The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)



New CALEA Resources

OITP Technology Policy Brief
The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and Libraries (January 2007)(PDF )

CALEA and Academic Libraries (September 2006)(PDF)

Further Analysis of Libraries' CALEA Obligations (July 2006)(PDF)

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What is CALEA?

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), passed in October 1994, forces telecommunications carriers to comply with law enforcements’ wiretapping requests. When the Act was passed, Congress drew a distinction between telecommunications services (telephony, fax, and the like) and “information services” in order to balance privacy and regulatory interests. Consequently, CALEA applies only to telecommunication services; it explicitly exempts information services such as Internet services.

CALEA also draws a line between the public, circuit-switched telecommunications network and private telephone networks. While the public network is subject to CALEA, private networks such as a university’s private PBX system are not. Both of these bright lines, developed by Congress and supported by legislators, FCC and the executive branch, have provided a policy framework for law enforcement’s interaction with telecommunications for nearly a decade.

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Why does it matter to libraries?

There has been an ongoing effort by the Department of Justice to press the FCC to extend this wiretapping law to cover Internet access. Although it is not yet clear what CALEA compliance will mean and what the technical requirements will be, ALA believes CALEA could mean burdensome costs for public and academic libraries.

ALA, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) are engaged in a two-prong effort to seek exemption from CALEA for libraries. These efforts have taken the form of continued communication with the FCC and participation in rule-making processes, plus ALA's participation in a multi-party petition before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. This is a complex issue with a lengthy history.

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Current Status

While there is currently no legislation pending on the issue of CALEA, it may move into the Congressional arena in the coming months. Keep up to date by checking back here.

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Recent Administrative Background

June 9, 2006
On June 9, the DC circuit court of appeals ruled that the FCC can CALEA to Internet access and Voice over IP. Read ALA's statement regarding the ruling.

May 22, 2006
On May 3, 2006, he FCC adopted its Second Report and Order regarding implementation of CALEA for facilities-based, broadband Internet access providers and interconnected VOIP services, addressing the compliance deadline, cost recovery, industry standards, extensions, enforcement and other procedural matters.

For more information on this Order, please see the OITP CALEA Technology Policy Brief (PDF).

Second Report and Order download links (PDF)(Word)


2005 News archives


Re-Examination of CALEA

The development of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services - essentially, telephone service running over the Internet - has made this separation harder to maintain. Law enforcement agencies petitioned the FCC last summer to provide the same kind of CALEA access to VOIP and other broadband packet-switching services, citing national security concerns. ALA, along with a coalition of library and higher education organizations, responded to the petition by encouraging the Commission to more carefully analyze the implications of such a move and consider the potential impact on libraries.

In September 2004, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) outlining how CALEA could be extended to include Internet service providers. Although the NPRM exempts libraries and education organizations -- citing their role as providers of broadband access -- ALA feels that the NPRM doesn’t explicitly exempt the private networks of which many libraries are part. Since it is important that libraries receive the broadest and most explicit exemption possible, we are currently collecting information on library, state and local networks so that our response to the FCC can include this information.


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Important Information

ALA's one page handout on CALEA (PDF)

The Center for Democracy and Technology (main)

VoIP and Law Enforcement Surveillance

Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 4922)

OITP Technology Policy Brief
The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and Libraries (January 2007)(PDF )

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