The Dutch government has publicly acknowledged the existence of the covert satellite surveillance network used by Britain, the US and other allied nations to eavesdrop on international phone calls, emails and faxes, code-named Echelon.
The Dutch Parliament has launched an inquiry into international communications wiretapping following the revelation, reports Radio Netherlands. The news service says that the admission has caused a storm in parliament and sparked concern that the network could be used for economic espionage.
Evidence of the existence of Echelon has previously been gleaned from declassified documents and satellite pictures of Echelon bases.
The Echelon network was developed in the 1960s to intercept international satellite communications using bases located mainly in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is part of a global surveillance system established following the Second World War. In July 2000, the European Parliament launched an investigation into the eavesdropping network.
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