9/11 Paves the Way for New Surveillance Legislation
The events of September 11 have led to a rush in the offices of lawmakers worldwide. Under public and media pressure a range of anti-terrorism proposals were quickly prepared by the US and most European countries. While some of them are still being discussed others have already been signed into law. Yet the content is quite much the same in all of them. Main measures include regulations on extradition, funding (of terrorist groups) and money laundering as well as asylum and ID cards. Also proposed are new surveillance and communication interception powers for law enforcement agencies and intelligence.
US adopts “Patriot Act”
Not surprisingly the US was among the first nations to adopt an anti-terrorism package. On October 26 President Bush signed into law the “Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (Patriot) Act”. This new legislation grants law enforcement broad new investigative and surveillance powers. It expands the executive’s ability to tap telephones and eavesdrop on Internet communication. Federal authorities will be given much wider latitude in collecting and evaluating information about people and their movements. Moreover, with new abilities to share data between different agencies law enforcement will be able to build more robust, centralized stores of intercepted data. “As of today, we’re changing the laws governing information sharing.” said President Bush. Yet the legislation fails to provide guidelines for how long such data can be kept, or what happens to it after a particular investigation is concluded.
To facilitate surveillance and interception activities the Internet eavesdropping technology previously known as Carnivore will be upgraded. Additionally, ISPs must make their services more wiretap friendly or allow the installation of Carnivore technology. Yet whereas some provisions in the bill will expire in 2006, powers governing Internet surveillance are not included in the “sunset clause”. “This bill goes light years beyond what is necessary to combat terrorism,” argues Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “Included in the bill are provisions that would allow for the mistreatment of immigrants, the suppression of dissent and the investigation and surveillance of wholly innocent Americans.”
Europe prepares anti-terror laws
But also European legislators are not short of preparing surveillance and interception packages that shall aim at fighting terrorism. While the UK is still discussing measures, which shall allow data surveillance across the Internet and will probably be adopted by late November, France has already passed its “Loi sur la Sécurité Quotidienne” on 31 October. Although the law has been prepared since last spring, after 9/11 thirteen new sections concerning terrorist threats were added. Those permit the access and surveillance of telephone and Internet communication and include provisions such as the retention of IP and GSM logs for one year, the obligation to furnish the key of encrypted files (if requested by court) and the use of judiciary police databases for administrative searches. “The new anti-terror laws are a threat to individual and collective liberties”, stated various NGOs including Reporters Without Borders, the Ligue des Droits de l’homme and the Campagne pour la Libéralisation de la Cryptographie.
At the same time Germany is heading for the adoption of its second piece of anti-terrorism legislation. After the approval of the first anti-terrorism bill on 19 September, the second package that will give security organs and criminal prosecutors more powers to collect new and use existing data, is due to be discussed in Cabinet on 9 November. The bill will then enable intelligence services to request data from public and private institutions such as banks, airlines and postal services. Also ISPs and telecommunications operators will be obliged to make available traffic and utilization data, whereby the sharing of information between various authorities will be facilitated.
Similar as the US, British and French bills the German anti-terrorism package is criticized for not providing an independent body that controls the surveillants. “There must be a judiciary and parliamentary control on all levels”, said Hans-Christian Ströbele, German MP and security expert. Further concern arises from the fact that the laws give law enforcement and intelligence broad powers to collect data and conduct surveillance, but lack safeguards concerning the protection of privacy and personal data. Most of the new legislation has been hastily prepared and it seems that the fear about further atrocities has prevailed over the need to protect personal data and privacy. "In the whole world governments are moving to clamp down on human rights protection and data privacy protection," says Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International and visiting fellow in Information Systems at the London School of Economics.
Bush Comments on Signing New Antiterrorism Law (US Department of State)
Home Office admits data retention plans (ZDNet UK)
Les députés ont adopté le projet loi sur la sécurité (Le Monde)
Second anti-terror package (German Federal Government)