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Euro-MP demands clarity on US-EU spying claims

Euro-MP demands clarity on US-EU spying claims


THE GREENS/EUROPEAN FREE ALLIANCE IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

PRESS RELEASE - Brussels, 6 March, 2001

Statement by Neil MacCormick QC MEP, Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament's Echelon Committee

Euro-MP demands clarity on US-EU spying claims

Following a controversial meeting of the European Parliament's Echelon Committee yesterday, (Tuesday 6 March), the Greens/EFA Group calls for an open debate on the issue in plenary next week. The controversy flared up following evidence given by an European Commission staff responsible for the cryptic security system, Desmond Perkins who last week raised many questions concerning the security of the European Union encryption system. He said that the "US national Security Agency usually check our systems to see that they are being well looked after and not being misused for me. And after two weeks they could not break it, so I am quite happy with that*."

At a follow up meeting of the Echelon Committee yesterday, Mr Lodewijk Briet, Director of DG External Relations and responsible for the EU Security Policy, failed to calm MEPs fears that the US spying agency had access to EU secret information. Neil MacCormick MEP (EFA- Scotland) and Vice-Chair of the committee criticised Mr Briet's failure to clarify the situation:

'It is extraordinary to think of European secret codes being checked for security by American spies. The truth is that American technological superiority in encryption technology and operating software in computers has created an American capacity to crack everyone else's secrets - or practically everyone's.

'The Perkins case reveals again acute failures of managerial control in the European Commission. We must ensure that the reforms in progress just now bring about tight controls on European secrets.

'On the other hand, a panic over this issue should not obscure the need for transparency in Europe. It is more important that Europeans have access to the great mass of European information than that Americans are excluded from some of it.

'Mr Perkins spoke in a perhaps naive and unguarded way when he made claims about his contacts with the NSA. But his remarks have the ring of truth. Much more shocking than Mr Perkin's disclosure is the lack of candour shown by Mr Briet when he reinterpreted Mr Perkins' statement to us. You can stand up for Mr Perkins, or you can refute him, but not both. Mr Briet claimed to do both.'

The Greens/EFA Group originally called for a Committee of Inquiry on Echelon which was refused by other groups. Such a committee would have more substantial investigative powers than the current temporary one. The Parliament's Conference of Presidents will decide tomorrow (Thursday March 8) whether the issue can be discussed in plenary next week.


For more information: Press Office of the Green/EFA Group

Helmut Weixler: mobile phone: +32-475-67 13 40, phone: +32-2-284 46 83 (Bxl), +33-3-8817 4760 (Stb), e-mail: mailto:hweixler@europarl.eu.int

ENDS

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