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EU’s Quantum Leap

Alarmed by supposed industrial espionage, the European Union (EU) is seeking to develop a $13 million secure communication system based on quantum cryptography (www.arcs.ac.at/IT/ITS/MF/quanten.htm) to counter U.S. eavesdropping systems such as the National Security Agency’s Echelon, which some allege intercepts phone, e-mail, and fax messages. If successful, the EU’s impenetrable system, which embeds information on ...

Alarmed by supposed industrial espionage, the European Union (EU) is seeking to develop a $13 million secure communication system based on quantum cryptography (www.arcs.ac.at/IT/ITS/MF/quanten.htm) to counter U.S. eavesdropping systems such as the National Security Agency’s Echelon, which some allege intercepts phone, e-mail, and fax messages. If successful, the EU’s impenetrable system, which embeds information on particles of light, will make an "essential contribution to the economic independence of Europe," says Austrian project coordinator Christian Monyk. Although claims of industrial espionage remain unproven, GlobalSecurity.org Director John Pike says that the United States might use such surveillance to determine if European firms used bribes to win contracts. And there may be more incentive to secure communication in an age of trans-Atlantic acrimony. The United States’ Echelon also coordinates with intelligence agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The French and Germans have long resented U.S.-British snooping. As Pike notes, "Ever since the end of World War II, the French keep asking the British ‘are you in or out?’"

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