The leakage of personal data has become one of the key issues of information security. At the same time, it is assumed that such cases are directly connected with computer hackers or unscrupulous businessmen. However, intelligence agencies are also interested in the data transmitted through computer networks. In different countries, various government agencies intercept information, sometimes the transmitted one, both via all types of telecommunications and the Internet. Telecom operators are participants of the telecommunications market and are legally obliged to provide the possibility of transmitted data control to the security forces almost everywhere. Current paper will discuss the connection between electronic surveillance and terrorism.
Specialists who provide the Internet security distinguish several basic types of espionage in the global network: the state, criminal, commercial and personal one. However, a new kind of computer espionage, namely the anti-terrorism one, appeared after the events of September 11, 2001 and the beginning of global war against terrorism at the national level in many Western countries. This kind of espionage was unknown and nobody could imagine what it meant. The Internet is not bound by national borders and therefore any espionage activity inevitably turns out to be the very brink between law and crime. Anyway, today all countries of the West have laws that give broad powers to the security agencies to monitor information transmitted via telecommunications systems. The more the economy of a country is developed, the greater the amount of information is required to be handled by the national security services. It is not surprising that Internet control is the densest in the United States.
September 11, 2001 was the date when America faced the situation that was more common for hot spots of the world. It passed through the act of the politically motivated and inexplicable terror. Starting from the two world wars and the war in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, without mentioning the other bloody overt and covert conflicts, the Americans watched in horror the scene of bloodshed at a safe distance from the hot spots. Although the US armed forces are abroad again under the pretext of looking for those responsible for the brutal cruelty that shook America on the infamous Tuesday, many citizens in the United States were obliged to change their outlook and give up some civil liberties, which precisely distinguished this country from many others.
The famous network of global espionage “Echelon” failed to prevent wide-scale terrorist attacks in the United States. In this regard, the European Parliament, which had struggled with this system for many years, publicly expressed its disappointment in its power. Earlier, the European Union demonstrated the extreme concern about the possibility of misuse of such wide-scale scanning means of all electronic communications. The Americans and their English-speaking allies created a system known as “Echelon” after the World War II to spy the Soviet countries. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the experts of the European Parliament, they used “Echelon” to eavesdrop citizens of Western countries. Nevertheless, all attempts to clarify the situation were unsuccessful, since the US government and its allies simply did not recognize the existence of “Echelon”.
And yet, after the investigation a special committee of the European Parliament ruled out that “Echelon” existed and it was dangerous for Europeans as it could be used to listen to just about anyone.
Hager stated, “The intelligence agencies will be shocked to see it named and described for the first time in print. Each station in the Echelon network has computers that automatically search through the millions of intercepted messages for ones containing pre-programmed keywords or fax, telex and e-mail addresses” (29). The European Parliament provided the examples of its use to eavesdrop the European diplomats. The Americans also used it in the industrial espionage, during which the US firms intercepted large orders from the European competitors.
The new system “Carnivore” designed to intercept Internet traffic was identical to the first one. However, under the pressure of the freedom-loving public the FBI did not rush to use the eavesdropping devices, which they should have installed in all Internet service providers. Now, the US intelligence agencies gradually step up their efforts in this direction. Dunham stated, “After the FBI receives judicial approval to initiate Carnivore’s setup, the physical deployment and information retrieval process begins” (566). The majority of companies did not object and think about the mystery of privacy in the light of the incident.
Using hot marks of the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001, Bush, the former President of the USA, signed a bill aimed at combating terrorism, which was supposed to help identify terrorists and prevent new attacks. Moreover, the international community, including the European Union, took similar measures. However, some citizens, concerned legislators and lawyers specializing in the protection of privacy started to scrutinize new legislation, arguing that everything went too far.
The tragedy of September 11, 2001 fundamentally ruined the American attitude to the privacy of personal data. The “Patriot Act” adopted after the events of September 11 greatly strengthened the function of law enforcement agencies to perform listening to telecommunication structures in the country. Since then, the National Security Agency has been one of the most important intelligence agencies intercepting data in the US. There was much scientific development in this field. Thus, the agency DARPA, the founder of the Internet, implemented the federal program of general information awareness (Total Information Awareness), which provides special services to legal and free access to private data. In May 2003, the program was renamed to the Terrorism Information Awareness Program, but in September 2003, the US Congress cut off funding of the program.
