France has launched an official investigation into the possibility that Britain and the US are co-operating in industrial espionage via the Echelon surveillance network, a public prosecutor said Wednesday.
Public prosecutor Jean-Pierre Thierry has ordered the French DST counter-espionage service to investigate whether the network has been used to carry out industrial espionage.
"The goal of this procedure is knowing which companies, which journalists, which economic or political persons were monitored by the NSA," Thierry tells ZDNet France. "One could ask the Americans and the British to stop Echelon, however, it is a formidable tool for fighting corruption, organised crime or terrorism. One could also propose that [Echelon] be under international authority."
The issue is particularly tricky for Britain because it has European treaty obligations to neighbours in Europe but also an extremely strong intelligence relationship with the US. (See World Under Watch, ZDNet UK's Echelon News Special.)
The European Union is today also expected to set up a committee to investigate the work of Echelon, despite opposition from British MEPs.
This follows a report from investigative journalist Duncan Campbell to the EU revealing evidence of Echelon being used to secure business contracts for American firms.
Further evidence of Britain and America's compliance in industrial espionage through Echelon came in the form of CIA documents published in the British press yesterday.
These apparently reveal that numerous international business contracts in Brazil, China, the Middle East as well as Europe depended on espionage.
Cédric Ingrand of ZDNet France contributed to this report.
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