Echelon committee suspicions grow
By Marit Ruuda
The Echelon committee delegation set up by the European Parliament travelled to Washington last week with the objective of allowing the US to respond to the numerous allegations made about the Echelon system.
However, five different US institutions cancelled the meetings at the very last minute. They all sent faxes nearly at the same time with very similar wordings, which gave the committee an impression they just did not want to meet.
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“The fact that they cancelled the meetings has increased our degree of suspician,” said Carlos Coelho, chairman of the European Parliament Temporary Committee on Echelon, at a press conference in Strasbourg today, Wednesday.
“Political conclusions will obviously be drawn from this experiences, but I believe that it was the United States which lost out on a valuable opportunity to try to set the records straight,” said Mr Coelho.
A press statement released by the Echelon committee says, "we are therefore obviously concerned and dismayed that meetings with the State Department - which has responsibility for EU-US relations and which had a representative present at every single meeting of our Committee since last July – declined to meet us under the pretext that they were not responsible for the issue. Equally, we were very concerned by the refusal of the Advocacy Centre of the Department of Commerce to meet with us because we have reasons to believe that they could have helped us in our enquiries on a number of specific points.”
The US press has accused the delegation of spending the tax payers' money on a very disorganised trip, but Mr Coelho said that the meetings were well planned and they even sent a person to Washington to organise the meetings on time.
A draft report will be organised at the end of the month and will be presented by Socialist MEP Gerhard Schmid. The Echelon Committee was set up by the European Parliament to investigate allegations that the US global telecommunications system Echelon is being used as a spying system for industrial espionage.
Echelon is run by the National Security Agency and is believed to be used by the secret services of the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to intercept all telecommunications.