The Guardian July 18, 2001


The spy in the sky

The United States-led Echelon electronic espionage network has spied on 
Japan's diplomatic messages for years, particularly concerning its trade, 
claims a New Zealand peace activist Nicky Hager.

Nicky Hager said that New Zealand and Australia had played a role in the 
spying, monitoring diplomatic traffic and employing Japanese linguists to 
decode it on behalf of the US National Security Agency.

The US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are involved in the 
Echelon espionage network.

New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau, which operates two 
listening posts, has never admitted membership of Echelon. Britain and the 
US have acknowledged their involvement. Both Britain and the US denied that 
Echelon was used to gather economic information on allies.

Mr Hager said that the US agency set up a program, targeting Japanese 
diplomatic traffic, which was running as late as 1996 and there was no 
reason why it would not still be in operation.

"I interviewed the people who do this  it was a really large part of the 
effort", Mr Hager said. He added that the snooping on Japanese messages had 
been going on since at least the early 1980s.

"People who worked on it were quite clear about the fact that it was a 
five-nation thing which had been initiated by the United States because of 
its economic competition, its concerns and interests in Japan as a regional 
power".

Mr Hager's claims cover a period of tense trade negotiations between Japan 
and the US, including talks on car exports from Japan that almost caused a 
trade war in 1995.

Mr Hager said that the US agency supplied New Zealand monitors with the key 
to the less sophisticated of two Japanese diplomatic code levels, which was 
used for the bulk of diplomatic messages.

He also said that Echelon monitors tracked Japanese plutonium shipments 
through the Pacific.

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