Info update on ECHELON within the European Union.

Published: Fri 23 Jun 2000 11:01 AM
Nizkor Int. Human Rights Team
Derechos Human Rights
Serpaj Europe
Information 2/2
[vi) messages]
Internal wrangling about procedural mistakes and rumours about British attempts to block inquiry. After a week of internal wrangling in the European Parliament, parliament's president Nicole Fontaine assured that the decision on an inquiry committee on the Echelon spying system will be taken by the plenary session of the European Parliament. The decision will however not be taken this week, as the Greens demanded, but in july.
The Greens accused last week the big political parties of the European Parliament of obstructing the inquiry. The major political parties first rejected the wish to install an inquiry committee and favoured a weaker temporary committee. Then, they asked the parliaments legal service opinion on the mandate for such a committee. The legal service declared last week a temporary committee cannot lead an inquiry. The Conference of Presidents (which unites the leaders of the political groups in Parliament) was unable to decide last week on how to proceed the investigation.
The Greens accused the major political parties of obstruction and asked for a plenary vote this week on the issue. The leader of the Socialist Group, Enrique Baron Crespo, sought to dismiss the Greens proposal on procedural grounds, arguing that at this late stage it could not be added to the parliaments agenda. The rumour is British officials were pressuring Nicole Fountaine and the big political parties to block any probe into the operation of Echelon. But now Fontaine has made it clear the parliaments plenary will vote on the issue in july. The Greens will repeat their demand for a fully-fledged inquiry committee on Echelon. Paul Lannoye, president of the Green Group said:
'The decision of the Parliament's Presidency sets an important precedence. By having a vote in plenary, the wishes of 180 signatories of all political groups to have an inquiry committee is treated with democratic respect.'
[Source: Jelle van Buuren. Verlag Heinz Heise, Hannover. 15jun00 ]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------- ii) GREENS: EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT IS OBSTRUCTING INQUIRY ON ECHELON.
Legal service of Europan Parlimant says a temporary committee cannot lead an inquiry.
The Greens in the European Parliament are accusing the big political parties in Parliament of obstructing the inquiry on Echelon. Yesterday, the Conference of Presidents (which unites the leaders of the political groups in Parliament) has been unable to decide how to proceed on how to investigate into the Echelon spying system.
The Greens asked for a inquiry committee on Echelon, which has more powers to conduct an investigation. This proposal was first rejected by the major political groups in Parliament. Instead, they proposed a much weaker temporary committee. After that, they asked the parliament's legal service opinion on the mandate for such a committee. Green member Heidi Hautala qualifies this as an attempt to 'gain more time'.
The opinion of the legal service, which came out this week, states a temporary committee cannot lead an inquiry. According to the Greens, this was to be expected. They think the major political groups in Parliament are obstructing a serious inquiry into Echelon. The Greens now reiterate the demand that European Parliament establishes an inquiry committee. They reject the view that it is upon the Conference of Presidents to decide on such a matter and wants the case submitted to a vote in the plenary.
[Source: Jelle van Buuren. Verlag Heinz Heise, Hannover. 09jun00]
The European Commission is preparing new legislation setting out the conditions under which telecoms operators must allow law enforcement agencies to intercept e-mail messages. The proposals, which will have to be agreed by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers, will also lay down obligations for the prevention of "spam" mail, including all anonymous and unsolicited messages.
The proposed directive, part of wider measures to combat Internet crime, will extend the existing EU data privacy directive into e-mail and other Internet applications, and will acknowledge that interception can be justified in criminal investigations and in the defence of national security. "But under no circumstances may it be used for commercial espionage," said a spokesman for Erkki Liikanen, EU Commissioner for the information society.
The ban on anonymous e-mail, also considered an anti-crime measure, has already been recommended by a committee of the European Parliament.
