NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 17, 2006

Since the September 11th attacks and the terrorist bombings that followed in Madrid and London, authorities across Europe are getting more powers to electronically eavesdrop, and meeting less public opposition than President Bush has over his post-September 11 wiretapping program, say observers.

Measures making it easier to eavesdrop across the continent include:

  • Legislation approved by the European Parliament requiring telecommunications companies to retain phone data and Internet logs for a minimum of six months in case they are needed for criminal investigations.
  • A terrorism law passed in Italy after the July 7 subway bombings in London which only requires approval for wiretapping from a prosecutor -- not a judge -- if an imminent attack is feared.
  • Sweeping measures, passed in the Netherlands in September 2004, which lowered the threshold for bugging and surveillance.
  • An anti-crime law introduced in 2004 that allowed prosecutors in France to apply for wiretaps when investigations are still in a preliminary phase, rather than wait for an investigating magistrate to take over the case.

Despite the increased measures, complaints are relatively muted compared with the criticism that has arisen in the U.S. Congress and among civil-liberties groups over the Bush administration's surveillance operations.

"There is clearly a legitimate role for surveillance. It's a question of what the safeguards are," says Ben Ward, associate director of the European and Asian division of Human Rights Watch. And Siebrand Buma, the Dutch Christian Democratic Party's spokesman on anti-terrorism and civil rights issues added, "people see the need to combat serious crime as worth the sacrifice of personal privacy."

Source: Victor L. Simpson, "Europeans 'see need' for power to snoop," Washington Times, April 11, 2006


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