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Europe Criticizes Bush; Follows His Lead in "War on Terror"

European countries are increasingly trading liberty for "some temporary security."

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These arrests were "accompanied by raids on their homes and offices…(showing) that the confidentiality of sources is not always adequately protected in the 'land of human rights'," the RSF report adds. It says similar practices affecting the confidentiality of sources have been recently introduced in other European countries, such as Spain, Italy, and Germany.

The French government moves were followed by an announcement in May that a new law to protect the confidentiality of sources and judicial protection of journalists will be passed early next year.

In Germany, 17 journalists working for leading newspapers in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg were prosecuted last year for "involvement in disclosing state secrets." The lawsuits were filed in August 2007 after the leaking of confidential material from a parliamentary commission investigating the role of the state secret services in the 'war on terror'.

The German national journalists association Deutscher Journalisten Verband says 180 lawsuits alleging 'complicity in betraying state secrets' have been brought against reporters since 1986. By the end of 2007, all the investigations were dropped.

Freedom of Internet activists are meanwhile opposing the growing government control of online communication. They particularly criticise EU directive 2006/24/EC passed in March 2006 that provides for "the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks."

The EU directive compels all telecommunications providers in the EU to retain for a period of between six months and two years all data necessary "to trace and identify the source of a communication...the destination of a communication, the communication device (and)...the location of mobile communication equipment."

"The EU telecommunications data retention directive allows for the whole European population to be observed, without any initial suspicion," says Ralf Bendrath, civil rights and Internet activist in Germany. "Who I call or write to, whether I use the Internet or not, my location, all this data is nobody's business, least of all the government's."

Bendrath told IPS that the recent cases of citizens' fiscal, bank and other personal data lost in Britain, and the illegal commercialisation of the data bank of the German telecommunication provider Deutsche Telekom "show how easily the data retention can lead to criminal abuses."

Several electronic storage devices containing fiscal and other data of several million citizens have been lost or stolen in Britain since 2006. In one case, the addresses, birth dates, national insurance numbers and bank account details of every child benefit claimant in Britain went missing when two compact discs were sent by unregistered post in October 2007.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom is involved in several cases of misuse of electronic data banks. In one case, in 2006, the personal data of 17 million clients of the company's cellular phone service was stolen and offered to, among other companies, a sex shop and porno dealer. The case was revealed by German media only in October 2008. Deutsche Telekom CEO René Obermann called this "an infuriating episode", and announced the dismissal of four middle-ranking executives.

In a similar case, personal data of some 30 million Deutsche Telekom clients was made available on the Internet. In yet another case, during 2005 and 2006 the company spied on more than 60 members of its own union and on journalists, trying to establish information leaks within the company.


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