Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Wired Magazine reports EU ECHELON report due in two

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Date:          Thu, 08 Apr 1999 18:28:46 -0400
From:          Paul Wolf <>
Subject:       Wired Magazine reports EU ECHELON report due in two weeks

WIRED: Big Brother Taps the Bitstream   April 7, 1999

by Declan McCullagh 

WASHINGTON -- Bob Barr is an unlikely defender of civil liberties. 

A former federal prosecutor and fierce opponent of gay rights and
abortion, he recently won national notoriety as a House floor manager
who argued at length for impeachment. 

But on Tuesday, the staunch Georgia conservative showed up here at the
Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference to warn of the dangers of
an overly intrusive government. 

Barr said that as the 19th century dawned, natural resources were
vital to our country. A century later, it was financial resources.
Now, he said, information "will represent power in the 21st century." 

He condemned the collection of information by both corporations and
the government, and said that Congress needs to intervene. 

"We need to look for ways to make these issues nonpartisan," Barr
said, advising the audience to become active in lobbying their
legislators and federal agencies. 

Public outcry, he said, was what caused bank regulators to abandon the
reviled "Know Your Customer" plan, as well as another scheme that
would have led to a de facto national ID card. "The public was heavily

Other panelists described a growing trend toward global electronic
monitoring, including the latest developments in the National Security
Agency's surveillance system, first documented in James Bamford's The
Puzzle Palace. 

Steve Wright from the UK-based Omega Foundation recounted his
investigation into Echelon, an international network of highly
sensitive listening posts operated in part by the supersecret NSA. 

The system taps 2 million calls an hour, Wright said, and has been the
subject of an investigation by the European Parliament. The report
will be released in two weeks. 

The Austrians have their own problems. A proposal that is nearly
certain to become law will expand police surveillance capability to a
level not seen since the Nazis, said Erich Moechel from Quintessenz.
"They can wiretap according to this law ... without the order of an
independent court," he said. 

And Russia? Forget about it. The country has already banned encryption
software that can be used to shield sensitive information from prying
eyes. More recently, the FSB -- the successor to the KGB -- has
required Internet service providers to allow agents to monitor all

"[They] must maintain hardware, software, and a dedicated line to the
local FSB department," Moechel said. The US government has required
telephone companies to build in similar capabilities, though officials
say surveillance will take place only with a court order. 

A representative from the US Department of Justice said that societies
had to balance freedom with security. No surveillance at all would be
fine, said Scott Charney, "if everyone were law abiding, but they're

Charney, who heads the agency's computer crime unit, said the threats
of child pornography, terrorism, and hackers like Kevin Mitnick mean
technology should be restricted. 

One audience member asked whether Justice Department-backed
restrictions on overseas encryption sales that keep encryption out of
the hands of human rights workers in Kosovo can be justified. "You
have to balance a lot of competing equities," Charney replied. 

The CFP conference continues through Thursday evening.

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