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US Congress Holds Hearings Into Global Spy Network

US Congressman, Bob Barr, has been successful in persuading Congress to open hearings into a developing bombshell that a US computer network called Echelon is spying on people around the world. John Howard reports the latest.

Legislators on both sides of the Atlantic are beginning to sit up and take notice over revelations by Australia that the US National Security Agency (NSA) operating out of Fort Mead in Maryland does operate a global network which can eavesdrop on phone, fax, e-mail and radio communications.

Congessman Barr is off to England next month to raise awareness of the issue. He has now accused the NSA of conducting a broad "dragnet" of communications and "invading privacy of American citizens." He could have easily added all citizens throughout the world.

Until now the network has been so secret that both Britain and the US have refused to admit Echelon even exists. But another ally, Australia, is now not so coy. (See earlier story in the headlines wire)

However, journalists, including New Zealander Nicky Hagar, have written books about Echelon and UK journalist, Duncan Campbell, has spent much of his life investigating it. Campbell says there are no safeguards, no remedies.

" There's nowhere you can go to say that they've been snooping on your international communications. It's a totally lawless world, Campbell said.

In a report commissioned for the European Parliament Campbell produced evidence that the NSA snooped on phone calls from a French firm bidding for a contract in Brazil. They passed the information on to an American competitor, which won the contract.

Former US intelligence officer, Colonel Dan Smith, has also broken the code of silence and revealed that information is scooped up, sorted through, to find what might have been asked for. "There is no policy to do this specifically in response to a particular companies interests," he said.

British MP, Norman Baker said "There's no doubt its being used for US interests, and I'm not convinced that Britain's interests are being best served by this."

Allegations have already been made that New Zealand also contributes to part of the global spy network and New Zealander's are being spied upon. These latest revelations will probably put more pressure on our government to now come clean.


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