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Spymasters gather in New Zealand

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dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday November 29, 2006

Wellington- The world's top spy chiefs - including the heads of the CIA and British, Australian and Canadian agencies - have been meeting in secret this week in New Zealand. The elite Anglo-Saxon group is known as Echelon. It intercepts and records telephone calls, e-mails and other forms of electronic communication.

The gathering was held in New Zealand because the country's spy agency, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

A spokesman for New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said the gathering was part of ongoing cooperation between the New Zealand intelligence community and its international counterparts.

Her government refused to give any details about the meeting, saying it does not comment on security matters.

Michael Hayden, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, left Wellington Wednesday after a three-day visit.

Other guests included David Irvine of the Australian SIS, Paul O'Sullivan of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, Jim Judd of the Canadian SIS, John Scarlett of Britain's MI6 and Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller of MI5.

All member countries of Echelon have claimed they do not spy on their own citizens, but the European Union has charged its activities constitute and invasion of privacy and are used for industrial espionage.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency