The European Surveillance Union

Europol Seeks a Broad Structure for Tapping Mobile Communications

Austrian officials' appetite for coldly broadening their authority to monitor private citizens is in no way a unique case in Europe. As a Europol internal document obtained by Telepolis shows, massive attempts on the part of European police forces are underway to acquire the ability to eavesdrop on the Iridium system, currently in a sensitive stage of expansion.

The document entitled "Enfopol 98" from the group "Police Cooperation" dated September 3, 1998, deals with the "observation of telecommunications" and primarily addresses the so-called satellite-supported personal communication systems (S-PCS), but also the Internet. On the recommendation of the European Union, a list of points desired by the European police was drawn up as a "Draft for a Recommended Resolution" in order to simplify the passage of the resolution. The terrestrial gateway stations are to provide comprehensive access via Iridium and other Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) since they are "collective and simple locations for monitoring solutions."

The demands of the "legally empowered authorities," as they are so stereotypically called in the Enfopol papers, are listed throughout a total of forty pages and can relatively easily be summed up with the word "everything". Beginning with the "Proclamation for the State of Preparedness", simply "all signals created at the observed facilities" are to be made accessible as well as all related technical services and data: the redirecting of telephone calls, conference calls, voice mail and other forms of telecommunication. Even in-bound and out-bound connections which are not completed have been taken into consideration. And "legally empowered authorities" want all of this data immediately. "The data relevant to connections should be available within milliseconds after the call is made... in order to allow the collation of the event and the details of the call." Even though "due to the global topology of the MSS, ...the delivery of the data relevant to the connection is more likely to be delayed" than is the case with "terrestrially cellular wireless services."

By the time these passages appear in Paragraphs 2 of the Enfopol paper, it becomes clear that the plans of the European police will not be able to be realized without serious effecting the topology of the network.

Only with considerable technical effort and expense would it be possible to make the data in GSM networks, to which the catalog of demands by the European police are oriented, available in real time. The evaluation of the transfer protocols of every individual relay station for the purpose of establishing charges alone for the national GSM operators, which are tiny in comparison with the Iridium system, would take "around eight hours," as Klaus Steinmauer of the Austrian MaxMobil remarks.

The point made in the "Introduction to the Topic of the Internet" that there is already formal governmental approval in the USA, Australia and Canada for national regulations to meet Enfopol demands underlines a serious suspicion of the EU on the part of the STOA Committee.

In their controversial "Appraisal of the Technologies of Political Control", Paragraph 7.4.2, the technical committee refers to an "EU-FBI Global Telecommunications Surveillance System" which is to be established under the "third pillar" of the Maastricht Treaty for the cooperation in the areas of justice and police work. A related "memorandum of understanding" with the file number ENFOPOL 112 10037/95, signed by all the members of the EU, has been kept secret to this day. The background is the fear of European secret services that the control over analog satellite communication gained via the military Echelon system will be lost in the digital age. (Erich Moechel)