Skip to main content

EFFector - Volume 2, Issue 8 - Digital Telephony - The FBI/DOJ Initiative

############                        ##########      Volume 2 Number 8
############                        ##########         April 17, 1992
####                                ###    ###                       
##########    ########## ########## ###    ### ####    ####          
##########    ########## ########## ###    ### #####   ####          
##########    ####       ####       ###    ### ######  ####          
####          ########   ########   ###    ### ############          
####          ########   ########   ###    ### #### #######          
############# ####       ####       ########## ####  ######          
############# ####       ####       ########## ####   #####          
############# ####       ####       ########## ####    #### ## ## ## 
                                                                     
|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|                 EFFector
|                                          |                   ONline
|            DIGITAL TELEPHONY             |                         
|         The FBI/DOJ Initiative:          |              eff@eff.org
|             An EFF Editorial             |                         
|                                          |        155 Second Street
|           ISDN YOU CAN AFFORD            |      Cambridge, MA 02141
|      A Report from the EFF/ISDN Lab      |           (617) 864-0665
|                                          |                         
|                                          |  666 Pennsylvania Ave.SE
|                                          |    Washington, DC  20003
|                                          |           (202) 544-9237
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~                          

                       REACH OUT AND TAP SOMEONE?
                              An Editorial
                   By Mike Godwin (mnemonic@eff.org)

You can imagine how difficult the invention of the telephone made law
enforcement in the late 19th and early 20th century. Prior to the spread
of telephone networks, criminals had to meet *in person* to conspire.
If known criminals could be seen meeting at known criminal hangouts,
law-enforcement agents would often be tipped off that something was up.
Once the telephone became widespread, however, it became possible for
criminals to plan crimes without being in the same place--without even
being in the same town! The advent of telecommunications had made
detecting and deterring crime a bit harder. Because of this we might
understand, if not entirely sympathize with, a law-enforcement agent in
1900 who believed that telephones should be banned altogether.

By the same token, we can understand the motivations of FBI Director
William Sessions, who, along with the Department of Justice, wants to
see a law passed that would prevent advances in telecommunications
technology from making wiretaps more difficult. But that doesn't mean we
should be sympathetic to the FBI/DOJ initiative, which would shift the
burden of making wiretaps feasible from the government to the phone
companies (and to other electronic communications providers such as
CompuServe, Prodigy, and small BBSs). Considered as a whole, this
initiative is based on false technological premises and questionable
philosophical ones.

The initiative,called "Digital Telephony," would "require providers of
electronic communications services and private branch exchanges to
ensure that the Government's ability to lawfully intercept
communications is unimpeded by the introduction of advanced digital
telecommunications technology or any other telecommunications
technology." The initiative would also require that changes or additions
in communications software or hardware be paid for through increased
rates to consumers. All changes and additions to the nation's
telecommunications system done under the initiative would be
administered by the Federal Communications Commission (in cooperation
with the U.S. Attorney General). The initiative also provides that, if
requested by the Attorney General, "any Commission proceeding concerning
regulations, standards or registrations issued or to be issued under
authority of this section shall be closed to the public." In effect, the
FCC would compel and supervise the incorporation of wiretapping software
and hardware into the upgraded digital telephone system. And, if the
Attorney General wished it, this action could take place without public
review.

On the technology side, telephone experts question the Justice
Department's assertion that "the emergence of digital telecommunications
technology will preclude the FBI and all of law enforcement from being
able to intercept electronic communications[,] thus all but eliminating
a statutorily sanctioned, court authorized and extraordinarily
successful investigative technique." Few of these experts believe that
digital telephony itself poses the risk of making wiretapping wholly
impossible; at most, say some experts, wiretapping of digital lines may
be more difficult. And it should be noted that digital telephone service
is already in place at many sites, yet Director Sessions told Congress
just this year that there has not been a single case in which the FBI
has been unable to implement a wiretap.

If wiretapping is not about to become obsolete, why are the FBI and the
Justice Department eager to impose upon communications providers the
obligation to build in wiretapping capability? One possible explanation
lies in last year's effort by the Department of Justice (in S.  266) to
expand government authority to compel phone-companies to "ensure that
communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text
contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately
authorized by law." On its face, this language would have outlawed the
phone companies' carrying of encrypted communications if the government
could not decrypt those communications into their "plain text contents."

