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Federal Bureau of Investigation Calls Cablelabs®' Release of Its Packetcable™Electronic Surveillance

Washington, D.C. September 07, 2004
  • FBI National Press Office (202) 324-3691


Washington, DC - The FBI responded today to CableLabs®' release of a technical specification known as the "PacketCable™ Electronic Surveillance Specification" which was developed to facilitate the cable industry's compliance with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).and meet the lawful access needs of federal, state and local law enforcement. Founded in 1988 by members of the cable television industry from around the world, Cable Television Laboratories ("CableLabs®") is a non-profit research and development consortium that is dedicated to pursuing new cable telecommunications technologies and to helping its cable operator members integrate those advancements into their business objectives. PacketCable™ represents the cable industry's interoperable interface specifications for a wide variety of services. PacketCable networks use Internet Protocol (IP) technology to offer services such as Voice over IP, otherwise known as IP telephony.

"The latest issue of this technical specification represents a milestone in the cable industry's efforts to address law enforcement's concerns regarding VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services made available by cable companies," stated Kerry Haynes, FBI Assistant Director responsible for Investigative Technologies. Mr. Haynes added: "This specification is an extremely positive development which ultimately will empower federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with the technical capability to continue to protect the public by effectuating court-authorized electronic surveillance. We look forward to working with the industry in its development of technical solutions based on this specification and with companies as they implement solutions into their IP networks."

CableLabs initial effort to specify a technical solution for electronic surveillance of IP-based networks was released in December 1999 as Issue 1 of the "PacketCable™ Electronic Surveillance Specification." Following its release, law enforcement identified a number of capabilities absent from Issue 1. Since that time, CableLabs has actively sought law enforcement input into its technical specification process to ensure that law enforcement's need to intercept communications lawfully were addressed adequately. The recent release of Issue 4 of the PacketCable™ Electronic Surveillance Specification represents the culmination of the cooperative endeavor between CableLabs and law enforcement in establishing a set of technical requirements to facilitate law enforcement's future use of court-authorized electronic surveillance as a critical tool in protecting public safety and national security.

Stressing the vital nature of electronic surveillance, Assistant Director Haynes remarked "the Report of the 9/11 Commission and the testimony provided by a host of experts during Commission hearings recognized the importance of intelligence in our war against terrorism. Intelligence is critically dependent upon law enforcement's technical collection capabilities and such capabilities rely on adherence to technical standards such as this one. The primary mission of the FBI and law enforcement as a whole is to prevent and protect against future terrorist attacks. In that battle, real-time technical interception capabilities are to the war against terrorism what radar was to the Second World War - without it our ability to see enemies approaching is extremely limited."

In summarizing the recent cable specification, Assistant Director Haynes stated "this document is an extraordinary example of law enforcement and industry collaboration in the public interest. It stands as a model for future industry-law enforcement cooperative efforts." Mr. Haynes extended special recognition and appreciation to Time-Warner, Comcast, CableVision, and Cox for their diligent efforts in collaboration with CableLabs to achieve this milestone in the provision of critical electronic surveillance capabilities to law enforcement.