France Agog, Aghast Over Echelon
by Steve Kettmann

10:20 a.m. 25.Feb.2000 PST

Americans may be used to speculation on high-tech international spy
networks, but this week's report to the European Parliament on the
so-called Echelon system has kicked up genuine outrage and concern
around Europe that is unlikely to die down anytime soon.

This is especially true in France, where ever-present frictions with
Great Britain threaten to be exacerbated by the fresh focus on the UK's
role in an international surveillance network that can allegedly
intercept email, faxes, and phone conversations.

Former French interior minister Charles Pasqua told the European
Parliament: "A good part of this surveillance network is based in
Britain, and Britain benefits from priority information."

Paul Quiles, a leader of the French national assembly's defense
committee, said: "Because this is about espionage, we're going to start
an investigation, from the companies to foreign (governments)."

The French are known for being quick to take offense when they perceive
that others are angling for unfair advantage, and the media storm that
erupted in France this week guarantees sustained attention.

An editorial in the influential Le Monde with the headline "Echelon Is
Listening to Us" summoned the old John LeCarre world of CIA spying, and
noted that until recently it was not widely known in France even that
the National Security Agency existed.

"From Washington to London, where lessons are given about liberalism and
loyal concurrence, we would like, at least, some clarifications. By
telephone, fax, or email," the editorial said.

The heightened European interest in the shadowy Echelon system seems
likely to put added pressure on Washington to explain in greater detail
just what Echelon is and is not.

Rene Galy-Dejean, a member of the French National Assembly, called on
the French government to ask for an official explanation. The French
justice minister, Elisabeth Guigou, said that despite U.S. denials, she
believes the Echelon system is indeed used for industrial espionage "and
for keeping a watch on competitors."

Duncan Campbell, the author of the report to the European Parliament,
told Wired News that what he believes to be the gigantic scale of the
Echelon system is so mind-boggling, people have at times disbelieved its

"It's a very difficult area for people to understand and believe," he
said. "Awareness is now growing exponentially, first in Europe and also
in the United States."

German European Parliament representative Christian von Boetticher, a
member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union, called on the
European Union to take a joint approach to investigating the charges of
industrial espionage. "The new approach should include a unified
security system for data transfer, which is independent of the USA," he