Carlos Coelho revisita caso Echelon, 14 anos mais tarde

5 de Novembro, 2014

The Echelon Affair: A History of the Investigation and its significance today



I would like to Congratulate and thank the European Parliament Research Service for organising this event and for allowing me to be surrounded at this table with good friends.


There are times when the European Parliament is able to be strong enough and united enough to stand up for european values and to be ahead and not behind.


We asked ourselves a lot of questions:


1- After the falling down of the Berlin wall and the end of the cold war, could the USA switch the use of IT Intelligence Network from military targets to economy spying?


2- Could our allies be spying on us, undermining fair trade and honest competition and collecting a huge amount of data targeting innocent citizens, despising all the core values on Privacy and Human Rights?


3- Could a member of EU (UK) be an active part on a spy network against other European countries?


And the answer to all these question was yes.


The temporary committee worked hard and well.


We had a good team of members, a very good rapporteur - Gerhard Schmid, who was a Vice-President of the EP at the time, an experient staff led by David Lowe and the cooperation of all EP services such as STOA, that provided an excellent Study, in which we can corroborate the expertise and knowledge of Mr Duncan Cambel.


The Study in questioned has showed us that the Echelon Network (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) were intercepting:


- Telephone calls (including mobiles)

- fax communications

- e-mail messages

- radio communications

- satellite communications

- submarine cables

- optic fibre cables


According to William Sandeman (former Director of NSA and former Deputy-Director of CIA) we know that, in 1992, 22 years ago, Echelon services were able to intercept 1 million of communications each 30 minutes. that means 48 million each day!


With the evolution of technology we can imagine how many communications they can intercept nowadays.


What is happening now it is not different from what we discovered at the time. What has changed is no such more that the advance of technology, the scale of interception and the huge amount of data collected ....


Let me share 3 short stories about our temporary committee on Echelon:


1- Not all americans tried to deny what was happening:


James Woolsey, former Director of CIA, whom we met in Washington, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on 17 March 2000, and I quote "Yes, my continental European friends, we have spied on you. And it's true that we use computers to sort through data by using keywords".


And when we met him personally, he confirmed everything he had written before.


2- USA at the last time decided not to speak /receive the ECHELON European Parliament Delegation.


On the exactly same day we were departing Brussels on our way to the United States, we received the information that all the scheduled meetings had been cancelled:

- CIA Director

- NSA Director

- State Department

- Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

- Department of Justice

- Fort Meade

- National Intelligence Council Department of Defence

- Secretary for Trade Development

-Advocacy Centre


Meetings scheduled by the Clinton Administration were suddenly cancelled by the new Bush Administration. It was impossible not to conclude that they had a lot to hide...

On such a short notice, already in the States, one of the few meetings we could arrange was in Congress, at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, with Porter Goss. He was the Chairman of the special Committee assuring the control and overview of Intelligence Services. Curiously some years later the same Porter Goss would be CIA Director.


3-  Echelon Report was never published by EP


Neither the 44 Recommendation approved by the plenary. All the information is available somewhere inside the EP archives and websites. But the EP's Bureau 5 to 5 votes did not allow the publication on the Report, as it was regularly the procedure at the time.

One single and weak explanation: Our report was approved in Strasbourg 5th September 2001 one week before the terrorist attack.


EP Bureau, which took its decision after 9/11 probably decided not to hurt our american friends and ironically the first time EP gives publicity for our work is now with this initiative from the EP that I welcome and thank specially to Iolanda Mombelli and Franco Piodi.


We should not deny the facts and hide our work on behalf of our transatlantic friendship.


And the facts prove that our silence did not help to make things better.


The reality we are facing now is much worse the one we faced 14 years ago.


Thank you very much!