"The evil incident to invasion of the privacy of the telephone is far greater than that involved in tampering with the mails. Whenever a telephone line is tapped, the privacy of the persons at both ends of the line is invaded, and all conversations between them upon any subject, and although proper, confidential, and privileged, may be overheard. Moreover, the tapping of one man's telephone line involves the tapping of the telephone of every other person whom he may call, or who may call him. As a means of espionage, writs of assistance and general warrants are but puny instruments of tyranny and oppression when compared with wire tapping." -Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)
- Federal Court Lifts Gag Order on National Security Letter Recipient: For the first time, a federal court has lifted a national security letter gag order, allowing an Internet Service Provider to publish the FBI's demands for records of user web browsing history, IP addresses, online purchases, and location information. The FBI issues thousands of NSLs each year, forcing companies to disclose troves of consumer records without probable cause. Recipients are preventing from acknowledging these warrantless searches. EPIC filed an amicus brief in In re National Security Letter, arguing that NSL gag orders frustrate the public's right to know about government surveillance programs. (Dec. 1, 2015)
- Slight Decrease in Wiretaps in 2014, Encryption Not a Barrier to Investigations: In 2014, combined state and federal wiretap applications decreased 1%, from 3,577 to 3,555. Investigators encountered encryption in only 25 cases, and were able to obtain plain text in all but four cases. This fact contradicts claims that law enforcement agencies are "going dark" as a result of new encryption technologies. Of the 3,544 arrests based on wiretaps in 2014, only 553 resulted in convictions. The annual Wiretap Report, details government surveillance and provides insight into the debate over surveillance and the use of encryption. EPIC has repeatedly cited the annual Wiretap Report as a model for greater transparency of other surveillance activities . EPIC also maintains comprehensive tables and charts on electronic surveillance. (Jul. 2, 2015) More top news »
On the last night of the 1994 session, Congress enacted the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), sometimes called the "Digital Telephony" bill. CALEA requires telephone firms to make it easy to wiretap the nation's communication system. The bill faced strong opposition from industry and civil liberties organizations, but was adopted in the closing hours of Congress after the government offered to pay telephone companies $500,000,000 to make the proposed changes. EPIC opposed passage of the bill and believes that the government has failed to justify the $500,000,000 appropriation required.
As part of the final omnibus funding bill enacted in the last days of the 104th Congress, the Congress approved a provision allowing for funding the digital telephony bill from money reprogrammed from intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
- The text of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994
- Legislative history of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (House Report No. 103-827)
Funding Digital Telephony
- Text of the 1996 House bill funding the Digital Telephony bill.
- EPIC's Oppose Digital Telephony Funding Campaign, 1994.
- EPIC's Press Release on campaign to oppose funding of the CALEA.
- Comprehensive file of material opposing wiretap funding, including budget documents, testimony of FBI Director Freeh, and a sample letter.
Early Implementation of CALEA
- The FBI's proposed rule on procedures for recovery of CALEA-related costs by telecommunications carriers (May 10, 1996) (PDF format).
- The FBI's belated report to Congress on annual wiretap expenditures under CALEA.
- The FBI's report on the methodology used to produce its estimate of required wiretap capacity .
- FBI notice of wiretap capacity requirements., January 1997. FBI press release and coverage from the Washington Post.
- EPIC's December 12, 1995, letter to Congress concerning the FBI's failure to produce a statutorily-mandated report on wiretap expenditures.
- Federal Register Notice reveals that the FBI expects to simultaneously monitor one percent of all communications in some regions of the country (October 16, 1995) (PDF format)
- EPIC's formal comments on the FBI's wiretapping capacity requirements (described above).
- FBI Director Freeh's letter to Rep. Henry Hyde on the FBI's wiretapping capacity requirements.
- February 23, 1995 Federal Register Notice concerning implementation of the CALEA.
- FBI Director Freeh's testimony (3/30/95) on the CALEA and cryptography.
Materials on the Enactment of CALEA
- Office of Technology Assessment report "Electronic Surveillance in a Digital Age"
- White House document obtained under FOIA shows Approval of President George Bush and the link between digital telephony and the Clipper Chip. (gif file)
- EPIC Statement on CALEA enactment, October 1994.