Far more than digital telephone service itself, encryption poses the
risk of making the interception and reading of electronic communications
immensely difficult if not impossible. Talk to law enforcement personnel
who've considered the problem, and they'll tell you they're worried
about the increasing use of commercial encryption, since it would give
criminals the potential to make their communications, even when
intercepted, impossible to read. But for the same reason, noncriminal
uses of encryption are also growing--businesses and individuals have
valid reasons for wanting to keep their communications private. That's
why a coalition of industry and civil-liberties groups opposed S. 266
last year and managed to get it killed.

That coalition might have had a harder time, however, if the FBI and the
Justice Department had already passed their Digital Telephony
initiative.  If this initiative had already been in place, the
government could have urged lawmakers to outlaw encryption in order to
*protect the phone companies' investment in built-in wiretapping
capability*. "You've already required the phone companies to build in
wiretapping," the FBI could tell Congress. "All we're asking now is that
you ensure that the intercepted communications are readable."

This hypothetical case underscores the philosophical problems civil
libertarians have with the Digital Telephony initiative. Historically,
when advances in communications technology have raised problems for law
enforcement, the government has coped with those problems by developing
advances in its own investigatory techniques. For example, when
telephone systems made it hard to monitor suspects' plans and
activities, the government didn't outlaw telephones--it learned how to
implement wiretaps.  Until now, U.S. law-enforcement agencies normally
have responded to new problems in detecting criminal communications by
developing innovative investigative tools.

And that's what they should be doing in response to whatever new
problems are posed by digital telephony and encryption. This is why EFF
is coordinating a coalition of privacy and civil-liberties groups and
computer, communications, and telephone companies -- a coalition ranging
from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and the ACLU to
IBM and U.S. West -- that opposes this initiative. In a free society, we
believe, the government has no business compelling the phone companies
to turn our communications networks into surveillance systems.

                       -==--==--==-<>-==--==--==-
                                    
                          THE SWITCHED CIRCUIT
      Number 1:  Reasonable ISDN Rates Available In Massachusetts
                    A Report from the EFF's ISDN Lab
   By Christopher Davis  and Helen Rose 

This is the first in a series of reports from the EFF's new ISDN Lab,
where we'll be working with the ISDN offerings from New England
Telephone, along with as many different kinds of ISDN hardware as we can
get our hands on.

We recently attended a seminar on ISDN given by New England Telephone
for the benefit of telecommunications consultants.  Though they focused
primarily on the business aspects of ISDN (no surprise there) they also
said they were pricing the service for residential lines, "regular"
single-line business service, and INTELLIPATH Centrex. The apparent
market focus for offering the residential service is the work-at-home or
"telecommuting" population, but the residential service is not crippled
in any way.

The prices for ISDN services are encouraging. First and foremost, they
are affordable. This is *not* the gold-plated offering we've seen from
some of the regional Bells. (Note that these only apply to Massachusetts.)

Installation charges for ISDN Basic Rate Interface (BRI) which supplies
2 B channels plus a D channel for call setup and/or low-speed X.25
packet data) are low (regular installation charges, plus $15 for each
circuit- switched voice, data, or voice/data B channel) and monthly
rates are only $8 over the regular rates for that class of service, plus
$5 for data or voice/data B channels.  (Packet switched connections at
either high or low speed are more expensive, however.)

One very nice feature is that NET is not charging the usual monthly
surcharge ($2+) for tone service; this makes the price of an ISDN line
actually *cheaper* than the two voice lines many people have in order to
make data calls while leaving their "normal" line free.  Though you
can't order two of the same type of B channel, the voice/data channel
can be used for either voice or data on a per call basis.This allows you
to order a voice channel and a voice/data channel to get, in effect, two
voice lines while also having the ability to do circuit-switched data.

Voice calls are charged at the usual rate, so if you have unmeasured
voice service, you're not going to be stuck with measured ISDN voice
service.  Circuit-switched data calls (64kbps) are charged at measured
rates (until September 25, at business measured rates--currently $.0963
for the first minute and .016 for each additional minute; after
September 25, residential customers will pay $.026 for the first
minute), but are only available (currently) within the same central
office.  NET plans to make interoffice connections available starting
4th quarter 1992.  The ability to do long-distance ISDN will have to
wait for National ISDN-1, which probably won't happen until 1993 or
later.

It may be possible to do 56kbps data over an ISDN "voice" connection,
since the voice connection is merely a bit-robbed digital end-to-end
connection.  This is one of the first things we'll test; if true, it
will make an already affordable ISDN tariff even more so.

