Revealed: 30 more nations with spy stations

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Members of the top-level European inquiry into Britain's electronic spying activities will soon have to investigate themselves. The Independent on Sunday has uncovered evidence showing the world is covered with illegal listening stations, many of them maintained by Britain's European trade partners.

Members of the top-level European inquiry into Britain's electronic spying activities will soon have to investigate themselves. The Independent on Sunday has uncovered evidence showing the world is covered with illegal listening stations, many of them maintained by Britain's European trade partners.

The United States and Britain have been roundly attacked for their joint global spy system Echelon which, intelligence experts say, has been used to intercept satellite phone calls and e-mails to obtain commercial as well as military secrets. Last week the European Parliament voted to appoint a 36-man commission to investigate Echelon.

But an investigation by the IoS reveals at least 30 other nations are running their own eavesdropping systems capable of commercial espionage, including many of the countries quickest to question Britain's loyalty.

France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Denmark have built eavesdropping networks, as have Russia and China. From Spain to northern Denmark, Europe is dotted with illegal satellite monitoring stations. France, where they launched their own legal inquiry into Echelon with great fanfare, has a global network of spy satellites and listening stations dubbed "Frenchelon".

The Bundestag in Berlin held hearings into the Echelon system last week. But Germany is involved in a global electronic espionage network. There is a German listening station, at Coril, in Spain, in a world-wide network said to include sites in Lebanon and Taiwan, says Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, a German intelligence specialist.

One particularly sensitive German listening site is in China, at Pamir-Geburge, close to China's Afghan border. In the celebrated Bordeaux wine district of the Dordogne valley, a few kilometres off the tourist track, is Europe's third largest electronic spy station. The French satellite spying station at Domme, near Sarlat, rivals its British sister at Morwenstow on the Cornish coast in size and complexity.

And a French magistrate has opened a case against Britain and the US over the use of the Echelon network for industrial espionage.

Frenchelon extends around the world, says Jean Guisnel, a journalist based in Paris. It includes a Pacific spy station in New Caledonia, and one in the United Arab Emirates.

Since 1990, a surprising range of smaller countries have also got into the act. Denmark's intelligence service has turned Aflandshage, a former Cold War spy base on beaches near Copenhagen, into a modern satellite spy station. A second base planned at a northern site would be larger than many in the British-American network. Sweden and Norway are talking about following suit.

The Dutch intelligence service openly acknowledges spying on satellite communica- tions, and published a picture of its listening station at Zoutkamp in its public annual report. Lieutenant-colonel Ed Onderdelinden, deputy chief of sigint (signals intelligence) for the Netherlands Military Intelligence Service, says the information gained is traded with other countries including America. "The Dutch are traditionally a nation of traders," he adds.

Switzerland is building two satellite spy stations, says General Peter Regli, head of Swiss intelligence. The stations, planned for completion in 1993, are said to be aimed at terrorism, weapons proliferation and organised crime.

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