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PM Concerned About Echelon Investigation

The Prime Minister today said she is concerned about reports that the European Parliament is about to investigate "Echelon," an international spy link-up including New Zealand which is alleged to be engaged in commercial espionage .

New Zealand's Waihopai spy base near Blenheim is used to monitor telecommunications transmissions in the South Pacific and shares information with international intelligence agencies in the UK, Australia, Canada and the United States.

On Saturday Canada's National Post newspaper reported that espionage agents from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Britain and Canada belong to "Echelon," a project initially set up for cold-war and anti-terrorist espionage, which was now being used for "crass commercial theft and a brutal invasion of privacy on a staggering scale".

The European Parliament's Justice and Home Committee began investigating the claims about the network today, while Parliaments in Italy, Germany and Denmark have demanded public investigations of the spy network.

In response to a question in Parliament from Green MP Keith Locke today the Prime Minister categorically denied New Zealand security agents eavesdropped for commercial reasons.

"New Zealand does not use information for commercial purposes and we have received assurances from our intelligence partners that they do not do so either" she said.

However she said she was concerned about the reports of the European investigations and said the Security and Intelligence Select Committee might want to discuss the allegations when it next meets.

Meanwhile local peace activist Nicky Hagar, who earlier wrote a book about Echelon, advocated the Government follow the European Parliament's lead and start their own inquiry into the Echelon allegations.

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