[I haven't seen the original documents, so consider this only a rumor
 at this point.  Anyone have more info?  -- John]

Translation of report by Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad on 20 January

The Hague, 20 January: Systems used to "bug" telephones, faxes and
e-mail, like the American-British Echelon, are not limited to a few
Western countries. Investigative, security and intelligence services
"in countries of various political complexions" use such
systems. Companies and criminal organizations are also capable of
tapping information channels on a large scale.  So wrote Defense
Minister De Grave in a memorandum issued on Friday [19 January],
entitled "Large-scale bugging of modern telecommunications systems",
which has been approved by the cabinet.  This is the first time the
existence of the Echelon espionage network has been officially
recognized. Rumors to the effect that the United States, Canada, the
United Kingdom and New Zealand have established such a system has
never been formally confirmed by the countries in question.

Investigations by the French and Belgian parliaments, however,
indicate that Echelon does actually exist. The European parliament has
also confirmed, on the basis of scientific reparatory studies, that
there is such a spy network, which allows large-scale reception and
filtering of information conveyed by modern telecommunications systems
for subsequent listening or reading. The network was initially
intended to be used to fight crime and terrorism, but there are fears
that the network also serves the purposes of industrial espionage.

In yesterday's memorandum, De Grave indicated that modern
telecommunications systems are technically vulnerable to bugging
activities. Systems that use the airwaves partially or exclusively are
relatively simple to tap into. The current level of protection is not
always adequate for government purposes, according to Minister De
Grave.  However, encryption of information offers a higher level of
safety.  Separate protective measures are needed to safeguard special
government information (state secrets, for example) from spying by
third parties.  Echelon will be on the agenda of a special session in
the Lower House next Monday [22 January].

Source: NRC Handelsblad, Rotterdam, in Dutch 20 Jan 01 p 2

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