CALEA Expansion Under Fire

As I wrote on September 30th, the battle over the expansion of the CALEA regulations (which stands for the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Agencies) is underway. A lawsuit filed on October 25, 2005 before the D.C. circuit asks for review of the FCC’s final order. Seven organizations, including the American Library Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have joined together into a coalition to request that the final order be vacated.

Interestingly, Kurt Opsahl of the EFF has reported on the views of Senator Patrick Leahy, the original sponsor of CALEA in 1994.

In relevant part, Senator Leahy said in his statement:

“Congress recognized the unique architecture of the Internet and explicitly excluded it from the scope of CALEA’s surveillance design mandates, and we did that to allow Congress to re-visit the appropriateness of such an extension as the Internet developed. Any extension of CALEA – a law written for the telephone system in 1994 – to the Internet in 2005 would be inconsistent with congressional intent.

“There are certainly legitimate law enforcement interests concerning ‘tapping’ the Internet, and they must be addressed appropriately. We need to develop suitable solutions after reaching a broad consensus. Congressional hearings are a good place to start.”

I agree that the FCC has overstepped its bounds to introduce this final rule without the congressional oversight required. Blindly applying a law designed eleven years ago to an entirely different set of technology is a scary idea.

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