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Political consequences

After release of the already cited report to the European Parliament ([28]) a broad news coverage and debates began in Europe, mainly because Echelon is also used to intercept all European communications. That this is done by allies upset not only the national parliaments.

On September 19, 1998 the European Parliament debated both the EU's relationship with the United States and the existence and uses of Echelon. Martin Bangemann, member of the European commission, stated that as long as the commission does not have official information from the U.S. about the existence of this system, they cannot react. Even if media reports about such a system, it does not necessarily mean it exists.

An article in Wired ([32]) reported that the European Parliament had "swept aside concerns about alleged surveillance and spying activities conducted in the region by the US government". But they also cite a member of the parliament stating that the "decision on Echelon, pending further investigation, was influenced by pressure from the US government, which has tried to keep the system secret".

According to [22], the newspaper Le Figaro found out that some "EU governments have known of the existence of Echelon. They have chosen to make no public complaint but instead warn companies of the dangers of transmitting sensitive information on international telephone lines".

On the other hand, keeping in mind the cooperation between the European Union and the FBI, I am not sure how serious the European countries' complaint about Echelon is. Echelon and the proposal by the EU and FBI are independent, but complementary. The EU/FBI proposal sets requirements for technical changes to current networks that allow or make it easier, respectively, to tap in. Echelon, on the other hand, is able to filter all content that gets through it. Together, these systems, could give the owners enormous power of control and surveillance.


next up previous contents
Next: Economic Espionage Up: Echelon Previous: Detailed description   Contents
Tim Wellhausen
2000-01-20