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2000 12 10 * Ekstra Bladet * Investigate Echelon * Bo Elkjaer, Kenan Seeberg

US congressman to Ekstra Bladet: The constitutions of both the US and Denmark have come under fire.


Washington DC - Ekstra Bladet -- Bob Barr is a Republican and considers himself to be a true American.
There is a replica of the Statue of Liberty as tall as a person standing in his office
- right next to the Stars and Stripes. Outside the statesman-like offices,
the flag of Georgia waves in the breeze - an image of the southern state he represents in the Congress.


Barr is an old-fashioned conservative who believes that fair is fair and the law must be obeyed. Which explains why Echelon makes his blood boil.

"We're talking about infringement of privacy, and even of the very Constitution itself, which I fear is being heavily violated by a system like Echelon. Our administration of justice act is also endangered. Spying on American citizens across a wide front is out of line. The law simply forbids it, and I'm afraid that that is exactly what is happening."



Echelon is an American based system. How do you feel about the fact that the USA spies on its allies and their citizens?
"I don't like it. And it is also out of line to use these systems to evade the law. We suspect that the involved countries are gathering information about other countries after which they exchange this collected information. It's nothing but a way to evade the law."

Bob Barr knows something about the work of the secret agencies, since the congressman is himself a former CIA agent. In his own words, he mainly worked on legal issues. The CIA is one of the intelligence agencies that cooperates closely with the NSA in areas like Echelon.

"We simply must find out what the NSA is doing with these global surveillance systems. Whether it takes open or closed hearings or in the way in which the NSA prepares some of its reports. But as a representative of the people, we politicians must be able to assure the people that all these initiatives are obeying the law. And I really hope that the NSA will not exploit American law to keep silent."

"The population has a right to know what is going on, particularly when we have a powerful suspicion that monitoring is not only directed at specific targets, but also at common citizens, companies and so on."

Isn't it reasonable for an intelligence agency to keep these things secret?
"Yes, of course. They can't reveal everything. And we must make sure, especially in the field of conventional surveillance, that they can carry out their work satisfactorily. But we must also keep an eye on them. Ever since the Watergate Scandal, we have kept a closer eye on the intelligence agencies, and this has actually functioned quite well. But we haven't been told anything about the case you are working on. Therefore, we need to be fully informed."



What would you encourage Denmark's politicians and the Danish government to do?
"The individual members of parliament must discuss the issue so that their electorate can see that they are concerned about bringing out the truth. And if there is the slightest suspicion that the law has been broken, and the populace is worried, then the Danish Government should investigate what is happening. They must demand to be fully informed by their intelligence agencies so they can tell the Danish people what is happening."
"I'm quite amazed that the countries operating the system along with the NSA haven't demanded to be informed before now, i.e. the so-called UKUSA partners: Canada, Australia, England and New Zealand. Furthermore, to the best of my information, it seems that almost every west European country is participating."

Why are you sounding the alarm now?
"Because we didn't realize what was happening until this past year as a result of things like a conference organized by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). The more we get to know, the more I realize that we've got a serious problem on our hands."
"You must realize that the way in which the intelligence agencies work has changed enormously in recent years. That's why it is very urgent we examine what they're up to. Our Congress has not examined the work of its intelligence agencies for the past twenty years. During this time, they have acquired a totally new potential to collect and forward information. Therefore, I have demanded congressional hearings that will commence early next year."

Together with fellow congressman Dan Burton from Indiana, Barr is currently preparing a large congressional hearing together with a number of previous NSA agents and intelligence experts.

Bob Barr has previously worked for the US government as a district attorney.