EU: Surveillance report

Statewatch bulletin, vol 8 no 1 (January-February 1998)

An excellent report prepared by Steve Wright of the Omega Foundation in Manchester for the European Parliament (EP) sets out in frightening detail the surveillance systems being constructed in the EU. The report, prepared for the Scientific and Technical Options Assessment Panel of the EP, deals with both technology exported from the EU to third world countries and the surveillance and control systems to be used within the EU. It covers surveillance systems; data gathering, processing and filtering devices; biometric and other human identity recognition tools; so-called "less-lethal" weapons for crowd control; new prison control systems; and torture techniques.

The report gives information on the global surveillance system run by the military-intelligence community (military and intelligence agencies) called ECHELON run by the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Bases in these countries trawl the electronic airwaves and download all information held in "Dictionaries" of keywords, phrases and people's names. It also gives details of the EU-FBI surveillance system being set up for the law enforcement agencies community (police, customs, immigration and internal security services) to monitor all telecommunications (phones calls, faxes and e-mails) (see Statewatch, vol 7 no 1).

The report says there has been a "political shift in targeting". Instead of investigating crime (which is a reactive) law enforcement agencies are now "tracking certain social classes and races of people living in red-lined areas before crime is committed", a form pre-emptive policing dubbed "data surveillance" based on military models of gathering huge amounts of low-grade intelligence and digging out deviant patterns. Glyn Ford MEP, who is on the STOA Panel, hopes that the report will be the first step in establishing more openness: "Some democratically elected body should surely have a right to know at some level. At the moment that's nowhere".

An appraisal of technologies of political control: final report, working document for the STOA Panel, April 1997, PE 166.499/Final; Daily Telegraph, 6.12.97.


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