- EPIC's FOIA Wiretap Survey Case against the FBI for the surveys allegedly showing the need for the FBI Digital Telephony Proposal.
- 1992 memos from the General Services Administration (GSA) showing that they opposed the Digital Telephony proposal because it could "adversely affect national security."
- Administrative Office of the US Courts Wiretap Reports
- EPIC's Charts and graphics of Title III federal and state wiretaps and bugs 1968 - 2010.
- Chart of number of "national security" taps and bugs authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (1979-2014).
- Chart of federal usage of pen registers and trap and trace devices 1987-1998.
- Text of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.
- EPIC's page on Counter-terrorism, including text of Comprehensive Counterterrorism Prevention Act of 1995 and current wiretap expansion proposals.
- EPIC (Finally) Obtains Memos on Warrantless Wiretapping Program » (Sep. 8, 2014)
- Federal and State Wiretaps Up 5% in 2013 According to Annual Report, But Stats Don't Support FBI Claims of "Going Dark" » (Jul. 29, 2014)
- Annual FISA Report Shows Decrease in Surveillance Orders, Questions About Scope Remain » (May. 1, 2014)
- Appeals Court Orders Release of Classified Legal Analysis, EPIC Filed Amicus Brief » (Apr. 21, 2014)
- Federal and State Wiretaps Up 24%, Primary Target Mobile Devices According to 2012 Report » (Jun. 28, 2013)
- 2012 FISA Orders Up, National Security Letters Down, No Surveillance Request Denied » (May. 2, 2013)
- 2011 Report: Wiretap Authorizations Decrease » (Jul. 3, 2012)
- Supreme Court Set to Review Wiretap Case » (May. 21, 2012)
- EPIC Urges Justice Department to Investigate Google for Unlawful Wiretapping » (Apr. 17, 2012)
- Appeals Court: Noncitizens Protected by Electronic Communications Privacy Act » (Oct. 4, 2011)
- DC Circuit Court Grants Access to Cell Phone Surveillance Records » (Sep. 7, 2011)
- Court Approved Wiretaps Reach a New All-Time High » (Jul. 6, 2011)
- Judge Rules Google Street View Data Collection May Violate Wiretap Act » (Jul. 1, 2011)
- Senator Leahy Introduces Bill to Update Digital Privacy Law » (May. 17, 2011)
- Senator Leahy Calls for Updates to Federal Privacy Law, Attorney General Confirms Sony Investigation » (May. 4, 2011)
- In Court Filing, EPIC Argues Residential Wi-Fi Routers are Not Exempted Under Federal Wiretap Laws » (Apr. 15, 2011)
- EPIC v. DOJ: Warrantless Wiretapping Memos Disclosed » (Mar. 22, 2011)
- Federal Appeals Court Finds A "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy" in Email » (Dec. 17, 2010)
- Canada: Google Street View Violates Privacy Laws » (Oct. 20, 2010)
- Federal Appeals Court Protects Innocent Targets of Government Surveillance » (Sep. 29, 2010)
- Federal Court to Hear Oral Argument in Wiretap Abuse Case » (Jul. 8, 2010)
- Applications for Court Approved Wiretaps Reach All-Time High in 2009 » (May. 3, 2010)
- EPIC Urges Federal Court to Protect Individuals from Wiretap Abuse » (Apr. 30, 2010)
- EPIC Renews Call for Release of Bush Warrantless Wiretap Memos » (Sep. 18, 2009)
- PATRIOT Act Revisions Introduced in Senate » (Sep. 17, 2009)
- Senators Consider PATRIOT Act Reforms » (Aug. 7, 2009)
- Inspector Generals Release Report on President's Surveillance Program » (Jul. 10, 2009)
- FBI's Use of FISA Increasing » (May. 20, 2009)
- EPIC Urges Greater Accountability for Network Surveillance » (Apr. 29, 2009)
- Applications for Court Approved Wiretaps Down in 2008 » (Apr. 28, 2009)
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Communications Law and Policy
Jerry Kang and Alan Butler