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Echelon Has Been Spying On
Japanese For 20 Years
From The Mainichi Shimbun


WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Echelon, a communication spy network maintained by five English-speaking countries, has been spying on Japanese embassies and consulates in Oceania for 20 years, the Mainichi has learned.

Nicky Hagar, a New Zealand researcher who testified before the European Union commission that blasted the spy network, told the Mainichi Echelon had been used to covertly carry out mainly industrial espionage against Japan and report the results to the United States.

Hagar claims the spying was done at the behest of the United States, which wanted to find out how an economically powerful Japan's policies were influencing the South Pacific.

In an exclusive interview, Hagar added that Japanese encoding was too advanced and little information of worth seeped out, a point confirmed by Foreign Ministry officials.

"We think that little more than simple documents could have been read. It would be impossible to read top secret diplomatic documents," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "We don't really know what the exact situation is at the moment, but we have no doubts that Japan's diplomatic secrets are being well protected."

Hagar said the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) spied on Japan from its base in Wellington.

Hagar estimates that about 50 people -- current and former GCSB officials and politicians among them -- are aware of the existence of Echelon. The countries accused of setting up the network -- the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada -- deny it exists.

Until 1989, the GCSB analyzed data it received from U.S. spy stations. After 1990, it set up a base at Waihopai in central New Zealand, which used an elaborate spy network including satellites, to run an exclusive line into Japanese embassies or consulates.

All Japanese diplomatic documents are encoded, but a computer provided by the U.S. apparently allowed most of them to be read.

A GCSB official fluent in Japanese would translate the documents and send them to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), the headquarters of Echelon.

Among the documents secured were diplomatic reports from Japanese embassies and consulates throughout Oceania, as well as information mainly concerning trade, fishing, negotiation reports, support for developing nations and visas.

During the 1980s, the network captured information about the Japanese government's negotiations on coal prices, which led to New Zealand achieving a favorable deal for its coal exports. It is believed Echelon was used to pick up information from Japan that would prove favorable for New Zealand companies.

From the mid-'90s, the Waihopai base secured the ability to listen in to phone conversations.

It turned its attention from exclusively monitoring Japanese diplomatic posts to spying on Japanese fishing boats and ships carrying plutonium.

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