A temporary investigative committee of the European Parliament has concluded in a draft report that the National Security Agency's global eavesdropping operations are not adequately monitored by member nations of the European Union and could be violating the privacy rights of Europeans.
But the May 18 draft, which now goes to the full parliament for review, contains a realistic assessment of the NSA's eavesdropping capabilities that should go a long way toward countering much of the hyperbole that has surrounded the issue in Europe over the past four years.
The European Parliament first became concerned about a worldwide surveillance network, code-named Echelon, run by the NSA and its partners in Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, after a 1997 staff report concluded that "within Europe, all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted" by the NSA.
In its draft report, however, the Temporary Committee on the Echelon Interception System says the network involves the interception of "only a very small portion" of global telephone, e-mail and fax communications emanating from communications satellites.
"This means that the majority of communications cannot be intercepted by earth stations, but only by tapping cables and intercepting radio signals," the draft report states. "However, inquiries have shown that the Echelon states have access to only a very limited proportion of cable and radio communications, and, owing to the large numbers of personnel required, can analyse only a limited proportion of those communications."
Among numerous recommendations, the committee said the United States should be asked to sign an international protocol on civil and political rights, and it called for a broader use of encryption software by European nations.
RACIAL PROFILING? Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) sent an angry letter Friday to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham after Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) was detained by Department of Energy security guards and twice asked whether he was an American, even after the two-term House member of Chinese descent showed his congressional identification.
Cox, who chaired a special House panel in 1998 that investigated suspected Chinese espionage at Los Alamos National Laboratory and touched off massive new security measures throughout the DOE, noted that he recently used the same entrance to agency headquarters and "was not asked any questions about my citizenship."
"The petty bureaucratic imposition of senseless and often offensive 'security' measures in circumstances such as these actually undermines support for genuine national security protections," Cox wrote. "Particularly in light of President Bush's initiatives to stamp out racial profiling, I urge you to take swift action to professionalize the DOE bureaucracy so that such an embarrassment to the Department never occurs again."
Abraham visited Wu's office Friday and apologized.
GANNON RETIRES: John Gannon, chairman of the National Intelligence Council and assistant director of central intelligence for analysis and production, is retiring June 15. He'll be taking all of a weekend off before becoming vice chairman of Intellibridge, a consulting firm co-chaired by former CIA director John M. Deutch and former national security adviser Anthony Lake.