France-Libya: French firm Amesys, criticised for selling to Gaddafi's Libya, offers customers "lawful or massive interception" of telecommunications

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Numerous articles have been written about the French firm Amesys in recent months, following revelations that its Eagle surveillance system was sold to the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. [1] A presentation recently released by Wikileaks helps to provide an even clearer picture of the nature of the firm's technology. A clear distinction is made between 'lawful' and 'massive' forms of interception, with the company making clear that it is willing and able to provide both. [2]

Entitled 'From Lawful to Massive Interception: Aggregation of sources', the presentation begins with an assessment of the objectives underlying telecommunications interception. This includes the "increasing need [for] high-level intelligence in the constant struggle against criminals and terrorism", and the desire to "reduce crime levels", "protect from terrorism threats" and "identifying new incoming security danger".

The interests of the Gaddafi regime in telecommunications interception of course went beyond the investigation of criminality or terrorism. As noted in the most recent Amnesty International report on Libya:

"The government maintained strict curbs on freedom of expression, association and assembly, and government critics faced arrest and risked prosecution under laws criminalizing peaceful dissent, including the Penal Code and Law 71 of 1972. These prescribe severe punishments – including the death penalty – for activities that amount to no more than the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and association." [3]

The Eagle system would have provided ample opportunity for Libya's intelligence services not just to monitor the activities of terrorists or criminals, but political opponents as well.

Lawful versus massive
While "numerous countries are installing lawful IP interception systems", there are "fundamental differences" between the lawful and massive systems. Lawful interception undertakes basic filtering on an IP address, extracting "some communications from the global flow" based on "predefined targets", analysing "only these communications". Any other data "will be permanently lost".

Massive interception, on the other hand, provides "advanced filtering tools: email address, phone number, ISP account identifier…", and gives the user the ability to "analyse all the communications of the link". The presentation also claims that massive interception permits an "archive of all internet traffic" with "smart search engine to recover communications in the past"; furthermore, "all the communications are [stored] in the system".

Whether these claims are entirely trustworthy cannot be verified. However, it is clear that massive interception would provide numerous advantages to anybody wishing to know a vast amount of detailed information on a particular person or group of people.

Indeed, the advantages of massive interception continue: it permits the "global search and surveillance of all internet traffic"; users will be able to "define current target based on internet classical identifiers", as well as searching a "huge one-year archive" whilst "[keeping] an eye on all the traffic of the network". This will ultimately provide a "global synthesised view".

A massive invasion of privacy
In case the differences were not clear enough by this point, the presentation provides a table that gives a side-by-side comparison of the functions of lawful and massive interception. It is reproduced here in full.

Features  Lawful interception  Massive interception
Recording target's communications  OK OK
Social network for targets OK OK
Search in the past for newly identified targets - OK
Identification of new potential suspects  - OK
Discovery of new targets on:
- Key words
- Key topics
- Social network
 - OK
Information synthesizer and production of top-level intelligence  - OK
Creation of intelligence notes for the authority  - OK
Full country traffic monitoring  - OK
Behavioural analysis of data flow  - OK
Localisation  - OK
Multi captor system  - OK


"Lawful or massive"
The presentation then moves on to discuss the Eagle system more specifically. Its main objective is to provide a central point of view that agglomerates information from "microwave air, GSM air, satellite air, IP network, ethernet, OF, WiFi, ADSL, PSTN" - put more succintly, a "centralised intelligence system gathering all information".

One of the last slides contains a statement that was clearly of no concern to the firms' Libyan customers: "Amesys is able to deliver products for lawful or massive interception", as well as being able to "provide solutions for strategic as well as tactical needs".

When the firm was asked about its contribution to the Gaddafi regime's surveillance network, the company stated that its contract "only concerned the sale of materials capable of analysing a fraction of existing internet connections, only a few thousand". A company press release also claimed that its activities were "in strict accordance with the statutory and regulatory requirements of international, European and French conventions". [4] The content of the presentation released by Wikileaks would seem to cast doubt on both those statements.

[1] For example, the archive on
[2] Amesys, 'From Lawful to Massive Interception: Aggregation of sources', 2008
[3] Amnesty International, 'Annual Report 2011: Libya - Repression of dissent'
[4] Statewatch News Online, 'Legal complaint lodged against the French firm Amesys of complicity in acts of torture perpetrated by the Gaddafi regime in Libya', October 2011

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