The Guardian June 6, 2001


Big Brother Echelon

The European Union has issued a warning to all European citizens about 
the threat to their privacy from a global eavesdropping network led by the 
British and the United States' intelligence services. Individuals and 
businesses have been urged to encode their electronic messages to prevent 
interception by the electronic spying system known as Echelon.

It is operated by the US and Britain, along with Canada, Australia and New 
Zealand. Echelon, according to the EU committee looking into its 
operations, serves as an integrated system of spy satellites and listening 
posts to "intercept private and commercial communications and not military 
communications".

Following the official confirmation of the existence of Echelon Australian 
Greens Senator Bob Brown called for an immediate investigation into the 
extent of Australia's involvement in spying on businesses and the public.

Senator Brown warned, "The Telecommunications (Interception) Legislation 
Amendment Act 2000 carries worrying provisions which allow Australian 
authorities to spy with an Echelon type system.

"Clause 11 C of the Act establishes a new type of foreign communication 
warrant which will authorise the interception of communications which 
relate to a specified issue that is important to the Commonwealth's defence 
of foreign affairs.

"The legislation does not define 'specified issue' and makes no provisions 
to prevent foreign spy agencies using information collected by the system", 
points out Senator Brown.

The Australian Anti-Bases Campaign (AABC) welcomed the EU's call to protect 
citizens from spying.

Denis Doherty, AABC spokesperson said that Echelon was a worldwide computer 
and satellite system that collects all telephone calls, faxes, telexes, 
Internet messages and other electronic messages and automatically sends 
them to USA agencies.

"We have been trying to alert Australians to the all-pervasive nature of 
this 'Big Brother' Echelon system for years", said Mr Doherty.

"Australian intelligence, through agreements with their counterparts in the 
USA and UK, have been collecting data through Echelon in flagrant breach of 
our privacy rights. This information is passed on to the US without any 
control by Australian authorities", Mr Doherty stressed.

"The Australian taxpayers pay the cost of the Echelon listening posts and 
their staff in the country. There are collecting facilities in Melbourne, 
Geraldton, Darwin and in other locations", said Mr Doherty.

Senator Brown called for all Government involvement in the Echelon spy 
network to stop until an inquiry is set up and reported to the Australian 
Parliament.

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