SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: ILETS AND THE ENFOPOL 98 AFFAIR

29.04.1999

America's guiding hand revealed - the secret international organisation behind Europe's controversial plans for Internet surveillance

Europe's 21st century tapping plans were born in an unlikely location. Fifty kilometres south of Washington DC, on the swampy western boundaries of the Potomac river is Quantico, Virginia. Here, on a large military reservation, is the FBI's training academy and research and development centre. Members of the public have no access to the high security site.

Between 1990 and 1992, the FBI had tried repeatedly to get the US Congress to pass new laws for telephone tapping. The agency was worried that new digital telephone systems did not allow them easy access to track and intercept their targets. Their goal was to turn every type of modern communications systems into a national and, ultimately, global surveillance network which would give them "real time, full time" access to those whom they wanted to watch.

The FBI experts ignored the costs imposed by their demands. They wanted manufacturers and network operators to provide systems at their own expense. Nor were they interested in the checks and balances of laws intended to control monitoring and protect privacy. Lawyers were not invited. Civil society would have to pay its own costs.

Seen in retrospect, the title "seminar" is a black joke.

Faced with the roadblocks in Congress, early in 1993 the FBI tried a new approach. They invited US allies to come to Quantico. Law enforcement and security agency representatives met there, calling themselves the "International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar". Seen in retrospect, the title "seminar" is a black joke. Acting in secret and without parliamentary knowledge or government supervision, the FBI through ILETS has since 1993 steered government and communications industry policy across the world. In the shadows behind the FBI stood the NSA (National Security Agency), whose global surveillance operations could only benefit if, around the world, users were systematically to be denied telecommunications privacy in the information age.

The countries who came to Quantico in 1993 were traditional US intelligence allies like Canada, the UK and Australia. There was also a core Euro group interested in developing extended surveillance systems - Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden (and the UK). Other representatives came from Norway, Denmark, Spain and even Hong Kong. The FBI tabled a document called "Law Enforcement Requirements for the Surveillance of Electronic Communications", written in July 1992.

In June 1993, EU ministers meeting in Copenhagen agreed to poll member states on the issues raised by the FBI and by ILETS. After discussions in Europe later in 1993, ILETS met in Bonn early in 1994. By now Austria, Belgium, Finland, Portugal and Spain had joined the 19 member group.

"International User Requirements"

At their Bonn meeting, ILETS agreed joint policy in a document called "International Requirements for Interception". This said that "law enforcement representatives and government telecommunications experts from a number of countries that attended an international workshop on interception and advanced telecommunications technologies identified the need for this document". It was their "common requirements". Attached to the two page ILETS policy paper was a detailed, four page set of monitoring requirements and a glossary. This list of "International User Requirements" was identified as "IUR 1.0" or "IUR95".

The ILETS meeting in Bonn also instigated two new policies. ILETS wanted international standards bodies such as the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) and ISO (International Standards Organisation) to build in tapping requirements to new system specifications. ILETS also wanted governments to agree on monitoring across international boundaries, so that one agency could intercept communications in another country.

In March 1994, the Dutch government proposed that Europe adopt IUR 1.0. But ministers were not told that the document had been written by ILETS. Instead, it was identified as an ENFOPOL document, eventually being called ENFOPOL 90. (ENFOPOL is a standard European Commission classification for documents concerned with Law Enforcement/Police matters.)

European Ministers never discussed ENFOPOL 90. It was agreed by a "written procedure", by exchange of telexes. It remained completely secret for nearly two years, and was not published in the Official Journal of European policy until November 1996. Meanwhile, European telecommunications operators were told to fall in line with its requirements. According to the British Home Office (Interior Ministry), for example, the resolution is "used as a basis for discussion with telecommunications operators in accordance with [UK monitoring legislation]".

ILETS had also raised the problem of satellite-based mobile phone systems (such as Iridium). These phone systems link subscribers via satellites that are not under government control. This led to a British proposal to the European Commission:

"Governments ... will have to create new regulations for international co-operation so that the necessary surveillance will be able to operate."

In a slightly modified form, IUR 1,0 became law in the United States in October 1994. Other European nations, and Australia, later incorporated it in their domestic legislation. Within two years from the first ILETS meeting, the IUR had, unacknowledged and word for word, become the secret official policy of the EU and law around the world.

Sixteen Nations from ILETS met again in Canberra in 1995 and agreed to try and persuade international standards organisations to adopt the IUR "requirements". This would mean that manufacturers of new exchanges or communications systems would have to build in interception interfaces in order to meet the international standards, free of charge. If this ploy succeeded, then security and law enforcement agencies would save money and make tapping easier, since new networks would come with monitoring systems built in.

