Subject: [Apc-euroir-ws] PRESS RELEASE: ECHELON - Condemnation Justified
From: Karen Banks (email@example.com)
Date: Sat, 23 Jun 2001 12:18:06 +0100 (BST)
June 23, 2001
THE ASSOCIATION FOR PROGRESSIVE COMMUNICATIONS EUROPE INTERNET RIGHTS INITIATIVE BELIEVES THE ECHELON COMMITTEE'S CONDEMNATION OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT'S INTERCEPTION OF COMMUNICATIONS POLICY IS JUSTIFIED
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM -- The empty seats said it all. At yesterday's meeting of the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on Echelon, the only UK representative attending was Vice-Chairman Neil MacCormick from the Scottish Nationalist Party.
When last seen at the Committee, representatives of the British Labour Party were still trying to make the now completely discredited claim that Echelon does not exist. The US and British governments have continually tried to maintain this position against the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Their complete isolation was shown by the fact that absolutely no one from the multitude of European political parties, left, right, and centre, represented in the European Parliament, was prepared to support or even accept their denial.
Of the 160 amendments tabled to the resolution to go back to the European Parliament, not one attempts to challenge the Committee's view that Echelon exists and is a means by which the US and the UK spy on the private communications, including email, of European citizens. Nor do any attempt to weaken the strong condemnation of the UK's position on communication interception. In fact, the majority of amendments try to go further than the original resolution in condemning Echelon and the UK government's role. A number attempt to extend the concern about Echelon into taking action against all forms of interception of communication, including by the police. Although Gerhard Schmid, Rapporteur for the Committee, was not prepared to accept this extension. Instead, he defended ''lawful'' interception, as opposed to the ''unlawful'' Echelon interception. He made clear that, in his view, lawful interception should involve parliamentary oversight and ''judicial'' processes for obtaining an interception warrant, neither of which, in fact, exist in Britain.
The Committee's final resolution will now be voted on in Strasbourg on 3rd July. There is no question that it will be carried almost unanimously. It has the support of all political groupings in the European Parliament with the only criticism from some groups being that it is not strong enough in its opposition to communication interception.
APC believes the Committee's condemnation of the British government's interception of communications policy is completely justified. The Committee is making an important stand that deserves widespread support from Internet users, Internet Service Providers and social NGOs. The resolution is a vindication of the position that APC member in Britain, GreenNet, has consistently taken in defence of its users' privacy against such measures as the British Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
The Echelon system (reportedly run by the United States in cooperation with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) was set up at the beginning of the Cold War for intelligence gathering and has developed into a network of intercept stations around the world. Its primary purpose, according to the Draft Report of the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on Echelon, is to intercept private and commercial communications, not military intelligence. The committee concludes that ''the existence of a global system for intercepting communications . . . is no longer in doubt.''
A report on ECHELON written by Chris Bailey, APC Europe Internet Rights Project Coordinator, for the 1999 Labor Media Conference in Seoul is available at: URL(http://lmedia.nodong.net/1999/archive/e25.htm)
Also see, 'The APC Europe Internet Rights Initiative welcomes European Draft Report on Echelon', London, May 31, 2001: URL(http://www.apc.org/english/press/archive/apc_p016.htm)
APC (founded 1990) was the first globally interconnected NGO network of groups working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment. APC has long been committed to campaigning for the Right to Communicate and the right of people and organisations to have free and affordable access to the Internet. It has provided resources and training to support strategic use of the Internet, and helped those who do not have ready access to traditional media to make themselves heard using the Internet. APC has played a vital role in expanding use of the Internet in less developed countries and its Women's Programme (APC-WNSP) has led the way in redressing gender inequalities in the design, implementation and use of electronic communications.
APC's Internet Rights initiative has been developed to address the needs of important sectors of civil society on the Internet, not just to defend the interests of Internet ''users'' as individuals. Our primary aim is to provide the resources, tools and assistance needed to defend and extend the space and opportunities for social campaigning activity on the Internet and to ensure a favourable legal situation for free expression on issues of public interest against the many threats to it that are emerging.
APC Internet Rights: URL(http://www.apc.org/english/rights/)
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
APC Europe Civil Society Internet Rights Initiative Project Manager
74-77 White Lion Street
London N1 9PF
Tel: +44 207 713 1941
Fax: +44 207 837 5551
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