Karin Spaink on Wed, 12 Apr 2000 13:09:24 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-nl] Intelligence agency authorized to scan satellite communications


Echelon in Holland  

Jelle van Buuren   11.04.2000  

Dutch intelligence agency authorized to scan satellite communications 

The Dutch Intelligence Agency BVD is getting new powers. Among other 
things, the powers to intercept communications will be extended. The 
agency is authorized, if the government gets its way, to intercept 
satellite communications at random and search the intercepted traffic 
by keywords. Also, the BVD gets a new intelligence task: the 
gathering of economical information. Holland goes Echelon, it seems.  

The new 'Act on the intelligence and security agencies' (WIV), which 
is currently debated by Dutch parliament, gives the powers of the BVD 
a new legal basis. Actually, it means mainly the extension of 
investigative powers. In each amendment on the original proposal, new 
powers are given. For instance, in the first draft of the new Act, 
the BVD got the power to intercept, record and listen into 
telecommunications. In the latest amendment, from the beginning of 
this year, the power to 'receive' telecommunications was added. This 
means the BVD is authorized to directly pluck telecommunications, for 
instance GSM-traffic, out of the air. In this way, the BVD is no 
longer dependent on the willingness of telcom operators to intercept 
traffic, but can create for instance their own parallel network of 
receivers to intercept all GSM-traffic. Also, this prevents providers 
from 'leaking' about the fine work the BVD is doing in this area.  



The new powers of the BVD are also interesting because some articles 
are related to cryptography and information technology. The BVD is 
authorized to break into homes and offices to bug keyboards. Besides 
that, the BVD is authorized to break into computers and steal, alter 
or delete information that is stored in computers. In other words, 
the BVD is allowed to hack. In this way, the intelligence agency can 
steal data from computers, manipulate software, corrupt passwords or 
install a Trojan Horse, so access is secured and cryptography can be 

Cryptography is a topic of special interest for the BVD. In the draft 
Act, the power to undo encryption is being extended. In the first 
proposal the BVD got the authority to decrypt encrypted communication 
and data "by technical means". In the latest amendment this is 
extended to decryption "by all possible means". According to the 
explanatory note, "practice has shown there are other ways than just 
technical means to decrypt encrypted communications."  

This cryptic description seems to be directed at infiltrators who 
diddle out passwords, or look over the shoulder when messages are 
encrypted, or intelligence teams breaking into homes and offices in 
search of the little piece of paper the password is written on.  

The articles on the interception of telecommunication also contain 
remarks on cryptography. Encrypted messages may be kept in storage as 
long as is necessary for the BVD to decrypt them. The explanatory 
note says:  

"Where telecommunication is concerned, of which the encryption is not 
undone, and where the mere fact that cryptography has been used makes 
this communication interesting for the agency, it is desirable to 
save this communication to the moment the capacity exists or is being 
developed to decrypt the communication."  

So the use of a perfectly normal technique to protect ones privacy, 
trade secrets or sensitive political information, is in the eyes of 
the Dutch government a highly suspected act.  

The draft Act also introduces the obligation for "every one" the 
authorities believes has acces to the keys, to cooperate with the 
intelligence agency in decrypting the encryption. Refusal is 
punishable with a sentence of two years. The Dutch parliament has 
asked the government if this means that suspects also are obliged to 
hand over the keys.  

The answer is not available yet. But if the governement confirms this 
obligation also applies to suspects, this will be a clear violation 
of the fundamental human rights, as stated for instance in the Treaty 
on the protection of the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It 
means an obligation to cooperate on your own condemniation and the 
reversal of the burden of proof.  

Copyright  1996-2000 All Rights Reserved. Alle Rechte vorbehalten 
Verlag Heinz Heise, Hannover  

- K -

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