OT EU to widen probe into Echelon

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By CONSTANT BRAND, Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium (March 29, 2000 4:22 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - Many

Europeans fear Big Brother has been watching them for decades. Now, they are starting to find out whether a vast U.S.-led espionage network has indeed been snooping into their lives.

The European Parliament opens a probe Thursday into allegations of economic espionage by the U.S.-led Echelon network, accused of snooping on European business communications in a controversial report last month.

The report sent shivers up the spines of many Europeans, especially in Brussels, where key economic and political decisions are made at European Union headquarters.

It painted the picture of an elaborate spy network, masterminded in Washington, eavesdropping on phone calls, faxes and e-mails in the pursuit of commercial gain.

Echelon, a vast global network of electronic monitoring stations, was created in the 1970s as part of an intelligence-gathering agreement between the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to monitor the activities of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.

After the demise of the Soviet threat, Echelon's extensive surveillance operation did not evaporate but actually increased its monitoring capabilities worldwide, the report said.

It said new threats to national security like terrorism and organized crime continued to drive the thirst for information. But political, commercial and diplomatic intelligence were also intercepted, frequently via new communication technologies like the Internet and mobile phones.

"We have to ask ourselves what the security threats are," said Robert Evans, vice chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Citizen's Freedoms and Rights. "We are not in an era of massive secrecy any more," since the Cold War is over.

The U.S. National Security Agency, which is believed to head Echelon, said last month in a letter to the U.S. Congress that it could "neither confirm nor deny the existence of specific operations."

"However we can tell you that NSA operates in strict accordance with U.S. laws and regulations," it said.

In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro on Tuesday, former CIA director James Woolsey admitted the United States secretly collects information on European companies, but denied giving it to their U.S. competitors.

Woolsey said the operations were limited to companies that violate United Nations sanctions or use bribery or other unethical practices to gain more business.

However, even in the United States, some are not convinced. "More needs to be done to establish the scope and impact of unlawful monitoring," said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Yaman Akdeniz of the British Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties group likened the Echelon spy network to "something out of George Orwell's '1984."'

"This is happening in our democratic societies. The genie is now out of the bottle," he said, warning that "we cannot rely on governments anymore for protection."

"If you want to do business you must take security seriously," especially in the high-tech communications sector, Akdeniz said.

Heidi Hautala, a leader of the Green Party, which has spearheaded the investigation, urged European businesses to "rapidly develop their own technology and encryption systems to defend themselves against the attacks which are conducted in the name of the universal security interests of the United States."

"The big challenge is to get governments to talk on this ... it is all veiled in secrecy," Hautala said.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), March 29, 2000


Eavesdropping on Europe


-- (rather@not.say), March 30, 2000.

Echelon...jewish Gangsters at work.

-- Louise (the@truth.exposed), March 30, 2000.

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