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[FYI] "Electronic Snoopers Plunder Our Rights"


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29 March 2000 

[Thanks to DC.] 


Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2000 

Editorial page/letters 

Electronic Snoopers Plunder Our Rights 

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 

Duncan Campbell 
Senior Research Fellow 
Electronic Privacy Information Center 


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