Commission officials believe the language of the revised directive could be enough to head off further protests from Euro MPs about the U.K.'s involvement in the U.S. Echelon espionage network. U.S. officials have admitted that Echelon has intercepted messages sent by European companies, but says this has only happened where sanction-busting or corruption were suspected. The U.K. says it co-operates with other countries' intelligence services in the interests of national security.
The revised EU directive is due to be adopted formally by the Commission on June 27th.
The Commission is also working on proposals for tighter co-operation between EU law enforcement agencies to combat cyber-crime. These include plans for specialized training in the detection of Internet crime and a programme to alert the telecoms industry and its customers.
And on June 13th the EU council of ministers will adopt a new regulatory framework covering encryption. This will include regulation to liberalize exports, both within and outside the European Union, of encryption products.
"This will enhance the security of the Internet, because industry will get a bigger platform, in terms of market size, on which it can develop products," said the Commission spokesman. "Users will find it easier to get hold of such products and so be in a better position to protect themselves and their electronic transmissions."
Meanwhile, the long-standing dispute between the EU and the United States over application of the EU's data protection directive appears to have been settled. The directive prohibits transmission of personal data to countries that lack adequate safeguards against misuse of the information, and according to the EU this had included the U.S.
But now a working committee of the EU Council has endorsed an agreement based on the U.S. accepting a number of "safe harbor" principles. In effect, this means information may be passed on "only with the explicit permission of the person identified by that data."
This will not be legally enforceable on U.S. companies, but Council officials are said to be satisfied with assurances from the Clinton administration that Washington will act if it appears that self-regulation is being abused.
The agreement will have to be approved by the EU institutions, but Commission officials expect no problems.
[Source: Total Telecom - By Alan Osborn - 06jun00]
Council Conclusions:
The Council had an exchange of views on the European Parliament's debates on interception of telecommunications outside of any legal framework.
The Council reaffirms its attachment to respect for the fundamental principles relating to the protection of human rights and personal freedoms, both for natural and legal persons, as recognised by the Treaty on European Union.
While telecommunications interception may be an important tool in combating crime or for the defence of national security, in no case may it be used to gain commercial advantage.
The Council has noted that the Commission intends shortly to bring forward appropriate measures for achieving a more secure information society.
The Council asks the Presidency to see to it that the relevant Council working parties ensure compliance with the above principles and that they encourage, in particular, any preventive measure which may protect against the abuse of new technologies.
[Source: Press Release - Justice and Home Affairs Council - Council of the European Union - Brussels - Nr: 3050/00 - 29may00]
The European Council on Justice and Home Affairs discussed yesterday [29may00] during lunch Echelon, the Anglo-American spying network that according to reports of the European Parliament is being used to intercept sensitive economical and political communication.
Although the European ministers of Justice said hard proof is failing for the accusations, they are worried about the possible misuse of electronic spionage. ' While telecommunication interception may be an important tool in combatting crime or for the defence of national security, in no case may it be used to gain commercial advantage,' according to the Council.
The ministers decided to install a technical working group, which has to investigate if 'technical measures', like strong encryption, are possible to prevent the misuse of intercepted material. The Council hailed the initiative of the European Commission to bring forward appropriate measures for 'achieving a more secure information society'. Further, it instructed Council working parties to encourage 'preventive measures which may protect against the abuse of new technologies.'
Dutch minister of Justice Benk Korthals said to the Dutch press there was no real proof of spying, but it was better to take preventive measures. He asked for further studies on the possibility to make international rules regarding the interception of telecommunications. Also, he warned for the possibility organised crime would get the technical possibilities to intercept satellite communications.
[Source: Jelle van Buuren - Verlag Heinz Heise - Hannover - 30may00]
STRASBOURG, 27.04.2000 - The COUNCIL OF EUROPE today released a draft version of a Convention on crime in cyberspace for public discussion in order to enhance the consultation process with interested parties, whether public or private. Businesses and associations are particularly encouraged to share their comments with the experts involved in the negotiations before the final adoption of the text.