As part of the ISDN Lab, we'll be trying ISDN between our home and EFF's
Cambridge office, allowing us to test both the residential and business
offerings, and everything from straight 56/64kbps "fast modem" style
connections to AppleTalk and IP over ISDN.

As part of this effort, we will be working with several computer and
telecommunications hardware providers to try out various ISDN terminal
adapters, routing software, and the like.

If you have questions about ISDN, or suggestions for the ISDN Lab, send
electronic mail to isdnlab@eff.org.

                       -==--==--==-<>-==--==--==-

             ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION OFFERS T-SHIRTS

For a $10 donation, EFF will send you a spiffy 100% cotton white T-shirt
with the new black and red EFF logo tastefully displayed on front, and
the following on the back:
                                    
                          ELECTRONIC FRONTIER
                               FOUNDATION
                              eff@eff.org

                        (50's style graphic with
                    large building sitting on world)
                                    
                     Serving Cyberspace since 1990

They come in sizes XL and child's S only. Send your $10 check or money
order to

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
ATT:  Rita/ T-Shirts
155 Second Street
Cambridge MA  02141

"What a DEAL!  People will be hard-pressed to find a shirt of the same
 quality with such fantastic silk-screening for less than $20 in any
 T-shirt store in the country.  (You can quote me on that.)" 
    -- Brendan Kehoe  upon receiving his shirt.

  *** Mention that you are an EFFector Online reader, and we will ***
             waive all shipping and handling charges!

                       -==--==--==-<>-==--==--==-

            MEMBERSHIP IN THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION

In order to continue the work already begun and to expand our efforts
and activities into other realms of the electronic frontier, we need the
financial support of individuals and organizations.

If you support our goals and our work, you can show that support by
becoming a member now. Members receive our quarterly newsletter,
EFFECTOR, our bi-weekly electronic newsletter, EFFector Online (if you
have an electronic address that can be reached through the Net), and
special releases and other notices on our activities.  But because we
believe that support should be freely given, you can receive these
things even if you do not elect to become a member.

Your membership/donation is fully tax deductible.

Our memberships are $20.00 per year for students, $40.00 per year for
regular members.  You may, of course, donate more if you wish.

Our privacy policy: The Electronic Frontier Foundation will never, under
any circumstances, sell any part of its membership list.  We will, from
time to time, share this list with other non-profit organizations whose
work we determine to be in line with our goals.  But with us, member
privacy is the default. This means that you must actively grant us
permission to share your name with other groups. If you do not grant
explicit permission, we assume that you do not wish your membership
disclosed to any group for any reason.

---------------- EFF MEMBERSHIP FORM ---------------

Mail to: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Inc.
         155 Second St. #28
         Cambridge, MA 02141

I wish to become a member of the EFF  I enclose:$__________
            $20.00 (student or low income membership)
            $40.00 (regular membership)
            $100.00(Corporate or company membership.
                    This allows any organization to
                    become a member of EFF. It allows
                    such an organization, if it wishes
                    to designate up to five individuals
                    within the organization as members.)

  [ ]     I enclose an additional donation of $___________

Name:______________________________________________________

Organization:______________________________________________

Address: __________________________________________________

City or Town: _____________________________________________

State:_______ Zip:________ Phone:(    )_____________(optional)

FAX:(    )____________________(optional)

Email address: ______________________________

I enclose a check [  ]   .
Please charge my membership in the amount of $_____________
to my Mastercard [  ]     Visa [  ]      American Express [ ]  

Number:____________________________________________________

Expiration date: ____________

Signature: ________________________________________________

Date:______________________

I hereby grant permission to the EFF to share my name with
other non-profit groups from time to time as it deems
appropriate   [  ]  .
                       Initials:___________________________

                       -==--==--==-<>-==--==--==-

Seen in InformationLeak:

       "We did Windows applications, but we didn't inhale."

               -- Borland CEO Phillipe Kahn, discussing his firm's
                  support for OS/2 2.0


 =====================================================================
                    EFFector Online is published by
                   The Electronic Frontier Foundation
                 155 Second Street, Cambridge MA 02141
                 Phone:(617)864-0665 FAX:(617)864-0866
                     Internet Address: eff@eff.org
   Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged
               To reproduce signed articles individually,
        please contact the authors for their express permission.
 =====================================================================
JavaScript license information