Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of
the Select Committee on the European Union, to Kate Hoey MP, Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State, Home Office
I mentioned in my letter of 23 September that I had
passed your letter of 21 September and the accompanying Austrian
Presidency paper (JUSTPEN 87) dealing with the interception of
satellite telecommunications to Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions).
The Committee considered both documents at its meeting on 14 October.
The "service provider solution" outlined
in the Presidency paper is a significant development which has
only emerged since the completion of our report, Mutual Assistance
in Criminal Matters (14th Report 1997-98). The Committee would
be grateful for clarification of a number of points. These concern,
first, the adequacy of the legal safeguards in cases where interception
is effected by "remote access" (without the involvement
of the satellite ground station) and, second, the budgetary implications
of establishing the necessary technical infrastructure.
(i) Can you confirm that the present text
on interception of telecommunications is based on the draft Articles
proposed by the United Kingdom in January 1998? If not, can you
please supply a copy of the latest version.
(ii) On the assumption that the interception
concerns a satellite telecommunication provided by an Iridium
ground station in Italy and that the target is in another Member
State, can you please illustrate how the "service provider
solution" will operate in each of the situations set out
in draft Article 6(2) (or any amended version)? In particular,
will the requesting State be required to seek assistance from
the State in which the target is present if this is not technically
necessary in order to effect an interception? Or would it be possible
to approach a service provider directly either in that State or
in the requesting State?
(iii) If interception is effected by "remote
access", what safeguards will apply? In particular, will
the cumulative protection of the "double barrier" be
operative if it is possible to effect an interception via a local
service supplier rather than seek the assistance of the Member
State in which the target is present?
(iv) The Presidency paper recommends including
in the Convention "appropriate rules on continued interception
for cases where a target moves from one Member State to another
and on interception for cases where the target is in another Member
State before the interception starts". Please explain what
provisions are envisaged. In cases where the target moves from
one Member State to another, will it be necessary to seek assistance
from each State concerned, or would it be possible to approach
local service providers directly? Could a request simply be made
to a service provider in the Member State in which the interception
first commenced? What safeguards will apply?
(v) If, as seems possible, a satellite ground
station were to be located in the United Kingdom, do you accept
that the competent United Kingdom authorities should have no involvement
in or control over intercepts originating in other Member States
or (conceivably) non-EU states?
The Presidency paper states that "appropriate
measures should be taken to ensure that all the operators of satellite
telecommunications systems are ready to provide the technical
assistance necessary for the purpose of interception". We
understand that establishing the technical infrastructure for
remote interception is a costly exercise and would, therefore,
be grateful for an explanation as to how this is to be achieved.
In particular, will the technical capacity to intercept remotely
be a pre-condition for establishing a satellite ground station
within the EU? What financial implications will there be for the
EU and/or Member States?
Thank you for keeping the Select Committee informed
of developments with regard to the draft Convention. I look forward
to receiving your response to the issues raised above.
I am copying this letter to Jimmy Hood as Chairman
of the Commons European Legislation Committee and to Chris Mullin
as Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
29 October 1998