CALEA Information - Merit Network, Inc.

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Understanding CALEA

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) is a federal law defining how telecommunications carriers must assist law enforcement agencies in carrying out court-ordered wiretaps. While CALEA has historically been applied only to traditional voice carriers, the FCC has recently issued orders extending CALEA to providers of broadband Internet access and interconnected voice over IP services. With the new rules, educational networks are arguably subject to CALEA compliance unless certain conditions are met.

This has been an issue of significant concern to organizations in research and education over the past several months and continues to be followed closely. The future application of CALEA by courts and the FCC remains an evolving issue.

Merit has prepared a policy briefing on CALEA. The briefing is designed as a primer and could serve as an introduction and summary for anyone who needs a clearer understanding of the issues. It summarizes the history of the law, describes the recent FCC actions, and makes clear two key facts: The issues continue to evolve, and each organization should seek legal counsel regarding its status under CALEA. The briefing also contains links to several sites that have full background on CALEA. We hope this briefing is helpful and welcome your feedback on it.

Additionally, Merit is working on an technical design that would enable Merit to come into CALEA compliance should that become necessary. A design document describes the model, which is also also shown in a diagram. Merit's requirements under CALEA are not yet clear, and these documents are for planning and preparation only.

The following information describes Merit's activities, plans, and perspectives on CALEA. This information is provided for the purpose of letting our community know what our views and activities are. It in no way intends to be legal advice for our community. There are at least two active forums for the R&E community around this issue: EDUCAUSE and the Quilt which may provide additional perspective.

Please feel free to distribute these documents within your organization. Merit will continue to revise the briefing and architecture documents as issues develop.


OpenCALEA is a project intiated by Merit Network Inc. whose goal is to develop simple OpenSource based tools that can help the Internet Service Provider community to meet their CALEA compliance needs.

The project was started as an attempt to gain a technical understanding of the proposed standard and develop an implementation that would serve as a reference model. Community contibutions to the project are encouraged and greatly appreciated.

There is considerable confusion regarding CALEA and what it means to be CALEA compliant. It is upto individual organizations to decide for themselves what their obligations are regarding CALEA. OpenCALEA provides a community based implementation framework for helping with CALEA compliance. Visit the OpenCALEA web site.

Merit Documents on CALEA

The documents available below are saved as PDF documents, which require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view/print. Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded for free from Adobe.

FCC Public Notices

CALEA and Beyond Workshop

Merit Network hosted a one-day CALEA workshop on January 31, 2006. The workshop prepared attendees to make informed decisions about CALEA compliance and to understand ongoing requirements for law enforcement assistance. An archive of material from the CALEA and Beyond Workshop is available.

Important CALEA links

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