andrew garton on Mon, 25 Jun 2001 16:29:51 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Echelon exists. Now it's official!

From: Association for Progressive Communications < >

Echelon exists. Now it's official: A report published by the European
parliament removes any lingering doubt. Echelon, a shadowy, US-led
worldwide electronic spying network, is a reality. In the cold war,
eavesdropping was aimed at military and diplomatic communications, but
today it has switched to commercial targets and private individuals.
Echelon computers can store millions of records on individuals,
intercepting faxes, phone calls, and emails. The report was prompted by
claims that the US and other nations was using Echelon to spy on
European companies on behalf of American firms. Though Members of the
European Parliament claim there is no conclusive proof of industrial
espionage, there is concern about the threat posed to privacy. 

To find out more about Echelon, take a look at the APC article:



June 23, 2001


BRUSSELS, BELGIUM -- The empty seats said it all. At yesterday's meeting
of the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on Echelon, the only UK 
representative attending was Vice-Chairman Neil MacCormick from the 
Scottish Nationalist Party.

When last seen at the Committee, representatives of the British Labour 
Party were still trying to make the now completely discredited claim
that Echelon does not exist. The US and British governments have continually 
tried to maintain this position against the overwhelming evidence to the 
contrary. Their complete isolation was shown by the fact that absolutely
no one from the multitude of European political parties, left, right, and 
centre, represented in the European Parliament,  was prepared to support
or even accept their denial.

Of the 160 amendments tabled to the resolution to go back to the
European Parliament, not one attempts to challenge the Committee's view that
Echelon exists and is a means by which the US and the UK spy on the private 
communications, including email, of European citizens. Nor do any
attempt to weaken the strong condemnation of the UK's position on
interception. In fact, the majority of amendments try to go further than 
the original resolution in condemning Echelon and the UK government's

A number attempt to extend the concern about Echelon into taking action 
against all forms of interception of communication, including by the 
police. Although Gerhard Schmid, Rapporteur for the Committee, was not 
prepared to accept this extension. Instead, he defended "lawful" 
interception, as opposed to the "unlawful" Echelon interception. He made 
clear that, in his view, lawful interception should involve
parliamentary oversight and "judicial" processes for obtaining an interception
warrant, neither of which, in fact, exist in Britain.

The Committee's final resolution will now be voted on in Strasbourg on
3rd July. There is no question that it will be carried almost unanimously. 
It has the support of all political groupings in the European Parliament
with the only criticism from some groups being that it is not strong enough
in its opposition to communication interception.

APC believes the Committee's condemnation of the British government's 
interception of communications policy is completely justified. The 
Committee is making an important stand that deserves widespread support 
from Internet users, Internet Service Providers and social NGOs. The 
resolution is a vindication of the position that APC member in Britain, 
GreenNet, has consistently taken in defence of its users' privacy
against such measures as the British Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.


The Echelon system (reportedly run by the United States in cooperation
with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) was set up at the beginning
of the Cold War for intelligence gathering and has developed into a network
of intercept stations around the world.  Its primary purpose, according to
the Draft Report of the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on
Echelon, is to intercept private and commercial communications, not military 
intelligence.  The committee concludes that "the existence of a global 
system for intercepting communications . . . is no longer in doubt."

A report on ECHELON written by Chris Bailey, APC Europe Internet Rights 
Project Coordinator, for the  1999 Labor Media Conference in Seoul is 
available at:

Also see, 'The APC Europe Internet Rights Initiative welcomes European 
Draft Report on Echelon', London, May 31, 2001:


APC (founded 1990) was the first globally interconnected NGO network of 
groups working for peace, human rights, development and protection of
the environment. APC has long been committed to campaigning for the Right to 
Communicate and the right of people and organisations to have free and 
affordable access to the Internet. It has provided resources and
training to support strategic use of the Internet, and helped those who do not
have ready access to traditional media to make themselves heard using the 
Internet. APC has played a vital role in expanding use of the Internet
in less developed countries and its Women's Programme (APC-WNSP) has led
the way in redressing gender inequalities in the design, implementation and
use of electronic communications.

APC's Internet Rights initiative has been developed to address the needs
of important sectors of civil society on the Internet, not just to defend
the interests of Internet "users" as individuals. Our primary aim is to
provide the resources, tools and assistance needed to defend and extend the
space and opportunities for social campaigning activity on the Internet and
ensure a favourable legal situation for free expression on issues of
public interest against the many threats to it that are emerging.

APC Internet Rights:


Karen Banks
APC Europe Civil Society Internet Rights Initiative Project Manager
4th Floor
74-77 White Lion Street
London N1 9PF
Tel: +44 207 713 1941
Fax: +44 207 837 5551

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