Date : 15 May 1999
Title : Uncle Sam's spies
Author : Duncan Graham-Rowe
Source : New Scientist
Url Ref:
THE US GOVERNMENT has been using an international network of listening stations to give American companies an unfair advantage over their foreign rivals, claims a report commissioned by the European Parliament.

The report, which will be presented to the parliament's Civil Liberties Committee in the autumn, provides a detailed dissection of the high-tech intelligence gathering operation known as Echelon, founded by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and shared by Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The document exposes a system of "voiceprinting" that recognises and intercepts telephone calls made by targeted people, as well as the use of submarines to install taps on undersea cables. It also alleges that there are no fewer than 120 satellites employed in gathering intelligence. Duncan Campbell, the author of the report, claims it provides the first documented evidence proving the existence of Echelon and describing its infrastructure in detail.

Campbell describes several examples of how the system--designed to safeguard national security--has been used by the NSA to give US companies a competitive edge over their European counterparts. Glyn Ford, an MEP and one of those who originally commissioned the report, suggests that these findings could ultimately lead to new legislation to prevent such abuses. "I'm in favour of stopping international terrorism and organised crime, but not at the expense of having our industry undermined," he says.

Related sites:

  • Duncan Campbell's main website includes the report (

  • The STOA report is also available at