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French Warn of U.S. Spy Network

October 11, 2000

PARIS (AP) _ A parliamentary report published Wednesday urged France to protect itself from an alleged U.S.-led eavesdropping network, which it claims Washington is using to snoop on the businesses of its European allies.

The 80-page report by the National Assembly’s defense commission alleged that no form of communication, from fax to e-mail to cable, is safe from the so-called Echelon spy network. It said that businesses, particularly European companies with American competitors, were the principal targets of the alleged electronic snooping ring.

Lawmaker Arthur Paecht said the network has at least 120 spy satellites that intercept ″180 million messages every hour.″

``These serious attacks oblige us to protect ourselves,″ said Paecht.

In February, a European Parliament set up a special probe into Echelon in July. Denmark, like France, set up a national inquiry. The network allegedly includes Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Last month, an EU committee said it wants U.S. intelligence chiefs to testify on whether Echelon spies on the businesses of its European allies.

U.S. intelligence officials have never publicly confirmed the existence of such a system. In testimony before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee in April, top intelligence officials, including U.S. National Security Agency head, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, denied reports the United States was involved in spying on Europeans and Americans as part of a snooping network.

The National Assembly study alleged that the Echelon system developed rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s thanks to technology advances, diverging from its initial military objectives.

The parliamentary study said it was ``not impossible that certain information gathered could be used for political or economic ends.″

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