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The US Patriot Act was not only a formidable weapon in the fight against international terrorism, but also a very useful tool in the hands of the police pursuing criminals. The authorities use their extraordinary powers, which were given to them by this act, to investigate crimes in drug trafficking, child sexual abuse, production of counterfeit money. According to the police, it is impossible to do something without emergency powers, for example, when it comes to gathering of evidence through telecommunications monitoring and inspection of mail.
Thus, the US Justice Department solved hundreds of serious crimes. The report, which was submitted to the Congress in September, as an example, described more than a dozen serious crimes, which were not directly related to the terrorism, but were solved owing the US Patriot Act. The Ministry also told about the investigation in regard to a hacker who had stolen the secrets of a large corporation, the arrested serial killer who escaped with forged documents before the trial, the secret surveillance of a major drug dealer, whose email had been thoroughly searched for evidence for a long time. In one case, providers allowed federal agents to track the online activities of two criminals who blackmailed some major campaign, threatening to kill one of its senior officials, when investigators received the authority in accordance with the US Patriot Act.
However, despite all arguments and examples, many Congressmen sharply criticized such actions of the authorities. Various human right groups, who said that such actions undermined the foundations of American democracy and violated the country’s Constitution, supported them. Daskal wrote, “Thus, despite widespread misrepresentations to the contrary, the Congress pointedly refused to declare a war on terrorism. The use of force Congress authorized was instead directed at those who bore responsibility for the 9/11 attacks—namely, al Qaeda and the Taliban” (116).
However, the key articles of the US Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow federal law-enforcement agencies to search the US citizens and trace them without good reason. The US Congress passed the Patriot Act without hearing and debate after the tragic events of September 11. The initiators of the law were representatives of the security services and John Ashcroft. He demanded to give unprecedented powers associated with the filtration of all information flows and penetration into the private lives of American citizens and organizations for the benefit of the federal government. Sepper wrote, “In order to deter rights violations and mitigate their effects, professional intelligence standards should include principles related to the handling of intelligence and the arrest, detention, and interrogation of suspects” (184).
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When the tsunami of applications for social networks appeared on the market, and open source software offered a wide choice of tools for innovation and collaboration, the US government stood by, burdened by huge investments in systems and databases, which operated independently from each other and the Internet. The network would be a natural solution for public-private cooperation and the exchange of information provided in the report on cybercrime. However, discussions on social networks were absent in the report. Clinton and Gore, perhaps, were the first President and Vice-president, who exchanged e-mails.
The country that is a leader in terms of development, the spread and effective use of modern information technology, the issue of its own information security has a strategic importance not only in the military-political, but also economic, scientific, technical and social aspects. Despite this fact, the National Plan for Information Systems Protection proposed by Clinton proved to be a controversial initiative. However, he managed to release it in January, 2000. It gives the ability to monitor all electronic instruments of social network from the phone to the Internet, e-mail and text messages. In spite of this fact, this plan has ten programs, where one of them provides a full protection of civil liberties, individual rights and personal information of all Americans. However, this program was at risk, since it was necessary to use communication of American citizens without a search warrant. Lawner stated, “Any activity involving the interception of communications and even the recording of data by intelligence services represents a serious violation of an individual’s privacy” (460). In response to the controversy, this plan ensures that all actions of government agencies related to the search of information using personal computers and electronic messages must be carried out strictly in accordance with the law. Moteff wrote, “The Plan focused primarily on cyber-related efforts within the federal government” (13).
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On the one hand, it was a good idea to make such a monitoring. This program can promote data exchange, especially of the intelligence services and law-enforcement agencies. It can also help to strength cybersecurity. It is a good plan to reduce the number of crimes and terrorist threats. On the other hand, it is wrong when someone closely monitors and records your messages and all network activity. This can lead to full control of your life. Despite all the controversy, the mood in the field of civil liberties in the United States after the terrorist attacks changed dramatically. Public opinion approves almost all measures aimed at combating terrorism, since emergency requires corresponding measures.