Eveline Lubbers on Wed, 25 Nov 1998 23:07:30 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> More on EU Eavesdropping decision-making

[This came by way of Patrice Riemens]

The Telepolis article
[http://www.telepolis.de/tp/english/inhalt/te/1667/1.html] on the newest on
tapping mobile communications  has to be extended with the latest on
decisionmaking in this field.

The Telepolis article is based on a Europol working paper in which Enfopol
lists its wishes on eavesdropping possibilities ('intercept everything, if
possible'). However, more has been decided on a higher level allready.

Technical possiblities make it very easy to evade difficult legal requests
required nowadays, and as proposed in the Draft convention on Mutual Legal
Assistance in Criminal Matters between Member States of the European Union
until now.

In the near future all these futilities will be redundant. With the coming
Iridium low orbit satelite phones, intercepting calls will be a matter of
switching on the remote control to the one and only ground station in
Europe (based in Italy). The local service provider in every European
country will be able to monitor any call made by a 'suspect', his contacts
and their contacts.

Legal implications of juridical review of the lawfullness of this
unpreceeded multinational tapping possiblities remain to discussed at a
later date. The agreement of the authorities in the requesting member-state
seems to be enough in the proposals as being published by Statewatch

Eveline Lubbers

The following article appeared in the Sep/Oct number of Statewatch Bulletin

"If you believe in God, Iridium is God manifesting himself through us"

One of the outstanding, and contentious, questions still being discussed by
the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers are the Articles in the
draft Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters covering
the interception of telecommunications. The Articles have to cover the
interception of traditional networks (land and sea lines and microwave
towers), GSM networks and future international satellite-based networks.
Control of the new satellite-based networks is in the hands of just three
US based multinational companies - Iridium, Globalstar and ICO Global
Communications. A fourth consortium, Odyssesy, folded before it launched
any satellites.

The main stakeholder in Iridium is Motorola the US electronics giant which
has put together a consortium of private companies and investors from
around the world. On 18 May this year five satellites carried in a Delta II
rocket were launched from Vandenburg Air Force base in the US. These five
completed Iridium's global network of 66 satellites criss-crossing the
globe to provide anyone, anywhere, anytime to communicate by phone or
pager. Iridium's adverts for its services started appearing in the UK press
in October. Its two rivals are way behind - Globalstar will not be complete
until 1999 and ICO until the year 2000.

The launch of Iridium has taken 13 years and cost $5 billion. Its chief
technical officer, Raymond Leopold, describing all the agreements with
telecom authorities, software developments and satellite launches said: "If
you believe in God, Iridium is God manifesting himself through us".

Iridium, Globalstar and ICO will each only have one "ground station" in the
EU. Iridium's is in central Italy (the other two will be in either France,
UK, Germany or Finland). All telecommunications beamed from the 66 global
satellite network coming into the EU will go through Iridium's Italian
ground station and will then be routed to "service providers" in each EU
member state.

A report discussed by the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers on
24 September says that the existing draft Articles assumed that the
interception of satellite-based telecommunications would require provisions
to cover the country in which the "ground station" was based. These would
have to cover an agreement to assist a "requesting" member state and data
protection according to the national laws of the "requested" member state
where the "ground station" is based.

Then along comes Iridium. The report says:
"information provided recently by the Iridium satellite telecommunications
network.. shows that another option is available technically. Iridium has a
ground station in Italy and will have at least one service provider in each
member state responsible for the contact to local clients. It is
technically possible to provide that interception may be carried out by
remote control by these service providers on request."

The Council agreed to go ahead with this option, the "service provider
solution". One member state still maintains a general reservation taking
the view that the interception of telecommunications should not be included
in the Convention. Some delegations were "concerned" that the legal
implications of this "solution" needed to be examined, however, there was
"general agreement" that the "service provider" solution was "from a
technical point of view, a convenient option". The "service provider"
option would allow law enforcement agencies to receive "the signals
intercepted directly [from] a service provider on their own territory in
their own language".

This may seem straightforward as the interception of telecommunications
within a member state can simply be done through the national "service
providers". But where a communication (phone, fax, e-mail) involves another
member state then Iridium's Italian ground station could play a crucial
role. It will provide "remote access" from the Italian ground station to
the member state requesting the interception of a "target" communication to
the service provider in the intercepting member state. The proposal agreed
by the Council of Justice and Home Affairs suggests that in these cases
there is no need for Iridium's Italian ground station to be subject to
judicial review or to data protection provisions.

One of the outstanding issues for the "service provider" solution is: "how
can it be ensured that all operators of satellite telecommunications will
be ready to provide the technical assistance necessary for the operation of
the provision on interception." Agreement on this should not be hard, there
will only be two other multinational companies concerned who will be as
keen as Iridium to ensure a captive, and interceptable, customer base.

Draft convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between
Member States of the European Union - Interception of telecommunications,
Presidency to COREPER/Council, 11173/98, Limite, JUSTPEN 87, 15.9.98; Press
release: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 24.9.98;  Independent, 18.5.98;
Times, 21.8.98
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