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Technical Aspects of Electronic Surveillance

Technical Aspects of Electronic Surveillance

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Published by Flavio Bernardotti
Technical Aspects of Electronic Surveillance
Technical Aspects of Electronic Surveillance

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Published by: Flavio Bernardotti on Jun 15, 2013
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TechnicalAspects of ElectronicSurveillance
he evolution of the modern telephone system, from its in-vention in 1876 followed a predictable path of develop-ment until digital technology and optical fiber beganseriously supplanting analog technology and copper wirein the U.S. telephone system. Since about the 1970s the technolo-gy of electronic switching, digital processing, computer architec-ture, and optical transmission have progressively developed intocommercial devices and applications whose low costs and broadcapabilities have made these technologies the foundation of a newera of communications.
The speed with which the nation’s communication system isshifting from a wire-based analog system to digital computer-controlled switches and optical fiber is astounding. In 1989, near-ly one-half of the major telephone companies’ switches weredigital. By 1993 the proportion of digital switches had grown to80 percent.
Fiber optic transmission systems also are rapidly dis-placing copper in local service and long distance carriers. In 1985,long distance carriers had about 20,000 miles of fiber optic cablein service. By 1993 the long distance companies reported slightly
Material in this chapter was synthesized from documents prepared by the variousaction teams of the Electronic Communication Service Providers (ECSP) committee, op-erating under the aegis of the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions(ASIS). The OTA project director for this report attended the functions of the ECSP undera nondisclosure agreement. The material herein contains no information considered to besensitive by the law enforcement agencies, or proprietary by the industry personnel re-viewing the draft document.
Testimony of A. Richard Metzger, Jr., Deputy Chief, Common Carrier Bureau, Fed-eral Communications Commission, before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committeeon Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, Sept. 13,1994, 103d Cong., 2d sess.
30|Electronic Surveillance in a Digital Age
more than 99,000 miles of optical fiber.
Localtelephone companies had about 17,000 miles of optical fiber installed in 1985, and this grew toover 225,000 miles by 1993.
The recent explosion of wireless communica-tion has extended mobile service to more than 734metropolitan and rural service areas. These ser-vice areas geographically overlay the wiredtelecommunication systems to which they inter-connect. Currently, there are over 1,100 cellularswitches in operation in the United States.
Thegrowth of wireless communication has been re-markable. Today, there are more than 16 millioncellular subscribers, and the cellular industry esti-mates that subscribership will double by 1998.
Following behind is the next generation of wire-less services, the new Personal CommunicationServices (PCS), which are similar in function totoday’s cellular communication services, but newPCS entrants may develop entirely new servicesin the future, which could present different prob-lems to law enforcement agencies. Coming nextwill be satellite-based communications systemsfor personal communication that could extendwireless communication to nearly every quarter of the world.In addition, a convergence of digital and analogtechnologies is bringing other nontraditional sec-tors of the communication industry into what oncewas the domain of the telephone companies. Gov-ernment deregulation and industry restructuringhas the potential for further blurring the businesslines between the cable television industry andthe telephone carriers, and has raised the prospectthat electrical utilities might someday be com-petitors in the telecommunications market aswell.
Through the 1950s and into the 1970s law en-forcement’s wiretap requirements were easilymet. The nation’s telephone system largely con-sisted of twisted copper wires that connected sub-scribers to central office switches that routed thecalls to their destinations through copper cables oroverland via microwave radio, and later satellites.The transmitting and receiving instruments werecommonly used telephones. Business may havehad Private Branch Exchanges (PBX) to routetheir calls. But in general, it was a comparativelysimple system of wires connected to switches thatconnected to other wires that routed the calls tobusinesses and residences. Law enforcement offi-cials, armed with the necessary legal authoriza-tion, would simply physically connect “alligatorclips” to wire terminals and monitor the contentsof calls coming to and going from the telephoneline authorized in the wiretap order. (See figure2-1.) Since much of the system was under the con-trol of American Telephone and Telegraph(AT&T), although GTE and other independenttelephone companies operated as well, the nation-al system was largely based on the same stan-dards, operating protocol, and equipment designused by AT&T.In the recent past, additional complexities wereadded to the system when transmission technolo-gies for the copper-based analog system were de-veloped to provide more bandwidth, and hencespeed, to handle larger volumes of calls. A trans-mission mode referred to by its industry standardsname, “T1,” and a faster version “T3,” which wasoriginally developed for intrasystem high-speedtrunking, became available for high-volume us-ers, largely businesses.
Federal Communications Commission, Fiber Deployment Update, table 1, May 1994.
Id at table 5.
Testimony of Thomas W. Wheeler, President and CEO, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, before hearings of the U.S.House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, Sept. 19, 1994.
Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, “The Wireless Factbook,” p. 36, spring 1994.
James Carlini, Telecom Services, “Utilities are Hungary for a Piece of the Action,”
 Network World 
, p. 55, Sept. 19, 1994.
Chapter 2 Technical Aspects of Electronic Surveillance 131
SOURCE Off Ice of Technology Assessment, 1995
This technology gains its speed by separatingthe electronic signal into discrete segments di-vided sequentially in time (Time Division Multi-plex, or TDM) and routing them sequentially over
the line to be resequenced at the receiver (demulti-plexed). In this way the signals are virtually routed
channels so
that many more bits of informa-tion can be transmitted over the wire or coaxialcable at the same time.Multiplexing can increase the normal speed of transmission from thousands of bits per second(kbs) to 1.544 million bits per second (Mbs) forT1 and 45 Mbs at the T3 rate. Because multiplex-
ing breaks the continuity of the signal in the trans-
mission phase, it places an additional degree of difficulty for electronic surveillance. Also, since1984, long distance carriage has been separated
from the local exchange carrier, so that now an in-
tercepted call might flow among several differentcarriers on its way to or from a target. (See figure
The current telecommunication environment isconsiderably more complex. Wireless technologyhas expanded the reach of the telephone system.The combination of digital transmission, im-bedded computer databases, digital switching,
and the increased speed of optical fiber cables pro-
vide many more functions, options, and flexibil-ity. As a result, many of the functions andoperations, which were once the sole province of the telephone operating companies, are now per-formed directly by the subscriber, sometimeswithout the knowledge and control of the carrier.Wide-area centrex operations, for instance, allowa large business subscriber to manage a commu-nication system within the carriers network, butindependent of the carrier with regard to assigninginternal number, call routing, and location identi-fication-a virtual network within the carrier’snetwork. Wireless subscribers may roam outsidetheir home service area. Features such as call for-warding, speed dialing, call transfer, and special-ized high-speed computer-based services addcomplexity to the problems of wiretapping for lawenforcement agencies. (See figure 2-3.)The future operating environment will containseveral additional actors than are now present inthe telecommunication network. Personal com-munication service providers (PCS) will extendthe reach of wireless communication adding more

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