, 35 in opposition, with 33 of those from law enforcement agencies, including 28 that attached FBI rationale to ballot. "This stopped the standards setting in its tracks," Wheeler said. Further balloting under auspices of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is expected to produce additional opposition, mostly from law enforcement: "This ballot box stuffing has further delayed the standards process," CTIA said. Wheeler said industry opposes FBI demands for 500-millisec. response time for linking call set up with actual call, saying existing wireline technology can't support such standards. He also complained about requirement that law enforcement be able to continue monitoring conference calls even after party being monitored has dropped off call. FBI also has sought technology that would turn wireless phone into homing device, allowing agents to pinpoint location of call. Delays threaten to put telecom industry in violation of law, which takes effect in Oct. 1998, although without standards, Wheeler said, it can't meet tests. He described 2 issues as "double whammy," forcing industry to raise costs to meet FBI standards while running afoul of mandates. He also feared civil rights groups would file suit when companies provide access without approved court orders. ------------------------------------------------------------------- July 16, 1997, San Jose Mercury News: Phone firms resist FBI wiretap gear New York Times Asserting that the FBI is trying to force the development of wiretapping equipment that goes beyond the law, telephone industry executives said Tuesday they would petition the Federal Communications Commission to resolve a dispute over the limits of digital surveillance in the information age. Industry executives are expected to ask the commission to step in today after more than two years of negotiations with law enforcement authorities over standards for advanced digital telephone switching gear intended to permit the police and FBI agents to listen to suspected criminals. The two sides failed to reach an agreement at a meeting last week in Boston. ``We've come to an impasse and only the FCC can resolve it,'' said Stewart Baker, a Washington lawyer representing the industry. FBI officials said Tuesday they were still confident that disagreements with the industry could be worked out. Another negotiating session is scheduled for next week. ``We're still committed to the negotiating process,'' said Edward Allen, section chief in the Information Division at the FBI. The Communications for Law Enforcement Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, calls for spending $500 million to modify the nation's telephone network for wiretapping and specifies a standard-setting process to redesign the equipment. Telephone industry officials have warned that the cost of making the modifications requested by law enforcement might run into the billions of dollars. They also contend that the FBI has overstepped its mandate and is trying to control the process of setting standards. The law, they say, specifies only that the agency will be consulted in setting the standard. Industry executives say their companies will be at risk of being sued by civil liberties groups over privacy invasions. Law enforcement is asking for the ability to maintain a wiretap in a conference call even after the individual who is the object of the court- authorized wiretap drops out of the phone call. Such a capability would require costly modifications to the telephone network, industry officials said. ``We're taking this action out of monumental frustration,'' said Thomas Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade group in Washington. The telephone industry is facing an October 1998 deadline to comply with the law. Wheeler said the members of his association were growing increasingly concerned that in the absence of a standard they would have insufficient time to develop new products that comply with the law. The legislation provides for $10,000 a day in penalties for companies that fail to meet the requirements.