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"GSA Memos Reveal that FBI Wiretap Plan was Opposed by Government's Top Telecomm Purchaser"

The New York Times reported today on a document obtained by CPSR through the Freedom of Information Act. ("FBI's Proposal on Wiretaps Draws Criticism from G.S.A.," New York Times, January 15, 1993, p. A12)

The document, an internal memo prepared by the General Services Administration, describes many problems with the FBI's wiretap plan and also shows that the GSA strongly opposed the sweeping proposal. The GSA is the largest purchaser of telecommunications equipment in the federal government.

The FBI wiretap proposal, first announced in March of 1992, would have required telephone manufacturers to design all communications equipment to facilitate wire surveillance. The proposal was defeated last year. The FBI has said that it plans to reintroduce a similar proposal this year.

The documents were released to Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, a public interest organization, after CPSR submitted Freedom of Information Act requests about the FBI's wiretap plan to several federal agencies last year.

The documents obtained by CPSR reveal that the GSA, which is responsible for equipment procurement for the Federal government, strongly opposed two different versions of the wiretap plan developed by the FBI. According to the GSA, the FBI proposal would complicate interoperability, increase cost, and diminish privacy and network security. The GSA also stated that the proposal could "adversely _affect national security._"

In the second memo, the GSA concluded that it would be a mistake to give the Attorney General sole authority to waive provisions of the bill.

The GSA's objections to the proposal were overruled by the Office of Management and Budget, a branch of the White House which oversees administrative agencies for the President. However, none of GSA's objections were disclosed to the public or made available to policy makers in Washington.

Secrecy surrounds this proposal. Critical sections of a report on the FBI wiretap plan prepared by the General Accounting Office were earlier withhold after the FBI designated these sections "National Security Information." These sections included analysis by GAO on alternatives to the FBI's wiretap plan. CPSR is also pursuing a FOIA lawsuit to obtain the FBI's internal documents concerning the wiretap proposal.

The GSA memos, the GAO report and others that CPSR is now seeking indicate that there are many important documents within the government which have still not been disclosed to the public.

Marc Rotenberg
CPSR Washington office

Note: Underscores indicate underlining in the original text. Dashes that go across pages indicate page breaks.


Control No. X92050405
Due Date: 5/5/92

Brenda Robinson (S)

After KMR consultations, we still _"cannnot support"_ Draft Bill. No. 118 as substantially revised by Justice after its purported full consideration of other agencies' "substantive concerns."

Aside from the third paragraph of our 3/13/92 attachment response for the original draft bill, which was adopted as GSA's position (copy attached), Justice has failed to fully address other major GSA concerns (i.e., technological changes and associated costs).

Further, by merely eliminating the FCC and any discussion of cost issues in the revision, we can not agree as contended by Justice that it now " ... takes care of kinds of problems raised by FCC and others ...."

Finally, the revision gives Justice sole unilateral exclusive authority to enforce and except or waive the provisions of any resultant Iaw in Federal District Courts. Our other concerns are also shown in the current attachment for the revised draft bill.

Once again OMB has not allowed sufficient time for a more through review, a comprehensive internal staffing, or a formal response.


Wm. R. Loy KMR 5/5/92

Info: K(Peay),KD,KA,KB,KE,KG,KV,KM,KMP,KMR,R/F,LP-Rm.4002

(O/F) - 9C1h (2) (a) - File (#4A)






The proposed legislation could have a widespread impact on the government's ability to acquire _new_ telecommunications equipment and provide electronic communications services.

_Existing_ Federal government telecommunications resources will be affected by the proposed new technology techniques and equipment. An incompatibility and interoperability of existing Federal government telecommunications system, and resources would result due to the new technological changes proposed.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been removed from the legislation, but the Justice implementation may require modifications to the "Communications Act of 1934," and other FCC policies and regulations to remove inconsistencies. This could also cause an unknown effect on the wire and electronic communications systems operations, services, equipment, and regulations within the Federal government. Further, to change a major portion of the United States telecommunications infrastructure (the public switched network within eighteen months and others within three years) seems very optimistic, no matter how trivial or minimal the proposed modifications are to implement.

In the proposed legislation the Attorney General has sole _unilateral exclusive_ authority to enforce, grant exceptions or waive the provisions of any resultant law and enforce it in Federal District Courts. The Attorney General would, as appropriate, only "consult" with the FCC, Department of Commerce, or Small Business Administration. The Attorney General has exclusive authority in Section 2 of the legislation; it appears the Attorney General has taken over several FCC functions and placed the FCC in a mere consulting capacity.

The proposed legislation would apply to all forms of wire and electronic communications to include computer data bases, facsimile, imagery etc., as well as voice transmissions.

The proposed legislation would assist eavesdropping by law enforcement, but it would also apply to users who acquire the technology capability and make it easier for criminals, terrorists, foreign intelligence (spies) and computer hackers to electronically penetrate the public network and pry into areas previously not open to snooping. This situation of easier access due to new technology changes could therefore affect _national security_.



The proposed legislation does not address standards and specifications for telecommunications equipment nor security considerations. These issues must be addressed as they effect both the government and private industry. There are also civil liberty implications and the public's constitutional rights to privacy which are not mentioned.

it must be noted that equipment already exists that can be used to wiretap the digital communications lines and support court- authorized wiretaps, criminal investigations and probes of voice communications. The total number of interception applications authorized within the United States (Federal and State) has been averaging under nine hundred per year. There is concern that the proposed changes are not cost effective and worth the effort to revamp all the existing and new telecommunications systems.

The proposed bill would have to have the FCC or another agency approve or reject new telephone equipment mainly on the basis of whether the FBI has the capability to wiretap it. The federal- approval process is normally lengthy and the United States may not be able to keep pace with foreign industries to develop new technology and install secure communications. As a matter of interest, the proposed restrictive new technology could impede the United States' ability to compete in digital telephony and participate in the international trade arena.

Finally, there will be unknown associated costs to implement the proposed new technological procedures and equipment. These costs would be borne by the Federal government, consumers, and all other communications ratepayers to finance the effort. Both the Federal government and private industry communications regular phone service, data transmissions, satellite and microwave transmissions, and encrypted communications could be effected at increased costs.


Documents disclosed to Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR),
under the Freedom of Information Act December 1992