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IP: Did EU Scuttle Echelon Debate?

From: [email protected]
Subject: IP: Did EU Scuttle Echelon Debate?
Date: Tue, 06 Oct 1998 09:25:41 -0500
To: [email protected]

Source:  Wired

 Did EU Scuttle Echelon Debate?
 By Niall McKay 

 5:15 p.m.5.Oct.98.PDT
 The European Parliament has swept aside
 concerns about alleged surveillance and spying
 activities conducted in the region by the US
 government, a representative for Europe's Green
 Party said Monday. 

 Specifically, the EU allegedly scuttled
 parliamentary debate late last month concerning
 the Echelon surveillance system. Echelon is a
 near-mythical intelligence network operated in
 part by the National Security Agency. 

 "The whole discussion was completely brushed
 over," Green Party member of European
 Parliament Patricia McKenna said. 

 The US government has refused even to
 acknowledge Echelon's existence. But since
 1988, investigative journalists and privacy
 watchdogs have uncovered details of a secret,
 powerful system that can allegedly intercept any
 and all communications within Europe. 

 According to scores of reports online and in
 newspapers, Echelon can intercept, record, and
 translate any electronic communication --
 telephone, data, cellular, fax, email, telex -- sent
 anywhere in the world. 

 The alleged system has only recently come
 under the scrutiny of the European Parliament,
 which has grown concerned about EU
 government and private sector secrets falling into
 US hands. 

 The debate fizzled mysteriously, said McKenna,
 who suggested that the Parliament is reluctant
 to probe the matter fully for fear of jeopardizing
 relations between the EU and the United States.

 "Basically they didn't want to rock the boat," she

 Furthermore, she said the debate was held two
 days ahead of schedule, hindering preparations
 for the discussion by European Members of

 While the NSA has never officially recognized
 Echelon's existence, it has been the subject of
 heated debates in Europe following a preliminary
 report by the Scientific and Technical Options
 Assessment, a committee advising the
 parliament on technical matters. 

 On 19 September, the Parliament debated both
 the EU's relationship with the United States and
 the existence and uses of Echelon. 

 The Green Party believes the resolution to defer
 its decision on Echelon, pending further
 investigation, was influenced by pressure from
 the US government, which has tried to keep the
 system secret. 

 Glyn Ford, a member of the European
 Parliament for the British Labor Party and a
 director of STOA, missed the debate because of
 the schedule change but does not share the
 Green Party's view. 

 "There is not enough information on Echelon,
 beyond its existence, to debate the matter fully,"
 said Ford. 

 According to Ford, the Omega Foundation, a
 British human rights organization, compiled the
 first report on Echelon for the Parliament

 "It is very likely that Omega will be
 commissioned again," Ford said. "But this time I
 believe the EU will require direct input from the

 Simon Davies, the director of the privacy
 watchdog group Privacy International sees the
 debate as a major civil rights victory. 

 "It's unheard of for a parliament to openly debate
 national security issues," said Davies. "This
 debate fires a warning shot across the bows of
 the NSA." 

 Echelon is said to be principally operated by the
 National Security Agency and its UK equivalent,
 the Government Communications Headquarters.
 It reportedly also relies on cooperation with other
 intelligence agencies in Canada, Australia, and
 New Zealand. 

 "These spy systems were seen as a necessary
 part of international security during the cold
 war," said Ford. "But there is no military reason
 for spying on Russia now unless they (NSA)
 want to listen to the sound of the proto-capitalist
 economy collapsing." 
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