EU-FBI telecommunications surveillance system: origins and background


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Statewatch uses the above concept as it describes the origins of the system and its global implications. Other commentators use the term "ENFOPOL" which is the acronym used by the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) for hundreds of reports concerning "Police cooperation" in the EU. Another acronym "ASIM" is used for reports covering immigration and asylum.

"ENFOPOL" reports cover, for example, police training, public order, forensic science, DNA etc and the practical aspects of the EU-FBI system. "ENFOPOL" is not a new agency or institution (on the other hand Europol, which became operational on 1 July 1999, is a new agency).

The term "ENFOPOL" does symbolise the EU's policing policy on law enforcement in general.

The EU-FBI system will introduce a new practice:

1) by providing the technical means for intercepting telecommunications (e-mails, faxes, and phone calls) by laying obligations on network and service providers and,

2) by providing the legal powers within the EU to intercept (with consequential new laws at national level). The broad powers are in the draft Convention on Mutual Assistance in criminal matters currently being finalised by the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council.

See Statewatch bulletins vol 7 nos 1, 4 & 5; vol 8 nos 5 & 6; vol 9 no 2.

The report by Statewatch 10.2.97 sets out the origins of the 1995 IUR "Requirements"; the second released on 24.3.97 includes: a) an exchange of correspondence between the then UK Home Secretary and Statewatch's editor and b) pinpointed the non-EU group ILETS (International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar") as a key player (Duncan Campbell tracked down more details of their meetings in 1999, see below):

These initial reports were followed up, in the autumn of 1997, by two further reports from Statewatch.

The first report showed that the development of the EU-FBI telecommunications surveillance system was taking place outside the formal structures of the EU - without any form of accountability - through international groups like ILETS. It also revealed that new satellite-based telecommunications companies, like Iridium, were to have "ground stations" in the EU.

The second report revealed that alongside these developments the EU Council of Ministers (representing the 15 EU governments) realised that new legal powers were needed if they were to implement the EU-FBI plan (which in turn has led to major changes in national law on telecommunications surveillance). The mechanism the EU chose was to insert new clauses in the draft Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters (which is still being discussed).

This report also showed that by deciding to use this draft Convention to provide new legal powers the EU placed no test of "serious crime" or "organised crime" on the use of new surveillance powers.

Following the publication of these four Statewatch reports in 1997 the media, the European Parliament and voluntary groups across the EU took up the issue (Thomas Mathiesen, University of Oslo, also exposed the EU-FBI system in the same period). Other groups linked the issue to the debates and revelations on encryption and Echelon.

Confusing terminology

The confusion of terms abounds - there is Europol, "Enfopol", Echelon, encryption and "EU-FBI". Echelon is often confused with the EU-FBI surveillance system ("Enfopol").

A handy way of distinguishing Echelon from the EU-FBI surveillance system is that Echelon is run by and serves the "military-intelligence community" and the EU-FBI telecommunications surveillance system will serve the "law enforcement community" (police, customs, immigration and internal security).

Two reports undertaken for the European Parliament are particularly useful: "An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control" by the Omega Foundation, UK brought Echelon to the attention of the parliament and is on stoa-atpc.htm and Duncan Campbell's report on COMINT (Communications Intelligence) has extensive coverage of Echelon and deals with ILETS's role in paras 86-93, it is on "Interception Capabilities 2000" (6.5.99).

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