Provisionally entitled "Draft Convention on Cyber-Crime", this Council of Europe text will be the first international treaty to address criminal law and procedural aspects of various types of offending behaviour directed against computer systems, networks or data as well as other similar abuses.
This legally-binding text aims to harmonise national legislation in this field, facilitate investigations and allow efficient levels of co-operation between the authorities of different States.
The text should be finalised by a group of experts by December 2000 and the Committee of Ministers could adopt the text and open it for signature as early as Autumn 2001.
The text of the draft Convention can be found on the following website:
More information for editors :
Recent attacks against commercial web-sites, such as, drew international attention to the dangers that the Internet and other computer networks need to face: cyber-criminals and cyber-terrorists threaten business and government interests and may cause colossal damages. Time has come for the Council of Europe to take action, which today released a draft Convention to deal with crime in cyberspace. This document, provisionally entitled “Draft Convention on Cyber-crime”, will be the first ever international treaty to address criminal law and procedural aspects of various types of criminal behaviour directed against computer systems, networks or data and other types of similar misuse.
The draft provides, among others, for the co-ordinated criminalisation of computer hacking and hacking devices, illegal interception of data and interference with computer systems, computer-related fraud and forgery. It also prohibits on-line child pornography, including the possession of such material after downloading, as well the reproduction and distribution of copyright protected material. The draft Convention will not only define offences but will also address questions related to the liability of individual and corporate offenders and determine minimum standards for the applicable penalties.
The draft text also deals with law enforcement issues: future Parties will be obliged to empower their national authorities to carry out computer searches and seize computer data, require data-subjects to produce data under their control, preserve or obtain the expeditious preservation of vulnerable data by data-subjects. The interception of data transmitted through networks, including telecommunication networks, is also under discussion. These computer-specific investigative measures will also imply co-operation by telecom operators and Internet Service Providers, whose assistance is vital to identify computer criminals and secure evidence of their misdeeds.
As computer-crimes are often international in their nature, national measures need to be supplemented by international co-operation. The draft treaty therefore requires future Parties to provide each other various forms of assistance, for example by preserving evidence and locating on-line suspects. The text also deals with certain aspects of trans-border computer searches. Traditional forms of mutual assistance and extradition would also be available under the draft Convention and a network of 24 hours/ day, 7 days/week availablenational contact points would be set up to speed up international investigations.
The 41-nation Council of Europe has previously produced two recommendations on the question, in 1989 and in 1995, to encourage governments to adapt laws to the challenge of computer-related crime, but later a binding legal instrument was considered necessary to harmonise computer-crime provisions, step up investigations and ensure effective international co-operation among authorities. The draft Convention is expected to be finalised by an expert group by December 2000 and the Committee of Ministers could adopt the text and open it for signature as early as September 2001. Given the importance of the subject, non-member States, such as Canada, Japan, South-Africa and the United States, also actively participate in the negotiations.
By releasing the latest draft of the treaty, the Council of Europe seeks to enhance the consultation process with interested parties, whether public or private. It particularly encourages business and civil society organisations to come forward and share their comments with the experts involved in the negotiations before the text eventually becomes final. "
[Source: Council of Europe Press Service - Treaty Office - 27apr00]
USEFUL LINKS: - International campaign against Echelon Global System: EchelonWatch - Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill - Text of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, as passed by the House of Commons and introduced in the House of Lords on 9th May 2000. - Global Internet Liberty Campaign - GILC (Main issues: free speech, privacy, cryptography, access) - Report on International Status of Privacy: "Privacy and Human Rights 1999". Electronic Privacy Information Center Washington, DC, USA.Privacy International London, UK - "Cryptography and Liberty 1999: An international Survey of Encryption Policy". Electronic Privacy Information Center Washington, DC - "An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control". Scientific and Technological Options Assessment - STOA. 06jan98. - Echelon: Development of surveillance technology and risk of abuse of economic information - STOA reports - PDF Files - 10/1999 - European Parliament [ENG/ING]
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