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[infowar.de] Wired News: Beefed-Up Global Surveillance?
Beefed-Up Global Surveillance?
By Declan McCullagh
2:00 a.m. Feb. 20, 2002 PST
WASHINGTON -- An addition to an international treaty could permit police
to cooperate more closely on intercepting and decrypting the
communications of suspected terrorists.
The Council of Europe, which includes nearly all European nations, is
meeting this week to prepare additions to a controversial "cybercrime"
that would cover decoding terrorist messages. The United States, Canada
and Japan are non-voting members of the council.
Peter Csonka, the head of the Council of Europe's economic crime
, said when the drafting process for the so-called Second Protocol
is complete, the document will address "how to identify, how to filter,
how to trace communications between terrorists."
Details are scarce, and the Council of Europe has repeatedly refused to
elaborate. Csonka would not confirm or deny whether the Second
Protocol will advance limits on encryption technology, coordinate
code-breaking efforts among member nations, or increase electronic
surveillance performed against people linked to terrorism.
This week's closed-door meeting, reportedly taking place at the
headquarters in Strasbourg, France, includes representatives from the
U.S. Justice Department, which was one of the most enthusiastic backers
of the original treaty.
Privacy groups and civil libertarians have spent nearly two years
criticizing the existing cybercrime treaty, which is now awaiting
ratification by the
legislatures of member nations. If the council plugs additional
surveillance powers into the treaty, opposition seems certain to
In December, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers asked the
Steering Committee on Crime Problems to draft the "Second Protocol to
Convention on Cybercriminality to cover also terrorist messages and the
decoding thereof." That is scheduled to happen after an antiterrorism
working group completes its report by April 30, 2002.
This week's meeting is a preliminary one. After the drafting process
begins in earnest later this spring, the steering committee will prepare
proposal in June and send it back to the Council of Ministers by the end
of September, according to the Csonka.
The still-secret Second Protocol will be, as the name implies, the
second set of additions to the underlying treaty. Currently the Council
of Europe is
busy working on the First Protocol, which criminalizes "hate speech" and
racist remarks and likely will run afoul of the First Amendment to the
Some observers predict the U.S. delegates to the Council of Europe will
not sign the First Protocol. But the underlying cybercrime treaty,
the "hate speech" components, is likely to go to the U.S. Senate for a
"There is a group of experts working on the First Protocol. Once this
committee produces the First Protocol in June, then the steering
consider giving terms of reference for a new committee," Csonka said.
"The second group of experts operate on terms of reference that will be
drafted by the European Steering Committee on Crime Problems."
Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, confirmed
that his agency's computer crime section sent representatives to this
meeting on the Second Protocol but steadfastly refused to say what they
"We're not at liberty to discuss our position or even what's going on,"
Sierra said. "We would prefer to talk about these matters with the
we're meeting with instead of with reporters."
The French activist group Imaginons un Réseau Internet Solidaire
obtained a list of participants from a December 2001 meeting relating to
speech" protocol. The three U.S. representatives are: Jason Gull, a
trial attorney at the Justice Department; Kenneth Harris, the associate
of the criminal division's Office of International Affairs; and Richard
Visek, an attorney in the State Department's law enforcement and
"This shows that the cyber rights community was justified in its
opposition to the cybercrime treaty," David Sobel of the Electronic
Information Center said of the Second Protocol. "It is becoming the
vehicle for an ever-expanding list of invasive intergovernmental
Privacy groups have opposed the underlying treaty, which, according to
the Council of Europe, no countries have ratified so far. Among the
objections: Encouraging self-incrimination, no clear limits on police
eavesdropping powers and unwarranted traffic data collection and
One industry representative who attended a meeting on the cybercrime
treaty at the Justice Department earlier this month said it was
that the government attendees never mentioned the Second Protocol: "It
was interesting because it didn't come up. This was a clear opportunity
to have that discussion."
A foreign affairs officer at the U.S. State Department said the
department is monitoring the process, but hasn't taken a position on the
Protocol. The person referred calls to the Justice Department.
Robert Zarate contributed to this report.
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