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Federal Bureau of Investigation's
Implementation of the Communications Assistance
for Law Enforcement Act

March 2000


Congress enacted the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to ensure that technological changes in the industry would not compromise the ability of law enforcement agencies to engage in lawful electronic surveillance. To accomplish this goal, Congress authorized $500 million to be appropriated to reimburse the telecommunications industry (industry) for certain eligible costs associated with implementing solutions to facilitate electronic surveillance. The Department of Justice (DOJ) delegated the responsibility of implementing CALEA to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The CALEA required telecommunications carriers (carriers) to be in compliance with CALEA capability1 requirements by October 25, 1998. On September 11, 1998, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revised the compliance date to June 30, 2000. On August 31, 1999, the FCC ruled that carriers had to be in compliance with six additional capability requirements by September 30, 2001. Pursuant to CALEA, the FBI can only reimburse carriers for modifications to equipment in place before January 1, 1995. The carriers must be in compliance with CALEA capacity requirements within 3 years after the final capacity2 requirement rule has been published in the Federal Register. The CALEA also provided that telecommunications equipment manufacturers (manufacturer) shall make available to carriers, timely and at a reasonable cost, such features or modifications necessary to permit carriers to comply with appropriate capability and capacity requirements.

In March 1998 the Office of the Inspector General reported that the FBI and the industry disagreed over what capabilities had to be provided by the industry to be CALEA compliant and eligible for reimbursement. At that time, carriers had not modified equipment, and the FBI had not made any payments to carriers.


  1. Capability refers to the ability to meet surveillance requirements provided in Section 103 of CALEA.

  2. Capacity refers to the ability to meet estimated electronic surveillance intercepts as set forth in Section 104 of CALEA.