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[FYI] (Fwd) [NEWS] Reuters on COE Convention

------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Mon, 4 Dec 2000 15:20:34 -0500
From:           	David Sobel <sobel@epic.org>
Subject:        	[NEWS] Reuters on COE Convention
To:             	GILC Plan <gilc-plan@gilc.org>
Send reply to:  	gilc-plan@gilc.org

Monday December 4 2:21 PM ET

U.S. Embraces European Computer Crime Proposal

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has endorsed the gist
of a controversial European drive to tighten cybercrime laws
over the protests of privacy, civil liberties and human rights

The central provisions of the 41-nation Council of Europe's
latest draft convention ``are consistent with the existing
framework of U.S. law and procedure,'' the Justice Department
said in a Friday posting on its cybercrime Web site.

At issue is the first multilateral pact drafted specifically to
deal with the cross-border nature of much computer-related

When ready, it would be opened for signature worldwide in an
effort to slash the procedural and jurisdictional obstacles that
law enforcers say play into the hands of criminals operating
through the Internet.

Targeted are such things as malicious code to disable Web sites
as well as computer use for such garden-variety crimes like
fraud, copyright infringement and distribution of child

The United States will decide whether to join only after the
drafting is wrapped up, probably later this month, and the
treaty is opened for signature, perhaps by the end of next year,
the Justice Department said.

But in a ``Frequently Asked Questions'' text, it played down
charges that the pact would stretch the long arm of the police
improperly in cyberspace, trample on individual privacy and
erode government accountability.

One key issue had to do with data-retention requirements for
Internet Service Providers, companies that serve as electronic
gateways to the Web.

Worldwide Groups

In an October 18 statement signed by groups around the world,
critics said logs based on such archived data had been used to
track dissidents and persecute minorities.

``We urge you not to establish this requirement in a modern
communications network,'' said a 27-group coalition including
the American Civil Liberties Union, Privacy International and
the Internet Society.

``Police agencies and powerful private interests acting outside
of the democratic means of accountability have sought to use a
closed process to establish rules that will have the effect of
binding legislation,'' the groups added.

In its response to these concerns, the Justice Department said
there was no such retention requirement at issue but a data
``preservation'' provision.

``Preservation is not a new idea; it has been the law in the
United States for nearly five years,'' the statement said.

Similarly, it discounted critics' fears that the convention
would mandate surveillance capabilities be built into service
providers' architecture.

But ``there is no prohibition on states imposing such
requirements if necessary under their legal systems,'' the
posting said.

The latest draft by a panel of the Council of Europe, the 24th
in a marathon that began in the late 1980s with U.S. support,
was released on Nov. 19. The United States has had a ''real
voice'' in the drafting process, represented by the Departments
of State and Justice in close consultation with other U.S.
agencies, the FAQ said.

David Sobel, general counsel of the Washington-based Electronic
Privacy Information Center, said the Justice Department was in
effect acknowledging that the treaty could be read ``to require
some things that are very controversial,'' including redesign of
system architecture to facilitate surveillance.

Washington currently exempts Internet service providers from the
Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The
law, crafted largely at the behest of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, requires other U.S. telecommunications providers
and equipment manufacturers to build in a window for
court-ordered wiretaps.

Barry Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil
Liberties Union, said the pact could force police in the United
States to conduct searches under rules established by treaty
''that don't respect the limits of police powers imposed by the
U.S. Constitution.''


. David L. Sobel, General Counsel              *   +1 202 483 1140
(tel) Electronic Privacy Information Center        *   +1 202 483 1248
(fax) 1718 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Suite 200        *   sobel@epic.org
Washington, DC 20009   USA                   *   http://www.epic.org .

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