mailing list archives
IP: Europe & techno surveillance
From: Dave Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Fri, 04 Dec 1998 05:03:34 -0500
Reply-To: "Thomas Newbold" <tomn () terminal cz>
From: "Thomas Newbold" <tomn () terminal cz>
To: <farber () cis upenn edu>
I am sure we will hear a lot more about this, despite the shroud of secrecy
and closed-door approach.
tnewbold () thelocalscene com
Europe readies police techno-surveillance law
By Niall McKay
SAN FRANCISCO (Wired) - The European Union is quietly getting ready to
approve legislation that will allow the police to eavesdrop both on Internet
conversations and Iridium satellite telephone calls without obtaining court
The legislation is part of a much wider memorandum of understanding between
the EU, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Norway, a nonmember
European nation. That agreement allows authorities to conduct telecom
surveillance across international borders, according to a Europol document
leaked to members of the European Parliament.
''Security measures are often necessary in the cases of terrorism or
organized crime,'' said Glyn Ford, a member of the European Parliament for
the British Labour Party and a director of the EU's Civil Liberties and
Internal Affairs Committee. ''But what we need is some sort of democratic
control. It seems to me that many security services are a law unto
That will presumably be a topic of discussion when the European Council of
Ministers meets behind closed doors Thursday to update a 1995 wiretap
agreement known as the Legal Interception of Telecommunications Resolution.
If approved, it would permit real-time, remote monitoring of email, as well
as of calls placed on satellite telephone networks such as those maintained
by Iridium and Globalstar. Unlike most laws in Europe, the agreement will
allow law enforcement to listen in without a court order.
''This is a US export,'' said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic
Privacy Information Center. ''It's a European version of the Communications
Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.'' The act, passed in 1984, was intended
to allow law enforcers to tap the digital lines of tomorrow, just as they
tap analog phone lines now.
Ironically, in September, the European Parliament called for accountability
of Echelon, the US National Security Agency's spying network that is
reportedly able to intercept, record, and translate any electronic
communication-telephone, data, cellular, fax, email, or telex.
Under European law, representatives of each member nation can pass legally
binding resolutions. Further, the resolutions don't require the approval of
either the European Parliament or the individual parliaments of EU members.
Many European Parliament members are outraged that the Council of Ministers
has been acting in secret. They are especially concerned about the inclusion
of non-EU nations in the agreement.
Patricia McKenna, a representative for Britain's Green Party, will raise the
issue in Parliament this week. She also intends to ask Europe's Justice and
Internal Affairs Council to ''justify the secrecy and lack of consultation
surrounding these initiatives.''
McKenna is requesting what she described as an ''open debate on the crucial
and far-reaching measures, with enormous potential impact in the realm of
Another member of the European Parliament believes that the so-called
''update resolutions'' will have staggering implications for personal
''This legislation is not just a technical update,'' said Johannes
Voggenhuber, an Austrian representative for the European Parliament. ''It
places the onus on the telecommunications carrier to provide a watertight
back door to police.''
The European Council for General Security prepared the amendment with
technical assistance from the FBI, according to the Europol document leaked.
The four major satellite telephone operators-Iridium, Globalstar, Odyssey,
and ICO-will be required by the law to provide access to European law
enforcement through ground stations in France, Italy, England, and Germany.
Iridium officials could not be reached for comment.
It is unclear how the memorandum of understanding will affect US citizens.
''I find it very hard to believe that a foreign nation-any foreign
nation-could eavesdrop on US citizens,'' said John Pike, a security analyst
with the Federation of American Scientists.
''It's one thing for the FBI to try and track terrorists across
international borders, but it's entirely another to let Europeans tap US
The FBI would neither confirm nor deny any relationship between the United
States and the other nations involved in the memorandum of understanding.
However, Rotenberg said such provisions are already in place under the 1994
Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.
While the new European law is being sold to EU member states as a means of
combating what the legislation calls ''serious and organized'' crime, there
is no clear definition of this phrase.
''It simply concerns any punishable offense,'' said Tony Bunyan, director of
Statewatch, a European civil liberties group.
- IP: Europe & techno surveillance Dave Farber (Dec 04)