"Some countries are in urgent need of results in this area."

At their Canberra meeting "participating countries undertook to write to "relevant standards bodies and committees" informing them that their country along with other countries has adopted the IUR as a basis for its national and system-specific requirements .... ".
Once again ILETS succeeded. In June 1997, the Australian government persuaded the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to adopt the IUR requirements as a "priority". They told the ITU that "some countries are in urgent need of results in this area".

During 1995 and 1996, through the European Commission, ILETS also effectively turned the IUR into an international treaty. The EU invited countries who had attended ILETS meetings to endorse the still-secret 1995 monitoring policy - that is, IUR 1.0.

Non-EU ILETS members were told that "the Council considers that the lawful monitoring of telecommunications systems is an important tool in the prevention and detection of serious crimes and in safeguarding national security. ... The Member States of the European Union have been called upon to apply those Requirements to telecommunications operators and service providers... " Canada, Australia, Norway and the United States wrote back to the EU president, confirming their agreement

By now, ILETS had spawned two sub committees, one re-designing the IUR and another (called STC, the Standards Technical Committee) working on technical standards. ILETS and its experts met again in Dublin in 1997. In 1998, they met in Rome, Vienna and Madrid. The IUR was not changed in 1997. But ILETS and its expert committees were at work, defining new requirements to cover the Internet and satellite based systems. They also wanted stringent new security requirements to be imposed on private telecommunications operators.

But ILETS and its experts had become overconfident.

The expert committees drew up new "requirements" to intercept the Internet. During July 1998, ILETS experts met in Rome to settle the new IUR and its attached "glossary". The result was ENFOPOL 98. In Vienna on 3 September 1998, the revised IUR was presented to the Police Co-operation Working Group. The Austrian Presidency proposed that, as had happened in 1994, the new IUR be adopted verbatim as a Council Resolution on interception "in respect of new technology". Delegates were told that ENFOPOL 98's purpose was to "clarify the basic document (IUR 1.0) in a manner agreed by the law enforcement agencies as expressing their common requirement".

But ILETS and its experts had become overconfident. IUR 1.0 had been four pages long. The new IUR (ENFOPOL 98) was 36 pages. The Austrian officials were told that this was politically inadvisable - perhaps that it would frighten ministers by its explicitness. Or, as the IUR experts were later told, "the wide range covered by ENFOPOL 98 was not conducive to ready comprehension".

In October 1998, ILETS' IUR experts met in Vienna and Madrid and agreed a shorter, 14 page paper. Some of its more controversial provisions were put into other papers. European police delegates met in November to consider and agree the revised ENFOPOL 98 (rev 1).

Suddenly, there was a new factor for the ILETS experts to consider. On 20 November, Telepolis broke the ENFOPOL 98 story, publishing the full text in German nine days later. The story became Internet news around the world. After this, and thanks to two further revisions by the German presidency, ENFOPOL 98 (now renamed ENFOPOL 19 - see news story) shrank to a mere 6 pages long. Its key provisions are being hidden elsewhere.

The most chilling aspect of the ILETS and ENFOPOL story may not even be the way in which the US-led organisation has worked in the dark for more than 6 years to built snooping trapdoors into every new telecommunications system. Their determination to work in the dark, without industry involvement or legal advice, without parliamentary scrutiny or public discussion, has blinded them to the idea that not all "law enforcement" is a public good.

Throughout its life, Hong Kong - now incorporated in the People's Republic of China - has been a member of ILETS. By planting its requirements on bodies like the ITU and ISO, the police and security agencies involved have effectively acted as an international treaty organisation.

But they were blind to any interests other than their own narrow world-view. "In the name of law and order, the US is now pursuing an international accord that urges stronger surveillance capabilities in nations with appalling human-rights records" says Susan Landau, co-author of Privacy on the Line.

By taking Hong Kong into their club, they have shared their advanced ideas on surveillance with the butchers of Tienanmen Square. By seeking the ITU's imprimatur on building surveillance into new communications systems, they have handed the vile butchers of the Kosovans and the Kurds the future tools to seek out and murder their opponents. The new IUR will be welcome news in Thailand and Singapore, and everywhere where enemies of liberty thrive.

Even if you are a conservative European or US politician, this can only be a source of shame. ILETS has thrown the vital principles of the European Convention and the US Constitution into the dustbin. That, above all, is why the secret processes of ENFOPOL 19, 98 and the rest should be brought to a halt. Democratic society requires nothing less than full and considered public discussion of these important issues.

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