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  • News – Hearing On Echelon In Dutch Parliament

    vrijdag 27 juni 2000

    Jelle van Buuren

    Hearing On Echelon In Dutch Parliament

    Breakthrough after two years of unsatisfactory answers to questions in Parliament.

    Last thursday, the Parliamentary committee on Justice and Home Affairs of Dutch Parliament decided to organise a hearing on Echelon. The Green Party managed to get a proposal through the committee.

    The parliament moves to a hearing, as Dutch government refuses refuses to give any serious answer on parliamentary questions regarding Echelon. In the last two years members of parliament have asked six times questions on Echelon and the answers were the same: we can’t confirm the existence of Echelon, the US and UK won’t give answers on the subject, so any further inquiry is useless.

    But at the last meeting of the European Council on Justice and Home Affairs, the member states agreed to install a technical working group, which has to investigate if ‘technical measures’, like strong encryption, are possible to prevent the misuse of intercepted material. The Council hailed the initiative of the European Commission to bring forward appropriate measures for ‘achieving a more secure information society’. Further, it instructed Council working parties to encourage ‘preventive measures which may protect against the abuse of new technologies.’ Dutch minister of Justice, Benk Korthals, declared after the meeting that although there was no real proof of spying, it was better to take preventive measures. He also suggested France and Germany were spying too on their European partners, by stating Germany and France ‘are not innocent little children either.’

    When asked what these mysterious words meant, a spokesman refused to give any commentary: ‘You should ask that the minister himself.’ When asked if it meant that Korthals was accusing France and Germany of spying practices, the spokesman said: ‘these are your words.’ But he suggested the ministry of Justice was not all too happy with the fresh remarks of the minister.

    As the Netherlands has traditional a very strong loyalty towards the United States and the United Kingdom, it is suggested that Dutch government is avoiding the Echelon-question in order not to harm Dutch intelligence interests. Dutch intelligence is working closely together with the US. Also, Dutch government has proposed new powers for its intelligence services which include the power to intercept all satellite communication and scan the intercepted material by keywords. Further, Dutch Intelligence gets a new power to conduct economical espionage.

    In an article in the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad , two Dutch member of GILC, Bureau Jansen en Janssen and Bits of Freedom, argued for an parliamentary inquiry on Echelon by pointing at the refusal of Dutch government to answer seriously on question, and the new powers Dutch intelligence is getting. Surpisingly, only four days after the article was published, Dutch parliament decided to organise a hearing on Echelon.

    Bureau Jansen en Janssen and Bits of Freedom, which released last month a dossier on Echelon, that will be available in English on the end of July, will be invited to the hearing.

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