Filibuster Patriot games
By Tim McElligott
Dec. 9, 2005
Most people within
the industry have no real issues--other than cost--with the way CALEA, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act,
is employed in the network. However, with this week's extension of the Patriot Act and with the FCC's formal adoption in September
of a Report and Order requested by the Department of Justice to declare broadband Internet access services and voice over
IP covered by CALEA, some folks are starting to balk.
There is nothing outlandish proposed in the new order, although
the FCC did find creative ways to agree with the DOJ, such as interpreting one of the four requirements put forth in the DOJ's
Substantial Replacement Provision (that for a service to fall under CALEA it should be one that replaces a substantial portion
of the local telephone exchange service) to apply to individual users rather than the carriers' subscriber base or network
as a whole. However, concerns are growing around the creep-factor--and that's not the image of a retired John Ashcroft sitting
in the dark with a pair of headphones on listening to your conversations.
The creep-factor associated with this new
FCC order is more along the lines of the slippery slope. One such slope was described by pulver.com CEO Jeff Pulver shortly
after the written adoption was released. He said of the commission's definition of "interconnected VoIP services" that it
was the first effort by a regulatory body to regulate pure Internet-based services, even those that do not interconnect with
the public-switched telephone network.
People have accepted CALEA's place in the phone network, but messing with their
Internet is something else.
Since Pulver raised his concern, a group of 10 organizations, including several university
and library associations and the Center for Democracy and Technology, joined him in successfully filing a petition on Nov.
23 to delay the implementation of the order. The petition may ultimately have no effect, but any delay at this point is probably
a good thing, since change is being driven by a Patriot Act that was slapped together in just six weeks under well-meaning
but reactionary circumstances.
This is not to say that the Patriot Act and CALEA are not necessary tools to ensure
the safety and security of our citizens. It is just to say that, combined, the two instruments craft a convenient tool for
misuse or abuse and deserve as much consideration as they can get.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.