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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
EU investigators 'snubbed' in US
Echelon map
The Echelon system covers all international communications
By Angus Roxburgh in Brussels

Members of a European parliamentary committee investigating allegations of commercial espionage by the United States have cut short a fact-finding trip to Washington after failing to secure meetings with relevant American officials.

Carlos Coelho
Carlos Coelho: Concerned and dismayed
The MEPs are finalising a report on Echelon - a global intelligence network said to be operated by the United States with the co-operation of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

It is alleged that commercial secrets gleaned by the network, which can intercept billions of telephone calls, faxes and e-mails all around the globe, have been passed to American companies enabling them to win contracts ahead of European rivals.

The Americans deny the very existence of the network and, not surprisingly, cold-shouldered the EU delegation when it went to Washington.

Failed meetings

The European parliamentarians are finalising their report and had hoped to have some input from all the relevant US departments - but meetings at the CIA, the State and Commerce departments and the National Security Agency all failed to happen.

The Menwith Hill
Menwith Hill in the UK: Alleged to be part of Echelon
The delegation only met some members of Congress and officials at the Justice Department.

The head of the EU parliamentary delegation, Carlos Coelho, said members were concerned and dismayed by the snub and were cutting short their visit.

They will continue work on their report, however, which they hope to publish by early next month.

See also:

05 Apr 00 | Europe
Analysis: Spymasters change focus
23 Feb 00 | World
US spy system under attack
23 Feb 00 | World
France accuses US of spying
03 Nov 99 | World
Echelon spy network revealed
20 Feb 01 | Americas
Who's being spied on?
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