US Is World's Biggest
Digital Era Spy
The Toronto Star
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 survey.
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 surveillance.
''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 systems.
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 <'Electronic Privacy Information Center <'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.

This Site Served by TheHostPros