29 March 2000
[Thanks to DC.]
Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2000
James Woolsey concluded his remarkable piece on the controversy in Europe about commercial espionage with an accurate rebuke: European politicians (and some others) cannot attack the U.S. for commercial snooping and expect to maintain straight faces ("Why We Spy on Our Allies," editorial page, March 17). He was right too to point out that comment on my report to the European Parliament, which he cites heavily, has been selective and misleading. But Mr. Woolsey has in turn been selective. My report cited three examples, not the two he claimed. In the third case, alleged bribery was not the reason for the U.S. targeting the communications of a European aerospace corporation.
A much more important point flows from Mr. Woolsey's forthright acknowledgment of spying on U.S. allies. Whether or not detecting bribery is the true motive, the occasions in which a foreign company behaves corruptly can be uncovered only if its communications are routinely under surveillance, including when it acts lawfully. These communications are tracked by means of intercepting the world's communications arteries, which also carry the private messages of U.S. business and those of the citizens of every nation. Such surveillance is both highly secret and quite lawless. Yes, Mr. Woolsey, the French do it too. And the Russians. And the Chinese. But whichever government is doing the snooping, it amounts to a frontal attack on privacy and constitutional rights.
That is why the same worries have recently filled congressional postbags, and may lead Congress to investigate communications surveillance and constitutional rights for the first time since Sen. Frank Church first exposed such activity in 1976. On this matter at least, the interests of U.S. and European citizens (if not our corporations) are easily aligned. It is time for the electronic snoopers to cease plundering the privacy of international communications.
Senior Research Fellow
Electronic Privacy Information Center
[Thanks to FR, Telepolis.]
Telepolis, March 29, 2000
Jelle van Buuren 29.03.2000
The Green Group in the Parliament found sufficient support to demand a parliamentary inquiry on Echelon
The Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament presented today a list of 172 signatures of Members of European Parliament of all political groups, supporting the establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on Echelon.
This means there are enough signatures for an official demand on an inquiry on Echelon, an espionage system operated by the US, the UK and other countries. The existence of Echelon was revealed in the STOA-Reports. According to parliamentary rules, a quarter of the total number of members of parliament (which equals 157 members) is required for a demand on an inquiry.
The list of signatories is now sent to the president of the European Parliament, Nicole Fontaine. According to the rules, it's now up to the Parliaments Conference of Presidents (an organ consisting of the presidents of all political groups) to make a recommendation for an inquiry, which will then be voted upon in the plenary. Therefore, it is not sure the inquiry will be actually held. A majority of the Parliament has to vote for it.
"Echelon poses a serious threat to democracy, citizens rights and business interests," said Paul Lannoye, co-President of the Green/EFA Group at a press conference in Brussel. "The Greens want to know if the EU Commission and the Council have done enough to protect EU citizens from being spied on in their professional and private lives."
According to Heidi Hautala (Greens), there is enough evidence that Echelon exists and works: "Two tears ago, Commissionair Bangemann simply denied the existence of Echelon, and his successor Frits Bokkestein is continuing to do so. The EU Commission has to wake up to reality. We call upon the EU Commission and Council to show more transparancy in this question and so help to shed light on the legal grey zone in which telecommunication interception is practised."
Tomorrow, The EU Commission and Council will be making statements on Echelon.
[Thanks to anonymous.]
Associated Press, March 29, 2000
Filed at 4:16 p.m. EST
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Many Europeans fear Big Brother has been watching them for decades. Now, they are starting to find out whether a vast U.S.-led espionage network has been snooping into their lives.
The European Parliament opens a probe Thursday into allegations of economic espionage by the U.S.-led Echelon network, accused of snooping on European business communications in a controversial report last month.
The report sent shivers up the spines of many Europeans, especially in Brussels, where key economic and political decisions are made at European Union headquarters.
It painted the picture of an elaborate spy network, masterminded in Washington, eavesdropping on phone calls, faxes and e-mails in the pursuit of commercial gain.
Echelon, a vast global network of electronic monitoring stations, was created in the 1970s as part of an intelligence-gathering agreement between the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to monitor the activities of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.
After the demise of the Soviet threat, Echelon's extensive surveillance operation did not evaporate but actually increased its monitoring capabilities worldwide, the report said.
It said new threats to national security like terrorism and organized crime continued to drive the thirst for information. But political, commercial and diplomatic intelligence were also intercepted, frequently via new communication technologies like the Internet and mobile phones.
"We have to ask ourselves what the security threats are,'' said Robert Evans, vice chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Citizen's Freedoms and Rights. "We are not in an era of massive secrecy any more,'' since the Cold War is over.
The U.S. National Security Agency, which is believed to head Echelon, said last month in a letter to the U.S. Congress that it could "neither confirm nor deny the existence of specific operations.''
"However we can tell you that NSA operates in strict accordance with U.S. laws and regulations,'' it said.
In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro on Tuesday, former CIA director James Woolsey admitted the United States secretly collects information on European companies, but denied giving it to their U.S. competitors.
Woolsey said the operations were limited to companies that violate United Nations sanctions or use bribery or other unethical practices to gain more business.
However, even in the United States, some are not convinced. "More needs to be done to establish the scope and impact of unlawful monitoring,'' said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C.
Yaman Akdeniz of the British Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties group likened the Echelon spy network to "something out of George Orwell's '1984.'''
"This is happening in our democratic societies. The genie is now out of the bottle,'' he said, warning that "we cannot rely on governments anymore for protection.''
"If you want to do business you must take security seriously,'' especially in the high-tech communications sector, Akdeniz said.
Heidi Hautala, a leader of the Green Party, which has spearheaded the investigation, urged European businesses to "rapidly develop their own technology and encryption systems to defend themselves against the attacks which are conducted in the name of the universal security interests of the United States.''
"The big challenge is to get governments to talk on this ... it is all veiled in secrecy,'' Hautala said.
On the Net: Electronic Privacy Information Center site at http://www.epic.org
Cryptome would appreciate a digital copy of the Le Figaro interview with James Woolsey. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
See also, Le Monde, "La sainte alliance de l'espionnage," March 219, 2000: