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[] Echelon-Bericht des EP verabschiedet,

Echelon Spying Network Exists, EU Committee Says 
By Steve Gold, Newsbytes
05 Sep 2001, 1:08 PM CST
Echelon exists, the European Union (EU) Parliament was told this afternoon. 
Echelon, allegedly a vast information collection system capable of monitoring all the electronic communications in the world, has been talked about in security circles for several years. But no government agency in the world has ever confirmed or denied its existence. An EU committee has been investigating the system for almost a year. 

Just because the surveillance network exists, however, doesn't mean that government agencies can access all the information Echelon collects, Gerhard Schmid, the German Member of the European Parliament (MEP), told Parliament members in Strasbourg. 

The European Parliament accepted Schmid and his team's 130-page-plus report and its 44 recommendations in a 367-159 vote. There were 34 abstentions, though these were not explained. 

In his presentation, Schmid said that Echelon ? which allegedly is a joint venture between the governments of the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia and New Zealand - sucks up electronic transmissions "like a vacuum cleaner," using keyword search techniques to sift through enormous amounts of data. 

This is not a mere assertion, he told the European Parliament. He said the investigating committee has solid evidence about the way Echelon functions. 

Despite the potentially massive invasion of privacy that Echelon represents, Schmid said that the bulk of its activities appear to be used in fighting organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking. 

The report recommends that the EU negotiate a set of data privacy rules with the U.S., similar to those that already exist in the E.U. countries. 

It also recommends that, to prevent Echelon-linked agencies from spying on private data, all EU agencies should review their encryption systems for public data transmission. 

The Echelon network was publicized widely in late 1999, when the BBC reported that an Australian government official had confirmed its existence. 

At the time, the BBC reported that Bill Blick, Australia's inspector general of intelligence, confirmed that his country's Defence Signals Directorate forms part of the Echelon network. 

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