[ISN] Privacy Group Pushes For Hearings on ECHELON

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Fri Nov 13 1998 - 05:52:45 PST

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    Push for hearings on Echelon:
    Global spy system needs scrutiny, says rights group
    Stephan Archer
    In an effort to create some accountability between the country's citizens
    and the National Security Agency's top-secret global surveillance system
    known as Echelon, the Free Congress Foundation is urging that
    congressional hearings be held concerning the NSA's use of the system. 
    Originally, Echelon was designed to spy on the Communist Bloc during the
    Cold War. However, since the end of the Cold War, the NSA has used it for
    other questionable purposes that include spying on the citizens of U.S. 
    allies as well as the citizens of other countries, commercial spying, and
    even domestic spying. 
    In essence, Echelon works through a series of high-tech spy facilities
    located primarily in five countries: the United States, Canada, England,
    New Zealand, and Australia. These countries, which are sworn to secrecy
    about the project in a secret agreement known as UKUSA, all actively take
    part in this encroachment of privacy into the lives of the people of the
    world by collecting virtually all fax transmissions, e-mails, and phone
    calls. Not even cellular phone calls escape the grasp of the Echelon
    "Obviously, we need to have these capabilities," said Wayne Madsen, who
    worked in the National COMSEC Assessment Center at the NSA's Fort Meade,
    Maryland, facility back in the 1980s and is currently a senior fellow at
    the Electronic Privacy Information Center. 
    As an example of our country's need for the system, Madsen said, "No one
    can argue about using the system to counter terrorism. Where people will
    have a problem is where Echelon is used for political and business
    The Echelon system gets most of its data by collecting all transmissions
    handled by the Intelsat and Inmarsat satellites, which are responsible for
    much of the electronic communication that takes place between countries. 
    Earth-bound communication is sucked up and absorbed by other spy
    satellites that the NSA has launched into space. 
    "It's a huge vacuum cleaner," said Madsen. 
    Once these spy facilities collect the phone calls, e-mails, and faxes, of
    virtually everyone on earth, the Echelon system sorts them through a kind
    of filter system known as the Echelon dictionary. This dictionary looks
    for "flag" words in all of the transmitted communication. While it lets a
    majority of all collected material pass through its filter, it tags those
    that may pose a threat and tracks all subsequent communication coming from
    the source of the original "flagged" message. 
    Concerning Echelon's inherent intrusion on people's privacy, Patrick
    Poole, the deputy director for the Center of Technology Policy at the Free
    Congress Foundation, said, "While we understand the need for the
    intelligence power embodied by Echelon, the indiscriminate use of Echelon
    presents major threats to liberty not only to U.S. citizens but to
    citizens around the world." 
    And this threat is real. The foundation's report states that U.S. leaders
    have, in fact, already abused this awesome technology. For example, the
    report states the following: "In September 1993, President Clinton asked
    the CIA to spy on Japanese auto manufacturers that were designing
    zero-emission cars and to forward that information to the Big Three U.S. 
    car manufacturers: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler." 
    "You can assume that all major U.S. corporations are fed items of interest
    (via Echelon) from time to time to give them a leg up on international
    competitors," said Madsen. 
    Although this may be seen as a strategic corporate weapon for American
    businesses, in reality, it's an example of technology that can get out of
    hand. For example, former Canadian spy Mike Frost stated in his book,
    "Spyworld," that in 1981, there was an "accidental" cell phone intercept
    of the American ambassador to Canada that resulted in the U.S. getting
    outbid by the Canadians in a grain deal with China. The deal brought in
    $2.5 billion for the Canadian Wheat Board. 
    With this kind of abuse of Echelon's power, the question as to whether or
    not the U.S. government has been using this power for political purposes
    can be easily raised. This question is seemingly answered in the
    foundation's report. 
    "The discovery of domestic surveillance targeted at American civilians for
    reasons of 'unpopular' political affiliation -- or for no probable cause
    at all -- in violation of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the
    Constitution is regularly impeded by very elaborate and complex legal
    arguments and privilege claims by the intelligence agencies and the U.S. 
    government," the report says. 
    When asked if the system has been used by the U.S. government to spy on
    its citizens, Madsen told WorldNetDaily that he was sure it has been. 
    "I don't believe that the NSA or the current Administration would hesitate
    to use this system on American citizens for their own agendas," he said. 
    Outraged by this flagrant abuse of power illustrated by our country's
    elected officials, Poole said, "While the U.S. is the prime mover behind
    the Echelon system, it's shameful that the European Parliament is the body
    holding the constitutional debate in regards to Echelon today." 
    A September 1998 report for the European Parliament by the Omega
    Foundation said, "Within Europe, all e-mail, telephone, and fax
    communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National
    Security Agency. 
    According to the Omega Foundation report, it is this ability of the NSA
    that brings major concern to the European Parliament. In an effort to
    bring the issues surrounding Echelon to the forefront of American
    politics, the Free Congress Foundation plans to send out a report about
    Echelon to all of the 500 policy organizations in the U.S. as well as to
    select members of Congress. These select individuals include members from
    both the House and Senate intelligence committees as well as House and
    Senate Constitution subcommittees. Copies of the report will also be sent
    to the congressional leadership of both parties. 
    Although the foundation is hoping to get some action out of these members
    of Congress, Poole said that support at the grassroots level of our
    nation's political structure will be a must if this issue isn't to end up
    buried by the intelligence committees. 
    "For there to be any account and oversight to the Echelon system, the
    American people are going to have to contact their elected representatives
    in order to investigate the abuses that we know have occurred in regards
    to the Echelon system," Poole said. 
    See Free Congress Foundation's report on Echelon at: 
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