« Echelon »: origins and perspectives of a transnational debate

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The history of the development of « UKUSA », between the United States and four other countries of Anglo-Saxon origin in the area of electronic information, demonstrate that « Echelon » is not a new system of interception, but rather a program of information and of automated integration of movements intercepted by the different listening stations that participate with UKUSA. The discovery of the amplitude of these interceptions, and of the « Echelon » program which facilitates their exploitation has attracted the attention of the public and of European political spheres. Whatever happens, it is important to maintain a critical approach towards this file and on the way in which the controversy has developed. Among the European states the question remains somewhat uncomfortable in the sense that the majority of them cooperate with the United States and look to reinforce their capacity to control information and cybercriminality. If it is established that such a system of interception really exists, then it still remains to understand its real technological capabilities and to obtain proof of an eventual diversion of its objectives towards economic and industrial ends. While waiting for the eventual repercussions of legal pursuits in France and Germany, we can only hope that this debate will favor a communal reflection on what should be a European organization for information and security. – Summary AFRI-2001