- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
United States has led a worldwide drive to build the groundwork for expanded
snooping in the digital era, two civil-rights groups allege in a new
- The Electronic Privacy Information Center and Privacy
International highlight what they call a push led by the FBI toward wiretap-friendly
international communications standards.
- ''The U.S. government has led a worldwide effort to limit
individual privacy and enhance the capability of its police and intelligence
services to eavesdrop on personal conversations,'' the report, Privacy
& Human Rights 2000, said.
- The survey, to be released next week at a privacy conference
in Venice, Italy, said FBI Director Louis Freeh has nudged countries such
as Hungary and the Czech Republic to expand wiretapping.
- FBI spokesman Steven Berry said the bureau is reserving
comment on the report. In the early 1990s, it spearheaded what became the
1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcment Act, which requires telecommunications
equipment-makers to leave their gear open to wiretaps.
- U.S. authorities argued they needed such a law to keep
up with criminals using sophisticated technology to dodge court-authorized
- ''When the FBI was lobbying for CALEA in the United States,
it also began working with the justice and interior ministers of the European
Union toward creating international technical standards for wiretapping,''
the report said.
- It also cited the FBI's recently-disclosed Carnivore
e-mail surveillance system, used with court orders to scan an Internet
service-provider's traffic for communications to and from a criminal suspect.
- Quoting unnamed Russian computer-security experts, the
report said U.S. officials advised Moscow on implementation of such network-surveillance
- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, in turn, proposed
requiring Internet service-providers to install surveillance devices based
on a Russian system, the report said.
- David Banisar, a Washington lawyer who is chief author
of the survey, said the United States pressed Japan to adopt its first
laws allowing wiretapping. In addition, it had been promoting surveillance
through the G-7 group of the largest industrialized countries, plus Russia,
the report said.
- Banisar, in a telephone interview, said one result of
U.S. policy has been to make it easier for repressive countries to maintain
control over their citizens.
- ''And it also increases the amount of illegal wiretapping
going on by making it technically easier,'' he said.
- Separately, the report detailed what is known about Echelon,
the reported codename for a communications-interception system said to
be operated by intelligence agencies in Canada, Britain, Australia and
New Zealand and co-ordinated by the U.S. National Security Agency.
- ''The creation of a seamless international intelligence
and law-enforcement surveillance system has resulted in the potential for
a huge international network that may, in practice, negate current rules
and regulations prohibiting domestic communications surveillance by national
intelligence agencies,'' it said.
- RELATED LINKS <http://www.epic.org/privacy/'Electronic
Privacy Information Center <http://cpsr.org/cpsr/privacy/epic/privacy_resources_faq.html'EPIC
online guide to privacy resources Washington also has sought to
curb the development and sale of hardware and software featuring strong
encryption, the communications-scrambling know-how aimed at securing data
from prying eyes, the survey said.
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