[Berlin, GERMANY] A short time ago, British journalist Duncan Campbell spoke before the German Parliament at a non-official meeting about the U.S. Echelon-spy system. Campbell emphasized the dangers resulting from Echelon, where 120 satellite-interception systems scans billions of e-mails,
telephone conversations and faxes.
de.internet.com spoke with Dr. Bernd Rohleder, General Manager of the Federal Association of Information Economy, Telecommunication and new Media (BITKOM), concerning the subject of Echelon.
de.internet.com: What does BITKOM say about the resulting
disadvantages to competition for the German economy caused by Echelon?
Rohleder: I can only answer the question of
economic espionage generally. Of course we find it disturbing. As you know,
there are also European countries which do not particularly restrain
themselves. To this extent it is a general problem by which the German
economy is particularly affected. The German economy is well known for the
technical performance which it provides. In marketing it is less strong and
therefore naturally an ideal target for economic espionage. Time to Market
comparatively long in Germany. For this reason, we are a very attractive
object for these foreign intelligence services.
de.internet.com: Can the German companies protect themselves against this
interception by Echelon?
Rohleder: It is quite possible to protect themselves but these possibilities
are not standardized. The technologies such as steganography exist. The
famous example with the image file of the Mona Lisa, in whose eyebrows an
encrypted message is hidden can also not be detected by the U.S. American
Intelligence Service. With all these mechanisms however, it is not possible
after all to reach all those who want to protect themselves from access,
since there is no standardized e-mail steganography program.
de.internet.com: To what extent is PGP encryption used by the German economy
together with steganography for confidential information?
Rohleder: Unfortunately that is hardly ever used for the simple reason that
the mechanisms have not been standardized. They fall back on many
technologies such as messengers or the envelope or the discussion is held
to face. However, even regarding this the Germany economy has not protected
itself until now. They do not find rooms in companies and in government
buildings which really offer security against bugging. In the meantime, it is
possible to decipher letters on the computer being emitted from the
screen from far distances. The sensitiveness regarding threats of this kind
is not sufficiently developed in Germany.
de.internet.com: All American companies which sell encryption products have
to be in contact with the secret service, otherwise they are not permitted
be active on the market. Can such products actually be used by foreign
companies for security or don’t they have to develop their own software and
hardware, in order to check what is going on through open source code?
Rohleder: The German providers of security technology are leading worldwide,
also because there are strong export restrictions in the U.S. Therefore, we
not need technology of American origin. Nevertheless, it depends mostly on
the ’embedded security’, the security features integrated into standard
applications and these are, of course, primarily of U.S. American origin. What
we still have to do is to combine U.S. American products, standard application
software with security technologies made in Germany.
de.internet.com: Do German conglomerates tolerate the foreign secret service
in Germany because they participate in the output or are they powerless?
Rohleder: They are not powerless, they can protect themselves but this kind
s expensive. They do not participate. The espionage mechanism
would be degenerated if it were opened for foreign companies.
de.internet.com: How can the Echelon interception system in the Bavarian
town of Bad Aibling be consistent with the status of the USA as a friendly state?
Rohleder: First, it does not matter whether e-mails are scanned from Bad
Aibling or from any other place. The question must be how does a country
define national security. National security is defined globally in the U.S,
i.e. the vital spheres of interest are globally divided. In Germany it is
different, owing to the fact that the German worldwide network is not the
same. All this has advantages. The U.S. is a single country which is
absolutely able to intervene globally in conflicts also in matters of German
However, that has the drawback that non-American industries can be damaged
de.internet.com: What does BITKOM intend to do regarding this matter of
Echelon? Concerning the green-card – according to their own statements
– intensive lobbying is being carried out by the association.
Rohleder: We are naturally working with the responsible people within the
ministries, which the German Government on its part works with so that this
form of economic espionage is stopped. That goes without saying. The second
point is that we are enlightening our members. There is a corresponding work
group which is dealing with these questions. This is internal information
which is not being made accessible to the wider public.