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Global surveillance

Global surveillance differs from national surveillance only in its goals. Instead of keeping the own population under surveillance, other nations and foreign companies are the targets. Thus, this is not the responsibility of law enforcement authorities but intelligence agencies.

According to the official position of the U.S., surveillance is only used to track terrorists and criminals all over the world and as a means for counter-espionage.

There is one known system that is capable of global surveillance - Echelon. This system is described in detail in the following section. Besides Echelon, I only found references to two similar systems.

One of these systems is operated by France. I have only found two references, but not even the name of the system. Nevertheless, the sources seem to be quite credible ([24] and [42]). According to this information, France maintains several stations for eavesdropping all over the world in countries that were former colonies. Besides several stations in France, there are stations in the Central African Republic, Guadeloupe, on Reunion, in Guyana, and in the United Arabic Emirates.

Whereas that system might exist and work, there are plans to launch a global surveillance system by the European Union and the FBI (see [22], [30], [31], [34]).

In 1995, the European countries signed a memorandum of understanding, which still remains classified, to set up a new international telephone tapping network. The EU governments agreed to cooperate closely on this issue with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Actually, it seems the requirements set by the Europeans for such a system agree with the requirements set by the FBI earlier.

These requirements cover the real-time surveillance of phone-calls, faxes, and e-mails. This includes both traditional communication technology (land and sea lines) and new satellite based systems. All details concerning e-mails accounts and mobile phone subscriptions have to be handed over by the respective providers.

The current proposal has never been discussed or reviewed in any parliament, neither national nor the European. When this draft is signed by the 15 EU member states, it has to be ratified by the national parliaments, but they are not allowed to change anything. I did not find any reference as to whether this already has happened.


next up previous contents
Next: Echelon Up: Surveillance Previous: Example Europe   Contents
Tim Wellhausen
2000-01-20